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Week of October 13: The Photographers

Week of October 13-19
Elisabeth Meadows, OSB, Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, AL

The Photographers
I answered the Retreat Center phone yesterday and a voice said: “Come to the Sunken Garden, and bring the camera!” A little family of wood ducks was wandering by, and that called for a photograph.

Several of our Sisters enjoy photography, but three of us - Sister Regina, Sister Therese, and myself - are currently the ones most likely to seen with camera in hand as we go about our daily rounds of work and prayer. We take photographs for our website, newsletter, bulletin board, archives - and of course, as a way to experience and enjoy God's beautiful creation. Two cameras float between the three of us and we are constantly passing them back and forth, swapping out USB cables, trading jump drives – and making quick phone calls when a unique shot presents itself, such as a family of wood ducks wandering by. 

Although we share equipment and subject matter, each of us peers through the lens with a slightly different perspective. Sister Regina enjoys taking nature photographs. She is a gardener of roses, vegetables, and saplings; a birder who can identify at a glance just about every winged creature under heaven; and is so at home amongst the blossoms, blooms, and birdhouses on our grounds that you can almost say that she doesn’t take pictures, she grows them . Many of the landscape shots on our website were seen first through her lens. 

Sister Therese, an artist, combines a love of beauty with a keen eye for composition and lighting. She says that photography deepens her personal reflections on visual awareness, focus, and perspective. It also helps her discover areas of the monastery grounds that rarely get visited, and allows her to see routine spots in a new light. She shares her photos regularly on our Facebook friends page, and also on Monastery Moments, the Community photo gallery on our website. 

For my part, I enjoy the way a camera helps me focus and “see.” I also appreciate the way in which photographs can help tell a story, which is how I try to use them in this weblog. In fact, many of the posts on this weblog started out as a photo, and conversely, some photographs were taken in order to illustrate a post. 

I hesitate to put myself in the category of ‘artisan,’ but the appellation certainly belongs to Sisters Regina and Therese. Chapter 57 of Benedict’s Rule applies: “If there are artisans in the monastery, they are to practice their craft with all humility…” The chapter closes with the Benedictine motto: “…that in all things God may be glorified.” I know that all three of us, and the other Sister photographers in our midst, have that as our ultimate aim as we focus our cameras on the wonderful works of God. 

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.