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Cultivating contemplativeness

| Friday, March 23, 2018

This spring break, instead of going to Florida, California or somewhere considerably warmer than northern Indiana, I traveled to a place even colder: Canada. Throughout the week, I toured the country with the Women’s Liturgical Choir, with stops in Toronto, Montreal and Niagara Falls (as well as a night spent in Ypsilanti, Michigan along the way).

While I enjoyed each of the places we visited, my favorite spot was a small, cloistered Benedictine monastery near Montreal. The abbey was quiet and serene, surrounded by a landscape covered in snow. Upon arrival, we were shepherded into a chapel, where we sang at a French Mass, and afterward, the monks surprised us with lunch in their cafeteria.

During a tour of the monastery, the abbot described life in the community, explaining that each monk spends his days divided between his studies and manual labor. In the mornings, he engages in some form of intellectual work, followed by physical activity in the afternoons. Over the course of the day, the brothers also gather for prayer several times, including a daily Mass. They live quiet lives, with signs posted throughout the building requesting silence.

I left the monastery impressed by this silence. Beyond their daily schedules, the lives of the monks seemed to be structured around a certain reflectiveness. This prayerful quietude is something I hope to cultivate in my own life. Amidst a constant stream of assignments and extracurriculars, I often find it difficult to pray, sit in silence or even simply reflect on my daily life. Trying to keep track of and complete my day-to-day responsibilities, I often feel that both my time and my thoughts are constantly consumed. While I cannot not imagine myself living in the extreme silence of the abbey, I hope to build more time for prayer and reflection into my schedule, even if it is simply in the moments spent walking to class or just before I go to bed.

In the same spirit of the monastery, I also hope to become more mindful of the present moment. The structure of the religious community forces each monk to move from one task to another at the specified times, even if he has not completed the task at hand. While I am often forced to stop in the middle of homework or other tasks and move on to different activities, I find it difficult to mentally “move on” from one task to another. During class, I frequently become distracted, thinking of all of the things I need to accomplish by the end of the day. As I return to campus and complete the semester, I hope to integrate this attentiveness into my life and immerse myself more fully in the present moment.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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