Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Heart-Healthy Hugs

I got to wondering about the etymology of the term "hug." I found out the origins of the word are not known, but there are two theories about its origin. One used in the 1560s relates it to the Old Norse word "hugga," which meant to comfort. The other related it to the German word "hegen," which meant to foster or cherish, originally meant to enclose with a hedge. Both of those origins seem to have layers of meaning. To comfort, cherish and surround with safety seem to be needed at all ages. Research shows that well-hugged babies are less stressed as adults and elderly who feel lonely can feel less so by being hugged.

In certain parts of the world, the hug includes both the left-side and right-side hug and even one more for good measure. Somehow, the left-and-right-hug has a unique quality about it that appeals to me. The left-side hug is definitely sufficient, but when the right side is added, it includes a heart-to-heart connection. I call that a whole-hug.  

Today, when I walked around the corner, I found myself face-to-face with a friend. I automatically opened my arms as though inviting a hug. She immediately responded with a gentle hug. Then, I heard myself acknowledge, "My heart isn’t in a good space right now, so I needed that." That was a not-so-subtle code for "I’m a bit upset at the moment." I could feel my tension decrease a bit. I guess there’s a scientific basis for that. According to health research, hugs increase oxytocin and reduce blood pressure [BBC News. August 8, 2005].

May 2018 bring all of us an extra dose of heart-health in its many forms.

Sister Miriam Ardolf (left) hugs Prioress Sister Susan
Rudolph on her installation day. (Photo: Andra Johnson)

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Search for Peace

The monastery's "Peace Pole"
I can’t stop reading what Pope Francis, via Fr. Rosica, sends out to me almost daily! He speaks and writes a dangerous message to those of us who desire to be followers of Jesus Christ, and yet, his message is full of direction on HOW to fulfill not only God’s desire, but ours for PEACE ON EARTH! On January 1, the 51st World Day of Peace, his topic was “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.” He wishes PEACE to all people and nations on earth! The peace which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, the peace all of us long for, especially those who most keenly suffer its absence: the 150 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees, men and women, children, young and elderly, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace!

Pope Francis begs us, in a spirit of compassion, to embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands. But, how do we SHOW compassion concretely? It is not sufficient to simply have ‘bleeding hearts’ for the disadvantaged; they need concrete commitment! Again, Pope Francis answers that question saying: “Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.”

Welcoming, he writes, “calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights. Scripture reminds us that in showing hospitality to strangers, we may be showing hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebr. 13:2).” No easy task, but an outstanding possibility!

“Protecting involves the recognition and defense of the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security. He writes: “I think in particular of women and children who find themselves in situations that expose them to risks and abuses that can even amount to enslavement. God does not discriminate: He watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow (Psalm 146:9).” If we were in their shoes, what would be our needs?

Promoting” entails our enabling the migrants and refugees to cultivate and realize their potential through education, learning English, being in dialogue with them, assuring them and ourselves that God “loves the foreigner residing among us,” giving them food and clothing, loving them as we recall that “we, too, were once foreigners (Deut. 10:18-19).” If not I, then my ancestors of yesteryear sought a home in this lovely country!

Integratingmeans both giving of our life blood and receiving the life skills and gifts of the other! We need to recognize the process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation within our local communities when we are able to acknowledge the beauty of human development, even when there are likenesses and differences among us! St. Paul expresses it in these words: “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people (Eph. 2:19).”

Pope Francis emphasizes the fact that all of us have but one home and she is called Mother Earth! Family life, of course, is not always easy nor peaceful, but where else do we go when we are broke, cold, lonely, sick, hungry? We search for home, for peace, for compassionate family traits somewhere on our Mother Earth. What do we/you consider our family traits?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Different Kind of New Year Resolution

Happy New Year. Many people like to make New Year’s resolutions that may focus on physical health, such as a healthier diet or renewing an exercise program. In the past, my own resolutions have had this concentration. Recently I asked myself, “Have you ever considered a spiritual resolution?” “One that will encourage you to deepen your relationship with God.”  So with that idea in mind, during Advent, I started a spiritual renewal program for myself. I decided I wanted to grow in my awareness of God throughout my day, every day. In choosing to commit to a greater awareness of God, I had to learn how to pay attention to my normal daily activities. “When was I paying attention or not paying attention to God who was interacting with me through prayer, people, or a variety of events?”  Every evening during Advent, I would recall my day’s activities and look for where I sensed the presence of God. I would then write in my gratitude journal focusing on where I encountered God. This exercise also gave me the opportunity to thank God for His presence to me. Because I found it to be a growthful experience for me, I plan to continue my spiritual resolution throughout the year. If you would like more information about our community, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Sister Trish Dick works as a spiritual counselor at Shodair Hospital in Helena, Montana. The hospital serves children who have undergone extreme trauma.

Every day when I walk through the doors of Shodair Hospital I face a new day full of unknown adventure and ministry. I am not too sure what “normal” looks like at Shodair Hospital and frankly no one does. Change and flexibility are two major ingredients of my day.

I introduced mindfulness to our adolescence unit during their community gather-up and meeting. I brought my Tibetan bowl and began with some deep breathing exercises. Over a space of time, I proceeded with some guided imagery. Although they love the deep breathing exercises they do not like the silence or guided meditation exercises.   One patient finally told me; “Trish, when you tell us to go to our place where we are safe – we don’t have one.  And all this silence brings up memories that we don’t want to be reminded of or remember.”  So we are working on mindfulness exercises such as getting to know your questions and building community. I am now quickly trying to learn mindfulness exercises which involve skilled movement and play in order to accomplish my goal.

 Yet at every community meeting, one of patients rings the bell and does the deep breathing exercises. Some do the breathing exercises way too fast for my liking and I want to jump in and do it myself or autocorrect them in ringing the bell. It’s all I can do to extend my patience, loosen my judgment and wait for my turn to lead and model “the right” form of mindfulness. I have come to the conclusion that success is not about the “right” way of mindfulness but knowing these adolescents are being exposed to mindfulness and learning the concept of using their breath to calm themselves.  It’s a lesson, too,  about the value of being  mindful in our waiting, as we trust the process and wait for the Light to shine.


Trish Dick, OSB


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Our Advent Call

An action on our Jesse tree
Photo by Karen Rose, OSB
2017 Advent Candles
Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB
Advent is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the candles we put out in the Gathering Place surrounded by the greens with the appropriate ribbon colors of purple and pink for each week of Advent. Our Advent tree is up with the ornaments that have the prayer requests of our donors on them. Schola has begun practicing for Christmas Eve, and the bell choir is chiming away. Each sister has been asked to set aside extra time for silence and reflection as well as to do two actions (which we hung anonymously on our Jesse tree) in the hopes of leading us to love more inclusively and deeply.

Advent Tree
Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB

In a world of violence, war, hate and discrimination, Advent offers us all a special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to Jesus' way of life; that way of life is rooted in love and a welcome that begins in our own hearts, with our own family, friends and co-workers. Have you ever felt welcome? How did it make you feel? Warm and fuzzy? Loved? Included? This lived experience of welcome can deepen our faith and allow us to become more compassionate and merciful. It invites us to create a culture of welcome for all. We believe, as Pope Francis says, “Welcoming others means welcoming God in person!” (Advent Reflection 2017 Maryknoll)

Many of the readings in Advent proclaim, “Do not be afraid.” Joseph and Mary both did not understand their call from God to be the earthly mother and father of Jesus. But they trusted it and obeyed it. What is God calling us to do in our lives this Advent? Let us strive to be more compassionate and merciful to all those we meet. Let us love more inclusively and deeply.


Tammy Shoemaker, OSB

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What Do You Think?

What do you think when you hear or read words like the following?

“We need to compose our lives.”  What does that mean?  Is there really music, poetry, creativity within each of us?  Can I really make a difference?   YES.

OR:  “Love across differences.”  Is it truly possibly to recognize both what is common among us and even   value the differences?   YES.

OR: “Don’t lose a sense of wonder.”  Is it possible to see anew? To wonder about the beauty in a colored leaf, a colored friend, a complicated world, a seemingly unsolvable problem?   YES.

I believe that although it takes time and practice, if done from a stance of delight and openness, we can, indeed, find the music, the poetry, the creativity necessary to change and compose our lives!  In a letter, penned in 1948, the universally revered Black Elk manifested his own firm stance not only in his sad reality but in Wahan Tanka’s greater reality in his life: “Now my heart is getting sad—but my heart will never turn bad.  Ever since Wahan Tanka (the Lakota name for God) gave light to my heart, it stands in light without end.”

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hope in Advent

In the prophet Isaiah, chapter 11:1 we read, “A shoot shall come from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall from out of his roots.” In this, one verse is the message of both death and life. For me it speaks of hope. Advent is the season, at least in Minnesota, when day light is shorter and dark nights are longer. Every year, the early darkness is a stark reality for me to embrace. I have to remember that it will not be this dark forever. With that in mind, as I yearn for longer days, I wait through the season of Advent, for the birth of Jesus, Jesus who is the new life, the sprout, from the stump of Jesse. As we gather in prayer for Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist, the readings from Isaiah encourage me. They give me hope, knowing that I will celebrate Jesus’ birth once again as was predicted by the prophet Isaiah. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.


Lisa Rose, OSB