Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Challenges and Grace of the Easter Season

Easter has been my favorite holiday since I was a child. Initially Easter was about the pretty dresses and Easter baskets. As I moved through high school and into adulthood it is not only Easter that I loved, but the whole journey of Holy Week. My emotions run the gamut including awe, sadness, anger, emptiness, excitement, gratitude and joy. In the days of Holy Week the paschal mystery unfolds in the washing of feet, the Passion, veneration of the cross, the stories we hear at the vigil of God’s continued love and patience with us throughout history, the people received into the Church and the Alleluias of Easter.   

As the paschal mystery unfolded these past few days I find myself challenged to respond with love, obedience and humility as Christ did. I am challenged to respond with faith, strength and hope.We are a people who live the paschal mystery.We experience both the agony of the cross and the joy of Easter.  Maybe this year more than most, I am aware of how closely agony and joy live with one another and in these holy days I have found solace and hope.I am grateful for both the challenge and the solace of these past few days.
     I pray that we each may be open to the graces and challenges of this Easter season. 
Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Triduum and the Exsultet

      Over and over and over we read through scripture the exhortation for us to "Sing to the Lord" or to tell God: "I will sing of your salvation."  The very common word Alleluia, which means "Praise God" is a frequent expression of the same thing. 
     Why so much emphasis on praising God? I think the feast we are about to celebrate, Easter, is the answer to this. After all, St. Paul says, in writing to the Romans: God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all; how can he fail to lavish every other gift upon us?(8:32) What an amazing statement! 
     To celebrate God's infinite generosity and boundless love takes all of the Church's creativity, energy, and reverence. Over the centuries she has produced the 3-day event we call the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter with its Sat. night vigil). This is the pinnacle of the Church's liturgical year.  With music, reading and prayer, she walks us through the story of how often God has reached out to humanity again and again, finally with the ultimate gift of Jesus the Son.              
     From the beginning, humans have used music and poetry to elevate praise to a higher level of solemnity and beauty. We can see how the Church has done this in celebrating our salvation during the Triduum. The jewel in this liturgical crown of the arts is given to us on Holy Saturday in the Exsultet.  Again and again the poetry of this ancient song tries to express our awe of what God has done and continues to do for us through Jesus Christ.  Here are a few of my favorite passages :

            … to ransom a slave, you gave away your Son!
            … O happy fault that earned so great … a Redeemer!
            … Jesus Christ…for our sake paid Adam's debt…and wiped clean… our ancient sinfulness
            … O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth…

     The entire Exsultet is a triumphal song of the Church as it praises God for the amazing gift of salvation. For anyone who would like to deepen his/her insight into the significance of the Easter mystery, the text of this musical prayer could be a rich place to continue the journey most of us began with our baptism. 

      May the prayers, ritual, music and poetry of the Triduum and the 50 days of Easter (The Easter season ends only with Pentecost on June 8) bring deeper faith and understanding of what God has done. May all the alleluias of this season and beyond bring realization of how God continues to give us love and forgiveness daily, and every time they are sung, may they lift our spirit in gratitude and awe.
     Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Watch With Me

     Each year the Lenten journey prepares us for what lay ahead for Jesus and for us through our association with him. Following the celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread Jesus went to Gethsemane.  With his close disciples “he went deeper into the garden where he began to feel sorrow and distress.” He said to them “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” Jesus’ chosen ones couldn’t do it.
     On the surface, keeping watch like listening doesn’t seem difficult but events that call for it makes a difference. What makes any of us believe we can do it? Standing vigil, keeping company, and watching while a loved one suffers agony can feel unbearable. There are many situations in life in which despite all efforts to alleviate suffering, it persists. These are the times when falling asleep or running away becomes a temptation.  It is the out-pouring of Jesus’ redemptive grace that allows us to stand by/sit with the other during difficult times.
     As we move deeper into the Triduum may we accept the invitation, as the faithful women did, to watch with Jesus as we participate in the Paschal Mystery.
     Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Litany of Gratitude

     At the closing of our Election for Prioress Process, we the Benedictines of St. Walburg Monastery are filled with gratitude for all God’s gifts to us this past weekend.
     Let us pray together this Litany of thanksgiving:

For the talents and skills of all those with whom we live and work, we thank you, God.

For the zeal and good example of our sisters who were called on to consider entering into the nomination process, and generously shared of themselves, we thank you, God.

For Sister Mary Catherine Wenstrup, as she continues her call to unite us in Christ for another four years as Prioress, we thank you, God.

For Sr. Susan Quaintance and Sr. Glenna Smith, who assisted us in the election process, as they return to their communities in peace, we thank you, God.

For all who served us these days; the Infirmary  and Kitchen staffs, Oblates at the phone, and especially Sr. Christa and the election committee, we thank you, God.

For each other as we entered into this process with trust in God to bring it to a good conclusion, filled with hope for the future, we thank you, God.

For the faithfulness of all those who kept us in prayer during this time, and for whom we pray, we thank you, God.

For all the departed sister and oblates of our community alive in God’s Glory, we thank you, God.   Amen!
      Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Discernment and Chapter of Election

     Electricity is in the air of the monastery as we prepare for the chapter of election.We are approaching   a very holy time.The chapter of election for the prioress to lead us for the next four years is our version of the conclave to elect the Pope. But there is a major difference in that our chapter includes all the members in the discernment and voting. All of the sisters living at a distance will be at the monastery for this blessed event.  That in itself brings joy and excitement. We have spent the last month offering special prayers for each other and as we come to the end of the list the anticipation grows.
      As you may know “Listen” is the first word of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict. We have been preparing ourselves to listen intently to our hearts and to the Holy Spirit speaking through each one of us. This discernment captures the spirit of our obedience to one another as we actively listen and respond. We truly believe each of us has a piece of the wisdom. No one comes into the process to “win” but the entire community “wins” because the voice of the Spirit has been heard. In the prayerful silence of our hearts we are open to pray, to hear, to speak, to let go and ultimately to hear and respond to the will of God as expressed at this time and in this community.
     I ask for your prayers and thank you for your prayerful participation in this holy event.
            Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thoughts on St. Joseph

     St. Joseph did not get a liturgical feast until the 15th century in Rome, and it was only in the 16th century that a feast was authorized for the Universal Church. As early as 150, however, the apocryphal writing, Protevanglium of James, tried to give more details to Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the infancy of Jesus, including the role of Joseph. Other apocryphal gospels written between the second and eighth centuries influenced the growing devotion to Joseph, and the iconography of Joseph holding a lily comes out of these gospels plus the story of his dying in the presence of Jesus and Mary. These writings are evidence of our interest in the human setting and details of the Holy Family, details lacking in the Gospels. Who was Joseph? What did he do? How did he live? How did he relate to his human and divine charges? How did he act as a father and guardian?
     Luke’s account of Mary and Joseph is from Mary’s viewpoint while Matthew concentrates on Joseph. Matthew looks at Joseph as a man of dreams like the patriarch Joseph in Genesis. Joseph is instructed in dreams to take Mary into his own home, to name the child, to go to Egypt (like his Genesis predecessor) to save the child’s life, and to return to the land of Israel after the danger passed. Karl Rahner notes that Scripture says of Joseph three times, “He rose up.”
     There are many views of St. Joseph. St. Bernard says, “When we do not know how to pray, we turn to Joseph,” and St. Teresa of Avila says she knows by experience that Joseph helps in every area. “…I know by experience [he] helps us in every need.” Jacques Bossuet contrasted the vocation of the apostles with that of Joseph

. “The apostles were lights to make Jesus Christ visible to the whole world. Joseph was a veil to hide him. …the apostles proclaimed the gospel so loudly that their words re-echoed in the heavens. …Joseph listened, wondered and kept silence.”
     Karl Rahner says that Joseph as the guardian and protector of the Son of God is our model as we are “called to be guardian of the Holy One in ourselves, in lives, in our work.” Rahner also says that Joseph is a good patron for us—“a patron of the poor, a patron of workers, a patron of exiles, a model for worshippers, an exemplar of the pure discipline of the heart.”
     Who is Joseph to you as we celebrate his feast today?
               Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Rite of Election and Lent

     The First Sunday of Lent is the Sunday the Diocese of Covington
celebrates the Rite of Election at the Cathedral. This Rite is for the R.C.I.A. in the parishes when the catechumens and candidates, with their sponsors and R.C.I.A. teams, gather for this prayer service. Those who are catechumens (who are not baptized) are now called the “elect” after this rite, and they add their names to the Book of the Elect of the diocese. Those who are already baptized, the candidates, are called to continuing conversion.
     On the third, fourth and fifth Sundays in Lent, the elect will take part in the scrutinies. These scrutinies are special blessings for the elect to deliver them from sin and evil.
     Lent is a special time to recall our own baptism and what it means to share in the resurrection of Jesus.
      Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB