Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

      In June I was blessed to be part of Villa Madonna Academy’s trip to Italy. It was a fantastic trip to a truly remarkable country. Two important events from that trip left a lasting impression.
       First was our visit to Monte Cassino. the most famous of St. Benedict’s monasteries where he actually lived and died. Being at Monte Cassino was such a blessing for me as a Benedictine. As we approached Monte Cassino after a harrowing bus ride up any number of hairpin turns the first thing we saw was the main door with the word PAX above it: PEACE! A feeling of peace really did overwhelm me.
       Monte Cassino is a beautiful, light and bright monastery with a beautiful church and museum. It’s amazing that it’s even there. The monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt four different times since it was built in the early 6th century. The last time was after it was almost completely destroyed in the bombing of World War II. I can still see the room where St. Benedict lived, now a small chapel, and his tomb which was not destroyed in the bombing of World War II. We saw many other parts of the monastery but the PEACE door stays with me the most.
       We, as Benedictines and Catholics, carry that tradition of PEACE forward in whatever we do as we strive to be respectful and helpful and peaceful. I thought to myself, what if we put the word PEACE over every door throughout our homes and work places. Would that encourage all of us to be more peaceful; more aware of the need in our world and in our lives for PEACE? I think it’s worth a try.
       On our second last day we were in the 10th to 12th rows at the Pope’s audience in St. Peter’s square. It is hard to express how moved I was, and I’m sure others were, just by being in Pope Francis’ presence. This second experience with Pope Francis was equally as remarkable as being at Monte Cassino.  First of all, when he passed us in the Pope-mobile I am sure that he was waving just to me. We made eye-contact, for sure.
       His message that day which was translated in five languages was one of acceptance of each person as a brother or sister. He spontaneously welcomed a group of about 10 refugees that he had spotted in the crowd to join him under the canopy. It was a moving moment for all of us. He truly lives what he proclaims.
What would be the effect if we also welcomed others who are not like us? What would happen if we truly showed mercy to those in need? I believe that can be the path to true peace.
       And finally, shortly after we arrived home from Italy the sniper shootings in Dallas occurred. I have good friends in Dallas and contacted them to be sure they were okay.
When I expressed my feeling of hopelessness in the face of such senseless violence my friend offered the advice that we should all pray ceaselessly for peace.
       I was humbled that she had to tell me that. I think that would be St. Benedict’s and Pope Francis’ advice as well.
       So, in our world, so in need of peace, let us make it our goal to live in peace, to proclaim peace, to write it in our hearts and minds, and pray for peace every day.

       God bless you and your school year. 
        Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer's Abundance

Cucumbers picked daily multiply.
They become pickles--sweet and dill--when canned.

Peaches come in by the basketsful.
They become jam, peaches on ice cream, cereal or peach cobbler.

The raised garden shows off its giant sunflowers.
They look down on the vine-covered fence.

Flowers and vegetables thirst for rain.
The sun sears with heat.

Sr. Cathy in front of the garden .
Rain comes in downpours.
Branches fall but life revives.

A special oblate dies.
Do those who mourn realize their loss?

Politicians rant and rave.
Who will save?

Guns and suicide bombs kill and maim.
Who will save?

Compassion and mercy are Pope Francis' plea.
Who will listen?  Who will act?

Summer days grow short.
Will the night bring peace?
Will the morning bring new life?

Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Culture of Fear

           On July 16, just a month ago, we prayed the following verses from Isaiah 25: 1-4, 6-9 during Morning Prayer:

       On this mountain
       God will destroy the shroud that is cast over all people
       the sheet that is spread over the nations
      God will swallow up death forever.
      God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
      will take away the disgrace of the people from all the earth,
      for God has spoken.
           The day before, a man drove a large truck through crowds of people celebrating France’s Independence Day on the French Riviera, killing dozens and wounding many others.We keep having these incidents, and throughout our country too, bombings and shootings galore.It happens in schools, a church, a restaurant, and all kinds of places where people are gathered together. So what do we do? We lock all our doors, we go around scared of everyone. Is it safe to go grocery shopping in a store where people may carry concealed weapons?
           I prayed the psalm again, using “terrorism,”  “shooting” or “bombing” in place of shroud, “fear” in place of sheet.
           I grew up with little or no fear, even though WW II was raging across the ocean as my two uncles in the armed services defended us. In primary grades I walked almost a mile to school every day, crossing five side streets. At age eight my mother put me on the bus to go downtown for swimming lessons at the YMCA and uptown for piano lessons, then crossing a four lane highway with no traffic light to get home.  As a high school student, I got off the bus many a Saturday night after YCS dances to walk up a dark winding street with no lights. I heard rustling in the bushes and field, prayed to my guardian angel and was assured it was only a bunny or squirrel nestling in for the night. As an adventurous adult, I was not afraid to walk the streets or to use public transportation in London, Vienna, Cuernavaca or Washington, DC. I was careful but not naïve.
           But now? Are we to think of every human being we meet as a potential thief, or killer?
Back to prayer:
        God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
        will take away the disgrace of the people from all the earth,
        for God has spoken.
           Yes Lord, You have spoken. Are we listening? With Your help, surely we can make a difference. Can we deal with anger, resentment, injustice, vengeance, the bullied child, and the bullies? Can we turn this energy into good for others? Can we turn the culture of fear into a culture of trust and mutual respect?          
                Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Kingdom of God

        In the selections from the Gospel of Matthew that we are reading at Eucharist, Jesus proposes parables about the Kingdom of God for the crowds from the local experiences that they understand.          “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God? He says,
       “The Kingdom of God may be likened to a man who sowed seed."
       "The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed…”
       “The Kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed…”
         Jesus’ examples of how to understand the Kingdom of God stirred my imagination to look around me to see what local experiences could be compared to the Kingdom of God present in our midst.  I came up with two:
       The Kingdom of God is like the cucumber vines in our monastery garden which are daily producing such an abundance of cucumbers. They are multiplying so fast that we can hardly keep up with gathering them, cooking them, slicing them, pickling them, canning them, and storing them for consumption throughout the rest of the year. We love our bread and butter pickles.The cucumber vines have become a community building event.
       While sitting at the front desk doing my portress' duty the last few weeks, I have been watching many young people biking up to our front walk, or driving up and parking for a short time, getting out and working on their smart phones and iPads till they get a Pokémon-Go signal and capture a character, give a smile of success, and then off they go to the next site.
       The Kingdom of God is like the Pokémon-Go game that is energizing our young people to go out to designated sites, capture a character, and move on to search for more. Our front gate, the Monastery front entrance, and the lake by the infirmary are three of these designated spots. I believe more folks have located and identified St. Walburg Monastery building through this game than anything else. Let us hope that this game will continue to stimulate good sharing among friends and families locally and all over the world, and keep them searching for all the wonderful gifts and surprises God has in store for them.
       In the Give Us This Day July issue, Fr. Ronald Witherup, reflects on the Parables of Matthew:  “As you hear each parable, you might ask yourself:  what does it tell me about God and God’s priorities?  Not every parable has a moral about our life.Sometimes they tell us that God’s Kingdom grows secretly and mysteriously (like the mustard seed or the yeast), or that it contains every kind of person (the net) whom only God will judge when the kingdom finally comes.Jesus’ main advice:  If you have ears, then listen.”                                                                        

       To what can you compare the Kingdom of God around you?  
            Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB,

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