There is one thing I ask of the Lord for this I long, to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to savour the sweetness of the Lord, to behold His temple.
These few verses from the psalms capture and express so beautifully the spirit of our life as an enclosed community of Benedictine nuns. Many people have told us that when they hear about our community, they experience a sense a mystery which leads them to wonder, who are these people and what do they do all day. We would like to use this opportunity to share with you the answers to those questions and the true meaning of our life.
Our vocation is a call to a life of prayer at the heart of the Church…. at the heart of the whole world. Naturally, prayer is an integral part of every vocation but for us, prayer is the whole meaning of our lives. We are called to live prayer. We become Benedictine nuns in order to give our lives to seeking God, “that in all things God may be glorified” (Rule of St Benedict). As Pope Paul VI said when speaking to Benedictines in 1977:
Yours it is to praise God
and for the sake of the whole human family
to pour out your prayers to the Lord.
To understand or believe in our life requires a profound belief in God and prayer. Once you understand that our call is to prayer – prayer (moment of consecration) of faith, praise, love, repentance and petition – then you will understand why we live the way we do. You will understand why there is much silence in our abbey – because it helps prayer; why we rise very early in the morning at 4.00 a.m. – because we are called to praise and prayer and this is an excellent time for it; why we live a life of gentle enclosure – because it enables us to be totally present to prayer throughout every day. Our whole life is centered on prayer. By prayer, we do not mean just praying prayers but rather endeavouring to live every moment totally attentive to God.
to be Christ praying on the mountain
totally attentive to seeking God.
Our prayer is for and on behalf of the whole people of God – all of you who are reading this article, all people throughout the whole world. To quote Pope Paul VI again:
It is not a selfish and self-centered prayer, far from it…
it is a vital and important apostolate within the whole Church.
The apostolic role that is uniquely and especially yours, as contemplatives,
is the very dedication of your lives to prayer.
As you are reading these few words, somewhere here in Australia or in the world, a young person is sitting in a gutter feeling utterly alone and afraid, another has just discovered something wonderful that will change lives forever, others are caught in the midst of a raging war, a couple has just declared their love for another, a frightened soul is lying awake in the dark, a refugee is caught in despair, a new baby has just entered the world. All of these and more – flesh and blood people – have one thing in common… unseen, a Benedictine nun walks with them and prays for them.
The Benedictine contemplative vocation is a vital and important apostolate within the whole Church. We sing the Divine Office throughout the day, praising on behalf of all people and pleading for God’s mercy, returning thanks for all God’s blessings and glorifying God’s Holy Name. We also set aside three hours a day for private personal prayer and reading of the scriptures which we call Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina means reading Sacred Scripture and praying around it, meditating upon it, contemplating it and praising God. Part of this time can also be used for study.
Within this whole life of prayer, of course, there are practical issues so, we earn our own living very simply by craft work: making and decorating candles and designing cards. We also sell a large variety of books and religious goods. We do all our work quietly so that we create an atmosphere of prayer and peace throughout the abbey.
In short, we are very ordinary, normal women and we often fail in our ideals but we keep trying and we rely on God’s goodness and forgiveness. As well as prayer and work, we also have times each day when we gather as a community to enjoy one another’s company or simply sit over a cuppa with a friend. There is also space for rest, times to enjoy our magnificent surroundings and to walk in the rainforest.
We thank God for leading us to this deeply beautiful property on Jamberoo Mountain, which speaks constantly of the wonder and glory of God. We are eager to share this beautiful gift with all who come here truly seeking God. We have built retreat cottages on the property – nine hermitages and two cottages with shared facilities. These cottages are open to all who would like to spend a few days in quiet and prayer. We offer a place to pray and rest with God. Some of our sisters are qualified to give spiritual guidance to anyone who may desire this. We lead sessions on Lectio Divina and Christian meditation or we are just simply here to listen, support, guide or serve in any way we can. You are always most welcome to come to our cottages to share the peace of our life of prayer or even to pop in to join us for Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours.
In a recent homily, Pope Francis exhorted us to: have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord.
If you are seeking God and have a good measure of “courage to walk in the presence of the Lord” through a life of continuous prayer, please do not hesitate to contact us:
695 Mountain Road
Jamberoo NSW 2533
Phone: 02 4236 0011