Thursday, January 23, 2020

Listen Carefully

Listen carefully…
            Rule of Saint Benedict

       It is hard to write a blog today that will be made public without thinking about what is publicly taking place in our country. Yet two statements come to mind that I share with you. The first two words at the beginning of the Prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict are “Listen carefully.” Benedict goes on to instruct us to “listen with the ear of your heart.” That is usually easier said than done, especially if one is expected to withhold making a final judgment until all the talking and discernment are concluded and it is time to vote.
       I am also reminded of a statement made some years ago by Sr. Augusta M. Raabe, OSB, who wrote that “…discernment is the process by which a person distinguishes his (her) own inner promptings, and therefore, the source of his (her) motivation." We each know how difficult it can be to listen and name the source of what motivates us to act or not; to speak or not. For sure, it motivates me to pray for all involved.

     Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Catholic Schools Week 2020

          Anticipation is rising in the monastery and excitement is on the horizon (well 10 days away).  Every year at this time we prepare for special young visitors.  The last week of January is Catholic School Week.This year it is Monday January 27 through Friday January 30. To help celebrate the event, the elementary students of Villa Madonna Academy will be coming across the road to share with us. 
          Each class gets its own time slot with one or two groups coming each day. The teachers and students prepare an activity that showcases some of their skills and allows time to interact with the Sisters. This year we can look forward to Bingo with the kindergarten students as they demonstrate knowledge of numbers and letters. There will also be a special Benedictine Bingo with the 5th graders.  The caller describes a Benedictine value or an historical fact about the life and times of St. Benedict. The players must know the answer and hope to find it on their card.  This provides opportunity for lots of shared stories. Activities of other classes will remain surprises.
Sr. Martha Walther with children in
2019 Catholic Schools Week
         The children come in the morning and so our own lunch conversation is especially animated as we share the amazing skills, knowledge and cute things that were demonstrated earlier in the day.  Stories abound. We try to recall being that young and wondering if at that age we could do what they can do.
          On the brink of another Catholic School Week, I contemplate the message of Jesus, “Let the little children come unto me.”  Did Jesus get the same joy that we do? Was He thrilled by their response to Him? I think out of love for us He taught us to welcome the little ones as He did.

        Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Every Gift – a Present and a Presence

     Ever wonder who gave the first Christmas present? There’s a simple answer: God!

      God’s was the gift of Infinite Self through the gift of an infant Son. It was a Present of Presence! It was the Divine Self reaching into an imperfect world and becoming eternally present, changing the world forever. From now on any person’s gift would be a sign of humanity’s feeble attempt to replicate God’s amazing gift  of Self to us, a sign of love reaching across boundaries of all kinds.

     Think of how many times each of us has given or witnessed a gift being given. How often do we recognize the profundity it represents? One common image where, if we pay attention, we can see below the surface, is one where a small child gives a grandparent a favorite rock, a wilting dandelion, or an indecipherable drawing. The child doesn’t have the tools to express him or herself, but an adult can see the love. When this happens, usually two smiles add light to the world because God’s presence is once again visible.

     But it isn’t just these intimate human moments that echo God’s first gift:
A smile or a helping hand in a difficult situation;
a sandwich to a hungry man;
a donation to a cause when funds are running low;
the attempt to stop an argument or fight between friends;
these are all signs where God’s love is taking on human dimensions, a Christmas gift in or out of season.

     Not all gifts emerge from self-giving love. Some stem from a sense of duty, some because of other reasons. No giving though, whatever its motivation, can escape being an echo of God’s first Gift. As written in St. John’s first letter (4:7-10), “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent his Son…”

     All our life long we give/receive gifts and see others’ with them. Every present carries with it the presence of its giver. Every one is a stand-in for the giver and an echo of God’s gift that first Christmas. May every smile or hand in need remind us of the presence of God’s love in our midst.

         Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Mary, the Holy Mother of God

           I am reminded of this Feast Day, every time I take my post as greeter at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, KY.  My desk is in view of The Marian Window. This is one of the largest stained-glass windows in the world of a religious nature.It is 67 feet high and 24 feet wide at its base, and divided into four sections: the Litany of Loretto, The Crowning of Mary, The Council of Ephesus, and Sixteen Saints.
          The top section depicts various titles named in the “Litany of the Blessed Mother:” Mystical Rose, Tower of David, Seat of Wisdom, Cause of our Joy, etc. It is inspired by Marian litanies from the twelfth century on, and was approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587.
           Below that, the Crowning of Mary commemorates the “Queenship of Mary”. We use this title as we pray the “Salve Regina,” or the “Hail, Holy Queen.”  This title was promulgated on October 11, 1954, by Pope Pius XII, well after this window was installed in our Cathedral, by 1920. Jesus crowning Mary as “Queen of Heaven and Earth” occupies the center of this window.
           In the lower section we see a crowded room of dignitaries gathered for the Council of Ephesus, in the city of that name (in modern Turkey) in A.D. 431. St. Cyril of Alexandria presided at the Council, representing the bishop of Rome, Celestine I. Here it was decided, against those who claimed otherwise, that “the Blessed Virgin is truly Theotokos, (Mother of God). In other words, Ephesus affirmed that the two natures of Jesus (human and divine) in one person are distinct but not separable
           It is this Feast of Mary, named “The Holy Mother of God”, that we celebrate as a Solemnity each year on January 1, New Year’s Day!
          The bottom of this long window is a row of sixteen saints, some of whom were quoted by the Council Fathers at Ephesus. In the spirit of Ephesus some defended orthodoxy or the rights of the Church, while others had particular devotion to the Blessed Mother. We are familiar with many of these:  Isaiah, Evangelists John and Luke, Popes Leo I and Gregory the Great, Saints Augustine, Dominic, Ambrose, Bernard, Jerome and others.
          Today at the Monastery our Prioress begins the Eucharistic Liturgy with a
      Proclamation for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
     People of God, we gather today in wonder and praise. 
      We glory that the age-old promise has been fulfilled.
       We marvel at the mystery of God-with-us;
       We ponder the human face of love divine, and
       We celebrate the endless  fidelity year after year and age after
      Like Mary, let us praise this infinite blessing wrapped in the 
                         frailty of earth.
      Like Mary, let us treasure this richness and nurture its graces,
           and like Mary, let us hold for all to see the gift of salvation 
           brought by this child for us and for all the world.
      People of God, we are gathered in wonder and praise.
         (text: Colleen Winston, OSB, 2001,2006. St. Walburg Monastery, Villa Hills, KY  41017.  All rights reserved.)

          Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, now and through out this New Year 2020!
                                                        Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

St. Joseph at Christmas

In the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 2: 18-25) for the last Sunday of Advent God’s plan for our salvation is at a pivotal moment. Mary is facing a grim future--she was found to be with child. In the Jewish law of the time she and the child could have been stoned or shunned for the rest of their lives, forced to live on the margins in poverty and destitution

At this point God’s plan for salvation depends upon Joseph. And what do we know of Joseph? Joseph is called a righteous man, a carpenter by trade.  He was of the lineage of David through Abraham. He was from Nazareth in Galilee. He was betrothed to Mary.

For a man who is pivotal to our salvation, he is remarkably quiet; he says nothing in Scripture. Basically, that’s all we ever know about Joseph. Except …that he has dreams to which he pays attention, dreams that he interprets as a man of righteousness and relationships as the voice of God breaking into his life.
In the first dream an angel appears and tells him what to do.  Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. It is a righteous thing. You are of the house of David. The Child has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son. You will name him Jesus because he is coming to save his people, your people. from their sins.  This will fulfill the prophecy by Isaiah in which a savior will come,  Emmanuel which means God is with us.
This Gospel has been called the Annunciation to Joseph but Joseph does not get to ask a question or dialogue with the angel. He wakes up and does what the angel tells him to do which is, in essence, extending protection to Mary and the child to be born. The rest of his three his dreams go the same way. In all of them he is told to protect Mary and the child.
Because Joseph says nothing in the Scriptures, it is tempting to assign him our own thoughts and words. And we do. Pope Francis says, “I have a great love for Joseph because he is a man of silence and strength.” Francis continues, “Joseph is a ‘protector’ because he is able to hear God’s  voice and be guided by God’s will; protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness.  In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”
What about our own tenderness and strength? As I was working on this, I had been reading about the impeachment and other political and social news of the day. Tenderness is not in vogue in our society today. Tenderness is a fragile thing. For myself, I can let my ego, judgementalism and inattention to God’s voice get in the way of engaging my tenderness.
As we celebrate Christmas this year of 2019, a year of political and social division, a year of anger and rage, where is our tenderness engaged? During this Christmas season, as we pray for protection from all evil, where is the spirit of the silent, protective, tender Joseph in our lives?
Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Do You Have a CC?

            I’ve had a CC now for two years or so. It’s the name I chose for my cane: Constant Companion. At times, when I have a short distance to go, for example from one part of a room to another part, I go without it. It’s more daring to go from one room to another room – then realize I don’t have it! Where was I last? Where did I leave it? St. Anthony, help me find my CC – again!

             After a while, I came to a new realization: I’ve always had a CC – all my life, whose name is Jesus. How much better to live with Him in mind, to know that this need is so much stronger than a cane!

            In addition to a guardian angel, I walk with Jesus at my side. He prays with me, as we glorify and thank our Father together for a pretty day, a much-needed rainfall, a safe trip out and back again, healing for a member of my family or anyone else. He’s at my side in the presence of the other Sisters at mealtime, at Mass, and Liturgy of the Hours; in the students I teach, in the kind and considerate co-workers at school. I know His healing presence in those who care for me in the infirmary, and in the doctors that I see.

            Sometimes He is asking me to be patient with others, and with myself, sometimes to share a splinter from His cross. I hear His word proclaimed in liturgy with a message of love, sometimes chastisement, sometimes consolation and hope, especially now in the Advent season. We look forward to celebrate His first coming on Christmas, but in the meantime, Jesus sneaks up on us in so many surprising ways. After all, He said, “Be ready; you don’t know the day or the hour.”

            So now, CC is a reminder of my Constant Companion who is Jesus, always and everywhere. I dare not leave Him behind, for then I truly cannot walk to reach eternal life in His kingdom.

                        Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Airport Awakening

Among the many themes of Advent are longing and patient waiting for a deeper relationship with Christ. My Advent began early. Two incidents occurred, within a month of each other. Both involved patience and waiting at the airport; a ten hour and six-hour delay. Both meant the scheduled evening meetings had to be cancelled. Both occurred at a Chicago airport while trying to connect to flights that offer few connecting ones to my final destination. In both instances I missed the connection only by a matter of minutes – but not for lack of trying! Airport congestion, not weather was the common theme causing delays.

Deep breathing has become my friend. Putting things in perspective becomes even a better friend. Repeating to myself, “In the light of eternity will waiting an extra ten hours matter at all?“ Of course not.

In truthfulness, I did not take the opportunity to consider all the types of waiting one does in life while I was sitting in the airport. I mostly fretted.  Since then, though, I have been considering this event in light of the Advent theme concerning the varieties of waiting that occur in a person’s life.

 There is the anticipatory joy filled waiting: a birth of a new baby, celebrating Christmas with family and friends, an approaching graduation, a wedding. Then there are difficult sometimes anguished waiting: families praying and waiting for sons and daughters in the military, some of whom are serving in dangerous areas, to return home; waiting at the bedside of a dying family member; refugees and immigrants waiting to cross into lands that offer hope and promise; or the out-of-work person waiting for a call back saying she is hired; or the distress of waiting for the results of a biopsy. 

All of these and so many more are real moments of waiting. As we await the Promised One, let us put aside anxiety and long together for the Spirit of God that lives among us today.

Even long delays have potential to awaken. A ten-hour wait in the airport can strengthen empathy and connection with others. Due to my human frailty, however, in the future I will plan to find connecting flights through another airport!

Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB