Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Living in Hope

            It’s hard to read the paper or watch the news with so much oppressive suffering in our world, and growing divisiveness and violence in our own land. I understood when a friend mourned:  “This is not the country I know.”  What are we becoming?  What can we do?
With the psalmist, we can cry out with and for our brothers and sisters:  “Awake!  Why do you sleep, O Lord?  Rise up!  Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, why forget our pain and misery?  We are bowed down to the ground; our bodies are pressed to the ground.  Rise up, help us!  Redeem us as your love demands.*(Ps. 44)   Let not the oppressed turn back in shame; may the poor and needy praise your name. (Ps. 74)  (from the New American Bible c. 1981)
We can address these words to ourselves:  Do not hide in your comfort.  Rise up!  Open your eyes. Listen with the ears of your heart.  Remember, the pain and misery of others - the oppressed, the poor. Do something for which others will praise God.  Remember, love is the only thing that lasts.
            What are we becoming?  Only God knows, but if you believe there is much, much more good than evil in our world, and I’m convinced there is, we live in hope.
              P.S.    Recently I saw the film, “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.”  It is well worth seeing, a vision-expanding experience.  Pope Francis is urging us, through word and example, to enlarge our hearts, to widen our view, to heed the cry of the poor, to work for peace, to seek justice, to bless and care for the earth, and to reach out to others in love, acceptance and reverence.  He radiates the love of God.

            Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Installation of Sr. Aileen Bankemper as Prioress

“Now as evening falls around us,
We shall raise our songs to you,

God of daybreak, God of shadows,
Come and light our hearts anew….”

“Make us shine with gentle justice...
   Lead us on to endless day.”
Joyous Light of Heavenly Glory by Marty Haugen

And so began the celebration of the installation of Sister Aileen Bankemper as our new prioress.  Family, friends and community members gathered for Evening Prayer for the ceremony on June 9.
            Some of the verses of Psalm 138 could have come from us and Sister Aileen as we begin a new era:
                        I thank you, O God with my whole heart
                        For your faithfulness and steadfast love.
                        You answered me on the day I called;
                        You increased my strength of soul…
                                    You stretch out your hand and save me
                                    You will fulfill your purpose for me.
            Sister Lynn McKenzie, President of the Federation of St. Scholastica, reflected with Sister Aileen on the task that she has been called by the Spirit to undertake.  A task of service to this community.  Listening “with the ear of the heart” will be one of the most important parts of her new ministry.
            Continuing the ceremony, the cantors called on all types of saints, from those in the Gospel, to preachers, monastics, Benedictines, women mystics and American saints to be with us and, we responded:
            “Saints of God in glory be with us, rejoice with us, sing praise with us, and pray with us now.”
            Sister Lynn and our two former prioresses asked Sister Aileen if she were ready for this task, to which she responded, “I am.”  We, the community stood and with hands outstretched blessed our new prioress.
            The ceremony ended but the celebration continued with a festive meal, many words of hope and encouragement, and many hugs.
          Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Some Thoughts on Expectations and Truth in Today's Society

      You’re dead tired. Would you choose a 2-legged chair in which to collapse? Hardly! You’d know what to expect; you’d wind up on the floor! You assume the laws of nature will hold true, so you save yourself a tumble.

      Have you ever thought about how much we take for granted every day, how important it is that what we trust to happen actually does? Think about your reactions when your morning alarm doesn’t go off, your car won’t start, traffic lights malfunction, or your computer breaks down.

      It’s one thing when electronics disappoint us, but what about when a human does? A co-worker misses an important deadline on your project and doesn’t take it seriously. You look forward to meeting a friend for lunch and she cancels at the last minute with no apology. What if it happens a 2nd time? After the 1st time a little trust leaks out of the relationship. Happens again? The leak turns into a flow that can resist attempts at repair. As Louisiana author Mahogany SilverRain says, “Peace and trust take years to build and seconds to shatter.”

       Truth is intimately connected with trust, and society runs on this blend. We expect machines to do what the advertising says they’ll do. We expect shop & grocery clerks to know their craft and be helpful to customers. Public officials are supposed to serve the public. News outlets are supposed to tell us the truth about what is happening in our local and broader world.
      This delicate fabric of truth and trust is facing major stresses today. The role of multiple sources, exaggeration, individual truth, fake news, plus an overall skepticism in the general public are combining to fray this relationship. It's hard to decipher what is true; the interconnected age we live in is so highly complex that answers to questions and solutions to problems are not simple. Add to this the fact the world is changing so rapidly that things true even a few years ago are not so straightforward now. No wonder there are pockets of people who only agree with things they think they already know, accepting nothing that contradicts their current belief system so often rooted in the past..

      All this raises for me a question as old as humankind, but made famous by Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?” It’s quite relevant in today’s social climate and raises a number of deeper questions:
·         Is truth black and white or can it be varied shades of grey?
·         Is truth absolute, the same in all times and places? If so, why do people so often disagree with each other?
·          Can truth be defined clearly?
·         How do you tell when something is true or a lie? Is there something in between?

      Because people build their lives on what they think is true, the ambiguity of truth in today’s climate makes it difficult to know whom or what to trust. Businessman and keynote speaker Stephen Covey says, “Trust is the glue of life…the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” If this is as true as it seems, what are the implications for Christians and other people of good will?

      Here are some bits of wisdom I ran across that I find helpful:
            The one who trusts in his own heart is a fool… (Prov. 28:26)
            Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. (William Shakespeare, “All’s Well that Ends Well
            A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
                                    (English preacher Charles Spurgeon)
            Trust but verify. (American president Ronald Reagan)
            Trust not in ourselves but God. (2 Cor. 1:9)

      I conclude from all this that individuals of good will can help society recover from its current chaos by not taking a single source’s “truth” at face value.  Instead, each of us should tap into the wisdom of multiple sources, including tradition and a group larger than a handful of people. This process should include comparing this new “truth” with the universal truths from faith and morality that have endured for thousands of years. This is not easy because it takes work, but trying to be people of faith and hope has always been a challenge. I love this quote for its hopefulness:  “The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” (writer Marty Rubin)

Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Feast of the Visitation

           This is a feast of Mary that has always meant a lot to me.  In 1956 it was celebrated on July 2, the day I received the habit as a Benedictine sister.Later on the feast date was moved to May 31, as it is today.  That has become the time of year I usually take a driving trip to visit my Sister of Mercy friend near Charlotte, NC, traveling through the beautiful mountains on Route 40 south.  It is always a Visitation time for the two of us!

          Recently I finished a book by theologian Sr. Elizabeth A. Johnson, CSJ, Abounding in Kindness, in which she shares lectures and articles that have appeared in other places than the books she has written.  The last two selections were specifically about Mary: “Truly our Sister” which later became a book, and “Hearts on Fire, A Revolutionary Song,” adapted from an address at the centennial celebration of the Maryknoll Sisters, Maryknoll, NY, 2012.  The later one was so moving to me, especially as this Feast day was upon us. 

          Sr. Elizabeth points out that at the beginning of Luke’s gospel, a woman sings out her joy that God’s revolutionary manner of acting is to show mercy to the lowly, starting with herself.  The woman is Mary of Nazareth.  Her canticle is commonly called the Magnificat, from the Latin translation (Lk. 1:46-55).
 Miriam of Nazareth who proclaims these words is a young, first century Jewish woman from a farming village in Roman-occupied Galilee.  She knows what it means to be poor, to be exploited by the Roman taxation policies, to be on the low rung of the cultural ladder, probably uneducated.  But she is convinced that nothing is impossible with God, as shown in the Annunciation Story preceding this.

          Filled with the Holy Spirit and starting to swell with new life, Mary hastens through the hill country to Judea to visit older cousin Elizabeth, herself six months into an unusual pregnancy.  The moment of their meeting is the immediate setting for the Magnificat.  Within the spacious silence, where even the husband’s voice is silenced, two women’s voices resound.  “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth bursts into praise of Mary’s faith, “Blessed is she who believed that the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Affirmed by this blessing , Mary launches into joyful praise of God.  These two mothers of redemption themselves embody the mercy of God which they now prophetically proclaim, as they affirm one another.  This scene portrays these pregnant women as prophets. 

          Sr. Elizabeth reflects at length on this Revolutionary Song, summing up, “ the unity in distinction of the two stanzas, one praising God with personal love, and the other proclaiming God’s justice for those who are pressed down, expresses an insight at the core of biblical spirituality: mystical and political impulses, two loves that are one.”

          Toward the end of her address she shares a reflection of St. Ambrose of Milan in fifth century, who was reflecting on a text from the prophet Isaisah, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation”  (ISA 52:7) His imagination summoned up an image of Mary, hurrying through the hill country to sing her Magnificat with Elizabeth’s blessing.  He linked Mary’s journey with the church’s journey across the hills of centuries to announce the glad tidings of salvation.  Ambrose then exhorts. “Watch Mary, my children, for the word uttered prophetically of the church applies also to her: “How beautiful thy sandaled steps, O generous maid!’  Yes, generous and beautiful indeed are the church’s steps as she goes to announce her gospel of joy:  lovely the feet of Mary and the church.”

          Inspired by the same Spirit, let us continue to sing this Magnificat with Mary and the Church daily in our Even Prayer, individually or with our communities:
“My soul proclaims greatness, O my God,
And my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.
For your regard had blessed me, poor, and a serving woman.
From this day all generations will call me blessed,
For you, who are mighty, have done great things for me;
and holy is your Name.
Your mercy is on those who fear you, from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm.
You have scattered the proud in their hearts’ conceit.
You have put down the mighty from their thrones,
and have lifted up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
and have sent the rich away empty.
You have helped your servant Israel,
remembering you mercy,
As you promised to Abraham and Sarah,
mercy to their children forever.“ (Lk 1:46-55)

            Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Right in the Middle

       We are in the week between two great Solemnities.
       We just celebrated the great feast of Pentecost on May 20. Next Sunday, we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I think both of these feasts tell us a great deal about the love God has for all of us.
       In Pentecost, we find the love of God, (the Holy Spirit) being sent to us to energize us to proclaim Jesus and what He means in our lives. We are called to share this love with others.
       In the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, we are asked to discover our identity in the three persons  of the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We know that God the Father is our Creator.  We are also called to be co-creators.To bring new life into our world whether this is as parents or as religious or single people.We are to nurture and to care for other people. It also calls us to care for the earth so that other people will benefit from its resources in years to come.

       We know that the Holy Trinity is a community of love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This calls us to a relationship with God and a relationship to each other.  It calls us to build this relationship and to grow in this relationship in our communities and wherever we find ourselves.

                         Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Reflections on the Ascension

       The richness of the liturgical readings for Eucharist on the feast of the Ascension struck me as more Spirit filled than ever before. The connection between the Ascension and Pentecost seemed so very obvious. The patience that Jesus showed with the ignorance of those who knew him best became more astounding than ever before and assured me that Jesus will also have patience with me.
       In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus clearly tells the Apostles that in a few days they will-be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The response of the apostles clearly indicates they had no clue to what Jesus meant. “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”  Jesus responded to their confusion by sending two men in white garments to calm their false hopes and beliefs. 
       Jesus frequently goes to great lengths to help us understand! How blessed we are with some two thousand years since the time of Christ to see the Scripture through the eyes of saints theologians and Scripture scholars. I was blessed during the reading of this text by recalling that the Spirit often helps me believe and understand passages by a simple understanding and acceptance of God’s Word. From study, reading and meditation we are in a much better position to understand and appreciate God’s Word than his very first apostles and followers.

        After reminding us in the second reading that his disciples will be “filled with the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way, I felt the fullness of joy, hope, and peace, Alleluia! I remembered again that God is closer to me than my own skin, and wished the same blessing for all God’s people. 
        Sr.Victoria Eisenmann,OSB 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Who Is My Mother?

            Three of our four evangelists tell of Jesus asking this question. Was it a rhetorical question?  Or rather, was it a “teachable moment ”? 
No, they knew His mother!
And she was the most beautiful mother ever. He had known her all along, much better than they, or anyone else. Instead, Jesus chose to embrace all in His family who do as she did: she said “Yes” to becoming His mother, even though the pregnancy could have ended in a stoning death. Can we say Yes to Jesus, when the consequences seem impossible, when to bring Jesus to birth in the lives of those we meet is unlikely or very hard?
Can we follow the advice she gave to the servants at the wedding feast at Cana, to “do whatever He tells you?” If we do, perhaps a miracle will occur!
She followed His trail, as He went about teaching; her very own son, working miracles, feeding the hungry, answering the questions put to him by enemies trying to trick Him so they could bring about His death. How far are we willing to go and follow Him?
And, faithful to the end, she stood at the cross, suffering as only a mother can who watches her child die. Can we have compassion for the countless brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering?
This is the mother of Jesus. We become His mother, His family of brothers and sisters if we can do as she did in these instances and so many others.
So, on this Mothers’ Day let us remember not only our own mothers, but also the one Jesus gave us, as He did to John standing at the foot of the cross with Mary His mother.
Jesus answered, “Who is my mother?... Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother, my sister, and my mother.” Matthew 12: 46-50. Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21

Sr. Mary Carol