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Tuesday, 18 September 2012 13:05

Solitude and the pre-dawn prayer

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A life of prayerful solitude inside a Benedictine abbey is so far removed from the rush of the digital age it would appear that the two are incompatible. 

No so. It’s what you choose to take from the digital world that matters, says Sister Naomie-Ruth Vanakulasingham, a Benedictine nun who lives in a community of religious women at Jamberoo in the NSW Southern Highlands. 

Sr Naomie is studying a bachelor of theology degree through The Broken Bay Institute- University of Newcastle. So far all her coursework has been completed online.  “I have done five units through Broken Bay and now after a break I’m coming back to my studies and I love it.” Online learning, she says, complements the monastic life. 

“We have a very full life of prayer and work,” says Sr Naomie. “To go online for study we need special permission, but given my disciplined life in community it’s a very attractive, practical way of learning.”

Sister Sr Naomie-Ruth entered the Benedictine community 15 years ago, at age 26. “I was all set up for life, I had a career that I loved and I assumed that I would marry.”

But the memory of coming to the abbey on retreat years before with a youth group never left her. “That first encounter with the nuns really stayed with me. My first remark was, ‘I wish I could live this life’.”

The Abbey is well known as a retreat centre where people of different walks and faiths come to stay at cottages located on the grounds. “You have to be open and reverence the other person’s spiritual path- whether Hindu, Buddhist or Anglican- it’s irrelevant,” says Sr Naomie “They have to go back to the world to do good.”

“My goal at the end of my journey is to be one with the Lord. Prayer is my whole life,” she says. “We give through the fullness of the prayer, or we are not living our vocation. It is our gift to the church.”

There is something very profound that this community of religious women should wake at 4 am and in that lonely hour when the circadian rhythm slows, and so often the spirit leaves the body, pray for those of us who are sick, anguished, or afraid of the dawn.

This is their prayer: "Lord our God, As we keep watch with you this night we commend all people and their lives to you. We remember in particular all those who are working. Those who in their suffering cannot sleep. Those who are afraid of the day about to dawn. May they all come out into the light of your Day. We ask you this, through Jesus, our Lord."

Find out more stories and program information from the Broken Bay Institute.