Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Monastics First and Foremost

Photo: Nancy Bauer, OSB

Have you ever wondered how a Benedictine monastery functions? Or what kind of person would choose to enter a monastic community when there are so many opportunities “in the world”? Or perhaps you ask what it means to be “in the world” but not “of it.” Indeed, who would find it reasonable to follow the bell calling one to prayer seven times a day, no matter what one must leave undone to traverse the farm or orchard, kitchen or scriptorium to pray for 15 minutes with the other cowled or coiffured members of the community? At St. Alcuin’s Monastery, there are Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None and Compline, a rhythm of prayer that necessarily intersperses the work and holy leisure of this 14th century horarium described in Penelope Wilcock’s 9-volume series entitled The Hawk and the Dove.

If Brother Robert chafes when he hears the 3 o'clock bell calling him and his 30 brother monks to prayer as yet another “interruption” that keeps him from finishing the harvest, it is understandable until his loving and kind Abbot John reminds him what Robert already knows: he is a monk first and then a farmer, or cook, or orchard caretaker, or calligrapher, or whatever other work any of his brother monks has been assigned.

These 31 monks are exquisitely described by Wilcock, each curiously individual, who in their human struggle to be faithful, bring one another into community—not easily, but humbly enough to keep on learning, changing, forgiving and being forgiven until faith and faithfulness make each individual an integral part of their beloved community, able to withstand idiosyncrasies and gradually to be stitched together with love. It takes willingness and courage to say “Yes” again and again and again...but that’s what makes St. Alcuin’s monastic community a “beloved community,” a treasure hidden in a vast field of 14th century England. Human frailty eventually mollifies into a blessed divinity and creates the full image of Christ.

You will love and learn from Penelope Wilcock’s The Hawk and the Dove! I finished my second reading of all 9 volumes. I may return to the library again soon; St. Alcuin’s Monastery describes a sense of belonging, of home, for me!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What Dad Taught Me


This past June, I attended a course at the Monastic Institute titled "Passions and Prayer." Through the course readings, lectures and discussions, I learned or was reminded of many liturgical signs that I have recently taken for granted. One liturgical sign that had a renewed impact on me was the Sign of the Cross. Learning once again that when one makes the sign of the cross, she/he is showing an act of their faith, I immediately remembered a memory of my dad as he was laying in his hospice bed. One day as I was sitting in the living room with him, he began making the sign of the cross, repeating the gesture many times. Every so often, he would seem to become stuck and begin again. He knew what he was doing; I simply watched and pondered what this could mean.

During his life, dad was a man of few words; however, in this simple profound gesture, he was teaching me what he believed; words were not necessary. For me, as an observer, he was demonstrating that his love of Jesus was strong. He was living his faith until his last breath, which came quietly in the morning hours on November 25, 2016. Dad has been gone for two years now, yet this lesson of faith continues to teach me.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Prayers on Election Day

Photo from Pexels.com

As election day approaches, it seems fitting to reflect prayerfully on how we cast our votes to ensure that people who will promote Gospel values are elected. We ask you to “Vote Your Values” with the help of the Social Justice and Ministry Committee of Saint John the Baptist Parish, Collegeville, Minn, and pray each day with United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity,
especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,
Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment
so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,
live your love,
and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Important Happenings in the Catholic Church

Two unusually important happenings in the Catholic Church this season include the V Encuentro (Spanish for “encounter”) that met in Grapevine, Texas, from September 20 - 23, after many prior gatherings on the parish, diocesan and regional levels,  and the Synod of Bishops currently meeting in Rome. Both meetings focus on young adults who, as part of the Body of Christ, or as “strangers among us,” have been asked to express their ideas and dreams about the church rather than leave it, as well as their dreams for building a future of freedom among us.

Given the scandals currently experienced, both on the political as well as ecclesial levels, the V Encuentro message was a special call to Latin/Hispanic young adults to express their experiences amidst the escalation of dehumanizing treatment over the past 4 years...and the call to us, as citizens and as church, to heed the oft-repeated message of Pope Francis: Welcome the migrants! Build bridges, not walls! It is Jesus who walks among us in the form of the poor and needy. Migrants guide us toward God.

Idealistic, unrealizable calls, from the V Encuentro? Only if, in our self-centeredness, we choose to be losers in the eyes of God and in the rich culture our immigrant ancestors have created for us!

The second important happening is going on before our very eyes, unless we choose to be blind to the press or internet accounts of the Synod of Bishops, which opened in Rome on October 3 and will continue until the end of October. According to the Catholic News Service, and the perspective of one editorial, Phyllis Zagano, a basic decision needs to be made as to whether all members of the church have a right to vote: the bishops, the invited observers, lay people, including women and some 300 young adults who serve in their parishes. Youth, especially, male and female, are asking to be heard, to be taken seriously; they wish to act responsibly and publicly as Catholics. What can be the future of the church if she gives voice to the voiceless? How can the Body of Christ rise again to full stature? What message will the Synod of Bishops give to the entire church? Please stay tuned. Pray for these brothers and sisters meeting in our name. We need help, don’t we?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Power of Words

Photo by Pexels.com

Scripture says, “When Jesus spoke, even demons heard his Word.”

Words matter! Words are powerful! Words are also humble, searching and colorful! Most words have multiple meanings! “We speak eternal languages: the syntax of wind, the diction of doves. Our tongues are tongues of fire. No one knows how we know what we know but the Spirit who taught us words to speak of these realities,” says a Presbyterian clergywoman and Benedictine oblate (Give Us This Day, Liturgical Press, 9/4/2018).

But our parlance in many sectors of our society, today—in the streets, on Twitter, on TV programs, to mention but a few—can only be characterized as a travesty of our gift of language, words, communication! We lack respect for words! We forget that, having listened to or used words in such devastating ways, WE, in turn, are being formed by those words! Rachel Scrubas continues: “Evil is no respecter of holy days or places, but a violator of souls who want nothing more than to hear the Word of God...” (Ibid.) We, as intelligent and sensitively-loving human beings are meant to speak as intelligent, sensitive and loving human beings!

Do you believe that we are able to temper our hateful language and foster loving expression? I do. We can turn off some of those TV programs, computerized comments, negative talk shows—as well as our own—lest they fill our minds and hearts, spoiling our responses to one another as reasonable and loving participants of a democracy where EACH of us can repeat, gratefully: “We the people are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Are YOU happy with your use of words? Are you alert to what is happening to you and through your words? Do you truly respect words, as well as the person(s) to whom you listen or speak? We can change!

What is there about Jesus’ words? We will know, once—the Spirit willing—we have the mind of Christ!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Apprehend God in All Things

Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.

Meister Eckhart


Every day when Blue Bonnet (BB) and I come to Shodair Hospital, we are greeted with a friendly hello and a smile. Regardless of my agenda or time constraints, BB stops to greet everyone, and when I tug her along, she stubbornly stops and insists that she be petted. BB distinctly and intuitively understands the gift of being present to everyone she meets. She has a remarkable gift to be hospitable to patients and staff when they need her the most. As well, she is keenly aware of people she does not trust or feel safe with. One day I was talking to a patient in my office and she was on her bed resting. When the conversation went into a very dark context of violence and killing, BB got up, went to the door and requested to leave. What struck me was her self-regulation of knowing her limits and the kind of energy she wanted to be around.

Shodair Hospital has recently started an outpatient school for troubled children with mental health issues. Last week when I was eating lunch with the director of education, one of the teachers came and grabbed me. They had exhausted all their resources trying to calm a boy down and asked if BB and I would go and meet with the boy. BB and I took the boy to the gym. I gave the boy some treats and asked him go to a corner and squat down to BB’s eye level. When he got there, I told him to call BB and I would release her. His mood of agitation melted to joy as BB ran to the patient with exuberance to get a treat. I asked the patient to run back to me and race BB, and so we began this process for 20 minutes of BB and him running back and forth. With some exercise and oxytocin he received from BB, we were able to shift him out of his prefrontal lobe and regain control of his emotional state. He told me his story of hearing demons and I took him back to my office and anointed him with some healing oil and blessed his mind, heart and hands.

BB did the work that most of us humans often fail to produce  unconditional love, non-judgment and giving this boy a hands-on experience of being cherished as BB ran toward him with glee as well as the warmth of tactile stimulation. For BB, it was just another playful day in her life, but for the hospital staff, if was a continuous confirmation of the gift of grace and hospitality of BB. She continues to teach me through her life to work and be present, to live humbly, to just be the divine creation I was created to be and give and receive love without any strings attached - well, maybe a few treats. And for goodness sake Trish, learn to roll in the grass after work – release the stress of each day back to creation and our Creator.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Prayer Space

Photo of Sacred Heart Chapel by Susan Sink

This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit an Indian village in North Dakota called Slant Village. As I walked around the five mud and grass-type dwellings covering logs, which appeared to be the main support system of the structure, it was amazing to look into the past and vision how these people lived. 

Their life was not an easy one. Fire pits in the middle of the space used for cooking and a source of heat were central in each dwelling. Some information I read informed me that a dwelling was usually a home to the extended family, so a real sense of community was evident. 

One dwelling in particular caught me off guard. It was the largest one in the circle. As I entered it, I stopped, aware of a presence I had not experienced in the other dwellings. This dwelling, arranged with benches around the central fire pit, told me it was a worship space. I wanted to sit in the space, alone, yet many other people like me were touring the village. I said to a companion in my group, "This must have been the prayer space; do you feel the Spirit here?" I really wanted to shout to everyone, "Be quiet; this is the Church of the village." It reminded me of our Chapel where we sit in a circle around the altar in praise and worship as a community every day. I was grateful to walk into the church of the past in this village.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB