Thursday, February 28, 2019

Angels at the Gas Station


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.


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 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"

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 ( 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


"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

Lisa Rose, OSB