“A Brave New Benedictine World” (by Dawn Carrillo)

Dawn Carrillo Director of Center for Spirituality and Enrichment

In 1931, the English author Aldous Huxley wrote a novel entitled Brave New World. When I read this book many years ago for a high school English class, I felt discomfort and fear at the possibilities being presented in this classic work. While our experience over the last two months certainly bears little resemblance to the totalitarian, technologically engineered police state presented in this story, the uncomfortable feelings I had while reading this novel have surfaced in a déjà vu-like way on several occasions for me recently. Life as we know it has been rocked—turned upside down for some—and we aren’t sure how or if we will ever get back to some semblance of what we understand as normal.

Unprecedented times…finding our new normal…

Vaccines… daily briefings…

Confirmed infections… deaths on the rise…

Flatten the curve…ventilators numerous enough for the ill…

Shelter-in-place…herd immunity… antibodies…droplet precautions…death tolls…

These phrases have, quite alarmingly, become a part of our everyday lexicon. The Covid-19 pandemic and all of its uncertainties and ramifications hang over all of our waking moments, operating as the “elephant in the room” in the midst of each conversation, idea, or hopeful plan. It is our reality at this moment in time, and the context in which we live and breathe. 

Try as I might, it is difficult to awaken each day to this new reality. There is a darkness I encounter in the fear I feel every day for my children, for loved ones, for the world, for myself—a darkness that drains my creativity and threatens paralysis. As I read through my Facebook news feed, I see that I am not the only one experiencing this darkness. People everywhere are frightened, reaching out for answers, for comfort, for some sense of sanity in a situation that seems surreal and overwhelming. Sleep disturbances, anxiety, and a general malaise are commonly reported by many. There is no rosy picture here; this is just plain hard.

I wonder if this is somewhat how the disciples felt after Jesus was crucified? They, too, were paralyzed with fear, huddling together in hiding places trying to understand their new normal. Life as they knew it for three hope-filled and exciting years with Jesus had come to an abrupt and violent end. Their hopes and dreams for Jesus to be the Messiah they expected, the one who would release them from the tyranny of Roman oppression, were shattered. But we know the rest of the story…that from within the darkness, the Light of the World was revealed.

Darkness and light, fear and hope, despair and unbridled joy are the constants in life since the dawn of time. We have only to read any part of Sacred Scripture to see these forces ever-present, and certainly most operative in the story of Jesus, the Christ. As people of faith, we have a challenge to live into. During times of fear and darkness, our task is to remember to move toward and live into the Light. To live in hope. To be aware that there is more to the story. This is undeniably hard, but in the midst of the darkness, we can also see the overwhelming presence of God at work in the courage, dedication, and selflessness that is present all around us in so many people and in so many ways. The pain remains with us, yet it takes on a different hue as we turn our face toward the Light.

St. Benedict also struggled with incredible social challenges, and out of these challenges came the Rule of Benedict, a rule for monastic life and values that have stood the test of time. For over 1500 years, Benedict’s wisdom has modeled a way for all of us to move toward interior harmony, remarkably effective in times of chaos and uncertainty. Benedict shows us a path of peace and tranquility in the midst of darkness…a brave new Benedictine world.

At the Center for Spirituality and Enrichment, a ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica, we continue to journey with you. Flowing from the wisdom of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica and the 125 years of lived experience of this monastic community, we strive to offer programming to accompany you wherever you are in your spiritual life, to be a force of healing peace. Though we cannot, at this time, come together in our usual ways, we do have offerings that we invite you to prayerfully consider.

  • Our spiritual direction ministry is alive and well, either through an online venue or by telephone. You may feel a need for just one session as you navigate your own circumstances, or it may become a longer relationship with your director. Appointments are typically one hour in length. To schedule, email retreat@duluthosb.org or call Dawn at the Center for Spirituality and Enrichment at (218) 723-6699.
  • Remain connected to us through our Center blog at https://retreatduluth.org/blog/. Benedict has profound wisdom for us to consider in our response to the pandemic and life in general, and we invite you to explore this with us in our reflections.
  • Finally, we would like to invite you to join a newly forming Omega group! Omega groups are discussion groups based on the work of theologian and author Ilia Delio, OSF. Sister Ilia has been focusing much of her recent work on the current pandemic, and we invite you to join with us as we reflect on what God is saying to us today. We will begin meeting with this group twice a month through Zoom—a very simple process, I assure you! Please visit our website at retreatduluth.org or call Dawn at (218) 723-6699 for more information.

I leave you with a few lines to contemplate from a lovely poem I came across recently:

We ignite not in the light, but in lack thereof,
For it is in loss that we truly learn to love.
In this chaos, we will discover clarity.
In suffering, we must find solidarity…
…When this ends, we’ll smile sweetly, finally seeing
In testing times, we became the best of beings.

                                                       –Amanda Gorman, “The Miracle of Morning”


  1. Joanne Hubal on May 7, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Dawn, Will the blog just show up like this one in our email or do we have to sign up? We would like to receive it. Just let us know.

    • Jean Anderson on May 8, 2020 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks for asking! We plan to send out an email whenever a new blog article is posted.