Thursday, February 25, 2010

A New Find


Sister OSF popped into my studies this morning with a good idea. "Let's go out for lunch today, I have two for one coupon for this little place over on Silver Spring." I am always open to a lunch out and had been curious about the little diner.

Irina's Kitchen was a wonderful surprise! There was a wonderful variety of sandwiches (we just missed the breakfast special that boasted Bailey's Irish Cream French Toast) and I found my favorite...Hot tuna with cheese. As the co-owner and waitress took our orders, she corrected my request for 'grilled tuna on white'. "I would recommend the pumpernickel and Swiss, it is better here," she shared in Ukrainian accented English. I'm glad I listened to was great. The bread, cheese, tuna salad were perfect partners in a sandwich I wouldn't have ordered without her help.

The next time I go (WHEN not IF), I plan on being there in time for breakfast. It could been sooner than later if I hear tell of the return of that Irish Cream French Toast. I'm also adding this to my list of 'outings' for visiting Sisters, family, and friends.

Now, I must return to the pages and papers that await me!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Merton Reflection


I just want to share a few quotes from Thomas Merton via The Merton Institute's weekly e-mail reflections.

"Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. "

"We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer."

New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books 1961) p 3.


Friday, February 19, 2010



Thursday morning, I arose around 7:30AM (I love college hours) to prepare for volunteering at the Latina middle school. It wasn't until 8AM and I had turned on the cell phone that I noticed a message from the principal. She needed a sub; however, I assumed that by this time another sub would have been found. I cooked up a bit of oatmeal, had my coffee, and headed off to school...I am very grateful that I made a hearty breakfast. As I was stowing my coat and purse, the principal approached me with a hopeful look on her face. They still needed a, I stayed for the day.

I was filling in for a 7th grade teacher; not a problem, I enjoy the age group. Her morning classes were reading and language arts; not a problem, I've actually taught this sort of material and can think on my feet. Her afternoon classes posed a bit more of a challenge; phonics (never studied it and have no idea what the symbols mean), math (oh dear, Dad had to tutor me in the evenings amid tears), and social studies (okay, not so bad, they were reading about India). The day went pretty well...and I was very quickly reminded about the difference between boys and girls...girls giggle...INCESSANTLY!

They giggled as I introduced myself. This was a sneaky sort of giggle that indicated they thought me a possible pushover, so I shared that I was so happy to be back in the classroom. They giggled as we reviewed vocabulary words from their novel. I had them think of examples to fit the definition...much giggling that lead me to suspect that I missed a few inside jokes. They giggled when I openly admitted that I needed their help to go through the phonics material. This giggle was a bit prouder, and they volunteered quite readily to "code" the words from the worksheet and explain the reasoning. They attempted giggling after lunch when all were to be reading a novel of their choice. I squashed these giggles by asking them to share with me what was so fun in their novel...silence. One of the ladies shared an extra book with me so I could read too, "Flipped". A good middle level book for ladies. There was less giggling during math class; division with decimal adjustments being made mentally doesn't lend itself to happiness and joy. Giggling abounded during the social studies time. Hmmm...I think I erred in the amount of time that I gave them to work on making flash cards. So, I entered into the giggling with them and shared a few stories of my time volunteering at the Latino middle school (their companion school) and let them ask a few questions about my sisters and Benedictine life.

If you want to know a secret, I enjoyed the giggles.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Ash Wednesday!


Yes, a happy and blessed Ash Wednesday to you all! Happy? Yup, celebrate it! Not only are there folk at Mass that you haven't seen since last year around this time, there is also a richness of symbol that helps us all put our best foot forward during Lent. The readings that mark our Catholic and Benedictine journey throughout Lent are amazing stories of endurance from prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Jonah...not the most perky, but awesome reminders of God's persistent faithfulness to us in our wanderings.

Benedict referred to Lent off and on throughout his Rule, but chapter 49 is directed specifically to the Monk's (Nun's) celebration of the liturgical season.

"Although the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance, yet since few have the virtue for that, we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent the brethren keep their lives most pure and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the negligences of other times. And this will be worthily done if we restrain ourselves from all vices and give ourselves up to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

"During these days, therefore, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service, as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink. Thus everyone of his own will may offer God "with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6) something above the measure required of him. From his body, that is he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting; and with the joy of spiritual desire he may look forward to holy Easter.

"Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot what it is that he wants to offer, and let it be one with his blessing and approval. For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory and will merit no reward. Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval."

So, I hope and pray you have a great Ash Wednesday and a super Lent! I am going to spend more time with those stories from the prophets that we celebrate during this season in our Church year. There is much to learn from Jeremiah's struggles, Jonah's reluctant service, and Ezekiel's wild visions...and 40 days is simply not enough time to take it all in. Maybe Benedict had a good point about his followers needing to live in Lent.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wouldn't Have Happened in SD...


I've quite the strange Sunday...I judged middle school forensics today. I know, weird huh? Yup, I judged for a Catholic middle school at a tournament being held by a Catholic High School in the city of Milwaukee in the State of Wisconsin. This never would have happened in South Dakota! We can't even trespass upon Wednesday evening Christian catechism nights. The tournament was attended by over 30 public, private, and religious middle schools. Aha! Therein lay the reasoning! Sabbath is a term that could bridge Friday, Saturday, or Sunday in this multicultural city; students from various religious backgrounds are participating in forensics. So, the tournament days fall on a variety of weekend time lines to equally inconvenience everyone.


Friday, February 12, 2010

In the News...


We were mentioned (very briefly) in Milwaukee's Catholic Herald! The article was highlighting a new building project by the Priests of the Sacred Heart; however, our history with them was mentioned briefly.

"A portion of Villa Maria originally housed the Benedictine Sisters from Yankton, S.D., who provided domestic services for the priests and brothers at Sacred Heart Monastery."
Mahoney, K. (2010, February 11). Sacred heart at monastery lake takes shape. Catholic Herald, pp. 7.

It took me a little bit to figure out how we would have known the Priests of the Sacred Heart, then I remembered! The priests and brothers from Hales Corner were also at Chamberlain! Ah-Ha! The Franciscan Sisters I live with were the ones who discovered the mention in the article and were also quite curious as to how this small band of Benedictines ended up in the midst of this Franciscan stronghold. It is a bit amazing that we would have come back to their provincial house to work with them when there were already so many sisterly folk here. Hmm...


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Feast of Saint Scholastica

Happy Feast Day!

Saint Scholastica is being celebrated by Benedictines all over the world today, and we only know one story about her. In a nutshell, she and her brother met to talk and pray once a year; he tried to leave early and she prayed up a thunderstorm that caused him to stay. Thus he had to break his own Rule but she reminds him that Love is greater.

Love...That is what I remember from Scholastica's story. She Loved her brother so much that she wept for God to intercede. She Loved God so much that He happily sent an instant storm to keep her brother with her through the night (for God is Love). The siblings Loved God and their monastic families to such a degree, that they spent the time talking of God and other spiritual joys so each could return to their community enriched and refreshed to continue to minister in Love. Scholastica's story is about Love.

My story now needs to be about Love. I am far from community, but that doesn't mean that I cannot connect myself to them through Love (letters, e-mail, phone calls, and this blog). Through my education, I can prepare myself for ministry of Love to the community when I return. I can share this call to Love with the students, classmates, and professor with whom I share this day. Scholastica's story of Love continues in all of us...

My two favorite antiphons from our Liturgy of the Hours come from this feast...both were arranged by Sr. Jane. Each is set to a simple Plainchant Tone, but touches my heart. They speak to me of Scholastica's call to Love and be Loved by God and how it flowed over into her relationship with not only her brother Benedict, but all those in her life.

"Love is a fire no waters avail to quench, no floods to drown it; those who love will give up all that they have in the world, and think nothing of their loss." Song of Songs 8:7

"Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one: Come, come my beloved! See that the winter, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. Come, come my beloved." Song of Songs


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Got A Mop?


My quiet Sunday of prayer, reflection, and a little bit of laundry turned into a three ring circus! I just happened to be upstairs by the laundry room when my blacks & blue jeans hit the spin cycle and water started spouting out all over the place! The washing machine drains into a utility sink and the water was overflowing from the top of the covered sink and out of its side as well. I quickly tossed open the lid on the washer and plunged my hand into the water to find the overflow. I found the overflow and stopped it; then I put my other hand into the murkey water to find why the sink was plugged.

Did you know that some washers have a steel mesh sock type strainer at the end of the hose? And that strainer can get clogged with lint...ewww...I was very glad that no one was home to hear me screech! The water began to drain and I was able to turn my attention to the flooded laundry room. I tossed on my flannel sheets on the growing puddle of water and ran upstairs to find more towels to sop up the mess. After I dropped those over more of the water, I started to look for a mop...the sisters stored them outside in the garage. The clean up wasn't too bad once I got the rugs outside to drip-freeze, mopped up the water, and found some rags to wipe the floor dry as I could.

Well, the floor is clean and so are my clothes!

Consecrated Life Sunday


The Catholic Church celebrates the women and men consecrated in religious life on the Feast of the Presentation; however, the USCCB moves this to the first Sunday in February...So, Happy Feast Day Sisters (and Brothers)! I searched around and found Pope Benedict XVI's homily on the Feast of the Presentation about the reading from Paul's Letter to the Hebrews.

"In reality, it is properly and only from this faith, from this profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the only and definitive Mediator, that consecrated life has meaning in the Church, a life consecrated to God through Christ. It has meaning only if he is truly Mediator between God and us, otherwise it would only be a form of sublimation or evasion. "

I agree, you cannot evade life by joining an order. I've met folk that thought I had escaped to the Monastery. I wonder if they knew how far wrong they were? Escaping? The Monastery has been one of the places I cannot escape from life! Daily I face my life and the lives of my sisters...have I treated them and myself as Christ?...have I sought that Benedictine Balance of Ora et Labora today?...have I looked beyond my needs to those of my community both inside and outside the Monastery? Escape, yeah right. The only way to live the consecrated life well is through Christ's assitance in learning to live well!

"If Christ was not truly God, and was not, at the same time, fully man, the foundation of Christian life as such would come to naught, and in an altogether particular way, the foundation of every Christian consecration of man and woman would come to naught. Consecrated life, in fact, witnesses and expresses in a "powerful" way the reciprocal seeking of God and man, the love that attracts them to one another. The consecrated person, by the very fact of his or her being, represents something like a "bridge" to God for all those he or she meets -- a call, a return. And all this by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Father's Consecrated One. He is the foundation! He who shared our frailty so that we could participate in his divine nature.

Our text (Hebrews 4:14) insists on more than on faith, but rather on "trust" with which we can approach the "throne of grace," from the moment that our high priest was himself "put to the test in everything like us." We can approach to "receive mercy," "find grace," and "to be helped in the opportune moment." It seems to me that these words contain a great truth and also a great comfort for us who have received the gift and commitment of a special consecration in the Church."

These paragraphs reminded me of the Rule's call for us to Seek God as the Benedictine call. While here in Milwaukee, I've met more than a few folk that ask what our community does, as if we have one work to do. So, I try to explain the charism of "Seeking" as our calling and how we try to find ministries in our local area that connect to that seekng. Seems to be a bit of a contrast to the Apostolic Orders in the area. I do think that our Benedictine commitment to Community Life (Stability) and Prayer Life speak loudly in our quickly changing world. Everything else is moving so fast, trying to get ahead; but we hold together. Thats what I love about us.

"I am thinking in particular of you, dear sisters and brothers. You approached with full trust the "throne of grace" that is Christ, his Cross, his Heart, to his divine presence in the Eucharist. Each one of you has approached him as the source of pure and faithful love, a love so great and beautiful as to merit all, in fact, more than our all, because a whole life is not enough to return what Christ is and what he has done for us. But you approached him, and every day you approach him, also to be helped in the opportune moment and in the hour of trial.

Consecrated persons are called in a particular way to be witnesses of this mercy of the Lord, in which man finds his salvation. They have the vivid experience of God's forgiveness, because they have the awareness of being saved persons, of being great when they recognize themselves to be small, of feeling renewed and enveloped by the holiness of God when they recognize their own sin. Because of this, also for the man of today, consecrated life remains a privileged school of "compunction of heart," of the humble recognition of one's misery but, likewise, it remains a school of trust in the mercy of God, in his love that never abandons. In reality, the closer we come to God, and the closer one is to him, the more useful one is to others. Consecrated persons experience the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God not only for themselves, but also for their brothers, being called to carry in their heart and prayer the anxieties and expectations of men, especially of those who are far from God."

These last two paragraphs also called me back to the Rule. Benedict calls the Monatery a "School for the Lord's service" and he reminds us to be humble and mutually aware of each others needs...sounds like mercy to me. Maybe I'm just thinking of our own Feast of Scholastica quickly approaching, but I could hear our life in the Holy Father's homily.

Happy Celebration of Consecrated Life!

Friday, February 5, 2010



The middle school forensics coach (a 7th grade teacher) asked me to travel along with the team of boys to help with judging and chaperoning. I'm a sucker for kids and speech so I rode off in the mini-bus with principal playing chauffeur and 13 boys. Many of the boys were participating in demonstration speeches, infomercials, prose, story telling, and poetry. Next week I may stop by the school a few times after school to listen to them practice and share any helpful ideas I might be able to share. But back to the forensics meet tonight...

I was assigned to judge an infomercial section. One or two kids create and present their very own advertisement; they can use props, poster board, and costume to 'sell' the product. I saw wish tokens, house deodorisers, diet water (with lots of side effects), ear muffs to keep out any annoying voices, and energy drinks sold by students pretending to be John Travolta and Brad Paisley. It was an interesting division that we don't have back home and offered allot of entertainment; a few painful moments that happens with any speech contest, but a good time overall. Later, I was tracked down to time for the impromptu speeches. Strange that the judge couldn't time and judge, but I can accept the rules and sat through MANY short speeches counting down the two minutes of prep. time in 30 second segments and then counting up their speech time and showed kiddos their time in one minute segments.

I hope the boys continue to try the forensic activity and work on their speech making and giving. It was a bit overwhelming when the boys realized that some of the students at the contest were VERY prepared; they had their speeches memorized with gestures and practiced intonation and the whole bit. However, if they keep practicing and working on their categories, the guys could do really well. They have a similar energy that I associate with Calvin's creative approach to classroom assignments.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

"I lie awake..."


There is a Psalm that shares the struggle of the wondering soul..."On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63

The Psalm sings the the conerns of the psalmist and God's loving response. Well, I have been awake the last few nights with concerns and wonderings about where the future is going to lead and hoping that it brings me closer to Community, family, and friends. There is so much unknown right now that my mind sort of swims in it when I settle into my bed for the night. In my prayer, I ask for God's Will and pray for Christ's guidance as I send out resumes and contact various schools about teaching positions. I get good advice from Sisters and professors, family and friends. Then I lie awake again...

I know my heart and soul will settle down and I will sleep again.