Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Happiness Attacks"


Recently I was with a homeless woman who suffers intermittent “panic attacks”.  Her entire body shakes from the pain.  She sits down for a few seconds, and then, has to rise for a brief moment or walk around to ease the terrible pain especially in her legs. While she was with me, all I could do. . .or knew how to do . . .was to hold her and assure her that how she was responding was perfectly O.K.  It must be terrible to live in her skin, so constantly expectant of another “panic attack” though she was not always able to predict just when it would come!

Today I read of another woman who had what she called “happiness attacks."  These started for her when she was a child.  They lasted but a few moments and came whenever “everything was right in her world:" when she was loved, enjoying school, being cared for.  She noticed these wonderful attacks even though they lasted but a moment. And, wonder of wonders, these attacks continued into her adulthood!  What a blessed woman!  I, too, want to be conscious of such “happiness attacks” in my life and call them by their name!

Have you had a “happiness attack” today?  I have! This morning, I saw our little chipmunks voraciously consuming layer after  layer of tiny blue berries on medium-sized trees outside our chapel—four of them!  The chippies were so quick and even intent upon enjoying this feast in an orderly manner, from top branches to the succeeding layer of leaves and fruit!  I could not help but smile and be grateful for such a lovely “happiness attack."

Or you may have witnessed—as I did-- a six month old baby girl sleeping contentedly upon her daddy’s shoulder.  Or was it a simple thoughtful action like that of a young school child holding a door and smiling at the elderly woman carrying her two bags with  minimal contents as she made her way out of the supermarket?

Let us begin to notice our “happiness attacks."  Surely these would calm the “panic attacks” that at times may visit us. . .or at least others for whom “not all things go right in their world.”

 

Renee Domeier, OSB

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Eloise at Five Years Old!


My little neighbor friend turned five. She invited me for her birthday party. She was excited to turn five this summer and proudly beamed she would be going to kindergarten. Eloise is a very precocious, intense and playful five year old. She’s a delight to be with and I have learned so much from her.  Most of us really need a five-year-old friend to keep us grounded in life.

(Photo of Eloise's picture by Trish Dick, OSB)
Yesterday she gave me one of her drawings. She was befuddled about how to draw a five so her mom drew a five on the paper so she could trace it. She made a grand picture for me but decided the five wasn’t how she liked it, so she started over and made her five and then quickly realized her name wouldn’t fit on the page. No problem -- she would write the rest of the letters to her name below.  She proudly gave it to me to hang on my refrigerator.

Eloise taught me that there is beauty in our imperfection. Actually, there is an abundance of life in not getting things right. What mattered the most was her generosity and purity heart in giving this gift. There was no shame in her letters below the five and that is exactly where they needed to be. I mean where else would you put the letters when there is plenty of room there? 

Every day for the Benedictine way of life is a turning – a conversion of our heart. Let us cast our imperfections upon the Everlasting love of God and enjoy the beauty of grace. This is true holiness and purity of heart. Embrace the life of conversion – finding beauty in imperfection and adapt the letters of your life where needed.

 

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

No Going Back


When you hear the words, “There is No Going Back”, what goes through your mind? The phrase “no going back” for me means to build upon what has already been. It means moving forward into my future. I cannot change the past yet I can direct the future. To expand on that thought, for me it means to build upon my experiences. These experiences may be pleasant or unpleasant; yet usually there is growth in what has been part of my past to prepare me for my future. No going back also makes me think twice before I speak because I cannot take back hurtful words. I do not want to regret something I have said to another in a moment of frustration. Whether in action or words, I am continually moving forward in my life. So going back is never an option. I have also learned that every decision I make builds upon a past decision. This thought propels me forward to serve God and to be what God is asking me to be. As a Benedictine sister, there is no going back on my commitment to God or to my community. Each day I move forward in response to God’s call for me. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Generous Listening


(Photo by Martha Maloney)
Krista Tippett, interviewer for public radio’s On Being has been asking provocative questions of her guests over the years. Her concept of generous listening described in her recent book, Becoming Wise, keeps lingering with me.  There seems to be a deep desire rising in many of us to connect with persons on the margins of our everyday experiences… culturally, politically and in our dreaming. Currently our monastery campus is hosting, “Circles of Understanding” between our local Somali neighbors and interested people. Krista Tippett’s invitation to generous listening seems to describe exactly the qualities that might allow us to create an enhanced sense of somehow belonging to one another. She says, “Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability - a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one's own best self and one's own best words and questions.”
Each of us together is gradually finding ways to enhance our sense of belonging to those who once were strangers.  Their stories can teach us about their unique world and our common threads. According to Padraig O’Tuama, a poet, storyteller and theologian, “Creating a sense of belonging both creates and undoes us.” In this “belonging process,” who knows what careful questioning and wise language we may be learning?

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Grace to Stay Silent


Have you ever experienced a desire to "get a word in edgewise” when someone is dominating a conversation? Or perhaps it was you, yourself, who dominated  a conversation so that  no one else could share her good or even better idea . I know both situations. . . but we’re not alone in our experience.  Read what a 17th century nun used to pray; it could become our prayer, as well:

“Lord, Thou knowest better than I that I am growing older and will someday be old.  Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.  Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.  Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.  With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

“Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.  Seal my lips on my aches and pains.  They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less  cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.  Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

“Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint—some of them are so hard to live with—but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.  Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people.  And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”

I can say a resounding “AMEN” to this prayer.  How about you?

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Full Circle of Learning



“Learning” is a word that, at 57 years old, I relish and embrace. As a matter of fact, the older I get the more I have an expansive curiosity about the world around me and the desire to learn about it.  My learning is sometimes random and sometimes intentional, sometimes it leads to more and more interest and then other times I just scratch the surface and move on. I am learning to embrace this rhythm in my life and, the more I accept it, the more lighthearted and playful is my soul.

What I truly love is when my learning comes full circle! For example, I remember the first time I bought a house and inherited all these plants and a garden. I frankly couldn’t tell or know if it was a weed or a flower. As a child I was too busy riding a bike, swimming or playing softball in the summer to learn about plants or a garden. Except I knew I loved fresh green beans from the garden and that was just taken for granted. Now the rhythm of curious learning beset me and my master-teacher was my best friend who taught me and continues to teach me about plants, gardens, and the art of canning. And on my curvy path of learning I’ve had success and, of course, failure but I learned through both methods! The gift my friend gave me was the love of gardening.

This year I have had the opportunity to share my love of gardening with some neighbors who bought their first house. As we journeyed together to figure out what was a plant and weed, why deadheading was important, and which plants needed and wanted shade I began to see the love of learning to garden being seeded in my neighbor and my soul sang and skipped with joy. I also knew a paced learning and tending to the garden would cultivate motivation rather than overwhelming her with a “learn it all now” approach. I understood this from the Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 64: 13, where we are advised wanted to avoid extremes, in case, by rubbing too hard to remove the rust, we may break the vessel.  When we were working in the garden one evening my neighbor asked me, “How do you know all this stuff?”  I replied, “The same way you are learning, from a friend who helped when I acquired my first home.” And then I added, “Someday you will opportunity to teach someone else.”  “Really?”  And I replied wholeheartedly, “Yes!”  

This is the joy of coming full circle in learning, but more importantly the call of the Gospel for each of us – go and make disciples, mentor, teach, and pass the baton of the gift of your knowledge to the next generation. St. Benedict intuitively understood the Gospel and discipleship as important parts of living the Rule. He called his community a” school of the Lord’s service”. He wants us to learn from one another. He also refers to his community as a workshop where we use the tool of good works. 

I encourage all of us to look, listen and share generously and graciously the gifts and knowledge bestowed on us by the Spirit so that we may experience the joy of giving and the beauty of empowering – soul gardening. 

 Trish Dick, OSB

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fourth of July


(Fireworks over our Monastery
Photo by Postulant Laura Suhr)
What memories come to mind when you think about the 4th of July?  Do you have any family traditions? Some of my memories focus on family, fun, and swimming at “The Lake.” Along with picnics and fireworks, the day was complete. For as long as I can remember my family celebrated July 4th with some cousins at our family lake cabin. So now, fifty years later the family tradition has changed very little, yet for me the meaning of the day has changed quite a bit. As an adult, I recognize the holiday as more than picnics and fireworks. It is time to thank God for His many blessings bestowed on us every day. It is a time to thank all the women and men who currently serve in the armed forces and protect us every day. As we take time to remember our country today, let us also remember the women and men who protected our country in the past. An interesting fact about July 4 you may not know about. It was on July 4, 1852, when the first sisters arrived from Eichstätt and set foot on American soil in the midst of parades and celebrations. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB