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

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fasting: The Prophet Isaiah's Advice

Fasting is one of the three hallmarks of our Lenten observation. Often, in our liturgies, we hear the Prophet Isaiah  instruct and test us on our motives for fasting. But do I really believe what I hear?  Do I really listen to and through the words that ask me how my fasting is going this Lent?  Do I make a distinction between how I define fasting and how God defines it?

 I suppose it is no surprise that instead of comforting me, God may need to rebuke me since I am like a yo-yo with reference to my disciplinary abilities.  Through Isaiah, I hear:
 “Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits and drive all your laborers.  Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw.” 
“Really, Lord,” I ask in self-defense, “How do I do that? I am not an employer, a CEO, a farmworker’s boss or a trafficker of women and children? Whom do I seek to control?  Do I criticize my student who is just learning to create something new? Don’t I truly appreciate the gifts of the persons I live with?  I don’t think that I am so insensitive.”

 But God goes on almost begging me to look again, listen anew: “Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? “No!” God says.  “Rather, this is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke . . .” This time, with a softer heart I may ask: “Lord, do you mean I have to stop squeezing the last penny out of my renter? Do I really have to go along with raising the minimum wage when I could lose millions? Why should I give something to the Sunday Offertory plate?”

 And that is not yet sufficient, God says: “I want you to share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, clothe the naked when you see them, and not turn your back on your own. . .”
”What do you mean, Lord, am I my brothers’ keeper?  Catholic Charities can do that or the Bishops’ Relief fund or there are the Lutheran Relief Services and the Salvation Army.  Why should I have to do that, too?”

And God may answer: “Because you are, indeed, your brothers’ keeper, but fear not, there is something for you too! When you do these things, the LIGHT shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed.  Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Moreover when you cry for help, I will answer: ‘Here I am!’”

Now, who among us would not long to answer wholeheartedly: “Thanks, God, for speaking to me!” 

And, one last word on fasting.  If we need further instruction on how to fast, we can find it in the writings of 5th century St. Peter Chrysologus: “Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy.  Fasting dries up when mercy dries up.  Mercy is to fasting as rain is to the earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.”  Again, we answer: “Thanks, God, for speaking and helping us!  Without you we can do nothing; but with you we can do all things.”

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow, March 5, is Ash Wednesday. Lent is about to begin. Many people don't particularly like the season but it's one of my favorites and Ash Wednesday is a day I really appreciate. I actually thrill to the words: "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return," as my forehead is marked with the ashes. This isn't because I'm being morbid. It's more because it's a "reality check" - I'm human; my life on earth is finite. The unspoken declaration that it it is not so with God and that that the immortal, everlasting God can and will lift me from the constraints of my humanity hangs in the air beside the spoken words. And I feel an uplifting of my spirit.

Part of the reality check of Ash Wednesday is also that I am a sinner. Now, I know the ideas of sin and unworthiness are not very fashionable at present. But I find it a relief to admit that I'm not perfect, could do better, and that God knows that, yet still loves me and will lift me up. Ash Wednesday is, for me, a call to look at myself honestly, to start again, all the while knowing that it is that very honesty, authenticity, trust in God and a determination to persevere, even when things seem difficult, which are leading me towards God.

Yes, the ashes remind that I'm human and a sinner, but they also remind me that I'm a sinner on the path to finding God, the God who turns sins to ashes because, in the end, God is greater, stronger and more loving than my failings.

Karen Rose, OSB