Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Life Lessons from My Mother

       When the schedule for us bloggers came out this summer I saw my turn for today and I thought I would write about my new position as treasurer and how I am adjusting to not teaching after 40+ years.  That thought changed on August 1. 
       On August 1, my mother went into surgery for a routine procedure at 1:30 in the afternoon, something that several sisters had had with great results.  At 2:00 the nurse came out to tell my brother and me that they couldn't finish the procedure and that the doctor would talk to us. We thought that they would just do the procedure a couple days later. When the doctor came out of the room the chaplain was with him. We knew that this was not a normal problem with her procedure.   My mother’s heart had stopped and she had been revived. She was unconscious and on a ventilator.
       Naturally we were shaken but called our sister and brother who came to the ICU right away. After several hours watching Mom struggle even with the ventilator we made the decision to remove it. While we knew this was her wish it was a traumatic decision for us. She was able to breathe on her own overnight but with no hope of recovery. She was moved to hospice and lived for about four hours. She peacefully breathed her last in the early hours of August 3.
       I have learned so much since her death and her funeral. The support and love of so many friends, community members and family in the days that followed was overwhelming. I received letters from former neighbors and Villa Madonna alumni, from former Villa parents and Mom’s friends whom I had never met.
       Those who knew her praised her kindness and generous spirit. She would have been humbled to hear their comments. She didn't live her life to be honored; she lived it to be a good person and live the teachings of love she learned from her earliest days in her Catholic family and school.
       Another lesson that stays with me especially is that “we never know what each day will bring.” I can only hope that I will have lived my life as well as Mom and will be ready when that day comes. As we finished clearing out Mom’s apartment, my brother said, “I can’t believe that it’s over.” Her earthly life may be over, but Mom lives on in our memories and in the lives we now live as she taught us. 
       Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vade Mecum

     Whenever I leave the monastery overnight I always take a paperback bible with me. This bible also serves as a collector of various notes or messages I’ve randomly received. When I opened it this morning in the Great Smokey Mountains I re-found a birthday gift (the reused front of a note card!) from a deceased member of our community, Sr. Anne Beard. Her gift was a list of seldom used words, the first being vade mecum: walk with me.
     Over the past few weeks the community and I have been walking with another member of the community who is walking with her own serious health issues. It’s what we do—walk together with each other. God’s gifts are good—even the hard ones.
      Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Resilience and the Providence of God

       As one ages, it is a blessing and comfort always to be mindful of God’s loving providence. A day or so before the beginning of this year’s annual retreat in a casual conversation relating to a community survey, I could not recall the name of a magazine cited in the survey. A day later an issue of WEAVINGS focusing on Resilience, appeared in my mailbox.
       Retreat with its leisurely schedule of talks, prayer, silence and time for reflecting reading enabled me to absorb excellent articles, especially on by Robert Mulholland entitled “Resilience, a rhythm of life hid in Christ.” Mulholland roots his words in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:6-7: In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your minds in Christ Jesus. Mulholland then develops clearly and movingly five rhythms—prayer, supplication, thankfulness, requesting and centeredness in God
       As we moved through retreat concentrating on the Rule of Benedict, this message from Paul hung over and around me. I compared the translation of 4:6-7 in various sources, my New American Bible and commentaries. As the retreat progressed, Fr. Joel Rippinger, OSB in one of his talks cited Genesee Diary. the personal account of Henri Nouwen’s seven month sojourn with the Trappist monks of Genesee Abbey. I had read this book earlier in the 1970’s, interested because I had visited Gethsemane in Kentucky. Also I was acquainted with John Eudes Bamberger’s family from Holy Cross Parish, the church of my youth. I decided to re-read the book.
       After these many years, I was grateful to meet Henri Nouwen again in his struggle for resilience. How did God’s providence work here? Nouwen’s diary entry for Sunday, September 1, 1974 (p. 107) says but if there is anything you need, pray for it asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving and that peace of God which is so much greater than we can understand will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. And Nouwen concludes, That must be enough for me. (And for me as well!)
               I shall remember and reflect on Phil 4:6-7—a sign of God’s providence at this special time in my life.

                              Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

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