Gifts of Wisdom from God

May Christ bring us all together to everlasting life.  Rule of Benedict

Gifts of Wisdom

The ear that listens to wisdom rejoices. Sirach 3:29

What would you say was the most important lesson of your life? If you could identify it – and it is hard, on the spot, to come up with the perfect answer! – it might have come from a teacher or mentor. Perhaps you read it in a book. Maybe you gleaned it over time from an accumulation of experiences.
Lessons – whether hard or easy – are gifts of wisdom. They guide us and, if we share them with others, they can guide many. Here are a few lessons from the Benedictines who are happy to share what they’ve learned.

No Tragedies, Just Miracles

When Sister Rita Cain, OSB visited home after joining the community, she took a Benedictine pin with her. She planned to attach it to the sleeper of her sister’s new baby. He had been quite ill.

Sr. Rita said she told her sister that healing the child would be her first miracle. Her sister replied, ‘Your first? I have them every day.’

Sr. Rita says her sister echoed the lesson they had experienced growing up. It’s one that continues to guide her today: not to complain about difficulties or problems, but to do what works. Pray.

“We didn’t recognize a tragedy if we had one,” she says. “In a family of 12 kids things would happen. We faced crop failures and hailstorms and droughts. We lived with them, took care of them. We prayed.

“‘There are real bad tragedies in the world and ours are not them,’ is kind of how we looked at it,” Sr. Rita says. “We didn’t have tragedies. We had miracles.”

It is, she says, a way of looking at the world as well as coping with it. That is, miracles are God’s response to us, and God’s response is good. Sr. Rita offers an example.

“We might pray for a loved one’s healing,” she says. “That healing can come as reconciliation with someone. Maybe it comes in a peaceful death.”

Bottom line?

“You know bad things are going to happen,” Sr. Rita says. “Life’s not perfect. But when you pray for and expect miracles, you get them.”


Sister Martina Brinkschroeder, OSB was a novice sister when one of the elder sisters called her to go help Sister Modesta. The elder hung up before the novice could ask where, exactly, she was to go.

Sr. Martina followed her hunch, and found Sr. Modesta picking grapes in the lower vineyard.

“I told her of my experience and Sr. Modesta said, ‘Remember, nine times out of 10 your first hunch will be right.’

“I believe she was correct. You must learn to listen and pay attention, though, as St. Benedict instructs in the Rule. When you do, you’ll be able to trust your instincts. Your first hunch will likely be right.”

Say Yes

“I had been teaching for 21 years when I was asked to become formation director,” Sister Sheila McGrath, OSB says. “That was hard to do. I really enjoyed teaching. But I said yes.”

And because Sr. Sheila said yes, she ended up in the ministry she most values today.

“To prepare, I went to Aquinas Institute of Theology. As part of the formation program, I had to intern in hospital ministry for three months.

“Medicine and nursing were never anything I was interested in, despite the fact that my dad was a doctor. But I enjoyed chaplaincy so much that when I completed my service as formation director, I applied for a position as chaplain at Lutheran Hospital in Moline.

“Saying yes to the community’s request led me into 12 years of some of my happiest ministry experience,” Sr. Sheila says.

But how can we know when it’s right to say yes?

“Talk to people who know you well,” Sr. Sheila says. “Let them ask you the tough questions. Anything new can produce a bit of fear, but if you’re paralyzed by your fear, that’s counterproductive.

“Check your gut,” she says. “It should feel right, and like it’s the right choice for the particular time in your life.”


Half of a team of twins, Sister Catherine Maloney, OSB can relate hijinks and schemes from her childhood that would make the most patient parent grow faint.

“My twin and I were always up to something,” Sr. Catherine says. “I remember one day very well. Mom had dressed us in beautiful new pink dresses for a party. Our hair was perfect and our shoes were buckled. We were to wait for her to get ready and then we would go.

“Well, I don’t remember why there was an open can of paint but there it was. Oh, my, we had fun giving the wall a new look. When Mom came out, all ready to go, she had a real surprise. She saw two little girls covered in paint. She had to start all over.

“I have no doubt that it took all the patience and love in the world to take care of us. She was a wonderful role model. She was a living example of Jesus’ words, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ What a wonderful lesson to learn at such an early age.”

Leave Space for Being

Although Benedictine monastic women value silence and contemplation, they, too, are subject to busyness. As many in today’s culture, they can find themselves running from one obligation to another, working late to finish projects, collapsing in exhaustion at the end of the day.

Sister Mary Core, OSB says she learned many years ago that doing was important, but so was being.

“An elder sister told me she wished she had spent more time reading as a young woman,” Sr. Mary says. “Now that she was into her 80s, she was enjoying doing so, and having time to ask the big questions.

“She said she found it more difficult to do, instead of be, as she grew older. Now, she was focusing on reflecting and praying and building awareness of who God wanted her to be. She said that was more important than doing. That really spoke to me.”

Sr. Mary says the temptation to always do rather than be is even greater today than it was back when she was given those words of wisdom.

“We are bombarded by our screens,” she says. “Our phones, computers, TVs, iPods are constantly available for updates. We text, email, watch and work at the same time. Multitasking is taking up all the white space that used to surround us.

“I want to do the doing well and think most people do. But I also want to leave some space for being. Because I think we’re being people.”