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