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: " 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