Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What Gettysburg Began

       I had never understood people’s preoccupation with the Civil War. We visited Gettysburg as a stopover on a return from someplace else. Quiet visitors on the battlefield. Rangers respectful of both blue and gray. Visitor Center impressive. But it didn't really take hold. 
Gettysburg National Cemetery
     We went back this year. Stopped by Little Round Top (for the view) and avoided the lengthy ranger talk nearby. Observed a group on horseback listening to another lengthy talk. Too lengthy. For the 150th anniversary we came home and watched the movie Gettysburg. Over the next few weeks several of us watched the film Lincoln and the entire Ken Burns’ Civil War series. Shelby Foote, an engaging commentator on film, became an engaging historian over the 20 years it took him to write the 3 volume, 3000 page The Civil War. It was lengthy. I read every word. One might say the Civil War finally took hold. 
     Getting caught up in the war was appalling when I found myself rooting for general so-and-so to win the battle. All this killing should be painful to read; it sometimes isn’t. I was surprised, too, to find myself praying the psalms from the point of view of a soldier from either army:
                        Have you not rejected us, O God?
                        You do not go out with our armies.
                        Grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless.
                        With God we shall do valiantly;
                        it is God who will tread down our foes. (Ps. 60) 
       I am reading beyond the battles now, into war’s effects, which haven’t changed much. The anguish of a family, the struggle of a veteran to adapt to a prosthesis, unending work for civil rights, and the efforts to stamp out slavery, which has only changed its face. 
      Fifty years after the Civil War, veterans then in their 70’s and 80’s met at Gettysburg to reenact Pickett’s charge, a futile attempt resulting in an awful loss of life. As the old Confederate veterans looked up at the “enemy” and the old Union veterans looked down, a mighty groan of pain and remembrance arose from each side. The old soldiers rushed toward each other and threw their arms around each other. Fifty years of living with the “fruits of war” led them to reconciliation.
     Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thoughts on Veterans' Day 2014

          My dad was a veteran; he served in the Navy during the Second World War. I remember watching the 1950s TV series, “Victory at Sea” with him although he did not offer his own commentary. Those were simple times with clear messages about the values and mission of our country and our “allies”. In my teens I read Eisenhower’s “Crusade in Europe” and can still today recall the campaigns of Patton and Montgomery in North Africa and the sweep of the US and friends through Italy. I am proud of our success in liberating people from concentration camps and holding war criminal responsible for their actions. 
El Greco's  Martin of Tours

          When did the message about engaging in a “Good War” change? Perhaps it is pointless to trace the evolution of the change.  But it is imperative that we recognize the realities of today: that “sides” in battle is a concept that just does not exist anymore. The complexity conjures up a picture of a circular firing squad. Way too many innocents are killed, maimed or left without home and family to justify any wars. The responsibility of our Baptismal commitment requires each of us to live and work for peace and to call our political leaders to work effectively for world peace. This was surely the intention of the United States Congress which officially recognized the end of Word War I and established Armistice Day when it passed the 1926 resolution with began with these words:  “Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, .…”

           It is fitting that Veterans’ Day falls on the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, a fourth century Roman Soldier who gave up his career in the military when he was baptized because the killing it involved was inconsistent with being a Christian. St. Martin was revered by St. Benedict who dedicated a chapel to him near what was to become the Abbey of Monte Cassino. Link for St. Martin of Tours:

           Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Then, Now and Always

        On September 29, I was excited to attend the ceremony of welcoming a postulant to our community. After living with us as a resident for six months, Patty Bickett had decided to ask to become a postulant. What a pleasure for us to receive Patty, a pleasant and gifted woman in her late forties and a grandmother. My mind went back to when I was a postulant in 1946. How very different the process of entering the community!
       Then—Although there were exceptions, in 1946, young women frequently entered right after graduation from high school or shortly thereafter. The day I entered six other young women ages 17 through 28 were received as postulants. All of us were very familiar with nuns from having attended a Catholic elementary and high school. Some had a relative who was already a nun. Others had a teacher or two who had become good friends. None of us had a clear idea of what a day in the monastery was really like. The daily schedule and many community customs were new territory. We also were erroneously sure that nothing in the Church or religious life would ever change!
       Now---The cultural difference between then and now defies comparison. Young women of today generally enter college with a major subject that will prepare them for a career. There are so many new fields that I sometimes find myself saying, “You’re majoring in what?” Adapting to change is a needed life skill.
       Sister Cathy, our vocation director, at times has a guest attending prayers and supper with her. Sometimes one will visit and stay for a couple days. “Listen Retreats” for those interested in learning more about religious life are provided and attended by college students and career women of various ages. Even though postulants are few, there is considerable interest in learning more about life in religious communities. These visitors have often found us through the internet. It seems to me that there are many seekers exploring God’s plan for their journey.
       During the past decade or so we have had several women in residence. I was always sad when one left. I do believe that all were enriched by their time with us as I felt enriched by their presence. I continue to live in hope for the future of religious life and believe we will not be disappointed.
       Always—Despite the immensity of change in today’s world, I am forever grateful for the Benedictine values that have survived over the years. Our commitment to prayer, community life and service remain constant. Our hospitality through seeing Christ in every person will continue to find our monastery a place of peace.

       Sr. Victoria Eisenman , OSB  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Companions on the Journey

          On Saturday, November 1, we celebrate the Feast Day of All Saints.  This feast is a celebration of the Communion of Saints and all the saints of the Church’s Liturgical Year, those with assigned days and those not celebrated on any particular day.  It is an inclusive celebration for “all saints” in general. We remember the lives of these saints and how they grew in holiness.  Sometimes we try to imitate their virtues. We all have our favorite saints.
          November 2 is the feast day of All Souls Day, and we remember all who have died, our relatives, community and friends. We pray for them and ask them to also intercede for us who are still on our journey. The older I get, the more people there are to remember on All Souls Day, my parents, friends, community and co-workers.
          Recently, on October 23, our community lost a friend and companion, Sr. Betty Cahill.  She is greatly missed and will certainly be remembered on All Souls Day

           Sr. Barbara Woeste

Monday, October 27, 2014

Now is the time

For letting go so others might grow...
For recognizing one’s need for less in a world that’s splintered in spirit… 
For surrendering to the slow grinding of justice pursued...                                    
For planting a perennial, passing on a good word, loving anew...                    
For blessing the moment, the child, the migrating bird... 
For giving thanks to the tree outside the window, standing so long and still giving green... 
For asking the question, “Where are we going?” and listening faithfully,  
hearing the words of our dear Sister Bea*
      “Into eternity.”

That in all things God may be glorified  Amen.
                       Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

*Our beloved Sister Beatrice Flickinger, died in 2001

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teresa of Avila

Today on the feast of Teresa of Avila I thought I’d reflect upon this complex and paradoxical saint and share of my favorite quotes from her. Teresa was born in 1515 in Spain, and her grandfather had been Jewish at the time when Ferdinand and Isabella gave the Jews the choice of converting or being expelled. Teresa’s early spirituality was based in boldness and fear. At the age of seven she and her brother ran away from home to be martyred in the name of Christ. An uncle found them and brought them home. At the age of 14 her mother died and Teresa appealed to the Blessed Mother to be a mother to her. Later at the age of 17 she determined that being a religious was the “safest course” for her.
               Her early life as a Carmelite did not go well. She became seriously ill and three years later had to return home. She recovered but for eighteen years lived in a dark period of doubt and illness. At the age of thirty-nine she experienced a profound conversion. She sought out confessors who encouraged her not to doubt her spiritual experiences and to concentrate on the passion of Christ. In 1560, unhappy with the unreformed Carmelites, she began to meet with a group of like-minded sisters who wished to establish a new monastery based upon the primitive tradition of Carmel and the discalced reform of Saint Peter of Alcantara. The monastery would live entirely by alms and the sisters’ own labor; they would be vegetarians and adhere to a rigorous schedule of prayer. At this point she began to write her autobiography under obedience to her confessors and later wrote the Way of Perfection and the Interior Castle even though she said she had neither the health or intelligence for writing.
Painting done in 1575 by Brother Juan
de la Miseria. Teresa said upon seeing
it, "God forgive you, Brother Juan!
How ugly and bleary-eyed you have made
              Her reforms were not universally accepted and 1576 she was put under house arrest and her new convents were forbidden to accept more novices.  In 1580 partly because of the intervention of King Phillip II, her Discalced Carmelites were made a separate province from the unreformed Carmelites.
               The main themes of Teresa’s spirituality are friendship with God, love of neighbor, obedience, humility, humor and the integration of contemplation with activity. Teresa herself says:
        Mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing other than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with the One who we know loves us.”
        The Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with which we do it.
        We cannot be sure if we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor.
        Well, come now, my daughters, don’t be sad when obedience draws you to involvement in exterior matters. Know that if it is in the kitchen, the Lord walks among the pots and pans.
        “When I fast, I fast. And when I eat partridge, I eat partridge!”  (to a critic of her gusty enjoyment of a good meal)
        What a brain for a foundress! But I can tell you I thought I had a great  brain when I made up this.(after re-reading some verses she composed)
        I was amused at your remark that you could sum her up immediately if you once saw her. We women cannot be summed up as easily as that.(Speaking to Ambrosio Mariano who presumed he could judge who would make an acceptable Carmelite candidate)
     In 1622 Teresa was canonized; in 1970 she was made a Doctor of the Church.
         Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Celebration of 60 years of monastic profession

     At evening prayer last Saturday we celebrated with four Sisters who renewed their religious profession that first occurred 60 years ago.  As they stood before us I became emotionally overwhelmed as their long and varied “careers” jumped into my thoughts.  I was amazed.  So here is a quick overview.  Join me in being thankful to them and to God whose call made it all possible.
     Sr. Ann Middendorf (known for a while as Sr. Ann Joseph) was an elementary teacher from the little ones to 7th grade.  She then trained for special education and for many years taught in Good Counsel School dedicated to schooling those with special needs.  Eventually Sr. Ann retrained and became a parish minister for Blessed Sacrament Church in Fort Mitchell KY.  I was especially in awe of her ministry to the sick and the homebound.
     Sr. Denise Gough received her training in nursing. She worked in the hospitals run by this community in Colorado and then in the Kentucky mountains.  The hospitals were small and in small towns so her tasks were many and varied.  As years went on
Sr. Denise specialized as a nurse-anesthetist finishing her nursing days at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, KY.
Left to right: Srs. Rosemary McCormack,
Martha Walther, Mary Catherine
Wenstrup, Prioress, Denise Gough,
Ann Middendorf.

     Sr. Martha Walther (Sr. Janine) began her ministry as an elementary teacher and soon moved to high school specializing in Spanish.  The call from the Pope for missionaries took her to Pomata in Peru where she again used her teaching skills. After returning home she became executive director of Northern Kentucky Interfaith and worked with the Exodus Jail Ministry Program.  In the years following she served in the Tribunal Office of the Covington diocese.
     Sr. Rosemary McCormack (Sr. Adrian) was an elementary teacher and principal at several schools in Northern Kentucky and also in Colorado.  She claims to have taught every grade but the first grade and served as choirmaster.  After “retiring” from teaching she took up parish ministry at Jesus Our Savior parish in Morehead KY and was recently honored for completing 25 years of serving as Director of Religious Formation.

     As one of the Jubilarians exclaimed, “It was anything but boring.” 
      Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB