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