Little Blog for Beginners by Jacqueline Small

Some Thoughts on Mary Lou

Sat, 2023-01-07 12:22

The first time I met Mary Lou, I had just driven about seven hours across the state of Pennsylvania, through rain and sleet storms. I was twenty two and I think it was the first time I'd driven such a long way alone. I was coming to the monastery for a summer internship, and she opened the door for me when I finally arrived (late). She had been sitting on the bench, reading Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor.

"Jacqueline, I presume," she said.

Some Thoughts on Changes

Tue, 2022-08-23 10:24

Almost every day after morning prayer, I sit in the sunroom at the back corner of the monastery and do my lectio. I read the psalms, just a verse at a time, and translate them out of Hebrew and into English. It's been over 3,000 years since the psalms were written, but not too much has changed about the human condition in all that time. We love to thank God, we love to sing. We love to curse. I sit there and let the words say something to me, and look out the windows at the sisters who are taking walks around the house, or reading Teresa of Avila on the bench.

Lent reflections

Thu, 2022-03-10 17:01

I was asked to write reflections on the gospel readings for Lent and Easter Sunday for the Federation of Saint Scholastica's centennial celebration website. You can find them here.

Some Thoughts as a Scholastic

Fri, 2021-12-10 15:37

People can reassure me all day long that they enjoy my writing; I still struggle to come up with anything to say about my life that I think would be broadly interesting. Everything I write feels pretty embarrassing to me. I don't say that to fish for compliments or ask for advice, but I guess to apologize for the long silence. 

Some Thoughts on Manna

Sun, 2021-08-01 19:30

In today’s first reading, the Israelites complain that they have no food in the wilderness, and God sends them a kind of bread that they’ve never seen before—a kind of bread that, to be honest, doesn’t make too much sense to me. It’s compared to frost or dew and it appears on the ground, which doesn’t sound particularly appetizing or substantial.

Just Disparate Thoughts

Sat, 2021-04-10 19:01

Sorry about the hiatus.

Some Thoughts on Willows

Tue, 2020-12-15 22:01

What does a novice do all day? Oh, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We take classes on the Rule of Benedict and the litugical cycle and humility; I've started taking voice lessons so that I won't feel like like I'm dragging down the choir; I meet with my director once a week or so; I do an hour of lectio a day and have had the time to read about 15 books in the last two months.

Some Thoughts at the Start of the Novitiate

Sun, 2020-10-25 15:26

I was just stepping out of my room to head to the hermitage where I would start my pre-novitiate retreat, when one of the Sisters who I live with whispered sharply from down the hall, "Don't slam the door like that!"

I apologized quietly and meekly, and felt good about myself for only rolling my eyes in my heart.

I thought, "First of all, I didn't slam it."

I thought, "Who cares how loud the door closes? It's not like I'm setting off fireworks in here."

Some Thoughts on Looking Ahead

Sun, 2020-08-23 00:00

I spend a lot of time thinking about Benedicta Riepp. In 1852, at the age of 27, she set out from her monastery in Germany and with two other sisters, brought Benedictine life for women to North America. She had what can only be described as a tremendously difficult time. She entered her community at the age of 19, a few years after it began taking new members after over thirty years of being quasi-closed down by Napoleon.

Some Thoughts in the Middle of Summer

Sun, 2020-07-26 00:06

Over the July 11 weekend, we elected a new prioress.  It's hard to explain to those outside the monastic world quite how big a deal that is.

A Few Thoughts on Racism

Fri, 2020-06-12 14:20

A few months ago, my doctor told me that it’s not that I’m flexible, as I’d always considered myself—it’s that I have a genetic syndrome that renders all of my ligaments and tendons too lax and stretchy to hold my joints in their proper places. I had always known that my knees bend backwards and sideways, my shoulders pop in and out of alignment, and my elbows and fingers extend way past the normal bounds, but the doctor, with an awfully serious face, told me that this was more than just being double-jointed. 

Some Thoughts from Inside

Sat, 2020-04-25 23:19

When you’ve been in community for any period of time, you can tell who’s coming down the hall from as little as the sound of their footsteps. You come to know each person’s stride, the squeak of each one’s shoes, the tone of her humming, the volume of her breathing. There are sixty-some of us who live in this building, praying and working and eating and milling around together, every single day; we know each other.

Some Thoughts During a Pandemic

Thu, 2020-03-19 11:28

Part of the reason it always takes me such a long time to update this blog is that I really want my posts to have something interesting to say. Coming up with something that isn't cliche or simplistic is a challenge at the best of times. But now...? Everyone is trying to find something meaningful, something reassuring, something hopeful to offer, something to remind us all that we are in this together, even as we keep our physical distance. What can I possibly offer that's a different take on that?

Some Thoughts on Intergenerational Living

Sat, 2020-01-11 00:04

Benedict tells us in the Rule that we should order ourselves not by our age, not by our social status, but by the amount of time that we have spent in the monastic community. By that metric, I'm only the second "youngest" in our community of 89 women. But by the very human, unavoidable metric of chronological age, I am definitely the baby as a newly-minted 27 year old.

Some More Thoughts on Trust

Mon, 2019-10-21 12:11

There I was on Route 80, in the middle of nowhere, PA, hurtling toward home in Erie after my first visit home to my family since starting the postulancy, when the "check engine" light started blinking and the car slowed ominously. After a half-second of indecision (Could I possibly make it to the Mount like this?