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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

God: Hiding in Plain Sight

            The words hit me hard and planted themselves on a merry-go-round in my memory: Only in your love do we exist. The phrase had been wrapped into a simple, striking melody that was part of the responsorial psalm a cantor and I were rehearsing for Sunday mass. The text was Tim Schoenbachler's adaptation of Ps. 89: ("Forever Will I Sing," © 1979, 1991, Oregon Catholic Press), and it has stayed with me for weeks.
           Think about it: God's love enables me to get up in the morning, get dressed, brush my teeth, and eat breakfast. It is my foundation as I work or relax, sit alone or with others. It propels my very breath. Every moment I exist happens only because God is loving me. It is literally unfathomable.
           How can anyone absorb this? It is above and beyond us, yet at the same time it is closer than we are to ourselves.In scripture God asked a whining Job "Where were you when I laid earth's foundation?" (38:4) If ever a question could jolt someone into seeing a new reality, this is it. ”Only in your love do we exist" does a similar thing but more softly, in the way a mother might speak to her child.
          More than 40 years ago I wrote a setting for Psalm 139.  In it, like the fugitive in Francis Thompson's poem The Hound of Heaven, the psalmist cries out, "Where can I flee from your sight? To the sunrise or the sea your hand would still guide me, your love would hold me."
          It seems to me that my encounter with Ps. 139, Schoenbachler's with Ps. 89, and Thompson's poem are all examples of human beings struggling with the reality of God's presence in their lives. How can we begin to come to grips with this profundity? The fact God made the infinite approachable by sending the Son to become flesh and bone tells me God doesn’t want to hide from us. In fact, I think God hides in plain sight. It's our task to learn how to see.
           In the Hebrew scripture God sent signs – the cloud, fire, manna, impossible victories. Today, after the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, we don't have just a few scattered, overwhelming signs. No, through the Incarnation God made every thing and every person a sacred, visible hiding place for God. Because of Christ, everything now shares in the divine; everywhere we turn it is possible to experience a visitation of God. If so, why doesn't it seem to impact us more often?  
          What if we try learning how to see, hear, touch, intuit, or in any other way sense the glory of the holy that surrounds us? Would we begin to know God as an intimate, loving companion through each day? What if we heeded the sage advice to "Stop and smell the roses" or "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). Would the God who obviously wants to come out of hiding in our world actually become a conscious part of each day's journey? If so, in darkness or light, in storm or calm, we would be able to glimpse, at least now and then, a deeper reality. Then we would be able to pray with new understanding: "God, only in your love do we exist."  Blessings on all of us as we journey more deeply into the Mystery who is God. 
                                    Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB