Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Time to Breathe

I once read, and I apologize that I don't have the source but it was a long time ago, that a religious community such as Saint Benedict's Monastery has the responsibility to provide  opportunities for growing and maturing in the spiritual life for its members so that their love of God and their sisters continue to grow throughout their lifetime, and that at the end of their journey on earth they will "run with expanded heart" into the arms of their loving God.

There are many ways that a community like ours fulfills that responsibility.  To list just a few:  the sacraments (Eucharist, reconciliation, sacrament of the sick), a monthly day of recollection, a monthly conference given by the Prioress, a library well stocked with theological and spiritual books and periodicals, times of silence, pauses during Liturgy of the Hours: a 1-minute pause between the psalms and a 2-minute pause after the reading. Of course, we do not forget what is at the very center of our life: Liturgy of the Hours and Lectio Divina.

A yearly retreat is a must for all consecrated women and men. In our community we are given the choice of one of four possibilities.  Partly because of our size and partly because a monastery like us cannot come to a complete halt for a week while the entire community is on retreat, there are two conference retreats held during the summer months.  During these same months in addition to the two conference retreats there is a directed retreat and a Centering Prayer retreat.

Last week we had the directed retreat and this week is the centering prayer retreat.  This is the one that I am making and I have been given the gift of being able to stay in one of our hermitages (pictured above) for the week. Our two hermitages are much in demand by both the Sisters and our guests so to have the opportunity to stay in one of the hermitages for five days is an unexpected gift. The hermitage gives us silence, time to read and reflect, and time alone with God. Centering for three hours a day for six days releases much of what one might tend to ignore or suppress in an everyday busy life. So spending quality time with the Divine Healer in between the sitting sessions is balm for the soul and gives strength to face the challenges awaiting us when we return to "normal" life. 

May you find during these weeks of summer time for your soul to take a breather. That is my wish and my prayer for you. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Las Lágrimas

If I had not walked through Chapel,
if I had not stopped to meet the gentle guitarist *
setting up his practice session,
if I had not asked his permission
to sit awhile and listen
I would not have been undone
by the haunting melody full of yearning,   
touched by the  aching timeless beauty.
I would not have known the Spanish title means Tears.
I would not have been moved by memory
of one hundred years of tears and  yearning for God,
music and prayer filling this sacred space like incense,
if I had not walked through the Chapel
that Saturday afternoon.

*Lágrima (Tear) ~ Composition by  Francisco Tárrega
*Mark Mitchell, husband of Sister Theresa Lodermeier’s niece
Kathryn Casper, OSB 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Recently I read three statements that need to be published abroad:

NOISE is noxious and nerve-wracking.  It increases by the year and injures the ear. Everywhere there is muzak and newzak, sirens wailing, lights buzzing, transformers humming, air conditioners whirring.  Yes, even in the monastery, I’m defeated by the ubiquitous lawn mowers  in summer or the snowplow  in winter.

Far worse than all these sources of noise, though, is the feckless and febrile verbosity of human beings—verbal pollution.  Most of it is twaddle and reaches a feverish and virulent pitch in a crowd  . . . .  signs commanding ‘No Noise’ should be as prevalent as ‘No Littering’ and ‘No Smoking.’

I agree. Do you? Could we ponder it together? We don’t need to talk!    

There is a close connection between tranquility and sanity, silence and sanctity.  When and where a sense of the sacred is lost, noise takes over.  Vulgarity clashes with serenity; and wonder, the basis of wisdom, languishes.  

I agree.  Do you? Let’s be still together. (This article appeared in America, 12/7/1996. If noise increases by the year, what is there to say, then, these 20 years later?)

What can we expect when even the churches are noisy?  Bishop William Temple’s lament makes sense: ‘Poor little talkative Christianity!’ Are the temples any better? Back porches and bedrooms might be more conducive to awe, reverence and wonder.  To sit mindfully in a quiet place until stillness suffuses our whole being may provide the healing and holiness we so desperately need.  What other defense do we have against the assault on our senses?

That is my question too?  Is it yours as well?  I’m thinking I will take Mary the Mother of God as my model; she was the woman wrapped in silence. And, of course, Jesus, the Word spoken from eternity by the Father: “When all things were in quiet silence,” the Book of Wisdom tells us, “this Almighty Word leapt down out of heaven.”  I want to ponder that Word, I want to live into the relationships between the Father and the Word spoken, between the Mother of God and the Word she bore. Will you tell me how you defend yourself against noise? I would love to be with you in your efforts. . .

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Home Away from Home

I have just returned from two weeks in Canada, more specifically Montreal - my former home - and Ontario north of Toronto. When I have gone back to Montreal for visits since coming to Saint Benedict's many years ago I have received warm and generous hospitality from the Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre Dame. As much as I am rooted in and love my community here at Saint Ben's, there is a huge place in my heart for these women who have been part of my life from the age of 10 until my 50th year.

Who are these sisters who have been so significant in my life for over 40 years?  Their founder, Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, came to Ville Marie, as Montreal was known in the 1600's, at the invitation of the founder of Ville Marie to teach the children of the settlers.  Upon her arrival Saint Marguerite discovered that there were no children to teach because the young settlers were just beginning to meet newly arrived young women, marry and have children. While she waited for the children to be of school age she became the matchmaker of the new settlement and taught the young women how to be wives and mothers. In time other women joined Marguerite and the community grew.  Now there are sisters, both French and English-speaking across Canada, some in the United States, Cameroun, Japan and Guatemala.

The community's patronal feast day is the Visitation, May 31; last Wednesday while I was there the sisters gathered for faith sharing on the Magnificat and how their charism guides them in their lives as faithful women of the Gospel.  The picture above was the center piece of the prayer space and each sister brought from her room a favorite image of the Visitation.  My joy that day was that I was included in the prayer service and felt very much at home since as a Benedictine we sing the Magnificat every day at Evening Prayer.

By now you might be asking yourself: "If she is so fond of these sisters why did she come all the way to Minnesota and become a Benedictine? Why did she not join their community, the CNDs?"  It is like falling in love.  Why is this person THE person you want to spend the rest of your life with . . . and not another? It is all part of God's mysterious design and invitation in our life.  Since my return a sister asked me at dinner one evening why I had come here and not stayed in Montreal and joined the Congrégation de Notre Dame. A much younger sister, and one who is in formation, answered: "Because she has a Benedictine heart!"  Right on!