Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jubilee and Gratitude

       Is it too early for Jubilee?

       This year I celebrate my 50th jubilee at St. Walburg’s. The actual ceremony will be on August 25 but I’m already in the jubilee spirit. After all, it is a “year of jubilee” or so I’ve always been told. I choose to believe it and celebrate as much as possible.

       In preparing for the ceremony itself and what I hope it will express is really just one word—GRATITUDE.

       I’ve envisioned myself giving a few remarks to my family, community members and friends who will be gathered that evening. It reminds me of speeches by the winners at the Oscars or the Emmy awards. They are basically a listing of all the things and people for which the winner is grateful. That’s what I hope to convey then and now.

       The first line of one of my favorite poems by e.e. cummings is “i thank You God for most this amazing day”. That begins my list—God and Jesus Christ, my Benedictine community, my family (both living and deceased), my friends both old and new, my colleagues from years in education, and all those people who have influenced my life. For fear of excluding anyone I think that last group covers just about anyone I’ve ever met or whose books or talks or sermons have made a difference to me. While some of my relationships have extended beyond 50 years and others have lasted for much shorter periods, each of them has made me the person I am today. For each of these I am truly grateful.

       I celebrate the light and dark, the dull and bright, the sacred and mundane. Thank you, God, for every person and event, every day and night, for your gift of unfailing love through it all.

       As John write in chapter 1, verse 16: Of God’s fullness we have all received our share—love and more love. His mercy is ours through Jesus Christ.

        Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Living in Hope

            It’s hard to read the paper or watch the news with so much oppressive suffering in our world, and growing divisiveness and violence in our own land. I understood when a friend mourned:  “This is not the country I know.”  What are we becoming?  What can we do?
With the psalmist, we can cry out with and for our brothers and sisters:  “Awake!  Why do you sleep, O Lord?  Rise up!  Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, why forget our pain and misery?  We are bowed down to the ground; our bodies are pressed to the ground.  Rise up, help us!  Redeem us as your love demands.*(Ps. 44)   Let not the oppressed turn back in shame; may the poor and needy praise your name. (Ps. 74)  (from the New American Bible c. 1981)
We can address these words to ourselves:  Do not hide in your comfort.  Rise up!  Open your eyes. Listen with the ears of your heart.  Remember, the pain and misery of others - the oppressed, the poor. Do something for which others will praise God.  Remember, love is the only thing that lasts.
            What are we becoming?  Only God knows, but if you believe there is much, much more good than evil in our world, and I’m convinced there is, we live in hope.
              P.S.    Recently I saw the film, “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.”  It is well worth seeing, a vision-expanding experience.  Pope Francis is urging us, through word and example, to enlarge our hearts, to widen our view, to heed the cry of the poor, to work for peace, to seek justice, to bless and care for the earth, and to reach out to others in love, acceptance and reverence.  He radiates the love of God.

            Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Installation of Sr. Aileen Bankemper as Prioress

“Now as evening falls around us,
We shall raise our songs to you,

God of daybreak, God of shadows,
Come and light our hearts anew….”

“Make us shine with gentle justice...
   Lead us on to endless day.”
Joyous Light of Heavenly Glory by Marty Haugen

And so began the celebration of the installation of Sister Aileen Bankemper as our new prioress.  Family, friends and community members gathered for Evening Prayer for the ceremony on June 9.
            Some of the verses of Psalm 138 could have come from us and Sister Aileen as we begin a new era:
                        I thank you, O God with my whole heart
                        For your faithfulness and steadfast love.
                        You answered me on the day I called;
                        You increased my strength of soul…
                                    You stretch out your hand and save me
                                    You will fulfill your purpose for me.
            Sister Lynn McKenzie, President of the Federation of St. Scholastica, reflected with Sister Aileen on the task that she has been called by the Spirit to undertake.  A task of service to this community.  Listening “with the ear of the heart” will be one of the most important parts of her new ministry.
            Continuing the ceremony, the cantors called on all types of saints, from those in the Gospel, to preachers, monastics, Benedictines, women mystics and American saints to be with us and, we responded:
            “Saints of God in glory be with us, rejoice with us, sing praise with us, and pray with us now.”
            Sister Lynn and our two former prioresses asked Sister Aileen if she were ready for this task, to which she responded, “I am.”  We, the community stood and with hands outstretched blessed our new prioress.
            The ceremony ended but the celebration continued with a festive meal, many words of hope and encouragement, and many hugs.
          Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Some Thoughts on Expectations and Truth in Today's Society

      You’re dead tired. Would you choose a 2-legged chair in which to collapse? Hardly! You’d know what to expect; you’d wind up on the floor! You assume the laws of nature will hold true, so you save yourself a tumble.

      Have you ever thought about how much we take for granted every day, how important it is that what we trust to happen actually does? Think about your reactions when your morning alarm doesn’t go off, your car won’t start, traffic lights malfunction, or your computer breaks down.

      It’s one thing when electronics disappoint us, but what about when a human does? A co-worker misses an important deadline on your project and doesn’t take it seriously. You look forward to meeting a friend for lunch and she cancels at the last minute with no apology. What if it happens a 2nd time? After the 1st time a little trust leaks out of the relationship. Happens again? The leak turns into a flow that can resist attempts at repair. As Louisiana author Mahogany SilverRain says, “Peace and trust take years to build and seconds to shatter.”

       Truth is intimately connected with trust, and society runs on this blend. We expect machines to do what the advertising says they’ll do. We expect shop & grocery clerks to know their craft and be helpful to customers. Public officials are supposed to serve the public. News outlets are supposed to tell us the truth about what is happening in our local and broader world.
      This delicate fabric of truth and trust is facing major stresses today. The role of multiple sources, exaggeration, individual truth, fake news, plus an overall skepticism in the general public are combining to fray this relationship. It's hard to decipher what is true; the interconnected age we live in is so highly complex that answers to questions and solutions to problems are not simple. Add to this the fact the world is changing so rapidly that things true even a few years ago are not so straightforward now. No wonder there are pockets of people who only agree with things they think they already know, accepting nothing that contradicts their current belief system so often rooted in the past..

      All this raises for me a question as old as humankind, but made famous by Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?” It’s quite relevant in today’s social climate and raises a number of deeper questions:
·         Is truth black and white or can it be varied shades of grey?
·         Is truth absolute, the same in all times and places? If so, why do people so often disagree with each other?
·          Can truth be defined clearly?
·         How do you tell when something is true or a lie? Is there something in between?

      Because people build their lives on what they think is true, the ambiguity of truth in today’s climate makes it difficult to know whom or what to trust. Businessman and keynote speaker Stephen Covey says, “Trust is the glue of life…the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” If this is as true as it seems, what are the implications for Christians and other people of good will?

      Here are some bits of wisdom I ran across that I find helpful:
            The one who trusts in his own heart is a fool… (Prov. 28:26)
            Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. (William Shakespeare, “All’s Well that Ends Well
            A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
                                    (English preacher Charles Spurgeon)
            Trust but verify. (American president Ronald Reagan)
            Trust not in ourselves but God. (2 Cor. 1:9)

      I conclude from all this that individuals of good will can help society recover from its current chaos by not taking a single source’s “truth” at face value.  Instead, each of us should tap into the wisdom of multiple sources, including tradition and a group larger than a handful of people. This process should include comparing this new “truth” with the universal truths from faith and morality that have endured for thousands of years. This is not easy because it takes work, but trying to be people of faith and hope has always been a challenge. I love this quote for its hopefulness:  “The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” (writer Marty Rubin)

Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB