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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Marie

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, 
Listened 
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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

No Separation, Here!


Pope Francis never fails to both inspire and challenge me! Recently, I read his short message on faithfulness. He invited his hearers to ask themselves “...how am I faithful? Let us take the question with us to think about during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to make my faith seen with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I notice who is in need, do I see everyone as brothers and sisters to love?”

In the big picture, we may think we are faithful to Christ, but is it not in the daily, small, tiring ways in which we meet and speak and live with our brothers and sisters that we prove whether or not our faith in Christ is authentic? No separation, here!

Am I self-giving to my family, kin, stranger, especially those who do not merit it, the suffering and the marginalized? Then, and only then, am I simultaneously faithful to Christ. No separation, here!

Do I draw near with tender love to those in need of care? Do I bring hope and God’s smile to the contradictions of our world? Then, and only then, am I faithful to the resurrected Christ who appeared, unbeknownst to Mary Magdalen or to the disciples on the way to Emmaus and who always waits for me to  recognize Him in the brother or sister I meet on the way!

When we feel stymied, unimportant or even bored with the status quo, we could take to heart what Pope Francis said via twitter to young people: “Be amazed by what is true and beautiful, what is of God! Do not be satisfied with a mediocre life.” God is good. Let us imitate God. He waits for us to both carry Him to others and find Him there.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

We've Always Done It This Way


How often have you heard the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way”? I have an idea that the phrase dates back hundreds of years. You may hear it at family gatherings, at work and yes, we do hear it at the monastery. The phrase could actually have multiple meanings. “We’ve always done it this way,” could be said to a new sister “because it is part of our tradition.” Or else, it could mean, “I like it my way, so why change?” Recently, I was reading some old documents that I found in a file drawer. One document was a presentation given to the sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery on March 30, 1926. From what I was reading, it appeared that the sisters were in dialogue about how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) with the current changing demographics and ministries that took them away from the motherhouse campus. A quote from the presenter challenged the sisters to look to the future in order to grow. He was telling the sisters that they may need to let go of things as they always were. I read “We did not have this before!” and “Must we always do as has been done?” As I read these words, I laughed out loud. I thought to myself, some things never change. As we move into our future in today’s world, there is always a need to let go, in order to let the dreams come alive. At Saint Benedict’s Monastery, we are looking into the future as we keep the traditions we hold dear to our heart.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Humor and Health

The month of April is National Humor Month.

My experience is that laughter and humor have been essential ingredients in my life and ministry, especially in bringing healing for myself and for others. There is an increasing number of professionals in the medical and psychiatric field who are seeing the value of humor in promoting the health of an individual. There are laughter and humor workshops springing up in many countries. Some psychologists and doctors are even beginning to study the physiology of humor. Pain reduction and prevention of violence toward self and others through humor raise questions about the mutual interplay of endorphins, immunology and humor.

S. Tamra Thomas (right) and
S. Rita Kunkel share a laugh.
Here are several childhood experiences of humor both in the home and other places that touched me enough to stay in my memory. The earliest memory of my father was sitting on his lap at about the age of two or three, combing his black hair down over his face and over his eyes playing peek-a boo. The more he laughed, the more I would be creative with his hair, combing it in every different direction. It was fun to make him laugh. In his book "God Created Laughter", Conrad Hyers says, "children growing up as toddlers tend to laugh easily – but adults often squelch it because 'one does not play at things,' one works at them. Parents are too much in a hurry to have their children grow up and be serious." To this day, I like being able to make people laugh, perhaps because it is healing and therapeutic. 

Another quality of humor is that it is medicine, not only for the spirit, but also for the body. One particular Friday in March, I had a coordinator’s luncheon meeting with five other local coordinators at a cafe in a neighboring town. After that meeting, my plan was to drive another hour to help lead and play for the prayer service before the lecture to be given by the author of the book "Joshua." Waking up that morning, I felt sick, feverish, had the chills and felt achy all over. After taking medicine to treat my flu symptoms, I ventured to the first meeting. After we completed the first meeting, we sat around the table laughing as we were sharing humorous stories from our past experiences. When I got up from table, the flushness and chills were gone, and I felt fine about going ahead to the evening event. I commented to the group that this laughter dissolved the virus and my symptoms were gone. If it can bring physical healing, it must touch the spirit and emotion as well. It was a real experience of "laughter as the best medicine."

There are many humorous situations in ministry, especially if one is open to seeing and appreciating them. George and Betty were in their eighties and in their own home. When I needed ministry for myself, or to have my spirits lifted, I would visit them because of his humor and her gracious hospitality. After Betty died, George moved into a retirement center and I would keep on visiting him. Each time, his positive spirit and his gift for telling humorous stories lifted my spirits. One day, his senior male friend came to visit him and said, "George, the rumor is all over town that you want to marry this young nurse’s aide. What are you thinking? She is 31 and you are 91." George responded, "Well, if she dies, she dies."

Dreams also can be an important avenue to find humor. In one of my dreams, I am at a place where there is a long smorgasbord of food before me. We are through the food line and a woman tells me that my nose was loose. Sure enough, I felt it and the nose was just hanging on with only a little piece of skin on the left nostril. I answered her, “So what is wrong with a loose nose?” My first feeling after waking was delighting in the humor. There was no pain or fear of possibly losing a nose, just that it looked so crazy. The message in it for me was that just as food is meant for our nourishment, so can humor be nourishing. The nose is an organ for inhaling and exhaling and it opens to the breath of life. The expression "follow your nose" could mean to trust one’s gut and instincts in coming to the truth within. Life offers many opportunities, and many choices. Sometimes a good choice is to "follow your nose."

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Remember God

How often do we read a Russian-born, Nobel Prize winner, novelist, historian, short-story writer and critic of his own country and its communism tell us what is wrong with our times??? I am speaking, of course, about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, born in 1915 and deceased only nine years ago! He writes: "If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire 20th century...I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again, 'Men (sic) have forgotten God.' The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the crimes of this century" (The Orthodox Monitor 15, 1983).

What more can be added to those ponderable words, except perhaps "Risen Savior, King of Glory, come to us in mystery. Let us see your face in glory when you come in majesty"? Our freedom is an awesome responsibility. What have I done in the choices I’ve made? And you, as well? We have failed in our times and we will continue to see unspeakable crimes until we remember God.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Luminous Lodge #6

At the end of February, Luminous Lodge #6 was moved to Rosamond A due to frozen pipes in the lodge. It was a wonderful experience. When we heard about the frozen pipes and had 33 CSB women registered for the evening, we did not want to cancel. We brought our student helpers to see Rosamond A Thursday evening, and within two hours, the room was transformed. We had luminaries lining the walls, candles ready to light and standing lamps to create a prayerful space. We even had an electric fireplace in Rosamond A to enhance the experience. On Friday evening, we began by gathering around a bonfire on the lower plaza - thank you Sister Philip! The group then moved inside for some energetic ice breakers led by two CSB women.



The focus of our evening was based on a book written by Sister Rita Barthel, OSF, called "Finding Life’s Purpose: When Do I Encounter God?" We had given the book to two CSB women last fall and invited them to lead the evening session. Heidi and Ashley’s reflective presentation focused on a section of the book that talked about letting go. Their personal testimonies were a beautiful witness to the other women. The prayer, silence and journaling time that followed was powerful. After the reflection time, everyone enjoyed caramel, apples, popcorn and hot cocoa, which has become the traditional snack we serve. We ended the evening with singing praise songs and a closing prayer. Previous attendees to Luminous Lodge said we did a great job creating the right ambiance for the evening. Luminous Lodge #6 was a success.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Seeing Something Beautiful

When you see something beautiful for the first time, how do you react to the beauty in the moment? Recall that we have just celebrated Easter, a time in the liturgical year when we are remembering the Resurrection of Jesus. For a moment, I want you to put yourself at the entrance of that empty tomb. As you peer inside, what do you see?

We all know the story. Mary looks in and asks, “Where have you taken him?” At that instant, Jesus calls Mary by name; imagine it is you whom Jesus is calling. Visualize the beauty of seeing Jesus alive at the entrance of tomb. When I envision myself at the tomb, I am speechless. My heart simply overflows with such love. It is a feeling of love that words cannot describe. At Saint Benedict’s Monastery during our Easter morning Eucharist, we hear the Gospel sung in three voices. The three voices add to the beauty and mystery of the moment. We not only hear the beauty of the Resurrection, but if we pay attention, we will see Jesus alive in one another. Easter is when the first flowers of spring break through the earth, and we begin to see beautiful flowers beginning to grow. Therefore, I encourage you to take time to see the beauty that surrounds you every day and thank God for the moment.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Hope Your Life Gets You to Heaven

Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB
My greatest life lessons came from my eight years volunteering for hospice. I listened to people tell me about the importance of spending time with others. I learned about the value of quiet times to think, to appreciate what you have and not worry about what you don’t have. I heard a lot about spirituality, the values God wants us to live by and the missed opportunities to live them. The values I wanted to grow in my life were compassion, patience, humility, love and respecting your neighbor.

My time at hospice made me reflect on my own life. As a result, I felt called to become a Benedictine Oblate in 2008. I promised to live my life according to the Rule of St. Benedict. I think people in hospice would be happy to hear I am living my life using the guidelines from the Rule.

I have a community of Benedictine sisters who support and encourage my oblate lifestyle. My sisters and brother monks are always available to listen. Their lives model the importance of spending time with your neighbor and showing hospitality. Since I became an oblate, my life is more relaxed and peaceful. Benedict suggests I take some quiet time every day, to think, to reflect, to have a conversation with God, knowing that God loves me for who I am, even with all my faults.

The Rule of St. Benedict suggests I think about death every day. In my quiet time, I often think about the lessons I learned from the people in hospice. One lady’s comment was my greatest lesson and supports my decision to live an oblate lifestyle: “I hope your life gets you to Heaven.”

I would like to invite you to a gathering to meet oblates and hear about this rich lifestyle. We will gather April 7, 9:30 a.m., St. Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn. We will share community, hospitality and love of neighbor. Please call (320) 363-7144 to register. Thanks.

Benedictines hope and pray your life gets you to Heaven.

Bob Lesniewski, OblSB

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Transformation and a New Shore

Richard Rohr in his “Daily Meditation” (March 9, 2018) compares change and transformation. He says, “Change of itself just happens; but spiritual transformation must become an actual process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. The deep mystery of transformation is that God even uses our pain and shame to lead us closer to God's loving heart.”

Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB

Maybe that’s why Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was able to observe that the most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, suffering, struggle and loss and have found their way out of the depths. She finds that these persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern. When this transformation eventually emerges, it is essential to acknowledge that the transformed space, their arrival on a new shore, likely took time and immense letting go.

For most of us, transformation doesn’t happen without the presence of a variety of companions on the journey. For many, the way to a “new shore” includes leaning on a Source that is larger than themselves. It reminds me of a familiar story that describes the experience of a traveler who was on a plane which experienced a great amount of turbulence. Many passengers quickly showed how fearful they were becoming, but one child just kept reading her book and showed no fear. After the plane landed, the passenger went up to the child and asked her why she was not afraid during the storm. The child replied, “Because my daddy’s the pilot and he’s taking me home.”

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Graced Encounters


Recently, I read Dr. Christopher Pramuk’s book Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line, in which he invites people of good will to stand courageously in the breach between what is and what is possible, daring us to imagine a world of cross-racial friendship, justice and solidarity. "In the breach": not an easy place to stand in difficult, overwhelming situations; we want to avoid danger and so often choose to stand outside the breach, hoping  someone who is wiser, less frightened, more level-headed than we, might take the stand; surely there are those more experienced and knowledgeable about what to do better than we in a world so broken and complex! It is natural to feel pressured from within our own convictions or pressured from without to do what we feel incapable of doing! The result? We stand looking on helplessly and/or let the more powerful and fearless do what we feel we could never do! WRONG!

Common Ground Garden Production Manager
Kate Ritger with some garden members.

Read what one of our CSB seniors, Sydney McDevitt, offers in a recent issue of The Record (11/26). The title alone gives us a clue to her passionate message: "We need tiny, consistent acts of decency to uplift those around us." She writes, in part: "It would be easy in this world we now live in to throw up our hands, say there is nothing we can do and simply get on with our lives. However, this is a position of privilege we cannot afford to take...It is of the highest hubris for white people to tell people of color they will be fine, Christians to tell Muslims their lives will go on, cisgender people to tell members of the trans community their world will not change..."

Despite this, it is hard to keep going. Continues Sydney: “How do we continue? The answer is simple: do the tiny, decent things. We do not have to join in every march or get mad at every ignorant thing...What we need to do is take care of each other...It is dire we show compassion for each other. Lift up the people around you who feel discouraged. Make sure your own friends and family are doing okay. Do the act of kindness that is going to change the day of the stranger you pass by. Then when you’re ready, jump back into the marches, the calling, the discourse...Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., told us: 'If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.'"

Thank you, Sydney!
Thank you, Dr. Christopher Pramuk!
Thank you, cherished reader!

Renee Domeier, OSB