Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Mystery of Friendship

     Do you have a friend, a really good friend? Have you ever thought about what holds the two of you together? Sometimes there is no ready answer to this question? Why this person and not another? Personally I have never really tried to dissect any of these relationships, but I appreciate them as rare gifts.

     Recently I’ve begun to see these gifts as part of a much bigger treasure. Each relationship is somehow a part of the mystery of God and a glimpse into the living reality of God’s incarnation into our world.

     The other day Fr. Bill Cleves gave a presentation here at St.Walburg on Pope Francis’ Exsultate et Gaudete; the letter is about our call to holiness. Fr. Cleves'  talk was rich with insight into Francis’ reflections. One of the threads I found weaving through his remarks was the theme of God as community and how, as a people of faith, we are part of this divine relationship. He points out that for Francis, the call to holiness is a journey with others, not alone. This is where I see the God-connection with friendship.

     A major element in friendship is in the self--giving that occurs in moments or over years. As each person gives part of self, bonds get stronger. These are Godly acts! We find in the Hebrew bible and other sacred texts across many cultures that creation is God’s self-giving, God’s outpouring. God as Father, Son, and Spirit, is a Trinity of Self-giving, which is another way of saying God is Love and the Source of all bonding within creation. God is Community. The Dalai Lama has said, “…our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence,” and Fr. Cleves reflected the other day: “We are most divine when we are in communion.” These things are true because God is communion.

     One doesn’t have to be a theologian, however, to recognize the reality and significance of the bonds between human beings.
  •  “If we were good at everything we would have no need for each other.” Simon Sinek, British-American author and organizational consultant.
  • “Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence…” Erik Erikson, German-American psychologist and psychoanalyst.
  • “When we seek for connection we restore the world to wholeness.” Margaret J. Wheatley, American writer and management consultant
     Then too, a casual stroll through almost any drug, grocery, or discount store will reveal hundreds of greeting cards for almost any occasion. Each card is a reminder of how often people want to connect with another person. A friend lets us know that we matter!

           Looking at all this in another way, God gives us other people to remind us that the Divine Presence is always near. During his presentation Fr. Cleves suggested another name for God: “I’m Right Here!”  When we open our eyes and our heart to appreciate a friendly gesture or a jaw-dropping event, that's God saying to us, "I'm Right Here." If we reach out to someone with a consoling or forgiving word, that's God saying to the hurting person, "I'm Right Here."  There is the mystery; there is a re-enactment of the Incarnation. The mystery of God and the mystery of humanity are once again visibly intertwined, God reaching into human life to make us more divine. Through friendship we are truly  immersed in mystery.

       What a gift!

       Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

“Are you hastening toward your heavenly home?”

     The above quote is from the Holy Rule of St. Benedict [1980 translation].
In a recent community retreat at St. Walburg Monastery, Cistercian Abbot
Paul Mark based his conferences on questions found in the Holy Rule and
In Scripture.  In a reference to Sr. Ephrem Hall, OSB; he noted that
“God’s questions [ in Scripture ] to us are invitations to open our hearts and
minds in a divine-human communication and relationship. Abbot  Paul Mark
shared that the questions St. Benedict presented in the Holy Rule can be taken
as doorways to enter the mystery of the person of Christ and there to be clothed in Christ, having the mind of Christ imbued within us.

     Are you hastening to your heavenly home? This quote from the Rule of Benedict is found in Chapter 73:8.  The term ‘hastening’ intrigued me to search  some of its myriad meanings.  

    Make hurry in a rash manner i.e. as in ‘willy-nilly’.
    Hurry in a rushed careless way without any real reason nor purpose.
    Rush, speed-up.
    Swiftly, rapidly urgently.
    Just get it done now.

    To hasten heedfully however needs to be goal-oriented to avoid being disoriented.

     Through the sacrament of Baptism our goal automatically resides in seeking
The Kingdom of God which embodies the fulfillment in ‘The Body of Christ’
In the prayer Jesus taught us “Our Father”: we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done and earth as in heaven.’
To enter into this Kingdom of Love personified in the communion of the father, son, and holy spirit our strength and energy will come in our participation in the Love.  St. Benedict in chapter 72:11-12  states:”Let us prefer nothing whatever
to  Christ and may He bring us altogether to the kingdom of everlasting life.” 
     There will be a new heaven and a new earth that shines so bright with God’s
love and glory that we will have no reason to deny that there is not enough sight

to walk in this light. So now let us hasten to our heavenly home.

           Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

Monday, September 10, 2018

Mary, Our Mother

       During September we celebrate two Marian Feasts that highlight the ups and downs of everyone’s life whether outstanding saint or worst of sinner. On September 8, we celebrate the Nativity of Mary. Exactly one week later we encounter Our Lady of Sorrows.
       The entrance antiphon for the Mass of Mary’s nativity sets the tone for our celebration,”Let  us celebrate with joy the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for from her arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.” I smile when I compare these words with what Joachim and Ann may have uttered. Elated as they were, how different our perspective after over two- thousand years. In awe and joy, we can pray,”Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”   
       Many of us at St. Walburg also celebrate Mary’s nativity as the anniversary of the day we entered this Monastery. In the days when a group of young ladies were simultaneously expressing interest in becoming nuns, they were encouraged to enter the same day; namely on Sept. 8. After a period of postulancy and a year as a novice, we received a new name. The name of Mary then took on new significance as the name Mary preceded the new name, which for me was Sr. Mary Victoria. While many of us just use the second part of our title, the name Mary is written in our hearts.
       What a contrast one week later when we celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows!  Almost any reference lists Mary’s sorrows as seven beginning with the prophesy of Simeon that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart and ending with Christ’s entombment. While seven may be obviously Mary’s very worse sorrows, much of her life likely contributed to her title as Our Lady of Sorrows.
       So many of today’s headlines refer to mothers who live with unbearable sorrows: refugee mothers who do not know where their children are, mothers whose children were murdered or kidnapped, mothers who mourn for their children who are addicted or commit suicide. The list could be endless. Our Lady of Sorrows, comfort the hearts of all sorrowful mothers.

          Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB