Newcomers and in fact, just about anyone a bit curious, often ask us, “What’s Thanksgiving or Christmas like in the monastery?” They always seem to ask with subtle shades of sadness in their voices. Some even add on, “It must be hard without your family.”
A postulant’s first Thanksgiving or Christmas can be difficult in the monastery. There may be pangs of homesickness for what “my family always does,” and sometimes a few silent tears. That’s to be expected. On the other hand, the expectation and novelty of how these feasts are celebrated in the monastery more than compensate for the homesickness!
We celebrate Thanksgiving with the usual turkey and fixin’s courtesy of our good friends at the Grand Summit Hotel down the road which generously provides dinner for us on all major holidays as well as for the local firehouse, police, EMT’s, etc. We are spoiled by their kindness to us! The cooks get a break although the last minute heating up at the “ole 500” (putting the oven up to 500 degrees) and getting everything hot and ready in time for when the rest of the community gets out of praying Rosary and Sext (Daytime Prayer) can sometimes be an acrobatic feat for the sisters in the kitchen!
Thanksgiving is also very different in the monastery. It’s usually a quiet day. We are free to talk all day except during the times of prayer and many gather informally to chat or go for a walk. Others take advantage of the free time for extra reading, a nap or catching up on letters or even study!
Thanksgiving and Christmas are times when we are the beneficiaries of the goodness and love of our friends and benefactors and to be on the receiving end is humbling indeed. We are filled with gratitude to God for providing for us through their kindness and while we always pray with special concern for the needs of those who make our life possible, during these days we are especially aware of our responsibility to intercede for all their needs and for their loved ones. A favorite intercession at Office is, “Lord, reward all those who do good to us for the sake of Your holy Name.”
How do we observe Advent and Christmas? That will be a future posting.