Living simply, centered on prayer
The nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, along with visitors who have joined them for Mass, celebrate Palm Sunday with an outdoor procession. (Photo courtesy of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey.)
IN RURAL IOWA, along the banks of the Mississippi River, 17 nuns have a simple goal for their lives together. “We try to follow Jesus Christ through a life of prayer, silence, simplicity, and ordinary work,” they declare on their website.
OF THE MISSISSIPPI ABBEY
3:30 a.m. Rise
3:45 a.m. Vigils
Time for private prayer, breakfast, reading
7:15 a.m. Lauds and Mass
8:30 a.m. Community meeting followed by work
9:45 a.m. Terce (short prayer at the workplace)
11:30 a.m. End of work
12:00 p.m. Sext
12:15 p.m. Dinner together in silence with a reading
Dishwashing together; time for a nap
2:00 p.m. None
2:15 p.m. Work
3:45 p.m. End of work
5:00 p.m. Vespers
5:15 p.m. 15 minutes of quiet prayer together in church
7:15 p.m. Compline
8:00 p.m. Retire
They are the Trappistine Cistercian nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey. They carry on a tradition that stretches back to the year 1098 when the first Cistercian monastery was founded in France. Their modern lives follow a centuries-old pattern. In keeping with Catholic monasteries around the world, they pray the Divine Office, a series of prayers, psalms, hymns, and scripture readings that are chanted, sung, and recited at set intervals during the day. These prayer times are known by their Latin names: Vigils, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.
To provide income and food, the nuns make and sell candy, raise chickens, and cultivate fruit and organic vegetables on part of their 650 acres of land. When they are not praying together or at work, they have free time for reading scripture, exploring nature, praying privately, exercising, and enjoying hobbies.
The abbey’s typical schedule reflects the rhythm of their days, which begin when most of their neighbors are sleeping. No matter the time of day or the activity, however, the purpose of each moment at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey is to remain aware of and open to God’s presence.
Related article: VocationNetwork.org, “A Dominican’s day—timeless and timely.”
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