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Week of September 15: Earthen Vessel Days

Week of September 15-21
Elisabeth Meadows, OSB, Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, AL

Earthen Vessel Days
Have you read the words of St. Paul about earthen vessels? And have you ever just had ‘one of those days?’

Yesterday I had one of those days – a genuine, bonafide ‘earthen vessel’ day. During Mass, as I prepared the altar for the Presider, I shuffled around in my squeakiest shoes ever, trying to minimize the noise by feebly attempting to move without actually walking, an awkward effort that likely drew even more attention to my noisily shod feet. In the process I unfolded the corporal upside down, clanged the chalices against one another, and none too soon shuffled meekly (and loudly) back to my seat. 

That was just the beginning. In the afternoon I forgot an important meeting. Then I was nearly late to something else and arrived breathless and scattered. Like I said, it was a genuine, bonafide earthen vessel day. Not only did I feel my fragility, it was painfully apparent to everyone around me. 

Probably every day contains some moment(s) like these, but most days don’t contain so many. A day like yesterday leaves me shaking my head with gratitude and wonder that God entrusts such treasures to us frail humans who so often shuffle around off kilter and out of balance and trampling on gems and jewels on every side. We say the wrong thing, we make the wrong move, we unknowingly injure despite good intentions, we turn things upside down, we make a big giant mess while wearing loud, squeaky shoes. 

St. Benedict recognized our human frailty and our tendency to mess things up. He counsels us to “support with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior.” Sometimes this support means to challenge a Sister to grow beyond her weakness. Sometimes it means to support with patient love a weakness that cannot be changed. At all times we are to remember both our need for mercy and our responsibility to be merciful. 

Although we live amidst overflowing treasures, we are earthen vessels - quick to break things around us, and easily shattered ourselves. We are always in need of the love and support of community and the tender mercy of God, that in all things God may be glorified. Even - and especially - on an earthen vessel day. 

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. II Cor. 4:7

Elisabeth Meadows, OSBSister Elisabeth Meadows is a Benedictine Sister at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, AL. She directs the community's retreat center, serves in several other roles within the community, and finds great joy in the 'everyday' of monastic life and in the great gift of sharing life with her sisters in monastic community.