A Benedictine Community Copes

Sr. Denise Mosier, OSB + 2010

This is so worth reading.

In the midst of life, we are in death; in the midst of death, we are in life. In the midst of a tumultuous world of noise and hyper-everything, we find stability, the very thing Benedictines vow themselves to.

There is an amazing backdrop this week for the Benedictine nuns in Virginia who are reeling from a deadly drunk-driving crash: silent retreat.

The community of 33 women had their annual retreat scheduled when the crash happened Sunday morning, killing one sister and seriously injuring two others. There was discussion about canceling the event or at least the silent aspect, but the women voted by a show of hands in the kitchen Sunday evening to go ahead. This has created unusual conditions for mourning and resulted in scenes like those that unfolded yesterday: women silently folding napkins in preparation for their sister’s wake, women listening to a fortuitously-named lecture on “Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” special prayers being spoken at Mass for hospital staff and for “the safety of all those traveling.”

The decision to go ahead with their silent retreat was an unusual one, but the spiritual community at the Saint Benedict Monastery is unusual as well.

Like some monastic religious orders, the Catholic Benedictine Sisters’ priority is on their relationships with one another–as opposed to on service, for example–but for them it’s to the point that they take a unique vow, along with chastity and poverty, of “stability”–to remain based here, in Bristow. And this week, as three seats are glaringly empty in the tiny wood-beamed chapel, the women are facing the loss in intense, private prayer.

“I looked out at the women and here they are, with all red eyes and all cried out,” Sister Christine Vladimiroff, the key presenter for the week, said of the mood when she arrived Sunday. “I thought: What does this have to do with anything?”

But the community, which runs a counseling center, a grade school and a literacy program here on the wooded, 120-acre property, wanted to forge ahead with the retreat, even as pairs of two took turns driving to Fairfax to sit a vigil by the injured nuns’ bedsides.

In fact being together, instead of spread out doing their normal weekly work, and being in prayer, created a cushion, and a structure for their initial days of shock and mourning.

“Being all together gives us focus,” said Sister Andrea Verchuck, 81..

Read the whole thing. One of those stories wherein one takes the pulse of a monastic community and finds it solid.

Via Deacon Greg

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Ellen

    Benedictines don’t take vows of poverty and chastity. They take vows of stability, obedience and conversion of manners (this encompasses poverty and chastity).

    I went to a Benedictine retreat last week and we talked about these vows, especially conversion of manners and how lay persons can practice it.

    The media just doesn’t understand religion any more.

    [Before people get the wrong idea, I feel duty-bound, as a Benedictine Oblate, to clarify that: Benedictine vows come from the Rule of Saint Benedict which was written centuries before poverty, chastity and obedience became the standard vows.

    Saint Benedict's vows (or promises as he called them) are stability, ‘conversatio’ and obedience. Stability is a commitment of lifelong fidelity to God and our Congregation. ‘Conversatio’ is a commitment to embrace all of monastic life as a path to holiness and conversion. This includes poverty or simplicity of life and chastity. Obedience is a vow of listening, responsive love to the voice of God as it comes to us through prayer, the Rule of Saint Benedict, Scripture, our prioress and our sisters.

    So, to a Benedictine, the "poverty" and "chastity" area understood to exist within the vows they take. Just wanted to be clear on that. -admin]

  • cathyf

    It’s kind of sweet how surprised journalists always seem. Of course faith has consequences!

  • Cromagnum


    This is a tragedy, the Benedictines at the Linton Hall School where they were traveling to is right up the road from my house. Being local to the story, i read more about.

    Missing from the story, is that this could have been prevented, not questioning God’s Will, but from our merely human perspective, this should never have happened.

    The Other driver was an illegal Immigrant, on his Third (3rd) DUI in the Prince William County VA. and at least his fifth run in with the law. His last punishment from ICE was to self-deport himself back to Bolivia.
    See that side of the story at Black Velvet Bruce Lee (BVBL)

    The very end of another WashPo article, that quotes the BVBL blogger:
    “Here is a perfect example of how our government at various levels — state, federal and local — is failing to protect the public safety,” said Greg Letiecq, head of the anti-illegal immigrant group Help Save Manassas. “If the government had done the job they promised us they would do, and kept illegal aliens out of this country, a nun would be alive today.”

    This was a tragedy that should never have happened. It is also part of the immigration debate that has been simmering in PWC for the last several years. The lack of Justice has become more visible, just as an innocent soul slips away to see God.

  • F

    A beautiful testament to the love of that community. SO very moving.

    I had never heard of the vow of stability until Fr. Mitch Pacwa interviewed the Norbertines:


    Fascinating really.

  • Luka

    Kind of interesting how the sister, may God rest her soul, was killed by an illegal immigrant drunk driver. Doesn’t the Church advocate that illegals get to stay here, as it would be disruptive to send them home? Funny how it’s sometimes disruptive to have them here. Oh, well. If you’re willing to advocate for lawbreakers, don’t be surprised when that comes back to bite you.

  • Lori

    What a small world it is. Sister Denise taught several of my cousins years ago in a tiny town in Pennsylvania before moving on to Virginia. My relatives have been pleasantly surprised at all the news coverage. They remember Sister with great affection. God bless Sister and her community.

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com tioedong

    I will pray for the sisters.

    But showing a photo of a happy woman teaching spirituality means “being the most loving person I can be” suggests huggy feelly Christianity,AKA a passive aggressive “church lady” approach to life that manipulates others with their superiority.

  • susan

    “Kind of interesting how the sister, may God rest her soul, was killed by an illegal immigrant drunk driver. Doesn’t the Church advocate that illegals get to stay here, as it would be disruptive to send them home? Funny how it’s sometimes disruptive to have them here. Oh, well. If you’re willing to advocate for lawbreakers, don’t be surprised when that comes back to bite you.”

    God’s Neon sign brightly shining his message to those inside the Catholic Church that their cup of empowering abortion and encouraging lawlessness is unclean to his body.

  • Maureen

    Re: “most loving” –

    Do notice that the diagram explicitly says that “most loving” is “according to Jesus’ values”. Since we all know that Jesus’ definition of love included some pretty hard sayings and even breaking up a market with a whip, that’s not a particularly “touchy feely” or “passive aggressive” definition of love.

    Also, if it has escaped your notice, insulting a Bride of Christ who just got killed — on the basis of one picture and no knowledge — is pretty disgusting. I hope you don’t use that mouth at funerals, unless you really crave going from wake to emergency room on a regular basis.