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Trust and obey

by davesandel on July 11th, 2022

Monday, July 11, 2022

Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbott

            (click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Trust and obey

My Aunt Vera in Peoria had not sat at her beautiful dining room table since her husband died on Christmas Eve this past winter. We came to visit and go out to lunch with her, but she fixed a beautiful lunch for us to eat at home. At the dining room table. “I think that’s why I wanted to eat at home,” she said. “So we could just sit here, eat, and enjoy each other.” Outside the sun was shining on her bright green lawn. Saturday in Peoria was a beautiful day.

Whoever simply gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink, well then, I say to you she shall surely not lose her reward.

Aunt Vera was born the third of four Sandels in 1930 – my dad Roland, then brother Merlin, then Vera (“faith”) and Eugenia (“of noble birth”) in 1933. Not that I know for sure, but around that time a well-known Wisconsin artist named Vera Eugenia Andrus may have come to Grandma’s attention. Grandma Dora lived on a farm, but over and over her heart turned toward music and art.

The boys, no matter that they were named after romantic poet and magician, became soldier and sailor, then dairy farmers, and the girls became nurses. In Springfield, Illinois they wore white dresses, white caps, and worked in surgery. Vera loved it.

The nurses lived in the nurses’ dormitory five blocks away. An orderly preparing for med school asked to walk her home. Not long after that, this same guy, named Don, asked her out the next weekend. She remembers the exact room on the hospital’s fourth floor where he asked … and her life changed forever.

They married and she left her parents’ Logan County farm for good. Don was drafted in 1951, they went to San Antonio and then New Jersey. Don didn’t go to med school, but dental school instead, and then practiced family dentistry 49 years in Peoria. Now one of their grandsons is finishing up his oral surgery residency.

Aunt Vera’s quiet spirit has grown more peaceful in the last few years, as she cared for her husband Don. She might be 92, but she keeps her life moving in several directions. Her body is wearing out, like all of us, just as her wisdom and humility are growing. We loved being with her, just for a few hours, sitting at the dining room table.

Saint Benedict’s rule (#53) for his many monasteries was, and is, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” On this day, Benedict’s memorial, I am grateful for Aunt Vera’s simple, quiet, peaceful hospitality.

The monks under Benedict’s rule were expected to spend their days thus: eight hours praying, eight hours working, and eight hours sleeping. Their Golden Rule has lasted more than 1700 years (since 516 A.D.). In Latin: ora et labora, in English that would be “pray and work” (although we’ve tweaked the rule and changed “pray” to “play”). Of the seventy-three chapters Benedict penned, more than half teach the monks how to be obedient and humble, and also what to do when another member of the community is NOT.

Aunt Vera stood outside by her fence, while we took awhile to get into our car and head out on our way back to Urbana. She waved goodbye. I imagine sometimes she is lonely. I also imagine that she knows how to handle that, and how to pray, just as much as she knows how to keep us company, share her food with us, and in general do the work involved with hospitality. Work and pray, to be happy in Jesus  …

(Isaiah 1, Psalm 50, Matthew 5, Matthew 10)

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