Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Feast of the Annunciation

Sometimes I say it would be easier to write a blog if someone gave me a topic. Given today’s feast I feel a topic has been given to me, yet I have been in a dither. “Hail full of grace, the Lord is with Thee,” the angel Gabriel said to Mary. Such sacred words for reflection and spoken by an angel at that! Yet how often I have uttered them routinely over the years! Joan Chittister, quoting the ancient rabbis reminds us “The first time a thing occurs in nature (in life) it is called a miracle. Later it becomes natural and no attention is paid to it.” Lord, deliver us from allowing this to happen with the sacred events we ponder in Scripture and in our prayer life.
It is not likely in our personal experience that God speaks to us through an angel, but how else would Mary or anyone else understand or believe such news? What a wonder it is, however, that God does speaks to us. Do we not experience God communing with us through another person, a dream, or an event?  May we be filled with gratitude that all believers are filled with God’s grace even on a daily basis. Is not the angel’s message to Mary what may draw us to ask God’s grace and guidance throughout the day?
The Annunciation   Fra  Angelico 1343
“The Lord is with Thee.” The Lord is also with each of us! Pondering this grace, we may be sure that our every moment is blessed. God is with us in the Eucharist, in each person we encounter, in the air we breathe, in the environment we live. God, please grant us the grace to experience this in all we see and in all we touch, and in all of existence.
“Blessed art thou among women.” So true of Mary in her unique blessedness as the Mother of God. We, too, are blessed, so very blessed. Thank you God for saving us from the experience of so many women suffering from human trafficking, living in poverty, being persecuted for their belief in you, living in a refugee camp, or being denied refuge in the United States. How can we name all our blessings? May we remember to offer thanks to You every day.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

St. Joseph, Model of Faithfulness

On Thursday, March 19, we will celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph.When I think of St. Joseph, I am reminded of his faithfulness. This faithfulness was to God and to Jesus and Mary throughout his life.  He endured this faithfulness in spite of many hardships.

He had to find shelter for his family in Bethlehem, and he endured the flight into Egypt.  He sustained his family by his trade.Truly St. Joseph reflected the faithfulness of God in his life.

When I think of St. Joseph’s faithfulness, I am reminded of our vow of stability as Benedictines.  St. Joseph is a good model for us. Stability is faithfulness to our monastery and our life.  It is faithfulness to our work and duties that we have in our life.  It is faithfulness to our prayer and work as Benedictines, our Ora et Labora.

When I think of St. Joseph, I think also that he is a good model for families and that his virtues are needed today. As the Church reflects on the Synod on Families, St. Joseph is very relevant. St. Joseph, pray for us.

         Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Silence and Word

“A word is dead when it is said, some say
I say it just begins to live that day.” 
   Emily Dickinson

          Emily Dickenson, a master of words, would probably agree with St. Benedict’s advice that we should choose our words with care. Has anyone ever encouraged you: “Take heed of what you say”, or Speak from your heart”?  How many times have you heard, “A wise man (woman) is known by the fewness of his (her) words”?

          St. Benedict understood the power of words and of silence.  He lived three  years as a hermit before his journey moved him along a communal path.  He was well grounded in silence; silence that leads to awareness and deepens communion with God, with others.

          In chapter 4 of his Rule, he refers to speech: “Never give a hollow greeting of peace….speak the truth with heart and tongue” (RB 4 2:25, 28), and,”Do not grumble or speak ill of others.”(RB 4 39-40) And again, “Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech”.  (RB 4 51)

          In chapter 6, Benedict speaks of restraint.”I have resolved to keep watch over my ways that I may never sin with my tongue.” (Ps. 38)   He condemns vulgarity and gossip and malicious speech.  But more to the point here, he upholds an environment in the monastery conducive to seeking God.

          In community, we know that it takes deliberate times of brief or prolonged practice to walk in the silence that leads to awareness.  This third week of lent our communal  reflection topic is speech.   May the Word live on and flower in each and all of us as we continue our journey!     Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude

       As yet another snow storm approaches I am trying mightily to maintain or hone my “attitude of gratitude.” 
        One of my favorite poems by e.e. cummings begins “i thank You God for most this amazing day…” I have always tried to keep that thought through the events of each day. I often continue the line in my mind with the other things for which I thank God. Some days it’s easier to do than others. 
       I had knee replacement surgery at the end of January and throughout my recovery I was always grateful for the nurses, aides, therapists and others who cared for me at the hospital but most especially in our infirmary. To know that I could get help when I needed it (or before I even knew I needed it) was a real blessing. For all those loving people I am forever thankful. 
       As my sister battles cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy, I have to work harder to be grateful. Seeing her suffering and the uncertainty of the outcomes of the severe treatments is teaching me that my gratitude must widen to include the difficult and sad. Knowing that there is a greater plan than my own gives me hope. I wish for only good times but try to be open to what happens now as well as what I hope for. 
       I encourage you to join me in saying, “i thank You God for most this amazing day” and …
       Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feast of St. Walburg

    Today (February 25) is the Feastday of St Walburg who is the titular patron of our St Walburg Monastery here in Villa Hills,Ky.
    Walburga lived in the eighth century. She was recruited by her uncle, St Boniface to go to Germany to help evangelize this country.  She established Benedictine Monasteries for monks and for nuns.  She welcomed the sick and the poor, healing their illnesses and comforting them.  Even today an oily dew like substance oozes from her bones with healing powers.
    Today as we celebrate this feast of Walburg  may we her spiritual daughters continue to celebrate the presence  of Jesus Christ and serve Him in the young and the old, the sick and the poor, the stranger and the guest.       
    St. Walburga, Thank you for being our guide today as you were to many in the 8th century. 
        Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

St Walburg, by your life  of prayer and work, God blessed you
 with the power to heal, to make souls and bodies whole.

Intercede for us that we and those we love may be healed  of sickness and sorrow.
May God hear you and send the healing grace we need, through your  powerful intercession. Amen

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Unfinished Tasks, Unsolved Problems and Unfulfilled Hopes

          I usually get up quite early in the morning to do a series of physical exercises and spiritual exercises (lectio)  If time runs short I do the physical exercises because I know that I will not do them at a later time. The spiritual exercises can be done later in the day.            
         But, no matter the time, when I try to pray I am bombarded by numerous "other things."  "I have to get this done." " Someone is waiting for this." "Don't forget to do that," and on and on.  What ever happened to the grace of the present moment?  Where is it? Are all these "other things" the "evil spirits" of our era of multi-tasking?  I have no answer. Out of this quandary came the answer in the prayer at the end of Evening Prayer.                                   
   "God our Creator, by your loving design
  the world passes safely into darkness
 and returns again to light.
  We give into your hands our unfinished tasks,
 our unsolved problems
 and our unfulfilled hopes.
We commend each other and those who are needy to your care,
 knowing that you bring all things to completion.
 We pray in the name of Jesus Christ,
 who is our unfailing light and hope
 and abides with you and the Holy Spirit,
 now and forever.   
                                                     Sister Kathleen Ryan, OSB 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Men in My Life

            Yes, I am a woman religious, but I do have men in my life.
             First, there was my Daddy, then six brothers, various priests as spiritual directors or retreat directors, my organ teachers, and finally, the men on Death Row. I also had one visitor at the Guest House whom I’ll never forget. That isn’t all, but these are some who have made an impression on me. Each one could be an engaging story on its own.            We are to receive guests as the person of Christ, and in my job as hospitality director for the Guest House, there are many opportunities. One solitary man on a pilgrimage, like a Don Quixote, had a dream for saving starving children. He spoke gently, prayed and ate with us. Yet he was truly a stranger, a vagrant, one whom we might shun, and send on his way. Did I see Christ in him? Yes I did. My only release from guilt was to reflect on the experience by writing about him.
            After visiting the men on Death Row at Eddyville, one of them has considered me a friend for several years. He is a poet, and author of several short stories. He writes to me regularly, and shares a great deal about himself and his family. I am old enough to be his mother, who is still alive, elderly, poor, suffering from cancer, living in a coal-mining town in the mountains on the other side of the state, so far away from him! And he worries about her. “I was in prison, and you visited me,” I hope to hear some day.
            I think of my organ teachers often when I’m sitting on the bench, knowing that I worked so hard on those Bach preludes years ago and seldom get to play them now. Today it would not sound at all like it did when I first learned them, I am so out of practice, but there are the notations from my accomplished teachers on the music, and I am reminded of their expertise and advice, and I am grateful. Will I be accountable for the use of my talent?            And my brothers – two of them have passed on to eternity; the other four, who were such Katzenjammers when we were growing up, are now proud and loving grandfathers. We have such a great time when we get together, though each of them has his own crosses to bear. (I do have three sisters who have provided me with wonderful brothers-in-law!) It is only in these later years, that I realize the tender side of my brothers, when they’ve been able to show their feelings more freely.
            I will always be thankful to the religious men who guided me through some rough times, and who continue to live the Benedictine way in their own communities, as well as to some of our diocesan priests with whom I’ve worked over the years. For example, the changes resulting from Vatican II impacted women religious in unexpected ways, and we are still reeling. Let us thank God for, and continue to pray for good priests.            Finally, there’s Daddy, always the strong one, the provider, the advisor, yet weak and helpless on his deathbed as we watched and prayed with him. Even there, he had a lesson to teach us: don’t wait so long to say, “I love you.” This followed earlier ones: “Do it today, don’t put it off;” “Never give up;” “Label those photographs.”
            So, these are men in my life, each one unique, each one provided by God for a purpose, and I am indebted, and appreciative of them.        Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB