Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The holy seed is its stump*.

          Over the past year several large branches of our seventy + year old pin oaks which were approximately 75 feet high spontaneously fell onto the walk leading to the monastery’s front door. Clearly it was no longer safe to keep the trees.
               These pin oaks were planted in 1937, the year this monastery building was erected. Each of the current members of the community walked beside or under the oaks as she entered. Over the past week we have watched and heard the whirring blades and heavy thuds as those eight mighty oaks were taken down, branch by branch and trunk by trunk. Right now, only the stumps remain.
                         Eventually they will be grounded out and something new will be planted. In the meantime, we will see and appreciate the main entrance with its expanded openness.
         An aside: Never having seen such large trees cut down I was amazed and grateful to the team of men who did all the work. Their task was not easy, but their skills kept them and our front entry safe.
          *Isaiah 6:13

              Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Words are Powerful

       Everyday we speak many words to each other.These words are often words said to establish or
preserve a relationship with others. Words can be instructive or destructive, uplifting, forgiving, encouraging, and the list goes on and on. Some of us utter words before we think and perhaps
later regret these words.  Harmful words hurt people and may cause scars for many years.  A good goal for each of us is to think before we speak and consider the effect of our words.

       St. John in opening his Gospel, tells us that "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us..."(Jn.1:14).Jesus is the Word of God uttered in our midst. At the Ascension, Jesus tells us to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who he will send us. The Feast of Pentecost celebrates this gift of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Gospel writers with the words about our salvation.  Do we relish these sacred words and put them into practice in our lives?

             Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Friday, June 7, 2019

Celebrating the Founders of St. Walburg Monastery

       On Monday, June 3, we celebrated Founders’ Day, commemorating the five sisters who came from Erie, PA to establish St. Walburg Monastery in Covington, Kentucky. The sisters came in two batches. The first three-- Sisters Josephine Buerkle, Anselma Schoenhofer and Ruperta Albert—came on June 3, 1859. Two months later—Mother Alexia Lechner (left), who was appointed the first prioress, and Sister Salesia Haas arrived on August 2. Their mission was to "take charge of the girls' school" at  St. Joseph Parish on 12th Street in Covington.

       The commemoration of our founders fills us with joy and pride in our tradition—even though Sr. Josephine Buerkle left soon after Mother Alexia arrived to go back to Erie where she married a young man she knew before she was asked to go
to Covington. Such an event reminds us of the humanity of those who have gone before us and who begin a good work.

       At dinner on June 3 some of the sisters at my table encouraged me to share with you the closing prayer we use at Liturgy of the Hours on Founders’ Day and the general intercessions I wrote for Eucharist that day. One sister said these two prayers manifest how we look at our past and how our past informs who we are in the present and who we want to be in the future.

Closing Prayer for Founders’ Day Liturgy of the Hours
       O God, we remember and give thanks for courageous and visionary women who founded this community. You filled them with the love of prayer, the desire to serve your people and good zeal for the monastic life. May their example inspire us, their memory encourage us and their intercession sustain us as we seek to respond to your call of today. Bring to the fulfillment the good work you began in them and continue in us. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who abides with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

General Intercessions—June 3, 2019
In faith Benedict and Scholastica envisioned a life of stability and peace amid the turmoil of their time. Give us a monastic vision for our time, we pray:

In faith the sisters of St. Walburg Abbey in Eichstatt sent women to America to serve in new and different ways. Open Church leaders and ministers to new ways to spread the Gospel, we pray:

In faith five sisters set out from Erie to come to a place they had never seen to serve people they did not know. Give us courage to face an unknown future, we pray:

In faith we proclaim that we serve Christ and open our hearts to the young and the old, the sick and the poor, the stranger and the guest. Bring to fulfillment the good work you have begun in us, we pray:

In faith women of strength and courage came together to seek God. Strengthen our community life and increase our confidence that God is with us always, we pray:

In faith Mother Alexia and all her daughters who are now part of that great cloud of witnesses, persevered in the monastery until death. Bring them all together to everlasting life, we pray:

                              Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Speaking a word of peace

           Easter season is coming to an end. I will miss the beautiful Easter songs. Songs singing of “days of delight, joy, glory and freshness of the newness of life.”
            In the Acts of the Apostles, we have grieved with the Apostles over Jesus’ death. His Resurrection three days later was a wonder and fulfillment of his promise. The Apostles’ work of establishing the early Church continued Jesus’ work. Much new life came with conversions and disappointments as well as deaths.
In the Gospels of the Easter season, Jesus walked with the Apostles. He even prepared and ate breakfast with them. His words reassured them that He would not leave them alone. PEACE was the greeting he gave them in many of his appearances. “PEACE the world cannot give.” I go so that the Paraclete, whom I will send, will come [upon you]."                          Jesus’s words were not only for the Apostles. They are for all of us. We are ‘the others’ Jesus must go to.
            We reap the benefits of the Paraclete Jesus sent. After Pentecost we begin Ordinary Time knowing that the ‘ordinary” simply means “the order of time.” There is nothing “ordinary” about this season since Jesus and the Spirit are with us.
            Let us enjoy the peace the word cannot give.

        Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Of Doorways and Differences

       Have you ever thought about how many transitions we experience each day? They come in all levels of significance from walking through a doorway to losing a job, but all involve change of some kind, letting go of something. Sometimes these go unnoticed because we are focused on the next thing. Other times the letting go is so demanding or painful, it absorbs us completely.

       One of the things that strikes me about these situations is that in each one there is a moment where 2 very different things are held side-by-side as we navigate the transition. In the case of a doorway, it could be two rooms, each having a very different purpose, like cooking/sleeping. In the case of losing a job, it could be the sense of meaning and worth meeting a sense of loss and indignation. The doorway?  trivial and hardly noticed.  The job? This could be overwhelming.

       Strikingly different things side by side usually create dissonance. This disrupts a normal pattern of our existence, sometimes painfully, other times creatively. Artists often use dissonance, aural or visual, in their work to give us another point of reference. Some common examples of differences co-existing include things like vegetable soup, patchwork quilts, or a Bernstein overture. In fact, one important principle in communication theory is called “cognitive dissonance.” This occurs when one apparent truth  is jarred by another “truth” coming in from outside, and I have to decide whether to accept one, the other, both, or neither.

        Yesterday here in KY it was primary election day. There were 4 races for statewide offices, so I did my homework and went to the polls. Last night, watching the results come in, I noticed most of my choices were not winning; I was disappointed but not surprised. This is one of many times where I find my personal choices usually do not match the choices of the majority of the population. My usual analysis concludes that what I value most highly is not what others put at the top of their priority list.

       Making choices is a part of daily life and each is powered by decisions. For each of us, normally these decisions grow out of a highly personal mix of influences shaped by things like education, values, media choices, and friends. We also tend to relate more comfortably with those whose judgments and influences are compatible with our own. This creates for each of us an arena of mutual support and affirmation, a comfort that is shaken when passionate differences crop up; the dissonance can be challenging.

       Sources of dissonance often come down to this: contradicting opinions about what is most important. Isn’t this the situation in a lot business, political, and even personal disagreements? Isn’t this how factions form, whether in the New Testament or today? Isn’t this at least part of how majority and minority groups come to exist?

.It can be very unpleasant to be in the middle of a dissonant situation. Is there anything one person can do? Here are some of my own thoughts on this:
   1) First I need to recognize how often dissonance shows up in daily life, from personal disagreements on food or movies to advertisements that use dissonance to sell products. It’s part of living in a group.
   2) Try to find something in the other position that I do not totally reject; this could turn into a small shared point of view.
  3)  Ask myself what could be the source of the others’ passion about the topic. Even a wrong guess could mellow my own perspective because it means I can see an angle from which to get new insight.
 4)  Decide if it is important to try to get to a point of dialogue right now, or should I leave things as they are until another time.

Differences and doorways can be reminders that dissonance is daily, but handled with thoughtfulness, reflection, and even prayer, they might lead us to be more tolerant of letting go and of change in general.

            Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Quiet, Silence and Solitude

       During a recent conversation I was asked, “How do I see my life as a 17-year old compared to someone who is 17 in 2019?”  I have thought about that question several times since the conversation. Of course, there are differences and similarities, some obvious and some not so obvious.There is however one difference or perceived difference that keeps creeping into my thinking.  
       I think I had a lot more time to be quiet. A few examples will suffice. At home we had a radio and a television. There were no electronic devices in any bedroom.  We walked and worked and read without earbuds. At school we exchanged classes in silence (or at least that was the teachers’ goal).  We had monthly days of reflection consisting of two or three talks and no talking for the whole school day.These practices would be foreign to most 17-year-olds I know.
       The result for me was the ability to experience and to be comfortable with solitude.Taking a walk in the woods or lying on my bed looking at the bare ceiling provided opportunities to be alone with my thoughts and to be alone with God. I had learned to listen for that “Soft Breeze” that brought calm and clarity to life. Fortunately, my foundation was great. My parents were models. Mother had a chair in the bedroom. We knew this was the time to not disturb her. My father was a salesman who travelled do both urban and rural grocery stores. Drive time was quiet time. Even his rosary had a special hanger on the dashboard to hold his place. I am grateful for my opportunities that have made God a friend forever.
       I do worry that this dimension of solitude is minimalized in the current graduates. I hope and pray that in their heightened activities and noise-filled lives there are some pauses that allow God to be found and time spent with God to be nourished. The rewards are tremendous.

            Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Mystery Of The Holy Eucharist As Depicted In The Murals in Our Cathedral

    During this third week of Easter we have been reading from the Gospel of John 3: 25-71 on the “Discourse on the Bread of Life”.  These Scriptures brought back to me the details of an event I was privileged to participate in recently, “An Interpretation of the Frank Duveneck’s Triptych in the Cathedral Chapel.”
     On April 6, 2019 Rev. Msgr. William Cleves, who had been invited by the Northern Kentucky Heritage League, gave his Interpretation of the Duveneck Murals.  There were some fifty folks gathered in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption to hear Fr. Cleves’ presentation. As this year is the 100th anniversary of Frank Duveneck’s death it was a great way to recognize him and his work. 
      Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) a local artist who lived not far from St. Joseph Church, 12th and Greenup Streets, at 1232 Greenup St., spent much of his early years observing and assisting the artists of the Benedictine-operated Covington Altar Building Stock Company.   After much training and experience here and also in Munich, Germany and Florence, Italy, he was commissioned in 1905 by Bishop Camillus P. Maes, to create a set of Murals for the 36.6 ft. high wall of the Cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  The bishop wanted a depiction of the historic lineage of the holy Eucharist from the Old Testament to the present day.  It took Frank five years to complete the work, moving the canvases with him to wherever he was working, especially at the Cincinnati Art Academy.  The Triptych was hung and dedicated in 1909.
     Fr. Cleves pointed out that we will see that Duveneck really studied and knew his material very well in order to produce such a gem. After many hours meditating with these murals while he was rector at the Cathedral, Fr. Cleves shared the theological and spiritual significance that he has gleaned.
     “We read the triptych from right to left, in the style of biblical Hebrew manuscripts. We want to see what it says to us now.  There is no past of future time, only the present.  Events were timeless. They entered the event. We step into it and out again.
The Right scene:  We see Arron’s hand is on the altar.  (The altar and pillars are the Cathedral’s altar and pillars.) The cup of blessing and the show bread are near the other hand.  As we read Exodus 28: 1-40, we see that Duveneck painted all of the details, as described in the text, that Arron and all priests are to wear.
 The Middle Panel:  Bottom:  The woman kneels below the cross in pain and is surrounded by symbols of death, even the city is in the dark.  She looks up seeing only the suffering Christ.  The view from below is not what is seen from above.   God sees differently.  God is supporting Jesus in his suffering.  She sees only partially.
Top:  The Trinity is involved.  Angels span all time – unity the whole triptych.  The Central event is the Paschal Mystery:  the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  All is foreshadowed in the Old Testament.  Jesus is the Bread of Life, and his Blood is our Drink. 
Left Panel:  Now we experience this mystery in this Cathedral.  (Note the altar and pillars are what you see around you here.)  These events are timeless.  We enter them - that they might become flesh.  (The deacon’s apparel is modeled after Arron’s dress connecting the old with the new.  The priests are from religious orders of the Church.  Even one of the stained glass windows is painted above on the wall of this panel.)
      All this takes place under the watchful eye of God and the Angels.  Genisis 22: “God sees to it.”    God Provides=God’s Providence.  It takes the eyes of faith to see beyond. We have outward signs of His presence, especially the Eucharist that continues in this very Church. There is no time when we cannot see the presence of God among us – to be revealed by the eyes of faith.” 
     Fr. Cleves closed by quoting Duveneck, “What Good can come from Galilee, that place of shame?  We have seen.”  With the strength of God he created this beautiful sacred art.  It can reveal the depth of God’s love and care of us.
    What a treasure we have in our midst to help us appreciate the Mystery of the Eucharist over the course of history!  Thanks to the vision of Bishop Maes, the artistic ability of Frank Duveneck and the shared interpretation of Msgr. William Cleves.

       Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB