Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Listen to the Word

     I enjoy beginnings. It’s the middle parts where the struggles occur: too boring, too difficult, too painful. During this past month or so we have celebrated many beginnings both liturgically and civilly: Christmas, the New Year, the Epiphany, the first week of Ordinary Time, the inauguration, Jesus’s first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana.
     It wasn’t the fact that this was the first miracle of Jesus that struck me. Rather it was the authoritative words spoken by Mary to the servers at the wedding when she said “Do whatever he tells you.”  One commentator on this Gospel suggests each of us hear these words as though they are a personal invitation to each of us: “Do whatever he tells you.” 
     I confess I have not heard these words as though they are directed to me. And, how can this come about? I realize this can only happen through the taking of the necessary time to listen to the Word in order to do what the Word asks. In the parable of the sower, the Gospel for today, only the seed that falls on the rich soil yields abundantly. This time we hear her son Jesus, speak a direct invitation: “whoever has ears ought to hear.”  A response to both these summons requires patience, time and commitment.
     As January concludes and February begins and soon Lent I am hoping to have more resolve to follow Benedict’s admonition “to listen with the ear of the heart” and to the doing of whatever Christ asks.  
     Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Humility of Jesus

           The stable scene was the source of my meditation through the Christmas holidays.  At one point I was overwhelmed by the humility of Jesus.  Jesus is God.  A God who is all in all. Jesus is the baby lying in the straw, completely dependent upon the two human beings watching over him.  How could God do this?  How could One so powerful accept such limitations?  It had to be Love, complete, unconditional love for us His limited creatures. 
          Shepherds and seers come bringing gifts.  Jesus came to the Jews but, he came for all of us.  In the encounter with the wise men, Jesus’ love overcame the hatred and jealousy of a self-centered king.  Jesus’ life continues in semi-obscurity not in royal splendor.
          John the Baptizer recognized Jesus’ divinity and questioned baptizing “the one whose sandal straps he was not worthy to loosen.”  Jesus allowed John to dunk him then, rose from the water to the Father’s proclamation:  “You are my Son in whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus is the one for whom John prepared the way.  “Listen to him.” Words addressed to John’s followers.  Words addressed to us.
          “Listen to him,” Mary said to the wine stewards at the wedding feast at Cana.  Jesus “listened” to his Mother when she asked him to do something to save the young wedding couple from embarrassment.  Humility is not an easy virtue.  Jesus tells his Mother that his “time has not yet come.”  Yet, He changed water into wine. He accepted the humble position of “son of Mary.”  How many guests at the wedding went home better, not because of the wine but, because they witnessed Jesus’ first miracle?  The humble water became festive wine.
           Megan McKenna in her book Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seems to sum up humility, God’s and ours, with these words, “Divinity has made itself small enough for us to hold it in our arms and bend our heads tenderly over it.” 
       Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Living to the fullest

     Yesterday Sister Samuel Azzolina died at 100 years of age. She was my French teacher at Villa Madonna many years ago. As you might imagine I was one of many students she taught throughout the years. 
Sr. Samuel Azzolina
     My memories of Sister Samuel go beyond that early experience as I came to know her in our community. She was a very gentle yet determined woman. Long after many others would have retired she and her sister, Sister Carmella, worked in various capacities at Holy Cross High School and parish. Their presence alone was the most important work that they did. Sister Carmella who is 103 and in relative good health will carry on here at the monastery. 
     Whenever we spoke through the years Sister Samuel always gave me words of encouragement and concern. I think she might have thought of me as a teenager regardless of my age. I so appreciated that care and interest in what I was doing in community and at Villa Madonna. 
     Seeing Sister Samuel so sick in the past year was always hard for me. For someone so active to be unable to speak and be part of our life made me sad. As I've thought about my feelings since yesterday I realize that Sister Samuel was living life to the fullest for her. It didn't matter if she was up and about or suffering in her room, she was very much alive and part of our lives.  
     While it may be cliche, "live until you die" might be the best expression of her life. I can only hope it will be mine.
      Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Year of Women Religious

          Last year on February 25 Bishop Roger Foys inaugurated the Year of Women Religious in the Diocese of Covington. A large group from St. Walburg Monastery, as members of the choir or participants in the Eucharist, shared the occasion with many others. The video of community histories and stories at the reception afterward made for a memorable occasion. As the Year of Women Religious closes on February 2, 2013, I want to share my experiences and appreciation of some of the events of this year. Prayer cards for the year and articles in the diocesan paper about aspects of religious life kept the event in the forefront.
            On July 20 we attended a cookout, sponsored by Bishop Foys, at the Ryland Lakes Country Club. There were a delicious picnic brunch, music, games and scenic rides around the property.
            On August 25 the Sisters of Divine Providence held an open house celebrating the year as well as their foundation day in the United States. It included a picnic enjoyed by many sisters and friends, tours of the property and wetlands and a thanksgiving prayer service.  We also got to see the progress of their new headquarters, adjacent to the infirmary and to celebrate with them the sale of the motherhouse building to the Diocese of Covington for a retreat center.
            On October 5 the sixth graders of Blessed Sacrament School hosted a tea party with lively conversations, treats and a unique bingo game. Handmade decorated pads were souvenirs.
            On October 14 all the mother houses held open houses to celebrate the Year of Women Religious. Here at St. Walburg Monastery there were presentations on the Liturgy of the Hours, sisters’ ministries and the Oblate program. Tours and refreshments were part of Benedictine hospitality that day. Some of the sisters attended other open houses.
            On December 8 the new chapel, Mary Seat of Wisdom, at Thomas More College was dedicated. Although the event was not part of the Year of Women Religious, Bishop Foys’ remarks gave tribute to the religious orders instrumental in the beginnings of Villa Madonna/Thomas More College.
            In the evening of this same day the Youth Group of St. Timothy Parish honored the sisters with a festive gathering. Representatives from five communities spoke of their founding and present ministries. Women religious, parents, youth ministers, pastor and teenagers all conversed together. Everyone enjoyed a “Souper Bowl,” an assembly of soups of unbelievable variety made by families of the parish.
            The Year of Women Religious will ring out on Feb. 2 and we thank Bishop for his decision to proclaim 2012 as the Year of Women Religious in the Covington Diocese.   
      Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

     What are you doing for New Year? Do you, too, consider making new resolutions? 
     So far the day is more than half over and I’m still trying to settle on what to do to make this year special and meaningful. My mind keeps going back to the closing prayer for today’s feast that I have already prayed three times. The feast praises Mary through her oldest and most esteemed title, Mother of God, but our prayer is addressed to the “God of beginnings.” Tucked into that prayer is the resolution I need—assent to the plans God has made for me and this community. With Mary, I need to begin the new year in faith. Like Mary, I need to give assent to the unknown. 
     Join us in praying:
            On this first day of the new year, we praise you, God of beginnings. We rejoice that our nature is made new through Jesus Christ, born of Mary, the Mother of God. May we, like Mary, assent to the plans you make for us and spend our lives following Christ. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ who abides with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. AMEN.
    Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB