Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent: the season of rich promise

     Advent, from the Latin adventus, coming, is a joyous season in the church year. The long, dark winter nights are conducive to silence and reflection. The liturgy is rich in symbolism and heavy with meaning. Two of my favorite antiphons coming at the end of Advent beautifully express the sense of the season. On December 21 at morning prayer the liturgy consoles and assures us with the promise, “Do not be afraid; in five days our Savior will appear.” You can count on it! I have always loved that antiphon and each year I look forward to praying it. It expresses the hope and expectation that is characteristic of Advent. It stirs in me memories of the excitement I felt as a child counting the days for Santa to come. At morning prayer on December 24 we pray “Today you will know that the Savior is coming and in the morning you will see the glory of God.” Today is translated from the Latin, hodie, which means this day, in the present, now. This day you will know; in the morning you will see. As I write an inner voice responds, “I can hardly wait!”             
     Be watchful, be alert, be prepared. Rejoice, Jesus is coming. The church places this heightened language on our lips during Advent as we await the threefold comings of Jesus Christ that Christmas celebrates: his birth at Bethlehem, his coming in glory at the end of time and his presence among us now. Perhaps the excitement and anticipation leading to the Christmases of my childhood were preparing me for a richer Advent today and for the truly amazing gift that Christmas proclaims and celebrates.
                                 Sr. Justina Franxman, OSB

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cultivate Gratitude and Thanksgiving

     In the past on Thanksgiving Day, I would spontaneously journal pages naming people and events that filled my heart with a deep sense of gratitude and joy. My Benedictine family, my familial family, friends, happy celebrations and the goodness and beauty of the creation were all recorded in joyful detail. These are items which most folks include in their list of gratefulness.
     Recently in reading some excerpts of noted theologian Henri Nouwen's writings on gratitude, a whole new dimension of gratitude as a discipline to be cultivated on a daily basis reopened to me. A gratitude which involves praising God for all events in our lives including painful and adverse happenings, which have formed and shaped us into the beings we are today. Nouwen's teaching on this revolves around the fact that God's sanctifying grace is what gifts us, prunes us, and reshapes us to the point where we can say everything is grace. Without acceptance of this grace a daily basis and relying completely on it, we will never become truly fruitful and fulfilled members of the Body of Christ.
     Benedictine brother David Steindle-Rast is another author who has extensive writings and teaching on gratefulness as an attitude where we never take life for granted, always aware of God's grace working with us. The website, http://www.gratefulness.org has many added thoughts and suggestions on the attitude of gratitude.
     In conclusion: let us give thanks to the Lord of goodness for God is lasting love. Ps. 107.
                                                               Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November Days

     When I think of November days I think “gray and drizzly” but today is a sunny, clear November day. While some of the trees have lost every leaf others have just turned a magnificent crimson or burnt orange. Now what do I think of November days? 
     I’m forced to admit that there are no “standard” November days. Each day brings its own goodness, its own trials and its own opportunities. As a teacher every day is new and different: every lesson, every student, every activity, every colleague. 
     I think e.e. cummings was right when he wrote in one of my favorite poems:
                 “I thank you god for most this amazing day …” 
     As each day comes, let’s be amazed.  Whether it is a bright day or a dim one; whether people are positive or negative, it is an amazing day. Let’s make it the best day ever.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life as Vacation and Journey

     Life is a journey. This phrase struck me forcefully at the funeral of one of our sisters recently. Many people spoke of her journey.
    Whenever I think of a journey, I think of a vacation. On a vacation we travel to many interesting places. We see beautiful sights.  We have wonderful experiences. We meet many kinds of people. But, the vacation journey has to end sometime. When it ends, we go home. Is our life’s journey on earth like a vacation of sorts? We travel through life, see beautiful sights, have wonderful experiences and meet all kinds of people. 
      But, it has to come to an end. No matter how great the vacation was for me, I am always glad to be home. At the end of life’s journey we go home to God. Home to God’s welcoming arms. Glad to have been on the (vacation) journey. Happy to be home!   Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

St. Walburg Monastery's Great Cloud of Witnesses

     Daily at Evening Prayer this community intercedes for its deceased--Sisters, relatives, friends--with  special reminder of of a Sister who died on that particular day. Each time we enter chapel from the infirmary we pass two large charts of necrology, a listing of the dead who served God and this community. The first death occurred in 1863; the last in September, 2011--a total of 286 sisters! My life in this community has brought me into contact, one way or another with 196 of these women. Sr. Mary Jane Andrews died in 1945 and Sr. Ruth Yost in 2011. A favorite early morning or late afternoon walk takes me to our cemetery located up the road behind the monastery. It is a place of peace, quiet and beauty. But as we celebrate the the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, a trip to our cemetery becomes for me an annual pilgrimage. It is so easy to remember!

     A short walk shows, in the distance, the crucifixion sculpture, a gift of the St.Walburg Academy alumnae in 1930. It tops the hillside and overlooks all the graves below and around. First to be buried in this cemetery was Mother Walburga Saelinger, second prioress of St.Walburg Monastery, who died in 1928. those who preceded her in death are buried in Mother of God cemetery in Latonia, and their names are engraved on a plaque near the crucifixion scene. A casual walk among the graves and frequent stops at special markers revive memories and deepest appreciation of my early Benedictine teachers at Holy Cross and my monastic community at St. Walburg's. A private pilgrimage in these early days of November makes me feel part of that "great cloud of witnesses" spoken of in Hebrews 12:1 into which, with the grace of God and the help of my monastic community, I hope to join. After all St. Benedict prays in Chapter 72 of the Rule that Christ may lead us all together to everlasting life.
                                                                                 Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB