Friday, August 18, 2017

Readings from the 2017 Reterat

            It’s been nearly two weeks since our annual retreat ended and perhaps these reflections are a bit late but I feel urged to say something about what affected me. It was, indeed, an honor to have Abbot Primate Gregory Polan with us. Several years ago when he was abbot of Conception Abbey, he had agreed to give a retreat at St. Walburg Monastery. Last year he was elected Abbot Primate, residing in Rome with lots of responsibilities. Nevertheless, he came to us and gave a blessed retreat which he called “Benedictines Living the Paschal Mystery.” Perhaps it is my age, but the tangibles that I have experienced helped me immensely to enter enter into and  remember what Abbot Gregory opened to us.
            When the retreat began, we received a paper with the topics of each of his talks along with a number of Scripture references which would have a strong and direct bearing on the message of each talk. Also each day Sr. Emmanuel Pieper, our artist, would display a beautiful word or phrase near the chapel to remind us of what Father had said or what we had read. The following are the topics of the lectures with suggested readings.

Listening to God’s Questions
            Gen. 3       Gen. 12:1-3     Job 38:1-3       Gen. 22: 1-3
Listening: the Heart of the Monastic Vocation
            RB Prologue   1 Kgs. 19:9-18     Is. 50: 4-5      Ps. 119:45
Holy Leisure: the Place to Listen
            RB 48:22-23   Gen. 2:3    Lev. 23:1-3
The Paschal Mystery and the Grace of Failure
            Jer. 20: 7-13    Phil. 3: 7-11     Prologue 50    Rule 72: 5     Ps. 147: 10-11
The Weight of Glory: Our Great Hope
            Ex. 19       2Cor 3:12-18          Is. 60           RB Prologue 7 and 5:3
Forgiveness and Reconciliation: the Heart of the Gospel
            2 Cor 5;17-21        Is 6:5       Luke 5:8
Prayer and the Paschal Mystery
            Mark 1:23-13  Matthew 4: 1-11  Luke 4:1-3  John 20:21-23 John 21:1-14
Living the Paschal Mystery with an All-Knowing God
            Psalm 139    Gen. 28:10-16

       I found the readings above a great preparation for each presentation and the basis of my recollection of what Abbot Gregory had said. The retreat ended several weeks ago but this information and the notes I took help me to remember a wonderful experiencing of listening, hear and taking to heart Living the Paschal Mystery.
                  Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Editor's Note: Sr. Andrea has decided that this will her last blog post. She will still be writing Chronicles in our newsletter LEAVEN. We thank her for all her past contributions to this blog and know that we and our readers will miss her voice here.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Sabbath Week

          This past week we were blessed to have welcomed in our presence the new Benedictine Abbot Primate, Father Gregory Polan, the 10 th Abbot Primate. Pope Leo XIII created this office in 1886, to bring order to the Benedictine order around the world. Abbot Polan had been the Abbot of Conception Abbey for the last 20 years.  He flew in from Rome, his new home, since he was elected on September 10, 2016. His talents include a very warm personality, being a well known Scripture Scholar and published musician. Even though the ministry of Abbot Primate meant he had a full and varied schedule, he agreed to keep his commitment to us to give our retreat. This gave him an opportunity to return to the US and also visit his home monastery. 

          Abbot Gregory arrived Saturday evening, and immediately asked names of sisters he met along the way through the monastery, and remembered them. He presided at our Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy, creating a thirst for more of his wisdom. After Mass he sat in the refectory with a circle of sisters and oblates for a good hour sharing stories
      .  We were all well stimulated to enter into the silent Retreat time – a Sabbath Week – with his insightful presentations on “Benedictines Living the Paschal Mystery.”  
          Based on references from Scripture and the Holy Rule his conferences were titled:
  • Listening to God’s Questions
  • Listening:  The Heart of the Monastic Vocation
  • Holy Leisure – The Place to Listen:  Sabbath Time
  • The Paschal Mystery and the Grace of Failure
  • The Weight of Glory:  Our Great Hope
  • Forgiveness and Reconciliation:  The Heart of the Gospel
  • Prayer and the Paschal Mystery
  • Living the Paschal Mystery with an All-Knowing God

          After the final Conference and Thursday Evening Prayer, where we renewed our Monastic Promises, we celebrated with a wonderful feast prepared by our own chef Maureen, and Thank You time to Abbot Gregory. He was most gracious, and agreed to have an informal chat time with us after Night Prayer. Most of the community gathered in a big circle in the refectory to ask questions and hear his  stories about his getting acquainted with his new role, which takes him all over the world, and especially the offices in Rome. Getting used to the Italian culture has been the most challenging for him.  He will have many more years to work on that one. We wish him every blessing in his new ministry.
            We have been nourished and are all most grateful for this Holy Time of Retreat and coming to understand the need for real Sabbath Time in our lives.     Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

God: Hiding in Plain Sight

            The words hit me hard and planted themselves on a merry-go-round in my memory: Only in your love do we exist. The phrase had been wrapped into a simple, striking melody that was part of the responsorial psalm a cantor and I were rehearsing for Sunday mass. The text was Tim Schoenbachler's adaptation of Ps. 89: ("Forever Will I Sing," © 1979, 1991, Oregon Catholic Press), and it has stayed with me for weeks.
           Think about it: God's love enables me to get up in the morning, get dressed, brush my teeth, and eat breakfast. It is my foundation as I work or relax, sit alone or with others. It propels my very breath. Every moment I exist happens only because God is loving me. It is literally unfathomable.
           How can anyone absorb this? It is above and beyond us, yet at the same time it is closer than we are to ourselves.In scripture God asked a whining Job "Where were you when I laid earth's foundation?" (38:4) If ever a question could jolt someone into seeing a new reality, this is it. ”Only in your love do we exist" does a similar thing but more softly, in the way a mother might speak to her child.
          More than 40 years ago I wrote a setting for Psalm 139.  In it, like the fugitive in Francis Thompson's poem The Hound of Heaven, the psalmist cries out, "Where can I flee from your sight? To the sunrise or the sea your hand would still guide me, your love would hold me."
          It seems to me that my encounter with Ps. 139, Schoenbachler's with Ps. 89, and Thompson's poem are all examples of human beings struggling with the reality of God's presence in their lives. How can we begin to come to grips with this profundity? The fact God made the infinite approachable by sending the Son to become flesh and bone tells me God doesn’t want to hide from us. In fact, I think God hides in plain sight. It's our task to learn how to see.
           In the Hebrew scripture God sent signs – the cloud, fire, manna, impossible victories. Today, after the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, we don't have just a few scattered, overwhelming signs. No, through the Incarnation God made every thing and every person a sacred, visible hiding place for God. Because of Christ, everything now shares in the divine; everywhere we turn it is possible to experience a visitation of God. If so, why doesn't it seem to impact us more often?  
          What if we try learning how to see, hear, touch, intuit, or in any other way sense the glory of the holy that surrounds us? Would we begin to know God as an intimate, loving companion through each day? What if we heeded the sage advice to "Stop and smell the roses" or "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). Would the God who obviously wants to come out of hiding in our world actually become a conscious part of each day's journey? If so, in darkness or light, in storm or calm, we would be able to glimpse, at least now and then, a deeper reality. Then we would be able to pray with new understanding: "God, only in your love do we exist."  Blessings on all of us as we journey more deeply into the Mystery who is God. 
                                    Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Friday, July 28, 2017


          In my previous blog on April 6, 2017 focused on the Eyes Of Christ which led us to proclaim what and communicate what we have seen in this encounter.This entails effective communicating as well as listening.
Many articles and explanations of this subject abound.  Some new insights for me were gained in reading excerpts from Alan Alda's new book: IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU, WOULD I HAVE THIS LOOK ON MY FACE?  [ Plan to read the entire book.]  And yes he is the Alan Alda of MASH TV series.
         Alan maintains that relating and communicating is all about using science and empathy to "hear and read" one another.  Effective communication involves body language as well as the use of words to be authentic and believable. Besides reading the body language of the speaker, we need to be aware of our own body language in speaking and listening.  Is this body language portraying whether or not we are involved in the conversation or not. Are we fully focused on the other are on something else such as a cell phone, TV, reading a book etc.?  Active listening again involves being present to the extent to be changed by this exchange.
         Our annual community Retreat is fast approaching. Our Retreat Master will be Abbot Gregory Polan,  He is the Abbot Primate of the entire Benedictine Order and we are very privileged to have him present   with us.  The Theme will be: BENEDICTINES LIVING THE PASCHAL MYSTERY.
          Hopefully and prayerfully we as Benedict Community members and individuals will be able to practice this active presence in listening to Abbot. Gregory, God, and one another as we contemplate this all encompassing Mystery.
          Rule of Benedict from Prologue:  "Listen carefully to the master's instructions with the ear of your heart and attend to them." 
          Hymn per Sr. Colleen Winston:  "Run the Way of the Lord your God. Open wide your hearts to hear His voice.
          Psalm 119: 32      "I run the way of your decrees for you make broad my heart."  which in turn frees me to listen, to love and to embrace one another."
                         Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

Friday, July 21, 2017

Job Satisfaction

       What to write about?  How about people?
       About five years ago, having just retired from teaching I got a job at a senior care center.  My job description was: "Conduct a Eucharistic Prayer Service for the Catholic Residents."
      With many experiences of planning prayer services and Mass liturgies with grade school children, I jumped in with both feet  It was an instant match! I fell in love with the most delightful group of senior folks--mostly women but a few men.  AND, they liked me.Twice a month we celebrate a Eucharistic prayer service
based on the Eucharistic Liturgy of the day. Some of the senior read the Scripture; some of them set up the altar, and some put everything away at the end.THEN, we talk about daily things.
      We've gotten to know each other as unique, wonderful persons. We share our faith and beliefs and some of our life stories. And, there is a good bit of teasing that goes on too. For me it is an enriching experience.
      In the past several months the administrator gave me another job. In the personal care building, my job description is to interview the residents.I have a short list of questions to get things started. We talk about other things that are of interest to them, too.We have no specific deadline at which time the interviews must
be completed. The great part is that we can just "sit and talk." 
      This, too, is a twice a month meeting.  Each of the senior I have interviewed inspire me with their stories,their charm and their lived wisdom. I get much more from these wonderful people than I give.
       I couldn't be luckier.  Talk about job satisfaction.  I have it!
                    Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Perplexity, Perspective and Compassion

When watching the news in recent weeks I have found myself experiencing sadness, anger and perplexity as I watched stories of how people were treating each other. The actions and rhetoric in the descriptions of the events presenting a picture of disregard for life, respect and care for others. In my prayer and thoughts I found myself shifting from the emotional to contemplating perspective and what shapes our experiences.          
                Each of our perspectives is shaped by our experiences and choices. I think of how I have been influenced by my family, education, friends, my Benedictine community and many joys and sorrows along the way. Each person on the news speaks and acts from their perspective, from their experiences along the way. Their perspective, like my own, is influenced by significant people, joys and sorrows. Holding this thought, I found my anger and perplexity being tinged with compassion for the person, for the untold story …the sorrow and suffering which led to the actions and rhetoric seen on the news.  

                Now what do I do with this tension between compassion and perplexity?  Hans Urs von Balthasar offered me a thought this morning.  “Even if unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.”  There are many things in this world such as politics, faith or even differing priorities which create disunity in our world.We have a choice of actions which create unity or disunity.We can choose to act in a way that fosters love and compassion.We can work to build our capacity for compassion which allows us to broaden our perspective, to hold the story of another and to transcend our differences. May we each strive towards unity in love in our actions, thoughts and way of being with one another both near and far.   
                          Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Because He Said It

          On Sunday, June 18, we celebrated the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ  (Corpus Christi).
This is one of my favorite feasts because of my great love for the Eucharist.  I think that if you
ask any Catholic, they would agree that they love the Eucharist.   It is the source and summit of our 
Christian lives. 
          True the Eucharist is a mystery.  We do not grasp its full meaning.  We have only glimpses of its meaning. We grasp instinctively.  We know that the Eucharist can and does change our lives.  As the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ,  we who receive the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.  Collectively we call this the Church, the body of Christ (St. Paul).

          In faith we believe that Jesus is truly present and that if we eat His body and drink his blood, we do have eternal life.  Why?  Because He said it.  (John 6:51-58).

Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB