Thursday, August 22, 2019

Thank You, God


I have cats because I am afraid of mice.

My cats do not like mice either. My farm is fair game for anyone who thinks all people in the country will take an animal they no longer want. This is how my cats came to live with me. I house and feed them. All I ever wanted in return is the one thing they carry on their resumes. They are supposed to be mousers.

Mine are froggers! You heard me, FROGGERS!

Most mornings I’ll find all these dead frogs on my porch. Their gifts of gratitude for me being their landlord/lady! 

Why can’t you just catch mice?

I love to go out on the porch for morning prayer. That’s when I started to think about the gifts I give to God and the gifts God gives to me. I started to see a pattern. I’ve got ideas about what God is supposed to give me, too.

"Where is that perfect family I asked for?" "How come I’m in TN?" "Why do you give us persons to love, only to take them too soon?"

That’s pretty much how my prayer goes some days.

This morning I looked at the most beautiful crepe myrtle that literally bloomed overnight. I gasped. "Thank you, God." A lovely new person walked into my life. "Thank you, God." One of my kids called out of the blue. "Thank you, God."

PLOP! PLOP! PLOP! PLOP!
FROGS!

Gee, God, why did you create those obnoxious cats. I was on a roll.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Cosmic Praise


As a child, I had the thrill of receiving First Holy communion when I was in the second grade. The sisters drilled into us the understanding that Holy Communion would be the sacred changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. Pretty difficult for an eight-year-old to understand ... sometimes even for adults.

Fast forward to Vatican II, when Catholic church members learned that instead of the small white wafer, members of the church could actually drink from a cup of wine and eat real bread. That was a new and heady change from the tasteless, skinny wafers!

Currently, I am now living at Saint Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud. There, I found that instead of the bread and wine, once again members at Saint Scholastica received the Eucharist in the form of the small white wafer. The reason was clear: a quarantine during the flu season and, in addition, some sisters were not able to swallow easily. It was not easy for me to make the change once again from the actual bread and wine to a small white wafer. Surely, richer bread might symbolize God’s abundance in a more literal way. But these small wafers seemed to say, “I offer you a simple gift.” No matter the form of Eucharist or lack thereof, communion can’t take place without community. As I considered all of this, I was prompted to write the following haiku:

Cosmic Praise

Small white wafers
Perhaps fifteen cents apiece

Hold the Universe

Kate Casper, OSB

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sometimes the Grass Really is Greener...

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“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We’ve all heard it said.

This old saying helps remind us that we are not supposed to get any grandiose ideas about life being better elsewhere. It suggests we should be satisfied where we are at as the truth is…just because the grass may look greener on the other side of the fence…does not mean it is. After all, there are side effects to having greener grass. Along with green grass comes the fertilizer and water bills…not to mention a sprinkler system needing to be put in, and a lawn which needs mowing more often than not.

On it goes because along with greener grass comes a few freeloaders now and then. You know…a goat or two that might want to nibble and take advantage of what’s looking good. As well, my guess is that if the grass is greener, those who are displaying the image could be using a filter to lure you in. You get the picture.

Well, I gotta confess here that I always yearned for greener grass at various points in our marriage. You see, our house was planted on a farm site that is nice enough, but I never knew where the farm yard ended and our personal yard began. I wanted a lawn in which the kids could play. I wanted a fenced-in area that gave me some sense of where our living space was. It seemed as though we and the land were one alright, but I wanted a place to organize my space. I wanted boundaries. I wanted to know where I could plant flowers, where the kids could play safely, and I wanted a yard of green grass defining our space.

I never had it…until…one day, I did. The century farm and a tree that marked time with it soon were enveloped in the storm of the century. Half a tree that century tree on our century farm soon became and along with that a sight for sore eyes. All of its grandeur was no longer standing before us. We grieved the loss but let it stand for a while…while we pondered what to do.

I was out of town when I got the call. “The tree’s gone,” my husband announced unemotionally one night.

“What do you mean? You took it down?”

“Yes,” he responded. “And it actually looks pretty nice."

I dreaded the thought. After all, even though I didn’t have a yard, so to speak, what I did have was a huge old tree which offered respite. It offered shade. It offered the epitome of what every farm house needs…one big, beautiful old tree…until that, too, was now gone.

A few days later, I returned home. As I made my way up the driveway, I closed my eyes expecting the worse. Hopeful that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought, I held my breath. As I rounded the last bend in the driveway…I paused.

My breath caught sight of something I did not know existed upon our century farm. Something had been there all along…MY YARD…and the tree had been in the way! Now before me spread one large, luscious, green grassy area right in front of our house. It’s what I’d wanted all along.

I always knew the grass was there…but now…it looked greener…brighter...and it shouldn’t come as a surprise at all.

After all…“He makes us lie down in green pastures ... He restores my soul.” And he did. Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug, Oblate Candidate

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

To Be and To Be With

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Recently, I read two sources of inspiration for me: a small quotation about our need “to be and to be with” one another because we are part of one another’s journey and of each other’s becoming! The other was from The Gospel Without Compromise, a 1989 publication, now out of print, but written by Catherine de Hueck Doherty, foundress of Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario. What she wrote in 1989 seems even more problematic in 2019! Would you agree that “People today are crying out for recognition. Each of us wants to be a person among other persons. We want to be noticed, not in any ostentatious way, not because we might have or not have money or any other possession or quality, but just because we are human beings, persons”? She goes on to write: “Each of us is on a pilgrimage, seeking to encounter others like ourselves, others who have the same needs. The greatest need of all is the need to be loved. But we pass by one another without noticing, without stopping, without the slightest sign of recognition. This is why modern man (ibid.) daily comes closer and closer to despair, and why he frantically continues to search for someone who will love him. The search is really for God. But God isn’t easily found if he isn’t reflected in the eyes of another person.”1989? 2019?

Others speak of developing “an attitude of gratitude” to help us become vulnerable, to urge us to both be and see the beautiful in ourselves and in one another. We don’t have to be wired to negativity. We don’t have to look at ugly things when there are all these beautiful ones: a child’s face, a peony, an oriole, a tree, water, wine and bread! All of these, and ourselves, are worthy of love and belonging, of being called by name! Why do we pretend that what we do and say doesn’t affect others?

Reverence, understanding and hospitality of the heart—these are the immediate and intense needs of people today. Catherine Doherty suggests we might think of “the other” as someone looking for someone to say: “My brother, my sister, I am here. Come. I have water and a towel. Sit down. Let me wash your tired feet that have pilgrimaged for so long. Yes, I am here. I know you. I revere you. I recognize you as my brother or sister. I love you.”

We do need “to be and to be with one another” because we are part of one another’s journey and of each other’s becoming.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Murmuring

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Murmuring

Benedict has no use for murmuring within the monastery. He clearly sees it and calls it a kind of malignancy that can rot a community. Although we may be able to have custody of our mouths, there is another murmuring that we can find, often to our chagrin, that we do within ourselves. We can mull over our resentments. Resentments can be, as one spiritual writer calls it, “cyanide for the soul.” Upon reflecting on that internal murmuring we do within ourselves, I wrote the following poem:

Repository of Resentments

So long you relished them.
After all you’d earned them.
They were yours and you
understood, especially
since no one else would.


It was like a staged game:
when they’d surface
you’d throw them a line,
and hook them, or was it
they that threw you a line.


No energy of themselves—
they needed yours. The more
you gave them, the more
they took. Even you knew
it was tired old news.


Yet you wanted to believe
your heart sick message.
Nothing gave you relief.
Your novella grew dreary.
Your friends grew weary.


Those were the days.
You were so peeved off.
How your life flew by.


Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Make It Look Nice

Sister Lise Rose (second from right) and College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University students served low-income families in Colorado during a
CSB Campus Ministry Alternative Break Experience.

"Make it look nice." These words had new meaning for me after I volunteered at a food pantry. The food pantry was for families of low income to come for food every month, and my task was to display the food in an appealing way. Because most of the clients would not have the opportunity to shop in a popular store, this was their store. So, by placing the bread neatly on the shelves and putting similar vegetables together, I was making it easier for the shoppers to find what they wanted. Similarly, keeping items orderly makes it more pleasing to the eye. The more experienced volunteers took their job seriously. More importantly, their actions expressed happiness to any observer, by sharing a smile or a kind greeting.

As I watched the other volunteers, their happiness spread to me. I was happy to be part of their family and volunteer organization, if only for two days. I could feel their joy as together we were serving the people. As Saint Benedict says, “Treat one another if she/he were Christ himself.” This is what I witnessed as I volunteered for two days. I relearned the value “respect for each person” for anyone who walked through the door. Benedictine/Christian values are what we aim to live by each day at Saint Benedict’s Monastery.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Pillar of Salt

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Often when women get together to discuss Scripture, amazing ideas emerge. A group of women students were meeting. Here is some of what was said:

Molly began:

It’s so simple. I was thinking about that Lot story. You know, the one where Lot is told to take his family out of Sodom because everyone was so evil? Got to thinking about it and here’s the way I see it.

First, Lot’s wife doesn’t have a name. I named her Dama (Hebrew for tears). It was early morning and Dama had just fed her daughters. The two neighbor girls came running in to play. Dama stopped short. “Surely, Yahweh is not going to destroy those beautiful babies. Surely not.”

As Dama began to put a few things together as Lot had asked, Shira, her best friend, knocked on the door. “Dama, are you coming to the market with me?” Dama choked back her tears and called out, “Sorry, Shira, Lot has me gathering some things for him.”

The day was sprinkled with friends and children’s laughter. Then it was time. Lot came in and said, “It’s time to go.” Reluctantly, Dama walked with her husband and children out the back door.

Lot was adamant: “Don’t look back. We’ve been told not to look back.”

As they walked up the mountain, Dama could not hold back her tears. She tried not to listen to the cries that were coming from halfway down the mountain.

She looked back.

The story ends with a lesson: “She was turned into a pillar of salt because she did not obey.”

“Ahhhhh,” said Molly, “but do you believe this is the end of the story? Not on your life!”
Women know but it has not been recorded. The pillar of salt?

It was what was left of Dama’s tears.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

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