Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Nectar of Godness

Quieting our being to allow centering prayer to happen is not always easy.  Quiet can so readily give space to unresolved circular thoughts and feelings.  It reminds me a bit of sitting near a hummingbird feeder and noticing the whirring of the bird’s wings.  The rapidly moving wings and the perfect stillness of the rest of the bird’s body presents an amazing contrast.  It seems as though it would take a significant amount of nectar-energy to sustain this simultaneous wing movement and quiet body floatation.

(Photo by Kippy Stuhr)

As we are quieting ourselves for centering prayer, we may begin to notice our brain whirring like the wings of a hummingbird. While we long to connect with the quietness of our body, our brain-wings are simultaneously busy at work. Fortunately, if we can acknowledge our whirring thoughts and feelings and candidly but gently let our brain know that those are “not needed right now”, we can create within ourselves connected moments of inner space for Godness. In this sacred space, the nectar of God’s presence can slowly nurture and transform us.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

“Every sunrise is God’s greeting; every sunset, His signature.”

(Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
This morning I experienced God’s personal greeting!  I sat by Watab Lake, in the inky darkness, waiting. 

God is never late; it was 5:55, Central Standard Time.  And at that moment, through an opening in the overcast sky, the sun began to rise, as Emily Dickinson says, “a ribbon at a time”. 
As if there had been a reveille call, the purple martens exited their wooden house to sing to the sun. 
A wild duck perched herself on a post to my left. . .
and stayed there for more than half an hour looking and listening. 
After taking a belabored flight, no doubt stiff from too much
standing on a tiny round space, a blackbird took
the stand.  
There’s more.  The slight wind not only moved the waves downstream, but played with the leaves on most of the trees.  They were happy too:
such stability of place! such freedom to move within
their circumscribed orbits!
 Not like the dozen birds who wafted easily from one branch to another, never hitting their heads but alighting-- with grace—atop
the branches. I remembered one of our Schola
directors telling us to sing chant that way: “on top of the note, like the birds approach their destination; and therefore, not flat, neither distorting the chant nor
hurting ears sensitive to pitch!

Oh, what a lovely morning! What a glorious greeting from our God!  What will the next hours open up to me? 

I’ll keep on looking and listening.  Tonight I’ll be grateful to read God’s signature in the sunset!
Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"The Alchemist"

Luminous Lodge Retreat
In the book, “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Caelho we meet a shepherd boy named Santiago. The story tells the reader about Santiago’s search for a hidden treasure in a faraway land. As he embarks on the journey, he sells his sheep and the adventure begins. He meets a variety of people along the way; some rob him of everything he owns, while others teach him the skills of survival in a strange land. Eventually he meets the Alchemist, who teaches Santiago to be true to himself. The Alchemist teaches him that in trusting and believing in himself, he can become his true self. He tells him it is there in his heart where he will find his treasure. As Santiago learns from the Alchemist, he is transformed. He learns to look beyond what he can see to the things he cannot see. He learns to look into himself, into his heart, and listen to what is most important to his life. Santiago finds his treasure through love, love of self and love of life through transformed eyes. So where is your hidden treasure in your life? Here at Saint Benedict’s Monastery we journey with one another through community living and listening to one another. We help one another find our own hidden treasure, as together we seek God. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

In Gratitude-BWSC Erin's last BLOG

Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), an outreach of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., invites College of Saint Benedict alumnae to join the monastic community in deepening relationships that support justice and service in a new location. Volunteers strive to live out the Benedictine Gospel values that were formed during their undergraduate education in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.
The women's year of service is coming to an end. This week Erin Carey shares her final thoughts about her experience.
My days left at Mount Saint Benedict continue to dwindle as the last nine months are coming to a close. Many people are curious about what I thought of my experience. It’s a difficult question to answer without a little perspective from the experience, but here is what I have learned, appreciated and gathered so far.

From Saint Benedict’s Education Center: One of the teachers at Saint Benedicts has a refrain in the morning of saying “Look. Listen. Smile,” to the refugees to bring their attention to the lesson. It is a  simple mantra that I’ve come to appreciate. It has a centering effect on the refugees and on me, reminding me to take the time to stop and take in what or who is before me with open ears and a smile. The refugees respond with grins and a few laughs. The mantra reminded me to first greet each person as a person before we begin work.


From the Neighborhood Art House: Before classes start at the Art House the children gather together for announcements and to say a pledge:


May my mind think no harm.

May my lips speak no harm.

May my hands do no harm.

May the children of tomorrow

bless the work I offer.


I pledge allegiance to the earth

and all its sacred parts,

its water, land and living things

and all its human hearts.

I pledge allegiance to all life

and promise I shall care

 to love and cherish all its gifts

with people everywhere.


The pledge’s words taught me a nonviolent, global perspective is possible in all things, including art, music, and dance. I love the intentionality of starting classes with this broad and peace-seeking perspective.


From community: At the beginning of community celebrations the sisters sing a mantra:


 “Glorify God. Cherish Christ. Listen to the spirit. Reverence one another. Uphold all.“

(Teachers and Fellow Volunteers
Photo submitted by Erin Carey)


To me, it is a summary of what  monastic life is all about. Glorifying, cherishing, listening, reverencing and upholding take forms in the sisters’ relationships with each other; the care taken in helping an older sister; the teamwork of a dish team or a group to decorate the dining room for holidays; the presence shown to all residents of Erie: children, migrant workers, refugees, the homeless, and the poor; the hospitality shown to me and other women who come to live monastic life for a little while. I am so thankful to have been in a group of women that glorifies, cherishes, listens, reverences and upholds. I believe it is women religious guiding the church and the world into new ways of being and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to sit at their feet for a little while. The community prayer for vocations begins with the line: “We believe that Benedictine monasticism bears fruit for the world.” After living the life for a little while I can agree one hundred percent. The fruits from examples of awareness, peace, stability, love and acceptance are abundantly given here and I am so grateful.

MANY thanks to all in Minnesota, Iowa, and Erie who have sent prayers, encouragements and love to me. I am touched and grateful for the richness of the opportunity I was graced with the last nine months. I’m looking forward to continuing to unravel the meaning of this experience for years to come.


In gratitude and love,














Thursday, May 25, 2017

BWSC Bethany's last BLOG

Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), an outreach of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., invites College of Saint Benedict alumnae to join the monastic community in deepening relationships that support justice and service in a new location. Volunteers strive to live out the Benedictine Gospel values that were formed during their undergraduate education in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.

The women's year of service is coming to an end. This week Bethany Purkapile shares her final thoughts about her experience.


When I reflect back on why I decided to volunteer a year with the Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), I remember how lost I was. I was graduating college and while everyone else had these big plans to get their dream job, I was not even sure what my dream job was. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had ideas of what I thought I would have liked to do but I never really knew what exactly those fields would entail. I needed more experience and that was one of the reasons that led me to BWSC.

The other reason was avoidance. I did not realize I was doing it, but I was avoiding going home. I was avoiding dealing with the problems that would surround me when I got there. My parents’ divorce finally went through and I knew that going home meant that I had to face the issues left behind from my father leaving, not only for me but for my younger siblings as well. The turmoil left over from that scared me, and it was easier to avoid it than to face the pain that came along with that.

(Photo submitted by Bethany Purkapile)
I often say that my time in Bristow was healing. That is truly, what it was: a year for me to experience fields that I would not get the chance to experience otherwise and to find myself, to heal from past pains and to further develop a relationship between me and God. I got all of those things while volunteering and it is exactly what I needed to feel comfortable and equipped to face my future, whatever it is that God has planned for me.

It has been 270 days of healing and growth. That is how long I have been here in Bristow.  Fortunately, I have way more than 270 memories of my time spent here. Every day has been a new experience and each of these last few days holds even more.

I am going to miss my Friday night hangouts with the sisters; where we begin our evenings with the news, Jeopardy. Our “party nights” filled with yummy snacks and drinks while we watched MacGyver, Hawaii 5-0, and Blue Bloods were something that I looked forward to every week. Every Friday I could count on the same sisters staying up late to hang out, the same laughter from the ridiculous stunts that MacGyver pulled and the same tears that began to fill our eyes with the sweet moments from Hawaii 5-0 and Blue Bloods.

I am going to miss the consistency of my schedule here with the sisters; going to prayer, work, and meal times. Spending dinners with the sisters has created some of my fondest memories. It is where we share stories of our days, our pasts and where I have learned the most about the sisters. It is where they tell me stories of their past, stories of how they came to be.

(Bethany, third from left, with her students
Photo submitted by Bethany Purkapile)
I am going to miss my students and teaching. As much as I don’t enjoy lesson planning, I’m going to miss getting up in the morning and dreading going to class, but the feeling of energy I get from seeing my students smiling and ready to learn. I am going to miss laughing at how ridiculous the English language is and protesting it with my students.

I am going to miss my time at BARN and the strength of each of the residents. The courage and strength of each of the individuals cannot be put into words. I am going to miss spending time with the children watching movies, playing outside and doing arts and crafts. I will miss their sweet hugs when they come home from school and find me in the office.

Most of all, I am going to miss the Sisters. I have created so many bonds and friendships that leaving is going to be very hard. The memories created with the Sisters here in Bristow are memories that will last me a lifetime. I found family here in Bristow, one that will remain with me for many years to come. Like I tell the Sisters, I might be leaving, but this is definitely not good-bye.

Thank you to everyone who has followed my year here in Bristow through my blog posts! Thank you for your continued prayers and support as well as the wonderful emails of encouragement.   


Bethany Purkapile


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wait Patiently for the Master's Arrival

I love the Letter of St. James to his early Christian Church because it is so real!  When they (or we!) gather, we know that everything that can do wrong eventually does; that our Christian churches seem to collect sinners!  St. James, however, is able—lovingly, honestly and wisely-- to bring to the surface, diagnose and deal with the quirks and misbehaviors present in his community.  I especially appreciate how Eugene H. Peterson renders the corrections and encouragements of James in contemporary language (The Message).  Listen, also, as you read the conclusion of the Letter of St. James:

. . . Friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival!  You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work.  Be patient like that.  Stay steady and strong.  The Master could arrive at any time.

Friends, do not complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know.  The Judge is standing just around the corner.   Take the old prophets as your mentors.  They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God.  What a gift life is to those who stay the course! . . . .

Are you hurting? Pray.  Do you feel great?  Sing.  Are you sick?  Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing- prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet.  And if you have sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.  The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.  Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it would not rain, and it did not—not a drop for three and a half years.  Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did.  The showers came and everything started growing again.

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered from God’s truth, do not write them off.  Go after them.  Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.


Common Ground Garden
Green Beans Coming Up
Good advice for us too?  I think so.  It’s the merry month of May and the farmers are showing us how to live in quiet expectation  awaiting the Master, the new rains, the crops, and our willingness to live in our Easter communities, helping, healing, praying, forgiving, loving one another and the God who raised Jesus from death unto LIFE.  Alleluia!  He is risen and we, too, shall rise again, on the last day! Alleluia!


Renee Domeier, OSB

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mo's last Blog

Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), an outreach of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., invites College of Saint Benedict alumnae to join the monastic community in deepening relationships that support justice and service in a new location. Volunteers strive to live out the Benedictine Gospel values that were formed during their undergraduate education in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.

The women's year of service is coming to an end. This week Mo Shannon Thornton shares her final thoughts about her experience.
I have about two weeks left here in Bristow. While I’m extremely excited to return home, I’m also sad to be leaving my students behind. I didn’t expect to form such a close bond with them. In my previous blog post, I mentioned how I didn’t think I would enjoy teaching ESOL as much as I did. I didn’t think I had what it took to be a good teacher. I didn’t think I had enough patience, or the passion to be able to teach others effectively. Boy, was I wrong! Not only have I gained patience, but I’ve also gained satisfaction from seeing my students blossom. In November, when I first started teaching, many of my students could not communicate with me or with each other. They were scared to speak the little English they knew in fear of being made fun of. I have students who are from Afghanistan, China, the Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. As one could imagine, it was very difficult trying to get my students not only communicate with me, but also with each other. Not only were they in a new environment but they were also being exposed to different nationalities.
When I hear stories of my students accomplishing their goals against all the odds stacked up against them, it makes me realize that anything is possible! Recently, one of my students got a job in housekeeping at the local Marriot Hotel. This student in particular started out with a very thick French accent, couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone in English, and hated to speak in front of the class. Fast forward to present day, she is one of my strongest students. She now loves to participate in class, and in fact gets a little upset with me if I don’t call on her to answer a question. To see the tremendous progress she has made is truly inspiring. To go from not being able to hold a conversation in English, to obtaining a job that requires one to speak English takes dedication and perseverance. And I’m blessed enough to see that dedication and perseverance in all my students. 
Besides missing my students, I’ll also miss the sisters whom I’ve made a special connection with. I’ll miss playing Rummy every Sunday night with Sister Mary Ellen and Sister Henry Marie. I’ll miss talking about Southern cooking with Sister Connie Ruth, and I’ll definitely miss the needed hugs given to me by Charlotte Lange. There have been many other special moments and acts of kindness I’ve experienced while being here. While living in Virginia I’ve experienced a lot of change in my life. I’ve also experienced A LOT of uncomfortableness. Both which have led me to be more self-aware of who I want to be as a person, and to be conscious of the mark I choose to leave on others. 
My students and the Benedictine sisters of Virginia will always have a special place in my heart. And for that I am truly thankful to have met them!