Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In My End Is My Beginning

Mary, Queen of Scots
"In my end is my beginning" - the motto of Mary, Queen Scots, Catholic Queen of Scotland who lost her throne and was beheaded by her cousin, Elizabeth I of England,  in the sixteenth century.  A lesson that it is not only in our own time that the enmeshments of politics can lead to events and acts of violence that maybe neither party would have desired.

Yet there is another lesson there that has something to say to us in our generation and especially at this season, as one year ends and another begins. Whether one sympathizes with Mary of Scotland or not, she was undoubtedly a human being who sinned and made mistakes, but who also held devoutly to her faith. Her motto is something to ponder.

During the Christmas season have you ever felt a sense of material excess that didn't seem to be what Christmas was about? Did someone else seem to take the way Christmas was celebrated out of your hands and arrange things in a way you wouldn't? How did you respond?

We all have our ideas about how things should be (and maybe our way is best!) but is there a deeper level at which we can handle these questions? Can we let go of our own preferences? Even when they are good ones? Can we open ourselves sufficiently to let the Holy Spirit help us see that these superficial things don't matter? That they matter so little that, well, it would nice to get rid of them, but they're so unimportant, it doesn't matter if we can't. Can we free ourselves so we don't spend our energy on these minor irritants, but let them go so that we are not distracted within ourselves and can focus on what really matters - Christ come into the world?

"In my end is my beginning." Let me put an end to  myself and my desires and preferences as being significant. Let me see that by doing so, I can begin a richer life in Christ.

As 2014 ends, Lord, help me to put an end to caring about small things and let me begin the New Year by opening fully myself to  the glorious and eternal mystery that is You.

Karen Rose, OSB

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stillness and Incarnation

Advent reminds us of Mary’s quiet waiting in a time of unknowing.  The wonder of pregnancy and birth rarely leaves us unmoved. Like all mothers, Mary likely went about doing her ordinary tasks with an ever growing awareness of the movements of the child within her. And during times of stillness, she must have been amazed at this child sent by God to be nurtured within her.

 Her early response to the Angel Gabriel’s message, however, quickly evolved into acknowledging solidarity with another pregnant woman, her cousin Elizabeth. Her bold choice to move beyond her own pregnant condition to create room in her life for someone in need, lets us know again what it means to respond to ever-present God-ness. In the stillness of her journey she moved forward, one step at a time.

In our daily darkness of unknowing, every response to hidden-Godness may allow small incarnations to again be manifest. Sometimes the invitations arise in situations and persons we may prefer to pass by. Can it be, that within a deep breath of stillness, one breath at a time, we can actually awaken to a wider range of incarnating-responses? It may be, that inviting ourselves to choose these brief moments, we may find ourselves in solidarity with Mary’s step by step waiting and incarnating. According to Bede Griffiths, stillness can be amazingly transformative for ourselves and all around us.

Stillness within one individual can affect society beyond measure.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014: Year of the Pope

This year, 2014, has been designated the “Year of the Pope.” Media Source, 2014, published a lovely book on highlights in the history of the papacy. It speaks of Pope Francis in these words: “In 2014 Pope Francis will continue his busy schedule, changing minds and winning hearts all over the world. Taking charge of a church from which many were distancing themselves, Francis has begun to show the world what strong, open-minded leadership can do.

With only 12 months under his belt, he’s truly just getting started.” There is no doubt that Pope Francis speaks his mind. About our world economic system, he says: “It is not good! It’s a system that in order to survive must make war, as great empires have always done. But now, since you cannot have a Third World War, you have regional wars. And what does this mean? That arms are made and sold and in this way the idolatrous economies, the great world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money, obviously keep their balance sheets in the black.” (The Visitor [St Cloud, Minn., diocesan newspaper], 6/20/2014). He clearly speaks his mind.  Can we hear him? He also says: “Globalization’s failings are not only material but cultural since it cancels differences.” (Ibid.) Pope Francis calls for an economic system that “preserves each person’s particularity, richness, and identity.” (Ibid.) A very timely message, I would wager!

Media Source gives other significant quotes from our Pope:

If, throughout history, the Church has changed so much, I do not see why we should not adapt it to the culture of our times.

There are two types of men (sic): those who take care of the pain and those who pass by ...

No one can grow if he does not accept his smallness.

Not everyone present belongs to the Catholic faith and others do not believe. I respect the conscience of each one of you, knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless you!

And may God bless you, Pope Francis! Thank you for jogging our minds,
hearts and action!
 Renee Domeier, OSB              

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bringing Your Light

Photo: Nancy Bauer, OSB
As we move into December, the rhythm of abundant darkness and longing for welcoming light is upon us.  This pattern immediately brings to mind a recent, true story shared on the occasion of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the dedication of our monastic chapel.  S. Michaela Hedican, Prioress at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., told the story of a 300 year old church nestled in a rural area just outside Geneva, Switzerland.  At that time the congregation could not afford lights for the evening service, nor could they afford candles, so a tradition began that when everyone would come to church, they each brought their own light.

          A visitor came to church one evening and the church was completely dark.  The visitor was about to leave and as she was walking down the steps of the church she saw in the distance one light coming along a path.  Then from another direction another light, then from another direction yet another light and another and another, and step by step, one by one, from all around, people kept coming with their lights.

          As the people came into the church, they would take their lanterns and put them on iron hooks and soon the church was a blaze with light.  After the service the visitor said to one of the members: “This is one of the most unusual traditions I have ever seen!”  The man said: “We have done this for over 300 hundred years.  Now we could afford lights and we could afford lamps, but we like the symbolism of everyone bringing their own light.”

Maybe that invitation for living in the light these dark wintery days is actually that simple.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Life of Meaning

        Tell me the facts and I’ll learn
        Tell me the truth and I’ll
        Tell me your story and I’ll remember it forever.
Recently Valarie Kaur, a U.S. citizen living in California, with ancestry from India, spoke to our college/university community.  Her message was directed to the millennials: “What does choosing a life of meaning over a life of comfort mean for you?”  

We were mesmerized by this beautiful, pregnant woman who, in her sophomore year in college, had chosen a life of meaning rather than a life of comfort.  Her story started with her having  watched the horrors of 9/11, watched the horrendous  killing of people-- who looked like herself-- by Americans who did not know how to stop their hatred of the “perpetrators” in that destructive sequence of events.  She felt the urgency of choice within herself: would she go to help the victims? Or would she choose to stay in her comfort zone?  This would-be journalist, age 20, chose to leave her home, drive across country to New York, where the scenes and stories of violence broke her heart and  broke it open so that she simply had to share the sorrow of those in unutterable pain.  Shared sorrow was her choice. . . and in that choice, she found her life’s meaning.  In her life’s work,  she tells stories, one after another of other courageous women and men who, like herself, have also found their meaning within the choices they have made.  “Choice,” she says, “is a privilege and, if we are opting for meaning, we need to make good choices many times every day. The heart is a muscle and we keep exercising it.  With this practice and the support of community, we will find the courage to make the bigger decision.” There was no hesitancy in her as she witnessed to the cost and dangers in making the decision to choose a life of meaning over a life of comfort.  It is possible to do something but the work of justice is hard: higher than the truth is living out the truth,” she says. Having chosen a life of meaning over a life of choice, Valarie Kaur is able to “see no strangers now because WE ARE ALL ONE.”  Thank you, Valarie!

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Year of Consecrated Life: November 30, 2014 - February 2, 2016

One year ago this month, Pope Francis, in addressing the Union of Superiors General in Rome, announced that 2015 would be a year dedicated to consecrated life. The year would begin on the first Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014, and end on the Sunday for consecrated life on February 2, 2016 - in effect making it a year of 15 months!

I love the expression "all in God's good time" and it is a little bit how I feel as we enter the season of Advent and launch the Year of Consecrated Life on Sunday. Here at the monastery we have planned a few events throughout the year and have partnered with the College of Saint Benedict and the diocese of Saint Cloud. Three themes have been identified as the focus of this year:
  1. Praying with gratitude for our Sisters who have paved the way for us here in central Minnesota and supported us in our lives as Benedictines
  2. Embracing the future with hope
  3. Living in the present with passion
Since the Year of Consecrated Life is a world-wide event, you will no doubt be hearing or reading about it wherever you find yourself.

About now a question is probably beginning to take shape in your mind; something like: "That is all very nice but how does this affect me in my very busy everyday life?"  It is true.  If you do not have a personal connection with a sister, a brother, or a priest, or if you did not attend a Catholic school or college/university chances are that this year will not touch you directly but if you are reading this blog you do have some interest in or curiosity about the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict. I invite you to take on as a "project" this year to connect with one sister here at the monastery. Sister Karen Rose, OSB, is always happy to hear from people who comment on our Facebook and she is very quick in responding to those who write.  Why not come for a visit if you are in the vicinity of St. Joseph, MN?  We offer wonderful hospitality.  This is the time of the year when we are grateful for the many blessings we receive from our friends and, so, as a "thank you" we promise to hold you in prayer and would be grateful if you  would pray for our fidelity and perseverance in the life that God has called us to.

Hélène Mercier,OSB

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Spirit of Gratitude

In our country we celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of November but actually there is a spirit of gratitude in the air throughout the month!   What is it that arouses gratitude in our hearts, not unlike the spirit of Christmas that arises long before December 25th?  A 14th century monk wrote that we only need a scrap of time to move toward God and that maybe our ways of coming toward God  some days are all scraps! (Cloud of Unknowing)  Couple that idea with Meister Eckhart’s “If the only prayer we ever offer is ‘thank you’ that is enough!” And we can understand why the spirit of gratitude already felt this November is appropriate all year long!  There are so many reasons why we can be grateful, day in and day out!

Since our community is celebrating the 100th anniversary of our Sacred Heart Chapel, we have found many ways to mark that centennial event!  Recently we gave a concert.  One piece of music was the rendition by Gwyneth Walker of e.e.cummings’ ageless poem: 

i thank you God for  most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

After hours of practicing this song in which the first line is repeated at least a dozen times, the message and the melody stick to one’s mind—day and night! “I thank you God for most this amazing day. . .”  Day after day, year after year, we have been recipients of amazing gifts, amazing people, amazing happenings, amazing revelations from an amazing God!  How can we stop from singing? From being grateful?  Happy thanksgiving, today and forever!

Renee Domeier, OSB