Monday, January 31, 2011

Catholic Schools Week


Today we celebrate St. John Bosco's dedication to reaching out to youth in need; a fitting beginning to Catholic Schools Week. While I grew up with a fine public school education in my hometown and even attended a public university for my undergraduate, I have learned to appreciate the freedom of sharing my faith in both word and action.

Back in my day, even the public school teacher could (and often did) offer to pray for a student if they knew something was wrong. The principal allowed the Catholic kiddos (okay my sisters and I) to come to school late after attending morning Mass on Holy Days of Obligation. The school hosted a baccalaureate for the seniors and the local clergy worked out a schedule for who would lead each year, but each graduating kiddo received a simple cross from the representatives of our Christian faith.

Now...well, I know I am blessed to be at a Catholic school. I gratefully send each kiddo out my door with a "God Bless" and often call them my "Children of God." We pray for each other's needs and the needs of the city and world. I am Blessed...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul


Today the Church celebrates second chances! Chapter 22 of the Acts of the Apostles contains one of the accounts of Saul's conversion to new life as Paul. It isn't the dramatic scenes with the bright light and Christ's call that struck me today. Instead, the gentle but encouraging voice of Ananias has stayed with me.

"A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, 'Saul, my brother, regain your sight.' And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, 'The God of our ancestors designated you .....(St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome)
to know His will, for you will be His witness before all to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon His name.'"

Ananias knew of Saul's past persecutions, knew of Saul's work against the Church, but he also knew of Christ's power to change the hearts of others. He welcomed Paul as a witness to Christ and encouraged him to be baptized...all this support from a man who simply allowed God to give a second chance. If Saul the persecutor can become Paul the Apostle, I too can become someone new in Christ! This fits well with our Benedictine vow of Converstatio Morum (Fidelity to the Monastic Way). Within Converstatio, there is the daily opportunity to fully live the call to follow Benedict in seeking Christ. Every day is a second chance to be converted and more fully live washed and baptized in Christ. Everyday is also the opportunity to be Ananias for my sisters, co-workers, and students; to take on his role of welcoming and encouraging those who need a second chance.

Hmm...that leaves much to do this day...

Blessings and Happy Feast,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

God in the Ordinary


Part of my life as a Benedictine sister is to seek God in the ordinary events of life in community. The daily horarium (schedule) within the monastery doesn't vary too often and it shouldn't. The repeated hours, the routines allow me to stop wondering what I should be doing or where I should be going, I know; and instead I can focus on God in the midst of those daily events. In fact, many of God's lessons have come through the daily life lived with my sisters or from the classroom with my students.

A recent lesson while I was home for our Monastic Chapter (community meetings) led me to a reflection on the Rule. "The brothers should serve one another. Consequently, no one will be excused from kitchen service unless he is sick or engaged in some important business of the monastery, for such service increases reward and fosters love" Chapter 35: 1-2. With all of the sisters home, there were interesting combinations of dishwashers, servers, and the like. Those of us who lived away from home found ourselves filling in duties for those sisters at home who were helping to organize the Chapter. There was laughter as we tried to remember where certain items were stored for meals or put dishes away into new and inventive locations, but it was also love. Love for those whose duties we shared; love for those we served.

Now that I have returned to our little convent of two...I'm trying to remember this lesson of loving service for one is loving service of my whole community.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

They Can Surprise You!


Last week I assigned a project to help my gentlemen connect the Cardinal Virtues of our textbook and the reality of our lives. "Virtues in the News" self define one of the four Cardinal Virtues and then find an item in the news that illustrates someone or some group living that virtue in our world today. With a the weekend and a snow day between the assignment and our return to school, I assumed that they would forget or just do the least work to get the project done. Wow, they sure can surprise you!

The gentlemen found articles of Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice...some of my favorites are:

Justice: A woman in Afghanistan who is helping other women speak out against domestic violence despite threats to her own safety. A local woman who will be 100 and is still volunteering for an area hospital by knitting caps for newborns.

Fortitude: Many of their news stories were connected to the violent attack in Tuscon, Arizona. Muslim Egyptians acting as living shields for the Coptic Christian Egyptians during the Christmas services.

Prudence: A dancer who returns to his native country to reach out to youth through teaching dance. A teacher (from our school) retires after 40 years of teaching and guiding high school students.

Temperance: George Clooney and other famous folk working to help others in South Sudan and countries in need; they use not only their fame but also their money to reach out.

The gents did a great job of seeking out and finding news that connected to our Cardinal Virtues and then discussing them with each other...this may have to be a reoccurring assignment format. It was wonderful to see them making their own connections and pointing them out to their classmates. And all this on a bitterly cold day when all the other schools were called off for weather!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day


Today, I am luxuriating in God's gift of a snow day! A rare occurrence when one teaches at a boarding school! It is a day for many things...

There is time for grading homework, reading ahead in my textbooks, writing letters to friends...and time for prayer. I began the day with our community prayer with Sister Marietta and then continued my private prayer with a cup of coffee and watching the snow continue to fall. A wonderful way to share my lectio time with God in the quiet of a snow day.

If you are sharing in this snow day, take a moment to thank God for this gift of time. It arrives unexpected and unasked for (except by students) on a day we cannot predict. All we can do is luxuriate in its gift and return the gift back to God through our gratitude!


Friday, January 7, 2011



I have traded in my two first semester sophomore classes for three second semester junior classes. A whole new batch of boys to learn about. The first week has gone made me chuckle.

As juniors, the boys have been clear about expressing their maturity over the other classes I have taught. The other classes are ONLY freshmen and sophomores, they are juniors. Okay, they have expressed a different form of focus and concentration. They also seem a bit more secure in their own personality and sense of self.

Today I assigned them to small groups to read small sections of the textbook and prepare the notes they want to give the class. The boys broke into their groups quickly, settled into the text with a little laughter and goofiness, but got down to work. I turned away to work on my computer for a moment, and when I turned back, at least one group in each of the three classes had assembled on the FLOOR! Yup, dress shirts, ties, slacks, and shoes all sprawled on the floor, tummy down, while reading their books to decide what notes to give. I stood nearby one of these groups and observed them for a bit. When a member of the group asked me what I was doing, "Pondering your study position," I answered with no little laughter in my voice. They looked up, smiled, and explained that it was easier to work and think while 'relaxed' on the floor.

Who am I to argue with a boy's inspiration.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Celebrations

Greetings & Happy New Year,

Our celebrations here at the monastery are a unique blend of religious and relaxed. Last night we shared a community holy hour to pray for peace. Our hour of silent prayer was marked into quarters by occasions of vocal prayer: a reading to focus our reflection, a chanted Psalm, a reading of St. Francis' peace prayer, and our closing Magnificat and blessing by the Prioress. The silence between these events was powerful for me...our contemplative, silent prayer for peace in our world, nation, state, city, monastery, and hearts seemed all the more intensified as each vocal form of prayer was shared.

This holy hour was followed by an early new year's party in the chapter room. A small group of sisters had prepared egg nog and treats to share as we began our celebration a few hours before 2011 rang-in.

This morning we honored Mary the Mother of God and continued our prayer for peace. Our Divine Office and Mass helped us focus on Mary's path to peace through reflection.

This afternoon, to celebrate the new year, we gathered in the chapter room for treats and games from two to three-thirty! Sisters young and old played and laughed together. There were a few serious tables of pinochle and hand & foot and one table of 'Scrabble' players consulting a dictionary more than needed, but a good time was had by all. The tables near me were joining in games of 'Apples to Apples' and 'Rummy cube', but had a new game. Sister Elementary teacher had received the gift of 'Quirkle'...sort of like domino's but with shapes and colors. We had a marvelous time learning and teaching this new game.

Next? Why Vespers of complete our day of prayerful focus on peace in the world.

Blessings and Happy New Year!