Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We Celebrate a Chair?


Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of Peter the Apostle. The "Chair" being the place of leadership that has been handed down through the centuries. However, I did have to do some explaining for the gentlemen in class to help all understand that we were remembering more than the bronze chair designed by Bernini. The boys were a little relieved to know that the Church was remembering and celebrating all those who have been "Peter" for us in the past, our current "Peter" Pope Benedict the XVI, and those who will be "Peter" in the future.

After my visit to Rome this summer, I understand this celebration more. The importance of remembering our Apostolic connections to the past and looking hopefully to those Shepherds yet to come. Through all the changes and upheaval, pendulums and confusions, the Church has continued to rely on the leadership that has been passed down through the centuries. As I stood before the amazing sculpture that is the Papal Chair, I felt dwarfed by the history that surrounded me.

So~~Oh God, I ask your blessing on our current "Peter" and pray that you continue to guide him as he shepherds the Church through this time and this day.


Friday, February 18, 2011

A Home Town Game


I finally attended my first ball game here at school. I LOVED it! After teaching in a big school for a number of years, I had forgotten how a small school can take over a building and with fewer folk offer amazing crowd support.

Imagine if you will...
  • Our gym is the size of the court with bleachers up 5-8 rows; there are also bleachers on the far end of one side of the court. I believe 'tight fit' is a avid description.
  • 100+ high school boys all dressed in black filling one side (3/4 of it) of the court.
  • Parents, former parents, grand parents, former students, and teachers from our school and parents/kiddos from the other school flowing over the remainder of the bleachers.
  • 2 local teams of 6' ?" boys; ranked 6th and 7th in the state right now.

If you've got all this in your head, you've realized that the game was bound to be tight. Now add these events to the background...We began with a prayer to bless all the players, students, and fans. Immediately after, the boys began to cheer; all the boys in unison while being led by the "Yell Leaders" who were also dressed in black for the night. The leaders take this role very seriously. The cheers from the boys were constant, loud, and chanted with a precision that left the words deafeningly clear (don't worry they were appropriate). The other school's cheer leaders (while the girls did attract attention) were unable to be heard over the din of our boys. During a few questionable calls, the leaders did exercise their control and quiet our boys down to keep anyone from overly vexing the referees calling the game. The varsity game was held to a 5 to 10 point game throughout the night. But it was the speed that amazed me. I hadn't been this close to a court in over a decade. The boys from both teams were relying on a fast paced game. The others were fast on pressing down the court, but our boys passed with a force that made me flinch when the slap of their hands on the ball felt too close to my personal space.

During one of the time outs, while our yell leaders were leading the student crowd in an imitation of a roller coaster ride, I began to chat with the folk around me. Only one couple had a son on the floor. The rest of the crowd around me were parents of non-basketball students, pep band parents, former students, and even folks whose kids had graduated years before. This was a home town game in the sense of the 'home town' coming together to watch the boys play a tough match. I had forgotten how much fun this could be.

Blessings & Go Knights!

Oh! The half-time show brought immediate silence to our side of the bleachers. The Yell Leaders had the students and parents seated in moments, the lights turned off, and a certain monks black lights and ropes arranged. The cowboy monk wore neon covered boots and hat, and did rope tricks with his lassos, which were also coated in neon paint. He received as much cheer support as the boys on the court. It was wonderful to see.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Feast of Saint Scholastica

Happy Feast Day!

Today, we Benedictine women are celebrating the feast of Saint Scholastica as a Solemnity. It began last night with first Vespers and will continue through this evenings night prayer. The readings, Psalms, and even the antiphons offer a rich blend for reflection during and after our celebrations for the Solemnity.

My favorite of the antiphons and readings overlap each other. Our Sr. Jane wrote a simple, yet beautiful tone to "Love is a fire, no waters avail to quench, no floods to drown it; those who love will give up all that they have in the world, and think nothing of their loss" (Song of Songs 8:7). Even as I record the words here, I can hear my sisters chanting this tone in our Chapel; voices blending as they float up to the peak of our Gothic ceiling. The full reading that matches this antiphon reflects Scholastica's love and devotion.

"Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; for stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away. Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked." Song of Songs 8: 6-7

However, I am not at home in our lofty Chapel; I am teaching a batch of boys in the crypt below the monks' chapel. The Junior and Freshmen boys joined me in praying on this feast. I shared about the importance of the Liturgy of the Hours =Divine Office in our lives as Benedictine women and men, and then we prayed the festive Lauds from my community. The boys did well...it was odd to hear their booming tenors and basses proclaim the Psalms I have grown so accustomed to hearing in sopranos and altos. A few looked through the 5 page prayer and ask, "So which of these are we saying?" They seemed a bit shocked and concerned that we would be praying ALL 3 Psalms, 2 Readings, Intentions, an Our Father, and an Extra Canticle! Once we started the choir style praying, they mellowed out and seemed to settle into the calm of the prayer.

The Juniors & Freshmen did enjoy the DOVE chocolate in the shape of a HEART a bit more than the prayer. As they ate their treat, I told them the story of Scholastic and Benedict and her great love for God, her brother, and their Rule of life. My hope is that the DOVE will remind them of her symbol and how she ascended into heaven, and the HEART will remind them of her great love which permeates the only story we have of her. A couple of my guys made good use of their candy wrappers...little origami cranes to set on our prayer table for the day.

Ah well, I will be happy to return home to our apartment Convent and share some prayer with Sr. Marietta. A late supper and some time with community will be a great way to end this festival day.

Blessings to you on this festive day!

P.S. The Scholastica statue stands in the courtyard of Monte Cassino, the location of Benedict's final Monastery, at the base of the steps that begin a long ascent to the Basilica. Her weathered hand seems to be extending a blessing, while holding to tight to the Rule with the other. Her dove perches atop the Rule. She was worn, but beautiful on that sunny day on the mountain side.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Celebration with Basketball & the Archbishop


Tonight the area Serra club hosted all the sisters, monks, and order priests of the Archdiocese at a Mass celebrating consecrated life. All was set to be a great evening of worship and fellowship, and then it rained...in February...in the cold. However, Sister Marietta and I are adventurers and we set off into the misty rain to first support the women's basketball team from our college and then to the Mass. I am very glad we went to both!

The women played against the local Lutheran college (God loves us all) and even there we met a few surprises! One of Sister's parish families has a daughter not only attending the opposing school, but playing on their opening line up! We joyfully joined their extended family to watch the game and cheered on their daughter as well as our own team. In good fun, we groaned a bit when she would make a good shot or rebound; however, it did get a bit tense toward the end. All in all, it was a wonderful game (our women won). We stayed to meet a few alumni, but there was no time for dawdling in the hallways because we needed to party hop to the next town for Mass.

The Serra hosted the Consecrated Life Mass in one of the smaller towns outside of the city. I love the idea of this mobile meeting to celebrate, but with the rain and cold weather, many of our sisters did not make it out to the Mass. 25 to 30 sisters from religious orders, apostolic institutes, and secular congregations joined with our Archbishop to thank God for our gift of consecrated life in the Church. I am so grateful we Benedictines were there.

The Archbishop's main homily was a wonderful reflection on the universal call of the Baptized to be salt and light for others. He challenged the whole congregation to be aware of their effect as salt and light on their home, work, and school in the upcoming week. He reminded us all that to be an authentic Catholic we must do more than build a personal relationship with God, we must go out and actively seek to have an affect on our world. Then he thanked the members of consecrated life for our generous living as salt and light for the Church; for all that we do that is both seen and unseen. I felt both challenged and humbled by his message this evening. It will lead to much reflection in the upcoming days.

The Mass was followed by a reception with the sisters, priests, Serrans and Archbishop. We snacked, laughed, and visited while the mist continued to fall... As we finally went to our cars, I was grateful for one last thing; the temperature stayed above freezing. The strange February weather made the day gloomy, but it didn't dampen our joy-filled day one iota!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Our Lady of Rickenbach

I was sorting through some of my favorite photos from my trip to our "grandmother house" this summer. I came across these pictures from the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Rickenbach. We Swiss foundations celebrate her on the same day as Our Lady of Carmel in July. Our foundress felt called to establish a Benedictine presence on the mountain after visiting the shrine, and later she established our house in America following the call of a Benedictine Bishop.

I love the stories these pictures bring back from my days in the Novitiate...

Blessings on this wintry day,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Presentation & Consecrated Life


Yes, I know I'm a day behind the world, but ice, snow, and bitter cold kept me from my computer.

When Pope John Paul II instituted a world day to celebrate the gift of Consecrated Life in the Church, I am grateful that he choose the Feast of the Presentation at the Temple to commemorate it. The feast is so rich in both symbol and tradition that support and enlighten our life in the Church.

This celebration of consecrating the infant Jesus to the service of the Temple is a wonderful reminder of my own consecration to the Church. At my final vows, the religious community witnessed my vows, the prioress received the vows, but the Church is the one that holds my vows in trust all of my life. Yes, yes, they are stored in the archives of my monastery; but they are promised to God and the Church. When students ask if I am "married to Jesus," I point out that the WHOLE CHURCH is Christ's Bride and that means everybody! My sisters and I are consecrated to the service of our Beloved in the Church.

The Feast of the Presentation is also a feast of light as we remember Christ as light of the world. The monastery follows in the tradition of blessing our candles for the chapel and places of prayer during this feast. However, I see this fitting our commemoration of Consecrated Life. We are supposed to be lights as well. Consecrated and set apart we should light the way for others. Not always the easiest call to fulfill, burning brightly on the lamp stand, but a needed role within the Church.

I am grateful for my life as a woman living the Consecrated Life as a Benedictine Sister. I am grateful for my community of sisters who help support me in the daily successes and struggles of our life together. And I am grateful for Pope Benedict XVI blessings and prayer for us yesterday.

O Mary Mother of the Church,
I entrust to you Consecrated Life,

So that you will obtain for it the fullness of Divine Light:
That it may live in listening to the Word of God,
In the humility of the following of Jesus Your Son and our Lord,
In the acceptance of the visit of the Holy Spirit,
In the daily joy of the Magnificat,
So that the Church is built by the holiness of life
Of these Your sons and daughters,
In the commandment of love,