By Stephanie Donaldson
A year ago I began a journey that paralleled a journey that I already was on.
A friend asked me if I would like to go the Sisterhood of St John the Divine (SSJD) Convent in Toronto on a retreat with her. I had never been and happily accepted. This was not an intentional oversight as I had been booked to go in 2010. My late husband’s health took a turn for the worse and I had to cancel.
While I was looking forward to it I did have some apprehensions: we had chosen a time when there was no program to allow us to immerse ourselves into the rhythm of this special place.
Our days began with breakfast followed by Morning Prayer, Holy Eucharist at noon, lunch, then supper at five followed by Compline. It was very easy and natural to slip into a life of reflection, discernment and prayer. I chose to spend a lot of time on the labyrinth, praying as I made the circuit. It is such an incredibly peaceful place that prayer just comes naturally.
One day Reverend Mother noticed that we had picked up a brochure about their Associate’s program. She asked us if we were interested. When we responded affirmatively she made an appointment for us to meet with the Director of Associates.
We were interviewed and asked to return home and discern and pray about this for a year. To quote the brochure, we were now part of a group of men and women, lay and ordained, members of a Christian community, who seek to deepen their life in Christ through following the Rule of Life in association with the Sisters. In other words, we were ordinary people seeking ‘something more’ in their spiritual lives and believing that they can be nurtured on their spiritual journey through being connected with the life and ministry of a monastic community. We were entering a relationship of mutual support of prayer, love and ministry that exists between the Sisterhood and the Associates.
We followed the rule for Associates:
- To enlighten others about the overall principals of the Monastic Life and in particular about the life and work of the Sisters;
- To be an active member of a worshipping congregation in the Christian faith, sharing in the Eucharist on Sundays and Major Feasts whenever possible and to pray especially for the Sisterhood on their four major anniversaries: February 9 (Hannah Greer Coome, founder of SSJD), May 6 (Feast of St, John), September 8 (the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Foundation Day of SSJD) and December 27 (Feast of St. John the Evangelist);
- To include in our daily intercessory prayers the Community and the Associates;
- To seek to grow in prayer for renewal of life in Christ by spending some time daily in some form of listening prayer;
- To seek to live an intentional Christian life with thoughtfulness and integrity;
- To read some portion of Holy Scripture daily and to read books helpful to growing in the Christian life;
- To make an annual Retreat of at least two days whenever possible or to participate in two or more Quiet Days annually;
- If called upon, to be willing to help the Associates who live in their vicinity, and if able to contribute financially to the Sisterhood;
- To report yearly through a reflective letter or visit with the Director of Associates within the month of the Anniversary of their Admission as to the value of keeping this Rule.
Further we are to include: All Associates, Those in Discernment, All Oblates, The Community, and Vocations in our daily prayers. This past week we returned to SSJD and were admitted as Associates as our crosses were placed around our necks.
It was a powerful and most moving service and brought the first leg of our journey to a conclusion.
I say ‘first leg’ as the journey continues. It is a journey that has no end, As we travel we will, “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.
Stephanie Donaldson is AFP Huron Executive.