Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

        This year I extended my ministry of hospitality to being a greeter at our Diocesan Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, in Covington, KY.  It is truly a jewel of the Greater Cincinnati area.  I look forward to my 3 hours there twice a month, welcoming visitors from all over the world to view, pray and experience this most holy temple of the Lord.  I learn something new every time:  from the visitors, from the history, from the docents, from the art work.  The position of the greeter’s desk is directly under the stained glass presentation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed as an article of our faith in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. 
The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
in the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption,
Covington, Kentucky, Scanned from the book
Stories in Glass.
        In the bottom half of this window we see the priests, religious and cardinals witnessing this event:  On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX issued an apostolic constitution called  Ineffabilis Deus (The Ineffable God).  In it he said: “We declare, pronounce, and define thus: the teaching that holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first moments of her conception, had been, by the singular privilege and grace of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from every stain of the original fault, has been revealed by God and is therefore to be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”
        In the 4 panels above we see four different aspects of the Church’s teaching. In the far left panel an angel holds aloft an open book which proclaims in Latin: (The original sin is not in you.) In the next stands Mary, resplendent in the glory given her by God. Next, Sts. Peter and Paul kneel in acknowledgement of this truth, testifying to its ancient roots  And in the far right panel St. Michael the archangel holds a sword, ready to strike at the devil. The devil himself lies prostrate and helpless, holding an open book: (Gen. 3:15: She will crush your head…) Even evil itself testifies to God’s power and majesty.
        Above these panels are two scenes.  On the left are Adam and Eve in the very act of disobedience. On the right stands Isaiah the prophet, proclaiming “Behold, a virgin will conceive…).  These two scenes suggest that God’s providence had already taken human hardness of heart into account, and promises new life.
        At the very top of the window the Blesses Mother holds her infant Son, surrounded by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  She wears a crown on her head:  her eyes look down, a sign of her humility, while He look at us, arms open, inviting us to embrace this mystery.  Years later, this child will stretch out His arms on another tree of life, the cross. 
        May you have the opportunity to view the story told in this window and appreciate more the mystery of God’s saving work in human history.  Each of the other 35 Stories in Glass are worth meditating on as well.

(My source for understanding the images was the book, Stories in Glass, by Msgr.  William F. Cleves, former rector of the Cathedral Parish, where he describes the stories told in 36 of the 82 stained glass window in the Cathedral.)


Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

About Andrew the Apostle

               When the latest St. Walburg Monastery blog schedule appeared, my date was Nov. 30 and immediately I thought, “There’s my topic.” I’ll write about St. Andrew.
                When I became a novice in June of 1945, we had the option of requesting a new name. My mother’s name was Marie which would have been my choice, but all the sisters were given Mary with their new name, so I chose to be surprised. And I was. I became Sr. Andrea to my delight ad that of my family and friends. To my knowledge there had never been a Sister Andrea or Andrew in our community which dated back to 1859. When my sister, Mary Wright, had her second daughter, the daughter became Andrea Wright and always delighted in her name. Our patron is St. Andrew, apostle of Jesus, and today patron of Scotland and Russia.
                The Gospel  tradition. particularly the Gospel of John, consistently groups Andrew with his brother Peter and James and John. He is the follower of John the Baptist, first herald of the Lamb of God, the Messiah, and Andrew brings the good news about the coming Lamb of God to his brother Peter. Together with Philip, who was the same town and seems to have been familiar with the Greeks, Andrew tells Jesus about the boy with five loaves and two fish which fed the huge multitude. Andrew was a consistent follower, but like most of the apostles, only rarely mentioned by name.
                According to tradition there was a literary work, Acts of Andrew, of which only fragments remain. References in other works refer to Andrew’s fidelity to Jesus and his mission. Again according to tradition he was a missionary to the Greeks and was crucified by being tied to an X shaped cross on which he died after preaching for three days from that cross.

                In the 13th century Crusaders stole Andrew’s relics and took them to Constantiinople from which and arm was taken t o St. Andrew’s in Scotland which the translation of the relic is celebrated on May 9. St. Andrew is also the patron of Russia. (see http://novaonline.nvcc.edu/eli/evans/his241/Notes/Andrew.html for more information.) May St. Andrew intercede for all whose patron he is!
                     Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fog and Thanksgiving?

         Fog fascinates me. It is as mysterious as it is real. My fascination began with the children's book FOG MAGIC by Julia L. Sauer that I used to read each year to the class I was teaching. From then on, I enjoyed a walk in the fog when it would appear. Our monastery, situated on the hill overlooking the Ohio River, often experiences fog in the morning, Recently, the fog encased the monastery so much so that one could not see even the building that was a stone's throw away.  Seeing only grey looking out the windows, I whispered, "Thank you God for your creativity. Thank you for the colors of our world." 
       That fog inspired this blog about thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, our  American holiday, is a wonderful tradition. A day family and friends gather to give thanks for God's blessings. But, to be thankful is not just a one day thing. It is an attitude. It is a positive way of thinking and acting. A smile, a kindness extended, a word that encourages, a simple "thank you." Those two little words most often return to the sender.
       Eucharist is thanksgiving at its utmost. The Scripture readings for Thanksgiving Day Mass are filled with the blessings of God. In the reading from Sirach, "we bless the God who has done wondrous things on earth" and ask "that God grant us joy of heart, peace and goodness that endures."
     The Responsorial Psalm picks up the theme with the words, "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and compassionate to all God's works."  In Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians he tells them to "thank God for the grace bestowed on them in Jesus Christ which enriches them in every way.  God is faithful!"
      In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells  the man who was cured of possession to "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his kindness has done for you."
     Cultivating an "attitude of gratitude" can open our eyes to see how many times a day God blesses us. Thankfulness gets us "out of the fog" to see the beauty in each person and each experience we have.Thankfulness does become more than a one day thing. More than just a once a year celebration.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL YEAR LONG!
     Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Who Will Answer?

      Last Thursday evening, I attended a Confirmation. There were over 50 Confirmandi.  One of the  intercessions at the Mass was, "For an increase of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and the religious life for our Diocese".

      Thinking on this, I wondered how many of the Confirmandi would hear and respond to the Lord's call to follow Him in religious life or ordained ministry.
      This led me to think of my own Confirmation and how scared I was that the bishop would call on me to answer a question.  I sat on the end of the pew and the bishop stood right by the pew.  I kept my head down and kept blowing my nose. I never got called on by the bishop. However, I did get called on by the Lord.  Did I respond readily?  No.  It was several years later and circumstances led me to this response.

      I believe God does have a plan for us and if we do not hear the first time, will continue to call.  I am glad that I responded. It has made a big difference in my life.  I'd like also to think it has also made a difference in the lives of the many people who I would never had met elsewhere.

      We at St. Walburg Monastery need women to respond to the vocation of a Benedictine Sister.  I am sure this is also true  of the other orders in our Diocese.  The work and opportunities are still there.  Prayer and community life are important aspects of religious life.  The one question that remains is "Who will answer"?  Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

From Hearing to Listening to Healing

       Wed., 11/9  Overnight the primal scream that has been crying throughout the world found its voice in the United States. A significant part of the US population that has felt unheard and ignored for a long time forced the rest of the country to feel its pain. With seismic force, chasms that many did not know existed, were unearthed in the cities and countrysides of America
       After an election colored by name calling, harsh judgments, and false assumptions across the political spectrum, our country is left to deal with a pain, fear, and frustration similar to that which  has raised its head in many countries around the globe. From African countries with no stable government to England, from Arab Spring to Brexit, groups of people have been forcing those who hold the reins of power to pay attention to them. 
       The causes underlying this cacophony are probably multiple, but I’d guess a major one stems from the almost cataclysmic changes that have come to us in just one lifetime - communication, immigration, manufacturing, transportation……  As one commentator put it, it’s as powerful a change in society as the 19th century industrial revolution. And who’s been hurt the most? The millions of people who have the fewest resources to cope.
       What now? During the election campaign, lines weren’t just drawn in the sand; ditches were dug. Bridges weren’t just dismantled; they were bombed. How does one move on from here?  How does healing and reconstruction begin? Who can lead? 
       This is where we come in, we, people of faith and good will. Our call is as seismic as the one that shook our country last night. We who believe in a power greater than a single individual - humanist, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Native American… - all of us are being challenged to reach out across all divides, old or new, to learn another’s reality. Painful as it is, we need to listen to another person’s truth, and try to understand why theirs is different from our own.  All of us are wounded in some way. We are frail and imperfect, but each of us has the power to heal another because we have the power to love. Listening is a form of loving. 
       As a Catholic Christian, I know that the God who lives within me lives within each person around me. I know that Jesus reached out across society’s dividing lines and touched the good within others who had been judged sinful or religiously unclean. I am called to imitate him, and, because at one time or another I have experienced it, I know a word or a touch can heal.
        On this 11/9 I am reminded of another 9/11 when our country was called to come together. Today and the days to come, we are called to put on a new mind, a mind that realizes our individual perspective is not always shared by others, but if we work at it, we can probably find common ground. Our forebears who wrote the constitution had a similar challenge. They succeeded. Can we? Then what?
       
Blessings on us all for the difficult journey ahead.
                       Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Celebration, Remembrance…An Invitation

This week we celebrate and remember a motley crew in All Saints and All Souls many of whom were both revered and/or reviled in their lifetime.  The legacy celebrated is one of human holiness, not of the perfect, but of those who strove and upon whom we call  to help us do the same.
                We read on All Saints from the 1 John 3:2a “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be as not yet been revealed.” 
What would happen if we treated one another as saints in progress, seeing the potential and possibility in one another?  If we made space for gray in a time and place that fosters polarity?  Or if we responded with compassion and understanding in the face of resistance and hurt?   Coming from this place could we recognize that we each are working for a common goal on this side of heaven? 

Perhaps in these feasts we find not only celebration and remembrance, but an invitation to the best which lies in each of us as God’s children now in our time and place as we together strive forward with compassion and grace in our human holiness.
Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Prayer for peace

           
It’s been a long summer of painful political discourse—to put it mildly. Two weeks ago I read Pope Francis’ prayer for peace that he offered in a service with Chaldean Catholics of Georgia. I offer a few paraphrases lines that resonated and stayed with me.

            Lord Jesus, we adore your cross which frees us from sin, the origin of every division. We long for your kingdom of justice, joy and peace.
           
Lord Jesus, by your glorious passion conquer the hardness of our hearts imprisoned by hatred and selfishness.
           
Lord Jesus, cast forth the shadow of your cross over peoples that we may learn the way of reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness.

O Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, you who stood at the foot of the cross, obtain from your 
Son, pardon for our sins. Sustain our faith and our hope and teach us the royal road of service and the glory of love. AMEN.

                  Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB