Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Miracles: Walburga, Newman and Kingsley

       The feast of St. Walburga, abbess, draws near (Feb. 25). Rereading the section of John Henry Newman’s The Lives of the English Saints that pertains to her, I googled “saints who were unguentiferous”, referring to those whose bones exude some type of oil or liquid, as hers do. 
I was unaware of the ferocious response Dr. Charles Kingsley made to Newman in 1864 concerning this very work. Newman had compiled stories of saints’ lives “written by various hands.” 
        Dr. Kingsley did not object when the accounts were “treated openly as legends and myths”, but found them “dangerous enough, when they stand side by side with stories told in earnest, like that of St. Walburga.” He considered the stories of miracles attributed to Walburg’s oil “sheer Popery, sapping the very foundation of historic truth” and “stuff and nonsense…I really must recollect that my readers and I are living in the nineteenth century.” 
       From the perspective of the twenty-first century, I have to say I rather enjoyed reading the several pages of Dr. Kingsley’s outrage. Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua was his eloquent reply to Dr. Charles Kingsley. 
      Are the miracles associated with St. Walburg and other saints mere myths and legends? The Lives of the English Saints recounts for us their charity and human kindness, that mercy which flows from love for their brothers and sisters, a “healing stream of compassion.” The miracle of the work of mercy brings a healing that no one can dispute.

Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Choice: Skepticism or Hope

       It's so easy to be a skeptic today! It's easy to rail against systems and people who are supposed to work for our benefit but fail us.

       I think today's political stage is so chaotic in part because it acts like a great pressure release valve for  the frustration and anger many people feel about systems that make their life difficult. Lots of things are broken, and people are searching for a "fixer." Candidates who promise something simple and certain get lots of attention. Desperation seeks quick solutions.

       Amazingly, there is something buried in this maelstrom that unites everyone involved. Every single person believes there is a way out. Every one has hope! Looked at from this perspective, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Pope Francis and even Jesus all have something in common: the fervent crowds that follow them believe they have answers that can fix systems and better their lives. This seems especially obvious in the ministry of Pope Francis.

       Why has this man stirred the hearts of the world? One reason is, I think, because he exudes hope. He chooses to live and minister especially to the people who have little hope – the poor, sick, imprisoned, unemployed….  Like Jesus, people in need flock to him. Like Jesus, no one in our time has spoken quite like this, and he speaks with authority drenched in love and compassion.

       Hope is a power source; one can see that today in the crowds following both Francis and the presidential candidates. Hope contains a challenge though. It addresses what may come, not what is or was. This means work is involved. Hope lives not in a vacuum but in individuals. It gives them energy and impetus that must be tapped if it is to bear fruit.

       The French poet Charles Peguy (1873-1914) wrote that while "hope moves the world…and carries it," hope itself is carried by its two sisters, faith and charity. (Portal of the Mystery of Hope, 1912) The person with hope must believe in the cause and have enough love for self and others to do the work. It requires no work to be a skeptic or to accept simplistic answers to profoundly complex questions, so hope is often the "road less travelled," to use Robert Frost's famous image (The Road Not Taken, 1916).

       During this Lenten season we are conscious that Jesus didn't take the easy path. The path laid out by his Father took profound hope.  Knowing this, Jesus told us that if we want to be his follower, the cross must be our baggage too. Quick and easy answers weren't part of his life plan; we can't expect this to be true of ours.

       As the common saying goes, if something seems too good to be true, it very likely is not, whether it's a "solution" for an immigration problem or an international dilemma like ISIS. Hope demands more than wishing or commanding. Hope's power is unleashed when a community of seekers decides to turn from skepticism, join hands in faith, and walk forward through the chaos in shared wisdom, strength, and courage. Maybe Lent is a good time to examine how often skepticism slips into our thinking and nudges out the labor-intensive hope that wants to reside there.
     Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lent: A Healing Remedy

…that our Lenten fast may be pleasing to you and be for us a healing remedy

This section of the prayer after communion for Ash Wednesday caught my attention, launching a dialogue in my head about Lenten practices as healing.When I think of healing I think of injury or surgery which requires not only rest but often specific practices (e.g. physical therapy or a change in diet). Lent has the possibility of being such a period of time for rest with God and practices which impact our relationship with God, ourselves and the broader community to which we each belong. What healing remedies does this Lenten season possibly offer?
Quiet space amidst the busy days to be with God in prayer
    Fasting from indifference to really see and connect with people both near and far.
   Acts of service or mercy which spread kindness and generosity
          Each of us in our own way is in need of healing remedies. 
May we each as the prophet Joel invites rend our hearts during this Lenten season, opening ourselves to the healing potential of Lent on our journey towards Easter.
     Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Blog Day Today

            Recognize Blessings today.

L              Notice Life-sharing words and deeds today.

O             Give listening and loving Obedience by actions today.

G             Express Gratitude to someone in a practical way today.

                                          Sr. Martha Walther, OSB