Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mary Magdalene, Disciple of the Lord

What do we know about Mary Magdalene whose feast is celebrated on July 22? She is in all four gospels. In Luke (8:1-3) she is named as Mary surnamed the Magdalene who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments. In Mark and Matthew (Mk. 15:40, Mt 27:61) she heads the list of the women present at the passion and burial of Our Lord. In John (19:25) she is mentioned after Jesus’ mother Mary and her sister at the foot of the cross. John also describes her going to the tomb alone and, in tears, finding the body of Jesus missing. John awards her the distinction of the first person to see the risen Christ and gives her the privilege of announcing the resurrection to the apostles (Jn 20:1-8)
               Throughout the centuries Mary Magdalene’s story has been confused with that of Mary of Bethany, Mary of Egypt, the sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke’s gospel and a reformed prostitute. If you Google “Mary Magdalene” and look for images, you will find that many artists in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance had a fine time with the image of the reformed prostitute (usually half or fully naked) while others picture her with an alabaster jar anointing Jesus’ feet or languishing in meditation draped around a skull.
               The Orthodox Church titles her “Myrrh-Bearer and Equal of the Apostles.” Orthodox art will show her with a jar of myrrh for anointing the body of Jesus. In the Orthodox tradition when the apostles left Jerusalem to spread the good news, Mary Magdalene went with them She went to Rome preaching the message, “I have seen the Risen Lord.” The story is that she visited the Emperor Tiberius and gave him an egg and said, “Christ has risen.” The emperor laughed and replied that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg turning red. The egg then turned a bright red, and many icons of Mary show her with a red egg in her hand. The Orthodox tradition has her going to Ephesus and dying there. In the Roman Catholic tradition she goes to Gaul where she dies. For more than you might want to know about Mary Magdalene and her different identities and traditions, go to

               There are two representations of Mary Magdalene in art that I want to share. The first is a terra cotta statue by Niccolo dell’Arca (1462-63) that is part of a Pieta (the group of people mentioned in the gospels as present at the crucifixion). See left. This piece is in Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna, Italy. Mary is rushing headlong in anguish toward the body of Jesus on the ground. The image captures feelings of horror and pain at the death of Jesus and the sight of his body. Mary is pictured as powerful, passionate and full of movement.
The second piece is by Bruce Wolfe (b. 1941) and is located in the Mission Santa Barbara in California. See right. This Mary is sad, calmer, attentive but no less full of power. She has Middle Eastern features and a serene earthiness. Like the dell’Arca figure all her attention is focused on Jesus but this time on the Risen Jesus. One can visualize this Mary preaching to the Emperor Tiberius.
               I hope this brief blog will spark 
your interest in the woman Mary Magdalene, her rich and varied tradition and the art inspired by her.
Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Wheat and the Weeds

       This summer, the members at St. Joseph’s House, where I live, planted a vegetable garden.  We pull
up the weeds from the vegetable plants right away.  It is uncanny how much a weed will look like the plant they are growing next to in the garden.  I think the weeds, (evil) deceives us as good.
       Sunday’s Gospel for July 20 is taken from Matthew, Chapter 13, and talks about the Kingdom of God. Jesus speaks a lot about the Kingdom of God in the Gospels.  In the Gospel, the householder lets the
wheat and the weeds grow together until harvest.In thinking about the Kingdom of God and this Gospel, I believe that the Kingdom of God begins here on earth and how we choose to live and grow
in God’s grace is preparation for the Eternal Kingdom. We too, can be deceived by evil and we need to discern the wheat from the weeds.
       After hoeing the garden, a few days ago, I looked out our window and saw a robin coming to sit on the fence to look for his breakfast. The soil was favorable.  God is Good!
      Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Energy

     Is there any significance in the fact that my own deadline for writing a blog coincided with July 4? Considering that lots of work takes place on holidays in the monastery, writing a blog, in comparison, should be a breeze. Yet in July, breezes can be rare. After all, this is vacation season! On the other hand, some work increases, e.g., house cleaning. Weekday mornings I help in the infirmary by delivering clean laundry. Today I'm subbing for Sr. Stella to bring communion to the infirmary sisters. A double privilege day for me!
    In comparison, writing a blog is a different kind of job and calls for a different kind of energy. No matter the season, several sisters step up to the task with a sense of dedication and pleasure in expressing their ideas and perspective at any time of year. So, here’s to a relaxing, re-invigorating summer!
  Sr. Martha Walther, OSB  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fireworks, Gun Fire, Hope, Freedom, Grace and Prayer

     With a post due on July 2nd the only topic that immediately came to mind is the 4th of July. Since childhood I have enjoyed this day of being with family and friends, grilling, parades, and firework displays. While I do pray for our veterans this day, I was surprised that I failed to mention prayer or put it at the top of my list of enjoyments. Another surprise was that the thought of fireworks felt like a jab in my heart. 
     The word fireworks conjured images of the gun fire and violence throughout the world. I thought of the many places where people wonder each day whether it may be their last on earth. Many even fear of being captured by the enemy to live long days of torture and abuse. In an area close to home there have been so many shootings that children fear to walk on the street.  Then I questioned whether it is even logical to hope and pray for freedom throughout the world? 
     Actually, it isn’t logical. Only God’s grace empowers us to pray for freedom for all people. I pray also that those who define freedom as license will learn the true meaning of the word. While for much of my life I believed we were guaranteed freedom in America, I now realize that the only guarantee of freedom is in Christ. Scripture attests to this in many places, e.g.:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2.”

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

     This 4th of July, I will often say this little prayer in thanksgiving for freedom. “Lord, thank you for giving your life that we may be free. Bless all those who have served our country and continue to give their lives for our freedom. Meet their needs and watch over their families with favor and bounty. 

      Help me live my life in a way that glorifies You. Give me the strength to be a blessing in someone else’s life each day. Grant me the opportunity to lead others into the freedom that can be found only in knowing Jesus Christ.”--Adapted from “Prayer for Fourth of July from a collection by Mary Fairchild.”

                                           Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Good Zeal—Peter & Paul

           A tentmaker and a fisherman. One struck blind for his arrogance; the other humiliated by his infidelity. The pillars of the Church, Peter & Paul. Through them God demonstrates the power of grace in human lives when it is welcomed and allowed to work. Zealous for the work of God, both were conscious that they held the treasure in clay jars. 
            At the end of his Rule, St. Benedict exhorts the monks to good zeal “which monks must foster with fervent love”. Like Peter and Paul, the acknowledgement of human weakness precedes Benedict’s exhortation to further virtue. The monks should outdo one another in showing honor, “supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior…” 
            St. Aelred comments, “…these men were to be physicians who would heal the weak. But they would be unable to pity the weaknesses of others unless they had first experienced their own weakness.” Aware that we hold the treasure of God’s grace in clay vessels, may we welcome this gift and allow it to work in us. 
                                                        Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Presence in the Midst of Flurries

       Probably pretty much like you, I get super busy- especially when seasons change, needs change and schedules change. In my position at the parish I have “closed the book” on this year’s RCIA group- all fully initiated now and the team is taking a breather. With our parish communication committee I am gearing up for a new project in that area. The day to day business and tasks associated with both parish and outside groups are unpredictable and constant at the same time and I am just now getting to back burner items on my to do list for 2014.

       AND, in the midst of these flurries, I get to take time out to talk about God. How great is that? I am fortunate to meet with several wonderful people for Spiritual Direction on a monthly basis. The one or two people that I see in a week feels like a one or two hour spiritual spa. For me, the cares of work can be seen with new eyes and a new heart in the perspective of God’s loving care for all. Life is Good!
       Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Backyard Blessings

     At Noonday Prayer on Monday, June 2, we read from St. Paul, “If you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are of earth, for you have died with Christ and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:1-3) 
     I know Paul was making a point and one should not take things out of context, yet his words struck me. I couldn’t have disagreed more. I side with people like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Teilhard de Chardin who see Christ in all of God’s handiwork. 
      That experience was probably in my mind when I walked out the back door of the monastery and was greeted by “tweet tweet” from a robin in an oak tree. I asked the robin for more but there was silence. There was no song but there was dance and color. Trees and flowers of all colors were swaying in the wind: red oaks, evergreens, holly, redbuds and purple leaf plum trees, blue and red salvia, yellow marigolds, yellow achillea, white vinas, pink veronica and purple verbenas. 
     Sister Mariana is one of our gardeners. She can be seen duly and lovingly planting seeds, putting plants in the ground in spring and caring for them during the summer and fall. Other sisters who plant flowers or vegetables in their gardens on the grounds assist in helping show forth the beauty and fruitfulness of God’s creation. Here at St. Walburg we set our minds on things that are above, where Christ is. We set our eyes on the beauty of God’s earth and raise our voices in praise of God from whom all blessings flow. 

             Sister Justina Franxman, OSB