Wednesday, December 28, 2011

St. John, Community Customs, and Wine!


Tuesday night, our Vespers (and Lauds too) celebrated St. John the Evangelist and Apostle. It is the custom of our Monastic Community to begin the supper with a special blessing of wine in the refectory! According to tradition, St. John survived drinking a cup of poisoned why because he had blessed it first. In some European cultures, the Feast of St. John is a day to make peace with enemies over a glass of wine.

The monastery celebrated the Feast of St. John with a blessing of our gifts of Christmas wine: boxes of white zinfandel next to bottles of Merlot and even a stray bottle or two of Mogen David. The blessing began with a call and response, a reading from the first letter of John, and then the prioress sprinkled all the wine and sisters with holy water. Finally, the Prioress completed the blessing with a prayer that closed with a toast!

The meal was our simple Tuesday fare, but with a glass or two of wine, we all lingered at our tables. The refectory was filled with stories, chatting, and laughter...the sound of sisters catching up as family. As one of the sisters who works away from the monastery, these long meals are a gift to hear about all the stories from home and each sister has so many tales to tell!

(The Blessing Prayer)
Almighty and ever-living God,
You loved us so much,
that in the fullness of time
You sent Your eternal Word, born of Mary
to make His dwelling among us.
We ask You to bless this wine
which You have given us to cheer our hearts.
As we share this fruit of the vine,
empower us to become Your children.
Make us one in love
that we may share in fullness the life of Your Son,
Your Word made flesh,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
in the splendor of eternal light,
God for ever and ever.
(The Toast)
"Taste and see that the Lord is good! Amen"

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Blessed and Merry Christmas


I pray that we are all celebrating a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

I haven't much to share; it is just wonderful to be home at the monastery for this Christmas season. Our schedule? Well, we relax a bit to celebrate this ongoing feast; Lauds isn't until 8:30 with Mass following at 9:00. Then off to morning work and charges for those sisters who live full time here at the monastery (or their volunteers) but we can also use it as free time for visiting or some games (dominoes, cards, etc.). Today, I worked a bit on curriculum planning for next semester. After lunch and noon praise, it is the mirror of our morning time. However, I do plan to take advantage of our unusual 50 degree weather and go for a walk without needing a jacket! Finally, we gather for Vespers and supper followed by recreation.

Exciting? Nope. Fulfilling? Yup. Nothing is better than just living this daily horarium with my sisters. It's in the little moments and quiet times like these that the familial bond is strengthened. Now, I'd love to stay, but it's time to grab a quick cup of coffee and find my walking partner for a stroll and chat along our Sorrowful Way and grottoes.

Blessings on all your Christmas celebrations!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Psalm 84


I've finally made it home to the monastery for 10 days time to celebrate Christmas with my sisters. Tonight, we chanted the O Antiphon to the "King". I had not forgotten how much I missed this simple ritual; we reverently recite this at our convent apartment, but I had forgotten how much I loved to chant it. So as we sang our ancient praise to the King of Kings, I was reminded of a Psalm that was not sung tonight.

Psalm 84 ~ "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, God of Hosts! My heart longs and yearns for the courts of the Lord...for a day within Your courts, O Lord, is better than a thousand spent elsewhere."

It is so good to be home with my sisters.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gaudete! How did we get here?

Gaudete! Rejoice!

Wait a minute! How did we already get to the week of gaudete and rose candle colored candles! Advent is one of the most beautiful times of the liturgical year for scripture reflection, music, and the monastic heart of my Benedictine community. We are encouraged to take time to reflect deeply on Isaiah's promises of the coming messiah. Our chant reflects the anticipation that fills this Church season. Advent is beautiful in its simplicity and can deepen each sister's call to come sit at the feet of the Lord.

Unless your a teaching sister! My favorite season of the Church year falls on the busiest time of a high school teacher's semester! I do try to keep up on grading, lessons, and contacts...but this time of year it all my best intentions seem to fly out the inbox! There are piles of freshmen and sophomore homework to grade; I finally got the semester review pages written for each of the classes, but the finals aren't written yet; I've contacted a few parents (they have been getting notes, but one last warning or blessing can't hurt) and checked in with the principal; and in 11 minutes I can assure you there will be a knock at my door and a young man on the other side who is very surprised at the grade he earned isn't the one he imagined.

Don't get me wrong. I love teaching. I love working with teenagers and learning from them and occasionally laughing with them. But there are days that I wish I was a bit more organized and wouldn't feel so rushed at one of the most reflective times of the Church year. I do take a bit of extra time these days. My favorite 'breather' is my shift in noon praise...I pray it quietly by myself in the Reservation Chapel here at the Abbey Church, but during Advent I decided to chant it using some of my favorite tones from home. It makes me slow down in prayer and reminds me of the monastery and all the sisters at home (miss you!). The blessing of my current teaching ministry is our two week Christmas break! I will be home before The Eve and able to be at home in the Monastery all throughout the main celebrations of the Christmas Season! It will be wonderful to delve into our deep quiet those last few days before Christmas.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Morning of Advent Prayer


The prayer schedule since I entered the monastery has changed very little. Oh sure, a fifteen minute difference here or there, but when we're talking around dawn, noonish, and around sunset what's a few minutes here or there. Currently, the set times for the Liturgy of the Hours at the monastery are 6:30AM, 12:45PM, and 5:15PM. Here at the convent apartment we try to follow a similar schedule.

But we also live the quiet moments of prayer
that present themselves in opportunities throughout the day! This morning I awoke to the first snow falling in our fine city. So I settled in with a mug of steaming coffee, a warm cinnaminny breakfast treat (made by Sister) and some time with God. This unhurried Saturday morning is a wonderful time of reflection. Usually, I have places to go after our scheduled prayer or I'm coming in from somewhere else before prayer...this morning, I'm just watching the snowfall and pondering all the good God has done in my life.

A pretty good way to pray in Advent.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A busy day of being...


Theology classes paused for the day. Period, by period, each teacher brought their classes to the Chapel for 30~45 minutes of Advent quiet and a communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for Christmas. Admittedly, I was a bit concerned about 20 to 45 teenage boys corralled into church where they would have to be quiet after the initial 10 minutes of the communal aspect of the reconciliation service. My doubts were put to shame.

Each group from Freshmen to Senior was quite respectful. The youngest were a bit fidgety as they stopped by to 'check in' so I could take role and remind them to "sit at least one chair apart." Settling into their places in Chapel there was some rustling of the paper liturgy aides and copies of examination of kiddo dropped his Bible, its slam onto the ground echoed off the walls, and he looked up to me with eyes that mimicked Bambi in the headlights. After we started prayer and settled in, they were attentive and participated well in the communal prayer, and many (average of 80%) of the young men quietly qued up confess to one of the priests (monks of the community). They returned to their places and reflected on scripture, sat quietly, and seemed to truely take advantage of this rare opportunity for silence in their lives.

Overall, I'm quite proud of my boys today.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Flurry of Feast Days


The end of November is a wild run of Church feasts and celebrations.

16th ~ St. Gertrude the Great
17th ~ St. Elizabeth of Hungary
18th ~ Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul
19th ~ St. Mechtilde
20th ~ Feast of Christ the King
21st ~ Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
22nd ~ St. Cecilia

Whew...Every day my class has been started with a reminder of the feast or memorial, a story of how the feast came to be, or a memory of how my Family or Benedictine Sisters celebrate the day. Tomorrow, I will tell about standing on St. Cecilia's tile floor. During my 2010 summer of Benedictine study in Rome, we spent an afternoon at Sancta Cecilia with one of the Benedictine Nuns as a guide. She took us below the basilica (and its famous leaning bell tower) to the what is believed to be Cecilia's 3rd century home. We silently followed this British-Italian sister of ours listen to her tell the the martyr's tale.
Suddenly, I just stopped.

I looked down and realized that I was standing on the tile floor from somewhere in the 200's. I was standing on a floor on which some of the earliest Christians had walked. Realizing that I was obstructing the flow of tourists, my roughly clad pilgrim feet stepped to the side and I meditated in wonder at a simple tile floor. (I checked my journal and) My main thought from that moment was "how can I see every tile floor as the ground of saints and martyrs?" A desire to keep that moment of reflection alive sprung up in my heart and I snapped a quick photo of my toes on that ancient tile.

Continuing down the hallway, I discovered my Sister Pilgrims in the chapel. Originally, it had been a humble house chapel, but somewhere along the line it had been done in jeweled tile. Above the altar Sancta Caecilia is pictured in the glory of a gold field, hands raised in prayer to God. Another image of Cecilia (above) was in a niche; there she was flanked by the two men she had brought to conversion, her husband and his brother, and the form of her martyrdom, the sword, at her feet. This glory filled chapel was an amazing reminder of her faith in, hope for, and love of God. Here we Sister Pilgrims had time to pray for her intercession
and inspiration. It was an amazing experience.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Anniversary!


Sacred Heart Monastery celebrates our 131st anniversary today! We were founded on November 17th, 1880 at MariaZell in the midst of the Dakota Territory. Our pioneering sisters came from the majestic Swiss Alps to the grand plains of the Dakotas. Their faith in God and perseverance guided by the Spirit still amaze me when I consider all the challenges of their early days in our founding. Including a rattlesnake that would sneak into their first dugout 'covent' and drink up the fresh milk overnight!

At home, the Monastery will be celebrating with special commemorations in our Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, and meals. Here at our Convent apartment, we too are celebrating in the Liturgy of the Hours, but we've moved a bit of festivity to Saturday. Sister and I invited some of the other Nebraska Sisters to our new apartment for a celebratory meal and prayer to commemorate the founding. No rattlesnakes invited!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Gertrude the Great

Happy Feast Day!

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Gertrude the Great of Helfta. This Benedictine mystic was graced with visions of the Sacred Heart of Christ and wrote of His Divine Love for those who seek to follow Him. At the monastery, this feast is given special honor, beginning with Vespers on the eve of the day, because we are members of the Federation of St. Gertrude, our foundress was Mother Gertrude Leupi, and our founding date is tomorrow and at one time was celebrated with the feast of St. Gertrude.

One of the hymns sung during this feast is a based on the "Gertrudis Area" and set to a monastic antiphonal through an arrangement by one of our Musician Sisters.

O Gertrude Loving friend of God,
A dwelling place and chosen shrine!
Tell how in love you did remain
In union firm with Heart Divine.

You loved and savored God's own word,
You praised God's name in holy prayer;
You served the needy and the poor,

You saw God's imprint everywhere.

O Jesus, you our friend, we greet;
May Gertrude with us sing your praise;
The Father and the Paraclete,
This glory share for length of days.


Thursday, November 3, 2011



Happy Feast Day, Happy Feast Day, Alleluia! May the Giver of gifts give unto you that which is holy and that which is true...

Charles was the son of Count Gilbert Borromeo and Margaret Medici, sister of Pope Pius IV. He was born at the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, Italy on October 2. He received the clerical tonsure when he was twelve and was sent to the Benedictine abbey of SS. Gratian and Felinus at Arona for his education.

In 1559 his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV and the
following year, named him his Secretary of State and created him a cardinal and administrator of the see of Milan...was ordained a priest in 1563, and was consecrated bishop of Milan the same year. Before being allowed to take possession of his see, he oversaw the catechism, missal, and breviary called for by the Council of Trent.

When he finally did arrive at Trent (which had been without a resident bishop for eighty years) in 1556, he instituted radical reforms despite great opposition, with such effectiveness that it became a model see. He put into effect, measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity, raised the effectiveness of the diocesan operation, established seminaries for the education of the clergy, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children and encouraged the Jesuits in his see. He increased the systems to the poor and the needy...He encountered opposition from many sources in his efforts to reform people and institutions.

He died at Milan on the night of November 3-4, and was canonized in 1610. He was one of the towering figures of the Catholic Reformation, a patron of learning and the arts, and though he achieved a position of great power, he used it with humility, personal sanctity, and unselfishness to reform the Church, of the evils and abuses so prevalent among the clergy and the nobles of the times
Borrowed from

Over my time in the monastery, I've been learning more about my patron St. Charles Borromeo. At first, I was a bit uncertain about receiving a patron I'd never heard of (some Italian guy). After some time, I was amazed as I learned of his work in caring for the poor. Later I needed his prayerful help through illness. Today, I've been relying on his support and inspiriation more and more now that I'm teaching high school Theology.

Saint Charles of Borromeo keep up the prayer for your little namesake!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Feast of All Souls


Today we remember and commemorate our beloved dead. The reading from the Old Testament for this celebration are an inspiration for those of us who mourn. Three of our sisters have died since the last Feast of All Souls: Sisters Verena, Harriett, and Bennett. I love to imagine them as pure gold sparks dancing about God's field of glory with all of our sisters who have gone before.

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead...but they are in
peace...they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them
worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial
offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall
shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble...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." ~
Wisdom 3: 1-9

Our cemetery is a beautiful place to reflect on Benedict's admonition to keep death daily before our eyes; not as a threat or out of fear, but as a hope-filled promise of what is to come. It is a powerful meditation to walk among these sisters in our cemetery, ask them for their prayer and support, and remember that as we are all part of this Communion of Saints, they are still with us today.


Monday, October 31, 2011

All Saints Eve


Tonight, Sister and I began celebrating the Eve of All Saints Day here at our convent apartment by reciting the same prayer our sisters are chanting at the Monastery chapel. Our two, small voices in distant union with those at home. There are some days that I'm more homesick for these parts of our family-life at the Monastery.

"Let us keep festival in honor of all the saints giving God the glory
for the grace bestowed on humankind." ~ based on Gaudeamus

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Benedict! Help keep me balanced!


Whew, October is almost over and I'm ready for a break. The joy of returning to my students in August gave way to new materials and introducing ideas in September, but October is when the school kicks into high gear and my reaching for balance in my Benedictine life can be almost out of grasp.

This month has been filled with essays, discussion projects, a few arguments, and flurries of papers. On top of it all, I'm trying to keep starting class with a brief sharing about the Catholic saint or Church feast of the day. Phew. Oh, the school improvement committee has been meeting weekly to prepare for our continuing accreditation process; I just keep hoping that we do well for the teachers. My stopping into chapel for an early noon praise helps keep my heart in balance with Christ during the day.

I've also been trying to attend more of the school events this year. A couple of weeks ago, Sister and I went to a traveling production of "Much Ado About Nothing" one evening. We sat in the midst of some of my boys. Last week I joined the a small group of the teachers to chaperon the Halloween dance. They recommended we all dress up at least a little bit for the event. The teachers ranged from pirates, lumberjacks, and TV characters to a victim from a slasher movie. Yup, for a $1.50 of cheap red and black makeup pencils; I was able to become a slasher movie victim without changing clothes. The boys, who were everything from teachers to the Pillsbury dough-boy, enjoyed the teachers efforts and had a blast dancing with the girls who came to join us for the evening.

With all the world picking up the pace, I'm most excited for the beginning of November. The Feast and Saint days during this last month of our Church year are some of the most interesting. I have litanies and prayers planned for my classes, but more importantly, I also have time set aside for my own quiet reflection as well. Those periods of quiet are what help keep the Benedictine balance in the busy dailiness of my life.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Retreating with Jesus the Teacher


Today Sister and I traveled to the Benedict Center in Schyler for a retreat day. The presenter led us through various scriptures from the Gospel of Mark, prompting us to look for what we learn about Jesus and Jesus' ministry as teacher as well as what we can apply to our own ministries as teachers, directors of religious education, or catechists. There were many beautiful reflections on the Gospel readings throughout the day. However, two of my own will need some further reflection and application in my teaching.

The Mark's Gospel retelling the Temptation of Christ in the desert after His baptism (Mark 1: 12-13) is a story I had read many times. Today, I noticed the final line about the 'wild beasts' and the 'ministering angels' and found it interesting that they were listed in the same sentence. Then the challenge rose to the surface of this quiet time...during struggles in the classroom, do I choose to see my students as the 'wild beasts' or 'ministering angels'?

I thought this was enough challenge for the day; however, the presenter's next Gospel assignment continued to call me to growth. Mark's few verses on the initial call of the disciples (1: 16-20) has been used as a vocation reflection for years, but a reflection for teachers? Yup. Jesus looked past the rough exterior of these fishermen and saw their hearts filled with possibility. By calling them to discipleship, he challenged how they saw themselves. This call to look deeper is also mine as a teacher. No matter the coursework I teach, I need to continue to challenge my students to see their own possibility, to strive for who they could be. To do this well, I have to look past the goofy, gangley, occasionally ornery exterior of my own students to encourage what gifts might be.

Jesus has given quite enough homework material to keep me 'growing' for a while.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Thought from the Theology Institute


Last Saturday, the Monastery hosted our fall Theology Institute. Each fall and spring, a speaker is invited to talk on a theme that usually covers a year or two. Saturday, the title was "Searching for Sold Ground." And one of the speaker's main points is still resonating with my heart.

He compared our current time of anxiety in the world today to the story of the disciples walking away from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were hopeless; I hadn't noticed it before, but he pointed out that they say, "...we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel..." Luke 24: 21. Past tense, they are no longer filled with that hope. They were not able to see or believe the Truth in their life without this hope. Jesus had died and was buried, the disciples had scattered, the apostles were in hiding; their world was filled with uncertainty and anxiety. It took Jesus re-entering their life, their world and revealing the Truth to them in such a way that their hope was
so deep that their hearts burned.

The speaker connected those hopeless, distracted disciples to each of us. When I let distressing circumstances distract me from the Truth, I am forgetting to keep that hope deeply rooted in Jesus. When I forget that the 'real' world is truly God's world, I am forgetting to keep my hope deeply rooted in Truth of God. This hope in Christ and God's presence will keep my heart burning. Trusting that no matter where I am (or how lost I am), God always knows where I am and can deal with wherever that may be.

The image?...Our sisters take their early heritage from the monks in Einsiedeln. This window in our chapel honors those early sisters and monks who hoped in Christ, drew strength from Our Lady of Einsiedeln, and followed the Gospels from the Alps of Switzerland to the Plains of the Midwest. The trust and hope in the Truth of God and Christ must have burned deeply in their hearts to take such a leap of faith.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011



Last weekend, Sister Roommate and I went home for the weekend. On top of a hill at least 5 miles out from Yankton, I spied our steeple. "We can see home!" I exclaimed. Shinning in the autumn twilight was the steeple of Bishop Martin Marty Chapel, and my heart rose a bit. It was good to go home. Not in the sense of Dorthoy clicking her heels 3 times, but like Ruth declaring her desire to follow Naomi.

Ruth said, "Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! for wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you died I will die,a nd there be buried. May the Lord do so and so to me, and more besides, if aught but death separates me from you!" Ruth 1: 16-18

This is the essence of our Benedictine vow of Stability. The Monastery is home. It is where our postulants and novices are formed; it is where our prioress lives and leads; it is where our elders are cared for and supported; and it is where we are buried next to our sisters.

As one of about fifteen of our sisters working on 'mission', a common cliche comes true in our Stability, "Home is where the heart is." I live and serve and pray during my time away from the Monastery, but it is not home. It was so good to be home. The Theology Institute was good, but being with my Benedictine family was even better.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Our Lady of the Rosary


Tomorrow we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary. It is a memorial celebration of the Church and not a major feast of the community; however, it does allow me to take a moment to remember the gift of faith passed down in my family.

The Rosary was the 'go to' prayer of my family. If we arrived at church a bit early, we knelt for the remainder of the Church Ladies leading the Rosary. When we were driving a half-hour or longer, there was time for a Rosary (sometimes I wonder if this was to encourage peace in the backseat filled with 3 little girls). Mom kept an extra set of beads in her purse for use at visits to the hospital, nursing home, or to pass on to the antsy kid at Adoration. I also remember hearing the rhythmic rise and fall of Mom and Dad praying this together at night...a pretty comforting way to fall asleep as a kid.

This family reinforcement didn't stop with Mom and Dad. Grandpa and Grandma made it a nightly requirement when we would stay over at the house on the farm. I remember wondering why they got to stay in their comfy chairs while we were kneeling along the edge of the couch like ducks in a row. Here the Rosary picked up in pace. The German nature of my grandparents didn't dwaddle between Hail Mary's. They had a Mary, Our Lady of Grace statue (bolted to a stand) with some faux pink flowers arranged at her feet and a glow-in-the-dark Rosary draped over the back of the stand. She was passed on to me after Grandma died and Grandpa moved to the nursing home. He wanted his granddaughter the nun (he was a little proud) to have her. Now she hangs on the wall of my cell no pink flowers at her feet but that same glow-in-the-dark Rosary glimmers in the night.

The Rosary continues to be a prayer of comfort for me. Dealing with a rough bout of insomnia, I pray the Rosary from my pillow and search for the beads the next morning (Mom always said my guardian angel would finish it for me). Needing some quiet time to clear my head, I pray a Rosary to focus and let go at the same time. Last Christmas I asked for a Rosary on CD to make the commute home a time of prayer rather than frustrating traffic. I still say a Rosary on long car trips and find peace in the prayer before or after Mass.

However, I think this quote from Pope John Paul II's 2002 Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae says it better:

...Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a means of learning from her to "read" Christ, to discover his secrets and to understand his message.

This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that she teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as she offers us the incomparable example of her own "pilgrimage of faith." As we contemplate each mystery of her Son's life, she invites us to do as she did at the Annunciation: to ask humbly the questions which open us to the light, in order to end with the obedience of faith: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word" (Luke 1: 38).


Friday, September 30, 2011

Celebrating Teachers


It has been a wonderfully exhausting day. The theology department took part in the Archdiocesan wide gathering of Catholic school teachers. We represented pre-school through senior levels from the little towns on the prairie to the metropolitan heart of the Archdiocese. In total, there were between 1,200-1,300 teachers gathered to celebrated our call to serve the students entrusted to our care.

We began with an informative instruction about the deeper meanings of the celebration of the Eucharist and then moved into the Eucharistic celebration itself. The Archbishop presided with many of the priestly principals, presidents, and teachers from the schools in attendance; two of our own monks were among the mix. It was quite a rich service for a gymnasium; incense was wafted about, a student choir of about 20 led the teachers in song, and the Feast of St. Jerome on top of it all! While we processed to receive communion, I was struck at the quiet that 1,300 talking-teachers can achieve! Such a mix of humanity, a wide cross-section of diversity, all gathered to celebrate Christ in our lives and as the center of our service. It was a powerful moment for me.

There were many sessions offered to meet the various needs of the teachers assembled and a whole cafeteria of vendors to peruse! I ended up gathering more catalogs to seek out new textbooks for next years Theology curriculum and nabbing a few pens and freebies in the mix. Both of my session were focused on implementing the curricular framework from the USCCB. Our Archbishop has given us a year-by-year installment process. We will begin with freshmen next fall and then slowly add the various levels of kiddos. I'm very grateful for this slow implementation since there seems to be quite the shakeup for many of the teachers in the diocese with all the change. So far our folk are transitioning okay, there is a lot to consider and classes to shift and decisions to make with teachers teaching backgrounds...ah...change.

The day ended with a powerful yet humorous presentation about passion in our lives. The speaker reminded us that our passion as teachers should come from Christ the teacher and passion of us all. After a few laughs and a call to serve, he bowed out to our Archbishop. The wrap up was a commissioning. Some singing, a reading about wisdom from Sirach, and a blessing from the Archbishop on all the faculty, staff, and students in his care...let's hope it sticks!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making Connections


School has moved from 'great to be back' to its standard horarium~regulated schedule. The new has worn off and the boys are a bit ornery, the teachers a bit restless, and we're all a bit distracted...the fall days have been gorgeous here. In fact, I've just felt fragmented from the kids with work demands and demanding their work. There are days I'm pretty sure they are been shipped in from another planet just to test my patience. I've been praying for wisdom and guidance in seeing Christ in them in our midst, but I've needed more of a reminder.

This marble work is on the side of an enclosed 'ambo' where the gathered community used to sit in a venerable old basilica in Rome (whose name escapes me right now). The emphasis of all the panels surrounding the congregation was on the Christian unity and connection to Christ. The Tree of Life symbol was my favorite. Christ is the Vine and we the members are all bound to him through the smaller vines; these vines connect us not only to Christ but to each other.

A reminder from the early centuries of the Church in Rome for me in my classroom in the Plains. We are all connected... I made this my 'desktop' so I would be reminded every day, throughout the day of this connection to my students, co-workers, family, friends, sisters. These visual reminders are important.

Yesterday, one of the sophomores asked what 'that' was as he pointed to the projection from my desktop to the smart board. I explained a bit about the basilica's pew space and the importance of the symbol. I went on to tell him that it was a good symbol for us too, that we also need to remember that connection to each other. We aren't just a classroom, we're a community of believers all linked by those vines to Christ. After my theological treatise, he replied, "Huh," and turned back to his previous conversation with a classmate. And I looked back at the image to remind myself yet again.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows & A Swiss Pieta


Yesterday, I opened my theology classes with a slide show of many different ways Our Lady of Sorrows has been depicted throughout the centuries. The freshmen and sophomore gentlemen were invited to look for the key symbols that made the various icons an honor to Our Sorrowful Mother. It was amazing what they noticed once they started looking into the slides for special signs or empty spaces.

This particular image of a standing pieta I kept for myself. On the rolling foothills of the Swiss Alps, our sisters of Marienburg honor this statue, which according to tradition, is older than the castle that was their Abbey's first home on the hillside. I was drawn back to her several times during the few days we were there in the summer of 2010.

Her eyes are locked on her son's face. Her hands brace his body against hers. This moment of deep love and sorrow of a mother; it was an invitation to step into that moment myself. I think it was her hand on his shoulder that touched me the most; a simple motherly gesture, a touch I myself have been blessed to feel, a touch I hope to pass on to another in need. Mostly, I love the statue because it reminds me that she understands; all the struggles, prayers, pleas...she understands.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Compline with Community & Creation


A Friday evening to relax and take time with God; it's a quiet night in the city. Sister and I sat in the living room to visit after Vespers. The weather was cool and lovely so we left the door to the porch open for fresh air.

Soon I realized that we really weren't alone. Watching the folk come and go from their homes, walking their dogs, and bringing the children in from play, I listened to the first choir came from the birds in the trees nearby as Sister shared about her day. The cheerful praise of the birds bounced between the trees of the park of apartment complex. They sang through the sunset and then slowly quieted down.

The second choir came in with a slow hum from the now empty park. The moon rose and the crickets and cicadas filled the air outside the balcony. The rhythmic rise and fall of their wings was the perfect accompaniment for our time together this evening. As we started to tell stories of how we came to community and talk of sisters who helped us along the way, the moon was beginning to rise.

This Compline with Community was a very wonderful to wrap up the week. The chiming of the crickets continued after Sister said good night and I turned to compline in our prayer book. I finished this evening of prayer with the Canticle of Simeon. The refrain which introduces the canticle "Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep rest in his peace" brings a relief from the day and a trust that God will keep me and all those I love close to his heart.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Heart of the Convent...Apartment


In the past year, I've learned that every inch of space is valuable in a city apartment. Growing up, my sisters and I enjoyed our home with big yards in the both the front and back of the house. The monastery at home has wonderful spaces both public and private for the sisters to enjoy. But now that I'm sharing my second convent apartment with Sister, the rooms in our apartment have various roles. My bedroom is also my office, the kitchen is also the laundry.

This simple arrangement is the heart of our convent apartment. The dining room table is framed on one side with a picture of our community. Above the picture are three little mirrored 'word' boxes: live, love, laugh. On the other wall are drawings of Benedict and Scholastica done by one of our Sister Artists back home at the monastery. The beautiful buffet holds all our prayer books, music books and CDs, and other spiritual reading. We also use the buffet to display our Bible (we use for prayer) that Sister received from a friend before moving down to our new apartment.

We gather at this table at least three times a day... We pray Lauds at 6:30 AM, the same time as our sisters at the monastery, before going out to our various ministries for the day. We return home for the evening and share our supper together. After taking time during the meal to visit about the day, we clear away the dishes. Then we return to the table to pray our Vespers, thanking God for the blessings of the day.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Crazy Daze


It has been a crazy few weeks since my last post! With the help and support of my sisters, the convent has relocated to a new apartment, my school office has been set up in a creative new corner, and school has begun! There have been times I thought I was going to go a bit crazy, but thanks be to God, my sisters pulled me back out of the daze and pointed me in the direction we needed to go.

A new sister has joined me this Fall. This Spring Sister DRE was called home by the newly elected prioress to lead us in liturgy planning and guide new postulants in the monastery. However, it is not in our Benedictine nature to live alone. About a week after unpacking the new convent apartment, Sister Searcher moved to town! "Searcher" because she is still seeking out a new ministry here in the city. The first week allowed her to focus on unpacking, settling into our home together, and exploring our corner of the city. The second week began her search for ministry. She has a wide variety of experience in her years of Benedictine life and so I hope and pray this will help her find some service that she finds very meaningful.

We are starting to settle into life together. The first discovery was her unfortunate status of being a MORNING PERSON! As a NIGHT OWL, I have always struggled with the early mornings that are a part of religious life. But we have come to an understanding, she won't take offense at my lack of response until a cup (or two) of coffee, and I will nod and smile when she is chipper before Lauds (6:30 prayer) in the morning. Speaking of coffee; apparently, I make mine a bit more deeper than hers...we've agreed that it is easier for her to dilute it than it would be for me to concentrate it...I get to brew the brew : )

School has just finished its first full week! It has been wonderful to greet my returning students and hear their tales of summer vacation. I've also enjoyed meeting and learning about the freshmen and those transferring into our school family. But with four or five new teachers, a new principal, and so many new students, I'm ready to settle into the Fall schedule and get these folk into the daily rub of Benedictine life.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Retreat Week


Our community asks each sister make at least a week of retreat once a year. To support the sisters in doing this, two conference retreats are held each year at the monastery. This week Br. Benet from Blue Cloud Abbey is guiding us through a retreat based on the stories of Benedict from the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great. If you know of Br. Benet, these ancient tales are supplemented with those he has gathered from his own con-friars, other Benedictine's and religious, family, and friends...the stories all center around a particular teaching or idea for each conference.

Outside of the conferences, I am enjoying the freedom to sit in the silence, read from the Dialogues, pray, and be with the Lord. Unfortunately, the heat wave has created temperatures of over 110 degrees (with humidity) and praying outside has become close to impossible (I wilt easily). So I have found a variety of quiet places about the monastery...of course I use my cell (monastic bedroom) but no pictures of that : )

Up in our choir loft of Bishop Martin Marty Chapel, there is a lattice wall of windows depicting the various works and prayers of our sisters. I love to sit on the cool floor and, leaning into the sandstone walls, stare up at our history in glass. These two remind my of my own ministry to teaching and studying. Each time I go up to the loft, I notice something new in this stained is an awesome place for quiet reflection on our lives here in the Dakotas.

This side chapel to Our Lady of Einsiedeln is also our chapel for the Reserved Sacrament. Opposite this altar is a series of stained glass windows dedicated to Mary; usually the lights aren't on (except for the tabernacle candle), and the colors from her window spill down on any sister who is sitting in the pews before her. The quiet of this monument to our Swiss heritage is occasionally broken as a sister comes into chapel, bows, and continues on her way into the church. Those small breaks in the solitude are a loving reminder of why I'm here.

The Peace Chapel, aka the lower chapel or student chapel, has two more of my favorite places to pray on these hot summer days. This niche was once used for storage! The gate is original so I have no idea what it was before that! Now, it holds an icon of Mary of the Disappeared, the Crucifix with a red drape, and a chair with prie dieu. It is a place to consider the wider world and pray for the needs of those in sorrow.

The Peace Chapel's space for the Reservation of the Sacrament is designed for quiet reflection and contemplation. The stained glass windows to the right are lightly colored so that the focus of those who pray here is on the Christ present among us in the Sacrament, Community (the Icon of the Blessed Virgin), and Scripture. During the retreat, many of my afternoons have been spent in quiet prayer here in the cool of the reservation chapel. The only sounds that drift down here are the bells chiming the hours, the soft whisper of a sister praying the stations in the body of the church, and the gentle rattle of my own is wonderful place to pray.


Friday, July 8, 2011

The Commonplace Divine


Today is another commonplace Friday. One of many summer days that have been slipping away while I'm home at the monastery. Nothing extraordinary, nothing amazing, but it is in these average days that Benedict calls us to make the commonplace a taste of the divine, and I will miss it a great deal when I return to teaching away from the monastery in the fall.

7AM Lauds followed by the Eucharist is celebrated in common. The same sisters sit in nearly the same spots arriving nearly at the same predictable times every morning. We settle into our places in the Peace Chapel; a collection of commonplace women who are far from common when seen in the eyes of the divine. Each of us bringing the prayers of our heart, the community, and those we love to the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist. Each of us adding our voices (tired, bright, sharp, flat, or shinning) to the musical lilt of our chant. Each of us listening for the voice of God and the call of Christ during the silent lulls between Psalms.

8AM Breakfast for those who eat after Mass and the break of our morning silence. A very common act in the meal, but it is also a time to share.
We share the plans for our day, the hopes of what it might be...
in this it can become a time of the divine, seeing Christ work in one another.

My work of the morning was simply reading and reviewing my plans for teaching this fall. This varies between the tedious and the inspired depending on the day and topic. Today was somewhere in between. Those texts can be the divine when I remind myself it is reaching out to support the next generation of those who believe, blessing our future together.

Noon Prayer is celebrated after lunch in our small groups. This little hour is only ten minutes long at the most. A Psalm or two, a short reading, a period of silence, and the Lord's Prayer to close. A reminder of God's presence throughout our day.

My afternoon work was chapel cleaning with two other sisters. Sweeping the marbled floor in aisles and between pews, shinning a bit of brass, and some dusting. Repeating the same work that has been done on a weekly basis for over 50 years. Repeating the same work that has been done by postulants, novices, and student sisters from foreign lands. This quiet manual labor is a silent gift of love in caring for our sisters and our monastic home of worship. While moving up and down the rows of pews, I pray for those who have called for our support, family, friends, and my sisters too. Cleaning is commonplace work, and it seems mundane until you begin thinking of all those who came before and who will come after. This little revelation occurred while I was on a step stool reaching the high places of Our Lady of Einsiedeln's side altar with my duster. Hmmm.

Soon it will be time for Vespers and supper. Our sisters will file into chapel following a similar pattern to Lauds, our commonplace gathering of Love. In the repetition of the horarium (schedule) and dailiness of our lives we are called to see the divine shaping and molding us slowly, deliberately...from the common to the divine image. How do you see the commonplace shaping you?


Friday, July 1, 2011

The Feast of the Sacred Heart

Happy Feast Day!

Today we celebrated our Patronal Feast at Sacred Heart Monastery. My favorite part of these times of festive Liturgy of the Hours is our shared prayer dedicating the community to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the end of Vespers this evening. It's a powerful reminder of our call to carry the love of the Sacred Heart to the world. The readings at Mass, the music, and the psalmody all kept bringing me back to the love God has for us and the love Christ embodied for us in the world. But the key line from my Lectio was simply "...learn from me..."

Ah Lord, a simple request with such challenges for a sister who still struggles with the vow of Obedience. I do strive to be open to learning from my sisters, co-workers, and students; however, to call to learn from Christ involves an the greater risk of letting go of my own expectations of learning and being open to the lessons of life to which He wishes to lead me. When I am learning from other, I still have an element of control (ahem, still letting go of that one) ... learning from Christ is not simply letting go of control; it is giving it back to Him whom I love and live for.


ps...The icon is The Sacred Heart as written by Sr. Mary Charles, a beautiful symbol of our community.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Feast of Corpus Christi


Tomorrow, we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, The Body and Blood of Christ. I found Pope Benedict XVI homily filled with an important reflection for all. He connects the celebration of Christ's self-gift of in Eucharist to our being continually transformed to Christ through that gift and how it should affect our every way of being; unifying us all as a community in faith.

...Everything starts, you might say, from the heart of Christ, who at the Last Supper on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and, in doing so, with the power of his love transformed the meaning of death which he was about to encounter. The fact that the Sacrament of the altar has taken on the name "Eucharist" - "thanksgiving" - expresses this: that the change in the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, a gift of a love stronger than death, love of God which made him rise from the dead. That is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of life...

...Thus, while the Eucharist unites us to Christ, we open ourselves to others making us members one of another: we are no longer divided, but one thing in Him. Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, and with whom I might not even have a good relationship, but also to my brothers and sisters who are far away, in every corner of the world. Thus the deep sense of social presence of the Church is derived from the Eucharist, as evidenced by the great social saints, who have always been great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, recognize their brother who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, and they are attentive to every person, committing themselves, in a concrete way, to those who are in need. So from the gift of Christ's love comes our special responsibility as Christians in building a cohesive, just and fraternal society. Especially in our time when globalization makes us increasingly dependent upon each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity will not be built without God, without true Love. This would give way to confusion and individualism, the oppression of some against others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity not imposed from above, or by ideological or economic interests, but from a sense of responsibility towards each other, because we identify ourselves as members of the same body, the body of Christ, because we have learned and continually learn from the Sacrament of the Altar that sharing, love is the path of true justice...

In our Benedictine family, this concept of Eucharist bringing us into one Body in Christ is celebrated not only in the Mass but also our times of prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. This unity that is celebrated in our prayer together helps us bridge the difficulties that may arise in disagreements between sisters or when discussing important matters during Chapter meetings. Those celebrations of unity challenge us to reach out to each and all, within and outside of our Benedictine family. In his Rule, Benedict asks us to greet all guests as Christ. All those who come to our door, all those whom we minister to, and all those with whom we serve...these are all unified with us in Christ.

These sacramental celebrations of unity also enrich our dailiness together; our service to each other in the big and small ways are more than simple work or chores, it is serving the Christ in each other. This morning it was my turn to clean the bathroom area on my floor/wing of the bedrooms. Six toilets, four showers, two tubs, several sinks, and one vast tile floor later, I surveyed my service to my sisters. The space was fresh, clean, and ready for wasn't just a was a chance to reach out in ministry to my sisters in the dailiness of our lives. While I was moping and scrubbing, other sisters were sweeping the stairwells, dusting the statues that grace our halls, washing dishes, and distributing the mail. The unity we share in our sacramental celebrations can bring a sanctity of service in the mundane.

...Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in him: he involves us in his redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to his same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with Him and in Him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God's plan.

Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humble awareness that we are simple grains of wheat, we cherish the firm conviction that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death...

Ah, too true; in Benedictine community, we do not live in a utopia! We live as family, and family not only loves and supports but also challenges and disagrees. During one of my novitiate classes, a teaching sister called it "rubbing the rough edges away." This rubbing away of sharp edges takes some time and may not always be the easiest experience, but it is how saints are formed in those elders that live in our midst. Unity isn't easy, but with the gift of Christ's love through the Eucharist, Unity is the blessing of community.


Saturday, June 18, 2011



Prayer in central to our Benedictine life. We gather morning, noon, evening, and night to pray as a community for our needs and the needs of the world. Lately our prayer has been very urgent and focused on the needs of those along the Mighty Mo. The flooding from the rains and snows on the far away mountains and plains of Montana is reminding us lowly land dwellers of the power of water.

The usual water level and calm below the Gavins Point Dam by this time of the year.

The 147,000 cubic feet per second release of water from the Gavins Point Dam!
This was taken by the Army Corps of Engineers on June 15, 2011.

The turbulent water from the Gavins Point Dam as it begins the flow downriver!
This was taken by the Army Corps of Engineers on June 15, 2011.

While we are blessed to live at the top of the bluffs on the South Dakota side of the Missouri River safe from harm, many of our family, friends, and folk (we only know through prayer) live in the dangerous flood zones of the growing Missouri. We pray for those endangered and evicted by the raging waters and for all those who seek to offer protection and aid. We also join in that offer of aid through cookie baking and other good will donations. The flooding is predicted to continue for many weeks as the snow continues to melt in the to our prayerful intercession will need to continue.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

More Monastic Works...


I have been working with our Sister Gardener for the last few days. Another Sister Teacher and I have been assigned to help while on break for the summer. Unfortunately, the spring and early summer has been quite a strange season of weather and it is taking the summer produce some time to catch up. Tuesday we weeded through the kale, onions, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, watermelon, et al. on one heck of a hot day...90 degrees with sweltering winds whipping up dust.

Wednesday morning it had cooled down to 75 degrees (or so) and it made for a wonderful day of spot watering and mulching the tomatoes. With the flood of the Missouri, our pump house by the river has been shut down. It is unusual for us to use city water, thus the 'spot' watering only. I know it will be surprising to hear, but while the river flows with powerful flood waters from Montana and Canada, the flat lands away from the river are quite packed and dry;
we could use some rain. Until then I will remain the 'water fairy' of the Monastery garden ;)

Today the temperatures sunk into the fifties! We bundled up in sweatshirts and flannels to continue our Monastic works. We began with picking chamomile for our sisters to dry and make teas and blends that we sell in our gift shop. It was cold, but wonderfully scented morning of quiet service. Our morning in the chamomile typifies why I love my summers in the various Monastic work assignments...the quiet service together allows time for prayerful reflection on the school year and years of life in community. We do have time to visit and tell stories throughout the work, but this sharing often leads back to time of quiet again. It is an enriching preparation to return back to our ministries at the end of summer.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Charges


The Monday after our June Monastic Chapter heralds the beginning of the summer charges (chores) here at the monastery. My Monday charges include produce preparation from the monastery's garden and orchard. (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings I'll be IN the garden.) We are currently between seasons in the garden. The asparagus,lettuce and radishes are slowing down, but the other veggies and fruits aren't yet in season. However, rhubarb seems to create a timeline of its own. The morning began with cleaning and trimming a few boxes of rhubarb from our garden! Tomorrow the sisters will move to chopping it for pies, jams, and sauces!

It is a wonderful charge when we gather around the counters in the serving hall and begin to visit and tell stories as we work. There is a place for all the sisterly crew rinsing the stalks by the sinks, sitting on stools, or collecting the trimmings for our composting around the garden. We even had one of our wandering elders join us for a while in the trimming and stories, and when she was ready to move on, she rinsed her hands and wandered along.

It is a wonderful change of pace and focus from the school year. These daily exchanges are what settles my soul.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Final Profession Party!


The weeks have flown by! I have been hustling and bustling about the end of the school year, celebrating my parents 40th wedding anniversary, cleaning-packing-moving our sister from the apartment convent back to the monastery, visiting my family on the western edge of Nebraska, and whew...celebrating one of our own junior sisters!

Sister Junior has gone through many steps in preparation for her Perpetual Monastic Profession (aka Final Vows). After four years of temporary monastic profession, she wrote the Prioress her letter requesting permission to profess her final vows. Then Junior Sister met with the sisters who are members of the monastic counsel.

This weekend she will take the final step in being accepted to full, perpetual membership in our order is to come before the whole community. This is one of the most amazing moments we share in our Chapter Meetings...the Junior Sister stands before us and shares her desire to live perpetually as a Benedictine sister in our monastic family. Some state it simply, others tell a story, some laugh, and others cry as they share their hopes and dreams. After she makes her request, we discern, pray and then solemnly vote on her acceptance. If she is accepted, the Juniorate Director brings the Junior Sister back to the Chapter and she is received with applause, hugs, and tears of joy.

To celebrate our upcoming joy, all the sisters who have been missioned to serve in Nebraska gathered for an F.P. Party. That would be a Final Profession party...all done in fuchsia pink : ) We shared a meal of favorites brought from each sisters best recipes. Played some games...a word search based on our Junior Sister, Apples to Apples, and a few hands of rummy! After our game playing, we shared gifts based on the "F.P." letters of her celebration: flashy prayer beads (hand knotted rosary), flowery push-pins, finger paints and the like. We wrapped up with some Festive Prayer...some celebratory Psalms, readings that illustrated our Profession of Stability, Obedience, and Converstatio, and a sung Magnificat. All in all a wonderful community celebration was had by all...we love her dearly and it will be wonderful to have her as a perpetual member of our monastic family.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

World Day of Prayer for Vocations


This weekend the Church focuses her attention on praying for all those called to follow Christ through vocations to the Church. Pope Benedict XVI's address "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church" reminded me that while it is God who calls women and men to serve, it is up to us to offer prayer, invition, and support.

"We should pay close attention to the way that Jesus called his closest associates to proclaim the Kingdom of God. In the first place, it is clear that the first thing he did was to pray for them: before calling them, Jesus spent the night alone in prayer, listening to the will of the Father in a spirit of interior detachment from mundate concerns. It is Jesus' intimate conversation with the Father with results in the calling of his disciples." This is a reminder to keep praying for those who are discerning their call to serve. As a community, we commit every Tuesday to praying for women and men who are considering a Christ's call to life in the Church. Individually, many of us continue to pray especially for women who may be considering our community. One of our Elder Sisters asked the three of us who when to Rome last summer to light candles at statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and pray for vocations. We dutifully knelt at many statues and shrines of the Sacred Heart, dropped our Euro into electric candles, and prayed for Christ's intercession.

The invitation to those who seek is given in a variety of ways. We share our stories with catechism classes and youth groups; we send out flyers offering week long monastic visits and weekend come & see stays, but most importantly we live our Call as Public Witness. "...the Lord called some fishermen on the shore of the Sea of Galilee: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." He revealed his messianic mission to them by the many "signs" which showed his love for humanity and the gift of the Father's mercy. Through his words and his way of life he prepared them to carry on his saving work." Pope Benedict XVI reminds us all that how we live our daily life is an important part of the invitation, and it has been an important aspect of our community living as well. Our Benedictine call to a life of prayer and community is shared as witness to the world. At the Monastery, our Lauds, Eucharistic, and Vespers celebrations are open to the local community of college, hospital, and city of Yankton. For those of us living away from the Monastery, the stories we tell of home, our commitment to sharing life with our sisters at the covent, and our returning home to the Monastery for holidays, holydays, and summers are all living witness and invitation to those answering a call to Vocation in the Church.

As to offering support for those discerning a vocation to the Church, there is always a sister willing to offer a listening ear, a quick prayer, and some wise advice. My Sister Spiritual Director was a wonderful help while trying to decide how to respond to the call I felt. Her best words were "You don't have to decide 'FOREVER', but can you give God one year. After that, can you give another year, soon it becomes forever." I started with one year, then a second...thirteen years later I can't imagine any other home. Pope Benedict XVI's words were also inspired.

It is essential that every local Church become more sensitive and attentive to the pastoral care of vocations, helping children and young people in particular at every level of family, parish and associations – as Jesus did with his disciples - to grow into a genuine and affectionate friendship with the Lord, cultivated through personal and liturgical prayer; to grow in familiarity with the sacred Scriptures and thus to listen attentively and fruitfully to the word of God; to understand that entering into God’s will does not crush or destroy a person, but instead leads to the discovery of the deepest truth about ourselves; and finally to be generous and fraternal in relationships with others, since it is only in being open to the love of God that we discover true joy and the fulfilment of our aspirations. “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church” means having the courage, through an attentive and suitable concern for vocations, to point out this challenging way of following Christ which, because it is so rich in meaning, is capable of engaging the whole of one’s life.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Breaking News...


Teaching Theology has been challenging me to grow. The news of Osama bin Laden's death brought a topical and challenging dimension to our class discussion about capital punishment. This afternoon I found this article which included a statement by the Vatican. A couple class periods to late for me today, but I believe I will bring it to class has also helped me to frame my own personal emotions about the news.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman,
released a brief written statement reacting to the news.

"Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading
divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable
people, and manipulating religions to this end," Father Lombardi said.

"In the face of a man's death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects
on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and
hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth
of peace and not of hatred," the spokesman said.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Silence Begins...


Prayer began at 5 o'clock with a foot washing service for the Monastic community. The Prioress, Sub-prioress, and Procurator sat on the floor of our Chapter Room and washed the feet of the sisters...from this simple and humble reminder of service, we gathered in the refectory for a agape meal, a joyful celebration of our love for each other. This meal stretched on into 6:30 when sisters began to filter out to prepare for our celebration of the Lord's Supper.

We sang the Pange Lingua as we processed from Bishop Marty Chapel to our small St. Joseph's chapel near the care center. This year I noticed a line in our translation from St. Meinrad's that I hadn't noticed before. Verse 3: At the last, the paschal supper, with the friends before they fled, first he ate the meal of passage; Paschal lamb and Paschal bread; then himself as food he offered, so that many might be fed. I had never noticed the mention of this being his last meal with his friends before they fled in the garden. When I returned to the Upper Chapel, the doors of Our Lady of Einsiedeln are closed, the tabernacle doors beneath her are open and empty, the candles and altar cloths are carried away, and even the curtains are drawn back from behind the high cross. I don't want to flee from this emptiness...

The Triduum silence has begun at the Monastery. The procession with the Blessed Sacrament to be reposed in our St. Joseph chapel brought close to our joyous agape and has begun the subsequent time of adoration and prayer.

May God Bless your Triduum,

Anticipating Triduum


The Monastery is abuzz with preparations for our Triduum celebrations!

I awoke early to get ready for the day, but not earlier than our Sister Baker. When I opened my curtain at 7AM to look out on the world, I could see right across the courtyard into the brightly lit bakery. She already had dough on the table and the 'proofing' room filling up with breads special for the feasts: the round loaves of sweet, soft agape bread and the rings of cinnamon laced sweet bread.

After morning prayer, the sisters in charge of environment (candles and cloths) began to take down the purple in the Peace Chapel. Since we will be praying the Upper Chapel (Bishop Marty Chapel) through all of Triduum and through the Easter Octave, the sisters might not set out the new candles and cloths just yet...but we will be preparing the Upper Chapel this afternoon. Holy Thursday's environment needs to include clean space in the sacristy to place all the goods of the Sanctuary after the altar is stripped as well as adding new environment to the smaller St. Joseph Chapel (for our care center sisters) where the reserved Sacrament will be taken tonight. Helping to prepare our Chapel for these sacred celebrations allows me to move from the busyness of my school days to the centering on our celebrations of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection during this Triduum.

This afternoon also includes some community fun. The sisters in our care center dye the Easter eggs for the whole Monastery! Those of us who can join them in this colorful community collaboration have some good old family fun. It is interesting to see which sisters favor which colors and the artists that come out of each one of us. I also love to hear the stories the sisters tell of their childhood memories of Easter egg coloring at home or how they celebrated earlier in community life.

However, I am most excited for...our silence...I know, you're shocked. I really am looking forward to our time of deep quiet and reflection that begins with the transfer of the Sacrament at the end of our Holy Thursday Mass and continues through Good Friday and only comes to an end after Lauds on Holy Saturday. The whole Monastery is focused on this deep awareness of God in our midst. My students and the faculty both seemed a bit surprised at this quiet that I was excited to be joining. One of the Junior boys joked that he didn't think his mom or sister could go a few hours much less a whole day and a half without talking. I told him that he might be surprised at how much those same folk might love a bit of silence in their day...he didn't believe me.


Thursday, April 14, 2011


As the end of Lent begins to draw near and Holy Week approaches, I find myself thinking back to the time I was able to spend in our Benedictine study in Rome last summer. I keep returning to our time in St. Peter's Basilica and statue commemorating Veronica's compassionate care for Christ. It was always an image that captured my imagination while growing up, and to see her towering above the pilgrims with the sign of her gentle tending of Christ's needs unfurled before us all but took my breath away. I just wanted to share with you the Veronica that has been foremost in my thoughts as we journey through our Lent.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Chapter of Election


Chapter 64 of the Rule explains that "In choosing an abbot, the guiding principle should always be that the man placed in office be the one selected either by the whole community acting unanimously in the fear of God, or by some part of the community, no matter how small, which possesses some sounder judgment. Goodness of life and wisdom in teaching must be the criteria for choosing the one to be made abbot, even if he is the last in community rank."

We spent four days in prayerful discernment during our Chapter of Election. It was an amazing experience to consider all the sisters' gifts & talents, and how those could be shared as the prioress of our community. All throughout the prayer and discussion and prayer and balloting and prayer and more voting, I found a great peace in the faith that Jesus Christ was guiding our discernment through the gift of the Spirit (for which we prayed at every celebration of our Liturgy of the Hours). The culmination of these days was our 'canonical' election which is the decisive balloting for prioress. Our sister Penny Bingham was chosen as prioress of Sacred Heart Monastery.

Following the election were the two most enheartening parts of the whole process (for me). We all approached Sr. Penny, placed our hands in hers or hugged her, and offered our support. I have to admit to a few tears in my eyes as our elders would come up to her and offer their prayers with great love in their voices. The agape with wine and homemade bread was a wonderfully joy filled time as well. The sisters celebrated in the Chapter room with Sr. Baker's fresh bread in one hand, a bit of wine in the other, and greeted each other with hope, joy, and faith-filled anticipation for our future. It was beautiful to listen to the blessed sound of laughter fill the room.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Dear God...what the heck!

Greetings, Well, Sisters, family, and friends be warned! God is laughing at Nebraska! One week ago it was over 70 degrees, last Tuesday we had tornadoes; then it got cold, wet and snowy for a couple days. All of the snow melted over the weekend, but is hovering just around 40 and SNOWING again! So, I return to my heading. Dear God what the heck is going on? The high school boys were a bit more despondent about the weather forecast. Apparently, snow isn't conducive to running miles of track, shooting trap, passing soccer balls or playing baseball, and they expressed this discontent all throughout the morning classes. I did greet them all cheerily and blessed their "good Monday mornings". I pointed out the beauty of the fluffy snow against the evergreens on the school and monastery grounds. I considered (aloud) the blessing of the nutrients in the snow for the farmers fields. They listened a bit grumpily, and decided that they still weren't happy about the snow. I may be befuddled by it, but watching it now outside of our convent is lovely. Blessings,

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chapter of What???


Our service to high school boys has been keeping me on the go! I have been trying to keep a few days ahead of my fast thinking Junior Boys and energetic Freshmen while writing out my curriculum and reading up on the theology framework changes that will be implemented in just a year. On top of it all, I've begun planning for my absence at school for our Chapter of Election. (How did it get to be only a week away?)

I recently sent out my e-mail all-call for help in filling my class times during my absence. Without thinking, I simply named my reason for being gone as our Chapter of Election. The first e-mail noted my lack of clarification by responding with the subject heading "Chapter of What???" Ah...this needed a bit of explanation.

The folk here were amazed at the process, time, and prayer that we spend on choosing our Prioress! They were even more surprised to learn that not only do all of us have a vote and voice in the election, but that so many of us are eligible for nomination by our peers. I kept returning to Benedict's recommendation that all the members of the community be gathered for important decisions so that all the wisdom from the eldest to youngest could be heard. The Junior boys thought this was a great idea and wanted to know if they could "send in" recommendations too; I reminded them this was a 'members only' meeting.

All have promised to keep us in prayer during the discernment. In this manner, I've asked them to petition Our Lady, Maria of Rickenbach...a good way of sharing our Swiss connection and prayer all at the same time.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Feast of Saint Benedict

Happy Feast!

Today, we celebrate the feast of Benedict's death. This feast is a bit more subdued since it is in the midst of Lent; our solemnity is celebrated with the Church feast on July 11th. However, we do remember his passing with story and song. My boys at school were a bit unsure of creating a feastday for someone's death, but I did try to point out it could been seen as his birth to new life...they didn't buy it. So I added this story from St. Gregory the Great to illustrate.

"In that same year when he was to leave this life, he foretold the day of his most holy death to some disciples living with him and to others living some distance away. He told the former to keep silent about what they heard and explained to the later what kind of sign would be seen when his soul would leave his body.

Six days before his death, he ordered his tomb to be opened. Soon he was attacked by fever and was weakened with severe suffereing. As the illness grew worse every day, he asked his disciples to carry him into the oratory. there he strengthened himself for his departure by receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord. While the hands of his disciples held up his weak limbs, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and breathed his last breath amidst words of prayer."

We will be commemorating the feast a bit simply here at our apartment convent. Prayer for the feast with special Psalms and responsory, steak on the electric grill, and maybe a game or two of Bannanagrams or Perquacky! I think Benedict would approve of the balance between prayer and play within community.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Joy and Sorrow


There is a mix of sorrow and joy as our elders grow old.

The joy is in their wisdom from a lived spiritual experience that spans many decades of peaks and valleys in community life as well as their own. Whether she is the baker, professor, or former prioress, her voice of experience of God's love can be both a challenge and a comfort. This is a joy I have grown to appreciate more and more. When I was away at university, I missed the wisdom from our elders and tradition...the sisters I was living with had good wisdom and offered support, but there is just something about our family way of helping each other.

The sorrow grows slowly as our elders grow old. During my last year at university, Sister Baker died and I felt the loss of my confidant and counselor. Now that my ministry is closer to home, I try to take advantage of the distance and visit more often. However, time marches on. Sister Professor doesn't always recognize me even though we have spent countless hours puzzling way at crosswords together and sharing stories of family, teaching, and prayer. Another Sister Professor has been slowly slipping away these past years and we miss her wisdom dearly. We care for them with tender love, wait with them for their Beloved, and cherish their presence while they remain.

There is a great joy in these wisdom figures, elders of our Benedictine family.
I cannot imagine our growth in learning to live in Obedience, Converstatio or Stability without them.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011



Tomorrow, I will be at home in the Monastery for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of our Lenten celebration. After being at school or university for the past many celebrations of this day, I am excited to be home as we settle into our Lenten observances. Yes, excited to be home for Wednesday soup night, morning silence, and the sisterly support of additional prayer and reflection. I'll even be home in time for the Mass we share with the college students and the Vesper's collection of the sisters personal observances for Lent.

Benedict had encouraged his monks to live their whole monastic life as a Lent; however, if it cannot be done, the monk was to consult with the Abbott about special offerings during this season of preparation. Reflection on chapter 49 from the Rule has lead me to ponder on my own "offering to God with the Joy of the Holy Spirit something of the measure required..." I have come to some conclusions of offerings of heart that I will pray will help me offer better service to God. When I return home to my convent apartment, I pray that we can discern some community Lenten observances to bring from the Monastery to convent to help each other continue to live this offering in the spirit of Benedict.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Break...and Bingo


Happy feast of Saints Perpetua and Felicity! Women who bravely claimed the name Christian when threatened with death. The noblewoman and her serving girl were both mothers, or soon to be so, and knew they would be leaving behind their children to the care of others in the love of the Lord. They are a reminder for me of the blessing I have had in my family and especially in how my parents have shared their faith over the years.

The one of the surprise blessings I have discovered at my new ministry is the gift of spring break. This is the first high school I've served at that plans for a week of time off during early March. This is how I find myself at home with my parents for a few days at the end of my 3rd quarter of school!

Sunday was time for Church, Brunch, grocery shopping, and bingo! The parent association at our elementary school was holding a fundraiser and social gathering, and Dad and I dragged Mom off to play some bingo. Six dollars bought you one card for twenty games of bingo. The space was filled with old and young, alumns and parents, as well as friends old and new. I caught up with parents of classmates, met a few of my Dad's students, and greeted a few of the Church elders who were more than happy to see me home for break. Mom patiently waited through our twenty games while Dad played, silently bid on a few prizes, and considered buying raffle tickets...such a social butterfly. In the end, we won nothing but had a great time.

This time at home is wonderful. Time set aside to visit family and friends has long been a part of our community's tradition. Once, sisters could visit home every FIVE years! Now, we are allowed two weeks each year for vacation time. I usually break this up to a week during the summer, a few days over Christmas break, and now a few days over spring break. This helps me in the balance between my Community of Sisters and my family. Well, I'm off...Mom has tidbits to share from all the extended family news!