Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Another Reading Recommendation from Sr. Andrea

            Our monastery library is excellent in quantity and quality of books. In my younger years I had read lots of them but as I age I find that I read less than formerly—mostly Scripture, short articles and books sisters pass on to me. Three of my most recent blessings are:
            The Abbey by James Martin, SJ, a favorite contributor to America Magazine, I wrote about this book in my last blog of March 8, 2016.

            Spirit of Fire : Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin by Ursula King. It contains a quotation that hangs in my room: Someday after mastering the winds, the wave, the tides, the gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of LOVE and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
            And the one I have just finished and must read again is When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers by Marcellino D’Ambrosio.
            As I progressed through the pages of this last book, I realized how little I really know about the very young Church, its history, its saints and how it moved into later centuries. The book is very readable but for me its time frame was difficult to follow as it included so many saints of similar names, and their stories moved back and forth in dates. The time frame covered in the book was mostly the second to third centuries. A listing of dates and events is included in the front of the book and is very helpful, but the text moved back and forth as the author presented various Doctors and Fathers of the Church.
            I found D’Ambrosio’s description of these early Fathers moving and very human, especially n the lives they led and their influence on the times. I was especially fascinated by Origin, Augustine, and John the Preacher with the Golden Tongue. Only in the last sentence of the chapter on him is the John the Preacher identified as John Chrysostom. I learned much from my first reading of When the Church was Young, but as you can tell, I must read it again to gain the wisdom it offers.

            Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Legacy of St. Benedict

If you are familiar with the Dialogues of St. Gregory, you would not be surprised at the long list of patronages with which St. Benedict is associated. St. Benedict is patron of: [some for, some against]
v  Cavers, spelunkers and speleologists
v  Temptations and nettle rash
v  Those who have broken their employer’s belongings
v  Agricultural workers and farmers
v  Against poison and witchcraft
v  Europe

I must have missed some stories, for I found myself wondering how fevers, gall stones, kidney disease, and erysipelas got on the list. The others were more familiar.

At the end of the list above is Europe. Pope Paul VI officially pronounced St. Benedict Patron of Europe in 1964, stating that it had been the wish of Pius XII and John XXIII as well. “We also give our full assent to this movement that tends toward the attainment of European unity.” With the splintering of that unity in recent days, perhaps we might pray to St. Benedict for healing. Our intercession might properly extend to the healing of bonds between all nations, peoples and races.

      St. Benedict and his followers are credited with bringing the dawn of a new era to Europe by means of the cross, the book and the plow. The cross, the law of Christ, for Benedict “lent consistency and growth to the ordering of public and private life.” Spiritual unity resulted from the practice of liturgical and ritual prayer. The book, a symbol of culture, “saved the tradition of the ancients” and “restored the cult of knowledge”. Cultivation of the fields and similar initiatives “transformed wastelands into fertile fields and gracious gardens” and by uniting prayer with manual labor, Benedict “ennobled and elevated human work.” It is not difficult to see how St. Benedict might be invoked for environmental efforts, sustainability, just recompense for employment and the dignity of manual labor.

Our closing prayer for this feast on July 11 states “We who follow his Rule delight in the rich tradition we have inherited. Raise up in our day women and men who prefer nothing to the love of Christ…Through the intercession of Benedict, may our ancient heritage continue to flourish.”

 Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My Dogwood Tree

       Yesterday, my dogwood tree was cut down. It  was time for it   to go because it had many dead branches on it. The dogwood tree was just outside my bedroom window. I loved to watch the tree at the changes of seasons.
       In  the  springtime, new leaves would bud forth and it   would have beautiful white blossoms. Later berries would come and many and different birds would come and eat the berries. It   was a hub of activity!
       I was fortunate to watch this marvel of nature for thirty some years. The tree itself had grown so tall that it reached our second floor window.
       Even though the tree belonged to the monastery and to all of us, I considered it "my" tree because it greeted me in   the mornings and evenings and when I looked out my window. I enjoyed watching its beauty and   activity.

       I am sad at the loss of this tree but am also reminded of a quote by Alfred, Lord Tennyson that is in my mind at this time.  "The old order changeth, yielding place to new and God fulfills himself in many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
        Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Divine Dialogue

(with apologies to Plato, Socrates, et al)
God:   Have you seen any of my prophets around here? I need some.

Ima D.Sciple: Who are you looking for? Where do you think they might be?

God:   Who knows! I put my Word in their mouths a while back; I hope they didn't forget about that.

Ima D. Sciple: What do you need? Can I help?

God: I need some witnesses. Today so many people are upset; they see their world falling apart around them. They've lost trust in institutions of any kind – church, government, business… They’ve stopped reaching out to anyone who thinks otherwise and focus only on themselves and their problems. "We need someone with answers," they say. Then some charismatic, self-proclaimed expert comes along and says “I can solve all your problems. All we have to do is….,” and they eagerly jump on board.

Ima D.Sciple: Your Son was surely charismatic.

God: Yes, but he never said his answers were simple or painless; quite the opposite. And he warned about people who would come saying they had all the answers, but who were really wolves in sheep's clothing.

Ima D.Sciple: Is this why you are looking for your prophets?

God:  Definitely. My Son knew that when people were feeling lost or beaten down, they needed hope, but not the cheap hope that promises easy, painless, and just–around-the-corner solutions that are usually too good to be true. Rather, they need true hope that requires work, struggle, and often collaboration with others who share the same vision.

Ima D.Sciple:  This is where your prophets come in, isn't it. They know hope isn't cheap; it costs.

God: It cost my Son his life, and he paid it so everyone could have honest hope. I need witnesses to remind others of this bigger reality. They will remind those in trouble that problems are solved not by calling people names but by calling them forth, not by alienating but embracing them.
When people are so desperate they can't think through the "easy" answers to spot the risks; when they accept doing violence to others so they can have their own way; when they ignore the life-threatening needs of others to fill their own less acute needs; these are times and places my followers need to wake up to their calling.

Ima D. Sciple: Can't you do something? After all, you are God!

God:  So was my Son, but remember how he left things. We decided to give our disciples opportunity and resources, then leave the rest to them. Our gift to them is to be co-creators of the Kingdom. If they do their job, through them justice, peace, and harmony will weave through the human fabric. The world will be transformed.

Ima D.Sciple: And here I am. I guess I have some decisions to make, don't I?

God: You and many others, but if you decide, together you will re-make society to better reflect love, which is the true nature of God. Remember, we are with you through it all.

       Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Between the Rooster and Keys

              A rooster and key(s) are often present in sculptures and paintings of St. Peter. These symbols represent both the struggle and the glory of Peter’s life. These images resonate with me and after some reflection I have come to think of them as being on a continuum. Each day brings with it an opportunity to move forward in love towards God, to become more fully the person whom God is calling me into being. Or I back away through my thoughts, words or actions by denying God, self or others. Even in my moments of denial I know that God is there, ready to forgive and draw me in closer once again.
                It is in the small daily choices that I move along the continuum.When I lend a helping hand, listen compassionately, share generously my skills, or find a common ground with another person I move closer to God and create a positive impact. In my impatience, anger, fear or indifference I trend towards the denial, my own version of Peter’s rooster.

 It is in these moments of denial, I pray for a gut reaction or stirring of compassion which startles me and moves my denial towards love. I also pray for the humility to allow myself to be forgiven and loved into fully being. In our humanness we learn and grow  It is in our humanness that we realize we are wired for connection with each other. May we all grow in our awareness of our connectedness and move towards our own keys which bring forth compassion, love and healing for us all.
Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To Follow St. Benedict

       In his Rule, St. Benedict counsels his followers to "pray and work." He further advises them to "love one another in charity" by practicing "good zeal with the most fervent love."
       As I pray and work in God's world today, Benedict reminds me "never to despair of God's mercy and to desire eternal life with all passion of the spirit."
      How do these words affect my life now? In my daily life as a Benedictine sister I am challenged to pray and work in a monastic community, to be present, to communicate, to serve, to love and live out my Benedictine profession.
       I am grateful to God daily for this call, and I hope to celebrate it for years to come.
       Sr. Martha Walther, OSB

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Memory and Message of God’s Grandeur

       Today is the anniversary of Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’ death in 1889. Seeing a reminder of this fact brought to mind a poem of his that was shared with our class in high school many years ago. Perhaps you had this experience too:

God’s Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things:
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy ghost over the bent World broods
with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

       This is probably the only poem of Father Hopkins that I half-way understand. Like abstract art, it conveys to me reality through the feelings, the images he names with such care. This piece makes me feel awe at the beauty and indestructibility of this World (NB: He capitalizes the word in the ending verse unlike the beginning verse.) At the same time the realism of “man’s smudge” and “smell” does not allow me to avoid my responsibility of caring for creation.

       Thank you, Gerard Manley Hopkins for the beauty and hope you have given us!
       Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB