Thursday, November 14, 2019

Listening in Silence

Photo: Nancy Bauer, OSB

On account of the importance of silence, let permission to speak seldom be granted even to perfect disciples.” Rule of Saint Benedict

I first visited a Benedictine monastery in 1954. What struck me most was the gentle and relaxed silence of that place. There were designated times and spaces where one did not speak. There was nothing unnatural or spooky about it. I soon was accustomed to it and I began to relax.

I had come home. In Saint Benedict’s Rule, he writes, “On account of the importance of silence, let permission to speak seldom be granted even to perfect disciples.” Wow! Even to “perfect disciples.” Benedict knew that one of the needs for community is time when we do not speak.

My wife, Jana, and I do not live in a monastery, but silent love is the foundation of our life. Of course we have plenty of time to converse, but it is godly silence that binds us. It is silence that binds us in a very human relationship and holds our words. Benedict writes, “Listen, my child, to the precepts of the master, and incline the ear of your heart.” This wonderful, astounding word, “Listen.” We cannot truly listen without the gift of silence. We cannot hear God except in silence. We cannot truly hear another person unless we have learned to listen. One of the most loving things we can do is to learn to live in silence so that we may listen with love. Benedict knew this so well. Even the perfect disciple needs silence to listen. I know if community is to abound, we need silence. Only with God’s silence can we hear one another.

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Greatness

Photo by Aaron Schwartz from Pexels.com

Have you also wondered how and when we began to become so polarized, so divided, as a people in our so-called United States? Or how our Statue of Liberty’s message is no longer true of our country’s emphasis? We seem more and more given to reject rather than accept refugees, immigrants, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses at our shores: values, words and action we so proudly proclaimed, prior to this last decade.

If, in rejecting those huddled masses at our shore, what if we have silenced a Beethoven or a Mozart among the diverse peoples that seek entrance here? Or what if a poet laureate, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient were among those deported? Or a chess champion who may have drowned close to our shores?

Is it that we continue to think that “they” will deplete our funds, our jobs, our possessions? Might we imagine, at least imagine, how some whom we are rejecting could be the very ones to “make us great again”?

We don’t know where greatness will come from. It seems to me that we deny our own freedom and possibilities when we deny freedom and possibilities to others. Actually we need diversity! Nationalism is debilitating! Refugees and immigrants—throughout our history—have been the answer to establishing new directions in our country.

We create the world we want by the choices we make and the stories we live by. When will we learn that truth again?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Predictability

Photo: Pexels.com

Predictability. It’s a good word. The small town in which I grew up offers all of that and more. My best guess is that your small town offers the likes of this, too. When things are predictable, life offers stability, and with stability foundations are built. When foundations can be trusted then our comfort is secure…and when we feel secure we can offer predictability to others around us.

Little things…as little as views out a window can be something that is predictable. I recently read about someone who’d taken pictures of lilacs in full bloom. They noted that it was a reminder of the view they’d had out their window while growing up. It was the scent of lilacs outside this window that greeted and brought comfort. There was the element of the familiar, the stable, the predicable.

I recall a predictable scene from my childhood. Each night from my second story window, I peered out upon the lamp lit street after dusk. The scene before me brought comfort. Mid-summer air conditioning was not a force to be reckoned with back then, and the quietude offered via the slight breeze was predictable. Recognizable was Duke’s gray tank like car parked curbside across from our house, and next to it was Mamie’s house where there was a large concrete wall which held back her neatly mowed yard. Just up from that was the brick church we attended as a family, and if one followed the sidewalk on up the path, one would eventually come to the school, the library…parts of the community offered to all who lived among us.

Today, the brown bricked church remains steadfast continuing to point the way for many a pilgrim. It is predictable when I enter because although some forty years have passed, Glenna still prays in pew. She remains steadfast. Shari’s smile greets announcing all is well. Alisha reaches hand out to grasp, and the baptismal font stabilizes many as does His Word spoken this day. Many a church bell rings inviting all who hear to the table of grace. It’s predictable.

A drive through town turns up a friend walking briskly with husband. Recognizable they are as their family owned the local grocery for many a decade. The store remains the hub of predictability. Although the market is no longer operated by them, the location is the same and so I enter…just because it’s not really a visit home unless you enter the hometown grocers.

I make my way to dad’s house. He is there. Within his favorite chair he sits…waving one finger in the air. It’s a familiar greeting. I like it. It comforts. It is predictable. When dad would drive down the highway of life, he’d greet the oncoming cars in similar fashion. They could never hear his predictable greeting, but I did. “Hey buddy,” he would say all friendly like.

Hometowns are like this. Each has their mainstays along main and for the most part, they are predictable.

However, there is One who is more predictable. There is One who never changes in an ever changing world. He is the One who will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He is ever present (Ps. 46:1). He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13). He is who He says He is and there is none like Him (Is. 46:9). And, it just doesn’t get any more predictable than that.

He not only stabilizes, but He anchors (Heb. 6:19). As He anchors as the Rock…I appreciate His predictability. As Heb. 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug, OblSB

This blog was first published on Theology in the Trenches, written and maintained by Oblate Kathleen Kjolhaug. Reposted with permission.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

See You Later

Sister Lois Wedl (right) hugging a friend.

My aunt, Virgie, never liked to say goodbye; she preferred to say, “See you later.” Her reason was that goodbye was too defining for her, yet the greeting “I’ll see you later” left things open, even anticipating our next encounter. I have grown to appreciate her piece of wisdom over the years. By replacing a goodbye with a good night, enjoy the rest of your day or see you later. For this reason, I can anticipate our next visit with a sense of hope and gratitude for our relationship. I appreciate this open-ended greeting because it gives me positive energy believing that yes, our paths will cross again.

As I reflected more upon the words “See you later,” I was reminded that even in death we can depend upon our Christian belief and faith in the Resurrection that we will see our loved ones again. Another way I enjoy hearing these words is when guests leave the monastery after having celebrated the Eucharist with us. We encourage our guests to come back and worship with us again week after week as we say, “Please come again.”

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Do You Have A Jim in Your Life?

Photo: Elle Hughes from Pexels.com

I pray that you do…have a Jim in your life, that is.

Jim was his name. Inspiration was his point. Inspire was the gear he shifted into throughout all of life. Teacher by trade, he was, and teacher is what he lived. Example setter, dad, husband, and infuser of possibilities is what his smile resonated when he looked upon others.

He lived a full life according to the words printed on paper. His obituary was solid enough, but if you knew him at all…it was in 3-D that you saw those words which all but jumped off the page. You see, his life was more alive than the words in print and truth-be-told, it wasn’t even about Jim. Rather, it was what Jim knew within the Word he read that made him who he was.

I met Jim after he’d retired from teaching, and long after he’d traveled abroad to faraway places. By this time, his family was mostly grown, yet they remained central in his life. When I first saw Jim, he was behind a kitchen serving line, serving with a smile that resonated hope at a Bible Camp which could have easily been named after him, Inspiration Point. With his wife, Ellie, of many years, they were an inseparable team. They worked as one welcoming the stranger.

With a strong embrace of a handshake or a nod of the head, he encouraged campers, staff, and all whom he served…while smiling. Funny thing is I don’t remember him speaking much but rather, faithfully living love. It was as if he was girded with a strength far deeper than the eye could see.

His white hair hadn’t always been that color, you know…but symbolic it was. Like salt pouring out of the shaker, he touched tens of thousands in ways everlasting. You see, he knew well the legacy he was leaving on this earth and that none of it was about him. No, it was not about him. Rather, it was about his desire to lift up and inspire others to live for the very same Jesus who not only shed light in this world but who shed His very blood.

What could Jim possibly live that hadn’t already been lived through the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ? There was nothing more Jim could live out, and he knew it. He could not add one more ounce of anything to what had been done on that cross. Therein was the secret to his smile, and the point of his passionate desire to inspire.

Jim’s secret was not to replace anything that had been done, but rather to confidently resonate that which the Lord Jesus Christ was living through him. He knew his source. Jim knew from where his strength came. He did not lean onto his own understanding, but in all his ways acknowledged Him so He would direct Jim’s path (Prov. 3:6).  

Grateful Jim was as he made his plans and allowed the Lord to direct his footsteps (Prov. 16:9).

Jim was a man after God’s own heart, like David. He lived by example, confessed with a contrite heart, and knew he was fully human while the God he served was fully divine.

Jim knew the Divine as he readily prayed how the Lord had taught: “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” (Matt. 6:9-13).

May Jim live on in us…only to the extent that like Jim, we get out of the way in order to make way…so He might make a way through His only begotten Son who lives and reigns both now and forever. 

“The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be move” (Ps. 93:1). Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug, OblSB

This blog was first published on Theology in the Trenches, written and maintained by Oblate Kathleen Kjolhaug. Reposted with permission.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Woven Together

Photo: Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.com

Tonight [October 16] was Sister Roberta Werner’s wake.

Sixty-one years ago, we sat in a circle of 35 young women aspiring to become monastics.

In June of 1959, 20 of us became novices.

With Roberta’s death, six women remain monastics of our original 35. Some have died, others answered God’s call to different parts of the vineyard.

My heart was full as I saw women accompany Roberta’s body into the chapel.

Suddenly, my mind was captured by a kaleidoscope of memories woven into the present:

I find my place as a postulant right by the huge granite pillar on the left, as a novice and junior in Schola. Benedict—teenagers we were, and now women we have become—each woman coming into chapel is a heart tug—each one, in some way is still, or newly, connected to the 35 of us in 1959—our hopes and dreams, our lives lived out. Benedict—at the center of it all.

Ora et labora—washing dishes and changing diapers, prayer in the 70s—short stops to saying “hi” to the Divine when toddlers tugged at my skirt or cried in my arms. Benedictine women who came before me and all of us together—here right now! Learning Hospitality—a shortcut to welcoming all races, all religions, all gender orientation—no exceptions.

Singing broke through my reverie. How I have missed monastic liturgy.

Many young faces 61 years ago fade in and out of my thoughts. Where are you, my sisters? Our lives are truly woven together in inexplicable ways. I no longer can name you, but I linger on your images as Roberta’s eulogy is being given and memories from those days are spoken. We’re all there and we’re all here, Roberta. You brought us together.

Don’t you dare rest in peace. Keep on making us laugh and bringing us together.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Connections in the Amazon

Photo: David Riaño Cortés from Pexels.com

As you are reading this blog, the Pan-Amazon Synod of Bishops is in session in Brazil and will be running until October 27. Called by Pope Francis, we can be sure he is encouraging the bishops from Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and French Guyana to focus not only on the specific concerns of these nine countries, but on the connections this Amazon area has on—literally—the entire hemisphere and beyond. About 2.8 million people, speaking 230 different languages, inhabit this territory which extends across the unimaginable expanse of some 3,728,227 miles of land. What is the meaning of those statistics and/or the connections between regions, to say nothing of the Amazon basin currently devastated by fire, mass movements of people forced out of their homes into urban areas or the effects of deforestation that have affected the climate across our hemisphere! There is no doubt that this ecosystem is currently being disrupted by floods, extreme temperatures, fluctuations affecting anyone’s ability to earn a living.

So what does Pope Francis, author of Laudato Si (Care for our Common Home), suggest? That the Bishops remember that everything is connected; that each of us is responsible to each other; that we must discover—together—new paths for the Church in the Amazon region to promote an integral ecology and, therein, to find ways for the Christian community to respond to injustice, poverty, inequality, violence and exclusion! Does this surprise us, knowing Pope Francis’ repeated emphasis on the fact that care for creation can never be separated from all other aspects of Christian life?

Let us pray for the Pan-Amazon Synod of Bishops...

Renée Domeier, OSB