It’s never easy to write about oneself. Basic writing principles suggest beginning with a strong lead, hooking readers right from the start with something interesting, exciting, or impressive. But to describe the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will, only one word comes to mind – FAMILY.
Outwardly, you won’t find anything particularly remarkable about our community. Though we try to put our whole heart and soul into everything that we do, God has not given us any great talents or abilities that would set us apart from (or even put us on par with) other religious groups. Our mission is much simpler and more hidden, yet no less demanding: to live the Divine Will of God in love and charity like the Holy Family in Nazareth. But before going any further, let’s backtrack a bit and check out how the Lord’s plan all came together.
Mother Gabrielle Marie, Mother Superior and foundress of the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will, began her religious life as a Poor Clare of Perpetual Adoration in the United States. For thirty-three years, she learned much under the holy guidance of her late Abbess Mother Angelica, foundress of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). Despite meeting many well-known and even saintly religious figures through her monastery’s connection with the highly successful Catholic television network, the most significant moment in Mother Gabrielle Marie’s life came in 1998 through the hands of a young postulant under her care. Through a simple request for permission to read a book given to the sister by her grandmother, Mother discovered, began reading, and instantly fell in love with the Divine Will writings of the Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta.
Moving ahead to 2009, after nine years as Vicar and sixteen years as Novice Mistress, Mother Gabrielle Marie received a sabbatical. Needing some time to adjust to life away from the cloister, she decided to make a retreat at a Benedictine monastery with her long-time friend and spiritual director, Fr. Jacques Daley, OSB. After much time in prayerful discernment with him and Fr. Elijah – a Benedictine monk also under Fr. Jacques’ direction and enamored with “little” Luisa’s works – the Holy Spirit placed something surprising on each of their hearts. With Fr. Jacques’ encouragement, both Mother Gabrielle Marie and Fr. Elijah felt a clear call by God to found a new monastic community in Italy dedicated to Eucharistic adoration and Luisa Piccarreta’s writings on how to live in God’s Most Holy and Divine Will. Composed of brothers, sisters, and laity, the community would strive to unite the Benedictine spirit of prayer, work, and hospitality to the life of the Holy Family, turning their respective monasteries and homes into little Nazareths.
In 2011, the inspiration became a reality when His Excellency Mons. Luigi Negri accepted the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will as a Public Association of the Faithful in the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro. The Benedictine Monks followed three years later under bishop Andrea Turazzi in the same diocese. And finally in 2016, the family was completed when our bishop gave his permission and blessing to found the Third Order (or lay branch) of Benedictine Oblates of Divine Will.
What are the sisters up to now?
After two years of monastery hunting, the Benedictine Daughters finally found a “Mother House” in the small Italian town of Talamello in the province of Rimini. There we live a full monastic schedule of prayer and work, seeking to lead very interior lives of contemplation within the context of demanding, yet gratifying, labor and familial affection. Both in our small chapel dedicated to the Eternal Father and in the local parish church, Our Lord is exposed in the Most Blessed Sacrament for eight hours every day.
Each sister spends two hours in silent adoration daily in addition to the other community prayers we recite together before the Blessed Sacrament, such as all seven hours of the Divine Office, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the Holy Rosary. When we’re not praying, you’ll most likely find sisters cooking, cleaning, sewing, working in the garden, or taking care of administrative tasks. Since the Benedictine life is one of great balance, our daily schedule also includes an hour of personal free time during the day – when sisters can take walks, engage in hobbies, or just simply relax – as well as community recreation every evening.
Although we consider ourselves a fully contemplative religious community, we are not cloistered, for we also feel called to share our life of prayer with others. Every ounce of love that Our Lord pours into us during our hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we try to let overflow onto those we meet…with the goal of leading them to Christ, not ourselves. In addition to promoting Eucharist Adoration at our parish church, we also attend Holy Mass there every day, leading the music and serving as sacristans. Some sisters teach catechism, visit our sick and elderly neighbors, or simply try to be a presence among the people. When the Holy Spirit provides the opportunities, we offer counsel to those who want to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with God and we share the great gift of the Divine Will through the writings of Luisa Piccarreta. Every Thursday at 11am (EST), we’re guests on a Radio Maria program entitled The School of Mary: A Kindergarten in the Divine Will. We also speak on Mary’s Hill Online Contemplative Divine Will Cenacle twice a month. Though we’re far from experts by any means, we simply share our personal experiences and insights striving to live in God’s Most Holy Will ourselves. *
In fact, the Divine Will is not a charism for us, but a way of life. Not only is each sister obliged to read at least one hour every day from Luisa’s thirty-six volumes of diary entries, but we all try our best to live in the Divine Will according to these very teachings from Our Lord Himself. If we’re praying, we ask Jesus to come pray in us. If we are working, He is working in us. If we are ministering to the people, Jesus is doing it in us. Throughout our simple day, we try to unite ourselves with the Lord the best we can and give Him all the honor and glory He deserves. It’s a way of praying always, in every breath, heartbeat, thought, word, and deed – just like Adam and Eve before the Fall and Our Blessed Mother throughout every second of Her life. The more we die to ourselves, the more we realize our nothingness, the more we let Jesus take over and do everything in us…the more our peace, joy, and love grow. We’ve been given the pearl of great price in exchange for nothing more than our own, human will.
At the Hearts of it all
As our dear and glorious St. Joseph shows us in Nazareth, the secret to everything lies in-between the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Like the Holy Family, we believe living together in love while humbly doing the “little things” the Lord asks of us each day is the surest way to glorify our Eternal Father. Since God seems to prefer the small, the weak, the insignificant, the little ones…that’s who the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will strive to be and who we hope to always remain.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.”
* If you’re interested in reading the Divine Will writings of the Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you everything you need.
** To receive regular invites for Mary’s Hill Online Contemplative Divine Will Cenacles, drop an email to Peter DePalma at email@example.com.
*** If you’d like to listen to Radio Maria live, go to radiomaria.us. You can also check out archived Divine Will programs at radiomaria.us/divinewill/.