Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Joys of May

       This is a crazy time of year in my world. It marks the end of the school year, and even though I retired from teaching last May, I still feel the excitement of graduation and all the celebrations that surround it. 
        At our sponsored school, Villa Madonna Academy, the excitement started with the junior-senior banquet two weeks ago and the prom.  Sunday was the Alumni Brunch with over 140 alums returning to campus to see old friends, former teachers, and to honor the Outstanding Alumni winners this year. In addition, Carole Lonneman, who has been the counselor for 50 years was honored. The 50-year and 25-year reunion classes were also feted. . It was quite a day! 
        High school graduation itself will be on May 22 at Mother of God church in Covington. It is always such a beautiful tribute to the graduates and their families. Seeing how much the graduates have grown in their four years of high school is amazing. Hearing of their many accomplishments and scholarships won makes all of us proud. The greatest joy for me, though, is hearing the speeches of the valedictorian and salutatorian(s). Invariably they cite the Benedictine values of hospitality, peace, community, prayer, stewardship and respect that form the foundation of their educational experience at Villa. Knowing that they are grounded in these values they will be able to move forward in their education and their careers, making a positive contribution to society. Educating the whole person, not just their intellect is a lofty goal, and it is edifying to hear that these students realize that is being accomplished in them.        
       I’m sure many of our readers will be celebrating with the graduates among their family and friends. May each of the graduates  be blessed as they continue their lifelong learning and growth.
       Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

10,000 steps and Loving One Another

This spring I have been making a concerted effort to increase my activities.  One way is by consciously tracking my steps.  My results vary from just meeting my goal of 10,000 steps a day to days of falling short or delightfully exceeding my goal.  It has created unexpected opportunities to connect in different ways with friends and family.  In being more mindful of my steps I have found myself increasing my activity, making different choices, and starting again each day.  I’ll come back to this in just a moment.
Since hearing the Gospel on Sunday, I keep coming back to Jesus’s commandment to the apostles then, and to us now, to “love one another.”   A commandment Jesus embodied in his living and his dying.  I find this commandment easy to follow when it involves people I want to serve or whose company I am glad to keep.  The challenge of loving another for me is in the moments of misunderstanding, differences, hurt, or challenge.  Those moments which I am called to sacrifice, to love beyond what I want or think I can.
In the midst of being overwhelmed by the implications of really living this commandment it occurred to me that it is done one step, one choice at a time.  It is the conscious choice to love another, to allow ourselves to sacrifice, and love beyond our perceived limits that leads us to embody this commandment.  It is the perseverance to keep working at it, not alone but all together. 
As we continue to celebrate this Year of Consecrated Life may we both within and outside the monastery walls continue to witness in our daily steps to this commandment to “love one another.”

Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I am the Vine, you are the Branches. Live in me as I live in you.

       Each year as we are presented with Jesus’ Word, identifying himself as the Vine, and our being united to Him as branches of the vine, I am reminded of a hoya plant that has been around our monastery well before I entered 60 years ago.
      Sr. Thomas Noll was the gardener extraordinaire in our community. She had started and tended the large hoya plant that lived in the bay-window of the prayer room at the Guest House forever, it seemed to me. Its dark green, waxy leaves were always green and strong. I never saw a dead leaf on it. The vines grew long, down to the floor and up again, round and round, on and on. It bloomed infrequently with the most beautiful pink beaded fragrant flower that oozes a honey like juice that the ants loved.  Sister would break off pieces for Sisters who were interested in starting one.
       I asked for a piece when I was asked to go to Harlan County as Pastoral Director at Holy Trinity Church in 1987. The start got roots, got planted and grew to be a big healthy plant that lived in the front room window of the prayer room of the Parish House for the years I was there, and I offered starts to others. I even took it to Church one Sunday in the Easter Season when this Gospel was read, as a prop for a reflection I was asked to give. I have continued to have a plant or two from that original plant with me wherever I have lived, and continue offering starts to others. Many of my friends and family now have one as well. Jesus the Vine lives on and on through us, the branches, giving life and joy to all.

       Last week when I was at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, NE, for a conference, I was fascinated with the collection of art work displayed throughout that wonderful conference/retreat center.The Missionary Benedictine Monks who built this center come from a German foundation, and have been all over the world.  One of the works that caught my attention, especially since we were preparing for this Gospel on Sunday, was this large Makonde Easter Candle Stand.  It was carved from mahogany by an artist of the Wamakonde Tribe of East Africa. Jesus is the Vine with all the other figures on this Tree of Life organically connected to Him. As I passed that statue on my way to chapel each time, I found it had become my special “Word” for Lectio during that week
           I am called to praise God for the gift of Life in Christ and to continue to remain in Him with all the others. Alleluia!
         Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Visitors, visitors, visitors!

     Julie Andrews sang, ”The hills are alive with the sound of music.”  Our song here at the monastery could easily be, “The halls are alive with the sound of young ones.”  We have been very fortunate to have many recent visitors from local schools.  In no particular order
  •            Members of Saint Henry District High School came one afternoon to play games primarily with the sisters in the Infirmary. Much laughter echoed through the area as Scrabble, Phase 10, and Sequence challenged sisters and students alike.
  •            Villa Madonna Senior religion class with their teacher Eileen O’Connell came for visiting and service. While some of them were busy cleaning the inside of cars another group were in conversation with the infirmary sisters. Thanks to two of the seniors (who are also our infirmary aides) who helped sisters get from their rooms to the lounge to visit.. It made for a great round table event.
  •            Fifth grade girls from Blessed Sacrament were here last week to learn about our life  After a tour Maddie, a Villa senior and Infirmary aide, shared her knowledge gleaned from life at the school and in her service in the Monastery.The day was rounded out as the girls met with the sisters in small groups for more sharing.
  •         Junior and Senior High students from the Villa (See below, right.) shared their music skills with a spring concert in our Lower Level. Choruses sang from a variety of movie music and the bands played both classical and popular music.  What a fine job and what a treat!
  •             In addition, several sisters became surrogate grandparents for Villa K-3 boys and girls.  After a musical presentation of songs from the grandparents’ era, complete with choreography, held in the theater, the children showed off their classroom, their art work and asked us to answer biographical questions.  It was delightful.

And two future events are coming up. 
           Thirty-two seventh grade girls are coming from Our Lady of Victory.  While the boys are visiting the seminary, these girls are finding out about monastic life. After a tour they will meet sixteen girls from Villa who will share their experience of the Benedictines The day will include Mass and lunch with the sisters.
           The second grade boys and girls of the Villa will be coming for an evening Mass to celebrate their first communions.Parents and relatives will also be our guests.

So all of the joy shared in these various events finds me wanting to sing the title of a familiar hymn: “How can I keep from singing.” 
         Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Think about it

         In our infirmary on the nurses’ desk, there is a small blackboard which has a new saying every day. This one caught my eye. “Silent and listen are spelled with the same letters. Think about it.” My immediate thought was, “The first word in the Rule of Benedict is ‘listen.’” Later I thought, “The Rule has a chapter on silence.” Finally, I thought, “This would be a good topic for my upcoming blog.”
          I believe it was Carl Jung, the noted psychologist, who said, “People pay $100.00 an hour just to have someone listen to them.” To be a good listener we must give our full attention to the one speaking. That is, we must silence all the voices inside and out. We ought not to be planning dinner menu for the next day or what we will say when the person is finished talking or what have to do at the office the next day. It takes discipline to be attentive and to recognize and still our inner voices.
          At worship and at prayer it is necessary to have inner silence to be present and active. Again, from experience we know how difficult it is to still the inner voices that keep from listening and participating. We have to let go and keep returning to the inner silence. (One writer says that he makes distraction part of his prayer.
          Even to enjoy fully a spring day we need to be inwardly still so that we can hear the sounds around: the birds singing, the branches swaying and the crickets doing whatever it is that they do!
          Regarding our relationship with God, Scripture says simply, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)

          Silent and listen are spelled with the same letters. Think about it. 
          Sr. Justina Franxman, OSB

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Death, Separation, Process, New Life

       On a recent sunny afternoon I took a leisurely walk to our cemetery. There I found the recently cut down remains of some very old, tall, ash trees infected and killed by the emerald ash borer.The huge sections of the tree trunks were waiting to be hauled from the cemetery hillside. I pondered the sight of the Sisters’ graves with the large sections of trees scattered among them. The life circles in each immense piece of tree trunk seemed to epitomize the circles of gravestones on the hill. 
       The sight spoke to me of death and separation as well as process and new life.  I recalled memories of these departed Sisters and prayed for and to them. I also wondered about the future of those immense trunks. Might their wood be made into something beautiful or useful or even unique one day? Upon leaving the cemetery, I couldn’t help wishing that it would be so. 
                              Sr. Martha Walther, OSB  


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Verbs of Easter

Candles              The Candle          Music
    distribute        decorate                  tune
    hold                bless                       practice
    light                light                         chose
    share              incense                   reject
    illuminate        place                      download
    extinguish       revere                     remember
    store                store                      copy

Water               Night                      Bread        
   flow               rend                        raise
   pour               illuminate               knead
   bless              conquer                 shape
   circulate         banish                    rise
   symbolize      destroy                   bless
   sprinkle          sanctify                  break
   trickle             bless                      share
Word                 Voices                Movement    
    listen               lift                       direct
    speak              raise                   practice
    explain            soften                 explain
    practice           respond              question
    sing                 harmonize          facilitate
    chant               synchronize        bow
    pray                 whisper              cease
    interpret           exult                   rest
            Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB