On Thanksgiving, after enjoying a festive meal provided by generous donors, after fellowship with our dear brother friars, and after we’d washed just about every dish, pan, and utensil in the kitchen, our hearts were brimming with gratitude, but our bodies were tired. We prayed Evening Prayer together and then gathered in St. Clare’s, our hospitality room, to watch a DVD we’d just received, an early Christmas present from two dear friends.
Many Americans watch parades and football on Thanksgiving; some enjoy naps or long walks after dining. What drew your Poor Clare sisters to the television screen at the end of the day? Christopher Robin!
We’d been eagerly looking forward to the film for some time. Members of our faith community and friends of the monastery had recommended it. Fr. Patrick, in one of his homilies, told us that we had to see it and even joked that he would load us all onto the St. Anthony’s bus, take us to the nearest movie theatre, and buy us tickets and popcorn. Christopher Robin was therefore on our “to do” list, but we expected to have to wait to borrow the DVD from the public library. After all, cloistered nuns don’t go to the movies; films have to come to us, within the enclosure of the monastery. We watch them together on special occasions, such as Thanksgiving.
Sometimes people ask us, what is it really like in the monastery? Well, on Thanksgiving, it’s not unlike other houses at the end of a busy, happy day. We were like a multi-generational family of parents, grandparents, siblings, and children who gather to share a common experience. We who are sisters to each other and who recognize each other as children of God became like little children again as we were drawn into the story. The room was filled with laughter and joy. Like Christopher Robin, we rediscovered these characters from our childhood and reflected on the simple wisdom of Pooh.
Eeyore, of course, got the most laughs. As adults, we all see something of ourselves – and each other – in Eeyore at times. Eeyore is the exaggerated version of the glass-is-half-empty, Murphy’s Law, pessimistic mindset. It’s very easy to fall into that way of thinking, which is why Eeyore is so funny and so endearing.
The room erupted with loud, prolonged laughter when Eeyore said, “Don’t get me started …” One sister didn’t stop laughing for several minutes. In our life in community, we’ve all heard others occasionally start to say something similar, and we’ve caught ourselves thinking or wanting to say something similar at times. “Don’t get me started” is a good example of what not to say, what not to think, and how not to proceed in monastic life. Because he can’t check his tendency to dwell on the negative and to over-dramatize his misfortunes, Eeyore would not be the ideal community member; he has trouble looking beyond himself. A strong community is other-centered. A strong faith is focused on God and neighbor.
Want to make your sisters laugh? An easy way now is to imitate Eeyore’s growly “Don’t get me started…” As a humorous catch-phrase or tag line, “Don’t get me started” may not be a bad way to prepare for Christmas, especially if it reminds us to take the broader view and to live with hope, love, and joy, trusting in our loving and merciful God.
May your Advent be a blessed one!