On November 1st we celebrated the Feast of All Saints. It is a day to commemorate all the “saints,” women and men who live lives of deep faith, both those recognized by the Church as saints and those whose faith is known only to a few.
Here at the monastery we celebrate the “saints” all during November. It is a month both poignant and inspiring. Outside the earth reminds us of the cycles of loss, leaves are falling, the earth is sliding toward dormancy. Things are slowing down. We reflect on Benedict’s admonition to “keep death daily before your eyes;” the admonition that life is both a gift to be appreciated in the moment and a gift that is simply an invitation to eternity.
In the chapel we hang long banners with the names of all the sisters who have died in the community since our founding in 1882. There are close to 200 names now. These women are part of our “cloud of witnesses” referred to by the Letter to the Hebrews. They are the women who lived quiet lives, who will never be canonized by the Church, who will be remembered only by those of us who lived with them or who have heard their stories.
There are the names of all kinds of women on the banners. I have known over 25 of them in the eleven years I have been here. There are the women who were deeply humble, saintly people. There are the women who were deeply wounded, who challenged and stretched us as we tried to love them. There are the “characters,” larger than life, alternately infuriating and funny. There are the little people who were little noticed in life or death, treasured by God if not always by us. All of them surround us now, these witnesses who have completed their journey and who now urge us on to the finish line of our faith.