Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Is there anything more haunting than the cry of a pair of loons at 3 a.m.?  You are lying in bed in a dark cabin - no moon, no stars, no lights outside or inside the house.  For some unknown reason you are awake and suddenly a first cry comes - instinctively you know there will be another . . . and another . . . and another.  Only loons can make those sounds that carry across a lake. If you listen attentively and for a long time you begin to distinguish between one loon calling to another checking out perhaps where its mate is, and the loon's cry of distress or fear.

Four sisters and I are back from a week's vacation at our lake house an hour north of St. Benedict's. In addition to the companionship, a few games of card, excellent meals and good reading, there is nothing better than greeting the morning with a cup of coffee and Lectio Divina on the screened-in porch, and savoring the grandeur of God's creation for hours. Each of us was heard musing out loud at least once at the beginning of the week, "There is no schedule . . . really?" It took each of us a day or two to awaken fully to the realization that apart from a noon and an evening meal, our days were our own. It seems that I cannot give myself to reading with the same abondonment here at the monastery as I do at the lake. Many hours of the day were given to reading interspersed with a short nap here and there!

Whether sitting on a bench on the dock, on a lawn chair in the screened-in porch as the sun is setting or staring into a fire roasting marsmallows, these special moments in a day at the lake can stir up in us an incredible feeling of wonderment and gratitude. And if singing is prayer for us then our Sister Delores Dufner's hymn Be Forever Praised rises easily from our heart to our lips in a song of praise.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Darkness Prayer

Have you noticed how good news and bad news often arrive in clusters?  A dear friend of mine has had a series of difficult, inconclusive health reports, accompanied by decreased ability to walk or stand for more than brief intervals. When I asked if she ever felt angry at God for all the unanswered questions and her progressive health losses she responded, “Not really.  I just keep repeating this mantra over and over when any negative thought creeps into my mind:

'May God’s Love flow through me for God’s greatest good.'” 

Then she proceeded to say, “I have no idea what I’ll be invited to walk with in the future, but I know that if I keep walking in God’s loving energy, one day at a time, one step at a time, I stay amazingly peaceful.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have times of tears as I grieve the multiple things I need to let go of right now, but I’m being given the strength to not stay there when I repeat my mantra and allow God to gradually reveal to me another aspect of my highest good. I have so many dear friends and family that are like a tender womb of safety, carrying me into an unknown “new me.”

This is not a new stance for my humble and radically authentic friend. As she worked with persons on hospice care and walked gently with their families on the journey, she continually walked the liminal space of mystery. I guess authentic people discover a way to:

Receive and Radiate
God's light of truth
God’s unconditional love
God’s empowering strength and
God’s compassionate presence

She sounds a bit like Julian of Norwich who famously taught us that: “All will be well, all manner of things will be well”.

It is an honor to walk with my friend on her mysterious path.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fifty Years Ago ...

Fifty years ago, on August 13, 1964, I left my homeland and family to spend the next ten years in Puerto Rico.  No, I did not know Spanish nor was I prepared for a new culture.   It seemed more important to those in charge that I get as close to finishing my degree in English as possible so I could literally “be the English department in the new high school.” Finishing my degree was more important than learning Spanish because in order for the new high school, Colegio San Benito, to be accredited, a credentialed person had to chair each department.   However, I must say that in spite of my inability to speak Spanish, I was “warmly” welcomed into a most beautiful land with so many beautiful people. 

Those first weeks were totally surreal.  I remember that so much felt so exotic and I had to keep telling myself that I was not in a movie … this was real.  The coconut trees, the banana trees, the palm trees – the scenery that was totally breath-taking along with the mountains, and the song of the coqui throughout the night -- all were real.  Yes, so were the termites that lived in the same house as I did.   Sleeping under a canopy of mosquito netting was new but it didn’t take me long to be mighty grateful for it. And wonderful Puerto Rican foods . . . I loved them all and I loved the students who struggled trying to understand the classes I taught in English . . . but not half as much as I struggled to grasp the Spanish because all I had had was two classes in which Sister Marianne taught me the "Dios te salve Maria" (the Hail Mary).    Yes, ten years later, when I was asked to return to Minnesota, I kept the island green for six months watering it with my tears.  To leave was infinitely more difficult than to go there – and unbeknown to many, I grieved the loss of so much and so many for a long time after I was back home!

Not all was easy, but today -- uppermost in my mind and heart is profound gratitude that this surreal thing really happened. Thank you, Mother Henrita Osendorf, who was prioress at the time, (and God) for having the courage and faith to not only  send me to a foreign land but to entrust me with leadership during my 33rd year of life so unprepared.  And thank you also, all of you who became part of my life during those grace-filled ten years . . . from 1964-1974.  You still are remembered in my prayers every night before I go to bed.  Lastly, thank you, Dad and Mom, for your response to what Mother Henrita was asking.  Dad, I will always remember your words that night when Janice asked you and mom how you felt about my going to Puerto Rico.  You, the beautiful man of faith you always were, responded with these words:   “Do you think that if this is what God wants, that mom or I would stand in the way?”   And fifty years later, the tears of gratitude for so much expressed and not expressed are running down my cheeks as I share this part of my life that continues to shape who I am.    

Lois Wedl, OSB

The photograph shows S. Lois (center in tropical white habit) being seen off at Minneapolis/St Paul airport by her sister, S. Janice (r), and cousin , S. Diego (Liz Brannan)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Photo: Susan Sink
Architects may—and do—build structures of peace.  We recognize such places when we enter them and subsequently experience quiet peace. We also recognize places of tension, busy-ness, agitation and bad energy when we are disturbed emotionally upon entering such places.

We, too, can create beautiful places of peace within and around us . . . places that can integrate all the sensory in-take that we absorb each day.

Sometime ago I wrote a blog on noise, unwanted "musak" in every building we enter, machinery and pneumatic drills outside our apartment complexes, violent words and even bullets within earshot in many areas, locally or abroad.

I suggest that we need an internal GPS to guide us on our way to healthy living, meaningful relationships, and ultimately to God.  How can you and I and our beloved community change so that we, indeed, create the peace we long for but which—for days and endless years—we do not experience?

My internal GPS tells me: “Recalculate”, a one- word directive capable of either frustrating me or freeing me for new opportunities in creating peace in the midst of what I call noise.  I need to ponder the piece of grass or flower coming up in the crack of a sidewalk, or the unlikely bed-fellows we occasionally see on YouTube missives: the rabbit and a fawn, the lion and a lamb, a child with its hand over the hole of an asp or adder (Is. 11:6-8).  It’s positive psychology; it’s mindfulness of the other; it’s well-being in the midst of chaos; it’s being able to create PEACE unobtrusively.

Renee Domeier, OSB