Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Of Shoes and Earth

Shoes removed for the Luminous Lodge Retreat
(Photo by Lisa Rose, OSB)
Putting our sandals away as summer and fall are leaving us, we take out our winter shoes and snow boots to prepare for winter.
Allegorically, in the scriptures, “shoes” also refers to “our path,” “our journey” in life.
Exodus 12:11 says: “…You are to be dressed for travel with your sandals on your feet.” Paul, Eph. 14-15 says, “So stand ready with truth as a belt, righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes a readiness to announce the Good News of peace.:
Some years back, while visiting a Trappestine Monastery, I participated in their daily walking meditation outside, all with bare feet.
Shortly, after coming home, I dreamt that I lost my shoes and after looking all over, I did not find them.
The experience I had with the Trappestines had something to tell me about my journey. What could it be? What does “having lost my shoes” tell me now? Is it trying to tell me something about my walk in life, my vocation here and now?
As I was focusing on the dirt below my bare feet, I came closer to the meaning. Am I too focused on my ministry and not enough on nature and the earth below my bare feet? Am I taking enough time enjoying the outdoors to be nourished by it? How can I help to take better care of the earth? Is God telling me to trust the soul of my heart and the gut more?
Thich Nhat Hanh, the author of Peace in Every Step, invites us to a gentle bare foot walk on the dirt and, in doing so, to imagine your toes as kissing the earth below. Do that gently with each step, left, right, left, right. This felt like a truth I was meant to learn. While taking my ministry seriously, I need to stay close to the “earth.”
While on Mount Sinai, God told Moses to take off his shoes for the soil he was standing on was Holy Ground.
Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tour of Saints Bike Ride

Supporting our sisters at Saint Scholastica
(Photo by Marina Schlangen, OSB)

It was a rainy and cool Sunday morning as a friend and I checked in for the Tour of Saints bike ride. We had agreed to ride the eighteen-mile route, which took us along the Lake Wobagon Trail. We rode up to Avon and back again to Saint Joseph. We met many bikers along the way who were also spending their Sunday morning riding their bikes in the rain. The rain did not appear to dampen the spirit of any of the bikers. We greeted people along the way by offering and receiving words of support. I learned as I was riding my bike that when I set my mind to do something, I really want to accomplish it. Riding my bike in the rain was not my first choice that Sunday morning. Under the rainy circumstances, I learned a lesson of endurance that a sunny day would not have provided. I learned that a little encouragement goes a long way. Still I would have preferred a bright sunny day for the experience.  I hope that next year the sun will shine for the Tour of Saints bike ride and we are already talking about riding the thirty-five mile loop. Rain or shine, the sisters at Saint Benedict’s Monastery encourage one another day after day to live a balanced life of prayer, work and community. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Retreat at the Lodge

(Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
It was somewhat easier
to still my “flickering mind”

Though it took three days
 two birds,  two squirrels
and trees that stood still,
          deeply grounded
          and waiting . . .
for who knows what?

I know! It was You, Lord, coming
through the music of creation
          slowly yet continuous;

It was You, my Love,
          speaking through feathered wings,
though there were no seeds,
and squirrels who did not need
to climb the slippery pole as if
they already knew there was no food.

You are everywhere, Lord,
          waiting to  open my flickering mind
          and tell my heart of Your gentle presence.

You like the Lodge community too, don’t You?

Renee Domeier, OSB

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dementia-The Unexpected Gift

(My mom and I
Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB)
We grew up in a very strong Catholic family. A saying I always heard around the house was, “As long as you live in this house, you will go to church.” We had bedtime curfews, rules for doing homework, supper rituals and chores. On the flip side, I remember having wonderful birthday parties, holidays with the family and a deep sense of love and safety in my family.

When I was a teenager, my youth tricked my psyche into believing in forever. I thought I had all the time in the world. My mom and I were very close, but we were also very different, so we spent a lot of wasteful time in disagreement, though I also knew she was my number one advocate.

My mother was very sharp and she loved to talk. She always remembered birthdays, names and any opportunity to play cards with her friends. She prided herself on knowing all fifty state capitols. Though she was a shrewd card player, athletics was not her forte. Our family played many games of cards together, but when it came to our family badminton games, mom was put on the team with my older brother who hit all her shots. She, in turn, would playfully hit him with her racket.

While my mom and I sometimes had a tumultuous relationship, we spent lots 
(Twin Hats
Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB)
of time together. One memorable trip: we decided to go to the Smokey Mountains for the day. It was a five-hour drive, but we had a great time. We talked most of the way, had lunch, shopped and came back home. Another time, we decided to take off driving and ended up in South Carolina! We did not even have a reservation, but were able to spend a night on the beach. It was delightful.

It was not until I went home for a family visit after my first profession that I realized the deplorable conditions my mother was living in. She was not able to or willing to walk, to go up in our kitchen, get out with friends or do the things she used to do so well. I realized that I could not leave my mom like this. At this time, I was not aware of what was going on with my mom and truly thought it was depression.

With the blessing of my community, I was able to bring my mom up to Minnesota with me. I found her a place close by where I could still live community life fully, but also tend to the needs of my mom. We soon discovered that my mother had dementia.

I have never known anyone with dementia personally. I have only heard things about it, so I had NO idea what to expect. The first months of this were very difficult for me. As I said, my mom and I always had a tumultuous, but loving, relationship. When my mom would say things, I found myself disputing her. I got her into a facility that not only cared for my mother, but helped me to learn how to respond to her.

(Painted Nails
Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB)
I have to say it has been the most heart-wrenching experience I have ever been through, but it has changed me immensely in the process. I have learned not to argue with my mom. Whatever she says, I make a conversation out of it even if I have no idea what we are talking about. I have entered her world and accepted her as she is. In that, I have received a gift of peace in my heart. It has not only changed the way I think of and deal with my own mom, but it has caused a deeper change in me in all my relationships. I have learned to be a more kind, compassionate and merciful person. My mom makes me laugh out loud at times. I don’t resent her in any way, but enjoy her company. We paint her nails every week (she even lets me paint them wild colors), go for rides, have supper, play cards that she still loves, watch her favorite show “Everyone Loves Raymond” and sometimes I just hold her hand and kiss her.

I have become a care-taker for my mom in the way that I knew someday I would, but not so early and not for this reason. My daily plea to God is to safeguard my mother's humanity and dignity. I am her number one advocate and cheerleader like she was so many times for me. I am not ready to think about it right now, but I know God will take my mom from me someday. I thank God every day for our gift of time together and our newfound loving relationship. I am the lucky one to still have a loving mother that I can give to today because tomorrow may be too late.

If you are one of the many people dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia, I pray for your strength and believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that you will receive an unexpected gift.
Tammy Shoemaker, OSB

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I Changed Teams

Being a spiritual counselor in children’s acute behavioral hospital has been challenging and a huge learning curve. I have worked and been exposed to a ministry of trauma but never at this acute level. My eyes have been opened to a world of trauma and suffering that most of the population will never experience. This ministry has challenged to me at the core of my faith and belief system in the goodness and loving-kindness of God.

Last week I sat down with a ten-year-old patient whom I had prayed with often and encouraged in their faith and belief system. This patient I noticed was acting out aggressively and defiantly last week. At our routine meeting time, I asked the patient, “Hey, what’s going on?” The patient responded; “Oh I changed teams from God to Satan.”  I replied; “Really tell me why you changed teams?” The patient responded, “Well, Trish, I prayed to God for help and God didn’t answer my prayer. I have now joined the other team.”  I admit I was taken aback and wondered how to respond to this cry of suffering. I tritely replied, “Sometimes, it takes time for God to answer prayer.” I knew this was no consolation to the patient and an ineffective answer, although I believe in some way or time God answers our prayer. For this ten-year-old, dealing and coping with the pain of traumatic abuse, waiting on God to answer prayer was not in the cards for relief and healing.

My conversation with this patient is not a new concept for human beings. Probably most of us, at some point in our life, have wondered and questioned, “Why God?” and even switched teams to unbelief or apathy. The only thing I knew to do was to look the patient in the eye and say, “I believe that God understands your heart and will always love you.” 

I carry the seed of hope for this patient. I pray and cry to God for the suffering of all these children that are put in my path.  My compassionate heart dreams of adopting them all and giving them a chance, even though I know that it’s an impossible, grandiose dream. Yet, I carry a seed of hope in my heart and believe the scripture of Romans 5:5: "Hope does not disappoint because …", because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. The seed of hope that was carried for me, I now carry for others because of the gift of the Holy Spirit and the love of God into each of our hearts. Go and make disciples …. Nurturing a seed of hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Trish Dick, OSB

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Day in the Woods

A solo butterfly

a busily searching bee

and numerous bugs

kept me company today.

Oh yes, and Meister Eckhart, the mystic

         who sees everything from the inside out.

I asked him: “What if the world were not here?”

“What if I could experience God

         through my inner eyes too?”

(Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
“Would God, then, not have created

         this butterfly? this bee? these bugs?

         or, for that matter, green grass? colorful flowers?

         blue sky and water? invisible breezes and swaying leaves?

         ordinary birds like robins, sparrow, swallows?

I can’t imagine knowing God without this world of nature.

For me, the way to God is along a wide path lined with

         color and design, movement and life, invitation and delight.

So why, Meister Eckhart, do you ask me to surrender

          unneeded boundaries as I walk, limp, run or leap for joy?

Though I think I may understand when you say:

          The Father laughs

          and gives birth to the Son.

          The Son laughs back at the Father

          and gives birth to the Spirit.

          The whole Trinity laughs

          and gives birth to us.

So are you saying ‘boundaries are not needed’ if we are ONE?”

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Climbing the Rock Wall

S. Lisa Rose climbing a rock wall!
Have you ever climbed a Rock Wall?  This past summer I had the opportunity to climb a rock wall with some of the campers at our 3g camp (Girls, God and Good Times). As I watched the first group of climbers I thought, “I want to do that.” With this moment of courage leading me on I geared up in the special shoes and harness, then went to the meet the Belay. The belay is the individual to whom you are tethered for safety as you climb the wall. The belay guides you from below as you climb to the top.
After a few instructions, I was ready to start the climb. I had a hard time getting started and was almost ready to quit, then I said to myself, “You can do this.” During my third attempt I was on my way up the wall. I had a group of campers cheering me on from below, along with the belay who was calling out secure areas to place a foot or hand. Halfway up I felt a little nervous, asking myself, “Will I make it?” Then I felt a surge of energy that whispered, “You are almost there, keep going.”  In the end, I was unable to get that last good grip three feet from the top, so the belay began lowering me to the ground. The belay and the campers cheering me on during the climb helped me stay focused.
We all need people cheering on as we try something new. Without my cheerleaders, I may have given up, yet they helped me succeed in doing something I can now check off my bucket list.
If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"Why Are You Sad My Heart?"

“Why are you sad, my heart?

Why do you grieve?

Wait for the Lord,

I will yet praise God my savior.” Psalm 42


Cyclone damage to the Monastery (1916)
Events these past few weeks answer the psalmist’s questions about why my heart might be sad or why I might be grieving. Hurricanes and earthquakes have brought death, injury and devastation to so many; the nuclear threat from North Korea has escalated; millions across the globe continue to face the horrors of terrorism and civil war.  These events also make me ask another question, “Why does a loving, forgiving God allow these things to happen?” I don’t know. I don’t have secret hotline to God through which my questions and doubts are answered.

In saying that I don’t know, however, I have the inkling of an insight. In common with most of the world, I don’t know why God lets these things happen, but it makes me very conscious of my common humanity. I know that I’m fortunate not, at this time, to be directly affected by these disasters, but I’m very conscious of suffering in my heart alongside the many victims throughout the world. And that gives me an understanding of what it might mean to love my neighbor as myself. It is right that I should feel sad and grieved.

The next two lines of Psalm 42 start to mean more to me. I don’t understand the mind of God and I don’t need to. My call is to wait and allow God’s love to flow through me, whether that’s by providing practical help to victims, making a donation or supporting my brothers are sisters who are hurting through prayer.  

One of the great gifts of the psalms is that they encompass the whole of human experience. Psalm 42 is one of my favorites because it doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions that challenge our faith; it doesn’t pretend that life is always good but acknowledges that, at times, we are disturbed and disquieted. It also ends with advice: “Wait for the Lord.” That’s where we are at this moment, waiting for the Lord, continuing to pray in hopeful trust for light in our darkness.

Karen Rose, OSB

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"On Being"

(Sisters working with Habitat for Humanity)
Recently, Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of well-known anthropologist Margaret Mead, was interviewed on Krista Tippet’s program On Being. An over-reaching concern was how to change not only ourselves, but our world! In order to change our world—and she confidently quoted her mother—“never doubt that a small group of people can change the world.” Mary Catherine Bateson explained further what may be included in what is experienced as “evolutionary development. Above all, though simple in words and admittedly demanding in action, is the first requirement, the need to be “observant participants” with the kind of joyful participation we see in children, all their senses open and alive to learning something new and then bringing it to Mommy so she too can see!
Observe. Judge.  Act.

The Apostles were observant participants! Having learned from Jesus a new way to be and do, they excitedly and wholeheartedly spread out to share the Message around a Mediterranean world!

Likewise, the American Revolution attests to the same required process that resulted in the wisdom of learning together, sharing ideas, perhaps modifying them and finally with—yes!—a spiritual foundation, spreading out to help form our democracy!

How, then, might we individually change our confusing and confused world?  What do I observe? Read? Believe? With whom do I ally myself? When was the last time I affirmed, disagreed with or promoted the status quo?

“Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world!”

Renee Domeier, OSB

Monday, September 11, 2017

Black Folk Religion: God as a Liberating God

I keep recognizing how much other cultures have to teach me.  A recent confirmation of that happened when I listened to an interview by Krista Tippet with Ruby Sales, civil rights veteran and public theologian. [“on Being”, August 17, 2017].  It helped me again acknowledge how many persons of color continually put their lives on the line to move social justice into the foreground of our awareness.  Ruby, who grew up on black folk religion, described her concept of black folk religion this way.

(Photo submitted by Martha Maloney)
“When I talk about Black Folk Religion I’m talking about a religion that came out of ordinary people during enslavement in the fields of America. We saw ourselves as a Beloved Community. It meant that we wanted to have justice because we loved everybody in our hearts.  Our songs were about God as a liberating God.” Ruby came to recognize and embody what God-justice, God-talk, God-love, and God-right-relations looked and felt like as the words rang in her ears.


Is it possible that the lyrics of these traditional black folk songs might help save America from itself by giving us a Beloved-Community-vocabulary in our time?


Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What does a Forever Commitment Mean?

Have you ever wondered how a commitment will stick for some people and not for others? Well here is a simple story about a lifelong commitment. When my two nieces were married last year, I was able to witness the marriage commitment of all the married couples who attended the reception. During the reception, the Disc Jockey began what he called, “The anniversary dance." After he invited all the married couples to the dance floor, the music started. When he called out a number that matched the number years they had been married they had to leave the dance floor. Of course, the first couple to walk away was the newly married. It was fun to watch and celebrate with each couple as they walked away. The count began with one year, three years, five years, seven years, ten years and fifteen years. Slowly he got up to fifty years, fifty-five years, and at this point, the only two couples on the dance floor were the grandparents of the newly married couple. At sixty years, only one couple was dancing, my parents. The count continued, sixty-one, sixty-two, he finally asked, “How long have you been married?” Everyone in my family called out “Sixty-four years.” At which the DJ responded, “I have never had a couple on the dance floor that long.”

(Tamra Thomas, OSB, Perpetual Profession, July 11, 2017
Photo by Nancy Bauer, OSB)
So what does forever mean to you? At Saint Benedict’s Monastery, we make our forever commitment on our profession day. If you would like more information about our monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When Was It You?

Mary Reuter, OSB is currently the Novice Director for our community.
In a documentary about the monkeys of Shangri-la in the Himalayas,1 I watched one youngster that was rejected by the other monkeys, including his mother. He was left to learn by himself how to manage his life, stay connected with the “troop” (band of monkeys), and forage for food. He became under-nourished and socially isolated. 

One day he struggled to climb a tree limb; he was too weak to make progress. He was becoming discouraged, desperate. Suddenly a strong furry arm of his stepfather reached down to pull him up. I imagine him being brought into a strong embrace, smothered in the fur of his elder’s  protection.

When, in the midst of a day has someone made a comment of acknowledgement to you and you felt a boost forward? When have you been struggling in making a decision and an unexpected breakthrough made a freeing shift in your perspective and insight? You realized once again that there is a power beyond you and you can count on it for good. And this power is God. When have you needed help with a task and someone volunteered her services? You were pulled from feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed to relief and accomplishment. “I will praise you, God, and give you thanks” (adapted Ps. 30:1,4).

When have you extended a hand or arm to pull someone a little farther on one of their limbs of life? When might you have been an instrument of God who says, “I pulled you out of the pit” (Ps. 30)—the pit of whatever is burdensome, fearful, painful, unfree . . . .  And you respond: “I will praise you . . . , my God. I will give thanks to your forever” (adapted Ps. 30:12).

Mary Reuter, OSB

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Here We Stand

Here We Stand: Reforming Anew
Catholics and Lutherans in Dialogue
Saturday, September 9
8:30 a.m-1 p.m.

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Catholics, Lutherans and other interested people will gather in the Gorecki Center at the College of Saint
Benedict to address the challenges this day’s title suggests. The words “Here I stand” are often
Dr. Kathryn Johnson
attributed to Martin Luther, as he strongly affirmed his belief in the saving power of God’s mercy. For us today, “here we stand” can both affirm Catholic and Lutheran traditions, beliefs and practices, and pose a series of questions: Where do Catholics and Lutherans now stand in relation to each other? Can we stand in unity in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Can we work together for justice, nonviolence, mercy and hospitality, in a world hungry for these Gospel values? In other words, to what new reformation do our churches and our world call us?

Abbot John Klassen
We’ll address some of these questions guided by Dr. Kathryn Johnson, director for ecumenical and inter-religious relations for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Her keynote address, “What Difference Does This Anniversary Make?” and the response of Abbot John Klassen, OSB, of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., will bring to light the gifts of the Spirit to both religious traditions, throughout their history and at this moment—gifts we can offer to each other and to the world through concrete, united action.

Bishop Donald Kettler
Bishop Jon Anderson
Bishop Donald Kettler of St. Cloud and Bishop Jon Anderson of the Southwest Minnesota Synod of the ELCA will open and close the day
with prayer. There will be time throughout the day for conversation and questions for the speakers. We’ll continue our dialogue at lunch as we break bread together. The day will end with prayer, ritual and song.

You may register online, but hurry because registration for this event is limited.
Questions? Contact Sister Eunice Antony at (320) 363 8927 or eantony@csbsju.edu

Co-sponsored by Saint Benedict’s Monastery, Collegeville Institute, Diocese of St. Cloud, Saint John’s Abbey, Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in cooperation with Southwestern MN Synod of the ELCA.

[Related events this weekend are being held Friday, September 8, at St. Mary’s Basilica in Minneapolis and Sunday, September 10, at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville. For more information, contact Carla Durand at cdurand@csbsju.edu]

Mara Faulkner, OSB

Monday, August 21, 2017

Gorgeousness Revealed

As I move through different circles of interacting with others, an observer’s first impression of me may hinge on what I look like.  However, my body is not me. It is the house in which I live. If you say that I am so many inches tall, or that I weigh such and such number of pounds, I will reply, “You are not describing me. You are talking about my address.” [Plotinus]

(Photo by Nancy Bauer, OSB)
When we share stories with one another we begin to notice who we each are at a deeper level and may actually discover certain layers of inner beauty.  In the transformative and life-expressing exchange of storytelling, the listening presence of an attentive “other” helps me see more fully who they are and who I am.  It helps me discover again the truth of this African proverb “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.” (A person is a person because of other people.)

Once we risk taking off a layer of our skin by telling honest stories to one another, who knows, we might find that more of us can walk around in our uncovered gorgeousness.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Happiness Attacks"

Recently I was with a homeless woman who suffers intermittent “panic attacks”.  Her entire body shakes from the pain.  She sits down for a few seconds, and then, has to rise for a brief moment or walk around to ease the terrible pain especially in her legs. While she was with me, all I could do. . .or knew how to do . . .was to hold her and assure her that how she was responding was perfectly O.K.  It must be terrible to live in her skin, so constantly expectant of another “panic attack” though she was not always able to predict just when it would come!

Today I read of another woman who had what she called “happiness attacks."  These started for her when she was a child.  They lasted but a few moments and came whenever “everything was right in her world:" when she was loved, enjoying school, being cared for.  She noticed these wonderful attacks even though they lasted but a moment. And, wonder of wonders, these attacks continued into her adulthood!  What a blessed woman!  I, too, want to be conscious of such “happiness attacks” in my life and call them by their name!

Have you had a “happiness attack” today?  I have! This morning, I saw our little chipmunks voraciously consuming layer after  layer of tiny blue berries on medium-sized trees outside our chapel—four of them!  The chippies were so quick and even intent upon enjoying this feast in an orderly manner, from top branches to the succeeding layer of leaves and fruit!  I could not help but smile and be grateful for such a lovely “happiness attack."

Or you may have witnessed—as I did-- a six month old baby girl sleeping contentedly upon her daddy’s shoulder.  Or was it a simple thoughtful action like that of a young school child holding a door and smiling at the elderly woman carrying her two bags with  minimal contents as she made her way out of the supermarket?

Let us begin to notice our “happiness attacks."  Surely these would calm the “panic attacks” that at times may visit us. . .or at least others for whom “not all things go right in their world.”


Renee Domeier, OSB

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Eloise at Five Years Old!

My little neighbor friend turned five. She invited me for her birthday party. She was excited to turn five this summer and proudly beamed she would be going to kindergarten. Eloise is a very precocious, intense and playful five year old. She’s a delight to be with and I have learned so much from her.  Most of us really need a five-year-old friend to keep us grounded in life.

(Photo of Eloise's picture by Trish Dick, OSB)
Yesterday she gave me one of her drawings. She was befuddled about how to draw a five so her mom drew a five on the paper so she could trace it. She made a grand picture for me but decided the five wasn’t how she liked it, so she started over and made her five and then quickly realized her name wouldn’t fit on the page. No problem -- she would write the rest of the letters to her name below.  She proudly gave it to me to hang on my refrigerator.

Eloise taught me that there is beauty in our imperfection. Actually, there is an abundance of life in not getting things right. What mattered the most was her generosity and purity heart in giving this gift. There was no shame in her letters below the five and that is exactly where they needed to be. I mean where else would you put the letters when there is plenty of room there? 

Every day for the Benedictine way of life is a turning – a conversion of our heart. Let us cast our imperfections upon the Everlasting love of God and enjoy the beauty of grace. This is true holiness and purity of heart. Embrace the life of conversion – finding beauty in imperfection and adapt the letters of your life where needed.


Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

No Going Back

When you hear the words, “There is No Going Back”, what goes through your mind? The phrase “no going back” for me means to build upon what has already been. It means moving forward into my future. I cannot change the past yet I can direct the future. To expand on that thought, for me it means to build upon my experiences. These experiences may be pleasant or unpleasant; yet usually there is growth in what has been part of my past to prepare me for my future. No going back also makes me think twice before I speak because I cannot take back hurtful words. I do not want to regret something I have said to another in a moment of frustration. Whether in action or words, I am continually moving forward in my life. So going back is never an option. I have also learned that every decision I make builds upon a past decision. This thought propels me forward to serve God and to be what God is asking me to be. As a Benedictine sister, there is no going back on my commitment to God or to my community. Each day I move forward in response to God’s call for me. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Generous Listening

(Photo by Martha Maloney)
Krista Tippett, interviewer for public radio’s On Being has been asking provocative questions of her guests over the years. Her concept of generous listening described in her recent book, Becoming Wise, keeps lingering with me.  There seems to be a deep desire rising in many of us to connect with persons on the margins of our everyday experiences… culturally, politically and in our dreaming. Currently our monastery campus is hosting, “Circles of Understanding” between our local Somali neighbors and interested people. Krista Tippett’s invitation to generous listening seems to describe exactly the qualities that might allow us to create an enhanced sense of somehow belonging to one another. She says, “Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability - a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one's own best self and one's own best words and questions.”
Each of us together is gradually finding ways to enhance our sense of belonging to those who once were strangers.  Their stories can teach us about their unique world and our common threads. According to Padraig O’Tuama, a poet, storyteller and theologian, “Creating a sense of belonging both creates and undoes us.” In this “belonging process,” who knows what careful questioning and wise language we may be learning?

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Grace to Stay Silent

Have you ever experienced a desire to "get a word in edgewise” when someone is dominating a conversation? Or perhaps it was you, yourself, who dominated  a conversation so that  no one else could share her good or even better idea . I know both situations. . . but we’re not alone in our experience.  Read what a 17th century nun used to pray; it could become our prayer, as well:

“Lord, Thou knowest better than I that I am growing older and will someday be old.  Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.  Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.  Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.  With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

“Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.  Seal my lips on my aches and pains.  They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less  cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.  Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

“Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint—some of them are so hard to live with—but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.  Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people.  And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”

I can say a resounding “AMEN” to this prayer.  How about you?

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Full Circle of Learning

“Learning” is a word that, at 57 years old, I relish and embrace. As a matter of fact, the older I get the more I have an expansive curiosity about the world around me and the desire to learn about it.  My learning is sometimes random and sometimes intentional, sometimes it leads to more and more interest and then other times I just scratch the surface and move on. I am learning to embrace this rhythm in my life and, the more I accept it, the more lighthearted and playful is my soul.

What I truly love is when my learning comes full circle! For example, I remember the first time I bought a house and inherited all these plants and a garden. I frankly couldn’t tell or know if it was a weed or a flower. As a child I was too busy riding a bike, swimming or playing softball in the summer to learn about plants or a garden. Except I knew I loved fresh green beans from the garden and that was just taken for granted. Now the rhythm of curious learning beset me and my master-teacher was my best friend who taught me and continues to teach me about plants, gardens, and the art of canning. And on my curvy path of learning I’ve had success and, of course, failure but I learned through both methods! The gift my friend gave me was the love of gardening.

This year I have had the opportunity to share my love of gardening with some neighbors who bought their first house. As we journeyed together to figure out what was a plant and weed, why deadheading was important, and which plants needed and wanted shade I began to see the love of learning to garden being seeded in my neighbor and my soul sang and skipped with joy. I also knew a paced learning and tending to the garden would cultivate motivation rather than overwhelming her with a “learn it all now” approach. I understood this from the Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 64: 13, where we are advised wanted to avoid extremes, in case, by rubbing too hard to remove the rust, we may break the vessel.  When we were working in the garden one evening my neighbor asked me, “How do you know all this stuff?”  I replied, “The same way you are learning, from a friend who helped when I acquired my first home.” And then I added, “Someday you will opportunity to teach someone else.”  “Really?”  And I replied wholeheartedly, “Yes!”  

This is the joy of coming full circle in learning, but more importantly the call of the Gospel for each of us – go and make disciples, mentor, teach, and pass the baton of the gift of your knowledge to the next generation. St. Benedict intuitively understood the Gospel and discipleship as important parts of living the Rule. He called his community a” school of the Lord’s service”. He wants us to learn from one another. He also refers to his community as a workshop where we use the tool of good works. 

I encourage all of us to look, listen and share generously and graciously the gifts and knowledge bestowed on us by the Spirit so that we may experience the joy of giving and the beauty of empowering – soul gardening. 

 Trish Dick, OSB

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fourth of July

(Fireworks over our Monastery
Photo by Postulant Laura Suhr)
What memories come to mind when you think about the 4th of July?  Do you have any family traditions? Some of my memories focus on family, fun, and swimming at “The Lake.” Along with picnics and fireworks, the day was complete. For as long as I can remember my family celebrated July 4th with some cousins at our family lake cabin. So now, fifty years later the family tradition has changed very little, yet for me the meaning of the day has changed quite a bit. As an adult, I recognize the holiday as more than picnics and fireworks. It is time to thank God for His many blessings bestowed on us every day. It is a time to thank all the women and men who currently serve in the armed forces and protect us every day. As we take time to remember our country today, let us also remember the women and men who protected our country in the past. An interesting fact about July 4 you may not know about. It was on July 4, 1852, when the first sisters arrived from Eichstätt and set foot on American soil in the midst of parades and celebrations. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hope Through the Love of Christ

(Girls, God and Good Times Camp
Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
I love the season of summer. I love it for a combination of reasons.  There seems be a more relaxed schedule; there is the hustle and bustle of the noise of children outside playing; and there is the unfolding of the beauty of the earth seen in the many flowers, plants and trees. The gardens are full of little sprouts of hope that desire to bear fruit. I am amazed that these little seeds sprout not knowing what the future holds for them. They could be wiped out by the nibbling of cute little critters who are eager for some fresh nourishment. A rain cloud could decides to ping down hail that tears and flattens them. The heat of the sun could scorch them and a human creature forget to water and nourish them. Yet even when they confronted with adverse conditions, these sprouts are resilient and, with some tender loving care, come back to life with a daunting, generous hope of becoming a part of the sustaining beauty of the earth.

I think of the book of Ecclesiastes where it says there is a season and time for everything. Shauna Niequist, in her book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, states that there is a season for wildness and a season for settledness and this is neither. This season is about becoming.  Hope is about becoming in whatever season we find ourselves.  I do have to admit I am a slower, but impatient, learner at times. The season of becoming and unfolding can be awkward, clumsy and lack coherence.  Yet we Benedictines are given a way to understand the season of becoming through the Rule of St. Benedict, where he stresses the love of Christ as the focal point. The love of Christ is the center of our growth process.  We put hope in Christ and in becoming no matter where we are or how clumsy the process. 

If you find you have little critters of criticism nibbling at your hope of becoming, clouds of voices pinging down doubts of unfolding, or are feeling the sun’s scorning rays of discouragement, then press on in the love of Christ. In Benedict’s Rule, verse 74, Chapter 4, called “The Tools of Good Works,” he admonishes us to not to despair or lose hope in God’s mercy.  That hope may often be found in another person with a watering can, who gently waters your spirit back into the season of becoming.  Ask yourself whether today you are the watering can or the sprout needing nourishment? 

May we all find our anchor of life in the hope of becoming through the love of Christ.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Nectar of Godness

Quieting our being to allow centering prayer to happen is not always easy.  Quiet can so readily give space to unresolved circular thoughts and feelings.  It reminds me a bit of sitting near a hummingbird feeder and noticing the whirring of the bird’s wings.  The rapidly moving wings and the perfect stillness of the rest of the bird’s body presents an amazing contrast.  It seems as though it would take a significant amount of nectar-energy to sustain this simultaneous wing movement and quiet body floatation.

(Photo by Kippy Stuhr)

As we are quieting ourselves for centering prayer, we may begin to notice our brain whirring like the wings of a hummingbird. While we long to connect with the quietness of our body, our brain-wings are simultaneously busy at work. Fortunately, if we can acknowledge our whirring thoughts and feelings and candidly but gently let our brain know that those are “not needed right now”, we can create within ourselves connected moments of inner space for Godness. In this sacred space, the nectar of God’s presence can slowly nurture and transform us.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

“Every sunrise is God’s greeting; every sunset, His signature.”

(Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
This morning I experienced God’s personal greeting!  I sat by Watab Lake, in the inky darkness, waiting. 

God is never late; it was 5:55, Central Standard Time.  And at that moment, through an opening in the overcast sky, the sun began to rise, as Emily Dickinson says, “a ribbon at a time”. 
As if there had been a reveille call, the purple martens exited their wooden house to sing to the sun. 
A wild duck perched herself on a post to my left. . .
and stayed there for more than half an hour looking and listening. 
After taking a belabored flight, no doubt stiff from too much
standing on a tiny round space, a blackbird took
the stand.  
There’s more.  The slight wind not only moved the waves downstream, but played with the leaves on most of the trees.  They were happy too:
such stability of place! such freedom to move within
their circumscribed orbits!
 Not like the dozen birds who wafted easily from one branch to another, never hitting their heads but alighting-- with grace—atop
the branches. I remembered one of our Schola
directors telling us to sing chant that way: “on top of the note, like the birds approach their destination; and therefore, not flat, neither distorting the chant nor
hurting ears sensitive to pitch!

Oh, what a lovely morning! What a glorious greeting from our God!  What will the next hours open up to me? 

I’ll keep on looking and listening.  Tonight I’ll be grateful to read God’s signature in the sunset!
Renee Domeier, OSB