February 2, 2015 – Greetings from Our Lady of the Desert! Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, the 25th Anniversary of our founding. In preparing for this day I pondered what would I say to my sisters, friends and families about the past 25 years of our monastic life? The reason for coming to the monastery is to seek God and once I discovered this was the only purpose of monastic life it thrilled my heart to live for God. I was so excited about the possibilities!
Twenty five years of searching for God in the desert, how have we as a community found God? Well, I for one have not had visions of Jesus or his mighty angles or the holy saints and I do not spend my day in ecstasy as I have to admit I hoped for as a young nun! But I have learned to find this God of ours “among the pots and pans” as St. Theresa of Avila liked to say. God is found in our daily dealings with each other, the guest who comes to our door, in the silence and solitude of the monastery, not very glamorous but real. One of those down to earth ways we encounter God is through the psalms that we chant seven times a day. I especially love the questions found throughout the Scripture: Is there a message here for me in this question? Why this question? How does it apply to my life? ….. The possibilities go on and on! “Can God prepare a table in the desert?” Sometime during the early days of our move to Gobernador, New Mexico on August 29, 2009, the verse from Psalm 77 caught my attention and began to accompany me on my desert journey. We chant Psalm 77 every 2nd Wednesday at the Divine Office of Vigils. The Introduction from the book, “The Psalms,” tells us that, “The Psalms sing to us the human and divine history of Israel.” Psalm 77 is the story of Israel’s journey through the desert and in this translation is entitled, “God’s patience and humanity’s ingratitude”. And, I would like to add that the Psalms tell us of our own human and divine history – which includes our times of ingratitude, the human condition strikes again!But if there is anything this desert journey has taught me is that God’s patience and compassion always win out in the end and with his grace so will our compassion and gratefulness.
One dark morning at Vigils (4:30 am) as we made our way through the psalms in our little chapel here in Gobernador the question, “Can God prepare a table in the desert?”, became alive for me. Psalm 77 is the story of the Israelite people wondering through the desert, they put God to the test in their hearts by demanding the food they craved. I became aware that I was just as demanding as our Israelite ancestors. At those rough spots along the way, this question would appear to taunt me, “Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?” I came to see this question as the devil sitting on my left shoulder bringing my faith in our loving God into question. There were moments when it was hard to be still and listen for that still voice of God, full of compassion and there still are those moments and I’m sure they will continue. When I feel like I am wondering aimlessly through the desert, doubts begin to flood my mind: “Are we ever going to build a monastery, have a real home of our own?” along with “Will anyone ever come to join us?”Well, in reflecting over these past 25 years I realized God allowed these questions with all their doubts and fears to help me grow. God took my faith that was the size of a mustard seed and planted it here in Gobernador where it was challenged and pruned and because of this question, “Can God prepare a table in the desert?” my answer has become, “Let me show you how God has prepared a table in the desert!”Looking back over the past 25 years I realize there were other questions and people who challenged my faith and in taking on the challenge, my faith grew. One day at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, NM, I was talking to our dear friend Fred Believer, actually, it was more like complaining to Fred about heaven knows what, as St Benedict would say “murmuring” and Fred in his true monk style shot back at me, “Why not you?” It was one of those questions that left me with my mouth open… not an easy pill to swallow but I knew in my heart he spoke truth and if I was going to continue this monastic journey in honesty I needed to take this challenge on. When I can give myself the time and space to be still and face the challenges that come my way, weather it is from my sisters and brothers or God’s word I know I will see the marvelous deeds God has done for me. He has done wonders in the sight of my doubts, in the plains of my fears. And, because of all the wonders I have seen in the past 25 years I know I will continue to see even greater.Even before Fred, there was Mother Julianne Allen’s question, “Why are you doing that?” In our beginnings in Santa Cruz, New Mexico, Mother Julianne saw me doing things and saying things that probably did not make a lot of sense and she would pipe up, “Why are you doing that?” And, once again I would stand there with my mouth wide open and reply, “Ahh…,” and in the end just shrug my shoulders. One day I was so frustrated with her, “Why are you doing that?” that I just blurted out, “Because the brothers do it!” and then the light went on and at that point something inside of me knew as much as I loved and admired the monks, I could not stay in the monastery, if everything I did was because the brothers did it.But with time these questions became a reality of God’s presence in my monastic life. My faith grew with each step of the journey by the time we were on our way to Gobernador, it became a Journey of Trust, now I say it is a JOURNEY OF FAITH.Way back in the early days of my monastic life I read somewhere: “One trail prepares you for the next” Accompanied by Mother Julianne’s comment, “It is the human condition,” two more pills that were not easy to swallow but looking back over the last 25 years these insights have been pure gift from those who have accompanied me by challenging my faith. And, by the grace of God I was able to accept these challenges, many times resisting with all my stubborn might.But eventually with God’s grace I have come to the point where I can say with confidence, “Yes, God can prepare a table in the desert.” We the sisters of Our Lady of the Desert are living witnesses to Him who is full of compassion, who forgives our doubts and spares us and who continues to lead us on this JOURNEY OF FAITH through the desert.The journey continues and the challenging questions along with it. Last Saturday morning at Mass another challenge, how to be a Dom Bosco to my sisters? Dom Bosco was a man of deep love for the poor, especially the poor children. This question challenges my heart: “Can God prepare a Table in my heart? With fears and trepidation my faith tells me Yes, God can prepare a table in my heart!”Thank you for joining us on this JOURNEY OF FAITH; it is your love and support that have made it possible. Please know we hold you in our daily prayers. From Mother Benedicta Serna, Prioress
(NOTE: Mother Benedicta joined the monastery on September 29, 1990)