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 conscience...one 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 http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=212.

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.