During July, August, and September, I took a personal pilgrimage across the United States and back – fifteen states in all. My goal was to experience a contemplative lifestyle and grow deeper in my faith. I stayed at Benedictine monasteries during the first four weeks. This was an incredible trip and God taught me a lot as He breathed new life and perspective into me.
All of the monasteries were great in their own way, but one holds a special place in my heart. St. Joseph Benedictine Monastery and College in St. Joseph, Minnesota. This monastery offered a private log cabin at the edge of the 100 acre woods. The cabin was small and simple (something I have come to appreciate very much, being an apprentice of Jesus). There was plenty of time to read about being a contemplative (I really didn’t know what it was when I first set out), be in nature on many trails, and walk through the college campus.
One day as I wandered the beautiful campus, I was caught by the sound of crying. I followed the sounds of sobs and sniffs to an area of bleachers that over-looked a reflecting pond below. She was sitting at the top of the bleachers with her face resting in her hands braced on top of her knees.
My instinct was to immediately give comfort but I couldn’t; I was stopped by own fear of stairs. A few years ago I fell down my basement steps and hit my head pretty hard on the cement floor. Since that time I have been very leery of going up and down steps, including bleacher stairs. As I looked up, the fear was instant and I knew I couldn’t do it, so instead, I walked by keeping my eyes turned toward her in hopes that she would see me. The least I could do was acknowledge her with a little wave and a nod. I went back to the cabin and prayed for this sad young woman.
A couple of days later, I walked through the campus again. I was hoping to see her and I did. She was sitting in a chair under a shade tree. I came to her, introduced myself, and asked if I could tell her a story. She was very kind (and I think lonely) and invited me to take the other chair. I said that I had seen her crying in the bleachers and asked her if she wanted to share why she was crying. She dove right in with details about being an orientation mentor to a group of freshmen. They were a good group. However, as in real life, there were some trouble makers who were stretching her to her limits. She shared a lot; I listened a lot and gave encouragement as it came to me. After about ninety minutes she looked at me said, “You will never know how your words were exactly what I needed to hear.” She was now calm and our conversation ended with hugs and shared blessings on both sides.
I honestly don’t even remember what I said, but it’s at times like this that I know the Holy Spirit has a willing vessel to work through.
image of grass by http://www.wallcoo.net; image of quote by quotesjunk.co