Thursday, April 11, 2019

Way Back Then

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When I wanted
To get it all right
I indulged in
A tediously lengthy
And partially sincere
Catalog of my iniquities.
But then I had a crib sheet
So that no fault would feel left
Out.


My confessor,
An aging portly monk,
Had one good ear
And one bad. The joke
Was he listened
With the bad. For him
There was nothing
New under the sun.


And then, with a sigh, after I
Had filed each sin by number
And title, he turned to face me
Unimpressed
With my depravity,
Or even with my
Small spirit,
And with the warmest smile,
Looked me straight in the eye,
Charles, you must realizeYou are a child of grace.For your penanceYou must learnThe art and joyOf simple gratitude.


(Previously “Gratitude”)

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Lord, Teach Us to Pray


As I write this, it is snowing, sufficient to give a context to at least one line of my blog! And secondly, I will decide NOT to list again the reasons why it is a “December kind of day”! Instead, I ask you to join me in singing Joe Wise’s poignantly expressed song of the 1970s where he brings it all together in our human minds and hearts, and I believe that our song and prayer will lift it all into the very Heart of God during this Lenten season. Let us pray:

Lord, teach us to pray...
It’s been a long and cold December kind of day
With our hearts and hands all busy in our private little wars
We stand and watch each other now from separate shores
We lose the way.

I need to know today the way things should be in my head.
I need to know for once now the things that should be said.
I’ve got to learn to walk around as if I were not dead.
I’ve got to find a way to learn to live. (Refrain)

I still get so distracted by the color of my skin.
I still get so upset now when I find that I don’t win.
I meet so many strangers—I’m slow to take them in.
I’ve got to find a way to really live. (Refrain)

I stand so safe and sterile as I watch a man fall flat.
I’m silent with a man who’d like to know just where I’m at.
With the aged and the lonely I can barely tip my hat.
I need to see the sin of “I don’t care.” (Refrain)

I stand so smug and sure before the people I’ve out-guessed.
To let a man be who he is I still see as a test.
And when it all comes down to “must,” I’m sure my way is best.
I’ve got to find what “room” means in my heart. (Refrain)

Lord, teach us to pray.
We believe that we can find a better way.
Teach us to pray. We lose the way.
Teach us to pray.

Thank you, dear readers, for joining me in prayer.  I love you.

And all the people said: AMEN.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, April 4, 2019

St. Margaret, Queen of the Scots

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I have recently returned from a trip to Ireland and Scotland. I left with memories of a lifetime and a newfound respect for how these early Christians fought to sustain and renew their Catholic heritage. One of the historical sites visited left an almost mystical impression. Edinburgh Castle is what legends are made of, but it is a real castle, where real people lived their lives for centuries. Walking the grounds, hearing the history and viewing the artifacts was a humbling experience. 

The oldest building on the grounds of the castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in the 1100 AD. This chapel was saved from destruction by Robert de Bruce when the Scots were fighting for their independence from England in 1314 AD. A small abode with lack of splendor on the exterior, the interior was humble, as well. However, light beamed through the small stained-glass windows and flowers adorned the tiny altar. The chapel belonged to St. Margaret, queen of Scotland, who lived from 1047 to 1093. What I found most intriguing about St. Margaret’s was she was Benedictine educated; she followed the Rule of St. Benedict during her lifetime. 

While Margaret married King Malcolm and they raised eight children, she continued to lead a life of prayer, helping the poor and convincing her husband, the King, to distribute money to the needy. Her husband so loved her holy books containing the prayers and psalms she read daily, he had the books covered with gold and jewels. Margaret also raised the funds to build a Benedictine monastery at Dunfermline. 

Truly a woman of influence during this historical period, she never stopped living according to the Rule of St. Benedict according to the text written. Was this the first oblate of Scotland? Of the world? After all, she did not live a cloistered, monastic life, but one of the world. Even to this day, a Chapel Guild still pays tribute to this woman. Twice weekly, fresh flowers are placed on the altar to remind visitors of the holy life St. Margaret, queen of the Scots, lived.

As I reflect on her life, I ask myself this question: “If this woman of the 1,100 century could be an oblate according to the Rule of St. Benedict, what lessons and principles does she offer me in my journey as an oblate?” 

Mary Baier, OblSB

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Hardest Thing to Do

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This is the hardest thing to do”? Author Penelope Willcocks has written a book with the title, The Hardest Thing to Do. She writes about her characters, monks in Saint Alcuin’s Abbey in the 14th century. Her gifted writing brings the monks to life. One example she acknowledges occurs as a novice whispers to himself, “This is the hardest thing to do” when he is closing a door as quietly as possible. Another time, when the abbot is addressing a difficult situation, he speaks softly to himself, “This is the hardest thing to do.” I have uttered these words especially when doing something for the first time. It may be as I am preparing to lead prayers, learning a new psalm tone or when asked to write an article for a publication. In the end, it usually turns out fine, and through the experience, I have gained confidence in myself. For me, simply saying the words “This is the hardest thing to do” helps me acknowledge that I do not want to give up, so I try a little harder to do a task a little better. I have learned to depend on God for assistance. Daily living in the monastery is a school if I am open to listen and learn. In fact, Saint Benedict calls the monastery a "school for the Lord's service."

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Stardust

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A little over three weeks ago, many heard these words: “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Thus began Lent.

What if you heard—

"Creator God, biblical poets tell us you fashioned us from the clay of the earth giving us life from your own breath. On Ash Wednesday, many hear '...to dust you shall return,' let us begin to reflect what it means to be reduced to stardust which is smaller than clay, smaller than dust, but larger than life…"?

For almost 20 years, we leave church with glittering foreheads and a joyful anticipation of Lent. Of course, you don’t need glitter to have a joyful experience. Joy is more than laughter and being happy. However, since we have united the findings of science and biblical poetry, many persons talk about how Lent has changed for them because we use stardust as a starting point and not ashes.

“I don’t think of giving up something anymore. I ask myself what I can do for someone else...to make their day shine.”

“It’s just a way for me to be aware that we are an Easter people.”

“Oh, I still need to repent but there’s a difference now. It’s more a half full glass.”

“At first I thought the earth was going to swallow me up for blasphemy but I know, I believe God loves what we’re doing. Glitter crosses on our foreheads—what a hoot!”

If you might be skeptical, please watch Rev. George Coyne, a Roman Catholic priest and scientist, tell us how upon physical death, we are reduced, not to dust, but to stardust.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Adult Coloring

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When I first heard of “adult coloring,” I was intrigued because I remembered coloring as a fun activity from childhood. I liked doing it with others or by myself. My sister and I may even have had coloring contests. At the local craft store, I found tons of supplies. What did I want? I thought about crayons, but decided to go with colored pencils. I soon found out, however, that for my tastes, the colors were not bright enough. Again, I tried to engage my sister, but she brushed me off saying that she had passed the stage of coloring. I was not deterred, however, and went back to the store to see what else they might offer. Of course, they had books that were much more sophisticated, but what was more intriguing were the gel pens.

Ready for my new experience, I started coloring some mandalas. These designs gave me a sense of creating something more beautiful than just a simple picture. The designs came alive on the page, but even more so I became relaxed while doing them because I went into a sort of trance. Being totally absorbed in choosing colors, staying inside the lines and mixing and matching odd colors, I realized that the relaxation happened because the activity is totally and completely unrelated to my usual routine. I was definitely having fun, and yet I was not totally satisfied because in many ways, I was only doing a slight upgrade from childhood coloring.

Well, God never lets me down because almost immediately I met another Benedictine sister who told me about Bible journaling. No, it is not Bible study in the “old” way, but rather adding color and art to it! If you use the internet, you can find all sorts of possibilities until one suits you. However, I liked the idea of using an actual Bible, so I bought one and now am much more delighted when I have colored a design or picture on the extended page beside Psalm 139, while I whisper my favorite line from it: “Oh, Lord, you know me, and you love me.”

Now, I am meditating in a much more satisfying way.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Touch of Spring

Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB

At this point when our calendars mark the spring equinox, the skies are emptying out lots of of snow upon Mother Earth. I also received an email entitled "A Touch of Spring" with the subtitle, "We're all ready for a bit of spring." I love snow, but this time the irony was more than I could resist. I was delighted, opened the attachment and found an interactive piece before me.

Using the mouse, I could click as often and wherever I chose on a completely black screen. Frankly, I went a bit wild! At one little click, I could present to the black screen a multitude of flowers, spring flowers. In a matter of seconds, I felt as if I were a creator of beauty. Soon I had a veritable flower garden! Fresh spring green leaves and stems, sky-blue flowers, yellow daisies, bubble-like and graceful fronds, orange, purple, peach blossoms popped up wherever I chose to place them. Some were double-petaled, tall and proud; others bent over slightly, forming a graceful welcome to my eye. There were larger flowers, the size of a quarter, and tiny ones, the size of an earring. Sometimes there were different kinds of flowers rising out of the same stem. One was in the form of a cross; all the rest shouted out "New Life" or "Resurrection" or "Come alive; yes, YOU too!" There were even firecracker blossoms. If I stayed in the same spot on the screen and clicked multiple times at that spot, I marveled at the wonderful overlapping colors, textures and designs. Everything seemed to fit; everything was full of light.

A TOUCH OF SPRING? Oh yes! Yet there was more. For me, it was a reminder of how God must have delighted in creation...and still delights in that creation, every new season. It's no surprise, then, that God saw that it was good, that it was very good!

Renée Domeier, OSB