Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Transcending the Boundaries of Our Human Perspectives

Lately I have been interning in a hospital as a chaplain.  A couple days a week I have had the joy of meeting up with Tucker, the Golden Doodle Dog and working on the floor with him.  Why would the hospital with its highly sterile conditions allow dogs on floors?  Maybe it’s because science is finally confirming what people have known intuitively for years therapy dogs help heal people physically, emotionally and socially, and spiritually.
Most of us never think about how animals have the capacity to lead us spiritually in a variety of ways. They can teach us about death,  participate in our social and moral development, enhance our physical and psychological well-being and heighten our capacity to love and to experience joy.
Animals, however, offer us a unique opportunity to transcend the boundaries of our human perspectives, they allow us to stretch our consciousness toward understanding what it is like to be different. This stretching enables us to grow beyond our narrow viewpoint. It allows us, I believe, to gain a spiritual advantage.
How can we possibly appreciate and move toward spiritual wholeness if we cannot see beyond our own species? How can we come to know God, or grasp the interconnectedness of all life, if we limit ourselves to knowing only our own kind? The goal of compassion is not to care because someone is like us but to care because they are themselves.
Any spiritual discipline, in any tradition, invites us to open our hearts and minds. This invitation represents an ongoing exercise; the desire and attempt to open to others in our midst are the essence of the spiritual process.   
Trish Dick, OSB
We don't have a photo of Tucker but here's what seems an appropriate substitute - a picture of Sister Trish forming a bond with a dog on one of the dogsledding retreats she regularly leads!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Waking Moment

As babes we are born with a tabla raza (blank slate) upon which all that we choose, all that comes to us and goes forth from us forms our own personalities and affects the world we live in.  

David Whyte suggests that maybe the same image could apply to our daily risings, for this day and for as long as we live. He has a suggestion about what to remember as we awaken, “in that first hardly noticed moment ...”


In that first

hardly noticed


to which you wake,

coming back to this life

from the other

more secret,


and frighteningly



where everything


there is a small


into the new day

which closes

the moment

you begin

your plans.

What you can plan

is too small

for you to live.

What you can live


will make plans


for the vitality

hidden in your sleep.

To be human

is to become visible

while carrying

what is hidden

as a gift to others. 

To remember

the other world

in this world

is to live in your

true inheritance.

You are not

a troubled guest

on this earth,

you are not

an accident

amidst other accidents

you were invited

from another and greater


than the one

from which

you have just emerged.

Now, looking through

the slanting light

of the morning

window toward

the mountain


of everything

that can be,

what urgency

calls you to your

one love?  What shape

waits in the seed

of you to grow

and spread

its branches

against a future sky?

Is it waiting

in the fertile sea?

In the trees

beyond the house?

In the life

you can imagine

for yourself?

In the open

and lovely

white page

on the waiting desk?

-David Whyte (The House of Belonging)

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No Need to Run on Fumes

"Selfie": Joanne outside Sacred Heart Chapel
With so much on the go to meet the myriad demands of family and work, sometimes we miss the signs of thirstiness in our spiritual lives.

Following three years of volunteering as a writer and administrator on a very busy hospital ship serving the people of Africa, I found myself parched for a long and deep spiritual drink.

I connected with the living waters I thirsted for through the Studium Program at Saint Benedict's Monastery. By living in residence here at the St. Joseph campus, I have ready access to the soul-nourishing daily Liturgy of the Hours, prayed morning, noon and evening in the Oratory. I also sup the Body and Blood of Christ at daily Mass held in Sacred Heart Chapel.

I have come to realize, after a number of weeks of daily spiritual imbibing, that even the occasional prayer-filled sip can provide much needed refreshment. This, in turn, leads to revived energy and the return of a more joyful perspective.

No need to let your well-being run on fumes when daily prayer and Mass is open to all in the environs of the monastery of Saint Benedict or anywhere with a monastery nearby.

Joanne Thibault
Studium Scholar

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Our Common Home

A blog in two parts this week, by Sister Kathryn Casper, both inspired by the Pope’s recent encyclical.

i)                  Story in Prose
Here’s a story told to me by Sister Dennis Frandrup, who is a great observer of nature, dearly loving all of God’s wonders in creation.

One day as she approached the door to the monastery dining room, something fell in front of her. Wondering what it was, she stopped, and discovered a tiny baby bird.  She picked it up, with gentle care. The bird was still warm and she cuddled it in her open hands, protecting it until she could decide what to do.  Sister Dennis felt great compassion for this vulnerable little creature. She understood that the only way to save the baby bird was to restore it to its nest.  The nest was perched high upon a light outside the door.  Somehow Sister Dennis managed to put the bird back into its nest.  This firsthand experience for her was a direct realization of the vulnerability not only of this small bird, but of all creatures on our planet.  The experience opened her heart and mind to deeper compassion for all that is fallen and helpless, to see the great gift of redemption offered to us daily by our gracious Creator God. 
Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB

ii)               Poem of Praise

On the Care of our Common Home

Yellow day lilies in lift their heads
like golden trumpets
resounding in exuberant joy
          LAUDATO  SI!

Finches, wrens, sparrows
whistling, trilling, warbling
toss ecstatic song into the universe
          LAUDATO  SI!

Newest rabbit peeks from under
the glorious dogwood bush
offering shy worship
          LAUDATO  SI!

Squirrels digging in wood-chipped earth
stop, startled by some mysterious impulse
          LAUDATO  SI!

Fertile trees, laden with seed
Bow, bend, wave in wondrous rhythm,
          LAUDATO  SI!

Tall sedate firs in perfect, elegant symmetry 
announce a paean of praise
          LAUDATO  SI!

Sister Philip, rolls her lumbering cart
across the grounds
tools clang, thrum, resound
          LAUDATO  SI

Workers, grounds keepers,
security officers, secretaries, administrators ~
sisters, young and old working, praying
keep the monastery humming
          LAUDATO  SI!

In the sacred tranquil cemetery
holy witnesses bespeak in silent concert
lives of enduring faithfulness and ardent love
          LAUDATO  SI!