Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Monastics First and Foremost

Photo: Nancy Bauer, OSB

Have you ever wondered how a Benedictine monastery functions? Or what kind of person would choose to enter a monastic community when there are so many opportunities “in the world”? Or perhaps you ask what it means to be “in the world” but not “of it.” Indeed, who would find it reasonable to follow the bell calling one to prayer seven times a day, no matter what one must leave undone to traverse the farm or orchard, kitchen or scriptorium to pray for 15 minutes with the other cowled or coiffured members of the community? At St. Alcuin’s Monastery, there are Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None and Compline, a rhythm of prayer that necessarily intersperses the work and holy leisure of this 14th century horarium described in Penelope Wilcock’s 9-volume series entitled The Hawk and the Dove.

If Brother Robert chafes when he hears the 3 o'clock bell calling him and his 30 brother monks to prayer as yet another “interruption” that keeps him from finishing the harvest, it is understandable until his loving and kind Abbot John reminds him what Robert already knows: he is a monk first and then a farmer, or cook, or orchard caretaker, or calligrapher, or whatever other work any of his brother monks has been assigned.

These 31 monks are exquisitely described by Wilcock, each curiously individual, who in their human struggle to be faithful, bring one another into community—not easily, but humbly enough to keep on learning, changing, forgiving and being forgiven until faith and faithfulness make each individual an integral part of their beloved community, able to withstand idiosyncrasies and gradually to be stitched together with love. It takes willingness and courage to say “Yes” again and again and again...but that’s what makes St. Alcuin’s monastic community a “beloved community,” a treasure hidden in a vast field of 14th century England. Human frailty eventually mollifies into a blessed divinity and creates the full image of Christ.

You will love and learn from Penelope Wilcock’s The Hawk and the Dove! I finished my second reading of all 9 volumes. I may return to the library again soon; St. Alcuin’s Monastery describes a sense of belonging, of home, for me!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What Dad Taught Me

This past June, I attended a course at the Monastic Institute titled "Passions and Prayer." Through the course readings, lectures and discussions, I learned or was reminded of many liturgical signs that I have recently taken for granted. One liturgical sign that had a renewed impact on me was the Sign of the Cross. Learning once again that when one makes the sign of the cross, she/he is showing an act of their faith, I immediately remembered a memory of my dad as he was laying in his hospice bed. One day as I was sitting in the living room with him, he began making the sign of the cross, repeating the gesture many times. Every so often, he would seem to become stuck and begin again. He knew what he was doing; I simply watched and pondered what this could mean.

During his life, dad was a man of few words; however, in this simple profound gesture, he was teaching me what he believed; words were not necessary. For me, as an observer, he was demonstrating that his love of Jesus was strong. He was living his faith until his last breath, which came quietly in the morning hours on November 25, 2016. Dad has been gone for two years now, yet this lesson of faith continues to teach me.

If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose, director of vocations, at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Prayers on Election Day

Photo from Pexels.com

As election day approaches, it seems fitting to reflect prayerfully on how we cast our votes to ensure that people who will promote Gospel values are elected. We ask you to “Vote Your Values” with the help of the Social Justice and Ministry Committee of Saint John the Baptist Parish, Collegeville, Minn, and pray each day with United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity,
especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,
Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment
so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,
live your love,
and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Important Happenings in the Catholic Church

Two unusually important happenings in the Catholic Church this season include the V Encuentro (Spanish for “encounter”) that met in Grapevine, Texas, from September 20 - 23, after many prior gatherings on the parish, diocesan and regional levels,  and the Synod of Bishops currently meeting in Rome. Both meetings focus on young adults who, as part of the Body of Christ, or as “strangers among us,” have been asked to express their ideas and dreams about the church rather than leave it, as well as their dreams for building a future of freedom among us.

Given the scandals currently experienced, both on the political as well as ecclesial levels, the V Encuentro message was a special call to Latin/Hispanic young adults to express their experiences amidst the escalation of dehumanizing treatment over the past 4 years...and the call to us, as citizens and as church, to heed the oft-repeated message of Pope Francis: Welcome the migrants! Build bridges, not walls! It is Jesus who walks among us in the form of the poor and needy. Migrants guide us toward God.

Idealistic, unrealizable calls, from the V Encuentro? Only if, in our self-centeredness, we choose to be losers in the eyes of God and in the rich culture our immigrant ancestors have created for us!

The second important happening is going on before our very eyes, unless we choose to be blind to the press or internet accounts of the Synod of Bishops, which opened in Rome on October 3 and will continue until the end of October. According to the Catholic News Service, and the perspective of one editorial, Phyllis Zagano, a basic decision needs to be made as to whether all members of the church have a right to vote: the bishops, the invited observers, lay people, including women and some 300 young adults who serve in their parishes. Youth, especially, male and female, are asking to be heard, to be taken seriously; they wish to act responsibly and publicly as Catholics. What can be the future of the church if she gives voice to the voiceless? How can the Body of Christ rise again to full stature? What message will the Synod of Bishops give to the entire church? Please stay tuned. Pray for these brothers and sisters meeting in our name. We need help, don’t we?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Power of Words

Photo by Pexels.com

Scripture says, “When Jesus spoke, even demons heard his Word.”

Words matter! Words are powerful! Words are also humble, searching and colorful! Most words have multiple meanings! “We speak eternal languages: the syntax of wind, the diction of doves. Our tongues are tongues of fire. No one knows how we know what we know but the Spirit who taught us words to speak of these realities,” says a Presbyterian clergywoman and Benedictine oblate (Give Us This Day, Liturgical Press, 9/4/2018).

But our parlance in many sectors of our society, today—in the streets, on Twitter, on TV programs, to mention but a few—can only be characterized as a travesty of our gift of language, words, communication! We lack respect for words! We forget that, having listened to or used words in such devastating ways, WE, in turn, are being formed by those words! Rachel Scrubas continues: “Evil is no respecter of holy days or places, but a violator of souls who want nothing more than to hear the Word of God...” (Ibid.) We, as intelligent and sensitively-loving human beings are meant to speak as intelligent, sensitive and loving human beings!

Do you believe that we are able to temper our hateful language and foster loving expression? I do. We can turn off some of those TV programs, computerized comments, negative talk shows—as well as our own—lest they fill our minds and hearts, spoiling our responses to one another as reasonable and loving participants of a democracy where EACH of us can repeat, gratefully: “We the people are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Are YOU happy with your use of words? Are you alert to what is happening to you and through your words? Do you truly respect words, as well as the person(s) to whom you listen or speak? We can change!

What is there about Jesus’ words? We will know, once—the Spirit willing—we have the mind of Christ!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Apprehend God in All Things

Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.

Meister Eckhart

Every day when Blue Bonnet (BB) and I come to Shodair Hospital, we are greeted with a friendly hello and a smile. Regardless of my agenda or time constraints, BB stops to greet everyone, and when I tug her along, she stubbornly stops and insists that she be petted. BB distinctly and intuitively understands the gift of being present to everyone she meets. She has a remarkable gift to be hospitable to patients and staff when they need her the most. As well, she is keenly aware of people she does not trust or feel safe with. One day I was talking to a patient in my office and she was on her bed resting. When the conversation went into a very dark context of violence and killing, BB got up, went to the door and requested to leave. What struck me was her self-regulation of knowing her limits and the kind of energy she wanted to be around.

Shodair Hospital has recently started an outpatient school for troubled children with mental health issues. Last week when I was eating lunch with the director of education, one of the teachers came and grabbed me. They had exhausted all their resources trying to calm a boy down and asked if BB and I would go and meet with the boy. BB and I took the boy to the gym. I gave the boy some treats and asked him go to a corner and squat down to BB’s eye level. When he got there, I told him to call BB and I would release her. His mood of agitation melted to joy as BB ran to the patient with exuberance to get a treat. I asked the patient to run back to me and race BB, and so we began this process for 20 minutes of BB and him running back and forth. With some exercise and oxytocin he received from BB, we were able to shift him out of his prefrontal lobe and regain control of his emotional state. He told me his story of hearing demons and I took him back to my office and anointed him with some healing oil and blessed his mind, heart and hands.

BB did the work that most of us humans often fail to produce  unconditional love, non-judgment and giving this boy a hands-on experience of being cherished as BB ran toward him with glee as well as the warmth of tactile stimulation. For BB, it was just another playful day in her life, but for the hospital staff, if was a continuous confirmation of the gift of grace and hospitality of BB. She continues to teach me through her life to work and be present, to live humbly, to just be the divine creation I was created to be and give and receive love without any strings attached - well, maybe a few treats. And for goodness sake Trish, learn to roll in the grass after work – release the stress of each day back to creation and our Creator.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Prayer Space

Photo of Sacred Heart Chapel by Susan Sink

This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit an Indian village in North Dakota called Slant Village. As I walked around the five mud and grass-type dwellings covering logs, which appeared to be the main support system of the structure, it was amazing to look into the past and vision how these people lived. 

Their life was not an easy one. Fire pits in the middle of the space used for cooking and a source of heat were central in each dwelling. Some information I read informed me that a dwelling was usually a home to the extended family, so a real sense of community was evident. 

One dwelling in particular caught me off guard. It was the largest one in the circle. As I entered it, I stopped, aware of a presence I had not experienced in the other dwellings. This dwelling, arranged with benches around the central fire pit, told me it was a worship space. I wanted to sit in the space, alone, yet many other people like me were touring the village. I said to a companion in my group, "This must have been the prayer space; do you feel the Spirit here?" I really wanted to shout to everyone, "Be quiet; this is the Church of the village." It reminded me of our Chapel where we sit in a circle around the altar in praise and worship as a community every day. I was grateful to walk into the church of the past in this village.

If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Seeds of Faith

“Why do you not leave the Catholic church?”

At this debilitating and demoralizing time within our church, I decided to take a small survey on why some people choose NOT to leave the Church, why they don’t do as so many refugees do as they run away from what is harmful, abusive and a tremendous challenge to their very lives and faith! Here are some of their answers:

  • "Like Peter, I respond, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'"
  • "Even when our favorite pastor got into abusive relationships, I never even thought of giving up my faith! I’m not tied to an individual; I believe in God."
  • "I believe in Pope Francis and broke into tears when the election returns were announced five years ago. The Spirit was in that election, and is in him!"
  • "I love the church; this is my home; this is where I was nurtured!"
  • "I believe there is a Higher Power who will sustain us."
  • "I don’t put my faith in anyone except God. We all fail; God doesn’t."

Photo by Lisa Rose, OSB

Are you able to make a decision like these persons have made? Are you standing firm? This summer, on our small veranda where the "floor" is made of cement bricks, I felt myself confirmed in hope! There were eight or nine seeds of one kind or another that found their way up through the narrow openings between the bricks! Would you believe that the floor began to sprout? Even a Canadian thistle! Somehow, perhaps metaphorically, these seedlings were the message: LIFE finds a way! For weeks, I had waited until the tiny seedlings began to grow and blossom! The promise of Christ to be with us til the end of time gives me life and hope! "I believe, Lord, help thou by unbelief!"

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Food for the Journey

Photo: Jennifer Morrissette-Hesse

During these harvesting months, it’s easy to think about the smell of homemade bread, and if you are from Minnesota, you perhaps have the memory of delighting in the hearty taste of Minnesota harvested wild rice soup. This grain has been harvested from the river grasses for many centuries by the Ojibwa/Chippewa peoples (they refer to themselves as Anishinabe, which is an Indian term meaning “original person”). I can’t help but wonder if the early Anishinabe peoples wondered what they actually were eating as they first cooked this treasured grain. Maybe they were like the Israelites in the desert who exclaimed "What is this?" when they first saw the Manna in on the desert floor ("manna" is translated into English as "What is this?"). Is that the question that all of us need to keep asking ourselves on our life journey? 

What might we discover if we look at each surprising event in our life, whether it delights or confuses us, as “Manna,” food for the journey? How might “ruminating” on these surprising events teach and nurture us? How might we share it? How might the sharing of these events with one another actually pollinate and create a nurturing environment for us personally and for our journeying companions?

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

We Create the World We Want!

James Bowey, photographer and oral historian for refugees running from their native "homes that won’t let them stay," recently provided an exhibit at the Paramount. The documentary hopes "that portraits and vignettes are universally humanizing" (St. Cloud Times, 7/8/2018), that refugee stories and experiences might touch our hearts while endless debates seem to not only prolong the process, but deaden our spirits! Many of his comments penetrated my soul; e.g. "We create the world we want by the stories we tell of one another!" I keep reminding myself: "WE CREATE the WORLD we WANT by the STORIES we tell of ONE ANOTHER!"

What do I say after having watched my country’s tribute and burial of Senator John McCain? Of singer, Aretha Franklin? Of the wounded and wounding Church I love?

Can I find never-failing goodness there and reveal that to my world?

What about my next door neighbor who may be one of the Muslim strangers in my country? Or our present and past presidents, black or white, beloved or not? Can I find and celebrate their goodness?

Recently I raised a glass of wine while my friend toasted: "To the goodness in all of us!" I like that! "We create the world we want by the stories we tell of one another!" Therefore, I raise my voice, over and over again, to the goodness in YOU, my reader, and YOU...and YOU...and YOU whom I do not yet know, but in whom lies so much goodness! Adelante! Salud! L-chaim! To LIFE!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Sparking a Flame

Photo: Nancy Bauer, OSB

One of the sanctuary candles in Sacred Heart Chapel was bathed in sunlight on a recent summer afternoon. Its beauty caught me immediately by surprise as I was walking through the chapel. One candle was lit by the sun while the other three remained in the darkness of shadows. I had to slow down my usual quick walk through the chapel and simply pause for a prayer of gratitude. The candle was brought to life that afternoon by the sunlight shining through the windows. The light that surrounded the candle had more splendor than I had ever witnessed before. A flame sparked within my heart, and in that moment, I felt like I was in touch with God in an intimate way. I took a few seconds to ponder what I was witnessing, grateful that as I paused, I was living fully in that moment of time. We celebrate the Eucharist in our chapel, surrounding the sanctuary and the candles, on a regular basis, so the space is one I am accustomed to seeing. At the same time, on that particular afternoon, the familiar changed for me. I opened my eyes to a new experience. I learned again to be aware of God in everything at any time.

If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Prism and the God-Light

During the quiet of summer, when the sun shines brightly on everything I look at, I keep wanting to find words to express the gratefulness I feel for the people and nature around me. The words of Rabbi Rami Shapiro, which I recently became familiar with [Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent: Sacred Teachings—Annotated & Explained (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2013) xvi.], seem to capture this gratefulness I feel at those moments.

Shapiro says that we can “practice shifting our awareness from a limited self-centered self to the infinite divine Self.” He concretizes this by providing a metaphor which describes this reality.  “Everything is a facet of the one thing. Think in terms of white light shining through a prism to reveal the full spectrum of color perceivable by the human eye: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Each of these colors is part of the original whole and cannot be separated from it—turn off the light source and the colors disappear. Now apply this metaphor to the world around and within you. Everything you see, think, feel, and imagine is part of and never apart from the same Source.”

May the practiced shifts in our perception of what and who we see before us become a magnetic force that allows us to more readily recognize the unfolding and transforming God-Source-messages we receive each day.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Call to Holiness

Photo by Nancy Bauer, OSB

Our daily breaking news reports often invite despondency! And I? After too many minutes of angry responses, I turn to Pope Francis for his ability to see the bigger picture and to suggest ways to get back into balance:

  • "We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. Include the excluded and preach peace" (news.va, 9/24/2013).
  • "When we draw near with tender love to those in need of care, we bring hope and God’s smile to the contradictions of the world" (World Day of the Sick, 2014).
  • "Be amazed, dear young people; let us not be satisfied with a mediocre life. Be amazed at what is true and beautiful, what is of God" (via Twitter, 1/27/2014).
  • "...becoming acquainted with other people and other cultures is always good for us; it makes us grow. And why does this happen? It is because if we isolate ourselves, we have only what we have; we cannot develop culturally, but if we seek out other people, other cultures, their ways of thinking, other religions, we go out of ourselves and start that most beautiful adventure which is called dialogue...This dialogue is what creates peace. It is impossible for peace to exist without dialogue" (Address to junior high students, Tokyo, 7/21/2013).
  • "There is no fruitful work without the Cross. We do not know what will happen to us, but there will be a cross, and we need to ask for the grace not to flee when it comes" (Morning Meditation 9/28/2013).

How do we identify ourselves when asked? Pope Francis, in his recently published Gaudete et Exsultate, exhorts us to hear our call to holiness in this modern world. He is deeply indebted to incarnational spirituality and theology; i.e. God is alive everywhere and lives in everyone and it is in the Beatitudes that we have our "calling" or "identity card!" Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure of heart; blessed are those who hunger for justice, etc. Can we be not only "blessed," but also "happy" in following these directives? The Gospels are about the abundance of life; they challenge us, no doubt about that! But they are also farsighted, insightful, interdependent, complex and yes, increasingly under threat here in our common home (Laudato Si, 2015). But we are not alone! St. Paul also gives me lively motivation to work with my bit of personhood; "Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?" (1 Corinthians 5:6). I need only give my little bit! Finally, Senator Cory Booker says it in ten two-lettered words: “If it is to be, it is up to me!” (On Being.org, 7/29/2018).

So, how can I sit around and mope??

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Overcoming Obstacles

Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB

Pope Francis can’t be beat! Recently, he traveled to Krakow, Poland, to participate in the World Youth Gathering, with upwards of 1 million people. It was a Sunday when he addressed the gathering and the Gospel was that of Zaccheus (Lk 19: 1-10). We remember, of course, this Roman tax collector of ill repute who exploited the people; he is a persona non grata in our minds. He was short of stature, full of unprofessed shame and yet he wanted to see Jesus and so climbed a tree in order to get a glimpse of Jesus as he passed by. But to his utter amazement, Jesus saw Zaccheus, called him down from his lofty heights and asked if he could come to his home.

That can happen to you, too, Pope Francis said to the youth. It can happen all of a sudden, in a moment, or gradually, when two hearts somehow meet one another. But Zaccheus had to overcome some obstacles in meeting Jesus, just as any of us—young or older—need to assess and overcome our own personal obstacles. There are three such obstacles which Pope Francis addressed with reference to Zaccheus and to most of us.

First, smallness of stature. How many of us don’t feel worthy to approach Jesus or do not realize how much Jesus loves and counts on us for who we are: precious and beloved children of God. That is our real stature. He waits for us to come to Him as we are!

The second obstacle to overcome in our meeting Jesus is the paralysis of shame. Zaccheus was a public figure, a man of power. He knew that in climbing a tree, he’d become the laughingstock to all. Yet as Pope Francis said, "Zaccheus mastered his shame because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful." The Holy Father's advice to the youth was: "Don’t be afraid to say YES to Jesus with all your hearts...and say a firm NO to the narcotic of success at any cost and to the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort."

The third obstacle that Zaccheus had to overcome in his coming to Jesus was the grumbling of the crowd, the criticism and judgment of the crowd wondering why Jesus wanted to dine in Zaccheus’ house. To the youth, Pope Francis said "People may judge you to be a dreamer because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between people, one that refuses to see borders as barriers. Don’t be discouraged. With a smile and open arms, proclaim hope, be a blessing for our one human family which here you represent so beautifully!"

Jesus wants to stay at our homes, too, dwell in our daily lives of studies, friendships, hopes and dreams. "Take all of these to Him in prayer. Don’t forget the encounter you have had with God here these days. He wanted you to be here and has come to meet you. Now walk with Him, talk with Him." And Jesus would surely say: "Be My beloved son and daughter—whether young or older, rich or poor, popular or living in the shadows, Catholic or of another religion. I am calling YOU. We can be great friends and do great things together!"

Thank you, our dearly beloved Pope Francis! You can’t be beat!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

It Was A Miracle

"Mary and Jesus Surrounded by Angels"
Painting by Thomas Carey, OSB

Earlier this spring, I was driving to a meeting in St. Cloud. It is our custom at the monastery to pray for safe travel whenever we get into a car, so my travel companion said a spontaneous prayer to give us a safe journey, adding "may the angels protect us." As I turned onto a side street, I noticed two cars parked alongside the curb and two adults visiting and slowed down a little more. All of a sudden, a toddler appeared. She starting walking into the middle of the street, right into my path. As I braked, the car came to a complete stop, and there we were with a child ten feet in front of the car. Feelings arose from within me: anger, frustration, fear and shock. I honked the horn and she stopped walking and looked at the car. One of the adults, turning around and seeing what was happening, came and picked the child up. I drove on thinking to myself "What just happened?" and said a prayer of thanks. Later on, as I told the incident to others and replayed it in my mind, I thought, "Only God could have stopped the car in time," and I realized the angels we had prayed for had a bubble around the little girl and a bubble around the car. In my mind and heart, we witnessed a miracle and a child was saved. Next time you get into your car, remember to pray for a safe trip as we do at the monastery, asking the angels to protect you.

If you would like more information about our monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Love's Response to Suffering

"There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much."

I read this quote of Mother Teresa of Calcutta while hearing daily reports of the soccer players and their leader trapped in a cave awaiting rescue from the rising waters around them. Their anguish-filled suffering and lack of basic nutrition must have been intense.

As they were being rescued, this quote in some way described the power of love to ultimately provide a path to health and safety. The courageous creative love required to end this fearful condition was remarkable. Their love slaked the hunger and quieted the fears of those waiting to be rescued. Their actions released them from the poverty of their helplessness and gifted them with a return to health and safety.

These days, when I look at those around me and see those who seem to be hurting and trapped by physical and emotional wounds which diminish their access to health, I’m again reminded of Mother Teresa’s quote. Then, I find myself taking a deep breath and inviting God to let those in poor health experience the healing anointing of God’s unconditional love within and around them. While my breath is a silent prayer for their healing, I, too, am reminded that that same healing love is within and around me. I smile as I sense that love-breaths seem to create their own chain reactions and expansion of love, energy and healing.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Seek Me With Your Whole Heart

Photo: Sister Eilish Ryan

Sarah Young, in her daily reflection book, uses the first-person pronoun as she opens a dialogue between Jesus and a reader. Today’s message was surely meant for me...and perhaps for you who hear Him speaking in your heart, too. Jesus says to us:

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find Me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else. (Jesus Calling, p. 179).

What do I, a lover of words, hear in this message? That God never stops speaking, God is relational not only within the Trinity of persons, but with Creation. Yes, the sunrise this a.m. was breathtaking, breath-given to me but not only to me, but to the awakening birds, the small blades of grass and the 4 o’clocks who knew it was time to open their petals and sing, too. God smiled through a sister with whom I ate a 5 a.m. breakfast purposefully in silence so as to watch the sun peer out of the horizon. We had it all: sunlight, silence, gently moving leaves, expectancy, quiet space and time! Trucks and horns, talking and movement, my calendar and other faces would soon be my experience. I wonder how God will touch my heart through them. I know I will find you, my Lord, if I long for you with all my heart!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


S. Renée Domeier welcomes an immigrant
 family to dinner at the monastery.

Recently when I heard angry, distancing, exclusionary words coming from the mouth of our president with reference to our Latino immigrants, I also read the exact opposite sentiments coming from our Pope Francis. In fact, the latter presents saving words, backed by his own example, instead of the incendiary words or decisions made by some worldly potentates today. Pope Francis says: “Start the beautiful adventure of dialogue...Becoming acquainted with other people and other cultures is always good for us, it makes us grow. And why does this happen? It is because if we isolate ourselves, we have only what we have, we cannot develop culturally. But, if we seek out other people, other cultures, other ways of thinking, other religions, we go out of ourselves and start that most beautiful adventure which is called ‘dialogue.’ Dialogue is very important for our own maturity, because in confronting another person, confronting other cultures and also confronting other religions in the right way, we grow - we develop and mature...This dialogue is what creates peace. It is impossible for peace to exist without dialogue.”

These were his words to students and teachers from a junior high school in Tokyo on August 21, 2013. His words ring true today, June 2018. Let us listen to him and act!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Wanton Acts

I cannot "shut off" my mind or heart from what is happening these days to our brother/sister immigrants. Twenty-five email messages daily reveal no significant change in the status quo. Every newspaper photo depicts crying, confused children, as well as crying, confused parents, who remain incredulous about our heartless treatment. Not only the U.S., but the E.U. has dug in its heels while brutally shutting out, even refugees.

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Cardinal Cupich of Chicago says it like it is: "There is nothing remotely Christian, American or morally defensible about a policy that takes children away from their parents and warehouses them in cages. This is being carried out in our name and the shame is on us all." Pope Francis follows suit: "I am on the side of the bishops’ conference in their calling this practice 'contrary to our catholic values and immoral.'"

Although we are told that family separations are required by the law or court decisions, "that is not true," writes Cardinal Cupich. "The administration could, if it so desired, end these wanton acts of cruelty, today. We are told, too, that this policy is supported by Scripture. That too is false. There is no biblical justification for building internment camps for children torn away from their parents."

"The administration could, if it so desired, end these wanton acts of cruelty, today...Every day it doesn’t deepens the stain on America’s soul and reputation."

What will we do to be clean of sin?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Loiter with Intent

Sisters Dorothy Manuel (left) and Margaret Maus share a laugh.
As I was reading an article on the value of time, the words "loiter with intent" jumped out at me. I had to pause and ask myself, "What does this mean?" As I thought about the saying, the words became a more positive phrase than the more common one I often catch myself saying: “I am wasting time.” Loitering with intent and wasting time seem to be the same thing. Yet in all honesty, the phrase "loiter with intent" gives me a chance to look at how I use my time and to see loitering as an adventure or openness to whatever happens next. Another thought that comes to mind is that it also allows me to see the loitering time as a time of prayer. Therefore, as I encounter people during the day, and if I loiter with them for a moment, I am actually encountering the God within each of us. Moreover, in our conversation together, we have an experience of prayer. With my new insight, as I walk around the monastery or on campus, I still may be loitering, or wasting time, yet I now recognize the time as sacred. As I recognize the time as sacred, I am developing a greater appreciation of what is happening in the moment.

If you would like more information about our community, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Blue Bonnet: The Love Radiator

Blue Bonnet has an official badge as an employee of Shodair Hospital. Her job title on the badge is the Love Radiator. Blue Bonnet goes by “Blue” at the hospital and her presence generates a lot of smiles, hugging and petting from children and staff and a sense a calmness in the units. The work that Blue Bonnet does is simply love everyone just as they are – with no conditions or judgments.

Blue has the training and ability to be with me in a meeting and fall asleep. She somehow knows when the meeting is getting too intense because she will chime in with her perspective and let out a snore and we all start laughing. It breaks the tension and calms the room. Her effect naturally creates a sense of grounding and call to the basics of our humanity.

Our patients love Blue. They are learning to be safe with Blue and to keep her safe with boundaries and hand sanitizer. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing children call Blue’s name with glee and come running to pet, hug or try to teach her to retrieve. Since she is a golden retriever, we would expect she would love to retrieve, but not so – she would rather be petted or crawl into a person’s lap. After all, she is the Love Radiator.

When Blue Bonnet is at the hospital, she takes her work serious and is ready to go home at the end of the day. When her Shodair working vest comes off, she’s a dog and often will ground herself by rolling around in the grass. She loves hiking in the mountains, going on long walks and finding her own canine pals to play with and release energy. She is only two years old and still has a lot of puppy in her!

Blue Bonnet has taught me so much on my spiritual journey. I remember hearing from canine assistants – don’t limit Blue Bonnet’s love. Blue is generous with her love and I am learning to be generous with her love. As a result, I am more generous with my love and less judgmental or selfish. As a result, she has softened me to radiate the love and light of Christ within which seems to flow so naturally through Blue Bonnet – God’s wonderful creation.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


S. Janet Thielges (right) with sister Marie (center). 

Marie, the family glue
Kept siblings’ special days 
Cherished her children 
Reached out to hurting
Prayed, Welcomed, 
Communicated, Played tricks 
Shared homemade bread

I know, God, it was her time
And she lived a full life
Ready to come to you
She’s with you now
What more can I ask?

Well, God, maybe something for me.

Marie and I, 
“Two peas in a pod”
Bosom sister and friend.
Grew up together
Shared our faith
Popped popcorn,
Cleaned house
Played Hide and Seek

Shock riveted my heart
She wasn’t sick that long
Grief winds in and out.
“You don’t get over it. 
You just get used to it.”

But my dear God 
what am I missing here?
Some eight sisterhood decades
Years I’ll ne’er forget. 
Yes. Thank you with all my heart! 

Janet Thielges, OSB

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Saving Mother Earth

All of us have heard of and try to practice the so-called corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy that help to draw us out of ourselves into the lives of the poor, the imprisoned, the homeless and the discouraged brothers and sisters that surround us and increase in numbers daily. Pope Francis would add a complementary Act of Mercy to these! Recently he said, “The poorest of the poor, the very poorest, is our Mother Earth.” We abuse her, thoughtlessly, mercilessly and irresponsibly, grabbing from her but not replenishing her needs! In his encyclical, Laudato si, he categorically declares: “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth (#21).”

Is that what we see also? I do - and so I rejoice in his adding an additional exhortation to the fore-mentioned seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy: “Take care of our Common Home.”

In these wonderful summer months when we care for our individual lawns, gardens and homes, how about extending that care to our Common Mother when we are tempted to toss garbage out of car windows, on the beaches or wherever? A little challenge? Yes, but when we consider how one tiny step begins the walk of a mile, we may yet take a serious look at how our consumerism, our grasping of more and more, better and bigger products, depletes the total supply, dulls or destroys our need to discipline our individual tastes. We may be given a kaleidoscopic view of the hungers of the poor, among them our Common Mother Earth. She wants to save us; when and how do we plan to save her? Today? This summer? We must become responsible, merciful, thoughtful in returning that care and help save her!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What's Your Name?

Sister Stefanie Weisgram greeting a
guest at Gratitude Day 2017.

A few months ago, I was meeting a friend for lunch in the college dining center. As I was making my way to the tater tots, a woman stopped me. She said, “What’s your name?” She did not look familiar to me. I thought, am I supposed to know you? I was uncomfortable in the situation, a stranger asking me my name. I noticed that she was wearing a name tag; her name was Betty. Once again, she asked me, “What’s your name?” I told her, “My name is Lisa,” then we parted. This brief encounter left me very puzzled. As I reflected on it later that evening, everything made sense. Betty is a mentally-challenged adult, yet she knew I was not a college student; in her eyes, I was someone new and she simply wanted to know my name. By asking me my name, she welcomed me into her space; she was living the value of hospitality. I was a guest in her work place. I realized that I had missed the opportunity to welcome her into my life. The more I reflected upon this encounter, I wondered how many other people I have failed to welcome into my life. How many opportunities have I missed in not recognizing Jesus in all people? So now I ask myself, “How will I live the value hospitality from this day forward?”

If you would like more information about our monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Vocation Story: Part 2

We so enjoyed the train ride, especially through the mountainous area. After visiting with our relatives, we took a bus tour through the mountains. While seeing and enjoying the beauty of the Cascade Mountains, images of the nuns would come back. I did not like that; I thought I was leaving them behind. Because this was very bothersome to me, I went to a spiritual director when I got home, wanting his response. After an hour of sharing my experiences with images of nuns in my mind when least expecting it, his final suggestion was to give it a try. He said, “You have five years before making a commitment and then you will be better able to discern whether it is for you or not.” That sounded good to me.

Since I didn’t want these images of nuns at the least expected time, I wondered, “Where did they come from? Was that my inner wisdom or inner spirit telling me that it would be in the convent where I could best live out my talents and be happy?" Trusting this inner wisdom, I gave it my best and entered that fall.

On September 12, I joined as a postulant, the first hear of preparation. The second year, called the novitiate, was dedicated to more study on the life in a monastery, its daily schedule, daily prayer, its works and studies. The evening of the first day in the novitiate, there was a meeting for all new novices. Since I wasn’t planning to stay, I did not go. One of the new novices was sent up to get me. She said, “The director sent me to tell you to join us.”  I answered, “I am not planning to stay, so why should I go?" But I went.

A Benedictine monk from St. John’s in Collegeville, Minn., came weekly to talk about the New Testament. Besides being a scripture scholar, he had the gift of making it interesting and easy to listen to. We had a Bible at home on the lamp stand, but never used it; it just collected dust. His sharing in class about the life of Jesus touched my heart deeply.  IT WAS A REAL CONVERSION EXPERIENCE. Then I knew that I wanted to commit myself. After class, I went to the college library and checked out four books on the life of Jesus by different authors, because I wanted to know everything about Jesus. By staying in the convent, I would have more time for Bible study and spiritual readings. Of course, I wanted to stay.

I knew that near the end of the year, the novice director would give a report to the total chapter (the whole community) on each of the novices and suggest who was ready and who was not ready for the next year. I sent her a letter! In it, I apologized for my rebelliousness at the beginning of the year and that I have had a real conversion and so I am asking to continue my journey here and become a sister. The last sentence was, “I will make a novena to St. Jude so that I would be accepted.” St. Jude was known as the patron of hopeless cases.

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My Vocation Story: Part 1

My aunt, Sister Petronella, sent me a holy card for my first communion as a second grader. On the cover was a picture of a girl, dressed in a lovely white dress and veil, kneeling by the communion railing to receive her first holy communion. On the reverse side was a prayer for a religious vocation. S. Petronella wrote, “Pray this prayer after every time you go to communion.” I knew what it was to become a sister, but I did not know the meaning of a religious VOCATION. I liked and admired her, so I followed her advice. I understood the meaning to be like a VOCATION, so I prayed it every time I received communion.

One Sunday, as a 7th grader, having prayed that prayer faithfully after communion for the past five years like she asked me to do, I became aware that this prayer is telling God I wanted to become a sister. When I got home, I ripped it up in small pieces and threw it away making sure that no one would see it in the waste basket. Becoming a sister was the furthest thing from my mind!

While a junior at St. Francis High School, a boarding school for girls, I was sick in bed with the flu. A Franciscan sister checking in on how I was doing also asked me if I ever thought of joining the convent. “Oh, no,” I said. I was not ready for that. During the summer months between my junior and senior year, I started to date a very fine young man, Don.

Soon after graduating from high school, I accepted a one-week trial offer as a nanny for the three children of Eugene McCarthy, a Minnesota democratic senator. During that trial week while being with and caring for their children, I did a lot of discerning what I wanted to do with my life. To accept that job and move with them to Washington, D.C., was too far from home, and I did not feel suited for a full-time babysitting job.

During this time after graduation, I continued to date Don quite regularly. One evening, he wanted to give me a ring. I was not thrilled and couldn’t accept it. In our conversation, I had to be honest with him and say that often when we were at a movie or a dance, I would have images of nuns in my mind. I didn’t wish for them, but they just came. My aunt, Sister Macaria, who taught at Cold Spring, said, “You are not going to find a nicer guy than Don.” “I know," I said, “but why do these images of nuns just come while at a movie or a dance?” Ending that two-year friendship made me sad. Yet, at the same time, knowing that I was not ready to think about marriage and children so soon after high school, I refused his ring. Refusing the ring made it easier to continue with my life.

After several months, my girlfriend, Bernie, who had thoughts about maybe entering the convent someday, invited me to take a trip to Cottonwood, Idaho, where we had aunts in the Benedictine monastery. While in the area, we would also do some sight-seeing and especially enjoy the mountains. Neither of us had been out of state, and we thought it might be good to get away from a very Catholic Stearns County.

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Philosophy on Aging

Jonathan Herda, OSB
I perceive aging as a normal facet of the total process of life. I envision it to have its own distinctive challenges, frustrations and rewards.

I believe that the attitude with which one approaches his/her own aging and how one relates to this growth process in others is a significant indicator of how one views the mystery of life and living, of living fully and richly each developing stage of maturity.

Aging and maturing do not necessarily occur simultaneously. Mental alertness and interest in life are found in very aged individuals, while it is possible to find a young person whose mental alertness and interest have atrophied from disuse. (Jelled!)

I also associate aging with wisdom…wisdom gained from living and loving deeply, from making and keeping commitments, from taking risks and preferring to sustain scars rather than not trying at all. Aging gives a sense of history and one’s place and contribution to it. It gives one the opportunity to recognize true and lasting values. Pain, grief, physical disability and similar realities may be more pronounced at this stage of life, but can also evoke a positive response.

I am convinced that the best preparation for fruitful aging years is to live fully each NOW. Old age is the crowning part of our total NOW.

Written 1978 during a final test, in response to the question, “What is Your Philosophy on Aging?”  The class was “Aged Family."

Jonathan Herda, OSB