Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Violence Explored

For the last several months I’ve been in a questioning mode that always starts with the same phrase, “What if…”   It’s been going on for so long now that I’m wondering if it’s just an evolving thought-pattern that I might well have to learn to live with.  My most recent “What if…” is this: "What if I have a certain covert capacity for violence wired into my being?" I get glimpses of it when I hear the edginess in my voice tone when one of my friends, who lives with altered hearing, requests that I repeat for the second time what I just said. Is it their fault that they have developed hearing loss?  All the gentleness I thought was evolving within me suddenly evaporates and discloses the unwelcome face of some unnamed inner violence.  My friend’s simple invitation to slow down my speech, face her and slightly increase my voice volume so she can decipher my sentences, requires more patience than I am capable of at that moment. Aha, impatience, also known as the inability to give another the respectful time/space that they need/deserve, raises into consciousness the red flag of personal, unrelinquished violent thinking/acting,

According to Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By, the Sanskrit word for violence is himsa.  The word for nonviolence is ahimsa, a state in which every trace of violence is removed.  What remains in this nonviolent state is our natural consciousness: pure love. Violence, himsa, expresses itself in three different ways: 1) in our deeds; 2) in our words; and 3) in our thoughts. Most of what we call violence is in the form of action.  So it is with our actions that nonviolence, ahisma, naturally begins. But as long as our minds harbor violent, himsa, thoughts, violence will find its way somehow into our speech and behavior.

I’m especially ruminating on these personal violent-actions during this Christian time of Holy Week.  I don’t exactly like what these ruminations are disclosing to me.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sacred Heart Chapel: Timeless Beauty

S. Moira Wild, Director of the Haehn Museum
Our sisters in the early years of the 20th century had a unique challenge and opportunity:  how to build a chapel for our monastery that would be beautiful and serviceable into the future.  How they did that is the story of the exhibit, Sacred Heart Chapel, God’s Home Among Us, 1914-2014, presently open in Haehn Museum.

Actually there are two distinct parts of the Chapel’s history—1914-1980; 1980 to the present. Both are related to liturgical practices of the time. Both are told through artifacts and photos. For instance, one example from the earlier years is the expansive elevated sanctuary floor and decorative altar; from the later years, the placement of the altar under the dome with pews for the assembly around it.  A few of the artifacts to see in the exhibit are the choir stall of the prioress, the capital of a pillar, samples of various marble, a number of the many angels in the original Chapel; and photos of the assembly in worship and gatherings in the renovated and new sacred spaces.

The visitor also learns of the decision in the 1910s to use only authentic materials—“If it says it is stone, it is stone” Community Chronicles.  One cannot but be touched by the lasting beauty that endures. The majesty of the dome, the grandeur of the marble and granite columns, the grace of the enveloping arches—all remain a significant part of the present Chapel, as do some 200 angel cherub heads on the capitals.  It is comforting to know that these cherubs, all with mouths open in song, have been with us for 100 years, and will continue to be silent partners in worship into the future.

Haehn Museum is located in the Art and Heritage Place at our monastery.  The exhibit will be open until December 23, 2014.

Dolores Super, OSB  

Official opening of the exhibit - April 27 at 2 pm
Visitors welcome to preview the exhibit now 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Who Says ...?

Lectio divina, the Benedictine practice of prayerful, sacred reading takes many forms. If you like questions that have more than a yes/no answer . . .if you love nature, children, and poetry . . . if you walk slowly and gratefully through our wondrous world,  you can find God speaking all around us.

I recently experienced God speaking both in words and pictures  through Joan Hutson's questions and illustrations in her book, Who says “Twinkle” to the Evening Stars . Listen to the questions she asks of children (or full-of-wonder adults) as she brings a profound message to their/our searching minds and heart:

  Who says to the morning sun “Rise, now, night is done . . .”

          Who says “Bloom” to the flowers here and there, and watches over them  
           with loving care . . .
          Who says “Rain” to the little cloud, and tells the thunder “Not too 
           loud . . .”

          Who says “It’s time for rain to go and time to make a big rainbow . . .”

          Who says “Blossom” to the little plum tree . . . and who says “Ripen”                     to the plums you  see . . .  
          Who says “Hatch” to the egg in the nest . . . and starts a little robin on the 
          quest . . .

          Who says “Fireflies turn on your lights . . . and give the night surprising           sights . . .”

          Who says to the waves on the shore “Just this high and no, no more . . .”

          Who says “Scatter” to the milkweed seeds . . . so in the Spring we’ll                        have beautiful  weeds 
          Who says as the days grow colder, “Autumn leaves, turn brighter and                   bolder . . .”

          Who says “Stars, stars, send down My love on all who below are looking               above . . .”

          Who says to the little snowflake, “I design each one of you I make . . .”

          Who says to you and me “I love you unconditionally . . .”



          Thank You, God . . .

 Renée Domeier, OSB

Original illustrations by Joan Hutson

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Different Light

We have had some different light bulbs (energy saving, I believe) put into the Oratory and, I think, Sacred Heart Chapel and the Gathering Place. Personally, I'm most conscious of the ones in the Oratory because they're not as bright as the old ones and I'm conscious that there are some areas that now look quite dark. Lighting is an interesting issue in the Oratory. It is, for instance, very difficult to get good photographs there without importing special equipment. And, of course, that in itself could be a problem during services because we wouldn't want anything that distracted from the prayer which brings us there, however much we might want to capture the moment.

Anyway, practical issues aside, the appearance of the new, slightly dimmer lights, led me into something of a meditation. It made me think about how much we depend on light in the physical world: to see, to be able to appreciate the environment around us, to get about, to make plants grow. If we depend on light in the physical world, how much more do we depend on light, in the metaphorical sense, to illumine and help our spiritual lives to grow?

It's so easy to let the inner light grow dim. Energy saving light bulbs are a good in the world because, yes, they save energy and thus protect the environment! But energy saving on the internal illumination is not necessarily a good when it means that we make ourselves less open to the light of Christ and the light of the Gospels because we can't be bothered; it's too hard; it takes too much energy. Letting the light in means being willing to do whatever God asks of us, whatever it costs. It means being willing, as Jesus did, "to lay down His life for His friends."

So, I'm praying that as I continue along the Lenten path, which can sometimes seem dark, that I stay alert and allow God's light to penetrate my inner darkness. I'm praying for the grace and courage to respond positively to whatever that demands of me. Finally, I'm trying to help myself do that by straining to glimpse the light of Easter which Christ carries ahead of me.

Karen Rose, OSB

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sacred Heart Chapel

100th Anniversary
25 March, 1914  -  2014
Today is a very special day for our community:  100 years ago on March 25 we celebrated the first Eucharist in Sacred Heart Chapel.  The Sisters had been dreaming of a new and bigger chapel since 1911 and it finally came to fruition in the fall of 1914.  "All the Sisters agreed that it must be a beautiful chapel and that it would meet our future needs." (Community Chronicles)  Mother Cecilia Kapsner, S. Priscilla Schmidtbauer and the Sisters were visionaries;  they could not have known in 1914 that the community would grow to 1,200 members at its peak. The cost of the chapel was under $200,000 at the time.  The picture on the right is of the chapel as it looked from 1914 until the 1980s when it was renovated and the picture on the left is the chapel as it is today. 
Sacred Heart Chapel is so much more than merely an attractive structure. Even if we refer to it as a sacred space it does not come close to conveying the full significance for us as Sisters of this Benedictine community.  We read in the Rule of Benedict today, Chapter 43, that nothing is to be preferred to the "work of God" which means for us praying the Liturgy of the Hours day after day, year after year.  Generation upon generation of Sisters have gathered in this chapel to pray the LOH and for Eucharist.  This is where Sisters on their profession day sing the Suscipe - "Receive me, O God, as you promised and I shall live; do not disappoint me in my hope." - and prostrate on the floor at the top of the middle aisle, or in the sanctuary before the renovation, while the schola and community sing the litany of the saints, invoking the communion of saints to support the new sisters and help them persevere in their call. The chapel is where we gather for wakes and funerals, and for the election of a prioress and for her installation. In other words Sacred Heart Chapel is where we come to celebrate the highs and the lows of our life together.  What happens in this chapel is the glue and holds us together as a community.
If you are in the area come and visit Sacred Heart Chapel and the exhibit at the Haehn Museum which will open to the public in a few weeks. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

DEATH by Another Name

What if we gave “death” another name?  Many spend their entire lives trying to avoid any kind of death i.e. anything negative, uncomfortable, difficult, unfamiliar, dangerous, or demanding [Richard Rohr, OFM].  And yet, we know instinctively that we can’t actually run away from life’s negative realities indefinitely.

For centuries various traditions have given us parallel words/experiences that invite us to shift our response to the death-realty in our lives.  Rohr reminds us that in male rites of initiation the young boy must face death directly.  Sometimes he had to dig his grave and sleep in it for a night.  Those who created this difficult rite, perhaps had themselves discovered their latent capacity to bravely walk through frightening choices. 

I find myself asking, “How bravely can I take in, walk through and be formed by my “death experiences?”  Do my daily “small deaths” ever move me to create alternate life-giving paths?  For St. Francis facing the unfamiliar was an expression of “poverty”, the poor side of everything [Rohr].  Can it happen that if I choose to face the poor side within me, I can glimpse unexpected inner riches?  Apparently Francis’ ability to boldly look at the poor side of things, led him to abolish fear of failure and experience immense joy.  I know I would welcome the result.  The question I’m left with is, am I willing to hang out with that poor side of myself long enough to receive the resulting prizes? 

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB