Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why I Love Ash Wednesday at the Monastery

One Wednesday a year, either in February or March, our monastery chapel fills to the brim with monastics, college students and the local community to receive ashes; there's a palpable sense of energy in the chapel that has always piqued my interest. 
Why do folks – especially college students --  fill our chapel to be smudged on the forehead with ashes to mark the first day of Lent?  Is it peer driven? Might be. Or does it resonate deep within the soul of each person that Ash Wednesday marks a day to connect with who we are and who we can be?  Each person places a sign of the cross made with ashes on another person’s forehead and offers one of these two phrases:  “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” or “Repent and believe in the gospel.”  It is in the ashes that we remember our humanity and call to mind our mortality, something St. Benedict wanted his monks to do; as he states in the Rule "keep death daily before your eyes."  
It is also in the ashes that we confront the mistakes we have made and repent of sin. While this sounds a little fatalistic, it is not the end of the story for us because we have this innate faith that Lent will lead to Easter. One Wednesday every year we go to church to remember who we are and hopefully who we can be. Sending the masses of college students out into the world with their smudge of the cross on the forehead signifying this powerful message is a breath of inspiration and hope for the world and the Church.

Let us continue to run the path set before us on this Lenten journey.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Joys of Lent

For many people, Lent isn't their favorite time of year, but I always look forward to it. Some Lents turn out to be more meaningful to me than others, but what I enjoy about each one is that it's a time to simplify, to take stock of what's crept into my life that doesn't need to be there and to find ways to work on removing the things that are barriers between me and God.

In fact, Ash Wednesday, which falls tomorrow this year, is one of my favorite days of the year. The distribution of ashes makes me feel connected to Christians throughout the ages who have acknowledged their own unworthiness, resolved by God's grace to try to live more fully in the love of Christ, and trusted in God's love to supply that grace. I have a sense of being part of a greater whole -- the Church. It's hard to put into words but maybe you, too, have that sense of us all as penitential pilgrims going at our different paces, stumbling here and there, but all on our way together towards our Father in heaven.

When I say that I like Lent, I don't mean that I necessarily find it easy. Being challenged and working to meet the challenges is what makes the journey worthwhile. Many people choose to do something positive during in Lent, like taking more exercise, donating money to a good cause, etc. and those are certainly great choices. However, I am quite traditional in my approach. I like to give something up and I have rules. It has to be something I will find it hard to do without, not that I want or ought to give up anyway, like candy; and it can't be something that someone else tells me to give up, which may or may not be a challenge. For example, in our diocese, we are asked not to eat meat on the Fridays of Lent. I am not much of a meat-eater, so that doesn't bother me. I do it but, under my rules, it doesn't count as the Lenten penance. Also, my rules state that I have to give up something different each year because once you've done something, you know you can do it and it has to be a new challenge.

Now, why do I want to do something hard? I think the answer is that it's to do with self-discipline.  As the weeks go on, it will become more difficult and I'm aware that it doesn't really matter in the great scope of the universe whether I succeed or not. But there's something in me that says, "If you can discipline yourself in something that doesn't matter, it's like being a spiritual athlete and this exercise will train me to practice that same self-discipline when it does matter."

So, here's to a joyful Lent - however you may find that joy!

Karen Rose, OSB

Monday, February 9, 2015

Having Hope

"Comprehensive Immigration Reform" seems to have been lost in the political wandering of the last few months. Immigration issues are not even on the radar screen since both Republicans and Democrats continue to establish other priorities. 

There are always risks for those who are immigrants when they seek an extension of time in this country (where they're often told they don't belong); fear operates close to the surface of their every decision. Requirements are stiff and complicated; careful preparation of documents must be made beforehand. 

 So, what gives someone like me, an advocate for Latino immigrants, a bit of hope?

  • When I see immigration lawyers informing immigrants of their rights and possibilities.
  •  When I hear Floridian Jeb Bush, in his first public campaign speech say, "I believe we should welcome the dreamers.”
  • When I witness Latinos themselves who are organizing together and finding that they can leave behind their fear, not remain hidden, recognize their value as people and accomplish what they could never do alone.

Often it takes tragedy to spark a movement but human rights need only a spark to cast a bit of light far and wide! Securing healthcare; winning new policing policies so that there is equal treatment for blacks, browns, reds, whites; fighting for immigration rights rather than death in the desert; winning access to drivers' licenses; stopping deportation; winning back stolen wages and more are works of darkness yearning for the light! I have hope!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Unfinished Business

“When you pray, pray with your feet” was the theme of Dr. Vernon Jordan’s keynote address at the Martin Luther King breakfast on January 19th.  Actually the printed title for this 2nd annual Conference honoring Dr. King was “Infinite Hope, Meaningful Action: the Color of Unity.”  There is a definite progression here: hope alone moves no boundaries (but it is infinitely important). Wise and meaningful action, measured responses, disciplined people must embody that hope in order for there to be change in the systems that continue to haunt our beloved country, our “beloved community,” a term spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King himself, as well as promulgated by current Congressman John Lewis!
It is no secret that racist actions continue to visit the black community.  Actually the rapidity with which we are confronted and informed of such racist actions leaves our heads reeling! These cause us to ask: “Has there been any progress since the March on Selma and on Washington during these 50 years ago?”

Of course there has been! And Dr. Jordan cleverly made a litany of the tears of JOY that Martin Luther King would shed-- if he were alive today-- to see his four little children walking hand in hand with little white children to a desegregated school, to mention but one change in the past 50 years. 

But, Dr. Jordan also cleverly made a litany of the tears of SORROW that Martin Luther King would shed-- if he were alive today-- to read our news reports of so many deaths, among our colored brothers and sisters, due to the cruel discrimination in our justice system and in our personal inability to rid ourselves of prejudice.   

Progress has been made—no doubt about it—but the progress has had a rocky journey; that progress has never been linear.  Currently, the right to register and vote hounds us in this beloved community.  The tough task is to get people to vote!  We must take the responsibility!  Although we may be ready to get arrested, Dr. Jordan admitted, most of us are not ready to re-build our institutions. We need a big dose of what he called “divine dissatisfaction.”  St. Cloud may be stumbling toward a spoken goal of being a “Model City of Integration” but according to a Somali gentleman and a Hispanic lawyer at my table, we have a journey into the future that demands an audacious faith, the courage to speak up in the face of another’s being treated as an OBJECT and both wise and meaningful action that will change public disunity into the action and color of unity!  Passive acceptance is not enough. . .nor is HOPE alone sufficient  in changing systems.  We have to “pray with our feet!”

S. Renée Domeier, OSB