Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Coloring of June

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 Ground Garden.

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Have Been Pondering....

S. Janet praying with community
My morning prayer contains the words, “Dear God, I offer you my prayers, joys, works and sufferings of this day …”

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 …”

Janet Thielges, OSB


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Hospital Chaplain

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.


Sister Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Contemplative Practice

I recently heard a Buddhist contemplative express the idea that faith is our unfolding to things as they are, moment by  moment, and that sometimes that “present  moment” may last but a mere  two 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 my  experience 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 fulfilled?”


It may be a question of where God is: “out there” or “in here” OR both?


When 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.


I 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). 


Nothing that we do or don’t do can separate us from Your Presence, Lord!  Thank You! Thank You!


Renee Domeier, OSB

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Mercy in the Garden

Kate Ritger, in the Common Ground Garden
knee deep in snow

The 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.


Gardens 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. 


This 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 community.


Whether 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.

Kate Ritger

Common Ground Gardens Production Manager

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What Is Your Vocation?

S. Lisa Rose, far right
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

Lisa Rose, OSB