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).