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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hope Through the Love of Christ

(Girls, God and Good Times Camp
Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
I love the season of summer. I love it for a combination of reasons.  There seems be a more relaxed schedule; there is the hustle and bustle of the noise of children outside playing; and there is the unfolding of the beauty of the earth seen in the many flowers, plants and trees. The gardens are full of little sprouts of hope that desire to bear fruit. I am amazed that these little seeds sprout not knowing what the future holds for them. They could be wiped out by the nibbling of cute little critters who are eager for some fresh nourishment. A rain cloud could decides to ping down hail that tears and flattens them. The heat of the sun could scorch them and a human creature forget to water and nourish them. Yet even when they confronted with adverse conditions, these sprouts are resilient and, with some tender loving care, come back to life with a daunting, generous hope of becoming a part of the sustaining beauty of the earth.

I think of the book of Ecclesiastes where it says there is a season and time for everything. Shauna Niequist, in her book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, states that there is a season for wildness and a season for settledness and this is neither. This season is about becoming.  Hope is about becoming in whatever season we find ourselves.  I do have to admit I am a slower, but impatient, learner at times. The season of becoming and unfolding can be awkward, clumsy and lack coherence.  Yet we Benedictines are given a way to understand the season of becoming through the Rule of St. Benedict, where he stresses the love of Christ as the focal point. The love of Christ is the center of our growth process.  We put hope in Christ and in becoming no matter where we are or how clumsy the process. 

If you find you have little critters of criticism nibbling at your hope of becoming, clouds of voices pinging down doubts of unfolding, or are feeling the sun’s scorning rays of discouragement, then press on in the love of Christ. In Benedict’s Rule, verse 74, Chapter 4, called “The Tools of Good Works,” he admonishes us to not to despair or lose hope in God’s mercy.  That hope may often be found in another person with a watering can, who gently waters your spirit back into the season of becoming.  Ask yourself whether today you are the watering can or the sprout needing nourishment? 

May we all find our anchor of life in the hope of becoming through the love of Christ.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Nectar of Godness

Quieting our being to allow centering prayer to happen is not always easy.  Quiet can so readily give space to unresolved circular thoughts and feelings.  It reminds me a bit of sitting near a hummingbird feeder and noticing the whirring of the bird’s wings.  The rapidly moving wings and the perfect stillness of the rest of the bird’s body presents an amazing contrast.  It seems as though it would take a significant amount of nectar-energy to sustain this simultaneous wing movement and quiet body floatation.

(Photo by Kippy Stuhr)

As we are quieting ourselves for centering prayer, we may begin to notice our brain whirring like the wings of a hummingbird. While we long to connect with the quietness of our body, our brain-wings are simultaneously busy at work. Fortunately, if we can acknowledge our whirring thoughts and feelings and candidly but gently let our brain know that those are “not needed right now”, we can create within ourselves connected moments of inner space for Godness. In this sacred space, the nectar of God’s presence can slowly nurture and transform us.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

“Every sunrise is God’s greeting; every sunset, His signature.”

(Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
This morning I experienced God’s personal greeting!  I sat by Watab Lake, in the inky darkness, waiting. 

God is never late; it was 5:55, Central Standard Time.  And at that moment, through an opening in the overcast sky, the sun began to rise, as Emily Dickinson says, “a ribbon at a time”. 
As if there had been a reveille call, the purple martens exited their wooden house to sing to the sun. 
A wild duck perched herself on a post to my left. . .
and stayed there for more than half an hour looking and listening. 
After taking a belabored flight, no doubt stiff from too much
standing on a tiny round space, a blackbird took
the stand.  
There’s more.  The slight wind not only moved the waves downstream, but played with the leaves on most of the trees.  They were happy too:
such stability of place! such freedom to move within
their circumscribed orbits!
 Not like the dozen birds who wafted easily from one branch to another, never hitting their heads but alighting-- with grace—atop
the branches. I remembered one of our Schola
directors telling us to sing chant that way: “on top of the note, like the birds approach their destination; and therefore, not flat, neither distorting the chant nor
hurting ears sensitive to pitch!

Oh, what a lovely morning! What a glorious greeting from our God!  What will the next hours open up to me? 

I’ll keep on looking and listening.  Tonight I’ll be grateful to read God’s signature in the sunset!
Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"The Alchemist"

Luminous Lodge Retreat
In the book, “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Caelho we meet a shepherd boy named Santiago. The story tells the reader about Santiago’s search for a hidden treasure in a faraway land. As he embarks on the journey, he sells his sheep and the adventure begins. He meets a variety of people along the way; some rob him of everything he owns, while others teach him the skills of survival in a strange land. Eventually he meets the Alchemist, who teaches Santiago to be true to himself. The Alchemist teaches him that in trusting and believing in himself, he can become his true self. He tells him it is there in his heart where he will find his treasure. As Santiago learns from the Alchemist, he is transformed. He learns to look beyond what he can see to the things he cannot see. He learns to look into himself, into his heart, and listen to what is most important to his life. Santiago finds his treasure through love, love of self and love of life through transformed eyes. So where is your hidden treasure in your life? Here at Saint Benedict’s Monastery we journey with one another through community living and listening to one another. We help one another find our own hidden treasure, as together we seek God. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.