(The insight about “moving past OBU to a Benedictine monastery” reminded me about this piece I wrote on a trip to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana—two hours north of Louisville and Southern Seminary. The piece was written in June 2009.)
About the trip up here (to Our Lady of Grace) yesterday…
I really do believe I made my peace with the whole seminary thing, all the trauma of it, most of my anger at the Baptist stuff, three years ago. But yesterday was the first time I’ve driven north of Nashville on I-65 since that peace-making. Once I hit the KY state line, I started feeling…a lot. It felt like I was driving back to seminary. The closer to Louisville I got, the sadder I got, the more like crying I felt. I felt some anger, yes. But mostly sadness. And love–for the city, for the good parts of my time at Southern.
When I passed the exit for I-64 East (toward the seminary) and started crossing the bridge over the Ohio River into Indiana, the weepy-ness evaporated. It felt like I was leaving seminary behind. I was–literally–moving beyond seminary…
…and I was heading to Our Lady of Grace (which is located–no lie!–on Southern Avenue!). I stayed up much of the night thinking about this place being “beyond seminary,” both geographically and metaphorically. Part of what makes me sad about Southern is that the school I attended no longer exists. I can’t go back and visit professors; I can’t hope one day to teach there, like I’d often dreamed about. Based on articles about women I’ve read in the alumni quarterly, I’m pretty sure there’s no one left at my seminary who would be proud of a woman graduate who has gone on to successfully pastor a church.
One of the great losses since the fundamentalist take-over is the loss of a network. Things were so traumatic for everyone in the 90’s that we all scattered–we headed for new institutions, new denominations where we wouldn’t have to talk about the Baptist stuff anymore.
So, I’m thinking all these thoughts as I’m driving up I-65…then I arrive at the monastery. Sr. Luke greets me. Lots of sisters greet me. They’re glad I’m here. They’ve fixed my room, they help me unload the car, invite me to dinner, give me a key to the place. Invite me to prayer.
Then last night while I’m journaling, it hits me–what I had hoped for as an alum of Southern, I have (and more!) here…Because of their vow of stability, the sisters always will be here. They’ll always be glad to see me. They’ll always want to know how things are going. They will know me. And I will know them.
I know. A monastery is an institution…an institution that’s part of the largest institution on the planet. In truth, my experience with the Baptists has left me leery of all institutions. But still…everything I had hoped from Southern, I have here. And much more.
By saying all of this, I don’t mean to disparage my experiences at Southern and with other Baptists. Were those experiences traumatic? Absolutely. Even so, those experiences shaped me…they’ve made me a deeper person, a more compassionate pastor. AND….those experiences led me to claim my call to pastor…and if I hadn’t become a pastor, I never would have come into relationship with this monastery.
Before yesterday’s road trip, I had intended to come to the monastery simply to pray and rest. After yesterday’s powerful and surprising insights from the drive up, though, I think I need to add them to mix and see what emerges.