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.