Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It was the day before Christmas . . .

Crèche, Saint Benedict's Monastery
What is the day before Christmas like at Saint Benedict's?  Not very different from yours I suspect.  In my living group of three sisters we began our day very early this morning making kuliches for all 24 sisters who live in our building.  They were delivered warm at 6:30 a.m. in time for their breakfast, we hope. Morning Prayer was at 8:15 and by the antiphons, psalms, canticles and reading there can be no doubt that we have moved into the spirit of the great feast of the birth of Jesus.

As I was reflecting on this day, I took a walk to the chapel and Gathering Place hoping to get a picture or two for the blog.  Not only was I not disappointed but I can report that preparations for tonight and the days of Christmas are in full swing.  Just yesterday the crèche in the picture was starkly empty and the poinsettias were tucked out of sight until this morning. Now they are decorating the chapel, the Gathering Place, the Oratory and the monastery dining room. Many sisters around the monastery are making sure that all details are attended to like the trimming of the Easter candle at the entrance of the chapel, any last minute cleaning and phone calls to our friends assuring them of our prayers during the Christmas season. Meanwhile in the chapel Sister Janine Mettling is practicing with several musicians: cellist, organist, flutist and trumpeter. I expect that the schola (our choir) and the bell ringers will also be practicing a little later this morning.  S. Janine is an excellent musician and schola director and we know without a doubt that the singing and caroling that will precede our Eucharist this evening will be beautiful, lift our spirits and warm our hearts to help us leave our distractions behind and focus on what is, after all, the real reason for all the energy and time offered with love to make this time a great festive occasion to celebrate the coming of Emmanuel.

May you have a most blessed Christmas and may your heart be filled with hope, joy and peace!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stories Treasured

Have you noticed that sometimes festive mealtimes like Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays can be a springboard for communal storytelling?  These real life revelations can include endless examples of wonderful human experiences, told in the safe womb of post-meal-contentment.  This is especially true if told by those who have gradually nurtured us into freedom so we could become who we really are.  Sometimes the clarity of this shared truthfulness gives birth to laughter, compassionate tears or even shocking never-before-uttered secrets.

Before my father died we did a taped oral history with him.  He shared details about his family, things in life that delighted him and things that made him sad.  As we ended, my oldest brother asked him, “Dad, if you had to choose one happiest time, what would it be?”  I thought he might refer to the two times the Cold Spring Springers baseball team won state championships under his management.  Or maybe the time he was inducted into the St. Cloud Civic Center Hall of fame for his work in establishing rural baseball teams during his 16 years as manager.  But instead, he immediately replied, “That’s easy.  Each time one of you was born and everything was OK, it was the happiest day of my life.”  Gratefully, his grandchildren may someday listen to his response and have a glimpse of what their grandfather valued most in life.

May these festive days be filled with precious stories, told and treasured. We might even be the ones who create times for listening to others and adding our own stories.  May each of us recognize that NOW is the perfect time to give sacred space/time to listening to wise story tellers, young and old.  As Rachel Naomi Remen reminds us, “Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person.”  I guess, in that sense, as listeners, we are all potential “homemakers.”

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Roses in December

Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB
Tomorrow, December 12, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, thousands will honor the beloved Virgin-Mother who visited a simple and humble Aztec peasant at a time when the Indian population was oppressed by conquistadors who considered them less than rational beings . . .and who were consequently killed or depressed by the loss of faith in the gods of their ancestors.  It is believed that, in the person of his gentle Mother, God visited Mexico at Tepeyac for the purpose of favoring the people “like dear little children.”  She spoke to Juan Diego in the most affectionate words, treating him as a son and promising to be his Mother.  She made known to him the outstanding dignity that was his and offered him. . .and all like him. . .her protection and eagerness to soothe, heal, and listen to their prayers.  No wonder Our Lady is beloved by the Latino peoples; she appeared on their land! She was brown as they are brown. She wore a garb filled with indigenous as well as Biblical symbols. She chose a poor and powerless Indian to be the bearer of her message as well as her image within his tilma to  Bishop Zumárraga: that “he be kind enough to build her a little temple where she could hear their weeping, their sadness , so that she might purify and heal all their different afflictions, pains and sorrows.” *

And is it not a splendid gift and grace that Our Lady of Guadalupe was also declared Patroness of all the Americas? She is our “morenita” too!

Bishop Donald Kettler will be with us as we celebrate a Mass in her honor at St. John’s Abbey Church at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 15.

Please come to the fiesta!

* A Mexican Spirituality of Divine Election for a Mission by  F.R.Schulte
Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Longings

The Advent Wreath at Saint Benedict's Monastery
Two days ago was the First Sunday of Advent and we are reminded that inevitably we are moving toward the shortest day of the year - there is no stopping the clock!  I discovered a long time ago that short days and darkness are not always my friends at this time of the year.Yet each year lighted candles on the Advent wreath and lights on the Christmas tree reawaken in me a longing to be still, to look deeply into the dark of my soul just as I imagine the darkness of the womb might be for the new life being created there.  Is it the same for my soul?  Is there always new life being created in the deepest recesses of my being?

There is a little book that came out a year ago titled The Long Winter's Night and written by a priest of the diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska.  The author tells us that when he was assigned to Alaska, like so many before him, he imagined himself sitting by the fire wrapped in a quilt in the long dark days and nights of winter with a stack of books by his side. That did not happen, of course, but I believe that he is telling us that those long dark days can be pregnant with life if only we would choose to befriend the exterior darkness and sit in the cave of our heart. One thing is certain: we must not anticipate spring too soon, at least not until the life we are carrying is ready to be brought forth to the light. A poet puts it so well,
"Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck
betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star
agleam to guide us"
During this season of Advent may you nourish the longings of your heart by being blessed with times of quiet and deep listening.
Hélène Mercier, OSB