The glare of the mid-morning sun on my snow-covered
Iris bed left me with an empty but yellow shape floating before my eyes for too
long but I had been unable to turn away from looking with a combination of
forlornness and hope at the now-white spot that bursts with color in June.Ah, June.Would that it would arrive soon.Then I would begin to savor the freshness of greens from the Common
I turned from the brilliance of the window and
picked up my coloring tool.My new adult
coloring book was full of lines waiting for me to fill with the various shades
of green that would remind me that the whiteness surrounding me would soon
enough be giving way to the welcome green and then the good colors of all the
things I could eat each week as I was rewarded for my patience with the fruits
of the labor of people young and agile enough to bend and kneel and pull and
push the earth into all the right places to help the plants produce the
sustenance that I longed for now.
My fingers moved my coloring markers with care so
that I could stay precisely within the lines created for my entertainment.I thought of the young workers hoeing the new
straight lines that would be first green and then the colors of my favorite
foods.Color on, old fingers; dig on,
young women with strong backs and eager hands, touching the earth and turning
richly brown with the dirt of your labor and the color of joy for the good you
provide to those of us past the age of gardening for ourselves. Lois Head
My morning prayer contains the
words, “Dear God, I offer you my prayers, joys, works and sufferings of this
I can point to my prayers, joys and
works but…, my sufferings?? Do I suffer? Well, I do admit to having some pain
every day, so I know that’s suffering. But that’s as far as the awareness of my
suffering has been going.
As I meditated, I began to realize
that feelings such as hurt, frustration, disappointment, anger or grief can be
types of suffering, too. If my friend and I disagree to the point of not
speaking to one another for a while... or if I feel rejected because I was left
out … or if my sister finds it hard to forgive me for unintentionally losing
her favorite book…those feelings could result in suffering of another kind. I
suppose suffering happens on a minor scale, when I skin my knee from a fall.
I think I am getting the picture. Originally,
I’d been thinking more of the heavy suffering that affects victims of violence,
hunger, immigration abuse and a lack of basic human rights. Yes, that is
suffering without a doubt.
All these insights help me to be in
solidarity with others who suffer so much. Yes, dear God, “I offer you my
prayers, joys, works and sufferings of this day …”
Recently I have been working on the mental health units in a
hospital as part of my chaplain residency. I was given the assignment of the mental health unit. It would never be a
unit in a hospital that I would choose.
If I had to be honest, it was downright scary and overwhelming to be with people
with mental illness. I was so scared of mental illness that, out of choice, I would
avoid people with mental health problems at all cost, or would be pleasantly
nice on the outside with no sense of being a Christ presence to them.
S. Trish Dick, OSB also does dog-sledding retreats for our college
What was so scary was that I didn’t think I could relate to
them and often treated them like “lepers” – untouchables in my life. I didn’t
set out to be this way and believe most of humankind doesn’t either. Yet, through
cultural influences and prejudices, as well as my own prejudices I shied away,
ignored or, truthfully, ran as far as I could from mental illness.
Through my experience on the mental health unit, I have come
to realize that the pain people with mental illness reflect back to me is my
pain. I just might have a more sophisticated ways of self-protection and hiding
my own woundedness and pain. In coming to grips with my own mental illness of PTSD,
it set in motion a realization that they were actually no different from me in
this journey of life. Yes, I might not have the same mental and physical
suffering but, on a human level, I carry with me the same woundedness, pain,
and desire to belong and be loved.
As I tap into this pain and befriend it, it provides the
catalyst for my own healing, the gift of being a healer and developing a sense
of connectedness with my clients as fellow pilgrims in life who share a spiritual
journey. I believe that St. Benedict, too, understood his own humanity and
mental struggle in his Rule, which he
calls this “little rule for beginners.”He had a deep reverence for the weaknesses in his monks, honoring their
fallibility, and understanding that spiritual progress lies in constantly
making the effort to see Christ in each person.
recently heard a Buddhist contemplative express the idea that faith is our
unfolding to things as they are, moment bymoment, and that sometimes that “presentmoment” may last but a meretwo
or three seconds!I felt rushed when I
thought I might have to renew my mindfulness up to 30 times in one minute!Perhaps I have misunderstood this particular
Buddhist’s meaning but myexperience
tells me that my faith needs to be steeped in the sure knowledge that God is
guiding the whole of creation as it unfolds and evolves over years, centuries,
millennia—including what is happening,
every two or three seconds.So what does this
unusual situation suggest for our contemplative practice—our being present to
the present moment—as well as our faith in a God who is guiding the evolution
of all that is, whether ordered or chaotic, until that time when “All will be
may be a question of where God is: “out there” or “in here” OR both?
we learn how to look, how to really look and therefore to see, we realize that
God shines through everything—the ordinary and the extraordinary: the then, the
here, the now, and without doubt, in that which is to come.
think I agree with the Buddhist contemplative!It takes faith to let myself unfold to what is, moment by moment. Our
faith assures us that God is the Presence that goes with us and gives us rest
on the way (Exod. 33:14).
that we do or don’t do can separate us from Your Presence, Lord!Thank You! Thank You!
Kate Ritger, in the Common Ground Garden knee deep in snow
Common Ground Garden is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) garden founded by
the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict in 1993. This farming model, with
roots in Japan and Europe, is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm
and supporters. Members make a financial pledge and promise to contribute time
and personal skills to the farm. They receive a weekly share of fresh vegetables
throughout the growing season and develop a relationship with the farmer, the land
and other members.
are about growing food and are intrinsically about feeding the hungry, the
first “Work of Mercy” noted in Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew. The
CSA model and our Benedictine mission is to feed the hungry by focusing on hospitality
and relationships. We have relationships with our members, work share
participants, (members who can work to reduce the cost of their garden share),
clients at the St. Joseph Food Shelf and those who participate in Joe Town
Table, a free monthly community meal in St. Joseph.
year we will also build relationships with those who utilize the Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). SNAP garden
members will be able to use their benefits to purchase a CSA share. We look
forward to the personal skills and friendship they will bring to the garden
you live in St. Joe or many miles away, whether it’s early February or the
middle of the harvest season, we encourage you to find ways to deepen
relationships with the farmers, land, food and neighbors around you. Nourish
your bodies, care for the earth and when in St. Joe, stop by and visit us.
The word vocation is not limited to religious life,
as I have learned over the years. One definition for the word vocation is "a call." For me the definition of "call" means to “listen to God.” What is
God calling me to be or who am I to become? These are two great questions to
keep in mind as you listen to God. It is in listening to God through prayer and
conversations with others that your personal vocation may become clearer. If I ask
myself “When was my religious vocation clear,” I cannot fully answer the
question. One thing I do remember as being a strong element in my religious vocation
goes back to the day I entered Saint Benedict’s Monastery: September 3,
1983. It was during my first meal in the monastic dining room, when an older
sister, Sister Remberta, came over to the table where I was sitting. What she
said to me that evening still sticks in my head as if she said it yesterday, “Pray
for perseverance every day.” Praying for
perseverance is a way I live out my vocation every day. By asking God for guidance I am strengthened in my monastic vocation and I am able to grow
through the ups and downs of life. Living with my sisters in community through
our common commitment to prayer and work, I am strengthened. So my vocation
which began in the 1980s is still growing in 2016. If you would like more
information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at
This blog is maintained by a group of Sisters at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. We try to post weekly and often succeed at that.
The opinions on this blog belong to individual writers and do not reflect any official position of the monastery. Please feel free to comment on any of the entries-- comments are moderated, but we'll publish any reasonable comment.