While I was attending a reunion in Fort Collins, Colorado, last week, I had the opportunity to visit The Abbey of St. Walberga in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Northern Colorado. Our reunion group had been invited to midday prayer with the sisters who reside there.
The Abbey of St. Walburga is a Benedictine monastery of contemplative nuns of the Roman Catholic Church. The nuns devote much of their day to the Word of God, through reading and in liturgical prayer. The rest of the day is spent working the land or in direct service to others, undertaken for the financial support of their community.
The midday prayer is a combination of the third hour and sixth hour of the Divine Office, also called the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the official set of prayers that sanctify the day with prayer. It consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns, readings, and other prayers and antiphons. Together with the Mass, it constitutes the official public prayer life of the Church, as it does at the Abbey of St. Walberga.
According to the pamphlet from the Abbey, the St. Walberga community traces its origins to the early nuns and monks of the desert, who sought to live the Gospel of Christ wholeheartedly. St. Benedict (480-543) distilled his Rule from this living tradition, and its observance spread throughout Europe. The first Abbey of St. Walberga – a Benedictine monastic community – was founded in 1035 in Bavaria. In 1935, three sisters were sent from Bavaria to a remote farm near Boulder, Colorado to escape the political climate of Nazi Germany. In 1997, the community moved to its current location.
The architecture, sacred art, and rural setting are all worth a visit in their own right. What made this visit so special was participating in the midday prayer with the sisters. It brought back memories of a peaceful and prayerful time for me. I am familiar with the Liturgy of the Hours, most especially the psalms, and I was blessed to be able to pray them again in community with the sisters. I was introduced to the Divine Office many years ago as a member of a religious community. In the last few years, the psalms have again taken a prominent place in my prayer life. While I know that I am not called to a monastic life, I am grateful that many women and men today still respond to that special call to devote their lives to contemplative prayer. We all benefit from this praying church whether or not we belong to a church community or not.
When I first heard about the reunion plans to visit the Abbey of St. Walberga, something seemed familiar about that name. I had never been to Fort Collins or northern Colorado before. I subscribe to Give Us This Day (Liturgical Press) that has daily reflections written by various spiritual authors from around the world. I discovered that one of the writers whom I enjoy reading is part of the community of the Abbey of St. Walberga. I did not speak with any of the sisters, but their publications are available in their bookstore. I recognized the name of Sr. Genevieve Glen, OSB. If you are interested, you can find her blog, Take with You Words, at http://www.genglen.blogspot.com.