Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My Vocation Story: Part 1

My aunt, Sister Petronella, sent me a holy card for my first communion as a second grader. On the cover was a picture of a girl, dressed in a lovely white dress and veil, kneeling by the communion railing to receive her first holy communion. On the reverse side was a prayer for a religious vocation. S. Petronella wrote, “Pray this prayer after every time you go to communion.” I knew what it was to become a sister, but I did not know the meaning of a religious VOCATION. I liked and admired her, so I followed her advice. I understood the meaning to be like a VOCATION, so I prayed it every time I received communion.

One Sunday, as a 7th grader, having prayed that prayer faithfully after communion for the past five years like she asked me to do, I became aware that this prayer is telling God I wanted to become a sister. When I got home, I ripped it up in small pieces and threw it away making sure that no one would see it in the waste basket. Becoming a sister was the furthest thing from my mind!

While a junior at St. Francis High School, a boarding school for girls, I was sick in bed with the flu. A Franciscan sister checking in on how I was doing also asked me if I ever thought of joining the convent. “Oh, no,” I said. I was not ready for that. During the summer months between my junior and senior year, I started to date a very fine young man, Don.

Soon after graduating from high school, I accepted a one-week trial offer as a nanny for the three children of Eugene McCarthy, a Minnesota democratic senator. During that trial week while being with and caring for their children, I did a lot of discerning what I wanted to do with my life. To accept that job and move with them to Washington, D.C., was too far from home, and I did not feel suited for a full-time babysitting job.

During this time after graduation, I continued to date Don quite regularly. One evening, he wanted to give me a ring. I was not thrilled and couldn’t accept it. In our conversation, I had to be honest with him and say that often when we were at a movie or a dance, I would have images of nuns in my mind. I didn’t wish for them, but they just came. My aunt, Sister Macaria, who taught at Cold Spring, said, “You are not going to find a nicer guy than Don.” “I know," I said, “but why do these images of nuns just come while at a movie or a dance?” Ending that two-year friendship made me sad. Yet, at the same time, knowing that I was not ready to think about marriage and children so soon after high school, I refused his ring. Refusing the ring made it easier to continue with my life.

After several months, my girlfriend, Bernie, who had thoughts about maybe entering the convent someday, invited me to take a trip to Cottonwood, Idaho, where we had aunts in the Benedictine monastery. While in the area, we would also do some sight-seeing and especially enjoy the mountains. Neither of us had been out of state, and we thought it might be good to get away from a very Catholic Stearns County.

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Philosophy on Aging

Jonathan Herda, OSB
I perceive aging as a normal facet of the total process of life. I envision it to have its own distinctive challenges, frustrations and rewards.

I believe that the attitude with which one approaches his/her own aging and how one relates to this growth process in others is a significant indicator of how one views the mystery of life and living, of living fully and richly each developing stage of maturity.

Aging and maturing do not necessarily occur simultaneously. Mental alertness and interest in life are found in very aged individuals, while it is possible to find a young person whose mental alertness and interest have atrophied from disuse. (Jelled!)

I also associate aging with wisdom…wisdom gained from living and loving deeply, from making and keeping commitments, from taking risks and preferring to sustain scars rather than not trying at all. Aging gives a sense of history and one’s place and contribution to it. It gives one the opportunity to recognize true and lasting values. Pain, grief, physical disability and similar realities may be more pronounced at this stage of life, but can also evoke a positive response.

I am convinced that the best preparation for fruitful aging years is to live fully each NOW. Old age is the crowning part of our total NOW.

Written 1978 during a final test, in response to the question, “What is Your Philosophy on Aging?”  The class was “Aged Family."

Jonathan Herda, OSB

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

No Separation, Here!


Pope Francis never fails to both inspire and challenge me! Recently, I read his short message on faithfulness. He invited his hearers to ask themselves “...how am I faithful? Let us take the question with us to think about during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to make my faith seen with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I notice who is in need, do I see everyone as brothers and sisters to love?”

In the big picture, we may think we are faithful to Christ, but is it not in the daily, small, tiring ways in which we meet and speak and live with our brothers and sisters that we prove whether or not our faith in Christ is authentic? No separation, here!

Am I self-giving to my family, kin, stranger, especially those who do not merit it, the suffering and the marginalized? Then, and only then, am I simultaneously faithful to Christ. No separation, here!

Do I draw near with tender love to those in need of care? Do I bring hope and God’s smile to the contradictions of our world? Then, and only then, am I faithful to the resurrected Christ who appeared, unbeknownst to Mary Magdalen or to the disciples on the way to Emmaus and who always waits for me to  recognize Him in the brother or sister I meet on the way!

When we feel stymied, unimportant or even bored with the status quo, we could take to heart what Pope Francis said via twitter to young people: “Be amazed by what is true and beautiful, what is of God! Do not be satisfied with a mediocre life.” God is good. Let us imitate God. He waits for us to both carry Him to others and find Him there.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

We've Always Done It This Way


How often have you heard the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way”? I have an idea that the phrase dates back hundreds of years. You may hear it at family gatherings, at work and yes, we do hear it at the monastery. The phrase could actually have multiple meanings. “We’ve always done it this way,” could be said to a new sister “because it is part of our tradition.” Or else, it could mean, “I like it my way, so why change?” Recently, I was reading some old documents that I found in a file drawer. One document was a presentation given to the sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery on March 30, 1926. From what I was reading, it appeared that the sisters were in dialogue about how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) with the current changing demographics and ministries that took them away from the motherhouse campus. A quote from the presenter challenged the sisters to look to the future in order to grow. He was telling the sisters that they may need to let go of things as they always were. I read “We did not have this before!” and “Must we always do as has been done?” As I read these words, I laughed out loud. I thought to myself, some things never change. As we move into our future in today’s world, there is always a need to let go, in order to let the dreams come alive. At Saint Benedict’s Monastery, we are looking into the future as we keep the traditions we hold dear to our heart.

If you would like to learn more about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Humor and Health

The month of April is National Humor Month.

My experience is that laughter and humor have been essential ingredients in my life and ministry, especially in bringing healing for myself and for others. There is an increasing number of professionals in the medical and psychiatric field who are seeing the value of humor in promoting the health of an individual. There are laughter and humor workshops springing up in many countries. Some psychologists and doctors are even beginning to study the physiology of humor. Pain reduction and prevention of violence toward self and others through humor raise questions about the mutual interplay of endorphins, immunology and humor.

S. Tamra Thomas (right) and
S. Rita Kunkel share a laugh.
Here are several childhood experiences of humor both in the home and other places that touched me enough to stay in my memory. The earliest memory of my father was sitting on his lap at about the age of two or three, combing his black hair down over his face and over his eyes playing peek-a boo. The more he laughed, the more I would be creative with his hair, combing it in every different direction. It was fun to make him laugh. In his book "God Created Laughter", Conrad Hyers says, "children growing up as toddlers tend to laugh easily – but adults often squelch it because 'one does not play at things,' one works at them. Parents are too much in a hurry to have their children grow up and be serious." To this day, I like being able to make people laugh, perhaps because it is healing and therapeutic. 

Another quality of humor is that it is medicine, not only for the spirit, but also for the body. One particular Friday in March, I had a coordinator’s luncheon meeting with five other local coordinators at a cafe in a neighboring town. After that meeting, my plan was to drive another hour to help lead and play for the prayer service before the lecture to be given by the author of the book "Joshua." Waking up that morning, I felt sick, feverish, had the chills and felt achy all over. After taking medicine to treat my flu symptoms, I ventured to the first meeting. After we completed the first meeting, we sat around the table laughing as we were sharing humorous stories from our past experiences. When I got up from table, the flushness and chills were gone, and I felt fine about going ahead to the evening event. I commented to the group that this laughter dissolved the virus and my symptoms were gone. If it can bring physical healing, it must touch the spirit and emotion as well. It was a real experience of "laughter as the best medicine."

There are many humorous situations in ministry, especially if one is open to seeing and appreciating them. George and Betty were in their eighties and in their own home. When I needed ministry for myself, or to have my spirits lifted, I would visit them because of his humor and her gracious hospitality. After Betty died, George moved into a retirement center and I would keep on visiting him. Each time, his positive spirit and his gift for telling humorous stories lifted my spirits. One day, his senior male friend came to visit him and said, "George, the rumor is all over town that you want to marry this young nurse’s aide. What are you thinking? She is 31 and you are 91." George responded, "Well, if she dies, she dies."

Dreams also can be an important avenue to find humor. In one of my dreams, I am at a place where there is a long smorgasbord of food before me. We are through the food line and a woman tells me that my nose was loose. Sure enough, I felt it and the nose was just hanging on with only a little piece of skin on the left nostril. I answered her, “So what is wrong with a loose nose?” My first feeling after waking was delighting in the humor. There was no pain or fear of possibly losing a nose, just that it looked so crazy. The message in it for me was that just as food is meant for our nourishment, so can humor be nourishing. The nose is an organ for inhaling and exhaling and it opens to the breath of life. The expression "follow your nose" could mean to trust one’s gut and instincts in coming to the truth within. Life offers many opportunities, and many choices. Sometimes a good choice is to "follow your nose."

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Remember God

How often do we read a Russian-born, Nobel Prize winner, novelist, historian, short-story writer and critic of his own country and its communism tell us what is wrong with our times??? I am speaking, of course, about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, born in 1915 and deceased only nine years ago! He writes: "If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire 20th century...I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again, 'Men (sic) have forgotten God.' The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the crimes of this century" (The Orthodox Monitor 15, 1983).

What more can be added to those ponderable words, except perhaps "Risen Savior, King of Glory, come to us in mystery. Let us see your face in glory when you come in majesty"? Our freedom is an awesome responsibility. What have I done in the choices I’ve made? And you, as well? We have failed in our times and we will continue to see unspeakable crimes until we remember God.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Luminous Lodge #6

At the end of February, Luminous Lodge #6 was moved to Rosamond A due to frozen pipes in the lodge. It was a wonderful experience. When we heard about the frozen pipes and had 33 CSB women registered for the evening, we did not want to cancel. We brought our student helpers to see Rosamond A Thursday evening, and within two hours, the room was transformed. We had luminaries lining the walls, candles ready to light and standing lamps to create a prayerful space. We even had an electric fireplace in Rosamond A to enhance the experience. On Friday evening, we began by gathering around a bonfire on the lower plaza - thank you Sister Philip! The group then moved inside for some energetic ice breakers led by two CSB women.



The focus of our evening was based on a book written by Sister Rita Barthel, OSF, called "Finding Life’s Purpose: When Do I Encounter God?" We had given the book to two CSB women last fall and invited them to lead the evening session. Heidi and Ashley’s reflective presentation focused on a section of the book that talked about letting go. Their personal testimonies were a beautiful witness to the other women. The prayer, silence and journaling time that followed was powerful. After the reflection time, everyone enjoyed caramel, apples, popcorn and hot cocoa, which has become the traditional snack we serve. We ended the evening with singing praise songs and a closing prayer. Previous attendees to Luminous Lodge said we did a great job creating the right ambiance for the evening. Luminous Lodge #6 was a success.

Lisa Rose, OSB