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