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.


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


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