Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Feast of Archangels


Today we celebrate the power of the unseen in our lives. The holy Archangels, servants of God who are active in our midst. While the feast includes Sts. Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, our school celebration focused on our own patron (and that of the Abbey), St. Michael the defender.

The Archbishop celebrated the festival Mass with us and spoke well at the homily. "The creed," he reminded us, "speaks of God creating things seen and unseen. Today we remember that part of creation and the creatures we cannot see, but believe." I hadn't really thought of the 'seen & unseen' before. It is so easy to be caught up in the beauty and wonder of what I can see in God's creation, that I forget to remember the unseen powers He has also set in motion.

The heavens and all the divine heavenly host...the Archangels. The unseen Power of our unseen God working in our midst to Announce great news, to Defend & Protect, and to Heal with Guidance. I wonder if I have ever missed one of these great Angels, mistaking them for the ordinary while God was trying to touch me with the extraordinary in my daily life. When I look back at the struggles of my life, I wonder if these Archangels have been part of the moment and I didn't even realize it? Could it have been Gabriel who announced my name to those who needed a teacher at the last moment? Could it have been Michael that protected me during frightening moments of travel in the winter snow? Could it have been Raphael that guided my doctors hands and that healed me with such tender care and amazing attention? This feast reminds me to look more closely at the ordinary struggles and delights in my life and see the extraordinary love of God.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reflection Question


My prayer of Lectio Divina often leads me to questions that God wants me to consider. However, the quote I started with this morning was a question itself; "Who do you say that I am?" Luke's Gospel was a challenge to look deeply into my heart to see where my relationship was with Christ.

"Who do you say that I am?" The question followed me from my morning Lectio through Lauds with my Sister housemate and even crept into my day long workshops learning about the new North Central Accreditation stuff. So who...who do I say that Christ is? It is very simple at this time in my life, He is my love and way in life.

This fresco in Rome once illustrated the wall of a convent chapter room and now is the center piece in a small chapel at San Ambrogio. I was immediately struck by the love in the fresco. The sorrowful Mother's tender love embracing not only her son, but also reaching out to the women who had stayed with her. Saint Mary Magdalene's care for her beloved was evident in the humble gesture of adoring Christ's wounded feet, but this simple image caught my attention.

If my answer is that Christ is my Love and Way in life, my way of living could mirror Mary Magdalene's simple, humble way of love in how I care for others in my community living and teaching ministry.


Friday, September 17, 2010


As my community celebrates and remembers Saint Hildegard for her teaching with the many gifts of the spirit that she shared with the Benedictines and the faithful of her time, the Church in the United Kingdom celebrated the gift of Catholic education with Pope Benedict XVI.

The Pope's reflections on his gratefulness for Catholic educators and the continued need for Catholic schools recognized all the many sisters, brother, and lay educators that have spent their lives teaching others.

Blessings & Enjoy...


Chapel of St Mary’s University College

I am pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution made by religious men and women in this land to the noble task of education…and to all the dedicated men and women who devote their lives to teaching the young, I want to express sentiments of deep appreciation. You form new generations not only in knowledge of the faith, but in every aspect of what it means to live as mature and responsible citizens in today’s world.

As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for “both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts” (Wis 7:16).

This transcendent dimension of study and teaching was clearly grasped by the monks who contributed so much to the evangelization of these islands. I am thinking of the Benedictines who accompanied Saint Augustine on his mission to England, of the disciples of Saint Columba who spread the faith across Scotland and Northern England, of Saint David and his companions in Wales. Since the search for God, which lies at the heart of the monastic vocation, requires active engagement with the means by which he makes himself known – his creation and his revealed word – it was only natural that the monastery should have a library and a school. It was the monks’ dedication to learning as the path on which to encounter the Incarnate Word of God that was to lay the foundations of our Western culture and civilization.

Looking around me today, I see many apostolic religious whose charism includes the education of the young. This gives me an opportunity to give thanks to God for the life and work of the Venerable Mary Ward, a native of this land whose pioneering vision of apostolic religious life for women has borne so much fruit. I myself as a young boy was taught by the “English Ladies” and I owe them a deep debt of gratitude. Many of you belong to teaching orders that have carried the light of the Gospel to far-off lands as part of the Church’s great missionary work, and for this too I give thanks and praise to God. Often you laid the foundations of educational provision long before the State assumed a responsibility for this vital service to the individual and to society. As the relative roles of Church and State in the field of education continue to evolve, never forget that religious have a unique contribution to offer to this apostolate, above all through lives consecrated to God and through faithful, loving witness to Christ, the supreme Teacher.

Indeed, the presence of religious in Catholic schools is a powerful reminder of the much-discussed Catholic ethos that needs to inform every aspect of school life. This extends far beyond the self-evident requirement that the content of the teaching should always be in conformity with Church doctrine. It means that the life of faith needs to be the driving force behind every activity in the school, so that the Church’s mission may be served effectively, and the young people may discover the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others”.

Before I conclude, I wish to add a particular word of appreciation for those whose task it is to ensure that our schools provide a safe environment for children and young people. Our responsibility towards those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less. Indeed, the life of faith can only be effectively nurtured when the prevailing atmosphere is one of respectful and affectionate trust. I pray that this may continue to be a hallmark of the Catholic schools in this country.

With these sentiments, dear Brothers and Sisters, I invite you now to stand and pray.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows


The optional Gospel readings for today say it all...

John 19: 25-27

Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Luke 2: 33-35

And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, " This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed ~ and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

The images are from the Stations of the Cross windows at the convent of the Benedictine sisters of Marianburg, Switzerland.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

Happy Feast!

Today we celebrate the cross; it is Exalted and Triumphant because through the cross we have been saved! A feast that celebrates the joy of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. I was surprised to learn in one of my Church history courses that early crosses were decorated with brilliant stones, metal, and flourishes to show the glory of the sacrifice; it was only later during the suffering of the Dark Ages that the corpus was added to help the people know that Christ understood their pain and struggle.

Today, I remember the apse of San Clamente and its joyfilled celebration of the cross. The mosaic depicts the cross as the Tree of Life from which all blessings spring. It is an amazing commemoration to the Triumph of the Cross! Today, I have been taking time to ponder the crosses in my own life...have I opened those sufferings to exaltation? How has God transformed my own crosses into blessings for the glory of Christ? It is amazing
to recognize the triumphant crosses in my own life.


Monday, September 13, 2010


"God is a consuming Fire. He alone can refine us like gold, and separate us from the slag and dross of our selfish individualities to fuse us into this wholeness of perfect Unity that will reflect His own Triune Life forever." ~ Thomas Merton New Seeds of Contemplation

My weekly note from Merton resounded deeply for me today. God as a consuming Fire that slowly burns away all the excess that holds me back from living for Him and with Him. The Refining Fire that purifies the dirt from the ore leaving gold. Or like the Church of Santa Scholastica outside Norcia the layers of fresco and facade need to fall away to reveal the original work of the Master.

The day we visited this decayed church commemorated to Saint Scholastica, we renewed our Benedictine Profession. It was both a joyous moment to rededicate myself to living the Benedicitne way, the promises that guide us out of ourselves and into community; and sad to see such a beautiful space with so much history connected to our life in such disrepair. Still, we only know the tender images of Scholastica are there because the other frescoes have slowly fallen away over the years.

So maybe I won't burn to perfection in a quick fire of purification...a slow letting go can also bring the beauty of God's work to the surface.


At this time, God is challenging me to let go of all I have done and move on to what I can do next. It is a difficult call, but I have a school full of freshmen and sophomores who remind me everyday that there is something more God has called me to, I just don't know what it is right now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nativity of the Mary

Happy Feast Day!

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. The celebration of Mary's birth is a simple feast away from the monastery. We remembered Mary by using the common of the Blessed Virgin and antiphons written for the feast. I chose to use the mass reading from Micah which promised a savior to be born of a humble maid. Tonight we will pray vespers with similar simple honor for Mary.

While traveling in Rome, I saw many statues, churches, and frescoes in honor of Our Lady. She was depicted in a variety of styles and forms. This statue and tapestry is in the lower level of San Benedetto Basilica in Norcia. I was touched by her simple beauty in the home of Benedict. Maybe it was being so close to my Benedictine roots or the change from Rome's frenetic pace to Norcia's quiet stroll...but I found great peace in praying at this small shrine dedicated to Mary. Asking this humble woman, dedicated to the mission of her son and our Lord for her help and prayer in my life. That has also been my prayer today...thanking Mary for the blessing of her fiat, and asking for her guidance in serving my Sons of God in my teaching.


Friday, September 3, 2010

My New Spaces


I've been at my new teaching position for a few weeks now and I've finally settled in to my teaching spaces. The teachers here are not assigned to a particular classroom, but we do have an office space similar to college folk. My office is a the end of a very long hallway and I can see all the events and people as they roam up and down the halls. The principal was considering two of us sharing the space, but in the end I was assigned my very own office.
The windows offer a nice view of the adjacent gym and built on rec-center for the boarding students. It also lets in lots of lovely sunshine and a cool breeze now that the heat has snapped here in Nebraska. I've tried to make the space workable and welcoming by arranging an area for students to sit if I'm tutoring.

Please note that the desk arrangement is classic Catholic school mix-match. The work desk is a small, ancient, all wood item with the old pull out board to work with student papers. However, it is too small for my technology as well as book work and coffee cups, and thus I've added the little student work desk for the lap top. My cork board is topped with our "Family Picture" from a few years back, a good reminder of my sisters at home, and some holy pictures and quotes; as well as, reminders of meetings and committees which with I have been assigned to work.

My primary classroom space is "The Crypt"; the basement below the monastery/school chapel. It is all cement and tile, vast, and echo-ey!

First, you descend down a flight and a half of stairs and then a few more to the hallway that connects the crypt to the school building. The benefit to this lower level is the coolness that is constant through the summer and late fall days...however, the monks and teachers warn me that it gets quite chilly during the winter months as well.

As you can see the space is quite vast and open! The roof and sides are 'ribbed' with the support beams for the chapel above feels quite tomb-like, but the upperclassmen tell me it is a great improvement with the new lighting! The set-up at the back of the room is for the robotics team and their competition building.

The is the view of my teaching space...I do have a very cool 'active' aka smart board system that I am learning to use with the help of my boys. The little white board at the left side of the room is also helpful for the work of the day and prayer notes. The only difficulty is obvious (if you know my voice). Ahem, my booming sound fills this room and can reverberate without too much effort of my part. I have to be careful not to overwhelm them with sound : )