Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lessons from My Dad

Father’s Day was Sunday, June 21. I have never written about my father before. Now seems the right time to do so.
                My father was “Daddy” to me. He called me “his pretty little girl.” I was the oldest. He five other “pretty little girls” until he had his longed for son. My brother became the apple of Daddy’s eye. When we were old enough to go to the corner of our street, we’d wait there for Daddy to come home so he would let one of us sit on his lap and “drive” the rest of the way. He played baseball with us in the lot next to our house. He was always the pitcher—for both teams. The teams consisted of a mixture of the Ryan kids and the kids in the neighborhood.
                One visiting Sunday after I’d been in the convent a couple of months, he held me and listened as I cried telling him how homesick I was. Although I know his heart was aching, he did not rush to tell me to come home. He must have understood that that was part of the process of leaving home and growing up.
                My Dad wasn’t perfect. He had his faults. But, I never doubted that he loved my Mother and “his kids.” He had an accident about a year after I’d entered the convent and that removed him living in the family. From then on, he was the Daddy we cared for.
                Although my memories of him are few or faded, he will always be the one who first showed me how to love. My recognition of his weaknesses, late in my life, helped me recognize my own weaknesses. I learned to be more accepting of the humanness of others.
                My Dad has been dead for 40 years but his father-love is still there. I think he would tell me he is proud of that I am one of “Ryan’s daughters.” 
     Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Trust and Validate

Trust: faith, hope, reliance, expectation, confidence, dependence, custody, care, responsibility, protection.

Validation: substantiation, confirmation, legalization.

        This morning I learned a concrete lesson on how to sustain relationships from a gentleman who shared a practice he and his wife have shared over their years of marriage. Without being specific about what they do, he remarked that each year he and his wife exchange or express trust and validation. Trust I get. No relationship exists, grows or deepens without trust. That’s the glue or practice that protects common endeavors or works, such as, monastic life, school communities, parishes, work sites, etc., etc., etc. 
       The more I have thought about validation the more I got an understanding and appreciation of what that can mean on the practical level. Validation means more than just a renewal or remembrance of what I did over fifty years ago. The image that helped me appreciate the use and act of validating, is the difference between the one-time public signing of my name on my profession document in 1962 and the community’s annual renewal of vows once a year during our retreat. 1962 was a leap of faith and a hope that I’d be happy and faithful to my choice until the end. This August during our renewal of profession I will remember to do more than renew. I will validate and confirm what I really did in 1962. 
      Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Salt of the Earth

     Yesterday at Mass the Gospel reading included Jesus’ words: “You are the salt of the earth.” Our chaplain, Fr. John Cahill, shared a homily about that phrase. It included the idea that salt was so valuable in early times that it was used as currency. The homily also included the idea that salt makes a difference in the taste of foods. 
     As I often do, I immediately began thinking of my own experiences with salt. Last summer I went on a school trip with Villa Madonna students and families to Austria, Switzerland and Germany. One of the highlights was a visit into a salt mine outside of Salzburg (meaning Salt City), Austria. Several miles below the surface we saw how the salt was mined in the past and how it is still mined today. When we resurfaced we went to the gift shop, of course, where I wanted to get something that would remind me of the trip and the importance of salt. I purchased a salt and pepper grinder with salt from that mine that I use in cooking almost every day. 
     Without salt everything takes bland. Salt does make a difference. Even sweet things need a little salt to bring out the sweetness. Every brownie or chocolate cake recipe includes salt in some form. Mashed potatoes without salt are basically inedible. I’m sure you have your own examples. 
     The phrase “you can make a difference” has been used way too much in my opinion. In yesterday’s homily, however, with the idea of us being “salt of the earth” it makes sense. We should be making a difference. We should be enhancing the lives of the people around us. 

     We are the salt of the earth! Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Renewed Friendships / Surprise Packages?!

     Have you ever had the occasion of running into a long-ago acquaintance and been greeted almost like a soul mate? Were you rather taken aback by the expression of affection from someone you'd thought of in much more casual terms even long ago?
     I've experienced something like this a couple of times in recent months and it got me reflecting. Here are a few thoughts and questions that emerged from my musings:

  • What a wonderful gift: surprise and affection in one package!
  • I wonder if, in those early years of knowing each other, I had missed signals of the potential for a friendship deeper than the one we had. If so, what got in the way of my seeing them? What effect, if any, did it have on the person looking for something more? Was there something was not seeing?
  • Did I ever do something significant for him/her, something that was never forgotten, or did  he/she just see something in me that I didn't appreciate in myself?
  • Should this moment be only a passing renewal, or do grounds exist for an ongoing fruitful relationship? Are our connections only in the past, or could we both grow from strengthening our ties?
  • If time can heal wounds, can it increase appreciation or love? Is this what hindsight does for us?
  • How is it that a small moment of greeting can have such an effect? What are the implications of this kind of experience on m relationships past or present?

     No matter how I answer these questions or develop these thoughts, I've been touched by unexpected gifts, and I hope they overflow, deepening my sensitivity to others. Maybe such experiences can put me into a mindset that expands both my heart and my vision from today into my tomorrows.        Colleen Winston, OSB