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Sister Ruth Elaine and the authentic journey

Sister Ruth Elaine and the authentic journey - (16-04-2021)

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Sister Ruth Elaine Starman, OSB, a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, opens her heart to share about religious life, living in community and offers insights that can cross over into the lives of lay people.

How do you carve out private prayer time during the day?

To carve out prayer time during the day, I have to be disciplined and commit to “going to my inner room” and spending time with God. For me, it’s best to make an appointment during the day, e.g. using the time between Lauds and Mass for meditation only and not running around trying to get my workday in order. It's easy to get distracted and find something else to do, so I tell myself, “This is God-only time, no texts, no Internet.” The period of Adoration during the day is a great way to spend time in prayer with no other distractions. The evening is also a very good time for me to pray at this stage of my journey.

What is your favorite Bible passage?

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went away and sold all he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

I love the symbolism here because I think an authentic spiritual journey involves giving up some things in order to seek that which is most precious. In my case, that is Jesus Christ. It begs the question “What am I willing to leave behind in order to gain what is most important in my life?” I have to keep choosing the pearl because other things can press in and be an obstacle to my search for God.

What does community life mean to you? 

Community life is the way in which I become my most authentic self. It is a place for me to get my rough edges smoothed as I live, work and pray with all these God-seeking women who were called to this community before and after me. It is in this milieu that I strive to do what is best for another before myself. It is here where I learn to love those who may be very hard to love. It is in community life that I must allow the grace of God to enter in and mold me into the most loving person I can be. It's not easy by any means, but the spiritual journey is a marathon, not a sprint!

Is there a vow you struggle with? 

Obedience can be a difficult vow at times. Sometimes, I just don’t want to be asked to do a certain task! However, I must step back from the reluctance and be honest with myself about why I’m resistant. With the grace of God, I can say “yes” with a minimum of murmuring, hopefully.

What was the most difficult stage of the journey to religious life for you?

The first year (postulancy) was very difficult at times.  Once I got over a short honeymoon period, I realized I was lonely for my old life and its many adventures. Doubts crept in to tell me I wasn't really called to religious life after all. I had to keep going back to the memory of my initial call to religious life in order to stay the course when I didn't want to stay the course! I had to accept that one does not get through life without trials, and different trials have come around at different stages in my life. I realized I would have had similar trials even if I wasn't living in a monastery. 

What is something that might surprise people about being a contemplative Sister? 

People may be surprised that this isn’t an ocean of peace all the time. I've heard many guests state, “This is such a peaceful place” or “You must have such a peaceful life.”  Would that God had set us apart for that when we walked through the door to join!

For information about Benedictine monastic life, please visit our VOCATIONS section.