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