Thursday, August 22, 2019

Thank You, God


I have cats because I am afraid of mice.

My cats do not like mice either. My farm is fair game for anyone who thinks all people in the country will take an animal they no longer want. This is how my cats came to live with me. I house and feed them. All I ever wanted in return is the one thing they carry on their resumes. They are supposed to be mousers.

Mine are froggers! You heard me, FROGGERS!

Most mornings I’ll find all these dead frogs on my porch. Their gifts of gratitude for me being their landlord/lady! 

Why can’t you just catch mice?

I love to go out on the porch for morning prayer. That’s when I started to think about the gifts I give to God and the gifts God gives to me. I started to see a pattern. I’ve got ideas about what God is supposed to give me, too.

"Where is that perfect family I asked for?" "How come I’m in TN?" "Why do you give us persons to love, only to take them too soon?"

That’s pretty much how my prayer goes some days.

This morning I looked at the most beautiful crepe myrtle that literally bloomed overnight. I gasped. "Thank you, God." A lovely new person walked into my life. "Thank you, God." One of my kids called out of the blue. "Thank you, God."

PLOP! PLOP! PLOP! PLOP!
FROGS!

Gee, God, why did you create those obnoxious cats. I was on a roll.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Cosmic Praise


As a child, I had the thrill of receiving First Holy communion when I was in the second grade. The sisters drilled into us the understanding that Holy Communion would be the sacred changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. Pretty difficult for an eight-year-old to understand ... sometimes even for adults.

Fast forward to Vatican II, when Catholic church members learned that instead of the small white wafer, members of the church could actually drink from a cup of wine and eat real bread. That was a new and heady change from the tasteless, skinny wafers!

Currently, I am now living at Saint Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud. There, I found that instead of the bread and wine, once again members at Saint Scholastica received the Eucharist in the form of the small white wafer. The reason was clear: a quarantine during the flu season and, in addition, some sisters were not able to swallow easily. It was not easy for me to make the change once again from the actual bread and wine to a small white wafer. Surely, richer bread might symbolize God’s abundance in a more literal way. But these small wafers seemed to say, “I offer you a simple gift.” No matter the form of Eucharist or lack thereof, communion can’t take place without community. As I considered all of this, I was prompted to write the following haiku:

Cosmic Praise

Small white wafers
Perhaps fifteen cents apiece

Hold the Universe

Kate Casper, OSB

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sometimes the Grass Really is Greener...

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“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We’ve all heard it said.

This old saying helps remind us that we are not supposed to get any grandiose ideas about life being better elsewhere. It suggests we should be satisfied where we are at as the truth is…just because the grass may look greener on the other side of the fence…does not mean it is. After all, there are side effects to having greener grass. Along with green grass comes the fertilizer and water bills…not to mention a sprinkler system needing to be put in, and a lawn which needs mowing more often than not.

On it goes because along with greener grass comes a few freeloaders now and then. You know…a goat or two that might want to nibble and take advantage of what’s looking good. As well, my guess is that if the grass is greener, those who are displaying the image could be using a filter to lure you in. You get the picture.

Well, I gotta confess here that I always yearned for greener grass at various points in our marriage. You see, our house was planted on a farm site that is nice enough, but I never knew where the farm yard ended and our personal yard began. I wanted a lawn in which the kids could play. I wanted a fenced-in area that gave me some sense of where our living space was. It seemed as though we and the land were one alright, but I wanted a place to organize my space. I wanted boundaries. I wanted to know where I could plant flowers, where the kids could play safely, and I wanted a yard of green grass defining our space.

I never had it…until…one day, I did. The century farm and a tree that marked time with it soon were enveloped in the storm of the century. Half a tree that century tree on our century farm soon became and along with that a sight for sore eyes. All of its grandeur was no longer standing before us. We grieved the loss but let it stand for a while…while we pondered what to do.

I was out of town when I got the call. “The tree’s gone,” my husband announced unemotionally one night.

“What do you mean? You took it down?”

“Yes,” he responded. “And it actually looks pretty nice."

I dreaded the thought. After all, even though I didn’t have a yard, so to speak, what I did have was a huge old tree which offered respite. It offered shade. It offered the epitome of what every farm house needs…one big, beautiful old tree…until that, too, was now gone.

A few days later, I returned home. As I made my way up the driveway, I closed my eyes expecting the worse. Hopeful that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought, I held my breath. As I rounded the last bend in the driveway…I paused.

My breath caught sight of something I did not know existed upon our century farm. Something had been there all along…MY YARD…and the tree had been in the way! Now before me spread one large, luscious, green grassy area right in front of our house. It’s what I’d wanted all along.

I always knew the grass was there…but now…it looked greener…brighter...and it shouldn’t come as a surprise at all.

After all…“He makes us lie down in green pastures ... He restores my soul.” And he did. Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug, Oblate Candidate

This blog was first published on Theology in the Trenches, written and maintained by Oblate Candidate Kathleen Kjolhaug. Reposted with permission.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

To Be and To Be With

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Recently, I read two sources of inspiration for me: a small quotation about our need “to be and to be with” one another because we are part of one another’s journey and of each other’s becoming! The other was from The Gospel Without Compromise, a 1989 publication, now out of print, but written by Catherine de Hueck Doherty, foundress of Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario. What she wrote in 1989 seems even more problematic in 2019! Would you agree that “People today are crying out for recognition. Each of us wants to be a person among other persons. We want to be noticed, not in any ostentatious way, not because we might have or not have money or any other possession or quality, but just because we are human beings, persons”? She goes on to write: “Each of us is on a pilgrimage, seeking to encounter others like ourselves, others who have the same needs. The greatest need of all is the need to be loved. But we pass by one another without noticing, without stopping, without the slightest sign of recognition. This is why modern man (ibid.) daily comes closer and closer to despair, and why he frantically continues to search for someone who will love him. The search is really for God. But God isn’t easily found if he isn’t reflected in the eyes of another person.”1989? 2019?

Others speak of developing “an attitude of gratitude” to help us become vulnerable, to urge us to both be and see the beautiful in ourselves and in one another. We don’t have to be wired to negativity. We don’t have to look at ugly things when there are all these beautiful ones: a child’s face, a peony, an oriole, a tree, water, wine and bread! All of these, and ourselves, are worthy of love and belonging, of being called by name! Why do we pretend that what we do and say doesn’t affect others?

Reverence, understanding and hospitality of the heart—these are the immediate and intense needs of people today. Catherine Doherty suggests we might think of “the other” as someone looking for someone to say: “My brother, my sister, I am here. Come. I have water and a towel. Sit down. Let me wash your tired feet that have pilgrimaged for so long. Yes, I am here. I know you. I revere you. I recognize you as my brother or sister. I love you.”

We do need “to be and to be with one another” because we are part of one another’s journey and of each other’s becoming.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Murmuring

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Murmuring

Benedict has no use for murmuring within the monastery. He clearly sees it and calls it a kind of malignancy that can rot a community. Although we may be able to have custody of our mouths, there is another murmuring that we can find, often to our chagrin, that we do within ourselves. We can mull over our resentments. Resentments can be, as one spiritual writer calls it, “cyanide for the soul.” Upon reflecting on that internal murmuring we do within ourselves, I wrote the following poem:

Repository of Resentments

So long you relished them.
After all you’d earned them.
They were yours and you
understood, especially
since no one else would.


It was like a staged game:
when they’d surface
you’d throw them a line,
and hook them, or was it
they that threw you a line.


No energy of themselves—
they needed yours. The more
you gave them, the more
they took. Even you knew
it was tired old news.


Yet you wanted to believe
your heart sick message.
Nothing gave you relief.
Your novella grew dreary.
Your friends grew weary.


Those were the days.
You were so peeved off.
How your life flew by.


Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Make It Look Nice

Sister Lise Rose (second from right) and College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University students served low-income families in Colorado during a
CSB Campus Ministry Alternative Break Experience.

"Make it look nice." These words had new meaning for me after I volunteered at a food pantry. The food pantry was for families of low income to come for food every month, and my task was to display the food in an appealing way. Because most of the clients would not have the opportunity to shop in a popular store, this was their store. So, by placing the bread neatly on the shelves and putting similar vegetables together, I was making it easier for the shoppers to find what they wanted. Similarly, keeping items orderly makes it more pleasing to the eye. The more experienced volunteers took their job seriously. More importantly, their actions expressed happiness to any observer, by sharing a smile or a kind greeting.

As I watched the other volunteers, their happiness spread to me. I was happy to be part of their family and volunteer organization, if only for two days. I could feel their joy as together we were serving the people. As Saint Benedict says, “Treat one another if she/he were Christ himself.” This is what I witnessed as I volunteered for two days. I relearned the value “respect for each person” for anyone who walked through the door. Benedictine/Christian values are what we aim to live by each day at Saint Benedict’s Monastery.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Pillar of Salt

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Often when women get together to discuss Scripture, amazing ideas emerge. A group of women students were meeting. Here is some of what was said:

Molly began:

It’s so simple. I was thinking about that Lot story. You know, the one where Lot is told to take his family out of Sodom because everyone was so evil? Got to thinking about it and here’s the way I see it.

First, Lot’s wife doesn’t have a name. I named her Dama (Hebrew for tears). It was early morning and Dama had just fed her daughters. The two neighbor girls came running in to play. Dama stopped short. “Surely, Yahweh is not going to destroy those beautiful babies. Surely not.”

As Dama began to put a few things together as Lot had asked, Shira, her best friend, knocked on the door. “Dama, are you coming to the market with me?” Dama choked back her tears and called out, “Sorry, Shira, Lot has me gathering some things for him.”

The day was sprinkled with friends and children’s laughter. Then it was time. Lot came in and said, “It’s time to go.” Reluctantly, Dama walked with her husband and children out the back door.

Lot was adamant: “Don’t look back. We’ve been told not to look back.”

As they walked up the mountain, Dama could not hold back her tears. She tried not to listen to the cries that were coming from halfway down the mountain.

She looked back.

The story ends with a lesson: “She was turned into a pillar of salt because she did not obey.”

“Ahhhhh,” said Molly, “but do you believe this is the end of the story? Not on your life!”
Women know but it has not been recorded. The pillar of salt?

It was what was left of Dama’s tears.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Gratefulness After the Fact

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For many years, I resented the fact that while growing up, my parents expected me, as well as my brothers and sister, to do so many chores around our home setting. We had to hoe in the trees and orchard, keeping the weeds out; mow the lawns; weed the garden, pick the garden produce and help can or freeze it; clean the house, garage and patio; help get ready for guests by making desserts; and we had to help with washing clothes, ironing and mending, as well.

Not until many years later did I realize how much I was taught and how much I was able to do. Not only could I do ordinary household chores, but I also recognized particular plants be they flowers or trees or garden vegetables. Besides all this, Mom taught my sister and me to crochet, embroider dish cloths and sew. She loved crafts and tried out any new fads that came along. My sister and I both have similar ways in that we can follow directions and make whatever we choose. We were taught how to use our hands in very productive ways. In similar fashion, my Dad taught my brothers how to fix things, how to change oil on a car and also took them hunting so they understood the ways of guns.

What a blessing! And yet it took me a mighty long time to be grateful to my parents for their foresight and fortitude. Perhaps it’s never too late to say thank you. I suspect our parents knew that one day we would realize what a legacy they left us.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

Photo: Andra Johnson

Is there anyone among my readers who recalls Eddy Arnold’s tear-jerking lyrics: “Have I told you lately that I love you? Could I tell you once again somehow?”

Those two lines run musically through my mind too often to be meaningless! I want to revive them! I want to make a difference where I live, in what I hear and what I read! I need to tell another—or better—sing to all those who cross my path, who emit ugly sounds or cruel words: “Could I tell you once again somehow...that I love you?” And I’d suggest that the more we hear words of hatred and division, tweets and social media insults, the more I need to learn the melody of Eddy Arnold’s lyrical tears and find ways to follow through on those questions without feeling crazy or isolated! I want to sing those words loudly and clearly to those I disagree with, dislike, avoid, isolate, deport, even want to silence or, perhaps, impeach! Will you help me, dear reader? I think we could make a difference...

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Julian of Norwich, A Saint for Today

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Sixty years ago, an old Benedictine monk spoke of God in a way I had never heard before: “Christ is your mother.” He was quoting Dame Julian, a 14th-century woman. “Christ loves you as only a mother can love. God enfolds you in Her love. Like the hazel nut. God created it. God sustains it. God loves it. You do not need to work for it. It is all yours. God has oned you to Herself. She has knit all of your sensuality to your soul. You are one being, enfolded in God’s love.”

Fast forward 60 years: I have returned to reading Julian’s Showings of Divine Love. As I read her words, the impact is instantaneous. I read a few words and it is like this 14th-century woman was writing them just for me. I grew up in a household where father was distant and to be feared, while my mother lived unconditional love. It took a woman to best write this for me.

Julian’s Showings is the first book written in English by a woman. Of course, back then, women were forbidden to learn Latin and even more forbidden to write in it. She was probably a widow, had had children who may have died in the plague. She is a woman very much in tune with the ordinary. Yet she is so bright and writes in a way that can be readily understood. I find reading her brings me more deeply into the enfolding love of God. It is transfiguring.

There are different translations available, but the best one for me is that of Mirabai Starr, The Showings of Julian of Norwich.

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Attention

Sister Herman Tschida and a furry friend!
It’s strange how often a message can repeat itself until it finally receives the attention it is inviting. Recently, a friend described what she learned when she chose to tour a facility that provided housing for persons living with Alzheimer’s disease. The facility was called the Sanctuary. Before the person giving the tour began, she shared some basic information. She included some relevant facts about communication. She reported that when preferring to have meaningful communication with another, it is important to recognize that 7% of what we communicate is in the words we choose, 33% is based on our tone of voice and 55% is conveyed by our body language. Is that why when infants or our pets looks up at us as though they think we are wonderful, we immediately perceive their loving message? It can even happen when a friend you meet not only greets you, but immediately finds a place for the two of you to sit down together. We take their message/gesture in as a gift. Maybe Simone Weil was right when claiming, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Look for Miracles

We have a small, unassuming cabin in the woods on a lake. Surrounding the lake are neighbors we have come to know over the years. While we see each other infrequently, we cherish the time we do spend with them. One of these neighbors became ill with a viral infection, brain swelling, seizures and was placed on a ventilator. Scott was looking forward to retirement in February 2020.

Word spread across our tiny lake and on Saturday, we were all called to pray for him because he was to be taken off the ventilator and allowed to die. Yet, something miraculous happened. Before stopping the ventilator, he opened his eyes. His wife decided to give him more days, hopeful. Each day we have heard hopeful news, and our small lake community continues to pray for a miracle. We do not know what the outcome will be for our friend, yet we know the power of prayer we have sent his way speaks our love for him and his wife. It speaks of a community of faith. Miracles do happen.

Mary Baier, OblSB

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

January to July

Photo: Carleen Schomer, OSB
Do you remember how cold it was this past January? When you looked at the thermometer and it read 30 degrees below zero? No matter how many layers of clothes I put on during those cold days to walk outside, the cold was bitter, biting through to my skin. I was glad the time I needed to be outside was only to get to another building. As I listened to the news one evening, it appeared that the whole state of Minnesota shut down during those cold days. Then, a few days later, it warmed up to 18 degrees above zero, 50 degrees warmer. 

So now here we are in July; the grass is green, the vegetables are being harvested and the cold days of January are only a memory. At Saint Benedict’s Monastery, July is full of retreats and celebrations. This year, we have one woman making her perpetual profession on July 11. I treasure the memories of my own perpetual profession. The community, along with my family and friends gathered around me in the chapel as I read and signed my profession document. This was followed by a festive meal in our dining room. During July, we will also celebrate the 50th jubilee of three sisters. It is truly a month of joyful memories for our community.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Walking Her Home

Photo: Andra Johnson

As I write this, my best friend/sister is sleeping peacefully. She is on hospice care and it is almost time for her morphine. Not much else is on my mind. I’d like to share part of what my minister-supervisor wrote to me during this time.

Is it not great to have a friend like LaVonne? An acquaintance who opened her heart and home to you as you were going through a transition. Now, you are having the opportunity to help LaVonne move towards death so that she does not have to do it alone, in a sterilized room with florescent lighting, observed by people who are monitoring medications, machines and charts.  What a privilege to be a recipient of someone's kindness and love and then have the opportunity to give that back. A friendship and sisterhood that many people envy!

Go ahead, if you need to stand on the front porch and give a good yell of anger, fatigue, sadness. If tears blur your vision, let them flow because LaVonne means a lot to you (and you to her). If you feel panic, name it. Fear, let it take hold. Good grief, we crazily run from our emotions it is no wonder people feel tired and stressed pretending to be something or feel something that we are not.  

Twenty-plus years ago, LaVonne and I met through Vanderbilt. I barely knew her when she generously said to me, “Come on and stay with me till you get your bearings.”
I did.

And, I stayed and stayed and stayed.

Now I am walking her to a door I can’t pass through just yet…

Thank you, friend. See you later!

LaVonne died on June 8.  A little over a week later I found myself at the monastery. Yes, I walked LaVonne to a door I could not pass through. I said "good bye" but I was not the strong woman I expected to be. In fact, I was devastated. I needed to get my bearings. Gently and tenderly, the monastic who has guided me through a deeper understanding of the Rule was there with open arms. She didn’t say the exact same words LaVonne said to me many years before, but the sentiment was the same: “Come on and stay with me/us till you get your bearings.”  She opened doors and gently helped me close some so I could focus on the reason I was there. Thank you to all the monastics who loved me into knowing that I am not alone.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cause to Celebrate

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Of course, Benedictines have many reasons to celebrate because our community-minded living means we want to honor each other on special occasions such as birthdays and name days. This practice sometimes makes our calendars quite full since we also celebrate feast days, many revered saints and other seasonal days of special importance. Thus, on June 19, when Joy Harjo, well-known poet of the Muskoke Creek Nation, became the first native woman to be named as the new poet laureate, that was true cause to celebrate. 

She was born in 1951 and has authored several books of poetry including An American Sunrise, which is forthcoming from W.W. Norton, and recently finished editing a Norton Anthology of Native Poetry: When the Light of the World has Dimmed Our Songs Came Through.

According to a recent interview on Poets.org, Joy Harjo calls poetry “the voice of what can’t be spoken, the mode of truth-telling when meaning needs to rise above or skim below everyday language in shapes not discernible by the ordinary mind. It trumps the rhetoric of politicians. Poetry is prophetic in nature and not bound by time.” Lastly, Joy Harjo says, “Without poetry, we lose our way.”

Has Joy Harjo been to St. Ben’s? Yes, she was invited to a poetry reading and reflection that was part of the Religion and Contemporary Culture series “Sacred Spaces” in 1991. Is it time to invite her again?

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A More Profound Experience of Reality

Genuine joy from Sister Laura Suhr!

Lately, my life feels inelegant, unmanageable and hard. There is sickness, suffering and death. There are fractured relationships I can’t repair. The international, national and local news is heartbreaking—divisive, ugly, violent. To counter my feelings of helplessness and sorrow, I have been watching, over and over, a six-second video of my six-year-old granddaughter cartwheeling. Her joy is so effervescent, it’s contagious.

She sprints across the newly greened spring lawn then leaps into a lunge. Her palms press the earth, legs extending to the sky. She rotates and lands confidently upright, making this amazing feat appear effortless. But her first cartwheels were disasters. Then she performed dozens, possibly hundreds, of clumsy ones. In time, her relentless practice strengthened her upper body. Her balance, flexibility and technique improved.

I could turn this into a lesson about patience, how practice leads to perfection. But I am steeped in the reality that I am powerless to change so much of what is painful in life. I don’t need another pep talk to motivate self-improvement, or a manual outlining the steps to a successful life. I need my granddaughter’s pure, authentic joy, found in the experience of cartwheels.

I’m trying to see the kingdom of heaven from a child’s point of view. For the reward of necessary joy, I’m ready to turn my adult-y, logical way of knowing how upside down.

In a video my daughter-in-law took a few weeks ago, my granddaughter is at gymnastics class, awkward, stumbling, falling on her backside. Yet even in her “failures,” her delight is infectious. She’s not judging herself. She’s set on her single-minded reason for being there—to turn cartwheels.

Michael Casey is a monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia. In his book Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living: Reflections on the Fourth Chapter of Benedict’s Rule, he reveals the source of utter, incomprehensible joy in the face of failure, fear and despair. It’s about priorities. We need a single-minded focus.

If you love cartwheels, that’s what you do, over and over, not because you have to, not because you’re trying to win an Olympic medal, but because living in your wonderful body, moving and discovering its strength, is delightful. Your body is your life, your breath, your blood, your vitality. And so you cartwheel.

If we love the love of Christ, that’s what we do, that’s where we put our efforts. We, as Michael Casey writes, will “allow that love to inform our thoughts and choices, to govern our dealings with others, and to support and sustain us when we encounter situations that are hard, unfair, and unjust.” We will turn our attention to the love of Christ over and over, spending time in prayer and contemplation, reflecting on scriptures so love will guide our thoughts, speech and actions. We will pay more attention to the love of Christ than we give to mass media, social media and worldly concerns, not because we’re trying to win a black belt in piety, but because living in, moving in and discovering the strength and power of Christ’s wonderful love is delightful. It is our life, breath, blood and vitality.

We will find the pure, authentic joy we desperately need, in the experience of the love of Christ.

Tracy Rittmueller, OblSB

Thursday, June 13, 2019

We Are All One-ed in Christ


I came across a very full short statement by Rowan Williams, bishop, poet and theologian: “It should be a rather exhilarating thought that the moment of creation is now—that if by some unthinkable accident, God’s attention slipped, we wouldn’t be here. It means that within every circumstance, every object, every person, God’s action is going on, a sort of white heat at the center of everything. It means that everyone of us is already in a relationship with God before we’ve ever thought about it. It means that every object or person we encounter is in a relationship with God before they’re in a relationship of any kind with us. And if that doesn’t make us approach the world and other people with reverence and amazement, I don’t know what will.”

It is God’s love that holds the universe together. Most of us live in a kind of secular mode where God is somehow distant, and detached: a God in the heavens, a God who created the world and then let it go on its own. There lingers the idea that we can observe the world objectively and analyze it inanimate part by inanimate part. Yet science has moved beyond that. Instead of a creation that occurred by divine fiat so many billion years ago, it is now.

It is love that holds it all together: you, me, everyone and everything. If God stopped loving, it would not be. Each of us in our self-important world would cease. We are all held in that love.

Each of us is in a relationship with God before we ever acknowledge it. It is not some one event. It is always. Each person we meet is in a God relationship before we ever meet. When we encounter each other, God is already working within that relationship.

It is we who may live as if, in a kind of egocentric fantasy, detached from God. If that were true, we would not exist.

To draw from another source from the 14th century, Lady Julian of Norwich, God is and always has been “Oneing” Us to himself. God knits us to himself. God is always loving us. In God Oneing us to himself, he is Oneing us to each other so that we are already one with each other.

In the gospel of John, Christ prays that we may all be one and “that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them." Christ’s prayer is not a wish, a hope, as is a fiat, a declaration that we are all in God and all One-ed together.

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Alzheimer's Prayer

For some time now, I have been studying and learning about various forms and stages of dementia. Two ideas strike me deeply: an unknown author’s “Alzheimer’s Prayer” and a talk I heard recently. From the talk: Did you know that in our conversations, the following may be true when considering the importance of our so-called dialogues: 7% of what we say is how our words add up in importance; 38%, the tone of our voice; and 55%, our body language! Does that make you wonder why I keep a reminder on my desk: KYMS, i.e. Renee, keep your mouth shut? That is to say, we are not invisible, and if we had photo images of ourselves in a conversation, we might be overwhelmed by images that break our hearts!

Secondly, this unknown author’s prayer penetrates in words, what another feels in a supposedly helpful conversation:

I remember you with my heart
And I do love you!
I can’t recall where I knew you
Who you were, or who I was


Maybe I grew up with you
Or maybe we worked together
Or did we bowl together yesterday?


There is something wrong with my memory
But I do know you, I know I know you
And I do love you


I know how you make me feel
I remember the feelings we had together
My heart remembers,
It cries out in loneliness for you
For the feeling you give me now


When you leave
My mind will not remember that you were here
But my heart remembers
Remembers the feeling of friendship

And love returned

Remembers
That I am less lonely and happier today
Because you have come
Please, please don’t forget me
And please don’t stay away
Because of the way my mind acts


I can still feel you,
I can remember you with my heart,
And heart memory is maybe...
The most important memory of all


Please pray with me that God’s love give peace to those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia and grant patience to their caregivers. AMEN.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Becoming A Prophet

Recently, Oprah hosted Joan Chittister on Super Soul Sunday and Sister Joan discussed her new book, The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage. I found the discussion both enlightening and frightening. She explained most of us in our spiritual practices recognize the “healing Jesus.” The Jesus who cures the sick, raises the dead, feeds the hungry and comforts the people. This is the Jesus we are comfortable with in prayer and petition. However, she explained, there is another Jesus we do not always identify. The “prophetic Jesus” is the man who confronted the Pharisees in the temple, who stood beside the woman who was to be stoned by her community, who risked his own life to spread the truth, the real truth, in the face of those who denounced Him. He spoke truth in opposition to the status quo of his times. The “prophetic Jesus,” she challenged, is the Jesus we most need now in our current times.

I was intrigued by the description of the "prophetic Jesus.” Yet, I was frightened as she explained recognizing and following the “prophetic Jesus” is a sign of a mature Christian. Had I not reached the stage of maturity in my spiritual journey? After all, my journey as an oblate had been both an awakening to my spiritual practices and had brought me to a prayer life exponentially beyond what I could imagine. Yet, Sister Joan seemed to challenge me beyond my comfortable spiritual practices and Benedictine values to another dimension.

What does it mean to be a “prophetic Christian” in today’s world? Frankly, I am still reflecting and praying on this question. I now have Sister Joan’s book and find her written words placing me in a greater zone of discomfort. I do realize with this discomfort, great growth will happen as I discern how the life of the “prophetic Jesus” will play out in my practices. It would be so much easier for me to be appalled at the social injustices in our world in silence and never speak the truth to avoid offending others. Yet, the “prophetic Jesus” did not take an easier path, did he?

The question remains in my mind and heart: “How will I follow the 'prophetic Jesus' in my corner of the world?" As Sister Joan reminds me, “One small step at a time.”

Mary Baier, OblSB

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Have A Fun Day!

Even kitchen work is fun with a fun attitude!
Pictured left to right: Sisters Phyllis Plantenberg, Georganne Burr,
Helen Weber and Rita Kunkel

Early one morning as I was having some lab work done, the woman drawing my blood asked me what the rest of my day looked like. I told her of my plans of going to Saint Scholastica Convent and giving hand and back massages to the sisters who live there. She responded, “That sounds like fun!” As I thought about the events ahead of me on that particular day, she was right; it was full of fun. Not only would I enjoy ministering to the sisters through massage, I would have the opportunity to visit with community members I usually do not see on a regular basis. This one-word change, replacing the word “fun” where I would normally say “nice,” was energizing for me. I have a brighter view every day now when I set my eyes on having a fun day. I have started to end my email interactions with “Have a fun day.” It helps me remember to bring a positive outlook to all my activities, so now I try to create fun within me during all my activities on any given day. Having a fun perspective is an opportunity to have fun, even when the activity may not be something I enjoy. At Saint Benedict’s Monastery, I do have fun within the daily routine of any day.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Remembering the World's Greatest

Photo: Pexels.com

Doris Day, Herman Wouk, Jean Vanier—lived long lives and died this past month. We will remember the names, faces and reputations that conjure up images of great contributions to the world.

Doris Day made people laugh through her own infectious laugh. Her plethora of films support her desire to entertain. Remember her bungling self in "Roman Holiday"? She and Rock Hudson were foils for one another. She is sometimes called “America’s Sweetheart” or “the girl next door,” but for sure she portrayed laughter and innocence. Some of her romantic songs, such as “Que Sera Sera” or “Sentimental Journey,” will be long remembered and sung.

Herman Wouk, writer extraordinaire, lived to be 103 and wrote historical fiction that revealed incredible research in order to capture key historical moments related to World War II. Readers consider his blending of fictional characters into real settings of the war especially effective in creating a reality not accomplished by many other writers. Among his most memorable works are The Caine Mutiny, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

And Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities, leaves a legacy of love. His international communities for the intellectually disabled makes him a savior of the people on the margins. Philosopher, humanist and writer, this man lived to teach the world how to become more fully human. Two of his books, Becoming Human and Life’s Great Questions, attest to his search in discovering the gift of marginalized people.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Alternative Mother's Day

Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB

Twenty-five billion dollars spent on cards, flowers, jewelry, dinners, spa days and other gifts for Mother’s Day.

Let me say that I do not begrudge any mother who was celebrated with gifts, but that staggering figure made me wonder if we might be ready for an alternative Mother’s Day.

My Alternative Mother’s Day might offer suggestions on how to honor all moms all year. It might begin with asking a simple question: Who are the moms I know? To be honest, don’t advertisers have an homogenized white, suburban, middle class, super mom in mind?

What about mothers who have had abortions? Might we step back and give them the benefit of the doubt? Might we admit that we have no idea what let them to this painful decision? Might we ask God to just hug them? Could we hug them?

There are mothers who stood at the border while their children were taken from them. Might we educate ourselves just a little to find out why mothers brought children on such a dangerous journey?
Moms in prison, for the most part, are not hardened criminals. What would it take for any of us to visit moms in prison?

Moms in hijabs? Mothers who can only support their children by prostitution? Single mothers? Homeless moms?

There are women who want to be mothers but are unable to conceive and biological mothers but don’t want to be mothers.

Then there are women who are not biological moms but have given their very lives to be mothers to many, many children. Right now I’m thinking of all the sisters at St. Ben’s who mothered me through different stages of my life.

There are many kinds of mothers. Who would you include in an Alternate Mother’s Day? What kind of honoring would make sense?

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Day in the Life of Blue Bonnet

Blue Bonnet

Blue Bonnet is a facility dog at Shoedair Children's Hospital in Helena, Mont., where Sister Trish Dick works as a spiritual counselor with children who have undergone extreme trauma. Welcome to a day in the life of Blue Bonnet, told through Blue Bonnet's eyes!

First of all, I sleep on my favorite old couch. It probably should be thrown out, but I LOVE IT more than my dog bed and my mom’s bed. Early in the morning when it’s still dark, my mom gets up and will come and snuggle with me on the couch. I really love her belly rubs. She drinks coffee and prays. She tells me all the sisters who have died and stories. I do notice by the end of week the prayer time is shorter and she forgets to tell me stories.

I love food—especially my kibble, and it’s grain free. I am a gluten-free dog, otherwise I itch all over. Every morning, my mom feeds me a cup of kibble and a fish oil pill to make my coat shine. She gives me the look and I know to sit before I eat. She calls it more of a genuflect than a sit. Mom brushes my teeth and my coat, puts my work vest on and off we go to work. I know exactly where we are going and where the hospital is, which allows me to get a few more zzz’s of sleeping before work. I think she talks to me, but I don’t really listen.

First thing I do when I get to the hospital is check in with the CEOs when the door is open to report to work and my first pet and of course treat. My mom says he can give me treats. When we arrive in her office, I always need to check out my dog bed, my toys and my water bowl to make sure they are all ready. My mom takes me to the “spa” I call it. These ladies in the medical records department give me some treats and rub my belly and paws while I wait for mom to get me some fresh water and talk to people. She comes and gets me and off we go to see patients.

Sometimes I find patients in the halls crying or struggling and I will go give them a nudge with my nose and let them pet me. Sometimes they are too upset and sad to have me around or I might be just what they needed to get them to calm down. The patients like to play with me and my mom gives them treats (kibble) to feed me. I love it when they teach me new tricks and I learn new words. The patients think since I am a purebred golden retriever that I would like to play fetch, but I am not really interested in playing fetch. What's the point of it? I now use my nose to point to the right word association for a treat. I can tell the difference between a giraffe, donut, baby, dog and monkey. Oh, by the way, the donut is stuffed, unfortunately. My mom says I am food driven just like her. I like treats.

When we meet with patients in our office, they will snuggle with me or brush me. They say I relax them! They tell my mom sad stories and cry sometimes. My mom takes me outside for regular breaks so I can do my business and sniff around the playground. Sometimes we will walk around the hospital so I can run a little and shake off all those emotions. She even did it when it was cold and snowy. I love playing, rolling and making snow angels.

Every lunch I have my dog toy, Kong, that is stuffed with yummy treats that my mom freezes the night before. I can throw it in the air to get all the treats out and sometimes folks help me. My mom takes me to meetings and I have to walk around and greet everyone. Those meetings are the perfect time for a nap and I seem to snore at the right times, especially when things are tense or boring. By the end of the day, I am ready to go home and chill. The most irritating thing about my mom is that she is constantly forgetting things and having to go back to the office. When she finally takes my work vest off, I roll around in the grass and leave all of the hospital emotions behind. My mom and I are both dog-tired at the end of the day.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Messengers

Photo: Pexels.com

I was inspired, today, by Nancy Dallavalle’s reflection, “Missing the Messenger” (Give Us This Day, 4/ 27), and by Pope Francis’ invitation to “gaze on migrants and refugees” (Journey, spring 2019).

First, Nancy! Her message is basically that our invitation to share the Good News with others may be difficult because we see it as only a one-way communication: “I have something wonderful to tell you!” How often does a preacher, evangelist, teacher check to see that the message is actually heard? And, if it is not heard, what’s wrong? Have we forgotten or are we incapable of admitting that a different evangelizer, teacher, preacher might have better skills and/or evidence at sharing the Good News...so that it really is GOOD NEWS?

Or might we need to listen to the listener who surely has something to offer in this dynamic exchange? How does my listener get my attention? Or do I miss the other messenger? “Even today, Christ stands before us in many guises and we brush them aside” (Nancy Dallavalle).

Attention! That is what Pope Francis suggests over and over in his writings and teachings, e.g. “When we turn our gaze,” he writes, “to migrants and refugees, we discover that they, too, are Messengers. They do not arrive empty-handed. They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them.”

Indeed, Christ stands before us in many guises and we brush them aside!

Can we agree with Nancy and Pope Francis to NOT MISS one another?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Swallows

Photo: Pexels.com

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

As a small child growing up in southern California, we would take trips between Santa Ana and San Diego. Shortly before we would get to the Pacific Ocean, we would pass Mission San Juan de Capistrano, best known for its swallows "always" returning on the Feast of St. Joseph. To a five-year-old, this was wondrous. I developed a fondness for those little birds and the miracle of their return so touching. I loved the mud nests they made under the eaves. How resourceful and faithful. I had an "eye" for them.

Thirteen years later, on my first visit to a Benedictine monastery, we drove up into the hills above Santa Barbara on a very narrow switchback road. Upon our arrival, the monastery at once came into view, a beautiful Mediterranean-style building. We parked and walked up the gravel path to the entrance, rang the bell and waited. I looked up to see many swallows and their clay and straw nests. Immediately, Psalm 84 came into mind: "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God" (KJV). At that time, I was really one whose “soul longeth, yea, even fainteth” for God. I was a passionate seeker. I was the swallow who searched for a place for her nest. 

Since that time, 65 years ago, the Benedictine life has claimed me, the monasteries always that special place. When we moved to Saint Joseph, Saint Benedict’s Monastery quickly became our spiritual dwelling place as it has for so many, some of whom are called to the Oblate Way of life. It is from lives refreshed, renewed and empowered in this place among these sisters that we become transfigured to live lives serving others.

Charles Preble, OblSB