Thursday, December 31, 2015

Words, Words, Words….at the End and the Beginning of a New Year.

       In today’s Gospel reading from John’s prologue, we hear, In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. In tomorrow’s reading from Luke we will hear, Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart
         
Today being the last day of 2015, I gave time this early morning to ponder over words—those I’ve said, read, regretted, waited or dreaded to hear. My morning offering of words to you are those I read several days ago and have lingered in my mind: Laid in the soul’s bosom this Word will increase the understanding, sweeten the behavior and temper the whole frame of mind and way of life with a pleasing and wholesome gentleness ( Guerric of Igny). 
       My deepest hope for 2016 is PEACE.
                   Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What shall we present to you, O Christ?

What shall we present unto you, O Christ,

For your coming to earth for us?


Each of your creatures brings a thank-offering:


The angels--singing;


 the heavens--a star


The wise men--treasures;


 the shepherds-- devotion.


What shall we present unto you, O Christ,

for your coming to earth for us?




May the blessings and graces of Christmas
be with you and those you love.
The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hearing Again the Old Familiar Story

Interior of St. Francis Seraph Church
at another Christimas Event
     Yesterday at St. Francis Seraph school in Cincinnati, Ohio, we had a traditional Christmas program in church, with many parents and relatives in attendance. It was delightful. Drums, the piano, and voices of children from kindergarten through grade eight resounded in the friary church. A huge, magnificent Advent wreath hung from the ceiling above the center aisle, reminding everyone that we’re anticipating Christmas again, in line with a long tradition of more than fifteen hundred years. A near life-size stable left of the sanctuary completed the display.because of love for us. 
The familiar story, though old, was still received with expectation by the youngest generation. It is a love story, that of God becoming one of us
    As adults, we may not always appreciate all the extra work that the season brings with it in our culture. However, despite busy schedules, we can remind ourselves to pray as we go or to turn off the TV, car radio or cell phone sometimes in order to just be silent.  We can smile at another shopper, pray for the people waiting in line (and for all the drivers on the road!) Doing ordinary things with love and mindfulness can increase our awareness of God. Like a child in its mother’s or father’s arms, may we allow ourselves to be carried and nurtured.  And then, go and do likewise for others. Wishing you a blessed Christmas!
                                     Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB   

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Retirement Fund for Religious Collection

       This past weekend I had to pleasure of speaking at Sts. Boniface and James parish in Ludlow on behalf of the many elderly religious men and women in the United States who are in need of financial help to provide for their healthcare and daily living. 
       The bishops’ conference established the Retirement Fund for Religious over 25 years ago and Catholics throughout the country have been extremely generous. In the Diocese of Covington, 75% of what is collected is given to the communities here in the diocese. The remainder is sent to the NRRO (National Religious Retirement Office) office for distribution where needed throughout the US. 
       Women and men religious have given their lives for the benefit of all of us in the church, through working in Catholic schools, hospitals, parishes and service agencies. For many years they received little or no stipend. They didn’t really mind actually, because they were not working for money but for the passing on of our faith and traditions. As the number of religious earning a salary or stipend has decreased the needs of the older community members has increased. Healthcare costs are rising, as all of you know very well. 
       After working in education for over 40 years myself I am now the treasurer of our community. I see firsthand what it costs to care for our retired sisters while we maintain our ministries, and know that we need the support of the Retirement Fund more and more. 
       As you consider your contribution to the collection next week I ask you to remember a Sister or Brother who has been an influence in your life—a teacher, a nurse, a counselor, a spiritual guide. 
       Whenever I reflect on this I remember my fourth grade teacher, Sister Fidelia. She was the organist as well as our teacher and we had a small organ in our classroom. Before our school day began we sang hymns and read from Scripture, much longer than other teachers did, I’m sure. I’m not sure that the education standards of today would be thrilled with her approach, but that spiritual beginning was part of what formed me as a Catholic and as a Benedictine woman. I know many of you have had similar remembrances. 
       At Evening Prayer every day at St. Walburg we have a special intercession for our benefactors. They sustain us in so many ways. In this season of thanksgiving and grace, we are sincerely grateful. 
       I trust that this year’s Retirement Fund collection will be as much a blessing for all of us as it has been in the past.
            Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Be Present to the Moment

       Christmas is less than one month away.  Preparations consume our time and energy.  Many things are a mess in USA cities and internationally.  I need not remind you.  Crises is looming everywhere.  There is anxiety in our bones. What to do? 
       As I was reading something arose that I have known for a long time.  I am grateful for the nudge.  “Be present to the moment.”  For example, when I am washing dishes, I am washing dishes—aware of the soap bubbles, aware of the warmth of the water, aware of the smudges, aware of the swirl of my hand and the possible pressure needed, aware and perhaps in awe of the clean shine.  So If I do it right, when I am driving, or writing, or cleaning, or praying I am engaged in just one activity.  It is not an ideal world and this does not always work, our thoughts wander back to the pressures.  But for the time that we can remain focused on the task at hand I find that a certain calm ensues.  Praise God! 

       As we enter into Advent, I am resolving to make more of an effort to be present especially at Eucharist.  Thus I am aware that I am in this worshipping community.  I am here and no place else.  I am attentive to the words, to the hymns, to the actions, to the presence of God.  ( I know God is present in each of us at all times including the times of stress and of panic.)  But for the time being there is no stress, no panic just the people gathered for worship.  
                         Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Constant Call of Thanksgiving


            This is the hardest blog I have ever tried to write.  Thanksgiving?  A wonderful, family gathering.  Warm with good food, stories of other thanksgivings, love shared and the joy of just being together.  It’s one of my favorite holidays.
            The recent terror attacks in Paris and the plight of the Syrian immigrants as they escape the tyranny of their own country to find an unwelcome in many of the countries (and states) to which they turn.  This is a time of anything but thanksgiving.
            But, we must be a people of thanksgiving.  God is in charge.  We have messed up big time but God is still God.  And, there is a plan.

            Some of the verses from Psalm 138 tell us how to be thankful. 

                        “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart,

                        for you have heard the words of my mouth.

                        I will worship at your holy temple

                                    And give thanks to your name.

                        because of your kindness and your truth…

                                    you have made great your promise.

                        When I called you answered me.  (Vs. 1-3)”

            Giving thanks is not just a one day affair.   A famous person once said: “If the only prayer we have is one of thanks, we will have prayed enough.”  Eucharist is our great prayer of thanksgiving.  It is God present in the Body and Blood of Jesus in our everyday life.  Tragedy is not removed from life, but we are given the strength to bear it.  We need only to trust.  We must be thankful.

            Cardinal Joseph Bernardin once wrote:

                         At this table we put aside every worldly separation

                        based on culture, class, or other differences. 

                        This communion is why all prejudice,
 
                        all racism, all sexism,

                        all deference to wealth and power must be banished

                        from our parishes, our homes, our lives.”

            Let this be our Thanksgiving prayer:

                        “All powerful God, fill the hearts of your people
 
                       with gratitude

                        that the hungry may be filled with good things

                        and the poor and needy proclaim your glory.”

                                                                        (Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers)
Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Misericordia and The Year of Mercy

On Saturday, October 31, Msgr. William Cleves, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Bellevue, Kentucky, presented a day of reflection entitled  The Quality of Mercy at our monastery. Throughout the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy the approximately 120 attendees and I will be processing and mining the many ideas and insights Fr. Cleves shared with us.
    Fr. Cleves talked about the many words for mercy in the Judeo-Christian tradition including the Hebrew words hesed and rahamin used in the Old the Testament and the Latin word misericordia. Misericordia is the word that resonated with me and it is the official word used by Pope Francis in decreeing the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
During the past months I have been moved—often to tears—by news items in the newspapers and on the Internet about violence and cruelty done to innocent babies, children, and animals. I’m beginning to find myself not wanting to see any news feed or hear any news broadcast. I read a book last week written by an emergency room doctor at the Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, New York. She spoke of finding herself “emotionally incontinent” in response to the many circumstances she encountered in the ER there. What she meant by the phrase is the almost involuntary spasm of emotion that wrenches the gut and leads to tears that cannot be contained, I thought what a wonderful phrase it was for the times when we cannot help but weep for the world.
And that brings me back to the word misericordia, coming from miser and cor or cordis, which mean a misery or suffering in the heart, a wrenching of the heart. Fr. Cleves told us that in earlier times cordis did not so much refer to the heart but to the core of a person, the viscera or the gut. So misericordia can also mean a wrenching of the gut.
If that is what happens when we are moved by events, stories and the plight of those we love, is it not what happens to God when God is moved by our circumstances? Fr. Cleves talked about the ever present mercy (misercordia) of God throughout salvation history. When Pope Francis established the Year of Mery, he said, “… mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us, not limiting it to merely  affirming his love, but making it visible and tangible. …Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it is something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is loving concern for each one of us, desire for our well being, for our happiness, full of joy, and peaceful.”
Pope Francis concludesIn this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society. … How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! … Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own. “
           During the coming Year of Mercy, may we experience the misericordia of God for us and be one with God in our misericordia for others. Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Christ in the Guest

In 2006 I was asked to care for the visitors who come to stay at our Guest house, a beautiful old home dating possibly from the Civil War. It has a long history and has housed many individuals including the first girls who were boarding students at our academy. But that is another story.

           I never thought I’d have this job. It has been so enriching! Today I am thinking of how I have been gifted by serving the needs of those who come to stay for a day, a weekend, or sometimes longer. It’s more than providing clean linens for their bed and bath, however important that is, or some fruit and soft drinks in the refrigerator. Sometimes I just need to listen. Writers, artists, widows, retreatants, and relatives of the Sisters are the most frequent. It’s beautiful when they share their creativity in a story, or a written meditation, or a drawing or painting. Others just need a time to be away, to pray and think, to rest, to gather strength to make some decision. Always we invite them to pray with us at the monastery, and many do.
            I’ve hosted a Methodist ministers’ group, travelers on their way somewhere else, visiting teachers from Denmark, a Costa Rican family attending an ordination, a group of visiting priests from India, string teachers and their high school students who made music all weekend, and then gave us a concert! St. Benedict instructs us in his Rule for monasteries that the guest is to be received as Christ.
           We also are to receive the stranger, and one time, I did receive a stranger, one whom many might have considered a vagrant. Yet this one man, more than any other, reminded me of Christ, who “had nowhere to lay his head.” He was gentle and idealistic. He had a dream for alleviating hunger in the world, and no transportation other than a bus ticket, and his own feet. “My shoes are my wheels,” he said.
           I have also learned a new appreciation for those maids who daily go from room to room in a motel, picking up soiled laundry, cleaning bathrooms and making one bed after another.  If I happen to be staying somewhere, I now feel impelled to speak to them, saying Thank You. Their work is hard! They too are Christ in their humble service to others. We can find Him everywhere.
Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Memories of the 1937 Flood

           A few weeks ago as I was looking through some old photographs, I came across a picture of  Holy Guardian Angels Church and School taken during the 1937 flood. Fr. John J. Laux, the pastor, stands behind the church on a dry all in a black overcoat, hands in his pockets, with a white scarf and a black hat.
            An article written forty years  after the flood, from the Diocese of Covington’s newsletter The Messenger, dated June 20, 1976, reads, :”The water was so deep in the church that it covered the statues, and some of them were found floating around in the water. After waters had subsided,  Fr. Laux with the help of parishioners and many friends, remodeled the church, bought new statues and beautified the Church as it was before.”  I wasn’t among those people who restored the church, but as a  9 year old, I happily scrubbed mud covered desks in the school.
            As I look at the photograph today, I cannot imagine the water being that high! Again, the article explained, “Since the town had low level near the Banklick Creek, it was flooded by the back waters of the Licking and Ohio Rivers.”
            I don’t remember how long we were out of the church and school but I do remember that our family went to Mass at St. Cecilia Church in Independence. Later when school reopened, we went to school on Saturdays to make up for the lost days.

            I remember with deep joy and gratitude that this was the sacred place where my love for God and Church was instilled and deepened. Here, too, I had Benedictine Sisters whose way of life drew me to become one of them. My family played an essential role in the choice, of course. But that is another story.   Sr. Justina Franxman

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Pattern of a Vocation

The Pattern of a Vocation
First there is the Call!
Then the Discovery of the Call!
And finally the Response!
      In the Gospel for last Sunday, Mark (10:46-52) tells the story of Jesus on his final journey from Jericho to Jerusalem with his disciples. A blind man, Bartimaeus, sitting on the side of the road, hears that it is Jesus of Nazareth coming by, and cries out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stops and says, “Call him.” Then the disciples called to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”  He sprang up, throwing aside his cloak and came to Jesus. Jesus says to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Dear Teacher, I want to see.” Jesus tells him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he receives his sight and instead of going his way, he follows Jesus on His Way, becoming a disciple. 
     The story of Bartimaeus discovering his Call as a disciple of Jesus is so clear in this Gospel.
Each of us has a similar story of our call, our vocation.  
     On Sunday October 18, our Benedictine Oblates had the opportunity in our Reflection time, to consider their call to be an Oblate as a vocation. Just as God calls some persons to be monastics, others are called to live the monastic practices in their everyday life, as an Oblate We listed many of these:
  •  awareness of silence;
  • daily duties well done;
  • simplicity;
  • solitude in prayer;
  • obedience to God and God’s agents on the way;
  • humility;
  • respect of persons and all God’s creation;
  • hospitality;
  • stability to this family;
  • being open to wisdom;
  • seeking God;
  • preferring nothing to the love of Christ.

St. Walburg Monastery Benedictine Oblates October 2015
         Oblates offer themselves to God to live these practices. Oblation means offering self to God.  It is a continual work to live this life well.  We need the support of others on this journey. 
          In quiet prayer each of the Oblates reflected on his/her call; discovery of the call; and the response. Then they all had time to share their stories with the others around the table.  This was the first time that many of them have taken time to reflect on their call and share it.  They found the experience very meaningful.  Following this time, the Oblates assembled in Chapel with the Sisters for Noon Day Prayer, which included the Ritual of Renewing their Oblation as an Oblate of St. Benedict with this Benedictine community.  Together we are travelers on the way to everlasting life in union with Jesus.     
          On Sunday, November 1, we will celebrate with all the saints in heaven and on earth, those who follow Jesus on the way.
                                                                            Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Remembering Pope Francis in America

     A real historic moment in our history was when Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress on Sept. 24,2015. Besides the Congress, the Supreme Court and the members of the president's cabinet were present.The pope said that he was "most pleased to address you in the land of the free and the home of the brave."
     Francis began by addressing the Congress and those present by citing four famous Americans and their accomplishments to society. They were: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. They are three sons and daughters of this land.
    Francis urged Americans to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. Every life is sacred. He said society can only benefit from the abolition of the death penalty. He offered encouragement for rehabilitation. He spoke of welcoming immigrants, stating that we are descendants of immigrants ourselves.
   The pope urged that we keep in mind all those around us who are in a cycle of poverty. Part of the cycle is the creation and distribution of wealth, and he urged the development of an economy that Is moderate, inclusive and sustainable--one that seeks the creation of jobs in service to the common good.
    He said that we need conversation on the environment. We must re-direct our steps, we can make a difference. He urged Congress to play a courageous role: protect nature, combat poverty, put technology at the service of that which is more human and more social. Congress can make a big positive contribution in the years ahead
 . The pope also spoke of the richness and beauty of family life. I am sure we will be hearing more on this as the Synod on Family Life comes to a close this month.
     Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Deer, the life of trees and memories

       On a recent bright and sunny afternoon, I was staffing the monastery front desk, looked up and saw three young deer munching acorns fallen from the standing oaks lining the walk to the monastery door. One, two then three, cars passed at intervals; the deer absorbed in their feast did not budge. But soon the steady parade of cars arriving to pick students distracted the deer; they took off for the tree covered hillside
        Here in Kentucky trees have been in the forefront lately, particularly the ash tree. Everywhere we see stumps of these trees. Not too long ago a visit to our cemetery shocked me. Many dead trees had been cut down; stumps and logs covered the cemetery. The abundance of stumps and logs had been too large for the maintenance crew to clear away quickly. It took some time but now the cemetery is clear, green, beautiful again with a few healthy young trees. A short distance beyond, behind a wall of trees, is a regular mountain of logs. Periodically someone will call for permission to take one or two, perhaps to create a bird bath in their back yard.
       A road trip between local hills reveals several large patches of dead trees, mostly ash. It will be interesting to see what falls brings when the live trees will no longer be obvious—but what will next year show?  My absorption seems to be with dead tress! I must come back, however, to those mighty oaks which line the walk to the monastery entrance. They are, a great source for memory, gratitude, beauty.
       I remember as if it were yesterday that long ago day, September 8, 1944, when my parents and two very young brothers brought me to St. Walburg Monastery to be postulant. The present oak trees had not been in the ground too long but had many branches and lots of acorns. We walked up steps, met Sr. Domitilla and Sr. Germaine, and I went through the steps of becoming a postulant. Then my family left, going down that same walk, my young brothers in tears. I look at those large oaks today and think of the years in between.The oaks bring many memories of all the happenings in community and family life that have occurred during the years. The oaks have been there through it all.
       May our newly planted trees have healthy ground and weather, and our community of St. Walburg Monastery continue to serve God and the Church through our Benedictine life. All this from a three deer visit to the front lawn!

                                    Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jubilee and Gratitude: One in the Same

       Pope Francis designated 2015 the year of consecrated religious life. The first of his three stated aims is for us to look to the past with gratitude. Gratitude is what I experience as I celebrate this Jubilee.
       I am grateful to my parents, John and Aileen and my siblings for the love and life lessons I learned and experienced in belonging to the Bankemper family. I feel especially blessed and grateful to God for calling me to the community at St. Walburg Monastery and giving me life among such wonderful women. I have so much appreciation for the members of the community both living and deceased, who have loved, mentored, challenged and forgiven me over these many years.
       My first profession was in 1965, the year the Vatican II Council ended. It was a time of change and huge changes were on the way.  In light of the Gospel and contemporary times all religious were called to study their origins, examine the meaning and purpose of their lives and update practices for present times. As Benedictines we were founded “to seek God in community, to live under the Rule of Benedict and a prioress.”  Along with countless communities our community heeded the Council’s call and since that time has engaged in examining every aspect of our lives; through ongoing in depth study of the Rule of Benedict, reclaiming our monastic heritage, revising our psalter (prayer books) even to the right sizing of our tables in the dining room to allow everyone the opportunity to hear and participate. 
       Throughout the many changes, a commitment to ministry has been a mainstay. My own involvement in meaningful ministry continues to be a priority. I love my work as a psychologist and the many persons I have had the privilege to serve. I feel especially blessed for the past twelve years of facilitating groups at Cancer Support Community and the Women’s Federal Prison Camp in Lexington.
       It is difficult to describe how much these groups have influenced my life. They bid me to appreciate the one precious life with which I and all of us have been gifted; to recognize that it is an accident of birth to the families and situations into which one is born: that all of us make mistakes, some serious, yet all of us need forgiveness and healing. Pope Francis designated 2016 as a year of mercy.  I hope his message will seep deeper into my being and allow me to walk in the shoes of those who suffer, particularly with the women in prison.
       The color and beauty of my life would be less without the richness and fidelity of friends. I am thankful for their fidelity in both the good times and the difficult ones. I feel especially blessed and grateful to God for calling me to St. Walburg Monastery and giving me life among such wonderful, giving women.
      Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Downsizing: A Complex and Challenging Process

       For one reason or another, a lot of people seem to be downsizing lately, and I'm one of them. I'm moving from one of our smaller houses on the monastery grounds to the main building. This has entailed sifting through years of files, libraries of books and photos, archives, and much else. 
       What a journey! Dust covered memories resurrect names, faces, and forces that helped create the person I am today. Gratitude spills out of packs of old letters, cards, and meeting notes as I unearth encounters with people who were important and whose imprint is still somewhere deep within me. 
       My mind dances through the reminders of people I loved, projects I relished, and trips I embraced. My heart once again wraps itself around the painful contacts that generated growth into new relationships even while it grieves over losses. 
       Questions arise about long-ago sharings: Where is he now? Does she remember like I do? Is he still living? What is she doing these days? (I've even created a little file of "lost contacts" to see about tracking them down, something made feasible today by the internet.) 
       The downsizing process is also an exercise in discerning treasure from trash. It's hard when one part of me treasures something at the same time another part of me says it's more sentimentality than treasure. Which is more true? 
       Then there's the physical and psychological stress of the process brought about by deadlines met and missed, goals that seem unachievable, and all the other demands that don't stop because of the need to move. 
       Yes, downsizing is a 2-sided coin, joy and pleasure on one side and painful challenges on the other. We do need to spend the coin, however, to reach a different phase in our life, a place where we can use our past more effectively to renew ourselves and those around us. And, if we are lucky enough to have folks willing to help with this stripping-down process, even our "thank you's" are tinged with the pain of the process. Maybe it's something like mountain climbing: to get to the top is a lot more possible with the support of a team, but it is still a personal act we have to perform, this alternation between releasing one thing and grabbing something new. 
       To all who have downsizing in their present or future, may the joys of remembering and reconnecting outweigh by far the pains of letting go. 
       Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB


Friday, September 25, 2015

Resilience and Benedict

            As I’ve listened to the news, read the paper and talk with people, I hear the many struggles, losses and challenges facing people around the world. In the midst of the turmoil I am also hearing about the resilience present in so many, their capacity to adapt and overcome risk and adversity. Each of us, in different ways, experience challenges as we move through life.  We also each have the opportunity to cultivate resilience in others and in ourselves. 
            I found myself wondering one evening last week how the Rule of St. Benedict supports resilience both within and outside the monastery. Benedict’s Rule is lived out in community and the goal is for all to move forward together towards everlasting life.  Community is a source of support, a witness of fidelity and some days provides us with opportunities to move through challenging times together (not so different from any family). Benedict’s rhythm of work and prayer creates a framework which builds character and confidence both of which contribute to our resilience. Benedict understood our humanness and provides forgiveness (often more than one chance), wisdom figures to intervene, and good zeal to urge us to be the first to do good for another.

            Benedict’s values of community, a rhythm of life which nurtures balance and wholeness, forgiveness and striving towards good can set us towards being more resilient. We have the opportunity in our lives, both within and outside the monastery, to provide support, forgiveness, celebrate strengths in each another and spread good zeal. May we each find a way to tap into our potential for goodness and resilience in the rhythms of our lives. 
          Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A prayer before Pope Francis comes to the United States

          This summer I attended the Benedictine Development Symposium in Schuyler, Nebraska and met a extraordinary speaker and writer. He may not thank me for this mention, but I was impressed by his writing skils and passion. And so I share with you a snippet of Brian Doyle, editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland. He is the author of Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies, A Shimmer of Something: Lean Stories of Spiritual Substance, and many more.
         Today I‘m sharing with you a prayer from Brian Doyle's A Book of Uncommon Prayer:100 Celebrations of the Miracle and Muddle of the Ordinary. Sorin Books, 2014, pp. 17-18
          Brian’s prayers remind me of Daniel Berrigan’s psalm prayers in Uncommon Prayer: a Book of Psalms and Walter Brueggemann’s prayers in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth. Brian, Daniel and Walter share the same passion for the apt word/ phrase, for social justice, for an intense struggling relationship with God and for speaking the hard truth of human suffering and small delights. Their prayers are not easy to pray, just as many of the psalms are not easy to pray. Their prayers like the psalms come from the deepest part of us and stun us with their power.
          I present Brian Doyle’s prayer as an example of a modern yet Biblical way of calling out to God It is also a good prayer for the week before Pope Francis comes to visit.

Furious Prayer for the Church I Love and Have Always Loved but Which Drives me Insane with Is Fussy Fidgety Prim Tin-Eared Thirst for Control and Rules and Power and Money Rather Than the One Simple Thing the Founder Insisted On
Granted, it’s a tough assignment, the original assignment. I get that. Love—Lord help us, could we not have been assigned something easier, like astrophysics or quantum mechanics? But no—love those you cannot love. Love those who are poor and broken and fouled and dirty and sick with sores. Love those who wish to strike you on both cheeks. Love the blowhard, the pompous ass, the arrogant liar. Find the Christ in each heart, even those. Preach the Gospel and only if necessary talk about it. Be the Word. It is easy to advise and pronounce and counsel and suggest and lecture; it is not so easy to do what must be done without sometimes shrieking. Bring love like a bright weapon against the dark. The Rabbi did not say build churches, or retreat houses, or secure a fleet of cars for general use, or convene conferences or issue position papers. He was pretty blunt about the hungry and the naked and the sick. He was not reasonable. We forget this. The Church is not a reasonable idea. The Church should be a verb. When it is only a noun it is not what the Founder asked of us. Let us pray that we are ever after dissolving the formal officious arrogant thing that wants to rise, and ever fomenting the contradictory revolutionary counter-cultural thing that could change life on this planet. It could, you know. Let’s try again today. And so: amen.

Thank you, Brian Doyle.

        Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"Good evening. St. Walburg Monastery"

       “Good evening.  St. Walburg Monastery.”  I gave my usual message when answering the phone.
       “Are you taking new members?”
       “We are.”
       “Well what are the qualifications?”
Taken back by the bluntness of the question I hesitated and then blurted out, “Your best bet is to come and see and we can find out if we would be a good match.”

The brief conversation prompted me to reflect on my own journey.  B.C.; that is, Before Convent I enjoyed life, school and all the pleasures of youth. I thought I was on the path to be married. I also prayed, going to daily Mass frequently, being quietly reflective and studying the Gospels with friends.  One of my favorite places to pray then, and still is, is flat on my back in bed.  So one night I said to Jesus, “I wonder what I’ll be doing next year at this time.”  The answer came back, “You’ll be in the convent (monastery).”  I was shocked.  It was out of the blue.
            So the path began, talking to a priest several times, being interviewed by the prioress, being given a date to enter, finally telling my family and friends, not all of whom were happy. I did come to live here and thus began several years of what might be called the engagement period.  It was a time of discovery for me and for the members of the community.  Needless to say, I did make a life-long commitment. The journey continues. We are a good match.
       Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Can I Keep from Singing?

                Sixty-seven years ago I was at my home across from Pleasure Isle on Kentucky 17*, making arrangements in preparation for entering St. Walburg Monastery. I had my trunk, my black shoes, my black stockings and my aprons. I had my new Bible and a Missal given to me by my pastor, Father Charles A. Towel who along with Sr. Ancille Happe, was very influential in my becoming a nun.
                As I began writing this post it came to me that I have never once, in these sixty-seven years, doubted or questioned my vocation even during difficult times. That insight came to me as a surprise and as a gift because I often question myself. I say, “I should have done thar “ or “I should not have done this” or “I wish I had or I wish I hadn’t.”

                Every day I grow more grateful for my life as a Benedictine sister. I thank God and my community, family, friends and all who have been part of my life. I finish this post a song comes to me uninvited, “How Can I Keep from Singing!”
        Sr. Justina Franxman, OSB
*For more information about Pleasure Isle, a well know Northern Kentucky pool and picnic area, see  http://kentoncountyhistoricalsociety.org/data/documents/January-February-2006.pdf,  p. 6.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Letting Go in 2015

Yard sales are an opportunity to:
 meet old friends & neighbors    get rid of excess   downsize your stuff

     St. Benedict may have approved. Stressing moderation in every aspect of life, he counseled his monks to use only what they needed, rather than accumulating excessive possessions. Items sold by the monks were to be priced “a little lower than people outside the monastery are able to set.” 
     We had a great time meeting friends and neighbors at the recent yard sale on August 22 at the Gate House (below in black and white), and were certainly successful at reducing our excess. At this point in the life of the monastery, the house itself represents more living space than we need. And more living space than we are willing to maintain. The cost-benefit analysis on this simple frame house was easy to do, but there is an intangible cost to demolition. The house as landmark, memories of good times living in community, stories from the time the boiler man lived there and sold chicken dinners through an opening on the side porch. 
     The sisters are grateful to friends and neighbors who carried away what we no longer needed. When the Gate House lives on only in memory, and a certain wistfulness comes over us, we will recall the words of the Teacher Koheleth:
            For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

   Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB


Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Richness of Autumn Ordinary Time

     It’s already time for a blog.
     More than that, it’s also time for a huge change of season, marked by the end of August vacation time and the beginning of September and the school year if that is an indicator of the passing seasons for you.
     Liturgically, the “Ordinary Time” of September and October is filled with feast days:
          the Nativity of Mary
          the Exaltation of the Cross
          Hildegard of Bingen
          Matthew the Evangelist
         Teresa of Avila
          The Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
         Meanwhile, our readings for Morning and Evening Prayers range from Kings, Sirach, 
         Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Isaiah to
         2 Corinthians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and the four evangelists
         Such a menu provides a variety of sources, something for everyone’s taste.
         While Ordinary Time is ticking away to Advent, take time to enjoy these rich autumn scriptures
         as well as the natural beauty of the season.
                                                  Sr. Martha Walther, OSB
                                                      

                              

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A New Insight

After attending our Monastery’s Center for Spirituality day entitled Encountering Islam and Your Muslim American Neighbors, I became fascinated with the many parallels between Islam, Christianity, and even some of Benedict’s flexibility. I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend a service at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati for one of their Friday Sabbaths.
Upon arrival Sisters Andrea, Emmanuel, Joan Fraenzle and I were welcomed by a hospitable Islamic lady who invited us to remove our shoes and place them in one of the shoe-sized bins. We then ascended the steps to the balcony of the mosque where the women worshipped. From there we saw the expansive, well carpeted ground level where the men gathered. We were invited to sit on the only chairs available toward the back of the balcony. All the regular attendees sat on the red carpeted floor and were clothed in the traditional Islamic garb. Even very elderly members seemed to have no problem bowing and prostrating upon arrival and then sitting on the floor indefinitely.
Those seated on the floor near the front of the balcony were protected from falling by a 3 foot expanse of glass. They could see the men leading the prayer at the lower level. From the chairs where guests sat we could only hear the chanting in Arabic from below. A lengthy homily in Arabic was followed by a translation in English that I still could not clearly interpret. At the end of the service all the women on some cue from below arose, stood erect, made several sets of deep bows followed by prostrations placing their foreheads to the floor. The sense of reverence permeated the room. I would have been very comfortable joining them in this manner of reverencing God.
After the services one of the Islamic women offered to sit down with us and answer any questions we might have. We had more questions than we had time to ask. I was impressed by what she called the five pillars of Islam; namely,
  • 1.      The statement of faith, “There is only one God and that Muhammad is God’s messenger.” (The angel, Gabriel, informed Muhammad of his prophetic role!)
  • 2.      Prayer—at dawn, noon, afternoon, evening and night. (Sounds similar to monasticism?)
  • 3.      Almsgiving (which includes options for those who cannot afford this financially.)
  • 4.      Fasting (except for those who have a medical condition that prevents it.)
  • 5.      Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime (again with provisions for those who do not have the means or health to accomplish the journey.)

I was again amazed at the fact that the Virgin Mary is mentioned in the Koran and is thought to be the holiest of women. It is an Islamic belief that Jesus was immaculately conceived though not divine, but one of the prophets.
      As a follow-up to my visit to the mosque, I am now enjoying a book on the World’s Major Religions. I believe I will find it true that all these religions hold many beliefs in common.

                        Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Taking Scripture to Heart

       This week we are having our annual community retreat here at St. Walburg Monastery. Our Retreat Master, Benedictine Father Gregory Mohrman is leading us in reflecting on various scripture stories from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Resurrection. It’s been great. No matter how often I hear the stories, there is always more to the message that is especially significant for what’s happening now. I’m sure that Holy Scripture is one of God’s ways of communicating. We all believe that the bible is God’s Word. But I sometimes benefit from being reminded that THIS MEANS ME, NOW. 
       I am also grateful that, as a monastic, I have the privilege and duty of praying the Divine Office. The Liturgy of the Hours puts the Word of God, i.e. psalms and other scriptures, on our lips and hopefully in our hearts, daily. In the past two years a few of us sisters have lead the semi-annual weekend retreat for women entitled Encountering Christ in the Psalms. The title captures what we aspire to do as we invite our retreatants to pray the Divine Office with us during the weekend and use Lectio Divina format to reflect on the meaning for ourselves of what we have just prayed in community. 

      While it may be true that many Christians find the Psalms hard to understand and not that helpful as a prayer form, we hope that through this experience people will discover that psalm-prayer is beyond the personal format we may be used to; instead it is a channel for our voices to join those of all Christians and our ancestor Israelites throughout all time and place. Our prayer is the prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ. Through psalms we praise God; we beg forgiveness; recall God’s saving actions; join in the sorrows, poverty, rejection, pain and loneliness of all God’s children, just at Jesus did in his life, passion, death and resurrection.
       Our next Encountering Christ in the Psalms retreat will be October 23-25, 2015 at the St. Walburg Monastery Guest House. If you would like more information, please contact Sr. Dorothy at dorothysosb@gmail.com or 859-739-7520. So far we have only held this retreat for women, but are open to providing one for men if there is an interest. So let us know. Thank you
                 .   Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Transforming the Future for the Children of the World

     Gibran’s The Prophet,* offers that children’s “souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” This rings true, especially with the pace and magnitude of change in our world today. Children, especially, need to be able to believe, to trust in the future. They depend on parents and society to build the foundation for it. How important the foundation!
    In the Romero Prayer, the author speaks to me of our niche in transforming the future for those we love, for next generations. On the chance that you’ve not yet experienced this reflection, I’m passing it on.

               ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMERO PRAYER
(Actually composed by Bishop Ken Untener,
 but has become attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero)

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that
the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing
that.This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between
the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

May the children of our world have reason for gratitude and continue
to build a better future for all!        

*The Prophet, by Kalil Gibran, originally published by Alfred A. Knopf Publisher, NY, 1923


       Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB