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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer's Abundance

Cucumbers picked daily multiply.
They become pickles--sweet and dill--when canned.

Peaches come in by the basketsful.
They become jam, peaches on ice cream, cereal or peach cobbler.

The raised garden shows off its giant sunflowers.
They look down on the vine-covered fence.

Flowers and vegetables thirst for rain.
The sun sears with heat.

Sr. Cathy in front of the garden .
Rain comes in downpours.
Branches fall but life revives.

A special oblate dies.
Do those who mourn realize their loss?

Politicians rant and rave.
Who will save?

Guns and suicide bombs kill and maim.
Who will save?

Compassion and mercy are Pope Francis' plea.
Who will listen?  Who will act?

Summer days grow short.
Will the night bring peace?
Will the morning bring new life?

Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Culture of Fear

           On July 16, just a month ago, we prayed the following verses from Isaiah 25: 1-4, 6-9 during Morning Prayer:

       On this mountain
       God will destroy the shroud that is cast over all people
       the sheet that is spread over the nations
      God will swallow up death forever.
      God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
      will take away the disgrace of the people from all the earth,
      for God has spoken.
           The day before, a man drove a large truck through crowds of people celebrating France’s Independence Day on the French Riviera, killing dozens and wounding many others.We keep having these incidents, and throughout our country too, bombings and shootings galore.It happens in schools, a church, a restaurant, and all kinds of places where people are gathered together. So what do we do? We lock all our doors, we go around scared of everyone. Is it safe to go grocery shopping in a store where people may carry concealed weapons?
           I prayed the psalm again, using “terrorism,”  “shooting” or “bombing” in place of shroud, “fear” in place of sheet.
           I grew up with little or no fear, even though WW II was raging across the ocean as my two uncles in the armed services defended us. In primary grades I walked almost a mile to school every day, crossing five side streets. At age eight my mother put me on the bus to go downtown for swimming lessons at the YMCA and uptown for piano lessons, then crossing a four lane highway with no traffic light to get home.  As a high school student, I got off the bus many a Saturday night after YCS dances to walk up a dark winding street with no lights. I heard rustling in the bushes and field, prayed to my guardian angel and was assured it was only a bunny or squirrel nestling in for the night. As an adventurous adult, I was not afraid to walk the streets or to use public transportation in London, Vienna, Cuernavaca or Washington, DC. I was careful but not na├»ve.
           But now? Are we to think of every human being we meet as a potential thief, or killer?
Back to prayer:
        God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
        will take away the disgrace of the people from all the earth,
        for God has spoken.
           Yes Lord, You have spoken. Are we listening? With Your help, surely we can make a difference. Can we deal with anger, resentment, injustice, vengeance, the bullied child, and the bullies? Can we turn this energy into good for others? Can we turn the culture of fear into a culture of trust and mutual respect?          
                Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB