Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Begins


A new year has begun and seems like I was just here yesterday. I've always enjoyed Advent; the music, the colors, the candles and greenery. The hope and challenge that fill all the readings...If we're attentive, Christ is calling us all to keep alert for the next four weeks!

Thats all for today...

I just found this prayer on the monialesop blog (Dominicans) and wanted it share it with my family and friends. They offer this 'novena' of St. Andrew 15 times a day from his feast on November 30th to Christmas Day. I might not get to the 15 times a day, but I think it's a beautiful way to remember Advent in the midst of the commercial pre-Christmas blitz.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer
and grant my desires, (here mention your request)

through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


I wish all a happy and holy day of Thanksgiving! This morning the two sister parishes (St. Eugene's & St. Monica's) held Mass together at St. Monica's. The church is beautiful and large enough to house all those gathered to say thanks this morning. Fr. Jerry's homily began by roaming up and down the church to ask parishioners to share that for which they were thankful. My favorite was this little girl's voice chirping over the mic system, "Mommies and Daddies".

I believe our Benedictine background helps us celebrate this day of national Thanksgiving. He reminds us that all we have is gift, all our goods are to be treated as vessels of the altar, and to be grateful for what we have but to not seek for more than what we need. The sense of gratefulness that is all throughout the Rule can hopefully keep my heart open to living out a thankful life every day and not just this commemoration in November. So today, I've been trying to challenge myself to think out ways to share my gratitude with others to make my thanksgiving more visible.

I have much to be Thankful for today. I have the opportunity of education at a wonderful Catholic university. Our community has given the chance to go back to school to improve my education about education; hopefully, I will have a chance to share this will a new classroom next fall. I've been blessed with a family; a loud, crazy, overwhelming crowd--but I love them. They are gathering at Mom and Dad's tonight and tomorrow. One great aunt (Aunt Marcine is going shopping with the girls tomorrow), three boys between 4 & 5, three girls between 7 & 8, one little girl who turns 1-year-old today, and four parents, plus Nana and Grampa! Maybe it's not so bad that I'm out in Milwaukee? I'm grateful for our Benedictine Community. They have helped me develop strengths and shore up weakness that I never would have been able to do alone. In vocation talks, I tell the kiddos that Community is the greatest blessing as well as the only sacrifice Benedict asked his monks to perform. Still--I couldn't imagine living any other way. I've been blessed with friends in my life who have been supportive and challenging. They have picked me up, dusted me off, and pushed me back on track...and they know I'd do it for them...God has blessed me.

Thanksgiving Blessings!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Generosity


The students at the middle school have been gathering non-perishable foods for a couple weeks. At the start of the food drive, a speaker came from an area food bank to talk about why they need the food and the many people that come to the food bank. The school backed up the speaker with a challenge to each class (5th through 8th) to bring in 500 cans or other non-perishable items. The prize--middle school remember--for each class would be a Marquette Basketball and participation in a school wide basketball tournament!

I was present for the final can count this morning. There was a flurry of counting and recounting in the 6th grade classroom as students came in with their final additions to the cause. A cheer would come from the boys every time another classmate came in with a bag or box to add, and then they would start counting all over again. The final total for this one class?...650 items!

The teacher sent his students down to the morning assembly, but he was stopped by a 7th grade emissary in the hall. They hadn't raised enough cans to join in the school-wide basketball game, and would the 6th graders share some of their surplus? The teacher said he would have to ask the students who had gathered the goods for those in need. The assembly upped the pressure on the 6th grade boys...the 8th grade and 5th grade students had given their surplus goods to the 7th grade class, but they were still short by almost 70 items! The boys met quickly but denied the request. Their reasoning?...They were raising cans to help the food bank and not just play no ball playing for the 7th grade boys. Unless the principal had mercy later on.

The generosity of the school was overwhelming. This school of about 80 or 90 boys gathered over 2,000 items for the area food bank! The students of this school are not privileged, they are part of the Latino neighborhood on the South Side. This generosity came not from their excess, but from their own need in some cases. The boxes of ramen noodles and slightly dented cans that were donated so willingly will be welcomed by another family in need in the same neighborhood.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful Quote of the Day


I've been receiving weekly quotes from The Merton Institute. Each is from one of Thomas Merton's works and often connects with the Church seasons or events in civic society. Today's quote leads into the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. It was too good to not share with all of you.


"To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given
us --- and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of
His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense
graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never
unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the
goodness of God."
Thomas Merton. Thoughts In Solitude (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux): 33.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The End of the Year


I've never quite understood why we end the Church year in the midst of November. Actually, I didn't know when the year ended or started until I was partway through college. I'm so accustomed to the calendars and established seasonal dates deemed important by Office Depot (my current wall calender namesake) that I have to remind myself there is another schedule taking place as well.

However, Today the weather seemed to be celebrating the Feast of Christ the King and the end of the ordinary as well. It was marvelous! The sun was shinning while the last few leaves on the trees fluttered in the light breeze. Beautiful. So warm that no coats or jackets were needed...warm sunshine in November. A bit of celebration by mother nature before the new year begins with Advent next week.


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Countdown


I have just realized that there are 26 days until I fly home for Christmas break with Sisters, family, and friends! Living in "November" has let me forget the pressure of December deadlines for course requirements! So, my countdown calender must begin! I'd like to think a homework helper might appear and I'll find that she has organized my messy outlines into completed papers with marvelous APA formatting, but it isn't likely. Thus, my 'office' wall has become a staging area for homework in progress and all the dust has been cleared out of my Ikea filing trays to keep everything in order. All will be done on time and with drafts currently in the works, but the realization of a countdown or deadline really lights a fire of encouragement!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our Founding Feast!


Happy feast day to all our Sisters! The anniversary of our new community in 1880. I often wonder those sisters handled the emptiness of the Great Plains after leaving their Swiss Alps and German forests. The few stories that remain are a good start for the imagination, but I always did they teach the Native Americans at Fort Yates? The sisters spoke some English, but German was their native language. How did they keep their coifs so clean and pleated in the collapsing "houses" during those early frontier days? How did they all fit in that first convent? First they had sisters and Native American boarder students, then they switched from school to hospital and patients shared their convent for awhile.

Amazing...There is so much to learn from our earliest pioneer sisters. I hope they continue to pray for us as we continue to live their faith and mission forward.


Monday, November 16, 2009

The Feast of St. Gertrude

Happy Feast Day Sisters!

O God of love and gentleness,
O heart that abounds with loving kindness,
O heart that overflows with charity,
O heart that radiates pleasantness,
O heart full of compassion,
We thank you for your heart full of love for us.
Invite us into your heart that we may be totally transformed into love.
Adapted by Sister Ruth Fox, OSB,
from Exercises of St. Gertrude, VII

The feast of St. Gertrude is a celebration not only of our Benedictine Mystic, but also a celebration of our federation of Benedictine Monasteries throughout the United States. The Church reflects Gertrude's deep connection with Christ in the readings they use within today's liturgy. Both Paul's letter to the Ephesians (3:14-19) and John's Gospel (15: 1-8) remind us to live in Christ as he lives in us.

Paul says "that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones...the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge...". Gertrude's writings centered on this great love that God has for us beyond our faults or failings. I'm reading "Book I" of her Herald of Divine Love right now, and her biographer spends much time showing how Gertrude's humble work on her faults made Christ love her all the more. I hope so...since all I have to show is the effort and not always much success in changing faults. I remember when studying the Rule's chapters on humility as a novice, one of the retired sisters who took the class with me pointed out that we would probably reach the top of the ladder about ten minutes before we died. Hmmm...if she was still working out issues, I have a long way to go and count on both Gertrude and that sister being right!

John's Gospel of the vine and the branches also reminds us to stay rooted in Christ. But beyond that, I am reminded to stay rooted in Community. I try to celebrate and commemorate the feasts that are celebrated at home to refresh that connection. Jesus' parable of the vine tells that the branches don't produce fruit unless they remain on the vine...I hope that my rootedness in the vine of Christ and Community helps me not only complete my time here at University but also in transitioning back to the Monastery this May. So far, I am keeping green and growing in my life here with the Franciscans and course work. I'm adding some volunteering to keep turning the earth over a bit and freshen the dirt. After too much time in libraries and windowless classrooms, I need some change of location...middle school language arts classrooms should do me some good.

Prayer of Saint Gertrude to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life,
Your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love.
You are my refuge and my sanctuary.
O my adorable and loving Savior,
Consume my heart with the burning fire with which Yours is aflamed.
Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love.
Let my heart be united with Yours.
Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things.
May Your Will be the rule of all my desires and actions. Amen.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Miss Substitute


The teacher is home from school! and induction seminar and history class. But I got to go to school today! The principal for Notre Dame is also in my history of education course and was in deep need of one more sub for today. She asked so nicely and I have wanted to get in touch with students again, I just couldn't say no.

The college nun was up by 6:30, in the car by 7:20 and at the school parking lot by 7:45. Yup, it took 25 minutes in traffic this morning. I tried to use the time well; I was able to finish a rosary and listen to a few songs to get me ready for the day. By the time I got through the doors and heard the students voices, I started to feel like a teacher again.

I was filling in for 8th & 6th grade language arts, each 90 minutes, and 2 sets of 8th grade religion, 50 minutes.
Thrown in the mix was a few homeroom sessions for good measure. Sure, there were a few 8th grade girls who tried to pull a few things by me, and they probably did in Spanish, but I did keep us on the move. The morning started with one lovely lady who snuck Skittles into class. I gave her two options: give them to me or put them in her bag. She chose a different option and tucked them in her desk so she could keep I wouldn't notice. So, I quietly returned to give her two new options: give them to me or throw them away. Does anyone like Skittles?

The students kept me on the go, but I have to admit I enjoyed it. I started each class by writing "Sr. Carol Jean" on the board and introducing myself as a fellow student of Sr. Jean's (the principal). However, I was still "Miss" for the remainder of the class. "Miss" seems to be the general moniker of respect here...once I even got a "Miss Sister", I had to smile.

I was tired by the time I got through observing part of an induction seminar and half my history of education course, but still energized too. There is just something about those Children of God that keep me going along the way. I hope and pray that when I've graduated from University there is a job to be found and students to work with! Hmmm...maybe I can get my St. Charles Borromeo working on that along with St. can't get praying too early.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Beginning of Being Busy


Today was full of places to go and people to see. The University sponsored an annual workshop on restorative justice. This year the focus was on bullying and restorative justice in the school setting; especially, justice circles. Apparently, these are the new wave in Milwaukee. MPS and some private schools are implementing this practice by training teachers and students how to lead these circle meetings to resolve issues. This is supposed to aleviate the need for schools to use punishment systems and instead work to heal the differences between both the actor and receiver of the bullying act.

Next, I drove back to my research site to interview another novice teacher! Only one more to go and I can begin to compilate my qualitative data. So far, there are some main themes that have been made clear in their responses. I still need to read all my transcripts carefully for other themes that might be important to my little study.

Finally, I went back to University for class tonight! Whew! I broke down and brought my supper to take to class. Much of the time was spent in our small groups to plan group presentations next week. (Sigh) God grant me patience...

Before bed, I definately need to make sure to keep my prayer schedule even on the upcoming early mornings. The next few days are full of volunteering, reading, writing, and house events...I'll need a good prayer backup to keep me moving along with more than a smile and good intentions.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Something to be Said for Stability


I have been meeting all sorts of new folk while going to University here in the big city. Milwaukee hosts all sorts of volunteers through religious communities. One of whom, I've been getting to know better through my own volunteer work and here is what I simply don't get...the volunteers' mobility. These past two years he has been here working with the Franciscan Friars, before that he was finishing college, before that it was seminary, and next year it might be something else. Other volunteers I've met have followed a similar pattern of mobility--moving from one need to the next.

I like our Stability. The more I listened to the stories of outreach and subsequent movement, the more I thought about why we "stay put". We take the time to establish long relationships not only within the Monastery but also among the cities and towns of which we become a part. So that unlike the mobile volunteers, we get to know more than the needs or wants within an area; we discover the blessings and gifts of the people as well. The commitment of time to the place allows me time to discover more clearly the relationship of service between me, my community, and the people to whom and with whom we minister.

The time it takes to put down roots is more than a few years here or there. Our commitment of stability has kept me in place at times when my uncertainties where telling me to pull up the stakes and move...but by waiting the uncertainties through, there was a lot to be learned. I know this is quite reflective, but I've been meeting more transitional volunteers, mobile Franciscans, and just people in general trying to get from here to there without much time on the ground in between. So when Fr. Jesuit started talking about the feast of the Dedication of Lateran Basilica today and the permanence of the building as a reflection of the permanence of commitment, it kicked my deep thoughts into high gear.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Feast of St. Charles Borromeo


It's my Feast Day today! When I entered our community, I hadn't heard of feast days or name days and didn't even know I had one to celebrate. Sr. Pierre and I looked for a Carol--none to be found, there were already many folk celebrating versions of Jean, and she offered the monastic suggestion (ahem, that means gave) of St. Charles Borromeo.

It was only later that I started to look into the patron of my feast day. Charles was born in Italy in 1538 and from what I've read, he was a hard working student that did well in Civil and Canon Law not because of great intelligence, but because of his determined work. His uncle Pope Pius IV made him the Cardinal of Milan and Papal Secretary by age 22. So there were benefits to his family situation, but St. Charles used them to benefit others. He reconvened the Council of Trent to clarify Church teachings, established seminaries to improve priest formation, and then his real work began after he left Rome. His attention turned to the poor and their spiritual as well as physical needs. He rebuilt their churches as well as ministered to those dying from the Black Plague.

"If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor". - Saint Charles Borromeo

While his patronage list doesn't include students, I like to think my feast day patron is on my side while here at school. I might not be the brightest in the class, but I do believe I too am determined in my studies and working hard to get there. I don't think anyone in my family has the political pull his uncle had, but I like the quote I found attributed to him and think it too can apply to my life at school while away from home.

There needs to be a joyful eagerness in the start of each new day or I might forget that each day is a gift from God. If I forget the gift of the day, then it could become just another day to "make it through"... and I've had enough of those. The gift aspect can bring a new perspective and new point of view to each day. So, I'm setting on my Feast Day! To enjoy the new challenges that are out there...including Dr. Lowe's history of education tonight : )


Oh! Here is the list St. Charles Borromeo is patron of....against abdominal pain, against colic, against intestinal disorders, against stomach ulcers, apple orchards, bishops, catechists, catechumens, Lombardy-Italy, seminarians, spiritual directors, spiritual leaders, and starch makers.

Anyone else wonder how things get on these lists? However, there are a few I wish I had known in my past...he really was well chosen for my patron!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Feast of All Souls


Today, we remember, celebrate, and pray for all our Beloved who have died.

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God...they are in peace...their hope full of immortality...they shall be greatly blessed...In the time of their visitation they shall shine,and shall dart about as sparks through stubble...and the Lord shall be their King forever.Those who trust in him shall understand truth,and the faithful shall abide with him in love:because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,and his care is with his elect."

As I sat waiting for traffic to move this morning, I started to wonder about that
reading from Wisdom (3:1-9) and wonder if it was a beautiful day at home too. This is a beautiful time of year to reflect in our Monastic Cemetery. It feels so absolutely quiet and still, the leaves are falling, the cool air smells of autumn...and you might think for a moment that the white crosses that surround you are reminders of the dead. But if you sit quietly long enough, you begin to hear the birds singing in the pine and cedar trees, see sisters walking the sorrowful way, and remember that like yesterday, today is also in the 'now and not yet'. Except, you are surround by those who now fully alive in that 'not yet'.

It was a nice way to spend my twenty minutes in traffic. Except for a few horns and some car from Illinois that cut me off, I could really put myself there on the bench in the midst of it all and enjoy Autumn at home. Mind you, it's none too shabby for beauty here in Wisconsin at this time of the year. But the wind has been wild and many of the leaves are now gone into the neighbors' yards. The sisters have trimmed down the flower beds for winter. I've even had to dig out my window scrapper from its hidding place in the trunk.

Have a Blessed Feast of All Souls, I'm sure your Beloved are praying for you.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Solemnity of All Saints


I'm not sure if the Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated if it lands on a Sunday, but here we are and I like the feastday. The scripture that held my attention came from John's first letter.

"Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed."

It struck me that like the Saints we celebrate today, we too live in the now and not yet simultaneously. I know that I am one of God's children, his beloved; however, I also know that I need to continue to learn, grow, and seek God in all I do. I know who I am, but I have no idea who I will be or to what I will be called next. So...I need to live fully in the now while I am here (I think Benedict would agree with that) while I prepare in hope for what might be tomorrow.

Today, I am a student. I need to live fully in the spirit of learning and study, to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to continue learning. However, I am also a solitary Benedictine in a Franciscan land : ) and the opportunity to share our monasticism shouldn't be ignored either. I do try to live in the now of this experience...remembering that the not yet isn't far away. Only God knows where I'll be serving the community next year. I hope to be teaching, but where, what, who, and how have no answers just yet.

Blessings from a philosophical morning,