Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Blankie


I remember the story, only through the ritual of retelling that happens in our family. 

I did NOT like the Christmas story.

One Sunday afternoon, my parents told me they had a surprise. Bundled in my new snowsuit, we went outside into a chilling wind blowing off Lake Michigan, swirling with thick, beautiful snowflakes.

The walk was short. Climbing stone steps, Daddy opened huge, glossy, wooden doors. Entering the vestibule, Daddy clapped his leather gloves together, put them in his heavy tweed coat and  flicked melting snow from his wool derby. Mother stomped her feet on the rubber mat and urged me to do the same.

We walked through mottled colors spreading from stained glass while light from hundreds of vigil lights danced on gray stone walls. Daddy spotted Monsignor McGuire who joined us. They gestured to each other and carried on in hearty whispers.

I spotted lambs first. Closest to my size, these white woolly creatures were forever frozen in time. Glittering gold caught my attention as dozens of angels hung in flight above the stable.

THEN!

I saw the baby! It only had a diaper! If God was so great, and angels were dressed in gold, seemed to me God was pretty stingy with Jesus. That baby must be freezing. I did not like the way this story was going!

Bolting from my parents, scrambling around the Communion rail and right to the manger, I wrapped the baby in my blanket. Somewhere in the background, my mother gasped. When I stood back to survey my work, I was startled. My "blankie" was no longer an appendage to my body. I had given away my dearest treasure and there was no taking it back!

The story goes that the pastor left my "blankie" there, in the splendor of that baroque setting during the whole Christmas and Epiphany season. The kindness of the man who was not terrified that a small worn blanket would ruin the ambiance of the scene has been passed on to me. It remains with me because it is the way I would like to pastor; to take each fragile moment of a person's story and be able to react to it in a nurturing and caring way.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Friday, December 21, 2018

Flying Through Advent


Blue Bonnet and I came back to my office to find my angel flying sideways on my Christmas tree. It made me laugh out loud. I think most of us feel like we are flying sideways trying to stay in the Advent Spirit of joyful waiting and also taking in all the hustle bustle of the Christmas holiday preparations.

This year, I find myself moving in a different spirit of Advent and the Christmas holidays. At the hospital, I find myself navigating a mixture of emotions. For some patients, the gift they get from the hospital will be the only gift they get all year. Some patients don’t want to talk about Christmas memories or traditions because they don’t have any good memories. The darkness is real and suffering is agonizing.  For some of us, bringing those dark painful traumatic memories to light is the dawn of advent. I have found being present and being a witness of their suffering is for them the incarnation healing. No wordsjust listening with the ear of your heart as Benedict instructs us.

Sometimes flying sideways is enough!

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

NOLA

Photo: Pexels.com

NOLA stands for New Orleans, Louisiana, and is the current acronym that the participants in an Alternative Break Experience (ABE) through CSB Campus Ministry are using for their service trip.

On January 5, six women, two men and myself, Sister Mary Jane Berger, are starting out at 6 a.m. for the long drive to New Orleans. We will stay overnight in Illinois after the first day of 12 hours of driving and arrive at our destination around 7 p.m. the second day. Our destination at United Saints Recovery Project will start our week of “helping to revitalize New Orleans and surrounding communities.” The work of the recovery projects began in 2008 and continues following the multiple disasters that keep hitting New Orleans. This last year, there were floods in Baton Rouge, a tornado that hit New Orleans East and recent flooding in mid-New Orleans, besides Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.

According to the United Saints website, the purpose of the recovery project is “to assist communities that have suffered damage from natural disasters, helping residents return home, improve their quality of life and strengthen their communities. We do this with the help of local, national and international volunteers, assisting homeowners in rehabilitating and rebuilding their homes and engaging those homeowners in our effort to promote volunteerism within the community.” We already know that we will be going to a different site each day to assist in whatever projects are in progress at that site. 

NOLA is just one of 11 groups from CSB/SJU Campus Ministry’s sponsored service trips for 2019. Winter groups, going January 5–13, include San Francisco, Guatemala, Denver and New Orleans. The service sites offer not only such opportunities as work that needs to be done, but also experience in intentional living, learning about another culture and reflection.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Journey Into the Past

As an adult, have you ever gone back to visit a place that held childhood memories for you, and upon arriving there, were surprised at how small everything was? This past September, I drove my mom to see some of her cousins down at “the farm.” This was truly an escape from the city for my family every fall; as a child, the farm held many adventures. My farm memories are full of happiness, laughter and family fun. So, mom and I drove to Minneiska, Minn., to visit some cousins and see the farm. I had not been to the farm in over thirty years, and I had heard that many changes had occurred, yet nothing prepared me for the experience I was about to encounter. 

A cousin drove us onto the land, reminding us of where the house and barn had been, pointing out the now-empty frames of structures that once held the chickens and pigs. What was magical as a child, now stands empty. The farm from the past lingers in my memory as I was brought into the reality of a life that moved on. 

As I compare the changes of the farm to Saint Benedict’s Monastery, I am aware of how our community has moved on from what I knew 35 years ago. The only difference is that I have lived through the changes that have happened over the past 35 years. The memories of my first years in community will always be part of my foundation, as we continue to move into our future.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Bigger Isn't Better


The puzzling book of Revelation, which fills our minds and hearts with questions, fear, reassurances and yet more questions, governs the readings of the Liturgy in the weeks before Advent. What do they mean? What and when will “these last days” occur? Will I be saved? Will I know how to die? Will there be anyone who might know how to greet the inevitable? “Surely not I?” we may say. Or on whom can I depend? What will I hold on to: My diamonds? My grain bins? My children? Their good management skills? Or my beloved piano? “None of these,” we are told.

So then, why do I build newer, better, bigger storage bins? Why do we see orange-door storage areas being built all over town and country? Simultaneously, there are mammoth sales designed to make all of us bigger consumers or is it only to be able to restock store shelves for the next civic or religious or cultural event? How many more shopping days before Christmas or Valentine’s Day?

Photo: Pexels.com


We could do worse than take to heart the vision of St. John in the 14th chapter of the book of Revelation where an angel is crying out in a loud voice: “Use your sickle and reap the harvest for the time to reap has come; the earth’s harvest is fully ripe.” Or Jesus’ words: “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Lk 21).

Dear reader, what do you think? Are you confused and fearful, as I am? Do you feel drawn to act now in assessing your consumer choices? Do those tendencies to consume more and more, build bigger closets or storage bins, level the playing ground between yourself and those less gifted? I do...so help us, God!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Advent Awaits


"Night of Silence," written and published by Daniel Kantor, is one of my favorite Advent hymns. Although often described as a Christmas carol when paired with "Silent Night," it was written for the Advent season. Daniel Kantor wrote the piece when he was a student at the University of St. Thomas in 1981 and explains the text “was inspired in part by the north woods of Wisconsin and the sparkle of freshly-fallen snow in the moonlight of a subzero winter’s night” (music.ihmbrooklyn.org).

This song deeply touches my heart because it describes the meaning of Advent in both music and words. One has only to listen to it and feel the depths of despair, darkness and a longing for light to lead us to hopefulness for the future. This is the season of Advent, waiting in the bone-chilling cold, darkness enveloping our souls, waiting…waiting for the dawn of a new day where we will fully share with God the joy of His promise, redemption through the birth of His Son.

As Christians, we know the story of our Savior’s birth, yet our seasonal church calendar causes us to remember again and again the darkness we live in without God’s mercy and promise of redemption with Christ’s birth. Advent is a time of self-reflection, anticipation of God’s promises. It reminds us of moving to the Light, God’s Light, where we will experience the timeless breath of His love with the gift of His only Son.

I hope you will listen to "Night of Silence" and "Silent Night" and find it as deeply meaningful as I have during the Advent weeks ahead. Wishing you Light in the darkness.

Mary Baier, OblSB

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Contagious

Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB
You and I can probably name several people in our lives that seem to spontaneously give expression to gratefulness. When receiving a message or gesture of gratefulness from them, it exudes a not-so-subtle energy that reminds us of something or someone for whom we too are grateful. Sometimes we even act on that insight and sometimes it just doesn’t work out at the time. However, the power of that thankful gesture remains planted somewhere in our brain to be visited at another time or place. As a result, when future occasions for gratefulness arise within us, we actually might more readily pick up the phone, email access or, on unique occasions, actually find our dusty pen and writing material to send a card or letter to the person that awakened this gratefulness-space within us.

Recently, my family helped me celebrate the 60th anniversary of my monastic profession. One of their church friends had also heard about this, so she sent me a card. In it, she first commented on my celebration and then said what a delight in her life she felt to be able to regularly connect with my brother and sister-in-law. I wasn’t quite sure whether her comment about me or her comment about them was the greater gift. This friend probably has no idea how her consistent gracious words and actions affect other people. It seemed to personalize the recent comment of Heda Bejar who said, “The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose."

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

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.
Amen.

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

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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

Dialogue

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.

Photo provided by Pexels.com

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