Tuesday, February 26, 2013


In recent weeks Asians around the world celebrated the Lunar New Year which lasts two weeks and the Asian students at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) took advantage of the some of the local festivities to also celebrate. My classmates in the Institute of Religious Formation at CTU and I got in on some of these celebrations.

There is a rather large group of Asian students in formation at the SVD (Society of the Divine Word) here in Chicago, 36 of them to be exact. Most of them attend CTU. Their formation house has three floors and there are 12 students per floor.  Every year they put on a very elaborate party to celebrate the lunar new year and invite ALL their friends and fellow students.  My classmates and I were invited to join them on Friday evening 10 days ago for Eucharist, followed by a banquet. We were thankful that we arrived a little early because as we waited for the beginning of the Eucharist the chapel filled up to overflowing, i.e. standing room only! The house was decorated for the occasion and, of course, that included the chapel.  The presider was a young Chinese priest wearing a stunning vestment in red and gold. I find Chinese liturgical music quite melodius and much of the music at the Eucharist that evening was in Chinese. Many of the attendees were young people we knew either from our classes or students who live in our residence. The banquet after Eucharist included about 15 different Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. One would think that with that crowd we would have to eat standing up but several rooms in this very large residence were designated for eating the delicious meal. Another sister and I were probably the first to leave the party at about 8 p.m. and as we were leaving we were told that the evening was only beginning!  Apparently the tradition is that there is dancing and games until midnight. 

We had the chance to attend one more party that weekend.  On Sunday we were invited to join our classmate, Jia Qin (Gia cheen), a sister from China, for the yearly celebration in Chinatown.   We joined her for Eucharist presided by an auxiliary bishop of Chicago, Bishop Rojas. The morning at church began with firecrackers outside the church door - lots of them and VERY loud - and a dragon parading up and down the aisles, the dragon was followed by the snake (it is the year of the snake), who also weaved back and forth up and down the aisles. A small group of young girls of Indonesian descent danced for us, then it was time for the Eucharist to begin.  Again there was standing room only in the church and again we were glad to have arrived early.  At the end of Eucharist and before the bishop gave his final blessing we were told about a ritual for the remembrance of our ancestors that we were all invited to participate in.  We walked up the center aisle to a table specially decorated for this ritual. As each one of us arrived at the table we were given an incense stick which we left at the altar while at the same time remembering and praying to our loved ones who have gone before us.

The banquet was served in the church basement and that was almost standing room only.  There were many delicious dishes just like Friday evening, and enough food for all of us - I wonder if the cooks prayed for a miracle, e.g. the multiplication of the rice and shrimp, when they saw the multitude filling the hall. In the end the actual serving of the food went very quickly and there was plenty to go around - each of us received two shrimp. 

The day wasn't over . . . we left the church and made our way to the main street of Chinatown for the annual parade.  It was a good thing that it was sunny and that there was no wind but it was cold. There were firecrackers again set off at strategic places along the parade route, several dragons and snakes and four marching bands. We had a wonderful day but were glad to get home and warm up with a good cup of tea or hot chocolate.

[The picture above is of some of us with the bishop, starting from the left: an unknown woman, next to her is Frances (USA), then PoPo (Philipines) who are both in the Hessburg Sabbatical program, the Bishop, Julius (Namibia) behind the bishop, Neri (Korea), Jia Qin and me.]

Friday, February 22, 2013

Exquisite Beauty

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BEAUTY has a way of catching us “un-guarded.” Like the exquisite beauty of the recent snowfall that adorned every tree, pipe, ledge, car—with as much as 11 inches of fresh snow.  Beauty seems to draw us out of ourselves, so that we simply stop in wonder.  We experience a kind of selflessness.  We leave our computers and know ourselves de-centered!  Actually, we are not the center of the universe, though sometimes it takes falling snow to convince us of that fact!  Witnessing a loving act, seeing a child, reading a poem, looking at a painting, or peering into the face of a white rose - all can do the same.  We are drawn into the question: “From whence comes all this Beauty?”  And when confronted with it, we identify with Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Oh, world I cannot hold thee close enough. . .” We may marvel over a lone musician playing Beethoven in a Barcelona plaza, and wonder at the way in which he can attract, one by one, a Flash Mob of listeners. From whence does this Beauty arise?  Why can it knock us out of our routines – and out of our self-centeredness?  Does it remind us that we, though fractured, are still capable of such enjoyment?  And then, how is it that we find ourselves desiring to be beautiful as well, and desiring to be creators of Beauty?  May each of us find at least one such moment today!

Renee Domeier, OSB

Sister Renee wrote this blog after the snowfall last week, not as the current one is still falling today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Pope and Lent

In Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on February 2 on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord he invited the assembly “to a faith that knows how to recognize the wisdom of weakness.” Nine days later, he gave the world an extraordinary example of this “wisdom of weakness” in his graceful admission that he is no longer capable of exercising his ministry to the universal Church because of his advanced age, declining health, and diminishing strength.

Could Pope Benedict’s humble resignation be one of his greatest legacies to the modern church? His willingness to break the pattern of being pope-until-death could possibly breathe an element of openness, wisdom and humility into the Church.

His candid self-assessment conveys the depth of character given to those “of advanced years” who receive the freedom to hold within their heart the “wisdom of weakness”.

This reality awakens in me a personal Lenten invitation to name and courageously walk into an acknowledged weakness and there perhaps discover what Wisdom wants to reveal to me. I know it will again let me experience the intersecting cross of God’s unwavering loving presence and jolting, “now-opportunities” which interrupt my everyday life. May the humble face of the Anointed One give me the light-of-wisdom to see that I and all the anointed ones standing before me are always One. May this revealing light engender a more spontaneous remembering that all necessary strength comes from a loving God who repeatedly says, “all will be well”.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Two Wolves

It seems everybody is telling us, these days, that we have ponderous choices to make and that we are responsible for those choices! Sometimes, that bit of information can be less than helpful and/or even burdensome.

There is an old Cherokee, however, who may help us make a good choice about our Lenten plans. It seems he was the sage for his grandson who may have been sitting on grandpa’s lap eager for an afternoon story telling time! The story is entitled “Two Wolves.”

The old Cherokee tells his grandson about a fight that is going on inside himself. He said it was between two wolves.

One is evil: anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

The other is good: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one I feed.”

During Lent we can choose to starve the evil wolf within and to nourish the good one! The choice is ours, of course! Lent, as “the springtime of the soul”, is the result of our good choices.

Renee Domeier, OSB

Sisters for Sisters

Every few months, we Benedictine sisters come together for a community meeting. This month, we heard an unforgettable presentation on human sex trafficking, the oppressive, violent crime against women and girls who are literally bought and sold -- some as young as age 12 -- into sexual slavery. Sex trafficking, according to Noelle Volin, Public Policy Manager and Staff Attorney for the Minneapolis-based organization, Breaking Free is the “fastest growing black market crime on the planet, second only to drug dealing” and generating upwards of $32 Billion dollars per year (U.N. statistic). Attorney Volin told us heart-breaking stories of the clients she sees coming through their doors. What alarmed us, and surprised us, to say nothing of what shamed us and angered us, is the fact that, according to the FBI, Minnesota ranks as one of the top 13 states in the nation for highest incidence of recruitment of minors.
Just an hour after hearing these harrowing facts, our Benedictines for Peace (BFP) group met to see if we could help. We Benedictines for Peace recognize our mission as a call to be peacemakers, healers, transformers of ourselves and our society by our prayer and action. And so we examined how we might be a source of information on this issue, how to create a safe place for our students and other women who may be broken and defenseless in the face of their own experience with this violent oppression.

We wish to support Breaking Free in whatever manner we are able, for it is in great need of funds, as well as in need of knowledgeable and sensitive volunteers who can “spot” the potential victim-become-prostitute! Attorney Volin told us: “100% of our clients are someone’s daughter, sister, and/or mother.” This criminal trafficking has been going on forever, it seems, but is worsening now! We invite you, our readers, to join Benedictines for Peace and help “Breaking Free” in whatever way you can. Perhaps a good way to begin is by informing yourself through these excellent resources: nvolin@breakingfree.net or www.breakingfree.net .

Sisters need to help sisters! There are presently 27 million enslaved humans worldwide (U.N.); 80% are females and of these, 50% are our children. If knowledge is power –and we believe that it is—then let us learn about this 21st Century form of slavery, which is often invisible and chameleon-like in its operation, though not in its effects upon unsuspecting youth. Let us lead by holding out our hands to our sisters-in-distress, sisters who want to break free!

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Liberation and Perseverance

January 11 was the six month anniversary of my final profession as a sister in this community. It seemed like a time to take stock. If I have to sum up how it feels, I'd say that "liberation" and "perseverance" are the words that best capture my post-profession experience.
I could say, at one level, that not much has changed. I'd been living into the life for five years and I still follow the same schedule: pray, work, eat, take some recreation/study time. Of course, the fact that I changed jobs a couple of months after profession and became Communications Director for the monastery has had an impact, but that's simply a change in the work element of my life, not a change in the overall way that I'm living.

In fact, I've been surprised by how different it feels being perpetually professed. It's very liberating. I'm here. I've committed forever to this path to God. That's a good feeling. There is a sense of freedom in not having to think about choosing and, instead, concentrating on living out the choice I've made.

Yet, I'm also conscious that there's another strand to my experience. Profession had become this big event that I was working up to. Now I've crossed the divide and it's a bit of let down to find, well, that I'm still me, the same person I was before, with no greater insight into the mystery of life, death and the universe. This is where perseverance comes in: to keep on going, to keep seeking, when life seems fairly mundane.  I think I'm living what many monastics have told me: the life feels ordinary; flashes of spiritual fire are the exception, not the norm. The fact is that I have to keep my eye on the ultimate goal and purpose of my being here, which is seeking God, and live that search out through the ordinariness of every day.

Karen Rose, OSB