Friday, September 28, 2012

The Archangels We Need


More Archangels! The first time I wrote about these angels I was still in graduate school and trying to make my way through a day of observation as an assistant in a Catholic High School.  Now, I am back to teaching full time but still calling upon the help of these Archangels to make it through our day.

We celebrated the feast and our Sword wielding namesake a day early with our monks, students, staff, and the Archbishop.  The chapel was filled to the brim with 220 boys (still slightly grumpy with being forced into the full dress code a whole day early) plus teachers, staff, and a few parents. 

They did pretty well, our boys, there were a few strays; one senior leaned his head back against a column behind his chair.  It would've looked like he was thinking, except his mouth drooped open a little bit.  A junior fought sleep bravely, but his head kept bobbing clearly showed sleep winning...even with his dean next to him.  I swept behind the row to gently thwack this slouched and snoozing kiddo with my 'liturgy aid' and just kept moving.  His head popped back up with a startled look; I smiled to show no malice, disturbing his sleep was enough.  Trussed up in their button-down shirts, ties, and dress junior forgot his socks. Sadly for him, I had been celebrating Dress Code Demerit Week and the lack of socks became his first demerit of the year.  Harsh?  No, correction of the sleepy and the sloven was done with a smile, a reminder, and a humor-filled-hope that it won't happen again.

The boys also joined in the praises of this day, "In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord" Responsorial Psalm.  The students proclaimed the Word, assisted in distributing the Eucharist, and participated fairly well.  A choir of men's and boys voices held together pretty well in responses and rang out a little off key, but strong with song.  Those moments are always the most profound for me.  After growing up with only sisters and little church that was mostly women, joining a monastery (ahem, all women), and teaching at a co-ed school where the young ladies did most of the proclaiming and I am surrounded by deep conviction of tenors and basses.  Participation is the norm; even if it's half-hearted, the combined effect is outstanding and it warms my heart.

So I pray for my boys...may Michael will defend them, may Raphael guide and heal them, and may Gabriel herald God's Will for their way.  We don't see them, we don't always think of them, but these angels of power are needed in all our lives. 


Monday, September 3, 2012

State Fair Fun!


This weekend some of us sisters serving in Nebraska gathered for fun at the State Fair! A weekend of prayer and play to rejuvenate our hearts and souls.  Saturday was spent cooking and catching up on all we've been doing since we returned to our missions (our parish and school work).  That evening we attended Mass at Sister's parish where she helps out with caring for others.  A big surprise for me was a familiar face!  One of my students who just graduated was at Mass with us!  He peeked over at me as I was peeking over at him...both of us unsure if we were recognizing the right person since neither knew the other should be there.  After Mass he came over to greet me with a big smile and hug.  It was fun to catch up with him at the start of his new college the by...he was getting ready to show his hogs at the fair the next day. 
I loved seeing all the folk wandering up and down the streets of the fairgrounds.  Here we were watching the folk's check out a hay bale designed to look like snoopy flying one of his doghouses!  There were families with baby strollers, teens sporting their school-4H-FFA affiliations, young couples, and those who had seen many more fairs.  It was fun to watch them go by...

Important to all state fairs is the fried food on a stick! We tried fried Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, HoHos, MilkyWays, Chocolate covered Bacon, Corndogs, and the winner...Fried Peaches!  They tasted like fresh peach cobbler with a little cinnamon and sugar sprinkled over the top.  The peaches were sweet and juicy and all warm with a crunchy batter covering.  Hmmm...luckily we were all willing to share.  Between the giggles, we swapped bites of the sweet and the savory. 

 The fair had a marvelous exhibit with huge sand sculptures about the state.  This one shows a variety of the states fish, bird, flower and rock formations.  It was amazing to see these grand sized sand castles tower over the families and lookie-loos.  It was also amazing because they seemed to hold up against the wind and heat of the wide-open fair grounds.

While strolling through the quilt exhibit, we were amazing at this Triptych of panels telling the story of Christ's love for us in blocks and thread.  Each of the panels had a Bible verse stitched in to tell the message of the fabric.  The first began with "Come to me..." then the next was "I am with you always"...and finally "It is finished."  We paused quite awhile to ponder the images and what they could mean. 

 Sea lions and Tigers were the exotic animals of choice for the fair!  We tried to get to the sea lion show, but it was all the way across the fair and one of our sisters got overheated and needed a cool break.  So we trekked back through the 100 degree heat to a fan cooled exhibit hall and listed to some fiddle and folk music while sipping our cool sodas and lemonades.  Later, we did get to the Tiger experience with many other families.  The tigers were a bit slow and grumpy, but the tamers shared that they like to sleep through the heat of the day or cool out in pools of water.  Still, they thrilled the little kids and intrigued the grown ups.  We sisters decided we agreed with the tigers, hot days like our fair day were designed for laying low in the shade or cooling off in a relaxing pool with friends.

As we left the fair for our little convent home, the lights and squeals of delight from the midway carried all throughout the fairgrounds.  We had been all over the grounds by this time and were too weary to check out the goings-on but it was a beautiful reminder of fun and life and joy of the young and old we had been seeing all day long.  I had to take a quick picture as we made our way to the shuttle-bus, a picture of how I remember fairs when I was little, a picture of how the rural fairs still celebrate today. 


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Community takes Work


Community life, like family life, takes some extra work and determination! Our community of over a hundred has small groups of 5-14 for evening recreation, family support, and prayer.  Every Fall our small groups gather to set goals, evaluate how they are supporting each other and the community as a whole, and determine how the work of community life can be helped.  Out on the mission, Sister and I just sat down to discuss life at our little Convent apartment away from the Monastery. 

We asked one of our sisters from the closest of our Convents to guide us through our discussion.  The work of our community life was wonderful discussion and all worked out well.  Our life together moves along fairly smoothly, but it is always good to reflect and share about the past year and our hopes for the year to come.  Then the secondary reason for our going to the other sisters' Convent apartment was FUN. 

We recently put our 6 bedroom, 2 full bathroom, 2 living room (you get the picture) house up for sale since we only had a couple sisters still living and working in the city.  So...They gave us a tour of our new place in the big city!  It is a lovely little Convent apartment, simply furnished but homey.  After our meeting, we shared in a wonderful supper, Liturgy of the Hours, and reflection on the Gospel.  Then we returned to the table for some fun!  A lively game of hand and foot which my partner, Sister Principal, and I lost...but a good time was had by all.  It was good just to visit, see our new place, hear their stories of moving and packing and moving, and share some prayer together.  Sister Roommate and I didn't set out for home until 9:45PM (very late)! 

Even though it was quite the late night by the time we reached our little convent, it was a wonderful day and blessing to get to visit with our sisters nearby.  Now, we are getting back to the work of our daily life our horarium here together while we remember our sisters at the Monastery.  Soon enough we will be home for a weekend Theology Institute and later on our holiday fair...


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

School Eve


Ah summer, it was just too brief.  It was wonderful to be home at the monastery with my sisters, but August sends us back to our places of ministry and service.  I've returned to the big city and school.

The staff and faculty have worked through three days of preparation and inservices, and tomorrow hails the first day of classes!  I've unpacked into a lovely new office space I share with another theology teacher, tweaked & photocopied all my syllabi, and re-read and re-wrote the beginning of my lesson plans.  Still, nothing prepares me totally for our 7:55 bell for first period and 20 boys trooping into my classroom.

Speaking of the boys, it was wonderful to see them at the school Mass and picnic on Sunday.  I floated along with the school staff throughout the families and their students.  The fun in such a gathering is to find out what they had been doing over the summer.  Most of the boys were already trimmed up and ready for school, but a few were still quite scruffy around the edges...this offers us a chance to tease them a bit without any need for demerits or detentions.  What surprised me (and always does) is how many will walk up to the teachers to ask us how our summers went. 

Back to 7:55 tomorrow morning; even though all I plan on discussing is my syllabi and general issues, I'm always a bit anxious about that first day.  In preparation, I've been doing a bit more than keeping the school schedule and working on my lessons; I've been praying for my students and me.  A few extra petitions in our Liturgy of the Hours, a chaplet or all helps remind me that it isn't just my boys and me in our classroom, Christ is in the midst of us all.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Generosity in Work


For the third time in three years, I am moving to a different office.  Our spaces keep changing, and needs have shifted another theology teacher and myself to an office near the crypt (in the basement).  At the end of last school year, we peeked  into the space that was currently being used for an extra office, storage space, and keeper of odds and ends...and made a polite request.  We hoped for a good scrub down of the space and a new coat of paint to brighten the windowless room.

Our maintenance and custodial folk have never been okay with just the basics but poured out their generosity in service to the school.  Yesterday, I turned on the light to the office and was frozen in the doorway with amazement!  The new Theology Department Office:  a drop ceiling to hide the pipes and plumbing above, carpet squares to cover the simple poured cement floor below, one wall is sage green with the other three a sunny mustardy yellow, even the wall of power boxes has been hidden behind a new wall!  As soon as I gathered my wits together, I began to search out the men and women behind the amazing transformation of the basement room into this Awesome Office and profusely thanked each of them.

There are days when I struggle and wonder if I'm really in the right place, but then I recall the outpouring of support among the staff and faculty and realize I don't want to be anywhere else!  These last few weeks, the generosity came from the maintenance staff, but tomorrow it could be anyone else or even myself reaching out to others.  I hope you also have such moments of joy in your work-service-ministry with others.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Bakery Day!


This morning I was giving the chance to fill-in for our Sister Baker and was quickly reminded that the best way to get your Sisters to visit you at work is to bake cookies! Sister Baker met me in the bakery and to remind me about where the necessities are and to be ready for a few guests during the morning. As I dipped out pan after pan of dough, Sisters dropped in for a 'sample' of dough or a 'quick bite' of a cookie fresh from the oven. My Novice Director (now retired) preferred the fresh cookies while our Sister who coordinates maintenance and housekeeping likes the dough better.

The bakery warmed up quickly as the morning wore on, but by 11 o'clock the cookies were packed away, the dishes done, and the stainless steel counters polished up!

96 Ginger Snap Cookies
96 Sugar Cookies
96 Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feast of Saint Benedict

Saint Benedict blessing all who pass by
his shrine near our cemetery.

Benedictine communities are well known for their communal lives of prayer and work.  Today, I continued in that tradition during our summer celebration of Saint Benedict. 

We started this morning with a full chanted Lauds followed by our celebration of the Eucharist.  Very nice.  My favorite part was our Communion meditation "Seek God".  One of our Sister Professors adds to the simply beauty of the song with a clarinet solo...some of the notes seem to hang in the air of chapel.  After a very dignified recession from Chapel, the Gardening Sisters and I dashed up to our rooms to change into work clothes.

Once in the gardens, there was plenty to do in our shortened work time.  We started up in an apple tree!  The summer apples all green tart and sharp were ready to be picked.  The tree looked hopefully short which made the apples easy to reach, but we soon realized it was so leafy and low that it was more difficult to pick than some of the taller trees.  Soon enough, we had filled five boxes that will soon be made into pies, sauces, and jelly.

"O holy Father, Benedict, in pray'r and work without cease, in your untiring search for God, you found Christ's joy and peace."
Vespers Antiphon.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ordinary Daze


Living these Ordinary Days have left my in an unordinary daze!  Summer at the monastery is always filled with a variety of prayer, work, and play that can leave a sister spinning if she doesn't write it all down (well, at least this sister anyhow).  I have been blessed with house ministries that keep me working with a variety of sisters throughout the house...

First, the garden, poor thing, has been receiving all due attention with weeding, watering, and loving care.  However, the lack of rain in our area has driven the rabbits, gofers, and a whole variety of critters into our fair acre and so very little of our beans, peas, and other lovey veggies have grown very far without being nibbled back down to nubs. However, Saint Benedict predicted that a monastery would never be without guests and it continues to ring true today.  Another of my works for the house is to assist the sister who cleans our guest rooms.  It is easy to forget how many people come to visit when we spend our days on the 'cloister' side of the house, but the mix of friends, travelers, and the curious continue to amaze me!  There are also the little works of the monastery are simply called 'charges'.  The house charges are the many little things that need to be done to help care for the daily needs of our family home.  I have Chapel cleaning on Fridays as well as supper and lunch dishes.

Framing all this is our rhythm of prayer.  Admittedly, this is my favorite part of being home for the summer.  Being with the whole community, the whole family for prayer and Eucharist.  A chance to look around Chapel and pray for each as we pray together.  A chance to fall back into the heartbeat of our pace in prayer...each house seems to have its own pace and spacing and it's nice to be home in our rhythm for awhile so as to carry it back to the convent apartment this Fall.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday Ministry


Yesterday was filled with a variety of service to community.  The Garden Sisters were dropped off at one of our four apricot was already ripening!  After a few reminders about picking, we started plucking the egg-yolk colored little fruits off the tree.  Sister Gardener would have given the tree another day or two so more fruit would be ripe, but our little corner of South Dakota was being buffeted by high winds and the ready apricots were starting to fall pretty quickly.

Once we had picked all that we could reach from the ground, we started up the ladders and this simple chore became a little more interesting.  Ahem...apricot trees have a lot of 'play' when being blown by the wind.  There were moments when we needed to stop picking and simply keep one hand on the ladder and the other swaying with the tree.  We weren't in danger of being blown off our ladders, but it can be a bit dizzying when the a the tree becomes a whirl of green and orange while your standing still.  The blessing was three boxes to begin our apricot season (several more will follow) and the 'breeze' was enough to keep all the gnats away!

The sisters were very excited to see the fresh apricots served for supper that night!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

"There's No Place Like Home"


This is the first Saturday I have free and clear from school work.  My morning began slow with a cup of coffee, a Sacred Heart chaplet, and some quiet time with Christ.  I could take all the time my heart needed without worry of getting my homework done...

However, this afternoon will be filled with Suzy-homemaker chores and tasks.  After some teacher meetings on Tuesday, I will be going home to the monastery for the summer; so I need to leave my areas of the apartment convent ship shape!  My bedroom will become the 'Guest Sister' bedroom for the summer and little dusting and sorting needs to be done.  I'm glad to do this when I know that I get to be home at the monastery while another sister uses our convent apartment as a get away space.

Home!  I will be home in time for Vespers--Liturgy of the Hours--Divine Office with our sisters.  Our prayer together is the thing I miss most while working away from the monastery during the school year.  Sister Roommate and I follow the same prayer here at our apartment convent, but there is a big difference between two voices alternating and a hundred voices harmonizing. 

Sister Subprioress has me busy about the monastery for the summer: gardening, cleaning guest department, doing dishes, and scrubbing bathrooms; and I am excited to do it.  Charges (in-house work assignments) are a part of our Benedictine life.  Chapter 48 of the Rule of Benedict reminds us to balance daily manual labor and prayer in our daily life:
And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty should require that they themselves do the work of gathering the harvest, let them not be discontented; for then are they truly monastics when they live by the labor of their hands, as did our Fathers and the Apostles. Let all things be done with moderation, however, for the sake of the faint-hearted...Weak or sickly sisters should be assigned a task or craft of such a nature as to keep them from idleness and at the same time not to overburden them or drive them away with excessive toil. Their weakness must be taken into consideration by the Abbess.
My daily charges within the monastery aren't just work; they are a ministry of love for my sisters in community, a way of taking care of each other.  The work of weeding and gathering we do in the garden eventually helps to feed our sisters homegrown produce not just for one day but throughout the winter months as well.  The ministry of cleaning and caring for our guest rooms is an outreach of Benedict's call to receive all guests as Christ.  Even the daily work of doing dishes and scrubbing floors can be lifted above the mundane to the divine when we remember that it is done for the love of our Sisters.

While there will be much to do once I arrive home, I am excited to be there. 
There is no place like home!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Car Dancin' with God


It has been a crazy couple of weeks and the mad dash to the end of school has begun. I've been very grateful for our morning and evening Liturgy of the Hours with Sister Roommate and Mass with the Monks. My nighttime Lectio and Noon Praise break at school have added some extra peace to my day. All of this prayer has been what keeps me moving forward to going home to the Monastery for the Summer.

The end of the school year has been filled with busyness. The students are already on a mental summer break; especially, the juniors which have been bouncing between classes and AP Tests. Keeping track of students isn't the only diversion; I'm also helping with the planning of our new curriculum this fall. The meetings for the curriculum planning sent me to the Archdiocesan offices, back to my co-teachers, and even the textbook publishers. However, this isn't the only planning! The accreditation committee that I serve with has been madly at work in reading the suggestions, comparing files, and seeking more information. To top it all off, I might recommend to all readers that you don't offer testy teachers more helpful 'suggestions' when they have more than enough on the their plate (oops).

All of this culminated into one tired, crabby sister climbing into her car at the end of this day. My prayerful focus had worn away throughout the day. I flipped on the radio and turned it to LOUD hoping to sing along with some grouchy music. However, there are no coincides and God keeps a watchful eye on His beloved. "Walking on Sunshine" poured out of my speakers! This song always reminds me of those days before I entered community. The anticipation filled with a hope overflowing with Love for Christ and the Community I desire to join...waiting for the letter of acceptance. I broke into song, turned the radio up a few more notches, and car-danced with God all my way home : ) Thanks God!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

World Day of Prayer for Vocations


While away from the monastery, we continue to pray for those who are seeking to follow God's will in their lives.  Using two identical candles, the monastery began a circulating vocation prayer for the sisters both at home and on mission.  Sister Roommate and I are the current hosts for the mission sister's vocation candle. 

On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I lit the candle and settled in to read Pope Benedict's message for this day.  His reflection on God's continuous love was a wonderful focus for quiet meditation..."The love of God is everlasting; he is faithful to himself, to the “word that he commanded for a thousand generations” (Ps 105:8). Yet the appealing beauty of this divine love, which precedes and accompanies us, needs to be proclaimed ever anew, especially to younger generations. This divine love is the hidden impulse, the motivation which never fails, even in the most difficult circumstances."

While reflecting on this never ending love, the morning's light, chilly mist gave way to a cold spring rain.  She landed on our porch and quickly hopped down the railing to get out of the rain; a beautiful, though soggy, little cardinal lady.  The rose of her feathers showed through the brown overcoat as she shook the extra rain from her wings.  Then she hopped around to watch the rain fall; it felt like I was enjoying this springtime moment with a her.  Both the Psalms and the New Testament speak of God's loving care for the birds of the air; they will be given places to nest and even the hundreds of sparrows are counted.  If God guides her to our humble little porch for protection from the storm, He will send loving hearts to watch over each of us as well.

A beautiful reminder of the Pope's message...


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

While You Were Out...


I missed a whole week of school, the week following Easter break, while attending the National Catholic Education Association Conference.  The conference was wonderful (very educational) but I was quite worried about missing a week of school.  I prepped and planned and arranged many things to keep my boys busy while I was out in Boston.  The Juniors were particularly tricky group for which to plan.  They are smart, quick thinking, and not short on words; I knew I would need to over plan to help out the subbing teachers.  My final plan was 30 minutes of the movie "Of Gods and Men" each day with an accompanying worksheet connecting it to various aspects of morality from our textbook.

Upon my return, I asked, "What happened while I was out?"  FYI, don't ask that question unless you really want an answer!  The movie was okay, but the questions and subtitles were too much...they had many suggestions of how to do it next year.  But they all thought it should be reshown next year.  So, I set aside the movie worksheets and simply asked what Virtues, Works of Mercy, Decisions of Conscience or Morality they had seen in the movie.  The Juniors filled the rest of class with their thoughts and reflections on the movie.  They had seen the difficulty in reaching out to those called friend and enemy; they noticed the relationship between respect and temperance.  One of the lines is a naughty slang word (proclaimed in French); they had noticed that, but they connected it to the young monk's deep frustration, fear, and struggle with the unknown in making his decision to stay or go.  They reflected the Catholic Social Teachings they had seen in monks' out reach to the people in work and prayer.  Some of the Juniors disagreed if Fortitude or Charity were the greatest Theological Virtues shown in the other words...

...a great deal happened while I was out!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

NCEA Opening Message


This week Catholic teachers, principals, and catechists gathered from all over the nation and world to pray, share, and learn from each other.  It was amazing!  It all began with Cardinal Sean leading us in our Easter Wednesday Celebration of the Eucharist and a beautiful homily on the call to serve our students...

We were very pleased this year to host the over 10,000 people who came to Boston to attend the National Catholic Education Association Convention, which was held at the Hynes Convention Center April 11-13. Though the convention was actually held in Boston, the convention was sponsored and organized by all the dioceses of New England. It was a fantastic example of collaboration among the dioceses. I was asked to celebrate the opening liturgy Wednesday morning. There were a number of bishops who joined us for the Mass, among them Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta who is the chairman of the NCEA Board of Directors.

One of the most impressive aspects of the opening ceremonies was the joint high school choir. Students from nine different high schools throughout the archdiocese came together to perform for us.My understanding is that they only practiced a few times together before the actual convention, but they were just marvelous. You would never guess that they had really just met each other.

I like to share with you the text of my homily from that day:

The formula for a bishop’s homily in the Middle Ages prescribed that some witticisms be included in the Easter sermons. This was to provoke laughter in the congregation because on Easter we are supposed to laugh at death. This custom was referred to as the “Risus Paschalis”. What better place to look for witticisms that mock death than in our cemeteries themselves particularly in some of the epitaphs that adorn the graves. Today I would like to share a few of my favorites.

One of the best is Benjamin Franklin’s which very poetically expresses his belief in the resurrection. On his gravestone is written: “the body of Benjamin Franklin the printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents worn-out, stripped of its lettering and gilding, lies here food for worms. But the work shall not be lost; for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more elegant edition revised and corrected by the author.”

Examples of other memorable epitaphs which are more profane and irreverent are:
* Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. He stepped on the gas instead of the brake.
* Another epitaph from Boot Hill, Arizona reads: Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a 44, no Les no More.
* One of my favorites is this one found on a tombstone in Massachusetts: Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease. He is not here, there’s only the pod. Pease shelled out and went to God.
* Another famous epitaph from England, a rather somber challenge to the passerby is as follows: Remember man, as you walk by, As you are now, so once was I. As I am now so shall you be Remember this and  follow me. To which some smart Alec replied by scribbling on the tombstone: To followed you I’ll not consent Until I know which way you went.

During Easter we stand before a tomb that has no epitaph. It is a tomb that is empty and obsolete. A tomb that was borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the Inn. He tells us that although the birds of the air have their nests and the foxes have their dens, the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. Even in death Jesus does not have a tomb of his own. But today we rejoice because that borrowed tomb is empty and we can laugh at death.

The empty tomb and the shroud on the floor are but the first hints of the greatest event in human history. On Easter morning, Jesus Christ, who had been murdered, executed as a criminal, rose from the dead. At first the disciples find an empty tomb, but soon they encounter the Risen Lord. During the 40 days that followed Easter the Risen Lord appears over and over again. On Good Friday, the prophecy was fulfilled that said: “They will strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.” That is precisely what happened when Jesus was arrested and crucified. The disciples scattered in sorrow and disappointment. To them everything was over. But on Easter, their sorrow and pain is turned into amazement and joy. The Shepherd has returned to gather the scattered. The Risen Lord comes back and appears to Magdalene in her grief and gathers her to himself. The Lord appears to Thomas in his doubts, and invites him to put his fingers into the place of the nails and to be not unbelieving but believing. The Lord appears to Peter who has denied him three times, and three times he asked Peter: “Peter do you love me?” and he gathers Peter to himself. The Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd, wants to gather us in our scattered lives, in our brokenness, in our insecurities; he wants to assure us of his love and friendship.

The Risen Lord makes himself present to us in his word, in the sacraments and in his community. He comes to gather us into a family. Being a disciple of the Risen Lord means being part of the church, part of the community of believers that accepts the mission Christ has entrusted to us to share the good news with the world. The good news is that God so loved the world that he sent is only begotten son to be our Savior and that Jesus has conquered sin and death for us.

On the Road to Emmaus the Good Shepherd is still gathering His scattered flock. Virtually everyone agrees that the familiar story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is a beautiful scene that contains many favorite Themes of St. Luke, such as encounters made by people on a journey, the question of faith, the offering of hospitality and recognition of Jesus in the Eucharist. This passage has captured the imagination of countless painters from Caravaggio to Velazquez and Rembrandt to name just a few.

The Gospel describes a journey that begins in despair and profound sorrow and ends, against all expectation, with the discovery of Faith, and Hope. There are no heroes here, not even an Apostle. Instead there are just two people like ourselves, bewildered, their faith faltering. This is a story about loss of direction and doubt turned to strong and joyful faith. This is not accomplished by a spectacular demonstration. The methods Jesus uses to evoke Faith in the story are the methods He uses now. The disciples on the road to Emmaus are like many Catholics today.

The two disciples are on a journey that takes them away from Jerusalem, away from the Holy City. They have turned their back on significant places, on meaning itself. Perhaps they were leaving the Church, on their way back to a life in which there was no great hope, no promise of a Messiah for the nation, or of meaning for themselves, but in which at least there would be no terrible disappointments, none of the desolation of Good Friday.

Cleopas and his companion encounter a stranger on their journey, but they do not recognize Jesus, their eyes are held from seeing Him, and they even get annoyed by the stranger’s stupid questions to them.

This is the turning point in the story, for Jesus begins to teach them, not with new revelations, but by opening up to them their own past. He walks them through the History of Salvation recorded in the Jewish Scriptures, to show how His life and suffering and death really do make sense, that what had taken place in Jerusalem was the fulfillment these two disciples and all God’s people had been waiting for. Though their eyes were blurred, the Lord’s words touched their hearts.

When they arrive at the village of Emmaus, something remarkable happens. Jesus makes as if He is going to continue on His journey. What if Cleopas and his buddy had said: “So long, nice chatting with you?” This Gospel would never have been written. Mother Teresa used to say “Give God permission!” Our God wants our permission to come into our hearts. God wants to be invited into our lives, into our hearts and even to our dinner table.

Lucky for us the disciples invited Jesus – “Stay with us it is getting late.” At the table Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them. At the moment they see these Eucharistic gestures, their eyes are open. They recognize Jesus, but at that moment, the Risen Lord vanishes from their sight. The Lord disappears but the bread remains and the bread is the body of Christ. The tabernacle at St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington is flanked by mosaics of the two disciples, arms raised in amazement as they gaze at the Eucharist.

I am sure the two men never finished that meal. They ran back to Jerusalem to share their joy with the community. “We have seen the Lord and have recognized Him in the breaking of the bread”, they exclaim.

The task of our Catholic education is to accompany our young Catholics on a journey that allows them to experience the Risen Christ as the two disciples did: in the Word, in the Sacrament, and in the community of faith.

In this marvelous passage from Luke, the narrative is taking shape among Jesus’ first followers after Good Friday. The reports of the women about the empty tomb, the witness of the prophets, the recognition of Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and the report that Jesus had already appeared to Simon. The sharing of the narrative of diverse experiences begins to create a deeper community. The scattered disciples, whirled in different directions are being gathered in one place with one shared story which is “The Lord is Risen.”

This is the task of Catholic educators, to witness to the great truths of our faith and introduce a new generation of Catholics to the Risen Lord. We learn the faith, the way we learn a language by living in a community that speaks that language. We need to mentor people in the faith. It is not about information as it is about formation.

Our experience of the Eucharistic community leads us to embrace our mission. The disciples are moved by God’s word, amazed by the breaking of the bread and then set out on their mission to tell the Good News to the world.

The first reading from Acts captures Peter and John in their ministry to announce the Good News and care for the sick and the marginalized. On their way to the temple they are accosted by a beggar at the gate, a clear contrast with Lazarus at the gates of the Rich Man. To that rich man, Lazarus starving and covered with sores, was invisible. The scriptures tell us Peter and John looked intently at the beggar. Their eyes of faith allowed them to see in that suffering beggar a brother, and potentially a disciple of Jesus. The words of Peter could be the motto for the Catholic schools of our country: “Gold and silver we have none, but what we do have, we give you in the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarean, rise and walk.”

Academic excellence is quite important, but we must be convinced that we have something more to give our students, we can help them to rise and walk in newness of life.

The beggar in the scriptures jumped up, leaping and jumping and praising God. He had been at the gate, the apostles lead him into the temple. Many of our Catholic students are at the gate, on the door stoop. We must lead them into the temple, into the heart of the Church. Pope Benedict in his Mass at St. Patrick’s commented on the stain glass windows. From the outside they seem dark and ugly. Once inside we can appreciate the color and light in all its splendor. So it is with the Church. It is from within that we can perceive her beauty and appreciate her mission.

We need to give our students the joy of knowing Jesus Christ and being part of His family. We want to help them see suffering humanity with compassionate eyes that see even those who are invisible to the worldly.
St. Luke says that after the beggar was cured he would not let go of Peter’s arm. What a great image that is. As Peter begins to teach in the temple the people drew near in amazement. Peter in his speech makes the connection between the beggar’s healing and the resurrection of Christ.

I am always a little disappointed when our Catholic schools and religious education programs have wonderful service projects to serve the poor and the underprivileged, and yet fail to make the connection with the Risen Christ and the Eucharist.

We must never be complacent about students who do not come to Sunday Eucharist and look for new ways to help them understand and appreciate the Eucharist as the center of our lives as Catholics and the source of the strength we need to carry on our mission, to announce the Good News and build a civilization of love.

As Pope Benedict put it so well:
“Today Eucharist means the Risen Lord is constantly present, Christ who continues to give Himself to us, calling us to participate in the Banquet of His Body and Blood. From the full communion with Him comes every other element of the life of the Church, in the first place the communion among the Faithful, the commitment to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, the ardor of charity towards all, especially toward the poor and the smallest.”

With the joy and enthusiasm of Cleopas and his companion, we want to say to a new generation of Catholics that we can still laugh at death, for the Lord is truly risen and we have recognized Him in the breaking of the bread!”

Catholic education is the soul of evangelization. It is not just about communicating information, but forming people in the faith and leading them to Christ. A huge part of our effort is in the Catholic school system, which is a great treasure of our Church.

We are very proud of the wonderful work that is being done by our Catholic schools that exist because of the sacrifices of many of the faithful, particularly communities of religious women who helped to establish our schools. And now the lay teachers and administrators who have stepped up to the plate make it possible for this very important ministry to continue.

It is important for us to come together and celebrate these achievements and also encourage people who are involved in promoting Catholic identity in educational excellence in our Catholic schools.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday


Good Friday has always been sad for me.  A day we focus on our loss and that of the disciples through the Passion of Jesus.  Growing up, it was a day we fasted even as children, we knew the day was different.  Here at the monastery the feeling deepened...a sense of sorrow for Christ whom I followed to our Benedictine life.

During our Good Friday silence, I took the opportunity to pray the Stations of the Cross or Sorrowful Way through our back lawn and cemetery.  I was struck by the same thought over and over as I progressed through the prayer...this is all about love.  Jesus love for us and our love for him.  

Jesus willingness to give all out of love for us in his accepting the cross.  The open exchange of love between Jesus and Mary on the road.  The desire of Jesus to offer love to the women who only desired to love him and Veronica's brave love to care for him on the road.  Even the falls were signs of love; what else could have given him the strength to rise again and again.  When Jesus had given his all for love of us, those who loved him continued the lessons of love.  Mary and faithful lovingly gathering his body from the cross.  Joseph and Nicodemus reach out in love through their tradition in the careful and tender burial of Jesus.  The expressions of love caught my heart as I continued down the Way.

So today is Good.  Yes, there is sorrow, but it is because we love.  Good Friday, a day to celebrate and comemmorate our gift of Love Himself.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Weary Lenten Traveler


I've all heard that Lent is a journey of faith, and I'm one weary traveler.  Worn out and tired from not only the spiritual journey and penances but also wrung out from the springtime demands of teaching.  It is a good weary, born from inspired struggle with the Lord and intellectual struggle with academics.

The readings at Mass as well as our continuous readings from Deuteronomy and Ezekiel during our Liturgy of the Hours have had a common focus for me...Do you see what you're doing?...Ah, the Lord inspiring me to struggle with the daily challenges of how I live who we are, who I am as a Benedictine Sister.  This hasn't led to a relaxing, laid back waiting for the Lord; instead, the journey has felt a bit like an uphill hike to get to Triduum.  All along the way, Christ has been calling me to shed the extra baggage, to let go of what is no longer needed.

My ministry has been developed into new demands as well this spring.  The curriculum is changing so new textbooks are needed, the accreditation board is looming and so rewriting of documents and protocol needs to happen, the students are strive academically and challenge me (in a good way) to keep learning-researching-discovering new ways to present the information.  All of this requires outside research, meetings for collaboration, and a willingness to simply keep learning. These are all amazing gifts, but 'whew,' this jog to keep up in the classroom has me a bit winded and ready to go home to the monastery.

Tomorrow, Triduum begins with all of our monastic traditions, Church liturgies, and sacred commemorations.  Tomorrow, I wake up in the monastery, home with my sisters to celebrate those mysteries central to our Faith called by the bells and my sisters to deeper prayer.  Tomorrow, the journey gives way to the destination and a place to rest with my community and our Lord.


Friday, March 16, 2012

A Day of Reconciliation


Today, we celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation in connection with Adoration to continue our Lenten preparation for Easter.  The day began with a whole school examination of conscience with scripture, song, and a Monk Potter at his wheel.  It was a very nice reflection based on Jeremiah and God the Potter of our lives.  Then each theology class came to chapel for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Whew, I spent a whole day in the chapel with our young men.  After they genuflected their way in, Campus Minister Monk would introduce the location of the Confessor Monks and invite the students to prayer.  This was my cue to go to the prie dieu with a profound bow and my Rosary beads; after a five minutes or so, I continued my Rosary as I strolled along the chapel among my students.

I must admit; I was quite proud (and their parents should be too).  Most of the students participated in Confession, and quite a few of the boys used the Stations of the Cross handouts, litanies, or lectio guides to keep themselves focused during Adoration.  What really warmed my heart was their instinct to follow a lead.  After I left the prie dieu, Students came up to the kneeler, bowed deeply, and knelt down to pray for a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament.  Light poured down on them from the upper windows of the Chapel; it made even the orneriest Child of God look like an angel.  Every now and then one of the kids would drift off asleep and need a little poke by their pew neighbor.  There were a few gigglers too...only God knows what the boys found funny, but I believe our God has a good sense of humor and chuckled along with them.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lessons for the Teacher

School as been keeping my nose to the grindstone and Lent has kept my candle lit.  Last week we were gifted with a SPRING BREAK WEEK!  A whole 7 days of time off...I took advantage of the time to visit my family and Sisters.  I enjoyed sleeping in, being a bit pampered by my mom, and simply spending time with my Sisters.  On the other hand, 24 of our junior and senior students with another 10 teacher & parent chaperones traveled to Mexico!

They packed for their Mexican Spring Break with old blue jeans, work gloves, mats & sleeping bags to soften the cement floor, and soccer balls.  These 24 high school students spent their break working between two impoverish villages on a mountainside.  They built two cement block houses, re-roofed several small houses with corrugated tin, and formed simple brick stoves.  They played soccer, duck-duck-goose, and other games with the children.  They traveled with 3 priests...and the people happily joined them for Mass every evening.  And they ate their weight in tortiallas, rice, and beans.

Yesterday, I asked those who had participated to share their experiences with their classmates.  These were some of the amazing lessons they taught us, lessons I couldn't have created...
* We should be grateful for everything we have.  'Cause everything we have is like a miracle for them.
* I thought I knew what 'poor' looked like, but I wasn't ready for how little they had.
* We should be happy, we've been blessed.
* I felt very close to Our Mother Mary while there.  We were surrounded by home shrines to Our Lady
   of Guadalupe and their devotion to her...she was very present to me while I was there.
* I want to find ways to give back here [in home city] too and not just wait for our trip next year.
* The saddest part was sharing our little toys with the kids and trying to make it 'fair and equal'
   between the kids, we just didn't have enough.


Thursday, February 23, 2012



Lent has returned, again, just like these purple crocuses that pop up in the flower beds along the south lawn of our Monastery enclosure.  The Lenten season has always been a tough on for me.  It seems that I choose the same Lenten resolution every year and every year about half-way through Lent I realize how much 'work' I have to do to keep my resolution. 

Yes, yes, I know 'work' shouldn't be the word a 'Sister' uses for the practice of Lenten focus on Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.  However, it is tough work to search the soul and see what is holding you back from better relationship with God, is the same thing that has been tugging at your shirt-tales for a lifetime.  Benedict advises his monks dedicate their life to Lenten living (RB 49)...maybe it's because it takes that long to truly bring about the desired change.
Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,

to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

Even though I struggle with Lent, it is also my favorite liturgical season for prayer.  I grew up attending the Stations of the Cross and Frist Friday Adoration with a few family devotionals added into the mix.  The celebration of this all too human experiece of Jesus suffering was a facination to me as a child.  The readings from the Old and New Testaments used to tell the story always left me could they not know who Jesus was?  After 14 years in the monastery, the Stations are still one of my 'go to' reflections during this season and I still ponder the same question; however, it has altered could I not know who Jesus in my midst?


Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Perpetual Profession


Our community songbook open to the Suscipe
with Sister Hospitality's liturgy
of Perpetual Monastic Profession.

On Saturday we celebrated the Perpetual Monatsic Profession of Sister Hospitality.  She had been preparing for this day for almost 9 years since her entry as a postulant long ago.  The day of prayer and celebration had one overwhelming feeling...fullfilment of God's Will.   Not only was our Sister Hospitality smiling, but each of us within the community reflected that smile of joy.  There was one challenge for our Sister. 

She has served the Monastery as assistant guest mistress and servant of hospitality to those who visit us in both the retreat and guest departments; however, this day we all took on this role for her.  She laughed as we whisked company right out of her hands to guide them to their destinations.  After the Mass of Consecration and reception, Sister relaxed with family, friends, and sisters while watching those of us clearing up out of the corner of her eye.

Each moment of the ancient Benedictine Rite of Monastic Profession holds a special meaning for different sisters.  The moment that brings me the most aware of our life is the singing of the Suscipe from Psalm 119.  Our chanted translation reads "Uphold me, O Lord, according to Your word that I may live, and let me not be disappointed in the hope I cherish" and closes with the Glory Be.  The Suscipe is chanted at our sisters' Perpetual Profession, Jubilees, and wake/funeral.  Each time we share in the Suscipe, I remember the day I promised my Perpetual Profession, look forward to the Jubilees that we will celebrate together, and keep Benedict's admonition to "keep death daily" before my eyes.

Saturday, as Sister Hospitality nervously began her solo part of the Suscipe chant, I noticed the Prioress and sub-Prioress had stepped in behind her to quietly support her voice with their own and a whole new perspective awoke in me.  The call to community in each part of our life, even in this moment where the ritual calls for a solo moment; it is community that makes it complete.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Scholastica and Schoolboys


The Church celebrated the feast of Saint Scholastica on Friday.  I too celebrated this Benedictine Feast with the boys at my school.  The feast began at Mass with the monks, they even offered a prayer for the Benedictine Sisters of my house and me. 

Five times that day I lead my boys in the morning prayer or Lauds of my Monastery.  Five times I told the story of the first Benedictine woman and her call of Love...The quickest way to their memory is food and the boys will hopefully remember Scholastica's story better in connection to the 'Dove' chocolate hearts I shared as treats to celebrate the feast. 

All of these treats were in a wicker basket I carried over my arm.  As I walked down the hall between classes, those boys that remembered to wish a "Happy Feast!" could also take a chocolate heart from the basket.  The Church History Theology teacher had covered this portion of monasticism that week with the sophomores and had reminded them that they should wish me a "Happy Feast!".  I had to smile and laugh as they came in twos and threes to send me good wishes as they looked at the basket of treats.  Some even went above and beyond to ask if I had used Gregorian Chant to pray that morning! 

What they didn't know is that it had been a tough day...I was on my own for the Feast and feeling a bit homesick for my Sisters at the Monastery.  However, who can stay in the doldrums when greeted up and down the hall with the goofy grins and well-wishes of teenage boys.  My favorite of the day was a cheesy grinned duo who pseudo-sang their "Happy Feast Day" to me as they were impatiently waiting in the lunch line.  The boys made me smile, laugh, and embrace this new way to celebrate Scholastica.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Praying Blaise


The Catholic connections between saints and their patronage can have some interesting stories. Apparently,  Saint Blaise was being dragged off to prison to be martyred when he cured a young child choking on a fish bone.  At the end of morning Mass with the Monks, we received a blessing to ward of ailments of the throat with blessed candles and an invocation in the name of Saint Blaise. 

Later on I felt a bit like a mondern day Blaise...At the end of freshmen lunch, a gaggle of boys was laughing with a bit too much gusto in a tightly huddled group.  The center of attention was one young man who had crammed two whole doughnuts into this mouth right at the bell and had a third in his hand to eat as he made his way down the hall.  I asked him to sit down and a chorus of "Oooohs" escaped from his classmates down the hall.  He thought for sure he was in trouble, but my concern was he might choke as he crammed the third doughnut down his throat.  For the next 3 MINUTES, he chewed and chewed and chewed while I talked not choking on one's own food.

Finally, he finished the doughnuts, grabbed his books and started to head for the door.  I sent him off with a reminder of the saint of the day..."You kept Saint Blaise busy today! God Bless!"


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Candlemass at the Monastery

Sister Michaeleen's photo of the blessed
candles after prayer and Mass.

The Monastery celebrates Candlemass on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus.  Candlemass...Jesus is the light of the world; we carry that light within us and bless the waxy reminders of that light.  This morning the Peace Chapel altar was surrounded by a variety of the candles used during prayer in the Chapel and our living groups.  This simple ceremony is one that I miss while living away from home. 

The Prioress blesses the candles during morning prayer and they remain in the Chapel through evening prayer.  After our Vespers, a sister from each of the living groups carries the blessed candle to the group room to be used in our noon and compline prayers.  It is just one of the many little liturgies that connect us to the greater Church and to each other.  Knowing that even when we pray the shorter hours of noon and night, the blessing of the Prioress and the gathered prayer of the community continue to hold us all together.

The candles themselves are also a connection to the sisters at the Monastery.  While the Chapel candles for Mass are purchased, those used for prayers in the living groups are made by one of our own Sister Artisans.  She creates whole rainbows of candles for the sisters and our gift shop.  She even has some seasonal candles...during the Fall she pours pumpkins, there are Winter snowmen, and pastel Easter eggs.  Her most coveted creations?  The tall pillar candles that are the full rainbow all in one.  Sister Roommate and I are hoping to get one when we go home for Sister Jill's Perpetual Profession in a week, maybe we'll even get a blessing for it too!

Candles from the Chapel and for the living groups all arranged in the Peace Chapel and ready to be blessed and shared. Sister Mary Jo took the picture to share with us.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Monastic Chapter

This weekend we gathered at the Monastery to pray, discuss, and do a bit of business...Monastic Chapter. The most joyous part of our Chapter was one particular vote. When considering new members, the Rule of Benedict says "If after due reflection she promises to observe everything and to obey every command given her, let her then be received into the community" chapter 58, 14. Our Sr. Jill stood before the whole community to request our permission to celebrate her perpetual profession in our community. She shared a beautiful letter telling of her growth, prayer, and love in our Benedictine community. While listening to her gentle voice, I looked around the room to the faces of our Benedictine family; sisters' faces were shinning in the reflection of Sr. Jill's joy, some grinning ear-to-ear, others tearing up, or remembering this moment from their own request. After she finished sharing, the junior sisters left the room and the chapter then discussed and voted on the junior sister. Later when Sister Junior Director brought Sr. Jill back into the chapter, we greeted her with applause and hugs of joy. The Monastic Chapter had accepted her! We will be celebrating the Perpetual Monastic Profession of Sr. Jill within a few weeks!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

National Vocation Awareness Week


As the Church in America celebrates Vocation Awareness Week, we've been trying to consider different ways of sharing that invitation with our boys here at school. You'd think it would be easy since I teach at an Order school and there are monks and priests all about, but when the focus is high class academics, the students sometimes forget to see the monks who teach them as men of prayer and service, the nun who teaches them as a woman consecrated to prayer and ministry to the Church, and the lay men and women who teach them as husbands, wives, or single folk striving to follow God. As a way of reintroducing the familiar I went to the USCCB sponsored vocation website for some awesome videos, prayers, and other info! We're going to use a variety of these short videos as openers to class or discussion. It has been a bit different to focus on the vocations for men; in my previous teacher life, I would talk vocations to mixed classes or classes of women. However, I do remind them that as friends, brothers, and dads, they will have a responsibility to support the women in their lives.

One interesting discuss popped up after yesterday's video.
"So, Sister, what would you call the perks of being a sister? And you can't use all that churchy stuff," one junior asked. Before answering, I asked him what he meant by perks.
"You know, what do you get! You got a car, phone, lap top...what else do you get?"
"Ah-ha, I see," I pondered for a moment, "I get a community--a family of sisters who will support me and help me out no matter what, I get to be challenged every day to look at who I am and try to be better by seeing Christ in me and you, and I get to learn and have the chance to study at the monastery, graduate school, and everywhere. Those are my non-churchy perks."
The junior responded with a raised eyebrow, "Hmmm..."
Then I continued, "By the way, it isn't MY car, but the car my community has given me to use to travel to school and home to the monastery. It isn't MY phone, the phone is for my use since I'm living away from the monastery. It isn't MY laptop, but while I'm teaching the Prioress wants me to have what I need to do my work well. None of those things are specifically MINE."
A few more juniors raised an eyebrow and looked a bit skeptical, and the best part...they asked another question.

It was a good challenge, but I'd never looked at our life for the 'perks' before. The call to be a Benedictine Sister was such a draw of the heart and soul that visits felt like coming home. I'd visit, then go back to school (purposefully on the other side of the state) and try to prove to myself that I really wasn't called to be a sister. Then God would draw me back to the monastery. Perks? Not a part of the consideration, I just wanted to be where my heart had found a home.

Blessings and Keep Searching!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Celebrate Epiphany!


This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. Tomorrow night at the monastery the sisters will process out of Vespers to bless the main entrance of the monastery. In the midst of a simple prayer the prioress chalks the ancient inscription above the doors "20+C+M+B+12". Sister and I will also be blessing the entrance to the Convent Apartment. A reminder that our Benedictine Hospitality is extended to all those who come through our doors.

This welcome to strangers is also reflected in my favorite reading
from the Mass on Feast...Isaiah 60: 1-6...

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!
Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

It is a joy-filled reading of the promised savior to come...Isaiah so long ago shared this vision of hope for everyone. But it is as vibrant in its promise today, we are all called to gather in the radiant light of the King. An amazing reminder that we are called to all come together
and share in the blessing of Christ.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anniversary of Entrance


Fourteen years ago, I stood in the bitter January night with my parents and knocked on one very imposing door. The door swung open and I was asked a question, "what do you seek?" This was the beginning of my life as a Benedictine sister in Sacred Heart Monastery.

Rule of Benedict, Chapter 58
When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life, let her not be granted an easy entrance; but, as the Apostle says, "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God." If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking...and the difficulty of admission, and that she persists in her petition, then let entrance be granted her, and let her stay in the guest house for a few days.

After that let her live in the novitiate, where the novices study, eat and sleep.
A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls, to watch over them with the utmost care. Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God, and whether she is zealous
for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.
Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged
ways by which the journey to God is made.
(illumination of Ruth & Naomi by St. John's)
In our community, the entrance ceremony for the postulant has always been a favorite of mine because of the memories it tenders for me. I can remember that cold, clear night very well. My parents stood with me on the steps of the old monastery, steps that had graced the trembling feet of postulants for over 100 years; my Mom was a bit uncertain, while my Father beamed a bit more confidently. After I knocked at the door, Sister Prioress swung it open with the whole warmth of the community gathered behind her and asked me "What do you seek?" Each postulant is to formulate her own answer (with a little guidance), my response had something to do with seeking God with the support and love of the community. The whole community then sang a response as Sister Prioress opened the door wide and brought us inside.

The date of entrance isn't an 'official' anniversary in our community, we count jubilees from first profession (this August is my 12th jubilee). However, I commemorate this anniversary in my private prayer. It has become a day that I remind myself of the young 23-year-old that entered the monastery that day and all that has happened since then. The development of my reflections has revealed one of the most surprising changes for me...I'm learning to love the quiet and solitude. Opening up to the silence (a surprise for my family and friends), is more than the result of getting older; it's the result of slowly growing in my listening in quiet for the voice of the Lord in my Lectio and other prayer.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Praying for Peace

Greetings and Happy New Year!

Times Square was packed with party-ers, fireworks were going off hour-by-hour world wide, and here at Sacred Heart Monastery, were spent a holy hour in silence broken only by occasional song or chanted Psalm.

Sunday, January 1st, was the World Day of Peace. We gathered in the semi-dark of our chapel to begin our prayer for peace in vigil. We began the holy hour with two of our sisters lighting the altar and dedication candles about the chapel (quiet organ accompanied them). Then we sat in silent prayer before God. My assignment was to call us from our silence to the next part of our prayer, Sister Liturgist gave me a bell to sound in calling us back from our recollection. Other 'parts' in our prayer included a song calling us to live in peace, a Psalm asking God to bring us peace, a reading about peace from Thich Nhat Hanh to remind us of the universal call to live for peace, and then we concluded with the Magnificat and a blessing from the prioress. But each of these moments was surrounded by silence, a silence that was filled with the our sisters prayer. A silence that was overpowering in its being so full.

Pope Benedict XVI also spoke for peace and the need to teach our youth to seek and strive after peace...I found his closing lines especially powerful.

All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future
generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace
and builders of peace.