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.