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

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Take One Step at a Time

Now that we are beginning the third week of Lent, how are you doing on your spiritual journey? For me, the days of Lent start to get harder right about now. I tend to focus on the days that are ahead of me rather than asking myself, “What have I learned about myself since Ash Wednesday?” As I reflect on my own words, I find myself saying, “Lisa, take one step, one day, at a time.” The step that I will take today does not need to be a big step. I have to remind myself that if I simply take a step in the right direction, it will lead me to God and that is all I need to do. To take this step is what I call “living in the moment.” It is the best way for me to encounter God in everything I do. When I actually pay attention to the people and experiences God has put into my life, I am happier and more at peace. I am happier living in the moment because that is where I find God. I do not want to miss God or His love, so taking one step at a time is another way to live and love every day. 

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sisters Helping Sisters

Welcome to Saint Scholastica Convent!

At Saint Scholastica Convent, the retirement and assisted living facility for the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict in St. Cloud, Minn., sisters respond to Christ’s command that we love and serve one another. The more able sisters regularly reach out to the sisters receiving skilled care. At any time of day, sisters can be found pushing sisters’ wheelchairs, assisting them at the dining room table or attending to the unforeseen. 

A most recent project during the Christmas season evidenced this kind of caring. About 20 sisters signed up to assist with Christmas mail for individual sisters in Louise Hall. Activities ensued, such as enjoying the mail with the particular sister, sending a Saint Scholastica’s common letter to the writer, adding a note from her or about her or writing a thank you note, as needed. It is such a good way of keeping the sister who cannot respond connected with her family and friends.  Part two of this project meant that the return address and the relationship of the sender to the sister would be saved for database entry which, in turn, supplied printed out address sheets for the sisters’ files in the main office. Thus the task is complete until the next Christmas season.

Due to their need for more extensive care, a few of our sisters reside at next door's Saint Benedict's Senior Community. Sisters bring their mail and visit them often. Occasionally, one of those sisters is brought to Saint Scholastica’s for a meal, a visit and/or a prayer service. This is one welcome treat for the individual.

A third example of caring for each other relates to the sisters experiencing dementia issues. Having these sisters' do activities in the unit where they live is very helpful to them. Sister volunteers take turns serving this group one day a week. Directed by them, sisters residing in the unit have Eucharist streamed from our chapel each day, followed by a shortened form of Liturgy of the Hours (LOH). The same volunteers take turns leading the next two daily prayer times at the same time that the sisters pray in chapel.  

These are some of the ways that we at Saint Scholastica Convent respond to Christ’s command that we love and serve one another.

Janet Thielges, OSB

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Migrants Among Us

Sisters Margaret Maus (left) and Dorothy Manuel
sharing their stories with each other.
Many of us have known the feeling of needing to move to a new geographic space as our life changes. This is especially true if where we are now provides almost no potential for our life to unfold in a life-giving way. This “displacement” or migration may be as subtle as “being new in town,” being a new employee or choosing a new life commitment. So as Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, said during a U.S. visit, “There's a little bit of migrant in everyone” (NCR, Feb 15, 2018). Tagle, who is president of Caritas Internationalis, the Church's worldwide federation of relief and development agencies, encourages us to base our daily interactions on the model proposed by the "Share the Journey" campaign introduced in September by Pope Francis. It invites people of faith to interact with and welcome migrants to hear their stories. We have multiple opportunities in our daily life to hear the stories of the migrants-among-us with whom we rub shoulders and discover their life-shifting human experiences. This personal exchange and fuller understanding of each other’s gifts and wounds may be a dress rehearsal for choosing even more diverse “Sharing the Journey” opportunities. What would shift in our world if we had an ever-expanding chorus of people saying wholeheartedly, “What an amazing sister or brother you are. I didn’t really know it in the same way until today. Thank you for your sharing.”

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Preparing for Lent

Evening prayer in Sacred Heart Chapel. 

Repent and believe the good news! These words from the Ash Wednesday liturgy remind us of our call to live in such a way that we do proclaim the good news. The readings for this Sunday are a good preparation for the days of Lent, which begin on Wednesday. The stories of the lepers can be reminders to us of our sinfulness and our need to repent.  What are the sores of leprosy that are in us? It could be such things as gossip, selfishness, pride, jealousy, disobedience and the list can go on.  

During these days before Ash Wednesday, let us take time to pray and ask God to help us to see our sores that need to be healed. The Church suggests that we make resolutions for the season of Lent. These resolutions should cover three areas: PRAYER, FASTING and ALMSGIVING. Some suggestions for prayer might be to attend Mass during the week, attend the stations of the cross, say the rosary as a family or set aside 10 minutes of quiet in your day to pray and talk to God. Fasting calls us to give up something that we really like to eat, a favorite TV show or some activity that we spend too much time on, like playing computer games or time on your phone! Use this time for family or for reading the Bible! Finally, almsgiving means sharing the gifts that we have with others. This can be as simple as giving to the food shelf, using the rice bowl for money to give to the missions, helping an elderly neighbor or relative or doing extra tasks at home without being asked.

Use this week to prepare for Lent through family sharing and quiet time. What does God want us to do this Lent that will deepen our relationship with Him? 

Betty Larson, OSB

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Power of the Eucharist

Sisters Modesta Arceneau (front) and
Lisa Rose prepare the gifts for Eucharist.
"Amen," I say when I receive the body and blood of Christ at Eucharist. The "amen" of my response is a simple word. Yet, at the same time, "amen" is a word that confirms for me that the bread and wine I am receiving is Christ. In receiving Christ through the bread and wine during a Eucharist celebration, no matter where I am, I am with people who believe as I believe. This belief is a source of strength for me as I strive to live as Jesus taught. 

In his book titled "One Great Act of Fidelity", Ronald Rolheiser says the following about the Eucharist: "The Eucharist is meant to send us out into the world, ready to give expression to Christ's hospitality, humility and self-effacement." As I read this quote, I remind myself that as a follower of Christ, I am to serve as Christ served. At the same time, as a follower of Christ, I am to serve for Christ in today's world. Receiving the Eucharist strengthens me to be Christ for the people I meet every day. At Saint Benedict's Monastery, we celebrate the Eucharist every day and receive this spiritual nourishment. 

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Life in a Wheelchair

"Blue Wheelchairs"
Provided by Pexels.com
I fell
and injured my back.
I can see, hear and talk
and my mind is as sharp as a whistle.

Bring on changes.
They minimize visits.
"Can anyone who can't walk, talk?"
Seems not.

With companion. 
Person I knew came by. 
Greeted only my companion.
Ah well! 

A gent "gets" it.
"Did she fall?" asked a lady.
"Ask her. She can talk," said the gent.
I'm real!

I smiled. 
It made my day. 
The wheelchair's a helpful thing;
but I never stop being a person.
Thank you!

Janet Thielges, OSB

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Day at Shodair: Part 2

Sister Trish Dick works as a spiritual counselor at Shodair Hospital in Helena, Mont. The hospital serves children who have undergone extreme trauma.

Our patients, if they are not on the acute unit, attend school, starting around 9:15 a.m. My mornings are usually given to staff leadership meetings, one-on-one spiritual direction with clinicians and staff. Because of the severe acute trauma that the staff and clinicians experience as they work with these patients, the staff experience their own secondary trauma and struggle with ethical and moral issues. As one puts it: "Your office is like a sacred space that we can finally share our concerns, struggles and secondary trauma." My role with the staff and within the hospital includes maintaining confidentiality, except where there is the possibility of harming others or suicide. I am honored that people trust me to be their companion they as work through their secondary trauma.

A smudging stick.
My afternoons are filled with meeting with the patients. I will meet with a patient in their room or, if they can be taken off the secured unit, they will meet in my office or we will go for a walk, weather permitting. I prefer to take them to my office or outside to give them some fresh air and absorb the beauty of the surrounding mountains of Helena. I might also do smudging with the Native American purification ritual with patients who request it. A Native American elder gave me a lesson on how to smudge and his blessing to do it. The hospital has a sizable number of  Native Americans and this ritual is important to their healing and identity. This is a new form of prayer that I am learning and growing into. I was gifted a smudge stick and sweet grass from the Native American elder. I googled how to make a smudge stick and made two of my own from the hospital garden that the patients had planted.  

I am learning, growing and stretching in so many ways. I am grateful for this ministry experience and my compassion runs deep within me as I work with and alongside these folks who suffer from acute mental illness. 

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Heart-Healthy Hugs

I got to wondering about the etymology of the term "hug." I found out the origins of the word are not known, but there are two theories about its origin. One used in the 1560s relates it to the Old Norse word "hugga," which meant to comfort. The other related it to the German word "hegen," which meant to foster or cherish, originally meant to enclose with a hedge. Both of those origins seem to have layers of meaning. To comfort, cherish and surround with safety seem to be needed at all ages. Research shows that well-hugged babies are less stressed as adults and elderly who feel lonely can feel less so by being hugged.

In certain parts of the world, the hug includes both the left-side and right-side hug and even one more for good measure. Somehow, the left-and-right-hug has a unique quality about it that appeals to me. The left-side hug is definitely sufficient, but when the right side is added, it includes a heart-to-heart connection. I call that a whole-hug.  

Today, when I walked around the corner, I found myself face-to-face with a friend. I automatically opened my arms as though inviting a hug. She immediately responded with a gentle hug. Then, I heard myself acknowledge, "My heart isn’t in a good space right now, so I needed that." That was a not-so-subtle code for "I’m a bit upset at the moment." I could feel my tension decrease a bit. I guess there’s a scientific basis for that. According to health research, hugs increase oxytocin and reduce blood pressure [BBC News. August 8, 2005].

May 2018 bring all of us an extra dose of heart-health in its many forms.

Sister Miriam Ardolf (left) hugs Prioress Sister Susan
Rudolph on her installation day. (Photo: Andra Johnson)

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Search for Peace

The monastery's "Peace Pole"
I can’t stop reading what Pope Francis, via Fr. Rosica, sends out to me almost daily! He speaks and writes a dangerous message to those of us who desire to be followers of Jesus Christ, and yet, his message is full of direction on HOW to fulfill not only God’s desire, but ours for PEACE ON EARTH! On January 1, the 51st World Day of Peace, his topic was “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.” He wishes PEACE to all people and nations on earth! The peace which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, the peace all of us long for, especially those who most keenly suffer its absence: the 150 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees, men and women, children, young and elderly, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace!

Pope Francis begs us, in a spirit of compassion, to embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands. But, how do we SHOW compassion concretely? It is not sufficient to simply have ‘bleeding hearts’ for the disadvantaged; they need concrete commitment! Again, Pope Francis answers that question saying: “Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.”

Welcoming, he writes, “calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights. Scripture reminds us that in showing hospitality to strangers, we may be showing hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebr. 13:2).” No easy task, but an outstanding possibility!

“Protecting involves the recognition and defense of the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security. He writes: “I think in particular of women and children who find themselves in situations that expose them to risks and abuses that can even amount to enslavement. God does not discriminate: He watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow (Psalm 146:9).” If we were in their shoes, what would be our needs?

Promoting” entails our enabling the migrants and refugees to cultivate and realize their potential through education, learning English, being in dialogue with them, assuring them and ourselves that God “loves the foreigner residing among us,” giving them food and clothing, loving them as we recall that “we, too, were once foreigners (Deut. 10:18-19).” If not I, then my ancestors of yesteryear sought a home in this lovely country!

Integratingmeans both giving of our life blood and receiving the life skills and gifts of the other! We need to recognize the process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation within our local communities when we are able to acknowledge the beauty of human development, even when there are likenesses and differences among us! St. Paul expresses it in these words: “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people (Eph. 2:19).”

Pope Francis emphasizes the fact that all of us have but one home and she is called Mother Earth! Family life, of course, is not always easy nor peaceful, but where else do we go when we are broke, cold, lonely, sick, hungry? We search for home, for peace, for compassionate family traits somewhere on our Mother Earth. What do we/you consider our family traits?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Different Kind of New Year Resolution

Happy New Year. Many people like to make New Year’s resolutions that may focus on physical health, such as a healthier diet or renewing an exercise program. In the past, my own resolutions have had this concentration. Recently I asked myself, “Have you ever considered a spiritual resolution?” “One that will encourage you to deepen your relationship with God.”  So with that idea in mind, during Advent, I started a spiritual renewal program for myself. I decided I wanted to grow in my awareness of God throughout my day, every day. In choosing to commit to a greater awareness of God, I had to learn how to pay attention to my normal daily activities. “When was I paying attention or not paying attention to God who was interacting with me through prayer, people, or a variety of events?”  Every evening during Advent, I would recall my day’s activities and look for where I sensed the presence of God. I would then write in my gratitude journal focusing on where I encountered God. This exercise also gave me the opportunity to thank God for His presence to me. Because I found it to be a growthful experience for me, I plan to continue my spiritual resolution throughout the year. If you would like more information about our community, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.