Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My own UPC!

       This Easter Season’s gospels seem to me to have one over-all theme: Jesus telling us Who He Is: The Crucified One, The Risen One, Bringer of Peace, Good Shepherd, The Vine. Through the witness of the Disciples on Easter Day, we come to know Jesus by His wounds. Reflecting on this brought me to also identify my deepest self by my wounds – the experiences of my life that have transformed me.
           This is not to say that I had mostly difficult times. In fact, my life has been “a piece of cake” for the most part. But I recognize that I learned some painful lessons about myself as I listened to critics, supervisors, kindly and otherwise correction, etc. And I deepened my spiritual life and developed compassion for others when I suffered through what could not be changed about life circumstances.
      Thinking about this brings to mind a new metaphor, the UPC mark. Each line signifies some wound. Taken as a whole, the mark is unique to each of us. Placed over a Light source such as Jesus Christ, the Light shining through tells the whole world who we really are.

         Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Gertrude the Great

…you have led me to know and consider the interior of my heart, which until then I had heeded as little as, if I may put it thus, the interior of my feet.” (Herald of Divine Love, Book 2, Chapter 2).
This lovely quote is from the mystic Gertrude the Great talking about her relationship with Christ. It is one of my favorite quotes from Gertrude because it so honest and real.
Gertrude was born January 6, 1257 in Helfta, Germany. Her birth was on the feast of the Epiphany which is telling because all of Gertrude’s visions were centered on the liturgical year. When she was five years she was admitted to the Benedictine monastery school of Helfta. Ten or eleven years later she joined the Benedictine community at Helfta.
The abbess of Helfta was another Gertrude, Gertrude of Hackborn. She fostered the intellectual life of Helfta and the monastery became famous for several important nuns/mystics who lived here. The community gave sanctuary and solace to Mechtild of Magdeburg, a former Beguine whose criticism of the church dignitaries and theological writings led to her oppression by the church. The abbess’ younger sister, Mechtild of Hackeborn was also a visionary. Between the three (Mechthild of Magdeburg, St. Gertrud, and Mechtild of Hackeborn), they produced over 1200 pages of mystical writing.
Mechtild of Hackeborn &
Gertrude the Great
(Watercolor by Sr. Emmanuel
Pieper, OSB)
The love of Christ represented by
his Heart was central to the spiritual
life and understanding of both.
In Advent of 1280 Gertrude entered a period of emotional and spiritual distress. On January 27 of 1281 she experienced what she called her conversion in an encounter with the Risen Christ. She writes “And suddenly you appeared unexpectedly, imprinting a wound in my heart with these words, ‘May all your affections be centered here: all sweetness, hope, joy, sorrow, fear and all other feelings be fixed in my heart.
She began writing about her visions and spiritual experiences in 1289.These experiences were recounted in the second book of the Herald of Divine Love. (The first book of the Herald of Divine Love was written after Gertrude's death by sisters at Helfta who knew her.) Some time after, she wrote her Spiritual Exercises. She died in 1302 and was never officially canonized although a Liturgical Office of prayer, readings and hymns in her honor was approved by Rome in 1606.
The Feast of St. Gertrude was extended to the Universal Church by Pope Clement XII in 1738 and today is celebrated on November 16, the date of her death.)
Gertrude’s writings are enthusiastic and almost breathless, at first glance appearing a little childish. When I try to imagine her, I picture a very young sister full of energy and idealism. Her theme is always the goodness, mercy and generosity of God. She always tries to convey her experience of God and her relationship of a God who is infinite and she who is a finite creature. You are inebriated, if I may say so, to madness, that you join to yourself one so unlike you. But it would be more apt to say that the total goodness of your nature flows naturally toward the salvation of the human race.” (Herald of Divine Love, Book 2, Chapter 8.)
This is just a short introduction to Gertrude the Great. She and her sisters at Helfta are important contributors to the history of Christian mysticism and spirituality.

Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Presence and Peace

          Jesus stood in the midst of the disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” Alleluia
         This passage from the Gospel of John was repeated often this past weekend as the community gathered to elect a prioress. The process included several hours of individual and group discernment.          During that time, and in meetings beforehand, we discussed our hopes, concerns and directions for the future. All of this led to the election of our new prioress, Sr. Aileen Bankemper.

The Doubt of Thomas by James He Qi
           Recalling that Jesus is in our midst as his disciples today, giving us his peace, was both a guiding force and a consolation. Every day, not just during elections, Jesus gives us his support and sustenance. We but have to believe and receive it.

          A bookmark I use every day carries a similar sentiment:
                Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles; it takes away today’s peace.

Let us glory in the peace of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, ALLELUIA!

                                       Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

On the Way to Emmaus

       Today, we are being invited to accompany two companions on their way to Emmaus, a town approximately 6-7 miles from Jerusalem [Lk.24:13-35]. The first companion is Cleophas. According to Hegesippus' record, he may have been the brother of Joseph, Mary’s husband. This theory is supported by St Jerome. The Church History by Eusbuius of Caesarea written in 324 AD  notes the second companion was Simon, the son of Cleophas.
         Both were members of the chosen 70 sent out to preach the Coming of the Kingdom.  They were very sad and depressed on the suffering and death of Jesus literally heartbroken.
         Another stranger has joined us on this journey.  His eyes locked onto ours.
We could not recognize him so heavy were our hearts.
          As we walked along this stranger began to review all the scriptures beginning with Moses and all the prophets.  How did He get this knowledge?  As He spoke 
the eyes of our hearts were beginning to open and and a solace began to burn
within us.
          As we reached Cleophas' home in Emmaus, he invited the stranger to join us for a supper meal. As He blessed the bread at the table, our physical eyes were opened wide and we truly recognized Him as Jesus our friend and savior and our joy and gratitude overflowed.  Then He vanished from our sight.
          We knew we had to return to Jerusalem this very night and let the others know
what had taken place and that Jesus had truly risen within the 3 days as promised.
Other thoughts to ponder:
1.     How do we welcome those who accompany us in our daily duties?
2.     Do we walk with another in pain and in sorrow?
3.     As we meet Jesus in disguise, how long before we recognize Him?
4.     Cleophas means “proclaimer” in Greek.  How will we proclaim Jesus?

In Pope Francis Easter Vigil's homily, He stated:  “To celebrate Easter is to believe once more that God constantly breaks into our personal histories, challenging our
conventions and our fixed ways of thinking and acting that could end up paralyzing us.”
Let us joyfully ‘celebrate Easter’
       Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB