Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Who could believe such a thing?

       Christmas is all about God’s love for us. God loves me! Unbelievable! Unbelievable? If the Word of God had not revealed this to us we could not have accepted it. We would not dare.
       Psalm 8 puts it this way: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you created—who are we that you should be mindful of us, that you should care for us?”
       My awe of God’s Creation has exploded to unimaginable levels by the findings of modern exploration of space about our galaxy, other galaxies, even perhaps those with planets capable of supporting living beings similar to us. Whoa! This is way beyond my imagination and I admit to being a bit humbled to even ponder how this great and awesome God would care for me. And yet I believe it to be. Not because my own limited understanding has it figured out, but because my forebears in faith have entrusted this message to me through the power of the Holy Spirit. And my companions in the company of Jesus share this faith with me.
       No wonder that Christmas is a time for us to gather together and remind ourselves of the Great Story of Love Incarnate.

      Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Patience and presence

     Patience and presence are two themes of the Advent Season. I ask myself, how I am measuring up with these on my Advent journey.  Christmas is around the corner.

     Waiting in long checkout lines and slow traffic patterns test my patience, may even raise my blood pressure. I am trying to be especially aware to be present to everyone. (Everyone?  This could be stretching it a bit).

     During these last days in the Advent Season, do I give others enough time to interact with me?  Do I recognize Jesus in them? Do I listen to meet their needs or am I so busy with my own needs?

     Our faith reminds us that God is always present to us no matter how busy we may be.The Advent Season reminds us to be aware and present to ways Jesus does come to us.

     Jesus comes in history, He comes in mystery and He comes in majesty. May we welcome Jesus, not only on Christmas but in everyone we meet and especially at the end of our lives.

     Have a wonderful Christmas, filled with Christ's presence.
        Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pray for migrants, refugees and immigrants

       December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: "The Catholic bishops of the United States are encouraging Catholics to observe this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a day of solidarity with immigrants."

       As we celebrate this feast today I remember that I am the product of immigrants. My great grandparents all came from Europe in the late 1800s in hopes of finding a better life. They didn’t speak English and didn’t have much money. I wonder if they were welcomed by those already here or if they were maligned for their efforts to give their children and grandchildren more than they had. What is different today as many in our country want to separate families by sending parents back to their home countries, and make it harder and harder for those coming to the United States to become legal members of our society? Where would I be if my ancestors had faced similar treatment?
 
       As some of you may know, there were ICE (Immigration, Customs and Enforcement) raids on Dec. 6 in Covington, Newport, Florence, Walton and Verona. ICE agents did NOT target felons as was stated in the media. People going to work at places like Amazon were arrested. ICE entered homes without warrants. Local police agencies were not informed.


       Our Lady of Guadalupe, we ask that you take the needs of all who live in poverty and are vulnerable in our society to the Divine Maker. May they experience the Divine Love tangibly in their daily lives, and may all who work for justice on behalf of the poor grow in fortitude and humility. May each of us support those who need us as they seek a safer life for their families. 
          Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Brief Reflection for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

          From my early youth, I loved Mary, frequently prayed the rosary, and thought of her as my second mother. Her existence to me was as real as my own dear mom. I loved Jesus, but since he was God, it was Mary, I felt, who could lead me to him. As I grew older, the belief that she was conceived without sin meant little to me. 
What amazed me was that she always said yes to God.  I thought how fortunate she was, and that it must have been easier for her than everybody else.
          Now that I am much older, I realize that only through the grace of God could Mary be so open to others’ needs, to the performance of good works, to prayer, and so united with her son in spirit, that her life was totally given.  I remember that she was as human as you and I. Not so easy after all.  She had her day-to- day struggles, times of misunderstandings and fear, great inconveniences, and  deep, wrenching loss. Only with God’s grace, was she able to come through it all.  In other words, she was like us in all ways, except sin. Because she loved more, she trusted more. At Cana, her secret was revealed: “Do as he tells you”, she says, directing us to everlasting life and the Source of all joy!

        Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Reflecting on the First Sunday of Advent

Musings on the gospel of the First Sunday of Advent (Mark 13:33-37), based on the model of Hildegard of Bingen

         Jesus said to his disciples: a circle of men and woman, Jesus sitting with them; perhaps several concentric circles.
         Be watchful! Be alert! St. Benedict would say “Ausculta! Listen!” I often think of the German achtung! which very sound makes me sit taller.
         You do not know when the time will come. Should I fear as some in our culture preach or should I be joyful for the kingdom is near?
         It is like a man traveling abroad. Strangely, I never wished to do that.
        He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, Maybe because there are too many preparations.  Just leaving town for the weekend carries its burdens.
        and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Let someone else carry the responsibilities. Perhaps the traveler is someone else and I am the gatekeeper. Community calls forth many gifts.
       Watch, therefore; That word is back again. Are we slow at accepting the message; do I need to change some behaviors?
       you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, St. Benedict bids us to welcome the guest as Christ and provides a porter to welcome the guest.
      whether in the evening, or at midnight, We don’t always get to pick the time of interruptions or inconveniences.
       or at cockcrow, Sorry, but I hate that sound.
       or in the morning. May I welcome the day and praise God for the opportunities it will bring.
      May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  Or find me reluctant to respond.
      what I say to you, I say to all: ’Watch!’’’ Thank God, we are in this together. .
             Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Remembering Fr. John W. Cahill

Editor's Note: Fr. John Cahill, priest of the Diocese of Covington, was our chaplain for 12 years. He died on November 15, 2017 after 3 weeks in Cardiac ICU at St. Elizabeth Hospital. In his plans for his funeral liturgy he asked that our prioress Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup give the eulogy. This is what she said at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption on November 21.

          The funeral liturgy offers the opportunity for some words of remembrance on Fr. Cahill. I offer both mine and those suggested by members of our community. 
          In the early ‘70s I was assigned to work in the first diocesan Office of Religious Education under the direction of Fr. Fleming who took staff members on a tour of several parishes in southeastern Kentucky. One of our last stops was a memorable lunch with John’s gracious mother in Drift, KY. 
          In 2005 I was working in the marriage tribunal, housed then in the former St. Pius X seminary building.  Sr. Rita Brink, our prioress at the time, remarked one day that our chaplain was going to be transferred. Never having met Fr. Cahill, I mentioned to Rita that there was no weekday Eucharist celebrated at Cristo Rey, the Hispanic parish of the diocese where John was pastor. John became our chaplain on July 1, 2005 while remaining pastor of Cristo Rey. 
         John would often join us for holiday or feast day celebrations and occasionally, in his healthier years, fill in as a needed fourth player for a euchre or pinochle game. We, however, really got to know him through his role as priest and celebrant. 
         John always came to Eucharist prepared. It was common for him to draw on his academic background in philosophy and theology. Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and various scripture scholars were obvious. After a few years, he would include teaching from the Rule of Benedict. And I’ve been told that God’s providence was often a theme when he was chaplain for the Sisters of Divine Providence. He celebrated Eucharist knowing his congregation. 
         From the beginning we learned and experienced his commitment to, and passion for the Church’s teaching on social justice. He used pen and spoken word to remind his readers and hearers of the plight of the poor, immigrants and the powerless. Frequently John would close his homily by extending his hand toward the altar—a gesture reminding us of the connection between what we do outside the chapel and what we offer on the altar at Eucharist. His commitment and desire to celebrate Eucharist was last evidenced in his final days in St. E’s ICU when he told Sr. Colleen that he missed celebrating Eucharist with us. He knew he was no longer able to do so. 
         Floyd County certainly left its mark on the person, John. Love of the land, coal mining and miners would occasionally be part of a homily. In his later years at Madonna Manor he could be seen porch sitting-- greeting neighbors and passersby. He worked on his flowers and tomatoes in a tiny garden in front of his cottage. Next spring that tiny yard will be filled with the hundred or so blooming crocus blubs he recently planted. 
         I surmise that John acquired his commitment to learning and his love of nature, music, beauty, art and travel at an early age. These formed him into a person who respected and was comfortable with diverse cultures. That also may explain why he was a good chaplain. Monastic life and women religious definitely have a culture all their own. John had more than respect for us and our culture. He got it. 
         In John’s request that I give this remembrance he asked that I tell you, and I now quote: “about my profound respect and admiration for religious women . . . and the joy I experienced and the inspiration I received while serving (and being served by) them”. And we say, “The feeling is mutual.” 
         John’s life and service were gifts to the diocese and its people. The hallmarks of his priestly vocation were visible in his devotion and commitment to the Eucharist and in his work as pastor, homilist, teacher, and advocate for those in need. He will be missed by all whose who shared his culture, convictions, joys, sorrows, and his own very interesting journey through life.


           Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

For John's official obituary click on  Obituary for Fr. John W. Cahill

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Being Pollyana?

Just recently I was called “too Pollyanna” when raising hope and possibilities in a challenging situation.  My optimistic perspective came not from a place of naivety or denial but from a belief in the innate potential and resiliency of the individuals involved. It came from an attitude of choosing not to get stuck in the moment but to take note and see what could be possible. To identify what strengths lie hidden waiting to be untapped. It is about a stance which seeks to understand and foster compassion.
The fear, violence and disconnect of our times give us an opportunity to choose how we will respond. To choose to connect with our neighbors, greet the stranger we meet, and engage in practices (e.g. prayer, meditation, volunteering) which increase our compassion capacity. To find ways to celebrate what is right in the small daily moments and encourage one another on this journey. 

We each control our piece, our attitude and our way of interacting with the world. I will continue to be “too Pollyanna” if it sends out positivity, connects me to others (both far and near), and celebrates the strengths and possibilities in this world. And on those days when my optimism is tinged with weariness I will take a deep breath, offer a prayer and regroup for another day of raising hope and the possibilities of what can be.   
Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The tears of the oppressed

        Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them!  On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them.

        And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive; but better than both is the one who has not yet been, and has not see the evil deeds that are done under the sun.   Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

        The above text is taken from the reading we heard in chapel today at Morning Prayer. My mind immediately filled up again with multiple images and sounds I cannot forget. The slaughter of innocents seemingly never comes to an end. 
 

        I put hope in the words of Psalm 30: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. How can we shorten the night? How can we comfort the oppressed; how can we confront the oppressors?

          Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

Thursday, November 2, 2017

All Saints, All Souls Day: a Reflection

       He wanders around the residence all day wearing a blank gaze. A familiar face may bring comments on the temperature or time. An unfamiliar one often generates an effusive greeting and  launch into a narrative that’s threadbare from constant re-telling.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       A well-dressed woman strides into the room and dominates by her mere presence. Self-focused, she smoothly greets others, and in conversations, easily directs them to topics that relate to her and her interests.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       The 2-year old rattles the grocery cart and screams unceasingly while the frustrated father struggles for an elusive way to calm the child. All-knowing shoppers look on, some critical, others sympathetic, but all hoping for quick quiet.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       Dusk is slipping into night, and a rumpled figure sits curled up near the sidewalk heating grate. Now and then  passersby  may give a disapproving or pitying look. Others don't seem to notice at all.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       Other common experiences cross our path: obnoxious relatives, complaining co-workers, constant talkers, nosey neighbors, weak politicians, inconsiderate drivers, etc., etc., etc.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       Now a question: Have you ever spotted the face of Christ in any scenario like one of the above? Have you ever become conscious of a missed opportunity? We humans have a well-ingrained habit of looking without seeing and judging without understanding.  If we try to see with the eyes of God, once in a while we may see the face of Christ or sense the presence of the Spirit hiding behind and within human frailty.  As St. James reminds us: "...it was those who were poor…that God chose, to be rich in faith and be heirs to the kingdom… "(Jas 2:5-6)

       Maybe in this week of All Saints and All Souls Days we could pray for clearer vision and greater sensitivity to all the saints among us. After all, St. Paul often called the whole motley church "saints" or ”holy people”(See Rom 16:2, Eph. 4:12, Phlm. 5, Hb. 6:10) and they were just as human as we are.
        Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

              Early this month I had the experience of a lifetime.  I was one of forty people who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  A “pilgrimage” differs from a “tour,” since there is daily Mass and Scripture reflection.  For me it was an atmosphere surrounding us.
              Here are some of my impressions, special places, inspirations.
            The first three nights we stayed at the Mount of Beatitudes Retreat House where we overlooked the Sea of Galilee. From there we traveled through the north of Israel through very barren area where all the buildings were the same color as the sand and rocks. Caesarea, Herod the Great’s Palace, was right on the Mediterranean—a beautiful sight.  Mass was at Mount Carmel. Dinner and a good night’s rest were much appreciated.              
At Nazareth we visited the birthplace of the Blessed Mother. Then, in the wedding chapel at Cana, the 18 married couples renewed their wedding vows. The simple ceremony of these couples vows’ “in good times and bad,” inspired each of us.
Capernaum had special meaning because we could look through the glass into the ruins of Peter’s house where Jesus stayed when he cured Peter’s mother-in-law.  Riding on the Sea of Galilee in a boat similar to one like the one Jesus rode in when he rescued Peter from drowning was more than just a boat ride. At one point the captain cut the engines giving us a few moments of silence to absorb the holy atmosphere.  It was a perfect thing to do!
The beauty of the light coming through the stained glass windows in the chapel in the Church of Transfiguration had an aura that spoke “Transfiguration.” Mass for me was special here.
On to Bethlehem and the Grand Park Hotel for the next two nights. 
The story of the Jewish peoples’ courage and endurance at Masada can’t be measured. Then, to actually be within a walking distance of the caves of Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found was like an archeological expedition. We stopped at a beach on the shore of the Dead Sea where some of our group tested the “you can’t sink” in the Dead Sea theory.
We stayed our last three nights at Notre Dame Center. Bethlehem is much different than I pictured.  It is no “little town” any more.  We waited in line, in the Church of the Nativity to get to the grotto to kneel and kiss the large silver star on the floor marking where Jesus was born.
            The last couple of days focused on the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane,The Via Dolorosa and Mass at the Holy Sepulchre Church. In groups of four, we walked the Via Dolorosa carrying a cross.  This was one of the holiest moments for me.
            Our last supper in the Holy Land was in Joppa along the Mediterranean Sea. That evening we drove to Tel Aviv to board the plane for home. The pilgrimage is an experience I will never forget. 
                     Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Christmas homily in October

         This week I have been working on the community’s Christmas card for 2017 and looking for a good pithy quote for the interior. (Sr. Emmanuel designs the front of the card and it is, as usual, beautiful.)
          I like to look through the writings of the Eastern Orthodox fathers because of the transcendent language they and because they are generally unknown to most Catholics. I came upon the following brief nativity sermon which is much too lengthy for a Christmas card. But it’s much too beautiful not to share.
          So here in the middle of October is a preview of Christmas! Unlike business retailers I’m not trying to sell anything. The brief sermon gives me hope for these unsettled times and reminds me that Christ is made flesh in our midst not only at Christmas but also in every day and season of the year.

This Christmas night bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;
This is the night of the Most Gentle One –
Let no one be cruel;
This is the night of the Humble One –
Let no one be proud.
Now is the day of joy –
Let us not revenge;
Now is the day of Good Will –
Let us not be mean.
In this Day of Peace –
Let us not be conquered by anger.
Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake;
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.
Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.
This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.
Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of Divinity.
– St. Isaac the Syrian (d. 700 AD), Nativity Sermon

Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Has it really been this long?

        Recently I was requested by Sister Rosemary McCormick the community’s “roving reporter” for our in-house “Word Within” newsletter to write about my 15 year experience as a volunteer at the Women’s Federal Prison Camp in Lexington, Ky. The following is a summary adaptation of what I wrote.
         Over the years listening to the women’s stories at the prison – some horrific, has made an indelible impression on me. No one chooses to be born into an addicted family; or in a family in which abuse – physical, sexual, emotional had become a pattern; or in situations in which abject poverty was the norm. And yes, for some of the women their early lives were neither harsh nor dangerous. And yes, some women do have a real attitude! There is always a mixture of women in the groups that I conduct.
         How to be of help can be a huge challenge. I envy Jesus who looked directly into the person’s soul and knew what was needed! For me, it is listening, providing mental and emotional health education and most of all being attuned to the matters of their hearts – that seem to lead to a positive change.  
        Through the years I have met many remarkable women. Women who own up to the crime(s), take responsibility for their mistakes and use the opportunity in prison to reflect on their lives and begin making necessary changes. Many of them offer kindness and acceptance to the other inmates especially the newly arrived women in the Camp.
        Often, when people come to see me on the Monastery grounds they remark how sacred and holy this space is. This does not surprise me. I am surprised, though, at how often I have felt a sense of sacredness when meeting with the women at the Prison Camp. So often there is vulnerability and openness that makes the space feel holy, and at times, the workings of the Spirit feels palpable.
        I believed then as I do now that incarcerated women are underserved. Through the years I have experienced many challenges! Now seldom do I experience the feelings of dread and anxiety when I drive up the long driveway – but I continue to feel a sense of hope and gratitude when I leave the Camp.

        Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What’s in a Name?

                My baptismal name was Audrey Jean. Somehow I hated the name Audrey and asked my mom how I happened to get that name. She told me that my father wanted to name me Angela, but she wanted to call me Audrey after a street in Ludlow. What? A street in Ludlow! One of my teachers even introduced me to a visiting priest as Jean Autrey! By the time I started High School I didn’t even tell people my first name, so I glided along from then on as plain Jean.
                 After graduation from high school I entered St. Walburg Monastery with six other young ladies. When the time to receive the habit and receive our nun name arrived, we were asked to submit three names in the order of our preferences. My first choice was Victoria after Mary’s title, Our Lady of Victory. I was excited to receive my first choice and to have Mary as my patron. The day after the ceremony the superior informed me that my feast day would be December 23, feast of St. Victoria. I asked whether I could celebrate on October 7, the feast of “Our Lady of Victory.” After a little thought the superior said that the recently deceased Sr. Victoria celebrated on December 23, Feast of St. Victoria, and that changing the date would only confuse people. Believe me I was both confused and unhappy.
                 Shortly after it was time to elect a new prioress, I decided to try again by explaining to her my desire to celebrate my feast day on October 7 in honor of Our Lady of Victory. No problem!  By that time most in the community would not remember when the departed Victoria celebrated her feast day.  Years later Pope John XXIII changed the title of the feast to the “Feast of our Lady of the Rosary.” That event actually expanded my love for the name.
                 When the sisters of our community had the option of returning to our Baptismal name, I chose to remain Victoria. The name had created a close bond between me and my heavenly mother. My baptismal name would not provide such a frequent reminder of that intimate connection. The name Victoria also seemed to have a joyful ring, and I wanted to reflect joy and surrender as Mary so often did. A quotation I discovered recently provided a perfect reason to associate joy with my name.  “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” My final reflection is that the life I live and the good I do will lend beauty to my name as it will to any name.
                
 Sr. Victoria Eisenman , O.S.B.                                      


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Life Lessons from Scrabble

       I love word games and Scrabble is one of my favorites. Most Mondays I play with Sisters David Ruschmann, Margaret Mary Dressman and Estelle Schulte who reside in our infirmary. It is a community-style game, meaning we are free to help each other if the tiles we draw are too challenging.
      As everyone will tell you I’m quite competitive and like winning more than anything. I also like to use good letters, even if they are someone else’s. While we don’t share the points we do share the glory of valuable words.
       So, what are some life lessons I have learned in my recent Scrabble games?

 You don’t always know what you will get in life. That might be people-related or job-related. You might have a day full of vowels (one point values) or a day with the right mix of vowels and consonants (some higher point values). Whatever the combination, you have to make the most of it. Sometimes you can draw from others suggestions; sometimes you are on your own.

           What you plan may have to be adjusted to the circumstances that you don’t control. You have a word in mind but another player takes your spot. I can’t tell you how many times one of us has exclaimed, “She took my spot” before re-examining other necessary possibilities.

Your way is not always accepted as the best way. I’m always looking for the highest scoring spots for myself and the other players. Even when I’ve found a place for someone to use a Q without a U on a double letter space that person will decide to make a four-point word instead. I don’t get it, but she does it. Each of us makes our own way, with or without others' help.


       I’m sure other Scrabble players can think of many other lessons to be learned from their games. I just know I enjoy my time with the sisters and learn from them, whether during Scrabble or at other times.  

            Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A New Beginning for Peace

       September is my month. I have always loved it and looked forward to it even as a child, although it meant the end to summer vacation. My birthday is in September. So to me, it feels like the start of another year, another cycle of living, of leaves falling and warmer clothes donned, a new beginning. Incidentally, the Jewish feast of Rosh Hashanah meaning “Head of the Year” and the Islamic New Year  Muharram are observed this year as September 21-22 and 23.
       Among the new beginnings I pray for is a renewed dedication to World Justice and Peace on the part of all of us. Have we ever needed to pray and work for this more? The response to the hurricane damage in our country showed us what harmony we can achieve when we work together for the good of all in need regardless of our differences. But we also have the recent memory of violent clashes between factions of our society who both experience being wronged or threatened by the other. The moral cost is too high when we regard each other as enemies.  Hate and fear cause us to lose a piece of our humanity. We humans have such potential for goodness, truth and love and we have a responsibility that comes with the gift of life to maximize that potential and encourage others to do so.
       Please join me in observing September 21 of this year as the International Day of Peace. See info at http://internationaldayofpeace.org/ . And participate locally in the United in Prayer event 6:00-6:30 PM Covington, KY’s Goeble Park. It is hosted by the Catholic religious women of Northern Kentucky: Benedictine Sisters, Congregation of Divine Providence and Sisters of Notre Dame. (see picture)

      Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Friday, September 15, 2017

Inspired by Psalm 90

To you, O God, I cry.  You are our refuge, age after age.
You are God from all eternity and forevermore.
You, who can turn us back to dust in a single second,
hear our prayer,           
  …for all those…
driven from their dwelling places, plundered by enemies,
swallowed up by the seas, splintered by raging winds  -
For your people of Myanmar, Mozambique, Egypt, Peru,
Kashmir, Darfur, South Sudan, Somali, Afghanistan, Ukraine,
 Iraq, Syria, Texas, Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean Islands, and more…

Up, cry out in the night-time, in the early hours of darkness!
Pour out your heart like water before your Creator,
Stretch your hands to God for the lives of your children.
Little ones and old ones are lying on the ground in the streets;
Virgins and young men have fallen by the sword.
Huge as the Sea is our affliction, who can possibly cure us?
 You, alone, O God.
Open our eyes, ground us in love, and strengthen our will.
Inspire us to act.
 Renew our lives as in times past. 
Then, at sunrise, filled with your mercy,

We will sing your praise and rejoice in your loving kindness!
      Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Nativity of Mary

The New Testament does not give much of a biography of Mary, Mother of God. Seldom does she speak:
  • ·         Be it done to me…
  • ·         Magnificat (from the Canticle of Hannah)
  • ·         Why have you treated us so?
  • ·         They have no wine.
For centuries the Church has filled in the gaps in our understanding. What is fitting and suitable and honorable as we choose words for apt praise of Mary? What just has to be true about Mary? e.g., If Jesus grew in wisdom and stature in their Nazareth home, he did so in the midst of a healthy, loving family. A reasonable assumption.

Mary’s life is celebrated in the liturgy, in dogma, in art, music and poetry, and the homilies and writings of men and women. All these means have entailed making reasonable assumptions about the gaps in the scriptural accounts. Mary now has a wealth of titles and roles, and is shown in many cultural forms. All races and nationalities claim her. Through the work of translators, the storehouses of writings about Mary are open to us.

Anscar Vonier, d. 1938
There will always be the danger for our mind to place Mary’s divine role in a totally unearthly sphere of things, to think of her motherhood as of something belonging to quite another world. With Mary’s motherhood closely related to Elizabeth’s motherhood, we see that Mary is truly a mother in the ordinary human, real, created mode of maternity.

Nicholas Cabasilas, d. 1390
            Just as [Mary] had bestowed her flesh and blood on [Jesus] and had received a share of his graces in return, so in like manner she participated in all his pains and sufferings…And so, after our Savior’s death, she was the first to conform herself to the Son who resembled her and hence she shared in his resurrection before all others.

Thomas of Villanova, d. 1555
For a long time I have been at a loss to understand why the evangelists should have…told us so little about the Virgin Mary, who in life and distinction excels them all…The most important fact of her life, that Jesus was born of her, is enough to tell her whole story.

Ronald Knox, d. 1957
Let us ask our blessed Lady to win for us that continual renewal of strength and holiness
which befits our…destiny. Fresh graces, not soiled by the memory of past failure, fresh
enterprise, to meet the conditions of a changing world; fresh hope, to carry our burdens
beyond…this present world into the changeless repose of eternity.


      With Mary’s birth God’s plan for our salvation came closer to fulfillment. We pray that through her intercession, the Church is renewed in holiness and grace, and in the new life of Christ that grows within.
              Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Let Go and Let God"

             Such a simple statement, but takes us a lifetime to learn it.When I think about it though, it seems that is what life is all about. After all, we let go of infancy to become a child, of childhood to become a teenager, then to become a young adult then to prepare for a career, a job, a vocation, a family, a community, and we build.We accumulate to support what we’ve built.
            Eventually all of that has to go, as we approach the last stage of life.
            Recently I moved from a small house of Sisters to a room at the monastery.You can be sure that a lot of letting go had to happen as I prepared for this change.But it has been a freeing experience as well!
            I let go of my dreams as a community musician as I recycled all the liturgical music I had piled up from meetings and workshops over the years. Old photos were given away. Mementos and souvenirs of travels were read over one more time and discarded.
            At some time we all have to let go of our parents and other family members as they leave this life. Someday, we’ll let go of our own last breath and join them again in eternal life. What a reunion that will be! It’s a good thing that eternity lasts forever, there are so many people I want to meet, including my favorite saints and composers, our Blessed Mother and of course, to be embraced by Jesus Himself!
            Until that day, I’m able to reconcile diminishing physical abilities, and the various tasks I was able to do so easily. I read The Grace of Aging by Kathleen Singh; Joan Chittister’s The Gift of Years is on my shelf for constant referral. These books helped me to THINK POSITIVE. But best of all is the example of the elderly Sisters I live with now: their compassion for one another, their patient endurance, their assisting one another, their cheerfulness under difficulties are such a powerful lesson for me, every day!
            And so I let go of the past, while remembering it with gratitude, and I welcome the present, the reality of old age and the blessings which I’m now discovering. Let God in and see what surprises He has for me. There is so much to learn every day!

            Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Coming Together for the 2017 Eclipse

       What is the excitement for the week? The marvelous eclipse, of course! I was asked several times in the preceding days, “Are you having a viewing party?”  The answer was “of course.” The sisters were able to obtain 20 viewers for the occasion.
         We gathered near the parking lot on the south side of the building on a gorgeous sunny day. Chairs were set up and out came the wheelchairs and walkers as well. Some leaned against cars to stabilize looking straight up. Some moved among the crowd, sharing viewers and checking that they were used properly. Some went inside to cool off where a TV was showing the NASA views and at times the local scene as well.To enhance the party aspect we had solar punch, a specially crafted orange punch. The conversation was lively but there were also silent pauses filled with awe. Although we did not have totality, the show was mighty impressive and enhanced the splendor of the God Most High.
         The celebration continued at the evening meal. A display of serious hors d’oeuvres included hankypankies with a meat center and a golden party rye surround and a cheese ball sculptured disc with black bean center and cheddar cream cheese edge. Dessert included large round cookies with chocolate centers and sparkly sugar rims.
        The TV showed people crying for the sheer thrill of being present for such a monumental experience. What brought tears to my eyes was the thrill of so many people of all varieties and backgrounds from all across the country coming together, taking in the event in peaceful togetherness. I was awakened by the line from Psalm 85 used at Mass Tuesday. “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall embrace.” For one day in this year filled with upheavals we came together.

                               Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

 






Friday, August 18, 2017

Readings from the 2017 Reterat

            It’s been nearly two weeks since our annual retreat ended and perhaps these reflections are a bit late but I feel urged to say something about what affected me. It was, indeed, an honor to have Abbot Primate Gregory Polan with us. Several years ago when he was abbot of Conception Abbey, he had agreed to give a retreat at St. Walburg Monastery. Last year he was elected Abbot Primate, residing in Rome with lots of responsibilities. Nevertheless, he came to us and gave a blessed retreat which he called “Benedictines Living the Paschal Mystery.” Perhaps it is my age, but the tangibles that I have experienced helped me immensely to enter enter into and  remember what Abbot Gregory opened to us.
            When the retreat began, we received a paper with the topics of each of his talks along with a number of Scripture references which would have a strong and direct bearing on the message of each talk. Also each day Sr. Emmanuel Pieper, our artist, would display a beautiful word or phrase near the chapel to remind us of what Father had said or what we had read. The following are the topics of the lectures with suggested readings.

Listening to God’s Questions
            Gen. 3       Gen. 12:1-3     Job 38:1-3       Gen. 22: 1-3
Listening: the Heart of the Monastic Vocation
            RB Prologue   1 Kgs. 19:9-18     Is. 50: 4-5      Ps. 119:45
Holy Leisure: the Place to Listen
            RB 48:22-23   Gen. 2:3    Lev. 23:1-3
The Paschal Mystery and the Grace of Failure
            Jer. 20: 7-13    Phil. 3: 7-11     Prologue 50    Rule 72: 5     Ps. 147: 10-11
The Weight of Glory: Our Great Hope
            Ex. 19       2Cor 3:12-18          Is. 60           RB Prologue 7 and 5:3
Forgiveness and Reconciliation: the Heart of the Gospel
            2 Cor 5;17-21        Is 6:5       Luke 5:8
Prayer and the Paschal Mystery
            Mark 1:23-13  Matthew 4: 1-11  Luke 4:1-3  John 20:21-23 John 21:1-14
Living the Paschal Mystery with an All-Knowing God
            Psalm 139    Gen. 28:10-16


       I found the readings above a great preparation for each presentation and the basis of my recollection of what Abbot Gregory had said. The retreat ended several weeks ago but this information and the notes I took help me to remember a wonderful experiencing of listening, hear and taking to heart Living the Paschal Mystery.
                  Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Editor's Note: Sr. Andrea has decided that this will her last blog post. She will still be writing Chronicles in our newsletter LEAVEN. We thank her for all her past contributions to this blog and know that we and our readers will miss her voice here.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Sabbath Week

          This past week we were blessed to have welcomed in our presence the new Benedictine Abbot Primate, Father Gregory Polan, the 10 th Abbot Primate. Pope Leo XIII created this office in 1886, to bring order to the Benedictine order around the world. Abbot Polan had been the Abbot of Conception Abbey for the last 20 years.  He flew in from Rome, his new home, since he was elected on September 10, 2016. His talents include a very warm personality, being a well known Scripture Scholar and published musician. Even though the ministry of Abbot Primate meant he had a full and varied schedule, he agreed to keep his commitment to us to give our retreat. This gave him an opportunity to return to the US and also visit his home monastery. 

          Abbot Gregory arrived Saturday evening, and immediately asked names of sisters he met along the way through the monastery, and remembered them. He presided at our Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy, creating a thirst for more of his wisdom. After Mass he sat in the refectory with a circle of sisters and oblates for a good hour sharing stories
      .  We were all well stimulated to enter into the silent Retreat time – a Sabbath Week – with his insightful presentations on “Benedictines Living the Paschal Mystery.”  
          Based on references from Scripture and the Holy Rule his conferences were titled:
  • Listening to God’s Questions
  • Listening:  The Heart of the Monastic Vocation
  • Holy Leisure – The Place to Listen:  Sabbath Time
  • The Paschal Mystery and the Grace of Failure
  • The Weight of Glory:  Our Great Hope
  • Forgiveness and Reconciliation:  The Heart of the Gospel
  • Prayer and the Paschal Mystery
  • Living the Paschal Mystery with an All-Knowing God

          After the final Conference and Thursday Evening Prayer, where we renewed our Monastic Promises, we celebrated with a wonderful feast prepared by our own chef Maureen, and Thank You time to Abbot Gregory. He was most gracious, and agreed to have an informal chat time with us after Night Prayer. Most of the community gathered in a big circle in the refectory to ask questions and hear his  stories about his getting acquainted with his new role, which takes him all over the world, and especially the offices in Rome. Getting used to the Italian culture has been the most challenging for him.  He will have many more years to work on that one. We wish him every blessing in his new ministry.
            We have been nourished and are all most grateful for this Holy Time of Retreat and coming to understand the need for real Sabbath Time in our lives.     Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB