Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Blessing

     Over twelve years ago, St. Francis Seraph School in inner city Cincinnati began what became a “tradition” for end-of-the-day dismissal.  Before leaving, staff and students assembled in a big circle in the huge auditorium of the 19th century building.  Everyone extended a hand upward and prayed, “May God bless us, protect us from all evil and grant us a peaceful night.  Amen.”  (Those who come to the monastery know this is a slight adaptation of the closing blessing of the Liturgy of the Hours.)
      Over the past three years, procedures have changed.  However, a couple of weeks ago, we began again to dismiss everybody from the auditorium.  At the end of last week, when the classes were together, now seated on the floor in the center of the room, one of our teachers invited all to raise their hands  and pray: “May God…” Strong and tiny voices swelled the chorus.  I was delighted with the teacher and touched by the children’s quick, full-hearted response. Hopefully, the words will become blessings that flow through them to their families, to each other, to their neighborhoods and beyond.  Perhaps, the tradition is being renewed.   After all, it is spring.
Bless God, O my soul!
All that is within me sing praise
Let all the children sing praise
May you be blessed in all your endings and beginnings, dear reader.

Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

     The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian Faith and of the Christian life. God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. [# 261 Catechism of the Catholic Church. ©1994]
     For many years the teachings on the Trinity have been many and varied and never fully understood. St Augustine went so far as to say that anyone who claimed to know everything about the Trinity was a heretic! In more recent history the Trinity has been explained as relational unity with a living dynamic communion of the "love life" of God in the three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
     In turn as Christians we are invited to be within this communion of love. #260 in the Catechism states: “The ultimate end of the divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity...We are called [in turn] to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity.”
Thus we are also called to be vehicles to share this love among all with whom we come in contact. The Sign of the Cross can call us to an awareness of this loving relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Prayer to the Trinity by Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity [1880-1906]
O my God,
Trinity whom I adore,
help me forget myself entirely
and to rest in you,
unmovable and peace
as if my soul were already in eternity.
May nothing be able to trouble my peace
or make me leave you.
O my unchanging God,
but may each minute bring me more deeply
into your mystery!
Grant my soul your peace.
Make it your heaven,
your beloved dwelling and place of your rest.
May I never abandon you there,
but may I be there  whole and entire completely vigilant in my faith,
entirely adoring, and wholly given over
to your creative action.

Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Prayer of St. Ephrem

             Easter season is almost over. Lent is past tense. But, the Prayer of Saint Ephrem has continued to be part of my prayer throughout. In Lent, I just read it at first. After a time, certain phrases began to stand out. Their rich meaning came out as I began a phrase by phrase meditation. Some of the phrases mentioning faults applied but, where they didn’t, I substituted faults that are mine. Prayer began to happen. The phrase that got me started was: “God of my life.” The power and richness of this phrase still stops me before I can go on to the rest of the prayer.
Here is the Prayer of Saint Ephrem.
God of my life,
do not give me a spirit of laziness
or idle curiosity,
or ambition or empty talk.
Instead, grant to me, your servant,
a spirit of self-control and humility,
of patience and love.
Yes, O God,
enable me to see my own failings,
and not to judge my brother or sister,
for you alone are blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.

          Saint Ephrem was a Syrian deacon, doctor of the Church who was born in 306. He wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems, and sermons in verse, as well as prose biblical exegesis. These were works of practical theology for the edification of the Church in troubled times. Ephrem’s works witness to an early form of Christianity in which Western ideas take little part. He has been called the most significant of all of the fathers of the Syriac-speaking Church tradition. He died ministering to victims of the plague on June 9, 373. (Wikipedia)
            Saint Benedict (RB 49) says that each day of the monastic life should have the character of Lent. Then, he wisely adds “…but few have the strength for this.” I belong to those who do not, or would not have the strength for all of life to be Lent.
Prayer is a need at all times. The Prayer of Saint Ephrem need not be used only as a Lenten practice. It is worth time in quiet prayer in any season. I recommend it.
Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lift them up in prayer

     If all things were equal I should be writing about the beautiful spring day here, The birds are singing; the sun is shining and it is in a word--glorious. 
     But all things are not equal. I just received an update from my friend whose 35-year old daughter-in-law is moving into the final stages of brain cancer. Her husband and parents have been told that there is nothing more that can be done--no chemo, no electrodes, no wildly unusual drug trial. She will continue to get worse and lose all her faculties. She will need Hospice soon. 
     Nicki has always been a kind, fun-loving and energetic person. For seven years she has battled the glioma multiforme which is now taking her personality and life from her. She and Dan have been married about five years. They knew that the cancer could come back but they wanted to be married as long as they could. Their wedding was a huge celebration, befitting their life and hope. In the past couple months Nicki has lost some of her vision, some of her hearing and her energy. She has valiantly tried to carry on, even though she had to quit work when she could no longer drive. Now she needs help with every daily task. She has 24-hour care at home. 
     I ask any of you who read our blogs to add Nicki and Dan to your prayers. Pray for their strength in these days. No one knows if she will live for weeks or months. We worry about Dan when she is gone. He loves her so intensely and has been totally devoted to her for these years. 
     We hold them in love and ask God's blessings on all that they do. Thank you for listening and praying with me. Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Kentucky Derby and the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery

            The running of the Kentucky Derby is now a world-wide sports event. But back in May, 1875 the running of the first Kentucky Derby attracted little attention. A crowd of only 10,000 watched the thoroughbreds race at Churchill Downs.
            Back in Covington, Kentucky do you think the Benedictine community on 12th Street was even aware of the Derby in 1875, that it was the beginning of the most prestigious event in racing history? On Derby day did its members sip mint juleps, whiskey sours or drink cherished beers? Did they talk about which horses would win, place and show?
            The answer, of course, is NO to all of the above.
            At that time, however, the community was running a race of its own. It began at the starting gate in August, 1859, when 4 sisters were “biting at the bit” ready to charge forward. Here’s what that small community accomplished in the 15 years, 9 months between 1859 and 1875.
    The sisters’ membership grew from 4 to 37.
    The sisters established independent foundations in Indiana and Louisiana.
    The sisters built a monastery and later added a wing.
    The sisters bought two more lots on 12th Street.
    The sisters opened St. Walburg Academy.
    The sisters obtained a Charter of Incorporation. (And later the annual Corporation meeting would be established for the first Saturday of May—the same day as the Derby.)
    The sisters purchased a 38 ¼ acre farm on Horsebranch Rd.
    The sisters accepted the charge of girls at the newly established St. John Orphan Home.           
    The sisters provided teachers for St. Joseph School and St. Walburg Academy in Covington, Kentucky and St. Boniface School in New Orleans, Louisiana.
            A pretty impressive record for so short a time! And the community on 12th Street was still running strong when the Derby horses crossed the finish in 1875. And the community continues running strong. It knows no finish line, no blanket of roses. It just keeps running to meet never-ending challenges, staying a nose ahead and relishing the excitement of the race.
            And, for sure, at the running of the 139th Kentucky Derby the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery will be enjoying the traditional communal singing of My Old Kentucky Home, watching the race together on TV, enjoying party food and being surprised by which horse actually wins!
         Sr. Archivist, OSB