I awoke to clutter everywhere
Calling me to weave
My life into
Fabrics of soft, rich color or
Bold, dramatic design or
Lacey, light musical tones and texture
To drape on the soul
In her wild dance
Weaving a Life by Sister Bette
…Yet will Love remain constant and pure.
I shall dwell with Love in gratitude and joy;
I shall sing praises to the Beloved,
Heart of my heart.
Psalm 7 (last verses)
Psalms for Praying by
Nan C. Merrill
First called to apostolic religious life in a
Wisconsin community, Sister Bette eventually felt drawn to live an even further remove from the hustle and bustle of the ordinary market place. She began a long search for the right place to establish a hermitage.
“I…am waiting for winter, its silence and solitude speaking of Intimate love in the darkness – Let’s listen!”
Bette and I have written to each other once or twice a year since our first meeting at the 2004. I was drawn to her as a source of wisdom; an experienced practitioner of the contemplative way, following a solitary path. She was a courageous hermit persevering in steadfast presence before the God of Love and Mystery. Could she teach my extroverted self something about living as a contemplative in community? Could she offer some wisdom for my own journey, my experience of the contemplative way of living together as hermits sharing the common life?
“The unfolding mystery in us; is us.”
I have saved every wise and compassionate letter received from Bette. Our friendship is a strange, inexplicable mutual gift. We both admit to fumbling on our way to God – mysterious and remote while at the same time intimately present in ways beyond our comprehension. For us, sharing our struggles is a means of restoring the bulwark supporting the singular and often lonely contemplative path.
Sometimes longed for meetings with friends rarely seen in person can fall so short of eager expectation. However, my visit with Bette in the early days of August was all and more than I had hoped it would be. Merely being blessed with the opportunity for this contemplative nun and the reclusive hermit to meet was miracle. Bette was typically open and generous; happy as a child to know that I was coming; enjoying all of her planning and preparations for a quintessential
lobster lunch presented in her home. “Why eat out when we can talk so freely here?” Bette further explained how our festive meal was provided by the postponed use of a birthday gift from a generous friend. She rejoiced that the gift was magnified in being twice shared. Maine
A tour of her weaving studio and then her wooden yurt replete with solar energy, wood stove, well water, and compost toilet gave a sense of the simplicity with which this hermits lives her days. After driving into the village to pick up steaming lobsters just out of the pot we drove passed the homes of her neighbors. Many of these friends are very supportive and attentive in their care and attention to Bette’s needs as an older woman living alone in natural terrain and sometimes hostile climate.
Bette put last minutes touches to a meal set out with great love, blessed by her prayers and crowned as sacrament in the wine we shared. Cracking open our lobsters, we enthusiastically sucked out every bit of juicy meat they offered. But greater than this feast of tasty food and enervating wine was our presence to each other. We rejoiced in the beneficence of God who makes all things possible, even a yurt and a visit to Stockton Springs on
’s rocky and lighthouse dotted coast. Maine
“What really matters is Divine Love – and becoming an icon of Christ’s love in the world.”
We shared the challenges of our lives; making sense of vocations which seem to have little or no significance in our world and even our Church; coping with aging, mortality and loss of those we know and love; our own diminishing strength and number of days; the need for a tenacious hold on the Presence in us and among us; and persevering in our availability to the energetic Center of all creation.
Bette spoke so enthusiastically of the inspiration recently received at a Franciscan conference. The invitation issued there radiated from the lives of Saints Francis and Clare and the Gospel of John reminding of the call; the call to be in our own lives a constant presence, an ever-burning flame. If we do no more, we cannot fail if we but maintain ourselves as a burning flame in the Presence of God.
Woven in and out through our conversation like the hand spun yarn in Bette’s weaving shuttle was the theme of knowledge of self and truth to ones own reality. In remaining available to the Divine, in faithfulness to our spiritual discipline, in our generous contemplation, we learn who we are and find, in companionship with our loving God, the strength to live as who and what we were created to be. And so we ate with each other and fed each other all the while knowing and feeling the most Sacred of Energies flowing in, through and between, informing, enlivening, enriching and blessing it all.