Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Mysterious Thanksgiving Mandate

     Lately when I've been giving myself time and space for "unscripted" prayer, my mind has been reverting to thanksgiving. I find this surprising because I'm not in a particularly celebrative frame of mind; my days have consisted pretty much of working my way through duties and deadlines. 
     Then, the other night I was journaling to see what I could discover about this sense of gratitude. I asked myself what I was being thankful for, and I found myself writing this:
            "for God – for being there; for being – when I pay little or no attention." 
     This entry rather stopped me in my tracks. (Even as I type it, I'm not sure how to punctuate it, as I'm still trying to get to its essential meaning.) Here was my subconscious telling me that I'm living with an enormous gift that I often take for granted. 
     After 75+ years living as a baptized Catholic and 55 years in a monastic community, I certainly should be aware that the presence of God is deeply engrained in my life. Now, here the deepest part of myself is confirming this belief, but at the same time reminding me that I need to give time to strengthening my awareness of the reality. 
     There certainly are moments when I'm very conscious of God's presence, whether times of frustration or joy. My journal entry, however, seems to be reminding me that I need to touch base with this Presence not just on occasion; I need to consciously delve into it. God is the "good neighbor" who lives not next door, but in my house. As God is my dwelling place, so I am God's!  As the journal entry said, "God-for being there" whether I'm aware or not. 
     An even more profound part of that entry, however, reaches into the infinite. It gives thanks, not just for God's being some place, like within me, but just for BE-ing.  How does one begin to give thanks to God for Being God? As the lyrics of the hymn The Path of Life say, "Without you there is nothing…"* We can't even begin without the power given us by the very One for whom we are grateful! 
     What can anyone do about this conundrum? Nothing but try to grasp that without God we have/are nothing (Ps. 16). Somehow we must develop our awareness that all is gift, and this task is made especially challenging by our self-sufficient, individuated, hurry-up society. I guess all we can do is pray:
            God, as you live within me and in each person I meet, open my eyes and touch my heart that I may recognize you         and give thanks. Help me bring to each day the effort that might make every encounter one that celebrates your         presence.  Help me to enrich our chaotic world with new awareness of you as endless Gift. Amen. Alleluia!
                                                             *(Scott Soper in Breaking Bread hymnal from Oregon Catholic Press)
         Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Friday, August 22, 2014

Transitioning Mindfully

     The theme of my life for August seems to be all about transitions.  The summer schedule is slowly giving way to the busier pace of fall.  Morning traffic patterns are changing as kids return to school.  Changes at work are bringing new and different opportunities. 
     I find myself repeating more than once change is good, transitions times are necessary and disorientation is to be expected.  Into the mix of my thoughts came the reminder from yoga class to move mindfully through transitions from one pose to another.  Chewing on this thought of mindfully moving through my transitions a few insights came to mind:
Remain grounded…Prayer both private and communally keeps me grounded.  Prayer calms the storm I sometimes experience in transition.  Prayer gives me space to see where God is working in my life and sometimes just to be with God in the silence.
     Small moments matter…joyful ones, unexpected, something working out just right. 
      Value of being unsettled.  As much as I sometimes resist this piece I found that the changing, unsettling state of transition brings me clarity of what is important and essential.  I also find that being unsettled leaves me vulnerable and provides a space to connect with others in a way I may not have otherwise.
      Gratitude for the journey…the change process is a gift with moments to be grateful for (even if I am not so right away).  It is the process I become and taking time to be grateful makes my journey richer.  
     Wherever you find yourself in these late days of summer may you move mindfully through the transitions with a listening heart and every needed grace for the journey.
                                 Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gratitude – Never give up hope

      “This is the day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Ps. 118:24
      The Ohio Valley is in the midst of a summer to remember: lots of sunshine, plenty of rain, cooler temperatures leading to an abundant harvest. I am so grateful. And as my words hit the page – I am instantly aware of the ongoing drought, the ever present fires, dried up crops and fields in the West. 
      This is how I often experience gratitude; thankfulness mixed with sadness because there is so much suffering in the world.  Most of the time human beings are the leading contributors to the world’s travail. How to live a grateful life is a challenge. In a recent presentation on evolving consciousness the presenter reminded us that “God loves everyone.” No one is left behind in God’s love.
      Obviously the world does not believe this. Many, who consider themselves devoutly religious slander, condemn, hurt and kill, all in the name of God. In a very tall order by Jesus, we are instructed/commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. And in this ever more connected world, everyone is my neighbor. Each and every person is a precious gift from God.
      Let us pray that someday soon, the psalmist's prayer “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live as one” (Ps. 133:1) will become a reality in the world community.  Continuing to live a grateful life is a good beginning.

       Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

     Today we celebrate this wonderful life-changing event that Peter, James and his brother, John were chosen to witness.  (Matt. 17:1-9)  Jesus took them up a high mountain and was transfigured before them.  The illumination of this event in the new St. John’s Bible is a blinding interpretation of what these men saw.  “Jesus' face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light,” and they saw Moses and Elijah conversing with him.  Peter shares in his 2nd letter, that they had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  “Our Lord Jesus Christ , receiving honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”  Peter moved, continues. “We ourselves heard this voice,” and now “we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.”  Speaking to his disciples and us today, “You will do well to be attentive to it, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:16-19)
     Each year when this feast comes around I am reminded of the dark cloud that came upon this world and our consciousness when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki at the end of World War II.  And in these days, we know of the many bombs being dropped in Syria, and between Israel and Gaza that cry out to the world for reconciliation and healing.  But Jesus touches us, saying “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  We raise our eyes to see “Jesus alone”, to see all in Jesus.  We believe that God transforms even the darkest day and the darkest deeds of humans into Light.  This is the Good News!  “Listen to Him!”

     Let us pray on this Feast of the Transfiguration, and Hiroshima Day, that our world may be transformed away from war and struggles for power - toward peace.
       Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Of Time Made Holy

       In 1976 the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses published a statement by this name which stressed the importance of our public prayer, the Divine Office or what St. Benedict calls the Work of God. The document was reissued in 2001. All times are holy but our communal prayer gets special recognition.
     A time I consider more holy is fast approaching. (Does holiness have a more or less?) Our monastery will start its annual retreat this Sunday. It should be a time in which we give more attention to the holy of our lives. Beginning Sunday evening we will attempt to slow down and to alter our routine to give greater attention to our spirituality—a time to draw closer to God and as a result to each other. There will be fewer tasks and more quiet to enable extra time for private prayer, reflection, and input of a spiritual nature. We will have less talking and less noise. Our meals will be in silence.
     We are blessed by the presence of Fr. Joel Rippinger, a Benedictine monk from Marmion Abbey in Illinois I have read articles by Fr. Joel and have always thought it would be good to meet him. He is an experienced retreat director and is well versed in spiritual direction. Fr. Joel is a scholar of the history of Benedictines especially in the United States. (You may Google him to learn more!) Approximately 10 times over the following five days Fr. Joel will speak to us from his knowledge and his experience.
     I look forward to spiritual reminders and expect them to be laced with great stories  I expect a booster shot and should not be disappointed. I know from experience that the closing meal on Friday evening will be full of excitement, louder than usual. We will move into the future with more energy.
          Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mary Magdalene, Disciple of the Lord

What do we know about Mary Magdalene whose feast is celebrated on July 22? She is in all four gospels. In Luke (8:1-3) she is named as Mary surnamed the Magdalene who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments. In Mark and Matthew (Mk. 15:40, Mt 27:61) she heads the list of the women present at the passion and burial of Our Lord. In John (19:25) she is mentioned after Jesus’ mother Mary and her sister at the foot of the cross. John also describes her going to the tomb alone and, in tears, finding the body of Jesus missing. John awards her the distinction of the first person to see the risen Christ and gives her the privilege of announcing the resurrection to the apostles (Jn 20:1-8)
               Throughout the centuries Mary Magdalene’s story has been confused with that of Mary of Bethany, Mary of Egypt, the sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke’s gospel and a reformed prostitute. If you Google “Mary Magdalene” and look for images, you will find that many artists in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance had a fine time with the image of the reformed prostitute (usually half or fully naked) while others picture her with an alabaster jar anointing Jesus’ feet or languishing in meditation draped around a skull.
               The Orthodox Church titles her “Myrrh-Bearer and Equal of the Apostles.” Orthodox art will show her with a jar of myrrh for anointing the body of Jesus. In the Orthodox tradition when the apostles left Jerusalem to spread the good news, Mary Magdalene went with them She went to Rome preaching the message, “I have seen the Risen Lord.” The story is that she visited the Emperor Tiberius and gave him an egg and said, “Christ has risen.” The emperor laughed and replied that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg turning red. The egg then turned a bright red, and many icons of Mary show her with a red egg in her hand. The Orthodox tradition has her going to Ephesus and dying there. In the Roman Catholic tradition she goes to Gaul where she dies. For more than you might want to know about Mary Magdalene and her different identities and traditions, go to

               There are two representations of Mary Magdalene in art that I want to share. The first is a terra cotta statue by Niccolo dell’Arca (1462-63) that is part of a Pieta (the group of people mentioned in the gospels as present at the crucifixion). See left. This piece is in Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna, Italy. Mary is rushing headlong in anguish toward the body of Jesus on the ground. The image captures feelings of horror and pain at the death of Jesus and the sight of his body. Mary is pictured as powerful, passionate and full of movement.
The second piece is by Bruce Wolfe (b. 1941) and is located in the Mission Santa Barbara in California. See right. This Mary is sad, calmer, attentive but no less full of power. She has Middle Eastern features and a serene earthiness. Like the dell’Arca figure all her attention is focused on Jesus but this time on the Risen Jesus. One can visualize this Mary preaching to the Emperor Tiberius.
               I hope this brief blog will spark 
your interest in the woman Mary Magdalene, her rich and varied tradition and the art inspired by her.
Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Wheat and the Weeds

       This summer, the members at St. Joseph’s House, where I live, planted a vegetable garden.  We pull
up the weeds from the vegetable plants right away.  It is uncanny how much a weed will look like the plant they are growing next to in the garden.  I think the weeds, (evil) deceives us as good.
       Sunday’s Gospel for July 20 is taken from Matthew, Chapter 13, and talks about the Kingdom of God. Jesus speaks a lot about the Kingdom of God in the Gospels.  In the Gospel, the householder lets the
wheat and the weeds grow together until harvest.In thinking about the Kingdom of God and this Gospel, I believe that the Kingdom of God begins here on earth and how we choose to live and grow
in God’s grace is preparation for the Eternal Kingdom. We too, can be deceived by evil and we need to discern the wheat from the weeds.
       After hoeing the garden, a few days ago, I looked out our window and saw a robin coming to sit on the fence to look for his breakfast. The soil was favorable.  God is Good!
      Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB