Thursday, April 11, 2019

Way Back Then

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When I wanted
To get it all right
I indulged in
A tediously lengthy
And partially sincere
Catalog of my iniquities.
But then I had a crib sheet
So that no fault would feel left
Out.


My confessor,
An aging portly monk,
Had one good ear
And one bad. The joke
Was he listened
With the bad. For him
There was nothing
New under the sun.


And then, with a sigh, after I
Had filed each sin by number
And title, he turned to face me
Unimpressed
With my depravity,
Or even with my
Small spirit,
And with the warmest smile,
Looked me straight in the eye,
Charles, you must realizeYou are a child of grace.For your penanceYou must learnThe art and joyOf simple gratitude.


(Previously “Gratitude”)

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Lord, Teach Us to Pray


As I write this, it is snowing, sufficient to give a context to at least one line of my blog! And secondly, I will decide NOT to list again the reasons why it is a “December kind of day”! Instead, I ask you to join me in singing Joe Wise’s poignantly expressed song of the 1970s where he brings it all together in our human minds and hearts, and I believe that our song and prayer will lift it all into the very Heart of God during this Lenten season. Let us pray:

Lord, teach us to pray...
It’s been a long and cold December kind of day
With our hearts and hands all busy in our private little wars
We stand and watch each other now from separate shores
We lose the way.

I need to know today the way things should be in my head.
I need to know for once now the things that should be said.
I’ve got to learn to walk around as if I were not dead.
I’ve got to find a way to learn to live. (Refrain)

I still get so distracted by the color of my skin.
I still get so upset now when I find that I don’t win.
I meet so many strangers—I’m slow to take them in.
I’ve got to find a way to really live. (Refrain)

I stand so safe and sterile as I watch a man fall flat.
I’m silent with a man who’d like to know just where I’m at.
With the aged and the lonely I can barely tip my hat.
I need to see the sin of “I don’t care.” (Refrain)

I stand so smug and sure before the people I’ve out-guessed.
To let a man be who he is I still see as a test.
And when it all comes down to “must,” I’m sure my way is best.
I’ve got to find what “room” means in my heart. (Refrain)

Lord, teach us to pray.
We believe that we can find a better way.
Teach us to pray. We lose the way.
Teach us to pray.

Thank you, dear readers, for joining me in prayer.  I love you.

And all the people said: AMEN.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, April 4, 2019

St. Margaret, Queen of the Scots

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I have recently returned from a trip to Ireland and Scotland. I left with memories of a lifetime and a newfound respect for how these early Christians fought to sustain and renew their Catholic heritage. One of the historical sites visited left an almost mystical impression. Edinburgh Castle is what legends are made of, but it is a real castle, where real people lived their lives for centuries. Walking the grounds, hearing the history and viewing the artifacts was a humbling experience. 

The oldest building on the grounds of the castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in the 1100 AD. This chapel was saved from destruction by Robert de Bruce when the Scots were fighting for their independence from England in 1314 AD. A small abode with lack of splendor on the exterior, the interior was humble, as well. However, light beamed through the small stained-glass windows and flowers adorned the tiny altar. The chapel belonged to St. Margaret, queen of Scotland, who lived from 1047 to 1093. What I found most intriguing about St. Margaret’s was she was Benedictine educated; she followed the Rule of St. Benedict during her lifetime. 

While Margaret married King Malcolm and they raised eight children, she continued to lead a life of prayer, helping the poor and convincing her husband, the King, to distribute money to the needy. Her husband so loved her holy books containing the prayers and psalms she read daily, he had the books covered with gold and jewels. Margaret also raised the funds to build a Benedictine monastery at Dunfermline. 

Truly a woman of influence during this historical period, she never stopped living according to the Rule of St. Benedict according to the text written. Was this the first oblate of Scotland? Of the world? After all, she did not live a cloistered, monastic life, but one of the world. Even to this day, a Chapel Guild still pays tribute to this woman. Twice weekly, fresh flowers are placed on the altar to remind visitors of the holy life St. Margaret, queen of the Scots, lived.

As I reflect on her life, I ask myself this question: “If this woman of the 1,100 century could be an oblate according to the Rule of St. Benedict, what lessons and principles does she offer me in my journey as an oblate?” 

Mary Baier, OblSB

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Hardest Thing to Do

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This is the hardest thing to do”? Author Penelope Willcocks has written a book with the title, The Hardest Thing to Do. She writes about her characters, monks in Saint Alcuin’s Abbey in the 14th century. Her gifted writing brings the monks to life. One example she acknowledges occurs as a novice whispers to himself, “This is the hardest thing to do” when he is closing a door as quietly as possible. Another time, when the abbot is addressing a difficult situation, he speaks softly to himself, “This is the hardest thing to do.” I have uttered these words especially when doing something for the first time. It may be as I am preparing to lead prayers, learning a new psalm tone or when asked to write an article for a publication. In the end, it usually turns out fine, and through the experience, I have gained confidence in myself. For me, simply saying the words “This is the hardest thing to do” helps me acknowledge that I do not want to give up, so I try a little harder to do a task a little better. I have learned to depend on God for assistance. Daily living in the monastery is a school if I am open to listen and learn. In fact, Saint Benedict calls the monastery a "school for the Lord's service."

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Stardust

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A little over three weeks ago, many heard these words: “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Thus began Lent.

What if you heard—

"Creator God, biblical poets tell us you fashioned us from the clay of the earth giving us life from your own breath. On Ash Wednesday, many hear '...to dust you shall return,' let us begin to reflect what it means to be reduced to stardust which is smaller than clay, smaller than dust, but larger than life…"?

For almost 20 years, we leave church with glittering foreheads and a joyful anticipation of Lent. Of course, you don’t need glitter to have a joyful experience. Joy is more than laughter and being happy. However, since we have united the findings of science and biblical poetry, many persons talk about how Lent has changed for them because we use stardust as a starting point and not ashes.

“I don’t think of giving up something anymore. I ask myself what I can do for someone else...to make their day shine.”

“It’s just a way for me to be aware that we are an Easter people.”

“Oh, I still need to repent but there’s a difference now. It’s more a half full glass.”

“At first I thought the earth was going to swallow me up for blasphemy but I know, I believe God loves what we’re doing. Glitter crosses on our foreheads—what a hoot!”

If you might be skeptical, please watch Rev. George Coyne, a Roman Catholic priest and scientist, tell us how upon physical death, we are reduced, not to dust, but to stardust.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Adult Coloring

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When I first heard of “adult coloring,” I was intrigued because I remembered coloring as a fun activity from childhood. I liked doing it with others or by myself. My sister and I may even have had coloring contests. At the local craft store, I found tons of supplies. What did I want? I thought about crayons, but decided to go with colored pencils. I soon found out, however, that for my tastes, the colors were not bright enough. Again, I tried to engage my sister, but she brushed me off saying that she had passed the stage of coloring. I was not deterred, however, and went back to the store to see what else they might offer. Of course, they had books that were much more sophisticated, but what was more intriguing were the gel pens.

Ready for my new experience, I started coloring some mandalas. These designs gave me a sense of creating something more beautiful than just a simple picture. The designs came alive on the page, but even more so I became relaxed while doing them because I went into a sort of trance. Being totally absorbed in choosing colors, staying inside the lines and mixing and matching odd colors, I realized that the relaxation happened because the activity is totally and completely unrelated to my usual routine. I was definitely having fun, and yet I was not totally satisfied because in many ways, I was only doing a slight upgrade from childhood coloring.

Well, God never lets me down because almost immediately I met another Benedictine sister who told me about Bible journaling. No, it is not Bible study in the “old” way, but rather adding color and art to it! If you use the internet, you can find all sorts of possibilities until one suits you. However, I liked the idea of using an actual Bible, so I bought one and now am much more delighted when I have colored a design or picture on the extended page beside Psalm 139, while I whisper my favorite line from it: “Oh, Lord, you know me, and you love me.”

Now, I am meditating in a much more satisfying way.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Touch of Spring

Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB

At this point when our calendars mark the spring equinox, the skies are emptying out lots of of snow upon Mother Earth. I also received an email entitled "A Touch of Spring" with the subtitle, "We're all ready for a bit of spring." I love snow, but this time the irony was more than I could resist. I was delighted, opened the attachment and found an interactive piece before me.

Using the mouse, I could click as often and wherever I chose on a completely black screen. Frankly, I went a bit wild! At one little click, I could present to the black screen a multitude of flowers, spring flowers. In a matter of seconds, I felt as if I were a creator of beauty. Soon I had a veritable flower garden! Fresh spring green leaves and stems, sky-blue flowers, yellow daisies, bubble-like and graceful fronds, orange, purple, peach blossoms popped up wherever I chose to place them. Some were double-petaled, tall and proud; others bent over slightly, forming a graceful welcome to my eye. There were larger flowers, the size of a quarter, and tiny ones, the size of an earring. Sometimes there were different kinds of flowers rising out of the same stem. One was in the form of a cross; all the rest shouted out "New Life" or "Resurrection" or "Come alive; yes, YOU too!" There were even firecracker blossoms. If I stayed in the same spot on the screen and clicked multiple times at that spot, I marveled at the wonderful overlapping colors, textures and designs. Everything seemed to fit; everything was full of light.

A TOUCH OF SPRING? Oh yes! Yet there was more. For me, it was a reminder of how God must have delighted in creation...and still delights in that creation, every new season. It's no surprise, then, that God saw that it was good, that it was very good!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The LIGHT of God's Presence

Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB
Recently I read a commentary on how we can find God in our ordinary places. It made me think a bit about how often I see God among some of the persons I connect with every day. Many of us have been delighted to discover God in familiar or unexpected persons and places. It got me starting to think of what I might be invited to consider as a Lenten change of heart. I started going through the litany of Lenten possibilities: patience, listening quietly to criticism without retaliating or losing my temper, choosing time for kindness over being so task-oriented that I’m really am not available for a small gesture that might make a world of difference for one lonely person.

I realize that I’m more than a bit hesitant to honestly name one specific attitude or behavior which is “less than how I want it to be.” If I’m willing to do it, it likely needs more specificity about what the opposite behaviors/attitudes would concretely look like. That’s where the persons around me that possess those transformed behaviors/attitudes might give me a small road map for guiding my desire to change. I can keep watching for it in persons around me. After I’ve I see it, how much courage would it take to stop them soon after I’ve witnessed it to make a simple comment to them about what I saw and why that made a difference for me? Maybe each time I name that behavior/attitude in another, it will become more embodied in me. Then both me and the other person may have received more “LIGHT for the path” forward.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Final Judgement

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Matthew 25:31-36 - The Final Judgement

This passage has always bugged me. Do you have any scripture passages like that? Actually, I very often find these have the most to offer, the most to help me see what I am blind to.

First off, there is the king who’s handing out harsh, clear-cut sentences, ruling from his throne like a cruel despot. Then there is the business of goats and sheep. I know I am more like an old goat than a sheep. Both the sheep and the goats are oblivious, like they’ve been sleepwalking. How could they, we have missed Christ among us? This is a parable. It is using figurative language to make a point: treat everyone as Christ. Be attentive to their needs. In doing this, we enter the kingdom of God. Treat everyone, even the “least,” especially them, as Christ. These are the ones we most likely overlook or take for granted: the clerk in the store, the neighbor who doesn’t act like a neighbor. Let’s give ourselves a wake-up call: “See Christ in everyone,” not just in those who are “important.” It is part of obedience, learning to hear and to heed Christ in the ordinariness of daily life with the most ordinary people. The more we listen to these “least,” the more we hear the call of Christ. This is how we “enter the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.” Enter the kingdom now!

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Indigenous Peoples Have It Right

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The indigenous peoples have it right! Mother Earth has existed primarily to care for her multi-cultured inhabitants since the beginning of creation. But what has happened for centuries, and especially during our present decades and lifetime, must surely make her feel invisible, marginalized, abused, very weary of her children, incapable of continuing on and on, ad infinitum!

Our Creator God must also feel invisible, marginalized and overwhelmed with humankind’s lack of reverence, gratitude and reciprocal care of Mother Earth who has not only nurtured, given an abundance of life, air, riches, beauty beyond measure, but who is misunderstood, used up and abused without mercy!

If we are overwhelmed by images that break our hearts, situations that seem unredeemable, how must Mother Earth, Mother and Father God bear the pain of such knowledge in the light of their  infinite love? A popular song of many years ago keeps singing in my head. Do you remember it? Please sing with me: 

“Where have all the flowers gone/ long time passing...? When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?”

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, March 7, 2019

St. Luke, My Superhero

The Gospel of Luke has never resonated with me as have Matthew, Mark and John. Yet, hearing it again at Mass the Gospel of Luke (6:27-38) sparked a flame that led to a fire in my soul. It caused great reflection in me. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus provides His Father’s expectations for us to be His followers. I decided these expectations are not for the spiritually weak.

One expectation Jesus spoke of is “...love your enemies and do good to them, and lend, expecting nothing back…”. How many of us worry about high returns on our money in today’s world? This seems to be an opposite view of the capitalistic theme in our society, don’t you think?

Then, Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…”. Is this God fooling with us? Or how about this one: “Stop judging and you will not be judged.” How does He expect us to reach this high bar when judging others seems to be the order of the day in the world we live?

In this Gospel by Luke, Jesus spells out specifically what God wants in His followers and it stands in direct opposition to what much of the world around us practices. What does The Rule of St. Benedict offer to confront these confounding discrepancies? According to St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of the Rule, “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way, the love of Christ must come before all else.” Note it does not say “our” way of acting, it is a singular pronoun. That means “me.”

When the world around “me” beckons me to follow the easy path of injustice, self-indulgence, judging others and betraying core principles of the Gospel, it is up to “me” to go back to the teachings of the Rule of St. Benedict and the Gospel. All we need to know about walking the path of Jesus and being His follower is laid out for us. Both Luke and St. Benedict gave us the road map for eternal life. Easy? Not so much. We will fail and when we fail, we must be willing to “forgive,” forgive ourselves and others. Then, we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, as my Dad use to say, and continue on His path. Isn’t God’s wisdom greater than our own? Thank you, St. Luke, for the awakening.

Blessings,

Mary Baier, OblSB

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Welcome, Lent!

Photo: Nancy Bauer, OSB

As we move through the season of Lent, it’s interesting to remember how this season got its name. “Lent” comes from the old English-German word “lencten” which means "springtime." The hours of daylight are “lengthening.” It’s a time of renewal, of new beginnings. Lent lasts 40 days, reminiscent of the 40 years the people of Israel wandered in the desert before reaching the Promised Land. We’re also reminded of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert as he prepared for his saving ministry which brought redemption and new life to the human family. Lent is a time of preparation, new beginnings. Farmers begin to study the seed catalogs and plan their vegetable gardens. This is a time to welcome new life, to get a fresh start after a long, cold winter.
  
How can Lent be a time of renewal for us? We can spend quality time reflecting on the daily Scriptures and faithfully offering our prayers for the needs of the world. We can make use of opportunities to serve others, contributing to efforts to help those in need. Maybe we can drop in on a friend or relative who might enjoy a visit. Celebrating Lent can renew our faith and boost our joy as followers of Christ.   

Margaret Michaud, OSB

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Accountability to Prayer


A question recently posed to a group of people gathered for a discussion was, “Who holds you accountable to prayer?” My first response was, “I do.” As I continued to ponder this question, I realized how incomplete my first response was; I had only answered a portion of the question. I came to a better understanding that I am also held accountable to my community, to participate in our daily prayer as we gather to pray Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist every day; to be in the Oratory or chapel for community prayer is a sign of my presence to the other sisters. We are accountable to ourselves to be present, yet also to one another. Our community prayer is our foundation. The more I pondered the question of prayer, I realized prayer is more than our foundation; it is our way of life, a way of life that I have chosen to be part of. For me, it is this way of life that holds me faithful to my prayer. The scheduled time for private prayer or communal prayer is central for me. I cannot do it on my own. I appreciate the community of women who surround me every day with the same desire, the same accountability to prayer that I have.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Angels at the Gas Station

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What do a gas station and the angel Gabriel have in common?

I was on my way to church and realized I needed gas. I was focused on my homily. My intent was to talk about how each of us is asked, just as Mary was asked, to birth Christ in our lives. I was going to talk about the many messengers we often don't notice, mostly because we don't expect to be asked! Before I tell you about Gabriel, I have to say that my car has two magnetic signs which bear the name of our church.

"ARE YOU A PREACHER...OR SOMETHING?"

Immediately I realized a man was semi-shouting at me! AT ME! My first thought was—oh dear God, I don't want to debate the ordination of women...not today. But before my thought was complete and I was caught in mid-nod, the man continued..."I need a preacher...my wife," he said, "she's leaving me...after 20 years...she's leaving me." I listened. "But you probably don't know how much it hurts. It hurts so much." All I answered just then was "Yes, I have an idea." I listened more...and this man was crushed. He continued..."I need someone to understand." Prudence be damned—I told the man that this wasn't the best day for me either...I was married the day after Christmas and divorced the day after Christmas, though I wouldn't sign the papers then. He stopped short—"They still let you be a preacher? After a divorce, I mean?" God has a strange sense of humor; I added, "Yes, I can still be a preacher." He smiled and said, "Thank God!"

This man was my angel Gabriel and maybe I was his. That day, I think both of us (though we may never see one another again) are marveling about how God comes into our lives in unusual Gabriel ways.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Mourning the Loss of Mary Oliver

Photo: Nancy Bauer, OSB

Who will ask us such pertinent and potent questions as “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (The Summer Day) So much of her poetry reflects this question from different angles. 

In her poems of nature, she asks if we are spending enough time outdoors, so we can observe the grasshopper “thoroughly wash her face” (The Summer Day),“hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing” (How I Go Into the Woods) or see “the face of the moose as sad as the face of Jesus” (Some Questions You Might Ask).

She told NPR in 2012 that poetry “mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now, they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary should not be in the poem.”

Who will ask if we have ever seen anything more wonderful than the sun that reaches out and warms you, fills you? (The Sun)

Who will tell us that we do not have to be good? (Wild Geese) Does any other poet tell us that we do not have to be good, and that we have nothing to prove?

She begins to sound prayer-like. Personally, I cannot wait until someone puts together a grand volume of Mary Oliver’s collected works, so I can use it to make my own private retreat. After all, her instructions for living a life, “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it,” suit me perfectly. A great starting point for my retreat will definitely be The Journey because here she tells me that the only life I can save is my own.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Small Bursts of Flame

Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB

Sometimes I actually remember. Sometimes when I’m looking into the gentle eyes of one of our older sisters, I’m powerfully reminded again that everything and everyone that exists has “Godness” within. It wouldn’t “be” if “Godness” did not call it forth into being. The sister I connected with seems to have no idea how much “Godness” her eyes convey. It occurs to me that “Godness” may be a code word for “unconditional love.”

Most of us are not that good at regularly exuding unconditional love. So sometimes, when I’m struggling with seeing unconditional love in someone that easily ignites anger in me, I’m surprised by a flashback of something I learned in the book My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen. In this book, her Hasidic grandfather spoke to her as a preschool child and said, “You must bless everyone and everything. Because when you do, you blow on the ember of God in them.” And somehow, I imagined that that breath made the “Godness” burst into flame. I don’t always remember to breathe out that blessing in the moment of my anger-event. But later, when I’m rerunning the event in my head, it occurs to me what I can do to gentle my being.

I’m reminded to very slowly breathe in a memory of someone who has loved me unconditionally. I invite that in-breath to soften my heart with unconditional love so that I can slowly breathe out an unconditional-love-breath on the person who disturbed me. It seems like such a small thing to do. Yet, it teaches me to gift my own heart with unconditional love in the process. Maybe that one breath somehow increases the balance of how much unconditional love is present in the universe at that moment. As we walk this life path together, may we each discover life-giving ways of encouraging unconditional love to burst into flame around us.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Woman Who Won An Argument With Jesus


Mark 7:24–30

On a day when Jesus would rather be alone, a foreign woman seeks him out. The woman reverences Jesus and asks him to heal her daughter. Jesus refuses and says it is not right to take the childrens' (the Jews’) food and give it to dogs (literally, little dogs). She comes right back at him with this: “But, Lord even the little dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Discussion finished. Jesus says, “For saying that you may go. The demon has left your daughter.”

Jesus’s vision of his mission is expanded by one woman who challenges his understanding. She knew a deeper truth and she stuck with it. Perhaps the deeper miracle is that she helped Jesus hear a deeper voice. The oblate way of obedience (meaning to hear and heed) has its roots within each of us—as deep as Christ is within each one of us. When we listen with the ear of our heart, we listen to Christ. It is this listening that no one else can do for us. Each of us bears this responsibility. In the Benedictine way, it is a gift that God has given to each one of us. And we may very well be called on to hear that voice on a day when we would rather be alone.

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"That's How the Light Gets In"

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I often repeat to myself or to another Leonard Cohen’s powerful words lifting us out of darkness into light: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

Recently, I read about a new image in a book by Pastors Rob Cowles and Matt Roberts, The God of New Beginnings (thomasnelson.com). It is the presentation of their unusual ministry in Fort Collins, Colo., and Ogden, Utah, called Genesis Project. They firmly believe that the darkest, or entirely broken lives, can be redeemed through the power of real relationships. This book of their stories attests to that truth for innumerable drug addicts, felons, strippers, alcoholics and gang members who have found their way back to sanity, wholesome living and service to others.

For me, the new/old image that the authors use is from Japanese artisans who, for centuries, have practiced kintsugi, the art of taking the fragments of a broken piece and putting them back together again—trying not to conceal the cracks, but rather to highlight them by accentuating the jagged lines! (Google “kintsugi” to learn more!) Cowles and Roberts apply the love and grace of Christ, safe communities and God’s forgiveness to help reset lives and habits. They call it the “art of spiritual kintsugi.” They have been establishing centers in many cities and towns throughout the U.S. To further quote the book jacket: Jeff Lucas writes, “Raw, gritty, practical and inspirational...highly recommended” and Stephen Arterburn: “The more I’m around the Genesis Project guys, the more impressed I am with how they’re applying the love and grace of Christ to salvage messed-up people.”

For me, it’s a wonderful new image highlighting Cohen’s “Forget your perfect offering; there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in!” I have certainly enjoyed this book; you may, too!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Questions Unite Us

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"Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments." Psalm 119–66

A wise person once told me, “Questions unite us, answers divide us.” I have used this sound advice both in my personal and career life for many years. It has helped me navigate difficult moments in my life journey.

I have found questioning leads to a deeper understanding of one’s self and others and helps find common ground by which a positive direction can be found. Often, questions lead to more questions and there are no immediate answers. As a Benedictine, sometimes the answers do not always align with our Benedictine values. On the contrary, the answers may cause us to be stuck in a "frame of reference" of old, with a "it’s my way or the highway" sentiment. Our personal reality trumps others’ reality. Having the answer does not always guarantee this will be the right answer for those who live with us in this world.

Discernment has become a familiar word as a practicing Benedictine. It invites us to "listen" to the voice of God when faced with life situations where there are few, if any, answers to the problems in life. When one discerns, one cannot help but ruminate with questions. Questions often become a mantra or prayer to our Father asking, “What is the right path?" The process of discernment does not always lead to the right answers, but can lead to choices. And this is where our Benedictine values are essential. This is our common ground where we will find consensus with ourselves and the world around us.

May you learn to live with the questions. Blessings.

Mary S. Baier, OblSB

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

It Takes Courage to Grow Up


Recently, I came across a quote by E.E. Cummings that caught my attention: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” I read this and thought how true it is. I knew it went beyond the physical growth, something we cannot control; our body simply changes.

In my opinion, this quote refers to spiritual growth along with believing in yourself. It is about saying “yes” to God, which does take courage when you listen to God through prayer. I have experienced in the past that through my commitment to prayer, I am continuing to deepen my relationship with God. I am also learning to believe more in myself, thus, I find the courage to try something new. My prayer is an act of faith; it helps me believe in myself and whatever God is calling me to do. So, every day I can grow by simply or not so simply letting go. By letting go and moving forward in my life journey, I am preparing and discovering the courage of growing up that E.E. Cummings is referring to. And yes, in my opinion, it is an act of courage to let go of the familiar and step out of my comfort zone into the future.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Do You Remember Your First Confession?


Chicago. St. Xavier’s Academy. Grade 2. Sister Michon, R.S.M.

Having difficulty with the question of Original Sin, I wasn’t buying it that Jesus was sent to save everyone because Adam and Eve ate some dumb fruit off a tree. I dug my heels in. I wanted an answer.

My second grade teacher eventually sent me to the priest who would be our first confessor. He was a gentle man and kinda looked like how I pictured God. I remember saying, “I’ve committed a lot worse sins than Adam and Eve and God isn’t sending Jesus to save anybody!” He asked me what was so terrible. “I clonked Bobby on his head and broke my mom’s pearls cause I was mad at her.”

“Are you sorry?” I think I said, “Yes.” He asked me if he could say the Act of Contrition with me. Then, he asked if I knew what penances were (here it comes, I’m going to get a whole rosary). Of course, I knew what penances were. We’d been studying all that since Christmas!

“All right,” he said, “Go home, give your brother a hug and tell your mom you’re sorry.”

“That’s it? No Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s or Glory Be’s?”

The question about Original Sin has been a struggle all my life. Perhaps that’s why I became a scripture scholar. Reading Matthew Fox’s delightful, yet profound, book, Original Blessing, I discovered I was asking the wrong question. During this Ordinary time before Lent, treat yourself to this blessing!

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Beyond Comprehension


I always said
That I would never get over it.
Such love!
To think that God would become human
And even die on the cross for us.
How utterly profound!

How wrenching, too, when humans suffer
crucifixion
Hundreds, adults, children.
Not in God’s plan.

So tangible
It makes me visualize
What God has done for us.

How can I fathom!
That same God I will one day see.
You love me so much.
How absolutely stunning!
How can I thank you, God!

Janet Thielges, OSB

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Toward A Hopeful Future

Photo: Pexels.com

It’s this time of year, when we recognize that something is ending and something new is happening. In this time-space, it’s possible to more clearly recognize what hope is all about. If it’s true that “you can’t change the world from the rearview mirror” (Anita Roddick), then what will it take for us to invite ourselves into the future? 

There’s a certain advantage in having a rearview mirror. Honoring and nourishing our gifts and exploring and attending to our wounds can reveal strengths we never realized we had. We can choose to name both past qualities that have been life-sustaining, as well as those emerging from past wounds. Fortified with this recollection-data, our ever-growing inner strengths may become stronger, and our future choices may become more honest and realistic.

So, as we slowly recognize that we have an ever-opening teachable heart, it may be a bit easier to look out the front window at the next chapters of our life. We might even hear ourselves saying, “The older I get, the more like myself I become.” Who can’t love persons who are authentically themselves, warts and all? Allowing our “teachable heart” to grow sounds like a hopeful future to me.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Value Tree

The tree mural, painted by Kayla Gustin

Sister Ardella Kvamme now looks at a new scene outside her office at Saint Scholastica Convent. However, it’s not outside her window, but outside her door in the hallway! A mural has been painted by our wellness director, Kayla Gustin.

The scene is a beautiful tree that goes from floor to ceiling and has branches that are far reaching down the hallway. The painting is not only lovely, but also purposeful. The idea grew from an initial meeting of a committee formed to further integrate our mission and values at Saint Scholastica.

Throughout the year, we will use the tree to participate in various activities in which a Benedictine value will be featured alongside the tree. For starters, both sisters and staff were invited to complete a sentence starter that was printed on a paper apple and related to the featured value. Those apples were then hung on the tree.

This is a visible way we can further our mission where we live, and we will be able to see how those who work with us share the same values.

This blog was adapted from an article that appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Benedictine Sisters and Friends.

 Janelle Sietsema, OSB

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Artists at Work

Sister Patricia Ostrander painting a peacock

Did you know that there is an artist within each of us? Did you ever consider what might be the expression of an artist within yourself? It’s that special “extra” that touches the heart AFTER we have done the job of sculpting, painting, composing, washing tables, tending to the needs of a child, a client, a poor person, a colleague at the office, a guest at our restaurant or whatever may be our 8-to-4 job at the office or wherever we make money for livelihood. It’s that moment of eye contact, a smile, calling another by name or giving a  “thank you” when we didn’t need to do any of those extras! It’s that gracious handling of time or an object, that special something that goes beyond service rendered to touch the heart of another! Each of us is capable of touching the heart of another because each of us is equipped with an artist within ourselves longing to express itself!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Christ Child, A Refugee

"When the magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child and destroy him.'" Matthew 2:13


Photo: Laureen Virnig, OSB
The Holy Family was much like any other family. Mary and Joseph had just celebrated the birth of Jesus. How joyful it must have been when the wise men came to worship the Christ child, bringing gifts to celebrate His birth. Yet, as all families, this joy gave way to worry and fear. How did Joseph and Mary feel when they were directed by God’s angel to leave their homeland and escape with their small child to a land foreign to them? What is apparent in Matthew’s story is the fact the Holy Family became refugees. Christ, God’s son, was a refugee seeking asylum in a foreign land to avoid persecution.

How timely is Matthew’s biblical story today? As Benedictines and Christians, what does this story mean to us? For me, it prompts the following questions: As a Benedictine, do I recognize the plight of refugees? Am I able to see the “face of Christ” in all persons regardless of race, social backgrounds, religion or country of origin? Do I model Benedictine hospitality to those less fortunate than myself?

St. Benedict instructed in the Rule to to receive guests with charity and humility. Esther de Waal, a well-known Benedictine, asks us two essential questions: Did we see Christ in them? Did they see Christ in us? These are simple, yet profound, questions for us to ponder in this new year.

Yes, the Holy Family was much like all families. Life filled with joys, sorrows and challenges. Let us hope in the new year we, as Benedictines, live our values for the world to witness blessing our families with Christ’s truth and light.

Blessings in the new year.

Mary Baier, OblSB

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Labyrinth

I have had the opportunity to pray and walk a Labyrinth several times over the past 20 years. I love the journey or significance of walking into the center of the Labyrinth, into the center of my own personal prayer journey, into my heart. When walking the circular path in the silence of prayer and solitude, no words are needed. It is a very healing experience. The walk for me is a prayerful journey into the depth of my heart and my relationship with God.


My most recent labyrinth walk was in North Dakota, at Annunciation Monastery. The labyrinth was larger than any I had walked before. It was constructed of stones varying in size. This arrangement of stones made it a unique and beautiful path. As I entered the path, I was feeling a little anxious. I walked slowly, letting my feet guide me, allowing the experience of prayer to begin.

Arriving at the center, I sat down and looked around at the beautiful landscape of North Dakota. My prayer was simply the sound of the wind and silence. My daily prayer is usually a mixture of silence and words. The silent pause between each psalm at Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) is important. LOH is an important part of our daily prayer.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB