This was the fourth gathering of the Nordic Federation of Contemplative Nuns taking place on Cistercian soil, on the island of Tautra in Norway from 29 July – 7 August, 2013. The speaker was Dom Bernardo Bonowitz, a Cistercian monk of the monastery of Novo Mundo in Brasil.
This meeting included a wider international element with us Cistercians travelling also to these formation conferences from Our Lady of Mississippi Abbey in Iowa, Santa Rita monastery in Arizona, the Abbey of Mariafrieden in Germany and St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn in Ireland.
Many countries and contemplative orders were represented amongst the fourteen sisters attending the conference: Carmelites, Benedictines, a Brigidine, Dominicans and Cistercians made up the range of contemplative traditions that served to enrich our dialogue together at this meeting.
The sound of much laughter was also not uncommon during these days; our speaker admitted that he finds it difficult to exclude an element of humour from anything he does! In addressing the subject of spiritual direction in initial formation however, he articulates this earliest (novitiate) stage in the newcomer’s monastic life with his characteristic insight, sensitivity and poetry;
The novice director is the soil in which the novice is planted during these first years, providing an environment of stability, stillness and receptivity in which the novice can grow. The novice director is also, as Dom Bernardo puts it, the novice’s future in these early days: modelling to them through his or her own witness that “giving yourself totally to God will not be the death of you but the life of you!”
Our life in the monastery is salvific to those who join us and the novice will deepen his or her sense of gratitude and joy in this path that the Lord has called him or her to. God’s word is truly life, the novice learns experientially, and the search for God becomes an all encompassing one (“Is the novice truly seeking God?” RB) as he or she is preparing to become a lifetime disciple of the Lord.
Having these days of reflection together has been a great blessing for us. We have all expressed our deep gratitude for Dom Bernardo in these days for his insights and wisdom shared so generously with all who attended this meeting. The community at Tautra are equally to be thanked for their magnificent hospitality which enabled us to focus our sustained and undivided attention on this important subject.
– Sr Sarah, Glencairn
Photo: Dom Bernardo Bonowitz ocso