Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29--An Extra Day, A Gift from God

         I have always been fascinated by Leap Year.  Leap Year can be traced all the way back to King Ptolemy III of Egypt in 238 BC.  In 45 BC Julius Caesar’s astronomer added days to the months to make a 365 day calendar.  Pope Gregory XIII refined the Julian calendar creating a leap day in years divisible by four.
          Why?  Because a year containing an extra day is needed to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal calendar.  (Wikipedia)
          The comics have also fascinated me.
          In Al Capp’s comic strip, “ Li’l Abner,” the father of Sadie Hawkins (Daisy May), afraid that his 35 year old daughter would be with him forever, created a race.  At the sound of Pa Hawkin’s gun, the eligible bachelors were to start “a-runnin.”  When the second shot sounded, Sadie and the girls began the chase.  “If the woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown—by law he had to marry her!”   For years in the comic strip Sadie Hawkins day occurred around November 15.  In real life, however, the idea of a gender role-reversal caught on with high schools and colleges.  In the 1930’s it was unheard of for a girl to ask a boy on a date.  In the United States, Sadie Hawkins landed on Leap Day.  The day the girl would ask the boy to the Sadie Hawkins Dance.
          Why all this trivia?
          Leap Year IS fascinating.  February 29 IS an extra day.  It’s a gift from God.  It’s special.  It’s a day to do something special.  It may be the day to call a friend.  It may be to have some little surprise for the family.  Or, it may be the day to visit a shut-in or elderly relative.  A walk in the woods in a beautiful park would make it special.  Since Leap Day comes in Lent this year, spending some extra time with Scripture would make it special.  Even some quiet time in prayer or, with a good book.  Whatever one does on Leap Day, it should be something special, something out of the ordinary; something to lift the human spirit.  It should be something that says, “Thank you” to God for a special day! Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Lenten Reflection

     Ash Wednesday ushers in another Lenten season for all of us. No matter what we decide to do as a Lenten practice, just stopping to think about the possibilities gives us a chance to examine our way of living the Christian life. Are we at one with those who suffer hunger? Do we give ourselves the chance to be silent and listen to our God in prayer? Do we do works of charity for others? 
     In the Holy Rule, Chapter 49, St. Benedict tells us that while “there is no doubt that monastic life should always have a Lenten character about it, there are not many who today have the strength for that.” In some ways it’s encouraging to know that the monks of the 5th century were as weak as those of us in the 21st century. The human condition hasn’t changed all that much. We don’t have the corner on selfishness and other faults. 
     St. Benedict further encourages each of us to take on some extra prayers, fasting and good works, to improve our Christian life. The readings for Ash Wednesday do the same, especially emphasizing keeping our resolutions to ourselves or at least not making a spectacle of our good works and fasting. 
     There are so many good choices. It’s hard to know what to choose for a Lenten resolution, but that’s no excuse not to make a choice, though. My mother who’s 91 years old does not eat dessert during Lent. She a real witness to me because she is totally committed and steadfast in that resolution. I can only hope to do as well when I finally decide. 
     For me, one of the blessings of the Christian community is knowing that others are committing to a special practice and making that effort to strengthen their spiritual lives at the same time as I. I count on that moral support and offer mine to all of you in your Lenten journeys. 
     A blessed Lent to all of us.  Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Between St. Scholastica and St. Walburg

               February is a month of celebrations for the women of St. Walburg Monastery. On February 10 we celebrate the Feast of St. Scholastica, the patron of all Benedictine women and on February 25 we celebrate the Feast of St. Walburg, the patron of our monastery. These feastdays, fifteen days apart, give us the opportunity to reflect upon the long and ancient heritage of Benedictine women praying and seeking God together.
               What we know about Scholastica we know from St. Gregory the Great’s Dialogues, Book 2, The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict. Scholastica is not mentioned in the Dialogues until she is introduced in Chapter 33.  Gregory tells us she was devoted to God from her youth and that she would visit her brother once a year in a place that belonged to his abbey, not far from the gate of the monastery. The story entitled “Of a Miracle Wrought by His Sister, Scholastica” can be found at Gregory’s point in this story is the contrast between Benedict’s emphasis on the Rule and Scholastica’s emphasis on love and  relationship. I recently found a quote from Anthony de Mello that also underscores the point. “Obedience keeps the rules. Love knows when to break them.”   
               Walburg about whom we know more was born in 710 and died in 779.  She also had a brother, two of them in fact, with good Saxon names of Willibald and Winnibald. She went to the Benedictine Abbey of Wimborne (England) as a child and became a member of that monastery. Boniface asked the abbess of Wimborne for nuns to establish monasteries in Germany. In 750 Walburg and other nuns embarked. Legend has it that a terrible storm rose up terrifying the crew and its passengers. Walburg knelt, prayed and the storm abated
Walburg joined Boniface, to whom she was related, and her two brothers and established a monastery at Tabuberbischofsheim where she became skilled in medicine. Winnibald, established a double monastery at Heidenheim and asked Walburg to take charge of the nuns while he took charge of the monks. When Winnibald died in 761, Walburg was appointed abbess, responsible for the welfare of both monks and nuns. She is known for her deep prayer life, charity, spirit of hospitality and courage, as well as miracles of healing. She died in 779, and in the late 800’s her relics were taken to Eichstätt, Germany. Sisters from the monastery in Eichstatt came to the United States in 1852 and we here at St. Walburg Monastery were founded by Sr. Alexia Lechner who had entered the monastery at Eichstatt, came to America in 1853 and to Covington, Kentucky in 1859.
 For more than a thousand years, a mysterious moisture has collected every year on St. Walburg’s relics in Eichstätt. This fluid is known as “Walburg’s Oil” and is collected at the Abbey and given to pilgrims there. Healings attributed to St. Walburg’s intercession continue to be reported up to the present day.
In art Scholastica is usually represented with a dove, sometimes  with a book representing the Rule, and in paintings and engravings with rain the background as above right. Walburg is usually shown with a crown (representing her noble birth), a croizer (representing her office of abbess) and a vial of healing oil.
This year we will be celebrating the feast of St. Walburg on Feb. 24. We are anticipating the feast because Feb. 25 is the opening celebration of the Year of Women Religious in the Diocese of Covington. Scholastica’s example of prayer and love and Walburg’s example of prayer, courage and healing will inspire us throughout the coming year.
Sr. Deborah Harmeling

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Meditation on Hope

              As my generation progressed through childhood, we memorized many prayers unfamiliar to children of today—Acts of Faith, Hope, Love; O Saving Victim; Anima Christi; Look Down and others. In times of distraction, blankness, busyness, these are automatic reminders. Community Liturgy of the Hours over the years has implanted psalms or their verse in memory as well. All of these fruits of the past move me to deeper pondering or reflection.
               In these early months of 2012 with conflict, violence, poverty, selfishness, animosity and natural disasters so prominent in our world, I find myself repeating the old memorized acts of faith, hope, love. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that these virtues have a three-fold strength: faith and hope are two inseparable moments of one action with love the joining force in the center. Without hope faith is weakened and love is blocked. For me this is a challenging concept for meditation on God and today’s world. I am moved to reflect on hope, perhaps because of the impact of two favorite people—Blessed John Henry whose whole life exemplifies these theological virtues and Emily Dickinson.
 Newman’s hope is evident in his conviction: “God has created me to do some special service; God has committed some work to me which has not been committed to another. I have a mission…therefore I will trust God—whatever, wherever I am. If I am in sickness, my sickness will serve God; if I am in perplexity, my perplexity will serve God; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow will serve God. God will never leave nor forsake me. I am in God’s keeping.” This reflection on God’s providence is for me an anchor of trust and hope, unitng faith and love.
               And then there is Emily Dickinson who wrote some of my very favorite lines:
               Hope is the thing with feathers
               That perches in the soul
               And sing the tune without words,
               And never stops at all.
Emily’s poetic definition of hope touches my imagination and moves my heart to what I hope is greater faith and love.
The lives of John Henry Newman and Emily Dickinson and their words can be a source of inspiration and hope as one ages in our changing world.
               Sr. Andrea Collopy

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Year of Women Religious in the Diocese of Covington

     Several weeks ago Bishop Roger Foys of the Diocese of Covington, announced a Year of Women Religious (February 2, 2012-February 2, 2013). Good News! The diocese has welcomed women religious for over 150 years. Currently there are five houses (institutes) of women religious: The Passionist Nuns, The Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence,The Sisters of Notre Dame, The Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker, and us, The Benedictine Sisters of St.Walburg Monastery. There are quite a few other sisters who live in and serve the people of the diocese: The Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm who run Carmel Manor and The Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Over the years many other communities of women religious were here and left behind institutions and buildings that are still serve our people, such as the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor who opened St. Elizabeth Hospital and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, whose former Academy building provides affordable housing for the elderly. We come and stay and we come and go—at all times being faithful to our particular call, charism and mission. 
    As different religious institutes we follow different rules and have different charisms. We Benedictines follow the 6th century Rule of St. Benedict and his mandate to seek God in community, prayer (liturgy of the hours and lectio) and work. What all women religious have in common is our baptismal consecration that finds its fullness in our complete consecration to God through profession of vows. During this coming year we hope to find ways to communicate to this diocese our gratitude for their generous support, stories that reveal the meaning and lifestyle of each institute and plant the seeds of a vocation in many women. Join Bishop Foys and each religious institute in this diocese and help us accomplish our hope for the future. Help us get out the word that the Church needs women religious. Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB