Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Christmas Hymn by Richard Wilbur

As a child I had only a rudimentary understanding of the Incarnation. The Christmas crib, the Holy Family, giving rather than getting, and the fact that so many people had so little and we should be grateful—these were part of the Christmas experience. Jesus as redeemer and savior remained on the fringe of my awareness until much later. I must have filtered out the Advent texts of Isaiah.

Richard Wilbur’s text A Christmas Hymn or A Stable Lamp is Lighted has edged out many traditional carols for me. We visit the stable at Bethlehem briefly, then move to Palm Sunday. As the Pharisees tell Jesus to make his disciples stop singing Hosanna, Jesus responds, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would cry out.” Throughout the hymn Wilbur repeats the phrase “and every stone shall cry”. These stones pave the roadway to the coming kingdom, they cry for hearts made hard by sin and for the times God’s love is refused. They cry in praises of the child “by whose descent among us the worlds are reconciled.”

In an interview Richard Wilbur remembered the challenge set to him by composer Richard Winslow. If you write a hymn and you’re serious about it, you have no business filling in with maverick notions of your own. A hymn has to be perfectly orthodox so that a congregation can belt it out with one voice. He commented that Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts had met this challenge many times, and we who sing their texts know this well.

It is a gift to be able to encompass in one hymn Jesus’ coming among us, his life, death and resurrection. After I learned this hymn years ago, I began to notice the text of other Christmas hymns and carols. Some are fixed on the nativity scene, as in a tableau. Others engage us in the wholeness of the mystery.
Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

To listen to A Stable Lamp is Lighted click here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Our Best Christmas Gift

          As this Advent reaches its fulfillment in celebrating the birth of Christ, and looking forward to His next coming, whether it be at our death or at His final coming, I ask myself, “Why did He come in the first place?” Actually, it was a gift from our Father in heaven.
            It seems to me as I scan the Gospels, Jesus’ whole purpose was to reveal God as a loving Father, and to do His Will to the very end.  Jesus calls Him no other name but Father, or “Abba” as in Mark 14:36: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you,” crying out in the most intimate way He could.
            A real father is a loving provider, teacher, and protector; he is the daddy who brings home the groceries, helps to put the children to bed at night, fixes things that are broken, teaches them how to ride a bike, to dive off the board and to swim, or to drive a car, to manage money, make it through education, and who protects them from danger, and even be the Santa who provides gifts at Christmas. 
            No father is perfect – but Jesus revealed to us a Father who is the perfect model. As a boy, He knew it: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49)
            Later he teaches, “No one knows who the Father is, except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” (Luke 10:21-22) What else does Jesus tell us? He mentions the Father to the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4;21-24) In chapters 5-6 there is more of his teaching about the Father. He says, “I preach only what the Father has taught me.” (John 8) In His dialog at the Last Supper, it seems Jesus cannot stop; there is so much more to tell us! (John Ch. 13-17)
Like a good dad, the Father provides for all our needs. Jesus says, “Your Father knows that you need those things, (Luke 12:31) and in verse 32, “It has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom.” And, “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” (Luke 11: 13) Wow! The Kingdom? The Holy Spirit?  Even after “he gave us His only-begotten Son. . . that the world might be saved through him”  (John 3:16-17) And don’t forget the daily bread and everything else to pray about: “When you pray say, ‘Our Father. . .’ ” (Luke 11:2) Thank you Jesus, for reminding us of all these great helps provided by our Father.
The Father protects his family from harm, Jesus tells us “Do you suppose that I cannot entreat my Father, and he will even now furnish me with more that twelve legions of angels?”  (Matthew 26: 53)
          “I believe in God the Father Almighty,” we say in our creed. I thank you God, my Father, our Father, for the gift of your Son whose birthday we commemorate every year at Christmas
        Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Journeying With Mary in Advent

         Pope Francis stated in a talk on November 29,2016 : "God reveals his mysteries not to the wise and the learned but to those who are humble and childlike. Advent is a time to journey to meet the Lord."
         On December 12,the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe; our chaplain,  Fr. John Cahill, commented on the Gospel of Mary journeying to visit her cousin, Elizabeth also with child. Then he went on the discuss the journey of Mary at Guadalupe  in Mexico and in Spain. Which was unknown to most of us. Fascinated with this information. I gleaned from the internet much of the following. 
         Frequently Advent is equated with 'waiting'. However this waiting is not only sitting in silence but actively reaching out to others also on this journey of joyful expectation of the coming of our Lord. Mary of above all others was acutely aware of this.
         Most of us know the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe of Mexico declared Patroness of all the American continent. In the 16th century a poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name of Juan Diego. At age 57, a humble man, he was journeying to a nearby barrio to attend mass in honor of Our Lady when he heard a beautiful music as of many birds warbling. Then a radiant cloud appeared and within it stood a young native maiden dressed as an Aztec princess. She spoke to him in his own language asking him to go to the Bishop and ask him to build a chapel on this site.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
          The bishop was s Franciscan named Juan de Zummarraga. He asked Juan Diego to have the Lady send him a sign to let him know she was not just a figment of imagination supposedly.  At the same time an uncle of Juan Diego became seriously ill. In caring for his uncle and unsure of how he as a poor man could ask the of The Lady he tried to avoid her.
         However the Lady did find him and journeyed there. She let him know that his uncle would recover and provided him with unseasonable roses which filled his cape [tilma].  When he presented these to the bishop an image of Mary appeared exactly as she had appeared on the hillside on December 9th,1531. Then the bishop asked the name of the Lady, he heard in the native language Coatlaxopeuh [that translates to 'she who crushes the serpent' and pronounced Quatlasupe. The Spanish bishop assumed it was Guadalupe as he knew of the shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe there.
Nuesta Senora of Quadalupe
         Now for the rest of the story of Mary's journey in Spain. In Extremadura,Spain there is a royal Monastery of Guadalupe in which is kept a famed statue of Nuestra Senora of Quadalupe. Local legend has it that a statue  of a Black Madonna supposedly carved by St Luke and later given to St Leander,archbishop of Seville. Many cures and miracles were attributed to intercession of this Black Madonna.
          In 712 as the Moors were overtaking the local territory, a group of priests fled with the statue and buried it in the hills near the Guadalupe River. In the 14th Century as a poor, humble cowboy named Gil Cordero was searching for a lost animal, a beautiful Lady appeared to him and asked him to get the local priests to dig at this site. Here was found the Statue of the Beautiful Black Madonna in perfect Condition. 
         A shrine was built and Alfonso XI the King endowed a Hieronymite monastery. In the 16th century, Mary became the patron of all Spain's New World territories. Columbus was particularly devoted to her and, after a terrible tempest on his first voyage, made a pilgrimage of thanks to the shrine. For four centuries royalty was closely aligned with the monastery. It became one of the wealthiest ecclesiastical establishments in the country.
          Today the monastery is cared for by nine Franciscan monks and remains one of Spain's most important pilgrimage sites. In 1955 Pope Pius XII declared it to be a minor Papal Basilica.  Pope John Paul II also visited there in his journeying.
         May our advent journeying continue with Our Lady  at our side.

         Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

        This year I extended my ministry of hospitality to being a greeter at our Diocesan Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, in Covington, KY.  It is truly a jewel of the Greater Cincinnati area.  I look forward to my 3 hours there twice a month, welcoming visitors from all over the world to view, pray and experience this most holy temple of the Lord.  I learn something new every time:  from the visitors, from the history, from the docents, from the art work.  The position of the greeter’s desk is directly under the stained glass presentation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed as an article of our faith in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. 
The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
in the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption,
Covington, Kentucky, Scanned from the book
Stories in Glass.
        In the bottom half of this window we see the priests, religious and cardinals witnessing this event:  On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX issued an apostolic constitution called  Ineffabilis Deus (The Ineffable God).  In it he said: “We declare, pronounce, and define thus: the teaching that holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first moments of her conception, had been, by the singular privilege and grace of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from every stain of the original fault, has been revealed by God and is therefore to be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”
        In the 4 panels above we see four different aspects of the Church’s teaching. In the far left panel an angel holds aloft an open book which proclaims in Latin: (The original sin is not in you.) In the next stands Mary, resplendent in the glory given her by God. Next, Sts. Peter and Paul kneel in acknowledgement of this truth, testifying to its ancient roots  And in the far right panel St. Michael the archangel holds a sword, ready to strike at the devil. The devil himself lies prostrate and helpless, holding an open book: (Gen. 3:15: She will crush your head…) Even evil itself testifies to God’s power and majesty.
        Above these panels are two scenes.  On the left are Adam and Eve in the very act of disobedience. On the right stands Isaiah the prophet, proclaiming “Behold, a virgin will conceive…).  These two scenes suggest that God’s providence had already taken human hardness of heart into account, and promises new life.
        At the very top of the window the Blesses Mother holds her infant Son, surrounded by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  She wears a crown on her head:  her eyes look down, a sign of her humility, while He look at us, arms open, inviting us to embrace this mystery.  Years later, this child will stretch out His arms on another tree of life, the cross. 
        May you have the opportunity to view the story told in this window and appreciate more the mystery of God’s saving work in human history.  Each of the other 35 Stories in Glass are worth meditating on as well.

(My source for understanding the images was the book, Stories in Glass, by Msgr.  William F. Cleves, former rector of the Cathedral Parish, where he describes the stories told in 36 of the 82 stained glass window in the Cathedral.)

Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

About Andrew the Apostle

               When the latest St. Walburg Monastery blog schedule appeared, my date was Nov. 30 and immediately I thought, “There’s my topic.” I’ll write about St. Andrew.
                When I became a novice in June of 1945, we had the option of requesting a new name. My mother’s name was Marie which would have been my choice, but all the sisters were given Mary with their new name, so I chose to be surprised. And I was. I became Sr. Andrea to my delight ad that of my family and friends. To my knowledge there had never been a Sister Andrea or Andrew in our community which dated back to 1859. When my sister, Mary Wright, had her second daughter, the daughter became Andrea Wright and always delighted in her name. Our patron is St. Andrew, apostle of Jesus, and today patron of Scotland and Russia.
                The Gospel  tradition. particularly the Gospel of John, consistently groups Andrew with his brother Peter and James and John. He is the follower of John the Baptist, first herald of the Lamb of God, the Messiah, and Andrew brings the good news about the coming Lamb of God to his brother Peter. Together with Philip, who was the same town and seems to have been familiar with the Greeks, Andrew tells Jesus about the boy with five loaves and two fish which fed the huge multitude. Andrew was a consistent follower, but like most of the apostles, only rarely mentioned by name.
                According to tradition there was a literary work, Acts of Andrew, of which only fragments remain. References in other works refer to Andrew’s fidelity to Jesus and his mission. Again according to tradition he was a missionary to the Greeks and was crucified by being tied to an X shaped cross on which he died after preaching for three days from that cross.

                In the 13th century Crusaders stole Andrew’s relics and took them to Constantiinople from which and arm was taken t o St. Andrew’s in Scotland which the translation of the relic is celebrated on May 9. St. Andrew is also the patron of Russia. (see for more information.) May St. Andrew intercede for all whose patron he is!
                     Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fog and Thanksgiving?

         Fog fascinates me. It is as mysterious as it is real. My fascination began with the children's book FOG MAGIC by Julia L. Sauer that I used to read each year to the class I was teaching. From then on, I enjoyed a walk in the fog when it would appear. Our monastery, situated on the hill overlooking the Ohio River, often experiences fog in the morning, Recently, the fog encased the monastery so much so that one could not see even the building that was a stone's throw away.  Seeing only grey looking out the windows, I whispered, "Thank you God for your creativity. Thank you for the colors of our world." 
       That fog inspired this blog about thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, our  American holiday, is a wonderful tradition. A day family and friends gather to give thanks for God's blessings. But, to be thankful is not just a one day thing. It is an attitude. It is a positive way of thinking and acting. A smile, a kindness extended, a word that encourages, a simple "thank you." Those two little words most often return to the sender.
       Eucharist is thanksgiving at its utmost. The Scripture readings for Thanksgiving Day Mass are filled with the blessings of God. In the reading from Sirach, "we bless the God who has done wondrous things on earth" and ask "that God grant us joy of heart, peace and goodness that endures."
     The Responsorial Psalm picks up the theme with the words, "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and compassionate to all God's works."  In Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians he tells them to "thank God for the grace bestowed on them in Jesus Christ which enriches them in every way.  God is faithful!"
      In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells  the man who was cured of possession to "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his kindness has done for you."
     Cultivating an "attitude of gratitude" can open our eyes to see how many times a day God blesses us. Thankfulness gets us "out of the fog" to see the beauty in each person and each experience we have.Thankfulness does become more than a one day thing. More than just a once a year celebration.
     Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Who Will Answer?

      Last Thursday evening, I attended a Confirmation. There were over 50 Confirmandi.  One of the  intercessions at the Mass was, "For an increase of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and the religious life for our Diocese".

      Thinking on this, I wondered how many of the Confirmandi would hear and respond to the Lord's call to follow Him in religious life or ordained ministry.
      This led me to think of my own Confirmation and how scared I was that the bishop would call on me to answer a question.  I sat on the end of the pew and the bishop stood right by the pew.  I kept my head down and kept blowing my nose. I never got called on by the bishop. However, I did get called on by the Lord.  Did I respond readily?  No.  It was several years later and circumstances led me to this response.

      I believe God does have a plan for us and if we do not hear the first time, will continue to call.  I am glad that I responded. It has made a big difference in my life.  I'd like also to think it has also made a difference in the lives of the many people who I would never had met elsewhere.

      We at St. Walburg Monastery need women to respond to the vocation of a Benedictine Sister.  I am sure this is also true  of the other orders in our Diocese.  The work and opportunities are still there.  Prayer and community life are important aspects of religious life.  The one question that remains is "Who will answer"?  Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

From Hearing to Listening to Healing

       Wed., 11/9  Overnight the primal scream that has been crying throughout the world found its voice in the United States. A significant part of the US population that has felt unheard and ignored for a long time forced the rest of the country to feel its pain. With seismic force, chasms that many did not know existed, were unearthed in the cities and countrysides of America
       After an election colored by name calling, harsh judgments, and false assumptions across the political spectrum, our country is left to deal with a pain, fear, and frustration similar to that which  has raised its head in many countries around the globe. From African countries with no stable government to England, from Arab Spring to Brexit, groups of people have been forcing those who hold the reins of power to pay attention to them. 
       The causes underlying this cacophony are probably multiple, but I’d guess a major one stems from the almost cataclysmic changes that have come to us in just one lifetime - communication, immigration, manufacturing, transportation……  As one commentator put it, it’s as powerful a change in society as the 19th century industrial revolution. And who’s been hurt the most? The millions of people who have the fewest resources to cope.
       What now? During the election campaign, lines weren’t just drawn in the sand; ditches were dug. Bridges weren’t just dismantled; they were bombed. How does one move on from here?  How does healing and reconstruction begin? Who can lead? 
       This is where we come in, we, people of faith and good will. Our call is as seismic as the one that shook our country last night. We who believe in a power greater than a single individual - humanist, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Native American… - all of us are being challenged to reach out across all divides, old or new, to learn another’s reality. Painful as it is, we need to listen to another person’s truth, and try to understand why theirs is different from our own.  All of us are wounded in some way. We are frail and imperfect, but each of us has the power to heal another because we have the power to love. Listening is a form of loving. 
       As a Catholic Christian, I know that the God who lives within me lives within each person around me. I know that Jesus reached out across society’s dividing lines and touched the good within others who had been judged sinful or religiously unclean. I am called to imitate him, and, because at one time or another I have experienced it, I know a word or a touch can heal.
        On this 11/9 I am reminded of another 9/11 when our country was called to come together. Today and the days to come, we are called to put on a new mind, a mind that realizes our individual perspective is not always shared by others, but if we work at it, we can probably find common ground. Our forebears who wrote the constitution had a similar challenge. They succeeded. Can we? Then what?
Blessings on us all for the difficult journey ahead.
                       Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Celebration, Remembrance…An Invitation

This week we celebrate and remember a motley crew in All Saints and All Souls many of whom were both revered and/or reviled in their lifetime.  The legacy celebrated is one of human holiness, not of the perfect, but of those who strove and upon whom we call  to help us do the same.
                We read on All Saints from the 1 John 3:2a “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be as not yet been revealed.” 
What would happen if we treated one another as saints in progress, seeing the potential and possibility in one another?  If we made space for gray in a time and place that fosters polarity?  Or if we responded with compassion and understanding in the face of resistance and hurt?   Coming from this place could we recognize that we each are working for a common goal on this side of heaven? 

Perhaps in these feasts we find not only celebration and remembrance, but an invitation to the best which lies in each of us as God’s children now in our time and place as we together strive forward with compassion and grace in our human holiness.
Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Prayer for peace

It’s been a long summer of painful political discourse—to put it mildly. Two weeks ago I read Pope Francis’ prayer for peace that he offered in a service with Chaldean Catholics of Georgia. I offer a few paraphrases lines that resonated and stayed with me.

            Lord Jesus, we adore your cross which frees us from sin, the origin of every division. We long for your kingdom of justice, joy and peace.
Lord Jesus, by your glorious passion conquer the hardness of our hearts imprisoned by hatred and selfishness.
Lord Jesus, cast forth the shadow of your cross over peoples that we may learn the way of reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness.

O Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, you who stood at the foot of the cross, obtain from your 
Son, pardon for our sins. Sustain our faith and our hope and teach us the royal road of service and the glory of love. AMEN.

                  Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB           

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Let us hold onto the Year of Mercy

        Many times in the Gospels this week Jesus calls out the Pharisees and scholars. He minces no words in pointing out the obvious disconnect between how they see themselves and what motivates them. Jesus describes their inner states; “you are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk” (Luke 11:44)  . . . and their outer states; ”you impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”(Luke 11:46) I have thought about the woes Jesus might be saying to me, have you?
        Paul succinctly in the first reading on Tuesday prescribes the antidote to the Pharisees behavior by stating “but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6) can the outside behaviors and the inside motivators keep us aligned with Jesus.
         There are many who exemplify their faith through actions of love. Isn’t this where continued growth needs to take place? “Today God loves the world through you and me. . . God proves that Christ loves us that he has come to be his Father’s compassion” wrote Mother Teresa. Is this not part of Pope Francis message when declaring in this Jubilee Year of Mercy that we must “Be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) We continually are called to “presence” Christ in our lives and the way we live them. When our lives are in harmony with the merciful, compassionate Jesus, the likelihood of being called out with “woe to you” is replaced by “Come all you blessed ones.”

         The solemnity of Christ the King on November 20 formally closes out the Year of Mercy. Doesn’t it seem way too soon for the year of mercy to end? With all that is occurring in our country and throughout the world would it not be helpful to extend the Year of Mercy for another year or a decade, better yet forever? 
        Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

          When I received the habit of our Benedictine community in 1947, I had asked for and received the name Sister Victoria. I wanted a name in honor of Mary, and I would celebrate my new name in honor of Mary, Our Lady of Victory on October 7. I had discovered that there was a fierce battle (1571) between the forces of the Ottoman Fleet and the Holy League, a coalition of southern European Catholic maritime state s organized by Pope Pius V. The Holy League surprisingly won. In history this victory is known as the Battle of Lepanto (off the coast of western Greece.) The victory was attributed to the many rosaries prayed at the request of Pope Pius V who ordered the churches of Rome opened for prayer day and night, encouraging the faithful to petition the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the recitation of the Rosary. After the victory Pope Pius V added a new feast day to the Roman Liturgical Calendar as the feast of Our Lady of Victory.
Madonna of the Rosary (with Mysteries of the Rosary) - by Lorenzo Lotto
(1539) Oil on canvasChurch of San Nicolo, Cingoli
In 1573 Pope Gregory the XIII changed the title of the "Feast of Our Lady of Victory" to "Feast of the Holy Rosary". Pope Clement XI extended the feast to the whole of Latin Rite, inserting it into the General Roman Calendar in 1716, and assigning it to the first Sunday in October. Pope Pius X changed the date to October 7 in 1913. In 1960 Pope John XXIII changed the title to "Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary".
Do you wonder why I was so interested in all this background? Actually, I love the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, but I am also quite attached to the title of Our Lady of Victory. I was happy to find an article by Fr. Streve Grunow that reminded me we all have our Lepantos that rage within our troubled souls. In the midst of these battles Christ fights for us and our Lady of Victory is at his side. I also remember that the various titles attributed to Mary would take pages to enumerate. So in my prayers on October 7, I will also pray to my beloved Lady of Victory.

             Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Meanings of Jubilee

            On Saturday September 24 at Evening Prayer Sr. Christa and I celebrated our Golden Jubilee. The following is a selection from the talk I gave about the many meanings of Jubilee:
Jubilee is a multi-layered word and concept, and I’ve been trying to get my head around its meanings for the past year.
What are we doing when we celebrate a jubilee? There is the anniversary aspect of jubilee. We celebrate the passage of time since we began something. In this case, since Christa and I made first profession-- five decades ago.
What makes an anniversary a jubilee? In religious communities, a jubilee has come to mean a public celebration of a passage of time in a relationship, e.g, religious life, marriage, ordination.
Jubilee is not a term found in the 6th century Rule of St. Benedict.I n the rule monks only get credit for persevering in the monastery until death.
Jubilee, however, has a deeper meaning than an anniversary. In our reading this evening Isaiah (chapter 61) talks about what will happen in a “year of the Lord’s favor,” in a year of Jubilee. Isaiah is referring to the Hebrew Jubilee Year celebrated at the end of 7 cycles of 7 years (every fifty years). The word jubilee comes from the Hebrew word jovel which means “a trumpet blast of liberty” or from the Latin verb jubilio meaning “shout for joy.”
Originally the Hebrew Jubilee year was concerned with land, property, property rights and coming back to the land or family of your origin. According to Leviticus 25, slaves and prisoners would also be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be celebrated by all. It was a celebration rooted in tribal culture, grounded deeply in idea of the Sabbath-keeping—the seventh day is holy and should be lived in a special way-- and a call from God to be more inclusive. Isaiah 61 takes the tribal celebration and extends it to a time of relief to all who were suffering in any way.
Isaiah reminds us:
“To bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
to comfort all who mourn;
to build up the ancient ruins,
to raise up the former devastations;
to repair ruined cities and the devastations of many generations.”
When Jesus preached in the synagogue of his home town at Nazareth, he quoted this passage from Isaiah, and at the end of it he says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Thus Jesus announced himself as the man of jubilee and brought the concept of jubilee into the New Covenant. And because Jesus is the new embodiment of jubilee, The members of his church are called to be the embodiment of jubilee as well. We are all jubilee people too.
The Church itself first celebrated a year of jubilee in 1300 when the medieval world was wracked by wars and the plague. Pilgrims had begun to come to Rome spontaneously, and Pope Boniface VIII was moved to declare that those who made the journey to Rome (came back to the land of their origin) and confessed their sins would be forgiven and given special blessings.
Boniface had intended that a Jubilee year be celebrated every hundred years. Subsequent Popes thought it might be celebrated every 33 years representing Christ’s life on earth and the average span of human life in those days. at present there is no designated number of years between Jubilee years. The Pope can declare a jubilee year when he feels the times require one.
We are blessed that Pope Francis has proclaimed this year as Jubilee year of Mercy, reminding us of God’s mercy toward us and how to extend mercy to others.
What does of all this say about today’s celebration? In this Benedictine community we get to celebrate a jubilee year every year. Every year one of us celebrates a significant amount of time in monastic profession. In community we are called to be jubilee people every year. In the community of the Church, all Christians are called through baptism to be jubilee people as well.
Jubilee calls us to forgive debts, to ask for forgiveness and be formed
       by forgiveness given to us.
Jubilee calls us to offer liberty and freedom to those
       bound by any chains of oppression or addiction.
Jubilee calls us to give thanks always and everywhere to God.
Jubilee calls us to remember and rely on the mercies of God.
Jubilee calls us to extend mercy to others.
Jubilee calls us to shout for joy through our talents and skills.
Jubilee calla us to be kind.

My own jubilee prayer comes from the hymn, O God Beyond All Praising.
    “O God beyond all praising , we worship you today
   And sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay.
   For we can only wonder at every gift you send.
   At blessings without number and mercies without end.
   We lift our hearts before you and wait upon your word.
   We honor and adore you, our great and mighty Lord.”

Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Immigration – Pausing to Reflect

             In my sophomore year at Villa Madonna Academy I wrote a short story about a teenage girl arriving at Ellis Island from Europe, much as my grandmother had many years before. I remember trying to “put myself in her shoes”.  I don’t think that the story was very good from a literary view point, but that is beside the point here. I tell you that to let you know that I have always been concerned about people who are immigrating to our country.
Our Benedictine foremothers arrived here from Germany in 1852, recruited by American bishops to teach and otherwise care for the German immigrants flooding into the cities. As I grew up everyone I knew was a member of a family from somewhere else – mostly Western European countries: Italy, England, Ireland, France. Some were even the exotic “war brides” from the Philippines. I knew there were Federal Immigration Policies, but they did not seem to be overbearing and impose hardships. But in more recent years much has changed.
“Nationwide, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been conducting target enforcement actions, focusing on immigrant women and children who have arrived from Central America in the last two years. With the presence of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) in the greater Cincinnati area, fear continues to plague the local immigrant community, many afraid to leave their homes for work or school. Cities across the nation including Chicago, Minneapolis, and Raleigh have held public protest and vigils in opposition to these enforcement tactics asking DHS to stop separating families.” (from the press release about the 9.18.16 Rally and March)

This is the background for my getting involved in planning the Rally and March for Immigration Reform that took place this past Sunday, September 18 in Newport, KY. The event was held at Holy Spirit Church with a march to the World Peace Bell. Approximately two hundred people participated to hear the stories of young people tell of their need and desire to come and stay in the United States. We sang to the music of Christo Rey Parish musicians and those of the Guatemalan Catholic Community who worship at St. Anthony parish, Taylor Mill. And we committed ourselves to hold our elected officials accountable for enacting just and comprehensive immigration legislation now. If you would like to join me in the action, please email me at
Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Prayer for Children

     How fast the days fly!  Soon it will be time for interim reports at school.  Yet, I am still striving to learn the names of all the students I contact daily.
    The third graders, most of whom I had for religion last year, have grown some.  I am delighted to have them again, along with our current second graders.  Not a single Catholic among them, yet, most claim the parish church as their own.  It is there that they participate in a weekly Mass or prayer service.         
     In these children, I see the light of God’s love shining out. Their innate goodness and desire to trust humbles me.  They are so ready for the Good News!  They love hearing about Jesus. After yesterday’s lesson, one youngster asked if she could be a Christian even if she’s not baptized. 
            During morning prayer, on this feast of the Holy Cross, this child and all the others, came to mind. 
        Lord Jesus, I place these children and their families
        in your heart, along with children throughout the earth.
        May your cross be for them a tree of life, a fountain of
        blessings and a shield in adversity.  Grant that all may
        come to share in the glory of the redemption that you have
        won for us.

            Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Monastery Workout

       “March!  March!  March! ...” At Sr. Andrea’s bidding five to ten pairs of feet move up and down.  It is either Tuesday or Thursday at 10:00 sharp and we are seated in a circle and beginning an hour of exercise.  “Charlie Chaplin went to France to teach those ladies how to dance.” We repeat the chant over and over as our feet make scissor motions on the floor.  Coursing blood, give praise.
       “Raise your legs and point your toes. Heel, toe, heel, toe…” Flexing muscles and stretching tendons, give praise.
        “Let us do the Sr. Carmella (member of the group until she died at age 104) swing.” We put our arms above our heads and let them fall to our sides. Bones and joints, give praise. Mystery of gravity, give praise.
       “It’s time to do funny faces; that’s an easy one!”  We recite the five vowels while contorting the muscles of the face.  Spoken word and magic of language, give praise.
       “Twist on your seat, feel it in the lower back. “ “Let your head go round and round; now the other way.” Amazing circular motion, give praise.
       “It’s time for the rub down. Rub that old forehead, rub it and rub it. Now your temples. Then cheek bones. Cheeks. Chin. Down that old neck. Arms. Legs, down to those old ankle bones and back up again.” Unique faces and variety of shapes, give praise.
        “Let us do the dive.” Hands together; arms move up on the right and then down; up on the left and then down.  “Up and down, up and down…”  Beating heart and warm bodies, give praise.
        “Grab a star and throw it….” Our arms flail in the air.   All the world, give praise, sing praise and exalt God forever.
       After a rest out comes the ball. A beach ball is batted around the circle. The object is to keep it moving. We develop our concentration, hand to eye coordination and move all parts without thinking. Freedom of movement, give praise. Spirit of joy, give praise. All who move upon the earth, sing praise and exalt God forever.

(Paraphrase from the book of Daniel.)
     Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Editor's Note: This post cries out for a picture. We will get one up next Tuesday.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Three August Harvests

             August is the month when we expect and usually get a large harvest of cucumbers, basil and tomatoes here at St. Walburg Monastery. This August we received three unexpected harvests from seeds we had sown years ago.         

            On August 9 in an article in the Northern Kentucky Tribune, an online publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism, Theresa Vu, owner of Theresa’s Alterations in Erlanger, told the story of her family fleeing Vietnam in 1981. Her family left on a makeshift 30-foot boat and spent three years in different camps in Thailand and the Philippines. In late 1984 the Diocese of Covington arranged for them to come to Covington. Theresa says, “We came here with $20 in our pocket and the clothes on our back. We were helped by the Benedictine Sisters at Villa Madonna.” Because Theresa was highly skilled in sewing, she got a job at an alterations shop in Covington and now owns her own business. We were pleased to see Theresa’s story and to recall the ministry Srs. Thomas Noll and Sylvester Shea (pictured above with Theresa and her daughter) undertook to help Vietnamese refugees.

             On August 10 Thomas More College officially named its library the Benedictine Library to honor the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery. The sign with the name of the library was unveiled at a ceremony on the campus and is the result of an anonymous $4 million matching gift to
the college. The donation, the largest in the history of Thomas More, came with the stipulation that the Benedictine Sisters be honored “in a significant manner.”

In 1921 the Benedictine Sisters began Villa Madonna College in the 1907 Villa Madonna Academy building to prepare Benedictine sisters and laywomen to teach in Catholic schools. In 1928 the college became a diocesan college under the auspices of the bishop and in 1968 it was renamed Thomas More College. At the unveiling ceremony, Dr. David Armstrong, President of the College said, “We educate students of all faiths, to examine the ultimate meaning of life, their place in the world and their responsibility to others. The Benedictine Sisters have been living that mission from day one and certainly did it in the founding of Villa Madonna College/Thomas More College.”

We are proud of the flourishing educational institution Thomas More College has become and are grateful to the anonymous donor for the honor of having the library named the Benedictine Library.

               On August 31 we received a letter from David Hastings, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities of Northern Kentucky (HONK) recalling the project we undertook with HONK in 2009 as part of celebrating our 150th anniversary. We partnered with HONK to raise $100,000 to build a new house not far from our original monastery in Covington’s Eastside. The house was named the House of Blessing and in the summer of 2009 a young self-employed family selected by HONK moved into it with the dream of making the house their own. HONK sponsored programs which taught them how to manage finances while living in the home they were working to buy They also learned how to care for the home and what it meant to be a homeowner. From 2009 to 2016 they experienced significant setbacks which could have discouraged them from continuing. They became homeowners this summer and HONK created a book of photographs chronicling the story of the House of Blessing.

These three stories of seeds we planted becoming “good fruit” leave us full of gratitude. We are honored to be part of these three harvests and we praise God who continues to bless the work of our hands.

 Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

      In June I was blessed to be part of Villa Madonna Academy’s trip to Italy. It was a fantastic trip to a truly remarkable country. Two important events from that trip left a lasting impression.
       First was our visit to Monte Cassino. the most famous of St. Benedict’s monasteries where he actually lived and died. Being at Monte Cassino was such a blessing for me as a Benedictine. As we approached Monte Cassino after a harrowing bus ride up any number of hairpin turns the first thing we saw was the main door with the word PAX above it: PEACE! A feeling of peace really did overwhelm me.
       Monte Cassino is a beautiful, light and bright monastery with a beautiful church and museum. It’s amazing that it’s even there. The monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt four different times since it was built in the early 6th century. The last time was after it was almost completely destroyed in the bombing of World War II. I can still see the room where St. Benedict lived, now a small chapel, and his tomb which was not destroyed in the bombing of World War II. We saw many other parts of the monastery but the PEACE door stays with me the most.
       We, as Benedictines and Catholics, carry that tradition of PEACE forward in whatever we do as we strive to be respectful and helpful and peaceful. I thought to myself, what if we put the word PEACE over every door throughout our homes and work places. Would that encourage all of us to be more peaceful; more aware of the need in our world and in our lives for PEACE? I think it’s worth a try.
       On our second last day we were in the 10th to 12th rows at the Pope’s audience in St. Peter’s square. It is hard to express how moved I was, and I’m sure others were, just by being in Pope Francis’ presence. This second experience with Pope Francis was equally as remarkable as being at Monte Cassino.  First of all, when he passed us in the Pope-mobile I am sure that he was waving just to me. We made eye-contact, for sure.
       His message that day which was translated in five languages was one of acceptance of each person as a brother or sister. He spontaneously welcomed a group of about 10 refugees that he had spotted in the crowd to join him under the canopy. It was a moving moment for all of us. He truly lives what he proclaims.
What would be the effect if we also welcomed others who are not like us? What would happen if we truly showed mercy to those in need? I believe that can be the path to true peace.
       And finally, shortly after we arrived home from Italy the sniper shootings in Dallas occurred. I have good friends in Dallas and contacted them to be sure they were okay.
When I expressed my feeling of hopelessness in the face of such senseless violence my friend offered the advice that we should all pray ceaselessly for peace.
       I was humbled that she had to tell me that. I think that would be St. Benedict’s and Pope Francis’ advice as well.
       So, in our world, so in need of peace, let us make it our goal to live in peace, to proclaim peace, to write it in our hearts and minds, and pray for peace every day.

       God bless you and your school year. 
        Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB