Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Can I Keep from Singing?

                Sixty-seven years ago I was at my home across from Pleasure Isle on Kentucky 17*, making arrangements in preparation for entering St. Walburg Monastery. I had my trunk, my black shoes, my black stockings and my aprons. I had my new Bible and a Missal given to me by my pastor, Father Charles A. Towel who along with Sr. Ancille Happe, was very influential in my becoming a nun.
                As I began writing this post it came to me that I have never once, in these sixty-seven years, doubted or questioned my vocation even during difficult times. That insight came to me as a surprise and as a gift because I often question myself. I say, “I should have done thar “ or “I should not have done this” or “I wish I had or I wish I hadn’t.”

                Every day I grow more grateful for my life as a Benedictine sister. I thank God and my community, family, friends and all who have been part of my life. I finish this post a song comes to me uninvited, “How Can I Keep from Singing!”
        Sr. Justina Franxman, OSB
*For more information about Pleasure Isle, a well know Northern Kentucky pool and picnic area, see,  p. 6.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Letting Go in 2015

Yard sales are an opportunity to:
 meet old friends & neighbors    get rid of excess   downsize your stuff

     St. Benedict may have approved. Stressing moderation in every aspect of life, he counseled his monks to use only what they needed, rather than accumulating excessive possessions. Items sold by the monks were to be priced “a little lower than people outside the monastery are able to set.” 
     We had a great time meeting friends and neighbors at the recent yard sale on August 22 at the Gate House (below in black and white), and were certainly successful at reducing our excess. At this point in the life of the monastery, the house itself represents more living space than we need. And more living space than we are willing to maintain. The cost-benefit analysis on this simple frame house was easy to do, but there is an intangible cost to demolition. The house as landmark, memories of good times living in community, stories from the time the boiler man lived there and sold chicken dinners through an opening on the side porch. 
     The sisters are grateful to friends and neighbors who carried away what we no longer needed. When the Gate House lives on only in memory, and a certain wistfulness comes over us, we will recall the words of the Teacher Koheleth:
            For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

   Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Richness of Autumn Ordinary Time

     It’s already time for a blog.
     More than that, it’s also time for a huge change of season, marked by the end of August vacation time and the beginning of September and the school year if that is an indicator of the passing seasons for you.
     Liturgically, the “Ordinary Time” of September and October is filled with feast days:
          the Nativity of Mary
          the Exaltation of the Cross
          Hildegard of Bingen
          Matthew the Evangelist
         Teresa of Avila
          The Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
         Meanwhile, our readings for Morning and Evening Prayers range from Kings, Sirach, 
         Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Isaiah to
         2 Corinthians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and the four evangelists
         Such a menu provides a variety of sources, something for everyone’s taste.
         While Ordinary Time is ticking away to Advent, take time to enjoy these rich autumn scriptures
         as well as the natural beauty of the season.
                                                  Sr. Martha Walther, OSB


Thursday, August 13, 2015

A New Insight

After attending our Monastery’s Center for Spirituality day entitled Encountering Islam and Your Muslim American Neighbors, I became fascinated with the many parallels between Islam, Christianity, and even some of Benedict’s flexibility. I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend a service at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati for one of their Friday Sabbaths.
Upon arrival Sisters Andrea, Emmanuel, Joan Fraenzle and I were welcomed by a hospitable Islamic lady who invited us to remove our shoes and place them in one of the shoe-sized bins. We then ascended the steps to the balcony of the mosque where the women worshipped. From there we saw the expansive, well carpeted ground level where the men gathered. We were invited to sit on the only chairs available toward the back of the balcony. All the regular attendees sat on the red carpeted floor and were clothed in the traditional Islamic garb. Even very elderly members seemed to have no problem bowing and prostrating upon arrival and then sitting on the floor indefinitely.
Those seated on the floor near the front of the balcony were protected from falling by a 3 foot expanse of glass. They could see the men leading the prayer at the lower level. From the chairs where guests sat we could only hear the chanting in Arabic from below. A lengthy homily in Arabic was followed by a translation in English that I still could not clearly interpret. At the end of the service all the women on some cue from below arose, stood erect, made several sets of deep bows followed by prostrations placing their foreheads to the floor. The sense of reverence permeated the room. I would have been very comfortable joining them in this manner of reverencing God.
After the services one of the Islamic women offered to sit down with us and answer any questions we might have. We had more questions than we had time to ask. I was impressed by what she called the five pillars of Islam; namely,
  • 1.      The statement of faith, “There is only one God and that Muhammad is God’s messenger.” (The angel, Gabriel, informed Muhammad of his prophetic role!)
  • 2.      Prayer—at dawn, noon, afternoon, evening and night. (Sounds similar to monasticism?)
  • 3.      Almsgiving (which includes options for those who cannot afford this financially.)
  • 4.      Fasting (except for those who have a medical condition that prevents it.)
  • 5.      Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime (again with provisions for those who do not have the means or health to accomplish the journey.)

I was again amazed at the fact that the Virgin Mary is mentioned in the Koran and is thought to be the holiest of women. It is an Islamic belief that Jesus was immaculately conceived though not divine, but one of the prophets.
      As a follow-up to my visit to the mosque, I am now enjoying a book on the World’s Major Religions. I believe I will find it true that all these religions hold many beliefs in common.

                        Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Taking Scripture to Heart

       This week we are having our annual community retreat here at St. Walburg Monastery. Our Retreat Master, Benedictine Father Gregory Mohrman is leading us in reflecting on various scripture stories from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Resurrection. It’s been great. No matter how often I hear the stories, there is always more to the message that is especially significant for what’s happening now. I’m sure that Holy Scripture is one of God’s ways of communicating. We all believe that the bible is God’s Word. But I sometimes benefit from being reminded that THIS MEANS ME, NOW. 
       I am also grateful that, as a monastic, I have the privilege and duty of praying the Divine Office. The Liturgy of the Hours puts the Word of God, i.e. psalms and other scriptures, on our lips and hopefully in our hearts, daily. In the past two years a few of us sisters have lead the semi-annual weekend retreat for women entitled Encountering Christ in the Psalms. The title captures what we aspire to do as we invite our retreatants to pray the Divine Office with us during the weekend and use Lectio Divina format to reflect on the meaning for ourselves of what we have just prayed in community. 

      While it may be true that many Christians find the Psalms hard to understand and not that helpful as a prayer form, we hope that through this experience people will discover that psalm-prayer is beyond the personal format we may be used to; instead it is a channel for our voices to join those of all Christians and our ancestor Israelites throughout all time and place. Our prayer is the prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ. Through psalms we praise God; we beg forgiveness; recall God’s saving actions; join in the sorrows, poverty, rejection, pain and loneliness of all God’s children, just at Jesus did in his life, passion, death and resurrection.
       Our next Encountering Christ in the Psalms retreat will be October 23-25, 2015 at the St. Walburg Monastery Guest House. If you would like more information, please contact Sr. Dorothy at or 859-739-7520. So far we have only held this retreat for women, but are open to providing one for men if there is an interest. So let us know. Thank you
                 .   Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Transforming the Future for the Children of the World

     Gibran’s The Prophet,* offers that children’s “souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” This rings true, especially with the pace and magnitude of change in our world today. Children, especially, need to be able to believe, to trust in the future. They depend on parents and society to build the foundation for it. How important the foundation!
    In the Romero Prayer, the author speaks to me of our niche in transforming the future for those we love, for next generations. On the chance that you’ve not yet experienced this reflection, I’m passing it on.

(Actually composed by Bishop Ken Untener,
 but has become attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero)

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that
the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing
that.This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between
the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

May the children of our world have reason for gratitude and continue
to build a better future for all!        

*The Prophet, by Kalil Gibran, originally published by Alfred A. Knopf Publisher, NY, 1923

       Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Monday, July 27, 2015

Seeing the Risen Lord

       Last Wednesday, July 22, was the feast day of St. Mary Magdalen, who is called the "Apostle to the Apostles" because she witnessed the resurrected Jesus. She was told to go and to tell the apostles that Jesus had risen and was alive.
      She told them in her excitement that she "had seen the risen Lord!".
      Jesus is alive and among us today. How do we see the risen Lord? Do we see him in others, in the poor, in the stranger, in those needing a home? Do we see Jesus in our family, our friends? Do we see Jesus in those we have a hard time getting along with?
     What is our witness like to others who meet us? Are others able to see the risen Jesus alive in me? If others have a hard time seeing Jesus in me, then perhaps we need to be a little more recognizable as Jesus.
       Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB