Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Have a Listening New Year

This time of year often feels bittersweet to me as I reflect on the experiences of the past year and celebrate the start of the New Year.  For me 2014 is marked by joyful moments, significant losses, acceptance and stretching of my limits, opportunity, grace and gratitude.  As I sit here and write I find myself both smiling and teary as the memories flash like pictures through my mind.  I find myself wondering where 2014 went and breathing a sigh of relief that it is done.
As 2015 starts I am abandoning my usual list of resolutions and am turning to Benedict whose first word in the Rule is “Listen.”  In seeking to listen, I hope to live with mindfulness and presence, not too far in the past or the future.  To listen carefully to God’s work in daily experiences, creation and the people whom I encounter.  I want to listen and be present so that I can savor the joy, experience gratitude and ride the waves of challenge.  I will listen my way into New Year and keep working at listening whatever 2015 may be bring.  Have a blessed and listening New Year!

                                      Sr. Kimberly Porter OSB

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Be the Tender Love of God

        The Gospel for Christmas Eve, the Benedictus, is a messianic, thanksgiving prayer, prayed by Zechariah at the birth of his son John the Baptist (Luke 1: 68-79). From the sixth century to this day the Benedictus is prayed daily by all who pray the Divine Office. Christmas Eve is a most apt time for this Gospel to be prayed for this is the time we praise God for delivering us from darkness and the shadow of death.
        Christmas celebrates the gift of God’s fullness to humanity. The promised, tender love of God dawns to life in the person of Jesus. He is the one who wipes away every tear and urges us to grow into the people God intends us to be.
A sung, translated version of the Benedictus by Bernadette Farrell’s verse five reads:
The tender love God promised from our birth is soon to dawn upon this shadowed earth, To shine on those whose sorrows seem to never cease, To guide our feet into the path of peace.
       The second part of this verse catches my attention. All over the world there are persons whose lives are filled with sorrows that persist and never cease.  Each time we sing this verse I am reminded of several women who have participated in my groups at prison. These women have identified with a horrific expression of “throw away people.”
       The first memory of one woman was literally being thrown in a trash can by her parents. Her story never got better. Reared in chaotic and often violent homes the sense of self-worth of these women was shattered from the beginning.  
       Though many of us have not experienced sorrows as deep as these women, most of us have known tragedy and wondered if and when we would recover. Christmas celebrates the dawning of a new day when the promised One will “deliver us from the land of gloom and guide our feet into the way of peace.” And, at the same time the Christ summons us to manifest the loving-kindness of God and reveal the Christ-light. We must speak his healing words, be his tender hands, and be his living compassion allowing it to “shine on those who sorrows seem to never cease.
      Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

O Wisdom

“O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, Who orde’rest all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.  Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”- We sing in the famous Advent Hymn.
       Today, December 17, marks the beginning of the immediate preparations for the Feast of Christmas with the singing of the O Antiphons at Evening Prayer each of these 7 days. At this monastery we will chant a version translated by Sr. Colleen: 
“O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love:
 come teach us to walk in the  paths of knowledge.”
       Who or what is wisdom, that we are calling on to COME?  “Wisdom” (Old English, witan, “to know”; Latin, videre, “to see”), is a gift of the Holy Spirit that, according to Catholic theology, is a special grace of the Spirit to help one practice virtue more perfectly.  Wisdom is a kind of knowledge in the sense that it allows one to understand God’s purposes and the divine will.
       In the Hebrew Scriptures, wisdom (a feminine noun) is God’s first creation (Sir 1:4) and is frequently associated with “fear of the Lord” – an expression that means reverence for the Lord
    .  In the New Testament, Paul identified Christ with God’s wisdom (1Cor 1:24) when he attempted to express Christian reliance on Christ crucified and to distinguish Christian faith from the empty wisdom of Greek learning.  Relating wisdom to God’s incarnate Word, as Paul does, and to divinity itself, as Sirach suggests, indicates that wisdom is not a human virtue or a skill that can be acquired through self-effort.  As the author of Proverbs put it, God gives birth to wisdom (8:22). While creatures can discover and understand valuable knowledge, wisdom always originates with the creator God.  (Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Richard Mc Brien, ed.)
“O Wisdom, who comes from the mouth of the Most High, reaching to the ends of the earth with tenderness and power, come and teach us the way of prudence.”
       In our Lectio time these days, let us create our own prayer to God each day, using these titles for Christ, as the symbols change in the big O on our Chapel banner:                                                                                     O Leader of the House of Israel….Come! 
O Root of Jesse….Come! 
O Key of David….Come!
O Radiant Dawn….Come! 
O Ruler of Nations….Come! 
O Emmanuel….Come!

                                                                                       Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Good News

Second Sunday of Advent: Gospel by Mark

       " As it is written in Isaiah......Behold I am sending my messenger ahead of you....
John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
       WOW      Folks all around were coming to him and were baptized  in the Jordan river as they acknowledged their sins. But this prophet,John,  proclaimed to them. "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."  DOUBLE WOW !! !
                        THE GOOD NEWS of the LORD.

       Thomas Merton in his book, The Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, relates that all too often we get so used to hearing  the Scriptures read in Church that we classify them as " traditional theology" versus a startling current amazing news event  at which we perk up our ears and embrace this GOOD NEWS.

        During this Advent season, let us practice listening to the Scripture readings especially the Gospel. with renewed fervor and a WOWED hearing ear.
        Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Listening together to the Holy Spirit

            The Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict begins with the words, “Listen, carefully and attend with the ear of the heart.” For me this slightly amended version of the Prologue describes beautifully and perfectly the role of the spiritual director.
            For 27 years I have sat with women and men always trying to keep in mind that there were three persons present in the room: the directee, myself and the Holy Spirit. In this ministry I listened more than I spoke because I learned that for the most part people have their own answers. Often it is only a matter of having someone listen in order for us to hear what we are thinking or what is going on inside.
            It was Julian of Norwich who said, “I tell them what they told me and they say, ‘My, how wise you are.’”
            I am profoundly grateful for my years of ministry as a spiritual director. I have been richly blessed by the presence in my life of the women and men with whom I have listened to the Holy Spirit.  
         Sr. Justina Franxman, OSB

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving, Eucharist and Community

       Annually Americans observe Thanksgiving as "a public celebration of divine goodness"  (Webster) as did our forbears, the Pilgrims in New England, many years ago.
        Now as a Benedictine community we celebrate the Eucharist regularly and recall that the Greek word, "eucharist," means "gratitude, thanksgiving." From experience we know that gratitude nourishes community life because it feeds our soul daily. So, by living "community" gratefully every day eucharist happens all year round. 

   Sr. Martha Walther, OSB

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What Gettysburg Began

       I had never understood people’s preoccupation with the Civil War. We visited Gettysburg as a stopover on a return from someplace else. Quiet visitors on the battlefield. Rangers respectful of both blue and gray. Visitor Center impressive. But it didn't really take hold. 
Gettysburg National Cemetery
     We went back this year. Stopped by Little Round Top (for the view) and avoided the lengthy ranger talk nearby. Observed a group on horseback listening to another lengthy talk. Too lengthy. For the 150th anniversary we came home and watched the movie Gettysburg. Over the next few weeks several of us watched the film Lincoln and the entire Ken Burns’ Civil War series. Shelby Foote, an engaging commentator on film, became an engaging historian over the 20 years it took him to write the 3 volume, 3000 page The Civil War. It was lengthy. I read every word. One might say the Civil War finally took hold. 
     Getting caught up in the war was appalling when I found myself rooting for general so-and-so to win the battle. All this killing should be painful to read; it sometimes isn’t. I was surprised, too, to find myself praying the psalms from the point of view of a soldier from either army:
                        Have you not rejected us, O God?
                        You do not go out with our armies.
                        Grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless.
                        With God we shall do valiantly;
                        it is God who will tread down our foes. (Ps. 60) 
       I am reading beyond the battles now, into war’s effects, which haven’t changed much. The anguish of a family, the struggle of a veteran to adapt to a prosthesis, unending work for civil rights, and the efforts to stamp out slavery, which has only changed its face. 
      Fifty years after the Civil War, veterans then in their 70’s and 80’s met at Gettysburg to reenact Pickett’s charge, a futile attempt resulting in an awful loss of life. As the old Confederate veterans looked up at the “enemy” and the old Union veterans looked down, a mighty groan of pain and remembrance arose from each side. The old soldiers rushed toward each other and threw their arms around each other. Fifty years of living with the “fruits of war” led them to reconciliation.
     Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thoughts on Veterans' Day 2014

          My dad was a veteran; he served in the Navy during the Second World War. I remember watching the 1950s TV series, “Victory at Sea” with him although he did not offer his own commentary. Those were simple times with clear messages about the values and mission of our country and our “allies”. In my teens I read Eisenhower’s “Crusade in Europe” and can still today recall the campaigns of Patton and Montgomery in North Africa and the sweep of the US and friends through Italy. I am proud of our success in liberating people from concentration camps and holding war criminal responsible for their actions. 
El Greco's  Martin of Tours

          When did the message about engaging in a “Good War” change? Perhaps it is pointless to trace the evolution of the change.  But it is imperative that we recognize the realities of today: that “sides” in battle is a concept that just does not exist anymore. The complexity conjures up a picture of a circular firing squad. Way too many innocents are killed, maimed or left without home and family to justify any wars. The responsibility of our Baptismal commitment requires each of us to live and work for peace and to call our political leaders to work effectively for world peace. This was surely the intention of the United States Congress which officially recognized the end of Word War I and established Armistice Day when it passed the 1926 resolution with began with these words:  “Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, .…”

           It is fitting that Veterans’ Day falls on the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, a fourth century Roman Soldier who gave up his career in the military when he was baptized because the killing it involved was inconsistent with being a Christian. St. Martin was revered by St. Benedict who dedicated a chapel to him near what was to become the Abbey of Monte Cassino. Link for St. Martin of Tours:

           Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Then, Now and Always

        On September 29, I was excited to attend the ceremony of welcoming a postulant to our community. After living with us as a resident for six months, Patty Bickett had decided to ask to become a postulant. What a pleasure for us to receive Patty, a pleasant and gifted woman in her late forties and a grandmother. My mind went back to when I was a postulant in 1946. How very different the process of entering the community!
       Then—Although there were exceptions, in 1946, young women frequently entered right after graduation from high school or shortly thereafter. The day I entered six other young women ages 17 through 28 were received as postulants. All of us were very familiar with nuns from having attended a Catholic elementary and high school. Some had a relative who was already a nun. Others had a teacher or two who had become good friends. None of us had a clear idea of what a day in the monastery was really like. The daily schedule and many community customs were new territory. We also were erroneously sure that nothing in the Church or religious life would ever change!
       Now---The cultural difference between then and now defies comparison. Young women of today generally enter college with a major subject that will prepare them for a career. There are so many new fields that I sometimes find myself saying, “You’re majoring in what?” Adapting to change is a needed life skill.
       Sister Cathy, our vocation director, at times has a guest attending prayers and supper with her. Sometimes one will visit and stay for a couple days. “Listen Retreats” for those interested in learning more about religious life are provided and attended by college students and career women of various ages. Even though postulants are few, there is considerable interest in learning more about life in religious communities. These visitors have often found us through the internet. It seems to me that there are many seekers exploring God’s plan for their journey.
       During the past decade or so we have had several women in residence. I was always sad when one left. I do believe that all were enriched by their time with us as I felt enriched by their presence. I continue to live in hope for the future of religious life and believe we will not be disappointed.
       Always—Despite the immensity of change in today’s world, I am forever grateful for the Benedictine values that have survived over the years. Our commitment to prayer, community life and service remain constant. Our hospitality through seeing Christ in every person will continue to find our monastery a place of peace.

       Sr. Victoria Eisenman , OSB  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Companions on the Journey

          On Saturday, November 1, we celebrate the Feast Day of All Saints.  This feast is a celebration of the Communion of Saints and all the saints of the Church’s Liturgical Year, those with assigned days and those not celebrated on any particular day.  It is an inclusive celebration for “all saints” in general. We remember the lives of these saints and how they grew in holiness.  Sometimes we try to imitate their virtues. We all have our favorite saints.
          November 2 is the feast day of All Souls Day, and we remember all who have died, our relatives, community and friends. We pray for them and ask them to also intercede for us who are still on our journey. The older I get, the more people there are to remember on All Souls Day, my parents, friends, community and co-workers.
          Recently, on October 23, our community lost a friend and companion, Sr. Betty Cahill.  She is greatly missed and will certainly be remembered on All Souls Day

           Sr. Barbara Woeste

Monday, October 27, 2014

Now is the time

For letting go so others might grow...
For recognizing one’s need for less in a world that’s splintered in spirit… 
For surrendering to the slow grinding of justice pursued...                                    
For planting a perennial, passing on a good word, loving anew...                    
For blessing the moment, the child, the migrating bird... 
For giving thanks to the tree outside the window, standing so long and still giving green... 
For asking the question, “Where are we going?” and listening faithfully,  
hearing the words of our dear Sister Bea*
      “Into eternity.”

That in all things God may be glorified  Amen.
                       Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

*Our beloved Sister Beatrice Flickinger, died in 2001

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teresa of Avila

Today on the feast of Teresa of Avila I thought I’d reflect upon this complex and paradoxical saint and share of my favorite quotes from her. Teresa was born in 1515 in Spain, and her grandfather had been Jewish at the time when Ferdinand and Isabella gave the Jews the choice of converting or being expelled. Teresa’s early spirituality was based in boldness and fear. At the age of seven she and her brother ran away from home to be martyred in the name of Christ. An uncle found them and brought them home. At the age of 14 her mother died and Teresa appealed to the Blessed Mother to be a mother to her. Later at the age of 17 she determined that being a religious was the “safest course” for her.
               Her early life as a Carmelite did not go well. She became seriously ill and three years later had to return home. She recovered but for eighteen years lived in a dark period of doubt and illness. At the age of thirty-nine she experienced a profound conversion. She sought out confessors who encouraged her not to doubt her spiritual experiences and to concentrate on the passion of Christ. In 1560, unhappy with the unreformed Carmelites, she began to meet with a group of like-minded sisters who wished to establish a new monastery based upon the primitive tradition of Carmel and the discalced reform of Saint Peter of Alcantara. The monastery would live entirely by alms and the sisters’ own labor; they would be vegetarians and adhere to a rigorous schedule of prayer. At this point she began to write her autobiography under obedience to her confessors and later wrote the Way of Perfection and the Interior Castle even though she said she had neither the health or intelligence for writing.
Painting done in 1575 by Brother Juan
de la Miseria. Teresa said upon seeing
it, "God forgive you, Brother Juan!
How ugly and bleary-eyed you have made
              Her reforms were not universally accepted and 1576 she was put under house arrest and her new convents were forbidden to accept more novices.  In 1580 partly because of the intervention of King Phillip II, her Discalced Carmelites were made a separate province from the unreformed Carmelites.
               The main themes of Teresa’s spirituality are friendship with God, love of neighbor, obedience, humility, humor and the integration of contemplation with activity. Teresa herself says:
        Mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing other than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with the One who we know loves us.”
        The Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with which we do it.
        We cannot be sure if we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor.
        Well, come now, my daughters, don’t be sad when obedience draws you to involvement in exterior matters. Know that if it is in the kitchen, the Lord walks among the pots and pans.
        “When I fast, I fast. And when I eat partridge, I eat partridge!”  (to a critic of her gusty enjoyment of a good meal)
        What a brain for a foundress! But I can tell you I thought I had a great  brain when I made up this.(after re-reading some verses she composed)
        I was amused at your remark that you could sum her up immediately if you once saw her. We women cannot be summed up as easily as that.(Speaking to Ambrosio Mariano who presumed he could judge who would make an acceptable Carmelite candidate)
     In 1622 Teresa was canonized; in 1970 she was made a Doctor of the Church.
         Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Celebration of 60 years of monastic profession

     At evening prayer last Saturday we celebrated with four Sisters who renewed their religious profession that first occurred 60 years ago.  As they stood before us I became emotionally overwhelmed as their long and varied “careers” jumped into my thoughts.  I was amazed.  So here is a quick overview.  Join me in being thankful to them and to God whose call made it all possible.
     Sr. Ann Middendorf (known for a while as Sr. Ann Joseph) was an elementary teacher from the little ones to 7th grade.  She then trained for special education and for many years taught in Good Counsel School dedicated to schooling those with special needs.  Eventually Sr. Ann retrained and became a parish minister for Blessed Sacrament Church in Fort Mitchell KY.  I was especially in awe of her ministry to the sick and the homebound.
     Sr. Denise Gough received her training in nursing. She worked in the hospitals run by this community in Colorado and then in the Kentucky mountains.  The hospitals were small and in small towns so her tasks were many and varied.  As years went on
Sr. Denise specialized as a nurse-anesthetist finishing her nursing days at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, KY.
Left to right: Srs. Rosemary McCormack,
Martha Walther, Mary Catherine
Wenstrup, Prioress, Denise Gough,
Ann Middendorf.

     Sr. Martha Walther (Sr. Janine) began her ministry as an elementary teacher and soon moved to high school specializing in Spanish.  The call from the Pope for missionaries took her to Pomata in Peru where she again used her teaching skills. After returning home she became executive director of Northern Kentucky Interfaith and worked with the Exodus Jail Ministry Program.  In the years following she served in the Tribunal Office of the Covington diocese.
     Sr. Rosemary McCormack (Sr. Adrian) was an elementary teacher and principal at several schools in Northern Kentucky and also in Colorado.  She claims to have taught every grade but the first grade and served as choirmaster.  After “retiring” from teaching she took up parish ministry at Jesus Our Savior parish in Morehead KY and was recently honored for completing 25 years of serving as Director of Religious Formation.

     As one of the Jubilarians exclaimed, “It was anything but boring.” 
      Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Family member’s breast cancer scare turns out to be a false alarm.
Death of 95 year old cousin is the last of the “Akron gang.”
The ritual of a military funeral is inspiring.  It has a certain sacredness about it.
     With smiling enthusiasm, Patty becomes a postulant.
October dawns with crisp air and a panoply of color.
Tomato plants to pull—fried green tomatoes to enjoy.
         Single mom spends herself to feed, clothe and pay bills for young family of five.
The desire for life keeps a Sister returning for treatment.
Elderly Sisters get life from “pop” visits from family and friends.
         Is “practicing Catholic” defined by one’s contributions to the Church?
A young nephew searches for a job.
A niece and her husband look forward to having a family.
Assembling photo albums is a treat, reviewing life in its stages.
Printed photos stop where cell phones begin.
         Life begins anew for two sisters moving from a small house to the Monastery.
         Four sisters celebrate 60 years of vowed Benedictine life at Evening Prayer.
The original Benedictine Foundation in the United States closes with a yard sale of belongings.
         It is a time to hope.
         A time to dream.
         A time to trust in the loving God who sustains us.
                   Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Feast of Our Lady of Ransom (de Mercede)

       It’s my first blog – and it comes on the feast day celebrated by one of our Sisters for many years, Sr. Mercedes.
        When I first met her, I was an eighth grader at St. Henry, and she was a first year teacher there, barely twenty years old, maybe even nineteen. (Sisters went out early in those days to parish schools.) Very likely she was the youngest Sister of all of them at our school, and I was drawn to her, especially on the days when she had “hall duty” in the old gray frame school building. I would go in during noon recess, and ply her with questions: What’s it like to be a Sister? When did you first start to think about it? How did you know it was the right thing to do? Are you happy? Do you like it? What do you do after school? Where did you go to grade school? Where did you go to high school?
          She patiently answered all my questions, and I was hooked.I became ever more sure that I too wanted to be a Sister and teach children like she did. Truthfully though, it was all the Sisters at St. Henry who fascinated me in those days. I had Sisters as teachers since first grade; my piano teacher was a Sister. She taught me to play the organ for parish Masses and rosary devotions, and the Sisters came up in the choir loft to sing. They impressed me as good people, happy people, in love with Jesus, with God’s work. And I so wanted to be like that!
           Now, sixty-five years later, I am grateful.  But what about our eighth graders today?  What are their questions?
            Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Life Lessons from My Mother

       When the schedule for us bloggers came out this summer I saw my turn for today and I thought I would write about my new position as treasurer and how I am adjusting to not teaching after 40+ years.  That thought changed on August 1. 
       On August 1, my mother went into surgery for a routine procedure at 1:30 in the afternoon, something that several sisters had had with great results.  At 2:00 the nurse came out to tell my brother and me that they couldn't finish the procedure and that the doctor would talk to us. We thought that they would just do the procedure a couple days later. When the doctor came out of the room the chaplain was with him. We knew that this was not a normal problem with her procedure.   My mother’s heart had stopped and she had been revived. She was unconscious and on a ventilator.
       Naturally we were shaken but called our sister and brother who came to the ICU right away. After several hours watching Mom struggle even with the ventilator we made the decision to remove it. While we knew this was her wish it was a traumatic decision for us. She was able to breathe on her own overnight but with no hope of recovery. She was moved to hospice and lived for about four hours. She peacefully breathed her last in the early hours of August 3.
       I have learned so much since her death and her funeral. The support and love of so many friends, community members and family in the days that followed was overwhelming. I received letters from former neighbors and Villa Madonna alumni, from former Villa parents and Mom’s friends whom I had never met.
       Those who knew her praised her kindness and generous spirit. She would have been humbled to hear their comments. She didn't live her life to be honored; she lived it to be a good person and live the teachings of love she learned from her earliest days in her Catholic family and school.
       Another lesson that stays with me especially is that “we never know what each day will bring.” I can only hope that I will have lived my life as well as Mom and will be ready when that day comes. As we finished clearing out Mom’s apartment, my brother said, “I can’t believe that it’s over.” Her earthly life may be over, but Mom lives on in our memories and in the lives we now live as she taught us. 
       Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vade Mecum

     Whenever I leave the monastery overnight I always take a paperback bible with me. This bible also serves as a collector of various notes or messages I’ve randomly received. When I opened it this morning in the Great Smokey Mountains I re-found a birthday gift (the reused front of a note card!) from a deceased member of our community, Sr. Anne Beard. Her gift was a list of seldom used words, the first being vade mecum: walk with me.
     Over the past few weeks the community and I have been walking with another member of the community who is walking with her own serious health issues. It’s what we do—walk together with each other. God’s gifts are good—even the hard ones.
      Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Resilience and the Providence of God

       As one ages, it is a blessing and comfort always to be mindful of God’s loving providence. A day or so before the beginning of this year’s annual retreat in a casual conversation relating to a community survey, I could not recall the name of a magazine cited in the survey. A day later an issue of WEAVINGS focusing on Resilience, appeared in my mailbox.
       Retreat with its leisurely schedule of talks, prayer, silence and time for reflecting reading enabled me to absorb excellent articles, especially on by Robert Mulholland entitled “Resilience, a rhythm of life hid in Christ.” Mulholland roots his words in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:6-7: In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your minds in Christ Jesus. Mulholland then develops clearly and movingly five rhythms—prayer, supplication, thankfulness, requesting and centeredness in God
       As we moved through retreat concentrating on the Rule of Benedict, this message from Paul hung over and around me. I compared the translation of 4:6-7 in various sources, my New American Bible and commentaries. As the retreat progressed, Fr. Joel Rippinger, OSB in one of his talks cited Genesee Diary. the personal account of Henri Nouwen’s seven month sojourn with the Trappist monks of Genesee Abbey. I had read this book earlier in the 1970’s, interested because I had visited Gethsemane in Kentucky. Also I was acquainted with John Eudes Bamberger’s family from Holy Cross Parish, the church of my youth. I decided to re-read the book.
       After these many years, I was grateful to meet Henri Nouwen again in his struggle for resilience. How did God’s providence work here? Nouwen’s diary entry for Sunday, September 1, 1974 (p. 107) says but if there is anything you need, pray for it asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving and that peace of God which is so much greater than we can understand will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. And Nouwen concludes, That must be enough for me. (And for me as well!)
               I shall remember and reflect on Phil 4:6-7—a sign of God’s providence at this special time in my life.

                              Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Mysterious Thanksgiving Mandate

     Lately when I've been giving myself time and space for "unscripted" prayer, my mind has been reverting to thanksgiving. I find this surprising because I'm not in a particularly celebrative frame of mind; my days have consisted pretty much of working my way through duties and deadlines. 
     Then, the other night I was journaling to see what I could discover about this sense of gratitude. I asked myself what I was being thankful for, and I found myself writing this:
            "for God – for being there; for being – when I pay little or no attention." 
     This entry rather stopped me in my tracks. (Even as I type it, I'm not sure how to punctuate it, as I'm still trying to get to its essential meaning.) Here was my subconscious telling me that I'm living with an enormous gift that I often take for granted. 
     After 75+ years living as a baptized Catholic and 55 years in a monastic community, I certainly should be aware that the presence of God is deeply engrained in my life. Now, here the deepest part of myself is confirming this belief, but at the same time reminding me that I need to give time to strengthening my awareness of the reality. 
     There certainly are moments when I'm very conscious of God's presence, whether times of frustration or joy. My journal entry, however, seems to be reminding me that I need to touch base with this Presence not just on occasion; I need to consciously delve into it. God is the "good neighbor" who lives not next door, but in my house. As God is my dwelling place, so I am God's!  As the journal entry said, "God-for being there" whether I'm aware or not. 
     An even more profound part of that entry, however, reaches into the infinite. It gives thanks, not just for God's being some place, like within me, but just for BE-ing.  How does one begin to give thanks to God for Being God? As the lyrics of the hymn The Path of Life say, "Without you there is nothing…"* We can't even begin without the power given us by the very One for whom we are grateful! 
     What can anyone do about this conundrum? Nothing but try to grasp that without God we have/are nothing (Ps. 16). Somehow we must develop our awareness that all is gift, and this task is made especially challenging by our self-sufficient, individuated, hurry-up society. I guess all we can do is pray:
            God, as you live within me and in each person I meet, open my eyes and touch my heart that I may recognize you         and give thanks. Help me bring to each day the effort that might make every encounter one that celebrates your         presence.  Help me to enrich our chaotic world with new awareness of you as endless Gift. Amen. Alleluia!
                                                             *(Scott Soper in Breaking Bread hymnal from Oregon Catholic Press)
         Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Friday, August 22, 2014

Transitioning Mindfully

     The theme of my life for August seems to be all about transitions.  The summer schedule is slowly giving way to the busier pace of fall.  Morning traffic patterns are changing as kids return to school.  Changes at work are bringing new and different opportunities. 
     I find myself repeating more than once change is good, transitions times are necessary and disorientation is to be expected.  Into the mix of my thoughts came the reminder from yoga class to move mindfully through transitions from one pose to another.  Chewing on this thought of mindfully moving through my transitions a few insights came to mind:
Remain grounded…Prayer both private and communally keeps me grounded.  Prayer calms the storm I sometimes experience in transition.  Prayer gives me space to see where God is working in my life and sometimes just to be with God in the silence.
     Small moments matter…joyful ones, unexpected, something working out just right. 
      Value of being unsettled.  As much as I sometimes resist this piece I found that the changing, unsettling state of transition brings me clarity of what is important and essential.  I also find that being unsettled leaves me vulnerable and provides a space to connect with others in a way I may not have otherwise.
      Gratitude for the journey…the change process is a gift with moments to be grateful for (even if I am not so right away).  It is the process I become and taking time to be grateful makes my journey richer.  
     Wherever you find yourself in these late days of summer may you move mindfully through the transitions with a listening heart and every needed grace for the journey.
                                 Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gratitude – Never give up hope

      “This is the day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Ps. 118:24
      The Ohio Valley is in the midst of a summer to remember: lots of sunshine, plenty of rain, cooler temperatures leading to an abundant harvest. I am so grateful. And as my words hit the page – I am instantly aware of the ongoing drought, the ever present fires, dried up crops and fields in the West. 
      This is how I often experience gratitude; thankfulness mixed with sadness because there is so much suffering in the world.  Most of the time human beings are the leading contributors to the world’s travail. How to live a grateful life is a challenge. In a recent presentation on evolving consciousness the presenter reminded us that “God loves everyone.” No one is left behind in God’s love.
      Obviously the world does not believe this. Many, who consider themselves devoutly religious slander, condemn, hurt and kill, all in the name of God. In a very tall order by Jesus, we are instructed/commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. And in this ever more connected world, everyone is my neighbor. Each and every person is a precious gift from God.
      Let us pray that someday soon, the psalmist's prayer “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live as one” (Ps. 133:1) will become a reality in the world community.  Continuing to live a grateful life is a good beginning.

       Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

     Today we celebrate this wonderful life-changing event that Peter, James and his brother, John were chosen to witness.  (Matt. 17:1-9)  Jesus took them up a high mountain and was transfigured before them.  The illumination of this event in the new St. John’s Bible is a blinding interpretation of what these men saw.  “Jesus' face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light,” and they saw Moses and Elijah conversing with him.  Peter shares in his 2nd letter, that they had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  “Our Lord Jesus Christ , receiving honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”  Peter moved, continues. “We ourselves heard this voice,” and now “we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.”  Speaking to his disciples and us today, “You will do well to be attentive to it, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:16-19)
     Each year when this feast comes around I am reminded of the dark cloud that came upon this world and our consciousness when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki at the end of World War II.  And in these days, we know of the many bombs being dropped in Syria, and between Israel and Gaza that cry out to the world for reconciliation and healing.  But Jesus touches us, saying “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  We raise our eyes to see “Jesus alone”, to see all in Jesus.  We believe that God transforms even the darkest day and the darkest deeds of humans into Light.  This is the Good News!  “Listen to Him!”

     Let us pray on this Feast of the Transfiguration, and Hiroshima Day, that our world may be transformed away from war and struggles for power - toward peace.
       Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Of Time Made Holy

       In 1976 the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses published a statement by this name which stressed the importance of our public prayer, the Divine Office or what St. Benedict calls the Work of God. The document was reissued in 2001. All times are holy but our communal prayer gets special recognition.
     A time I consider more holy is fast approaching. (Does holiness have a more or less?) Our monastery will start its annual retreat this Sunday. It should be a time in which we give more attention to the holy of our lives. Beginning Sunday evening we will attempt to slow down and to alter our routine to give greater attention to our spirituality—a time to draw closer to God and as a result to each other. There will be fewer tasks and more quiet to enable extra time for private prayer, reflection, and input of a spiritual nature. We will have less talking and less noise. Our meals will be in silence.
     We are blessed by the presence of Fr. Joel Rippinger, a Benedictine monk from Marmion Abbey in Illinois I have read articles by Fr. Joel and have always thought it would be good to meet him. He is an experienced retreat director and is well versed in spiritual direction. Fr. Joel is a scholar of the history of Benedictines especially in the United States. (You may Google him to learn more!) Approximately 10 times over the following five days Fr. Joel will speak to us from his knowledge and his experience.
     I look forward to spiritual reminders and expect them to be laced with great stories  I expect a booster shot and should not be disappointed. I know from experience that the closing meal on Friday evening will be full of excitement, louder than usual. We will move into the future with more energy.
          Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mary Magdalene, Disciple of the Lord

What do we know about Mary Magdalene whose feast is celebrated on July 22? She is in all four gospels. In Luke (8:1-3) she is named as Mary surnamed the Magdalene who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments. In Mark and Matthew (Mk. 15:40, Mt 27:61) she heads the list of the women present at the passion and burial of Our Lord. In John (19:25) she is mentioned after Jesus’ mother Mary and her sister at the foot of the cross. John also describes her going to the tomb alone and, in tears, finding the body of Jesus missing. John awards her the distinction of the first person to see the risen Christ and gives her the privilege of announcing the resurrection to the apostles (Jn 20:1-8)
               Throughout the centuries Mary Magdalene’s story has been confused with that of Mary of Bethany, Mary of Egypt, the sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke’s gospel and a reformed prostitute. If you Google “Mary Magdalene” and look for images, you will find that many artists in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance had a fine time with the image of the reformed prostitute (usually half or fully naked) while others picture her with an alabaster jar anointing Jesus’ feet or languishing in meditation draped around a skull.
               The Orthodox Church titles her “Myrrh-Bearer and Equal of the Apostles.” Orthodox art will show her with a jar of myrrh for anointing the body of Jesus. In the Orthodox tradition when the apostles left Jerusalem to spread the good news, Mary Magdalene went with them She went to Rome preaching the message, “I have seen the Risen Lord.” The story is that she visited the Emperor Tiberius and gave him an egg and said, “Christ has risen.” The emperor laughed and replied that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg turning red. The egg then turned a bright red, and many icons of Mary show her with a red egg in her hand. The Orthodox tradition has her going to Ephesus and dying there. In the Roman Catholic tradition she goes to Gaul where she dies. For more than you might want to know about Mary Magdalene and her different identities and traditions, go to

               There are two representations of Mary Magdalene in art that I want to share. The first is a terra cotta statue by Niccolo dell’Arca (1462-63) that is part of a Pieta (the group of people mentioned in the gospels as present at the crucifixion). See left. This piece is in Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna, Italy. Mary is rushing headlong in anguish toward the body of Jesus on the ground. The image captures feelings of horror and pain at the death of Jesus and the sight of his body. Mary is pictured as powerful, passionate and full of movement.
The second piece is by Bruce Wolfe (b. 1941) and is located in the Mission Santa Barbara in California. See right. This Mary is sad, calmer, attentive but no less full of power. She has Middle Eastern features and a serene earthiness. Like the dell’Arca figure all her attention is focused on Jesus but this time on the Risen Jesus. One can visualize this Mary preaching to the Emperor Tiberius.
               I hope this brief blog will spark 
your interest in the woman Mary Magdalene, her rich and varied tradition and the art inspired by her.
Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Wheat and the Weeds

       This summer, the members at St. Joseph’s House, where I live, planted a vegetable garden.  We pull
up the weeds from the vegetable plants right away.  It is uncanny how much a weed will look like the plant they are growing next to in the garden.  I think the weeds, (evil) deceives us as good.
       Sunday’s Gospel for July 20 is taken from Matthew, Chapter 13, and talks about the Kingdom of God. Jesus speaks a lot about the Kingdom of God in the Gospels.  In the Gospel, the householder lets the
wheat and the weeds grow together until harvest.In thinking about the Kingdom of God and this Gospel, I believe that the Kingdom of God begins here on earth and how we choose to live and grow
in God’s grace is preparation for the Eternal Kingdom. We too, can be deceived by evil and we need to discern the wheat from the weeds.
       After hoeing the garden, a few days ago, I looked out our window and saw a robin coming to sit on the fence to look for his breakfast. The soil was favorable.  God is Good!
      Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Energy

     Is there any significance in the fact that my own deadline for writing a blog coincided with July 4? Considering that lots of work takes place on holidays in the monastery, writing a blog, in comparison, should be a breeze. Yet in July, breezes can be rare. After all, this is vacation season! On the other hand, some work increases, e.g., house cleaning. Weekday mornings I help in the infirmary by delivering clean laundry. Today I'm subbing for Sr. Stella to bring communion to the infirmary sisters. A double privilege day for me!
    In comparison, writing a blog is a different kind of job and calls for a different kind of energy. No matter the season, several sisters step up to the task with a sense of dedication and pleasure in expressing their ideas and perspective at any time of year. So, here’s to a relaxing, re-invigorating summer!
  Sr. Martha Walther, OSB  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fireworks, Gun Fire, Hope, Freedom, Grace and Prayer

     With a post due on July 2nd the only topic that immediately came to mind is the 4th of July. Since childhood I have enjoyed this day of being with family and friends, grilling, parades, and firework displays. While I do pray for our veterans this day, I was surprised that I failed to mention prayer or put it at the top of my list of enjoyments. Another surprise was that the thought of fireworks felt like a jab in my heart. 
     The word fireworks conjured images of the gun fire and violence throughout the world. I thought of the many places where people wonder each day whether it may be their last on earth. Many even fear of being captured by the enemy to live long days of torture and abuse. In an area close to home there have been so many shootings that children fear to walk on the street.  Then I questioned whether it is even logical to hope and pray for freedom throughout the world? 
     Actually, it isn’t logical. Only God’s grace empowers us to pray for freedom for all people. I pray also that those who define freedom as license will learn the true meaning of the word. While for much of my life I believed we were guaranteed freedom in America, I now realize that the only guarantee of freedom is in Christ. Scripture attests to this in many places, e.g.:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2.”

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

     This 4th of July, I will often say this little prayer in thanksgiving for freedom. “Lord, thank you for giving your life that we may be free. Bless all those who have served our country and continue to give their lives for our freedom. Meet their needs and watch over their families with favor and bounty. 

      Help me live my life in a way that glorifies You. Give me the strength to be a blessing in someone else’s life each day. Grant me the opportunity to lead others into the freedom that can be found only in knowing Jesus Christ.”--Adapted from “Prayer for Fourth of July from a collection by Mary Fairchild.”

                                           Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB