Saturday, February 20, 2021

Social Distancing in Sacraments and Rites

      Oil, water, ashes—The Catholic Church uses several substances with which to anoint its members. Holy oils—in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, and in the Anointing of the Sick. Immersion in water or pouring it over the head in Baptism. Many Christian denominations anoint their members with ashes on Ash Wednesday.

The anointings all require touching a person, which in itself helps to heal. In a pandemic each touch is reevaluated. How can we keep from spreading the virus? Social distancing does not bring much comfort. The sign of peace is reduced to a wave. Using oil can require sanitizer before and after.


As we move forward to a time when we can greet one another without a mask and touch one another without a disinfectant, let us recall the words of Thomas Merton in The Monastic Journey:

“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.”

Sr. Christa Ckrienbrink, OSB






Image result for anointing with ashes


Monday, January 25, 2021

Inauguration Day - Anger in America


                                                             Sr. Dorothy Schuette

                                                Inauguration Day- Anger in America

“Hope has two beautiful daughters – their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” – St. Augustine

What we are experiencing at this time in our country is a lot of anger, seemingly about everything political, social, environmental; restrictions on our liberties, disquiet within our souls. How shall we listen to God about this? For what do we pray? Anger is not the problem in itself. Misdirected expressions of anger that result in violence are.

As St. Augustine reminds us, anger is a natural response that rises in us when we know that things are not as they should be. The seriousness of the situation calls forth a more or less intense feeling of anger. The Good News is that this is the root of justice making. It energizes us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and of all those persecuted for standing up for the poor and marginalized such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr whom we celebrated earlier this week. They have shown us that actions flowing from Holy Anger are measured by the cost to themselves, not damage to another.

Let us remember that Anger has a sister, Courage. Courage calls out our fears. “What fears?”, we might ask today. If we look deep within us we may find many specific answers. Author of Daring Greatly, BrenĂ© Brown suggests that a basic fear shared by many is that of “scarcity”, that is, there is never enough time, never enough money, that we are never pretty enough,  rich enough, good enough, etc. The heart of scarcity is greed, shame, comparison and disengagement. She further poses the question that we can ask of our nation today, “Do we lack the empathy to be compassionate?” Do we fear that America is too small for all of us? Too inadequate for all that God asks of us?

I am hoping that it is not.  My prayer is that all of us who are citizens and those to aspire to be will discover that our connections are truer and stronger than what separates us. May the Holy Spirit give us the wisdom to discern the way forward, to discover what unites us and help us trust rather than fear each other.

The mother of Anger and Courage is Hope. Let us put on the garment of Hope- grow into it, let it comfort us, warm us, and enable us to open our arms to receive each other as the family we truly are.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

From Darkness to Light


Several years ago, I took a Catechist Class

at the University of Dayton.  One of the

exercises in the class was a walk from darkness

to light.  We rose early in the morning when it

was still dark and journeyed to a nearby retreat

center and walked around on its grounds in the dark.

We were asked to look around and to note our

surroundings.  As it turned to the light of day,

we walked the same route and saw how different

these same surroundings looked in the light. 

There is truly a big difference between seeing in the

dark and seeing in the light!  We could see objects

more acutely in the light and they sometimes looked different.

I believe the dark sometimes altered our perception from the light.

(I’d advise you to try it sometime, it is very revealing!)


As we come to the end of the Christmas Season, I am reminded

that Christ brought light into our darkened world.  As

Christians, we are called to walk in the light of Christ and

in His truth. 


Living Gospel values gives us a new vision and heart, the

heart of Jesus.  By our baptism, we are called to live the

life of Jesus in our world today and continue His mission

to bring about the reign of God, a reign that leads us from

darkness to light.

        Sr. Barbara Woeste, OSB


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

November 2020


    It has been years since November has topped my list as a favorite month. The trees without their crowns, left unadorned stand out in stark beauty. Shades of brown replace much of the landscape. It is often a quiet month, with fewer distractions (well, with recent elections, maybe not this year). The simplicity of physical surroundings draws one to a deeper connection with the Holy. November lends itself to reflecting on the essentials of life and the importance of relationships tops the list. The month is bookended with remembrance of deceased loved ones at the beginning and ends with Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude for the persons in one’s life.

    However, this November is like no other.  What occurred at the end of October provided an interesting challenge for the community. Due to a positive COVID-19 case our main kitchen staff were quarantined. This meant we were on our own for all the meals! Many of us have had the experience of cooking for 4-6, but cooking for 35 plus is another type of experience! It was heartwarming how many in the community volunteered and helped in myriads of ways. The food was plentiful, varied and delicious and no one has lost weight! (though some of us wish we did!). We are also most grateful to a generous benefactor who provided several evening meals from local restaurants.

    This year the celebration of Thanksgiving, too, will be different. As is true for so many, there will be no guests or visiting with family at the Monastery. What rejoicing there will be when this pandemic is over. The promise of a vaccine does give hope for life beyond the virus.  In the meantime, during this November of 2020 my daily reflections are on gratitude and the many blessings in my life that have multiplied.

    Our community continues to pray daily for those suffering from COVID-19 and those isolated from family members.  We are grateful for all the blessings we have received from our friends and family. 

                                        Sister Aileen Bankemper

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Tears in a Bottle


    November is the month when St. Walburg Monastery , like many church communities, displays a Book of Remembrance for our Dead, especially those who have died within the past year. In some churches the names are read aloud and the bell is tolled. It calls us to reflect on what these individuals have meant to us during their lives on earth and how they are present to us in our Eternal Home.

    Today, Veterans’ Day, we especially honor those who have served our country in all the armed services throughout the history of our country. Along with other first responders, law enforcement and peace keeping personnel, they put themselves between us and danger to uphold the ideals of freedom, equality and justice.

    As I walk to our cemetery mourning for all my sisters and brothers my thoughts are drawn especially to our Veterans and their sacrifices. I mourn for them and also for the death and diminishment of the ideals for which they died and endured hardships. I mourn with them whenever we, the people, allow or act with hatred, injustice and indifference.

·            I mourn for the people stuck at our border, especially the children – the thousands I did not meet last summer when I worked there, because these have had no chance for asylum in our country even though they are in grave danger and cannot go home.

·            I mourn for all who are affected by Covid-19 –patients, their loved ones who are not able to be with them in their last agony and their heroic care givers.

·            I mourn for Black men, women and children who have been deprived of their history, safety, dignity and rights as citizens for centuries.

·            I mourn for all who are affected by death, dying, persecution, oppression, and violence of every sort.

·            I mourn for the diminishment of truth in public speech.

·            I mourn for the greed that we each hold in our fearful hearts.

·            I mourn for us all in our struggling need for God to awaken us

 from the deaths in which we are entombed.

O God, you notice all my sorrows.

Have you not collected all my tears in your bottle?       --Psalm 56

 Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Where is Hope?


    What do you do when you receive news that pushes the bottom out of your heart, news that fractures any sense of stability you‘ve held on to despite the pandemic? I think about how many people have been in that position of getting news that someone they love has had their world turned upside down by addiction, accident, job loss, or other calamity. This, on top of pandemic, can shatter most anyone.

    When someone gets this kind of news, the question often surfaces: What can I do to help the situation? Often the answer is “not much” or even “nothing.” This feeling of being alone and without help when there is a crisis is enough to raise a cloud of frustration, even despair in most of us.

    Questions arise: How much more can a person carry?  Where is God in all this mess? In her head a Christian knows the answer is that God is present in the midst of it, but this question itself comes not from the head but from the heart. Answers are less black and white and more a matter of faith or trust.                  

    But where in this maelstrom of pain, disappointment, and helplessness does a person with faith find any hope? If God is there, hope has to be there as well, but in our current days where so much is nebulous, hope can be hard to find. Sometimes it helps if we try to open our ears and eyes, then look around.

    Do you notice the food servers and dish washers in that small restaurant where you picked up a lunch? They likely need to be there despite health risks. How about the folks who collect the trash you put curbside? Have you thought about how medical workers and teachers risk their health to do their jobs? What about generosity of carpenters who make free in-home desks for poor kids who have to go to school online? Each one is a manifestation of God’s care for us.

    But it’s not just adults who reveal God’s presence. What about kids who step up to do odd jobs for neighbors? How about kindergartners who make cards for shut-ins? Then there are older kids who go out of their way to relieve their parents by giving extra attention to their siblings.

     In other words, God is revealed in the actions of people who reach out to those who need help, and believe it or not, there’s a lot of that giving going on all around us. I think we see it, but often it doesn’t register as something special. The Uber driver, the cop on the corner, the grocery store clerks, postal workers, and many others are risking health to be of service and trying to keep their businesses afloat.

    When hopelessness, anxiety, and frustration surface in our daily lives during these trying times, try to recall the nearness of God’s love by paying special attention to its manifestations in our neighbors and even ourselves. Hope is around and within; we just need to pay attention to the ubiquitous signs of its presence.

           Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Challenge to Respond as Christ


Recently I was enjoying an evening walk with a friend, both of us masked and keeping some distance from one another.  We were approached by another walker who with raised voice said, “Democrats, right!” as he walked past.  Initially shocked we both looked at each other with disbelief, asking did that just happen?  My choice to wear a mask is not politically motivated but rather is about safety and a sense of doing my part to reduce the spread of Covid-19.  Knowing this, I felt myself becoming angry with this man, his assumptions about my motivations and his seeming disdain for us.

            Later, we and others to whom I told the story came up with many retorts that could have been hurdled back.  It may be just as well that in moments like that my mind slows and my tongue goes silent keeping words I might regret from escaping.  This experience left me with a larger question, how do I respond as Jesus Christ would have in moments like this one?  Jesus expressed anger at times but more often than not responded with a sense of compassion and care for the other person.  He offered a parable or a question to effect change on the other party.  His goal was to find ways to soften hearts, heal and draw people together.  In these days of Covid-19 and our approaching election which seem to exacerbate differences I pray for the grace:

·         to see the other with the compassionate and caring eyes of Christ

·         to listen with ears that seek to really hear and understand even when I disagree

·         to speak words that foster healing and connection

·         to live with a soft heart that remains open and vulnerable

·         to respond as Christ to whatever I encounter along the way

       Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB