I know there's something a little pretentious about a twenty-five-year-old blogging about spirituality. Whenever I’ve thought about taking on this project, I’ve asked myself, not entirely unkindly, “What do you know? What do you have to say to people that most of them haven’t already lived?”
Maybe those are the wrong questions to be asking.
Until this past May, I was a student for my whole life: Catholic school from the age of four through the twelfth grade, a small liberal arts college, and then a dual degree program studying for a Masters in Divinity at a Protestant seminary and a Masters in Social Work at a big state university. I loved all that schooling, even the really slogging, uninspired years. But somewhere along the way—maybe from a tweedy professor handing back essays, or from a classmate having a late-night library meltdown—I got the idea that unless you’re making a totally new point, or saying something better than it’s been said before, it’s better to keep your thoughts to yourself.
When I came to spend 10 weeks doing an internship with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie in the summer of 2015, at the age of 22, I thought I was just checking a box for seminary, completing a requirement that I wasn’t especially enthusiastic about. But those ten weeks changed, and are still changing, my life. The sisters I worked with and lived with introduced the concepts of the Rule of Benedict to me, teaching me for the first time that there is a holiness in everyday moments, that something can be worth working for even if you never see the outcome you wanted, and that the struggle to grow and change and improve never needs to end. All of this was new to me, all of it challenged the way I had been taught to think about myself and about life. And I knew I needed it.
So I became an oblate, and when I finished school, I moved to Erie. I’m taking the opportunity to work for the Sisters, attend their liturgies, ask them my questions and watch them move through their own lives, all in the hopes that I’ll absorb the wisdom of the Rule and of the Benedictine way of life. That I’ll become more humble, more aware of my gifts and my limitations. That I’ll become more reverent, recognize God’s fingerprints around me. That I‘ll stop comparing myself to others, worrying that I don’t have anything special to say. That I’ll embrace a conversion of life.
Maybe you are on this kind of journey too, somewhere far ahead of me or just starting out. I may not be able to teach you anything. But we are all beginners in a sense, in one way or another––this blog's name is a reference to the prologue of the Rule of Benedict, where Benedict explains that the way of life he is setting out is, "a little rule for beginners"––so my hope is that even those who are much more advanced than I am will find something interesting or enriching in these reflections on my experiences early in my adulthood, early in my life with this community.
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A blog by Jacqueline Small
What happens when a woman in her mid-twenties begins to work, pray, and share life with a community of Benedictine sisters? What questions arise and what wisdom emerges? This blog will offer peeks into one young seeker’s experiences. Jacqueline is a staff member of Monasteries of the Heart and an oblate of Mount Saint Benedict Monastery. She holds a Bachelors degree in Sociology from Swarthmore College, a Masters in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Masters in Social Work from Rutgers University.