Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Seat of Solace

 

    Recently the old rocking chair in my room with a wayward spring was replaced by a new rocker. As I looked at different styles I thought about the wooden rocker at my parent’s house, the glider in the community room, even the rocking chairs while waiting to get into Cracker Barrell. I thought about replacing the old rocker with a different type of chair but came back again and again to the wooden legs and rhythm of rocking back and forth.
     Rocking chairs have long been a refuge in my life through different homes and circumstances. The soothing rhythm slows my breathing and grounds me.  Rocking chairs remind me of conversations in the living rooms of friends or talking on porches into the twilight hours. Rockers provided seats of healing following surgery or recovery from illness.
            
Since I’ve been working from home due to the pandemic I often pray in the morning from my rocker, a hot cup of coffee close at hand.  It is where I bring to God my gratitude, my searching and all which plays and sometimes weighs heavy upon my heart.  My prayer recently is messy and often bears petitions and questions which are not quickly resolved. Even in the mess, I rock and I’m soothed, my trust reinforced that God is there listening and at work in ways I cannot yet imagine.
      
        We each need a space to go where we can find solace and grounding. That space often comes to represent something much bigger and broader than the physical space we dwell.  It is where we meet God, ourselves and come to attempt to make sense of the wild, wonderful and often perplexing world in which we live. It is also a space where we connect with others through laughter, stories, and musings that weave into the conversation of friends.  I am grateful for the many rocking chairs through the years which have provided solace and connection to others. I encourage you take a moment to visit or appreciate the seats of solace you find in your life which bring you grounding and connection.  Blessings!


                    Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Thursday, July 8, 2021

A model for tribute, prayer and process

     


I attended a funeral recently that was introduced with a tribute written by one of the daughters of a man who was 93. He had recently suffered a major stroke.  She was inspired to write this as she sat with him one night. With her permission I share part of it.

I never saw my father dying

Instead I saw a family tirelessly

caring for a father they adored.


I never saw my father dying

Instead I saw respect and admiration

from friends whose lives he enriched.


. . . I never saw my father dying

Instead I saw Love.

Such a beautiful tribute! I have reflected on it often.  I love the content and the format resonated with me. It is a beautiful way to live with difficult situations, to process encounters of significance,  and to inspire prayer.  With  gratitude and humility, I offer a few  examples.


Connecting with the news

I do not see the pile of debris in the Florida building collapse.

Instead I see lives lost and dreams shattered.

I do not see the pile of debris in the Florida building collapse.

Instead I see the dedication and jeopardy of first responders and  generous citizens.

I do not see the pile of debris in the Florida building collapse.

Instead I see a mayor who cares and a country holding its breath.  . . .


Perhaps a remedy for negative judgement

I never saw her outburst of anger.

Instead I saw a frustrated, overworked, unsupported woman. 

I never saw her outburst of anger.

Instead I saw a woman doing her best to love her children.  . . .. .


Grateful for our natural world.

I do not see the brown ends of tree branches.

Instead I see Nature producing new life for those pesky little cicadas .

I do not see the brown ends of tree branches.

Instead I see relief from noise and freedom from discarded body parts.  . . .


May you likewise be inspired.

                Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Blessings of Routine

 

    Sometimes I’m really grateful for routine. Special event, guests for dinner, change in schedule, a celebration, all so welcome at the time. Later I am happy to have done something different, and also glad it’s over.

    Travel carries with it an illusion of freedom. Freedom from normal responsibilities, the ability to do what you want when you want. Or so you think. But what will you do and when will you do it? How will you each show hospitality to the other’s preference?

It is a revelation to learn from yourself and others that vacationing calls for creating routines. It is a relief to do “what we usually do” at least part of the time. St. Benedict advises moderation. Is the key a balance of routine and “specials”?

            St. Aelred of Rievaulx gives practical advice on dealing with routine in his Rule for Recluses:

 

Make use of the psalms as long as you find them helpful.

When they begin to be burdensome, turn to reading;

            as soon as that wearies you, give yourself to prayer.

When you are tired of all these exercises, go to work.

Thus by a healthy alternation

            you will refresh your spirit and drive off weariness. 

How often have you heard from friends returning from work or fun trips, “It was great, and I’m glad to be back home.” Would that we each can find that healthy alternation, the usual patterns in our good life that root us, and the special occasions that refresh the spirit.


                Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

 

 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Whisperings from our God of Mystery

      Have you ever spotted a weed poking its flowery head thru a crack in the sidewalk and been stopped in your tracks?  What about times of luxuriating at the gentle touch of breeze on a steamy day or relaxing into your favorite recliner or comfortable bath?

     These common events that come to us in private moments can have a deep impact on us if we pay attention. Have you ever recognized them as whispers from God? We are surrounded daily by signs that God never forgets us, even on tough days or in difficult years. Sometimes the message sneaks up on us; other times it can be pretty straightforward, even blunt, like when someone corrects us or, on the other hand, gives us a subtle compliment. These interventions in our normal routine can be visits of the divine. Do we ever recognize them as such?

     The weed in the sidewalk can bring a smile to our face or a lilt to our walk. I think this kind of moment is easier to see as a gift from the Spirit than corrections from a peer or boss. Though both can be gift, my human nature doesn’t enjoy being reminded of my deficiencies. When I can open the ear of my heart, as Benedict says, I often find truth there and am able to see it as a gift from God’s hand.

     We know in our head that God is mystery, infinite and always present. It is our consciousness, however, that is frequently unaware of this presence. How often have we prayed for God to come be with us or a loved one in a challenging situation? Do we ever realize that God has not gone anywhere, but what we are really praying for is not for God to change, but for us to become more open to change ourselves? (The first time I heard a theologian say this, it was hard to hear. The more its wisdom dawned on me, however, the deeper grew my understanding of prayer. God’s unique presence to each of us never goes away. As the old poster asks, If God is absent from our lives, who moved?)

     These meandering thoughts lead me to think about how often God’s whispers lead us to new understandings. For me, one of these is how individually God loves us. The whispers that come to me are often different from the ones that other people hear because God recognizes the person each of us has become. These insights are all from the same God who is beyond time, place, and human understanding. When we share them with others, however, we deepen our mutual capacity to respond to this infinite love.

     God’s whispers to each of
us are not meant to remain our private treasure; they are meant to be shared, even to be shouted abroad. (This blog site is one way some of our community members do this!) May each of us be “all ears” to the whispers of our God of mystery and be eager to share them with the rest of God’s people.. 
     

            Sr. Collen Winston, OSB                                                              

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The mystery unfolds gradually

 

    This Sunday’s readings of the cedar tree from Ezekiel, which when cut down and planted on the heights, then withers, still blooms again, and Mark’s parable of the mustard seed, too small, but grows big enough for the birds of the air to build their nests in its branches, stirred many stories for me. 

    I grew up in a family of farmers.  Dad’s father dreamt of having a farm early in his life, starting the poultry business in his yard and basement immediately after marriage, and became an avid flower and vegetable gardener as well.  Mother’s dad started a farm early on with cows, pigs and large fields of hay to cut and bail.  We all learnt the importance of patience and waiting for the crops and animals to grow and become productive, and then we worked together to prepare them and move them to the customers.

    First of all, todays date, June 16, was a very special day in the life of my family.  It was 112 years ago today that my TEWES grandparents got married, then 85 years ago so did my parents, then, 76 years ago one aunt, and 72 years ago the other of dad’s sisters.  So, this was a day when the TEWES clan celebrated.  We all gathered for Mass, as my mother had organized, then to our farm for a family photo and a big picnic dinner, complete with mother’s fried chicken.  Every year the photo got larger and larger.  If we were still able to meet that would include some 425 persons today.  (My mother’s family would be another whole story.)  Notice how long it took for that large family tree to grow, and is still growing.

    In 1937 our monastery building was completed.  And 8 young oak trees were planted in the front yard.  Over these many years they grew to be very tall sturdy oaks, weathered many storms, and finally became too unsafe to walk or park under.  So, 82 years later they were taken down leaving a whole in our hearts as well as in the view of our monastery.  By Dec. 7, 2019 a grove of 18 young trees were planted to fill up the front yard.  They are a joy to watch day after day.

    There are moments when we are powerless to do anything more than plant whatever seed we have, then go on, sleeping and rising, night and day.

    Mary M. McGlone reminds us that “as we enter into these summer months, hoping that this is the end of COVID-19, the liturgy invites us to imitate the farmer of Jesus’ parable and watch for the wonders God is working - hidden in plain sight.  We can no more predict what the harvest will be than we can cause its growth.  This is how it is with the kingdom of God.”   We are confident and full of hope, for the reign is not just our project – it is God’s.  As Ezekiel says with such power; “As I, the Holy One, have spoken, so will I do.”  But it is our project too, God creating in and through us.  So, we need to nurture and support one another, to accept our own gifts, to live the Gospel as faithful community.  Our ordinary lives of love, joy, patience, goodness, gentleness – make a difference!  So, we can say, “We will do it!”


                 
  Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Anti-Racism

 Anti-Racism: A Benedictine Concern

            The recent national observance of the 100th year marker on June 1st of the Tulsa Race Massacre and my current awareness of the upcoming celebration of Juneteenth (June 19th) woke me to the question, “How is this my concern?”

            The responses to this question have been developing throughout my whole life. My parents raised me to respect all people regardless of color or creed. (Ageism and sexism were not “on the table” in those days.) Mother’s consistent emphasis that black people were treat
ed unfairly, and often with malice, influenced my life-long thinking, study and real-life observations and interactions with and about people of color.

            In the Rule of St. Benedict which governs our life here at St. Walburg Monastery, we discover that this 6th Century author was sensitive to the social factors that keep people from becoming family to each other. He specified that there shall be no distinction between high-born and low-born monastics. All follow the same schedule, all wear the clothing and use the tools provided by the monastery and call each other brother/sister. This wisdom for the ages has been faithfully passed down to us to practice in our varying circumstances across the world. In fact, the solidarity of Benedictine Communities around the world witnesses to the equality we experience throughout our global family.

            Personally, I am honored to be trusted as an ally by a number of people of color whom I have encountered through my ministries over the years. I recognize that there are bridges yet to be built. And I welcome those opportunities to develop additional multi-cultural relationships that are in God’s Providence for me and my community.

            In solidarity with these friends and potential friends, I mourn the injustice and cruelties inflicted especially upon black people in the past and which are still in the hearts of so many. And I pray that God may remove the stones of fear, anger and vengeance for all who maintain the wall of separation.

 

https://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/tulsa-race-massacre https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth

 


Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Remembering Those Who Serve

 


As I write this on Tuesday morning, we as a nation just celebrated Memorial Day weekend. Here at the monastery, we also buried the remains of Srs. Charles, Rita, and Margaret Mary in our cemetery. While they did not die serving in the Armed Forces, it seemed an appropriate weekend.

 

The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers. It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

 

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history).

 

This weekend I  honored and prayed for those who have gone before us, our Sisters, but also those who gave their lives in defense of freedom. I also remember that with that freedom comes great responsibility. St. Benedict tells us in the prologue to his Rule, “If you desire true and eternal life, let peace be your quest and aim.” We now carry the torch. As we hold it high, may it light the way to peace.

 

“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.


Sr. Eileen O'Connell