Wednesday, January 25, 2012


This week I find myself pondering answers.   Some answers are straightforward, matter of fact, even mundane.  Other answers inspire hope, energy and excitement.  Other answers leave us with more questions.  Perhaps we find ourselves asking “Really?”

 I received one such answer earlier this week.   As the past two days have gone by I’ve moved from a desire to sit and cry to chuckling to myself.   For I am reminded again that even when I think I know all the possible answers sometimes I am surprised.  In the surprise of the answer is the opportunity for the grace to accept the unexpected and allow what is no longer certain to unfold.  It is in this space that I am most open to God for I have no script and little certainty.   And so I pray and journey onward trusting that God will give me the grace to move from my “Really?” to a space where hope returns and maybe even clarity. 
Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some Thoughts about Expectations and Dreams

     The other day I was working on liturgy for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday when I remembered a recent Enquirer article about Dr. Phillip A. Sharp. He’s a Kentuckian who grew up on a Pendleton County farm and became a renowned scientist, teacher at MIT, and winner of a Nobel Prize. The thread that brought him to mind was that both he and Martin Jr. were people from unassuming “regular” families who grew into international greatness. 
     In Phillip’s rural neighborhood, would any have expected this local farm boy to become a world-recognized scientist? In the Atlanta of 1929, would neighbors of the King family have had any inkling this new baby would grow up to change society?  Both of these boys emerged from ordinary circumstances to outstrip the common expectations for kids growing up in their home towns. 
     Jesus’ neighbors had very low expectations of him. (Remember?  He couldn’t perform many miracles in his hometown because they were so skeptical. Then there was Nathanial with his “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” attitude.) Jesus, however, had a vision of his mission that far surpassed what anyone could have imagined. 
     Funny thing about expectations – they have a lot of power over us. We humans tend to get stuck in the ordinary, the status quo. We don’t often let our hopes rise to a very high level. Why is that? I can think of a couple of reasons. 
     For one thing, it takes time and a lot of energy to believe that something more than the usual can develop out of a situation. Personally, I know I can get bogged down in the minutiae of the day-to-day and put off trying to think outside the box. 
     Another thing is that we don’t like to have our balloons burst. Sometimes it’s easier to not have hopes in the first place than to feel the pain of loss or defeat. I guess one bottom line is that when we invite hopes and dreams on our journey, risk is usually along for the trip! For Jesus, that risk turned into the cross. The cross, however, was the path to resurrection! 
     What expectations do we have of ourselves? What do we expect of the various persons we meet every day? What kinds of boxes do we put ourselves or others into? Boxes certainly can make our lives more predictable and manageable, but how many possible scenarios are never born because we choose the well-worn path over the one that may reveal new, more fruitful opportunities? When the 17th c. Japanese poet Matsuo Basho advised us not to follow the footsteps of those who have gone ahead , but rather seek what they sought, he could well have been speaking to us about ourselves. Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves to change the way we think about our life, our day, our neighbor, our calendar … something that might strengthen our powers to dream and expect more than what always happens. Jesus certainly did! 
     Robert Kennedy’s use of George Bernard Shaw’s quote made it really famous, and it is an appropriate way to end these thoughts: "Some men see things as they are and say 'why'? Others dream things that never were and say 'why not'?" Drs. Phillip A. Sharp and Martin L. King Jr. both did. What about us?

PS: In reflecting on these things, I found a number of wonderful quotations on the topic that I didn’t want to let slip away. I jotted them in my personal blog, so if you’d be interested in seeing them, check out my “Musings from a KY monk” at

Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Expanding Our Horizons

     With the coming of the New Year and the New Year’s resolutions that we perhaps make, I am reminded that we all try to better ourselves each year as we grow a year older. 
     I can remember how things have changed in the last 20 to 30 years, the Internet and the iPhone are just two of the examples. Both these inventions have expanded our horizons. We can search anywhere worldwide. The  world, it seems has gotten smaller. We have grown in knowledge within our reach. 
     I remember my life, B.C.( before the Convent or Monastery). Coming to the Monastery has expanded my horizons. I have grown in my relationship with Christ by daily prayer and work.  Two essentials in the Rule of St. Benedict. I have met and worked with people who I never would have known. I have also inherited many “sisters” in community who I would not have otherwise known.  I am glad I responded to the invitation to " come and see”. 
     How will you expand your horizons this New Year?
              Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Benedictine Woman to be Doctor of the Church

           During the last weeks of 2011 pundits have had a grand time raising our hopes and anxieties by forecasting trends for 2012. My favorite forecast came from the Vatican, announcing on December 16, that in October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI plans to canonize Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), a Benedictine abbess from the 12th century, and make her the fourth woman Doctor of the Church. In Germany and the Benedictine order Hildegard has been considered a saint for centuries, and since 1940 her feastday has been celebrated on September 17. You can read more about the long and convoluted attempts to canonize Hildegard at the following link by Barbara Newman, noted Hildegard scholar.
            Hildegard was complex woman—a visionary, a prophet, writer, composer, philosopher, naturalist, preacher in a time when to be a woman and to be engaged in any one of those activities would be astonishing. Known as the Sybil of the Rhine, she was consulted by bishops, abbots, kings, emperors. She moved her community from Disibobenberg to Ruperstberg in spite of the opposition of the monks at Disibobenberg and built a new monastery. She undertook three preaching tours, ending the third one at the age of 73. She was fierce in her public condemnation of lax and sinful priests.
            In 1998 there was a great burst of interest and writing about Hildegard because it was her 900th year. 2012 will also see a great burst of interest in her. Googling “Hildegard of Bingen” will take you into reams and reams of documents on her. If you want to start with a very brief chronology, summary, discography and bibliography of Hildegard, please email me at and I can give you a start
Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB