Vigil of Fifth Sunday of Lent

by Sister Eleanor Suther

March 16, 2024

Last week I spent a couple days at the lake (or the “little house on the prairie”).
As I looked out the window on that desolate empty lake, I remembered how it used
to be…with flocks of geese and pelicans swimming out there, rising up as a flock
and reconfiguring their landing. There was also the remains of a swing set—that at
some time must have had children laughing and playing on it; and a pole which
once had held a bird house… You get the picture.
I was also needing to be ready to visit with some guests who were coming to
visit… to share what it means to be Benedictine. My guests grew up on the farm
where I did, but today they live in rural places where the town, the parish and the
community seem to be falling apart…
Benedict and Scholastica lived at a time when Roman society was falling
apart. Like my guests, they were trying to find a way of living that made sense of
their life and their faith.
Benedict began as a hermit-seeking God alone, and gradually realized that
living in community could be a helpful way of seeking God. That started in
Subiaco, where he organized an austere life for his community. Some of the
community found it too strict—and tried to poison him.
So Benedict moved to what became Monte Cassino and tried again. It is
there where he wrote his Rule, having listened to his experience and his mistakes,
and here Scholastica, set up her sister monastery. When Benedict died in 540 his
community was flourishing.

But Europe was still in turmoil, with warring tribes seeking for domination.
Just 40 years after Benedict died, Monte Cassino was sacked by the Lombards in
580, leading to the destruction of the monastery and the dispersion of community.
Ironically, it was probably this event that led to the growth of the
Benedictine Order. Gregory the Great was pope at the time and he helped these
monks to establish a monastery in Rome and in other places. And some of them
went back to Monte Cassino and rebuilt their monastery there.
And that wasn’t the last time Monte Cassino was destroyed. Yet they rebuilt
it again. You see their motto on our window: Succisa Virescit: Cut it down and it
will flourish again.
Death and rising has been part of Benedictine history through the years.
Somehow the grain of wheat died to produce new fruit. Throughout that long
history God has been with us, even when the life around us seems chaotic and
As John tells us in our first reading, “God is greater than our hearts and all is
known to him.” We can be sure that God is with us. We are called to keep his
commandments and do what is right and pleasing in God’s sight. “His
commandment is this: we are to believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ and are
to love one another as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments
remain in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he remains in us,
from the Sprit that he gave us.
We are called to listen to what the Spirit is saying to us in our time. That
means dying to self to see what God has in store for us.
I look out at the ruins of the lake and wonder what it could be…in 2034, or 2040…


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Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica
801 South 8th Street
Atchison, KS 66002
(913) 360-6200