Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The holy seed is its stump*.

          Over the past year several large branches of our seventy + year old pin oaks which were approximately 75 feet high spontaneously fell onto the walk leading to the monastery’s front door. Clearly it was no longer safe to keep the trees.
               These pin oaks were planted in 1937, the year this monastery building was erected. Each of the current members of the community walked beside or under the oaks as she entered. Over the past week we have watched and heard the whirring blades and heavy thuds as those eight mighty oaks were taken down, branch by branch and trunk by trunk. Right now, only the stumps remain.
                         Eventually they will be grounded out and something new will be planted. In the meantime, we will see and appreciate the main entrance with its expanded openness.
         An aside: Never having seen such large trees cut down I was amazed and grateful to the team of men who did all the work. Their task was not easy, but their skills kept them and our front entry safe.
          *Isaiah 6:13

              Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Words are Powerful

       Everyday we speak many words to each other.These words are often words said to establish or
preserve a relationship with others. Words can be instructive or destructive, uplifting, forgiving, encouraging, and the list goes on and on. Some of us utter words before we think and perhaps
later regret these words.  Harmful words hurt people and may cause scars for many years.  A good goal for each of us is to think before we speak and consider the effect of our words.

       St. John in opening his Gospel, tells us that "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us..."(Jn.1:14).Jesus is the Word of God uttered in our midst. At the Ascension, Jesus tells us to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who he will send us. The Feast of Pentecost celebrates this gift of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Gospel writers with the words about our salvation.  Do we relish these sacred words and put them into practice in our lives?

             Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Friday, June 7, 2019

Celebrating the Founders of St. Walburg Monastery

       On Monday, June 3, we celebrated Founders’ Day, commemorating the five sisters who came from Erie, PA to establish St. Walburg Monastery in Covington, Kentucky. The sisters came in two batches. The first three-- Sisters Josephine Buerkle, Anselma Schoenhofer and Ruperta Albert—came on June 3, 1859. Two months later—Mother Alexia Lechner (left), who was appointed the first prioress, and Sister Salesia Haas arrived on August 2. Their mission was to "take charge of the girls' school" at  St. Joseph Parish on 12th Street in Covington.

       The commemoration of our founders fills us with joy and pride in our tradition—even though Sr. Josephine Buerkle left soon after Mother Alexia arrived to go back to Erie where she married a young man she knew before she was asked to go
to Covington. Such an event reminds us of the humanity of those who have gone before us and who begin a good work.

       At dinner on June 3 some of the sisters at my table encouraged me to share with you the closing prayer we use at Liturgy of the Hours on Founders’ Day and the general intercessions I wrote for Eucharist that day. One sister said these two prayers manifest how we look at our past and how our past informs who we are in the present and who we want to be in the future.

Closing Prayer for Founders’ Day Liturgy of the Hours
       O God, we remember and give thanks for courageous and visionary women who founded this community. You filled them with the love of prayer, the desire to serve your people and good zeal for the monastic life. May their example inspire us, their memory encourage us and their intercession sustain us as we seek to respond to your call of today. Bring to the fulfillment the good work you began in them and continue in us. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who abides with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

General Intercessions—June 3, 2019
In faith Benedict and Scholastica envisioned a life of stability and peace amid the turmoil of their time. Give us a monastic vision for our time, we pray:

In faith the sisters of St. Walburg Abbey in Eichstatt sent women to America to serve in new and different ways. Open Church leaders and ministers to new ways to spread the Gospel, we pray:

In faith five sisters set out from Erie to come to a place they had never seen to serve people they did not know. Give us courage to face an unknown future, we pray:

In faith we proclaim that we serve Christ and open our hearts to the young and the old, the sick and the poor, the stranger and the guest. Bring to fulfillment the good work you have begun in us, we pray:

In faith women of strength and courage came together to seek God. Strengthen our community life and increase our confidence that God is with us always, we pray:

In faith Mother Alexia and all her daughters who are now part of that great cloud of witnesses, persevered in the monastery until death. Bring them all together to everlasting life, we pray:

                              Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Speaking a word of peace

           Easter season is coming to an end. I will miss the beautiful Easter songs. Songs singing of “days of delight, joy, glory and freshness of the newness of life.”
            In the Acts of the Apostles, we have grieved with the Apostles over Jesus’ death. His Resurrection three days later was a wonder and fulfillment of his promise. The Apostles’ work of establishing the early Church continued Jesus’ work. Much new life came with conversions and disappointments as well as deaths.
In the Gospels of the Easter season, Jesus walked with the Apostles. He even prepared and ate breakfast with them. His words reassured them that He would not leave them alone. PEACE was the greeting he gave them in many of his appearances. “PEACE the world cannot give.” I go so that the Paraclete, whom I will send, will come [upon you]."                          Jesus’s words were not only for the Apostles. They are for all of us. We are ‘the others’ Jesus must go to.
            We reap the benefits of the Paraclete Jesus sent. After Pentecost we begin Ordinary Time knowing that the ‘ordinary” simply means “the order of time.” There is nothing “ordinary” about this season since Jesus and the Spirit are with us.
            Let us enjoy the peace the word cannot give.

        Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Of Doorways and Differences

       Have you ever thought about how many transitions we experience each day? They come in all levels of significance from walking through a doorway to losing a job, but all involve change of some kind, letting go of something. Sometimes these go unnoticed because we are focused on the next thing. Other times the letting go is so demanding or painful, it absorbs us completely.

       One of the things that strikes me about these situations is that in each one there is a moment where 2 very different things are held side-by-side as we navigate the transition. In the case of a doorway, it could be two rooms, each having a very different purpose, like cooking/sleeping. In the case of losing a job, it could be the sense of meaning and worth meeting a sense of loss and indignation. The doorway?  trivial and hardly noticed.  The job? This could be overwhelming.

       Strikingly different things side by side usually create dissonance. This disrupts a normal pattern of our existence, sometimes painfully, other times creatively. Artists often use dissonance, aural or visual, in their work to give us another point of reference. Some common examples of differences co-existing include things like vegetable soup, patchwork quilts, or a Bernstein overture. In fact, one important principle in communication theory is called “cognitive dissonance.” This occurs when one apparent truth  is jarred by another “truth” coming in from outside, and I have to decide whether to accept one, the other, both, or neither.

        Yesterday here in KY it was primary election day. There were 4 races for statewide offices, so I did my homework and went to the polls. Last night, watching the results come in, I noticed most of my choices were not winning; I was disappointed but not surprised. This is one of many times where I find my personal choices usually do not match the choices of the majority of the population. My usual analysis concludes that what I value most highly is not what others put at the top of their priority list.

       Making choices is a part of daily life and each is powered by decisions. For each of us, normally these decisions grow out of a highly personal mix of influences shaped by things like education, values, media choices, and friends. We also tend to relate more comfortably with those whose judgments and influences are compatible with our own. This creates for each of us an arena of mutual support and affirmation, a comfort that is shaken when passionate differences crop up; the dissonance can be challenging.

       Sources of dissonance often come down to this: contradicting opinions about what is most important. Isn’t this the situation in a lot business, political, and even personal disagreements? Isn’t this how factions form, whether in the New Testament or today? Isn’t this at least part of how majority and minority groups come to exist?

.It can be very unpleasant to be in the middle of a dissonant situation. Is there anything one person can do? Here are some of my own thoughts on this:
   1) First I need to recognize how often dissonance shows up in daily life, from personal disagreements on food or movies to advertisements that use dissonance to sell products. It’s part of living in a group.
   2) Try to find something in the other position that I do not totally reject; this could turn into a small shared point of view.
  3)  Ask myself what could be the source of the others’ passion about the topic. Even a wrong guess could mellow my own perspective because it means I can see an angle from which to get new insight.
 4)  Decide if it is important to try to get to a point of dialogue right now, or should I leave things as they are until another time.

Differences and doorways can be reminders that dissonance is daily, but handled with thoughtfulness, reflection, and even prayer, they might lead us to be more tolerant of letting go and of change in general.

            Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Quiet, Silence and Solitude

       During a recent conversation I was asked, “How do I see my life as a 17-year old compared to someone who is 17 in 2019?”  I have thought about that question several times since the conversation. Of course, there are differences and similarities, some obvious and some not so obvious.There is however one difference or perceived difference that keeps creeping into my thinking.  
       I think I had a lot more time to be quiet. A few examples will suffice. At home we had a radio and a television. There were no electronic devices in any bedroom.  We walked and worked and read without earbuds. At school we exchanged classes in silence (or at least that was the teachers’ goal).  We had monthly days of reflection consisting of two or three talks and no talking for the whole school day.These practices would be foreign to most 17-year-olds I know.
       The result for me was the ability to experience and to be comfortable with solitude.Taking a walk in the woods or lying on my bed looking at the bare ceiling provided opportunities to be alone with my thoughts and to be alone with God. I had learned to listen for that “Soft Breeze” that brought calm and clarity to life. Fortunately, my foundation was great. My parents were models. Mother had a chair in the bedroom. We knew this was the time to not disturb her. My father was a salesman who travelled do both urban and rural grocery stores. Drive time was quiet time. Even his rosary had a special hanger on the dashboard to hold his place. I am grateful for my opportunities that have made God a friend forever.
       I do worry that this dimension of solitude is minimalized in the current graduates. I hope and pray that in their heightened activities and noise-filled lives there are some pauses that allow God to be found and time spent with God to be nourished. The rewards are tremendous.

            Sr. Mary Rabe, OSB

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Mystery Of The Holy Eucharist As Depicted In The Murals in Our Cathedral

    During this third week of Easter we have been reading from the Gospel of John 3: 25-71 on the “Discourse on the Bread of Life”.  These Scriptures brought back to me the details of an event I was privileged to participate in recently, “An Interpretation of the Frank Duveneck’s Triptych in the Cathedral Chapel.”
     On April 6, 2019 Rev. Msgr. William Cleves, who had been invited by the Northern Kentucky Heritage League, gave his Interpretation of the Duveneck Murals.  There were some fifty folks gathered in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption to hear Fr. Cleves’ presentation. As this year is the 100th anniversary of Frank Duveneck’s death it was a great way to recognize him and his work. 
      Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) a local artist who lived not far from St. Joseph Church, 12th and Greenup Streets, at 1232 Greenup St., spent much of his early years observing and assisting the artists of the Benedictine-operated Covington Altar Building Stock Company.   After much training and experience here and also in Munich, Germany and Florence, Italy, he was commissioned in 1905 by Bishop Camillus P. Maes, to create a set of Murals for the 36.6 ft. high wall of the Cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  The bishop wanted a depiction of the historic lineage of the holy Eucharist from the Old Testament to the present day.  It took Frank five years to complete the work, moving the canvases with him to wherever he was working, especially at the Cincinnati Art Academy.  The Triptych was hung and dedicated in 1909.
     Fr. Cleves pointed out that we will see that Duveneck really studied and knew his material very well in order to produce such a gem. After many hours meditating with these murals while he was rector at the Cathedral, Fr. Cleves shared the theological and spiritual significance that he has gleaned.
     “We read the triptych from right to left, in the style of biblical Hebrew manuscripts. We want to see what it says to us now.  There is no past of future time, only the present.  Events were timeless. They entered the event. We step into it and out again.
The Right scene:  We see Arron’s hand is on the altar.  (The altar and pillars are the Cathedral’s altar and pillars.) The cup of blessing and the show bread are near the other hand.  As we read Exodus 28: 1-40, we see that Duveneck painted all of the details, as described in the text, that Arron and all priests are to wear.
 The Middle Panel:  Bottom:  The woman kneels below the cross in pain and is surrounded by symbols of death, even the city is in the dark.  She looks up seeing only the suffering Christ.  The view from below is not what is seen from above.   God sees differently.  God is supporting Jesus in his suffering.  She sees only partially.
Top:  The Trinity is involved.  Angels span all time – unity the whole triptych.  The Central event is the Paschal Mystery:  the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  All is foreshadowed in the Old Testament.  Jesus is the Bread of Life, and his Blood is our Drink. 
Left Panel:  Now we experience this mystery in this Cathedral.  (Note the altar and pillars are what you see around you here.)  These events are timeless.  We enter them - that they might become flesh.  (The deacon’s apparel is modeled after Arron’s dress connecting the old with the new.  The priests are from religious orders of the Church.  Even one of the stained glass windows is painted above on the wall of this panel.)
      All this takes place under the watchful eye of God and the Angels.  Genisis 22: “God sees to it.”    God Provides=God’s Providence.  It takes the eyes of faith to see beyond. We have outward signs of His presence, especially the Eucharist that continues in this very Church. There is no time when we cannot see the presence of God among us – to be revealed by the eyes of faith.” 
     Fr. Cleves closed by quoting Duveneck, “What Good can come from Galilee, that place of shame?  We have seen.”  With the strength of God he created this beautiful sacred art.  It can reveal the depth of God’s love and care of us.
    What a treasure we have in our midst to help us appreciate the Mystery of the Eucharist over the course of history!  Thanks to the vision of Bishop Maes, the artistic ability of Frank Duveneck and the shared interpretation of Msgr. William Cleves.

       Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Our Mothers

         Here I am again with a blog assigned for May, so close to Mother’s day! Being a sentimental person who saves things, I once again displayed an Easter card my mother had sent me so many years ago, and I think of her wishing me all those blessings again from her place in eternity.  
We may not all be mothers, but all of us have a mother somewhere. Some are close by and well known to us. Others may be unknown, or far away, but gave birth to us many years ago. And others, like mine, have gone to their eternal reward.
Recently I came across a quote from the musician Charles Gounod that I found so fitting for this day. The Bach/ Gounod “Ave Maria” rivals the Schubert “Ave Maria” as a request for weddings, funerals, and other religious celebrations. Both are a reflection/tribute on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Latin version of the familiar “Hail Mary.”
Gounod had this to say: My story bears witness to my love and veneration for the being who bestows more love than any other earthly creature – my mother! Maternity is the most perfect reflection of the great Providence: the purest, warmest ray He casts on earthly life; its inexhaustible solicitude is the direct outpouring of God’s eternal care for His own creatures.
This quote was a discovery for me, and I went searching for other musicians’ experiences. Poor Mozart! His mother had accompanied him to Paris, got sick and died there, so he had to break the news to his father who was still at home in Salzburg. Somewhere I read that the death of the mothers of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky had a profound effect on the music they were composing at the time.
 Jesus bequeathed His mother to us in His words to John as he hung upon the cross, and earlier He had taught that anyone who “Does the will of my Father is mother to Me.” So how can we be mother to Jesus at this time?
If I can bring Him to birth in the life of someone who has never known Him, that is being mother to Jesus. If I can grieve with those who have lost a loved one to death, to drug addiction, or left the Church, that is being mother to the crucified Jesus. If I can rejoice with those who experience the coming back of the lost loved one, or the birth of a child, that is being mother to the new life of the risen Jesus. But most of all, in the words of Jesus Himself, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, my sister, and my mother.” (Mt. 12:50)
And how blessed are we who have had a mother who leads us to Jesus!

Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Whom Do You Seek?

       Mary of Magdala comes to the tomb early on Easter morning.  She looks in
the tomb and she believes someone has taken the body of Jesus from the
tomb. Later she would meet Jesus in the garden and thinks he is the gardener until He speaks to her.  "Mary".
       In reflecting on this Easter Gospel account, I place myself in the sandals of Mary of Magdala and experience doubt and fear when I see the empty tomb.  Where and who has taken the body of Jesus?  I run to tell the apostles that He
is gone!  I go back to the garden later and meet Jesus and do not recognize Him, believing He is the gardener.  When Jesus speaks, I recognize Him.
       There is a sense of overwhelming joy and excitement!
       In our day, we also go to the tomb on Easter morning. We know that Jesus is risen and we find an empty tomb. At Easter Eucharist we read the Gospel account of the Resurrection and we meet the risen Christ sacramentally in the Eucharist. We too experience joy and peace in His presence. He sends us forth at the end of Mass to experience His risen life in all who we meet.
      We are called to bring Christ to others and called to receive the risen Christ in those we meet.
       Yes!  Christ is truly risen and we rejoice and will one day experience Him fully in eternity. Happy Easter!

                    Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Transforming Power of Forgiveness

              As the culmination of this Lenten season draws near, what have you found that brings you hope, restores peace of heart, renews your energy? Or what keeps you starting over, persevering, keeping faith?   
             When I reflect upon the Lenten Scriptures, the transforming power of forgiveness jumps out at me. The woman at the well, the prodigal son, Peter in the courtyard…  Forgiving oneself and forgiving others is no easy task. Only God’s grace can give us the strength and the trust to do either. Our more frequent failures can attune us to possibly needed changes in our attitudes. Sometimes, though, we can only pray to begin a heart-changing process. Sometimes, this takes years. What The Rule (of Benedict) makes clear is that forgiveness is not a bolt of lightning, but a slow, steady slog through sand.*
            As we look forward to this Palm Sunday and the sacred days of Holy Week, let us remember the loving embrace of the father, the woman’s restored dignity, and Peter’s denial -conversion.  Let us pray to be open to receiving this graced gift of forgiveness and to passing it on to another – living or deceased.

                Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

                                                                   *How To Live by Judith Valente c 2018

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Benefits of Group Lectio

       A short time before Lent, a note on the bulletin board gave us the opportunity to join a prayer group to reflect on each Lenten Sunday Gospel if we so desired. Names of sisters who were willing to lead a group were also provided. I was delighted to put my name under one of the leaders as my past experience in such groups has been grace-filled.
       On Saturday, March 30, the group I joined met for our 4thtime to reflect on Luke’s  story of the prodigal son. On this particular Saturday I felt worn out and edgy over how I would meet two other commitments due soon. God graced me to choose to attend the group—always a blessing.
       You may well be familiar with the format that is frequently used for group“lectio divina” (“holy” or “sacred reading.”) A group member reads aloud the gospel, and each one present listens for a word or phrase that particularly strikes him/her. That word or phrase is then shared aloud. The phrase that touched me was “The Father was filled with compassion.”  
       Someone then reads the gospel for a second time and each member shares more about the feeling, image or thoughts she/he experienced regarding his/her chosen word or phrase. I shared that the phrase, “The Father was filled with Compassion,” seemed to wash over me and calm my tiredness and anxieties regarding my other commitments.
       After all have shared the gospel is read a third time and individuals share what the chosen word or phrase is calling him/her to do during the following week. Each member then prayed for the sister on her left and it was time to attend the community’s communal evening prayer at 5 PM. I made sure to remember to let “my” phrase wash over me and soothe me throughout the coming week.
       Every Lent and Easter season Sr. Mary Tewes leads a weekly evening  lectio group here at the monastery and invites lay people to attend. If you would like to come, just give Sr. Mary a call to have a seat ready for you.

Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

So how is your Lent going?

          Sunday marks the midpoint of Lent. Have you ever had the experience that with the exception of Lent time goes quickly? Staying with our Lenten practices when multiple temptations set in makes the season, even for the strong,a challenge. We can take some comfort knowing that even Jesus was tempted during his forty days. For me"the demon of acedia – “sloth or laziness” can set in. The early monastics referred to it as the “noonday demon –the one who makes it seem that the sun barely moves.
Keeping close to the daily liturgical readings, pondering and responding to them provides an antidote.
One message from Wednesday’s reading is to “observe God’s teaching and we will have life.”(Deut. 4:6) How does my life reflect how I am observing God’s teaching?
          Tomorrow, God speaks to us directly “listen to my voice then I will be your God and you will be my people.”(Jer. 7:23) How do I listen with the ear of the heart? How have I become one of God’s faithful people?
On Friday, Hosea reminds us that we “have collapsed through our guilt” (Hos. 14:2)and it is our good and gracious God who “heals our defections,and loves us freely.”(Hos14:4)And in turn, Jesus, in the Gospel for today is explicit in his expectation of us: “You must love God with your whole heart. . . AND you must love your neighbor as yourself.(Mark 12:29, 31)That is a very tall order and ought to draw one out of acedia!
On Saturday, Hosea again reminds us, God is much more interested in our love rather than our sacrifices. (Hos. 6:6)If our Lenten practices are not leading us to be greater lovers we are missing the point of Jesus’ presence among us.
 The Sunday Gospel exemplifies that love, the merciful father daily scouring the fields and “while his son was still a long way off caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.”(Luke 15:21)The father exudes joy and warmly embraces his errant son and welcomes him home.
          God’s fidelity and love is so much greater than our malaise. May a renewed zeal drive us into the remaining weeks of Lent.

         Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What If?

       This week we celebrate two major feasts—St. Joseph and St. Benedict.
       In reflecting first on St. Joseph and then on St. Benedict the same thought keeps coming to mind: WHAT IF?

       What if St. Joseph had said, “No thanks” to the angel? What if he had left Mary to face her future on her own? What if he had not been able to accept the unexpected? What if he had not had the faith to accept the responsibilities and blessings and uncertainties that his life would have?

       Our salvation history would be different—not that I know what it would have been, but the important people would not have been the same.

       What if St. Benedict had remained in his cave at Subiaco and not allowed others to join him? What if he had not envisioned a monastery with an abbot? What if he had not written the Rule that would be followed by thousands of men and women throughout the centuries?

       My history would be different—not meeting Benedictine sisters from first grade onward, not being part of St. Walburg Monastery, not writing this blog!

       And I ask, “What if” we make our decisions with faith and generosity? Where will that lead?

          Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Navigation Practices

                       Life recently has tossed me several unexpected twist and turns with lots of ambiguity and no quick resolution.   In trying to cope I’ve had to be intentional about increasing practices which give me strength to navigate.  Below are some practices I’ve been using.  I find having several options is good in case I need more than one or something is not available. 
  • ·         Stretching … I find it grounds me and releases the tension stored in my body
  • ·         Window shopping…cost nothing and you see interesting things.  Pier I and Target are among my favorite spots to look
  • ·         Be with God…God welcomes our prayers, pleas, cursing, and silence
  • ·         Breathe deeply…often and all the way down to the belly to create space and foster relaxation
  • ·         Music…my current favorite is an Aretha Franklin playlist which runs the gamut of emotions.         
    •         Monopoly with friends…passes hours of fun and provides distraction
      from the day to day (love the National Park version)
    • ·         Talking with friends…their willingness to listen, offer a different perspective or just be with me in the muck is priceless
    • ·         Practice gratitude…notice the little things each day a kindness, something of beauty, or sometimes safely making it to the end of the day
    • ·         Reading…I usually a variety of fiction, non-fiction, or just interesting books from the library pro
    • ·         Make space…when life is stressful we need some space to just be or perhaps even rest so we can rejuvenate and return to the tasks at hand

    Whatever space in which you find yourself I encourage you to think about the practices which help you navigate the changing circumstances of life.  Blessings on your journey! 

             Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

    Wednesday, March 6, 2019

    With the Sign of Ashes

    Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.

    With the sign of ashes on our foreheads we enter into Lent. We are marked people, as Cain was, sinners nonetheless, trying to reform our lives in the school of the Lord’s service.

    For many years I did not realize that the ashes were made by burning the palm from the previous year’s Palm Sunday—carefully braided palm fronds, collected and burned by the sacristan. From hosanna to dust. Repeat next year.
    Thomas Merton wrote that “The Church uses material things in the liturgy because they speak eloquently of God…we must learn to use our senses…to appreciate the sacramental aids to holiness…” He continues, “The material things which surround us are holy because of our bodies, which are sanctified by our souls, which are sanctified by the presence of the indwelling word.”* 
    The dust from which we come is given life, sanctified in baptism, marked by ashes, brought to repentance and new life. Our earthly remains are committed to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.   And out of that dust, in an unending cycle, comes abundant and eternal life.
    *The Monastic Journey

             Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB 

    Thursday, February 28, 2019

    Preppping for Lent

    Matt: 24:12  Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will ... grow cold. 
              This year with increase in polarity in the world our church, the sex abuse scandal within the church threatening our faith; what must we do to  help prevent this coldness of heart in our lives and in the lives of those brethren we encounter daily. What do we have to offer?  In Pope Francis'  address last year, he noted that the Catholic church offers each year the Season of Lent as a ‘sacramental sign’ of conversion.  Lent summons us and enables us to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly in every aspect of our lives. 

    Romans. 12:1-2  I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age but be yourself transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

     Romans. 14:13  Then let us no longer judge one another, but rather resolve never to  put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.

    Mark. 7: 7-9   In this quote, Mark points out that those who turn away from the commands of God and become attuned to purely human teachings (divisive and abusive politics, intolerances, ambiguity, polarity, etc) can no longer hear the voice of God.

    Joel:2:12-14   Even now declares the Lord 'Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'

    Luke 6:38   Give and gifts will be given to you in good measure, packed together, shook down and overflowing, and well poured into your lap. O yeah, by the way, these must also by shared wholeheartedly.

    Matthew 25:40  Amen, I say to you whatever you do for one of these least of my brethren you do unto me.  Again, this includes: the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the elderly, the marginalized, the adversary,  those who are lowly and disdained by many etc.

    Saint Mother Therese  It is not how much we do but rather with how much love we put into the action that we do.

    If we concentrate on some of these thoughts and actions in Lent, perhaps we will avoid the coldness of heart and maybe help others to have warm hearts by reaching out with love.

                       Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

    Wednesday, February 20, 2019

    Bishops' Meeting in Rome February 2019

    Ideas you discuss, but situations have to be discerned.
                                                                Pope Francis

          I came upon the above quote in a recent issue of Commonweal (2.22.19) in an article by Austen Ivereigh. The author was reflecting on Pope Francis’ remarks to reporters on his way home from Chile.

          Between February 20th and the 24th bishops from around the world will be meeting at the Vatican regarding the global sex abuse crisis in the Church. The summit is designed to be about conversion, a change of heart, rather than a meeting to develop and produce more norms, codes, laws or procedures. The goal of the summit is to bring about a true awareness of the suffering of the victims and to name the root of the problem. Only then can reform be effective.

          Let us support the assembled bishops in our prayer.

                  Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

    Wednesday, February 13, 2019

    Give Civil Engagement a Chance

           Valentine hearts are not enough. To truly love, that is to regard the other in an unconditionally positive way, we must listen and be open to the person. This is needed on a personal as well as global scale. In launching One Small Step, StoryCorps©suggests, We are living through complicated days in these United States. The country is increasingly disconnected –our mutual distrust is amplified by everything from the corrosive effects of social media to the forces seeking to weaken the foundations of our democracy. Many people in American feel unheard, alone or distrustful. This project, currently being promoted by NKU Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, is one way of bringing people together, one on one, to share their thoughts and feelings without judging or being judged.

           The Northern Kentucky Justice & Peace Committee is studying this and other possible activities to promote civil dialogue. But it’s not complicated. At the heart of every process are these basic guidelines:

    • Invite someone whose point of view is different from your own to have a conversation over coffee or lunch.
    • Don’t persuade, defend or interrupt. Be respectful.
    • Share some of your life experiences.
    • What issues deeply concern you?
    • Be curious.  What have you always wanted to ask someone from “the other side”?

          I am drawn to take action in this way. I haven’t quite figured out who I will invite, or when, or the other specifics that need to be planned to really turn the idea into action. But writing this is my launch pad. Thank you for empowering me by listening.

          A final thought from Rumi:
                    Out beyond ideas of right doing,
                    wrong doing,
                    there is a field.
           I’ll meet you there.

    Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB 

    Wednesday, February 6, 2019

    The Joys of February

                It’s official! February is here! Punxsutawney Phil has already predicted what the weather holds for us for the next 6 weeks.  February is my least favorite month.  Although it is the shortest; it seems like the longest to me.
                “February got its name from the Latin FEBRUUM meaning purification.  FEBRUA was a purification ritual held February 15, (full moon) where people were ritually washed.  These great festivities were to re-establish the Emperor’s focus on righteous living.” (Writer’s note:  Wouldn’t that be great!)
                It’s possible that FEBRUA (purification) had some influence on the Christian three part celebration on February 2nd.  One part is the Presentation of Jesus in the temple by Mary and Joseph. Jesus, the Son of God, is offered and redeemed by two turtledoves.  Simeon, the elderly prophet, tells Mary and Joseph that Jesus is destined to be “the Light of the world.”  Jesus, as “light,” is symbolized by candles. Second part is Candlemas Day when the Church blesses candles for use in the liturgy.  The final part of this day is Mary’s Purification.  The ritual women participated in after the birth of first born child.
                We Benedictines have a special interest in February.  The 10th is the feast of Saint Scholastica, Benedict’s twin sister; the 25th the feast of Saint Walburg, the saint for whom our monastery is named.
                Presidents’ Day February 18th (this year) celebrates our many presidents especially, Washington (22) and Lincoln (12) whose birthdays occur during this month.           
                We can’t forget Valentine Day the 14th.  According to Wikipedia “there are energy shifts toward love and compassion.  We find happiness in the simplest things.”  On Valentine Day we take the time to reflect on the love given us from others, and show them how much they mean to us.  We give valentines—by our love in words, actions, simple gifts.
                I’m ready for spring with warmer weather and more sunshine.  I have begun to look for the tiny heads of tulips, crocus, and daffodils peaking out of the ground.  Even “the Old Farmers’ Almanac said that this is the month to plant a garden. Start onion seeds, these are firmer than sets. Parsley should be started indoors.”
                Maybe it’s a good thing to have a “Leap Year” every four years, thanks to Julius Caesar’s astronomers.  Or, we may not have enough of “February” to enjoy all its l-o-n-g days.  Maybe I’ll learn to like February better.

            Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

    Thursday, January 31, 2019

    The Mystery of God's Love

               Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of Paul. At both Morning and Evening Prayer we prayed: God of grace and transformation, you chose Paul who zealously persecuted your Church to preach the Gospel. We give you thanks for the way you work in our lives and use what we would reject to spread the gospel.
                I was thinking about the reaction of Ananias and the Christians in Damascus at the change in Saul/Paul. I’m sure they were wondering what God was doing and when they finally accepted that he “was an instrument whom God had chosen” some of them wondered about God’s terrible taste in choosing people.
                I was reminded of a seminary faculty member on the Formation Team when I was working at the seminary. He was an impressive theologian and a brilliant teacher, but he also had terrible taste in people. He chose to be friends with and nurture people who ended up disappointing and betraying him. We rejoiced one day when he finally said, “I refuse to be part of this person’s ongoing soap opera drama any more.”
                I also thought of two times in my life when I was hurt and betrayed by two separate persons. As I was trying to work through each of  the experiences, talking to myself, whining, and running around in a useless loop of emotions, I heard God say, “Deborah, I love that person as much as I love you.” And I thought, “God, you have terrible taste in people.” But it was a powerful recognition for me.
                Today in all of the chaos in the world and our country, this insight comes back to remind me that I am not God and that God is better than anyone I know. I show my biases and share with you that:
                God loves Donald Trump as much as God loves Nancy Pelosi
                God loves Vladimir Putin as much as God loves Pope Francis
                God loves Mitch McConnell as much as God loves Bernie Sanders
    God loves the ICE officials as much as God loves the immigrants at our borders.
                Try it yourself. Take the most disparate people you can think of and realize that God loves each of them as much as God loves any of them. God may not love their actions but God loves them.
                As a human being, I can’t stay with that thought very long, but when I return to it and try to process what to do with it, it is always an amazing insight and reminds me to be compassionate and to try to face my biases and prejudices..
                But God has terrible taste in people.

           Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

    Wednesday, January 23, 2019

    There is always more to every story

           You’ve probably seen something in the media about this - a high school boy and an elderly Native American man facing each other on the mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. The incident has been on the news everywhere – national and local radio/ tv, print media, and of course, all over the internet. Several things in the photo propelled the interest: the obvious culture gap visible in the boy’s Make America Great Again cap and the Indian’s drum, the young white and elderly brown face, the countenance on each one as their faces almost touch, all this against a backdrop of boys chanting something. 
           I was one of the countless people whose attention was captured by the incident. For me, it was not just the apparent social justice conflict, but the boy was from a Catholic high school just a few miles down the road from where we live.  As a one-time professional photographer, I wondered about the story and the larger context not pictured. (By the very nature of a camera, every picture has to create a frame that necessarily excludes some part of the reality.) 
           One interpretation that rapidly spread over the internet was that the teen was a bigot, the conclusion based on the MAGA cap, the look on his face, the chants from other boys in the crowd, and the contrast presented by the young white man and elderly brown man. 
           Gradually, with interviews and more videos, additional information and context emerged. Depending upon the source, sometimes the teen was just a teenager caught in a situation beyond his experience, sometimes a biased white male, sometimes a misunderstood young man trying to help dampen a potential racial fire. The Indian elder, in some views, was trying to defuse the situation, in others he was pushing this young boy who was not respecting the Native American culture. In some narratives, there was a 3rd group that actually started the chaos by chanting taunts at the young white high schoolers. Added to all this are reports that nefarious groups used the story as propaganda to increase division and chaos in society. 
           At this writing, the real truth is buried in a jumble of fact, fiction, and interpretation, but one thing is very clear: in a divisive, antagonistic age of finger-pointing and quick condemnation like ours, we must not assume each story we read is true. No story is the end of the story. Here are some cautions I find in this entire episode:
    1.      Be wary of news “alerts” or viral pieces that are so prolific on cable and the internet. What the reporter or sender does NOT say may be even more significant that what was actually reported. For e.g., long-established news sources are still grappling with a recent Buzzfeed report involving the current administration. No other news outlet could verify the story, but many of them repeated it over and over, though normally with a caveat: “We have not yet corroborated this story, but….” Each repetition inevitably added some kind of credence to the report.
    Our own life situations have their own version of this. “So and so said……..” or “Did you know that…..” Dare we honestly ask ourselves, as we pass on the latest news, that it may just be gossip? Do we ever bother to qualify our “news” with, “I don’t know this for sure, but….”  We don’t call this kind of conversation “fake news,” but I think it may be a close relative!
    2.      Never judge by 1st appearances; there is always something we don’t know. This applies not only to news flashes and possible gossip, but to personal interactions. Someone bumps me on the street. Was it carelessness? Intentional?  Was the person bumped and couldn’t avoid running into me? Can I give the person benefit of the doubt?
    3.      Temper the response to someone almost “taking your head off” over a small mistake. Why was the person so on edge? Did he/she over react because they were already on emotional overload and this pushed them over the tipping point? Maybe they were really upset with someone else entirely. Maybe they were upset with themselves. Again, how do we judge the other?

            The story of the teenager and the Native American elder has stumbled through many interpretations, and the full truth is still being uncovered. The same holds true re political stories and daily gossip. These are areas of our lives where acceptance tempered with caution can help prevent mistaken judgments and pain . There is always more to every story!

                               Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB