Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Isolation During COVID-19

The Spirituality Center●Studium team on Zoom

Remember when we were living through the first wave of COVID-19 last summer? I felt freedom was taken away from me in a way I have never experienced before. I suspect we all did. I recall one day mid-June when I simply wanted to escape, to run away, to be free. I wanted to go where COVID did not exist, yet that place was nowhere to be found. So instead I started reaching out to more people. I wrote cards, made phone calls, and sent emails. I learned to used messenger through Facebook to connect with a variety of people. Making these connections through social media was exciting; it would take my mind off the current situation, if only for a few minutes. I learned to Zoom, enjoying some face-to-face conversations along with FaceTime.

So now, in December, I ask myself, “How have I continued these connections with the people I re-connected with?” or “How have I been living these days and surviving COVID-19 through prayer, family, faith, and friends?” As we celebrate the season of Advent, we know there is light at the end of the tunnel with the birth of Jesus. I look forward to celebrating the light of Jesus birth, who is bringing light to our world once again.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Good Trouble

Photo by Caleb Oquendo from Pexels

I subscribe to The Hightower Lowdown, one of the more radical, factual, grassroots four-page news leaflets that keeps my nose to the ground and my courage aloft! The writers tell the bad as it is and the good as it is as well! The October issue reveals the good as it is: “'Good Trouble’ candidates are winning—and rebuilding politics from the ground up” is the title of the front page and only article in the October issue! We all know that John Lewis fought for real democracy, that he worked to keep a fire burning in all those who were and are in the civil rights movement. Sometimes that meant getting into “good trouble” or “necessary trouble”...and he urged us to participate! Good trouble is happening and winning! There are more “innocents” being elected, more than an occasional oddity! “Bottom-Up politics” is making a difference! Who are these current progressives? They are those inspired by people like John Lewis, Paul and Sheila Wellstone: They are single moms, poverty workers, climate change activists, immigrants, etc. They are organized, determined and winning! They challenge the status quo; they work in the areas of economic fairness, social justice and equal opportunity for all. Groups such as People’s Action, Sunrise Movement, Black Lives Matter, Poor People’s Campaign, Move-on, Working Families Party, and numerous others (many of which didn’t exist before 2016). They start small but they win little by little. You may wish to watch them move forward!

Thanks, Lowdown, for citing the good among us!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Surprised by Joy


A mix of autumn and winter at Saint Scholastica Convent

Surprised by Joy is the title of a memoir by C. S. Lewis. His memoir tells us of his conversion to Christianity. Although he had the mind of a skeptic, Lewis, in the midst of that struggle, had his heart pierced with a unique experience that he knew as Joy. The word quite simply means a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Yet it is even more. Lewis believed that it came from God and was God. Even though he lived in the difficult time of the Great War, God had a way of touching him, surprising him with Joy. Two of my favorite saints, Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila, also lived through agues and persecutions, war, and yet God found them and gave them God’s gift, joy.

Consider Joy

No more tame

Than a lioness.
Never to be trivialized.
What is your life

Without this fierce feline
of delight? Why settle
for the well

Mannered life?
Have you lived
So long

And not had Joy
rip through
your heart?

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Early Connections with Howard Thurman

Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

OnBeing, MPR, Sunday, October 18, 2020

Krista Tippet knew and admired Howard Thurman; she wanted to interview Pastor Otis Moss III and bring to our attention Thurman’s outstanding inspiration for Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s! Pastor Otis revealed this teacher, mystic and deeply devoted writer who spoke of the ideals of America but also of how his Black people had been suffering, and what it would take to “turn the tide” in American racist behavior, thinking, legislating, opposing equality among citizens who were different, colored, “less than” the upholders of a systemic plan that always favored the white race.

So, what is Howard Thurman’s basic tenet if we, who recognize the truth of our being a racist society, want to change the way we live and work, legislate and organize the good things of the Earth?  In his book Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman underlines how in order to change something exteriorly, we MUST know with interior conviction who we are, what is our basic reason why we live and move and have our being in this society and how we might help to make a long-lasting change in what is not right or is unjust or imbalanced among us. Thurman, according to Pastor Otis, uses the image of our inner selves being the locus of a sea, in which there is an island and on the island an altar, before which an angel with a flaming sword guards this sacred place from an immature or hasty entry by anyone who does not “go through the hoops” of long-lasting discovery and mature, deliberate work in the activity of changing our world: “ Go into the depths of  yourself. Know yourself, first, then go forth into the world to help right the wrongs that continue to haunt us.”

What was it in me that “knew” Howard Thurman? I knew very little about the man nor had I read his book, but something inside of me recognized the rightness of his theory and practice! Am I finding the sea, the island, the altar, the angel with a flaming sword? Howard Thurman lights up my soul. I so want to be part of and contribute to the Beloved Community where George Floyd can breathe, as well as Rosa Parks, Breona Taylor, the indigenous  peoples, women, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, unborn and born children, poor whites, the disinherited wherever they are can breathe again!

And it was such a delight to experience the truth of what Howard Thurman, Pastor Otis Moss and Krista Tippet were writing thinking and presenting  in my own heart!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Who's Your Favorite Teacher?

Sister Katherine Howard teaching at a pre-COVID
Oblate Sunday, taken by Sister Carleen Schomer

Who's your favorite teacher?

That’s been an easy question all my life. In second grade, it was Miss Brunner, who coaxed me out of the cloak room when I was a shy girl in a new school. In third grade, it was Mrs. Howard because she was pretty and her first name was Marjorie, the same as mine. In grade six, Mrs. Armstrong let me sit at her desk and read aloud to the whole class for a half hour after lunch every day. She even let me choose the book—LASSIE, COME HOME.

Miss Jones, my high school English teacher for three years, and Mrs. Patterson, the speech teacher, helped me grow in self-confidence. Mr. Sheffer gave me a barely-passing grade in chemistry (which I had failed) so that I could proceed to college. In college, Dr. Meyer had the same last name as mine. She read my first freshman composition aloud to the class and said, “This is an A paper.” She also nursed me through homesickness.

Decades later, I have learned from several of the sisters at Saint Benedict’s Monastery in classes, retreats and presentations. It was Sister Laureen Virnig who first took my hand to guide me along the path to becoming an oblate. Sister Mara Faulkner was my writing mentor for a time, challenging me to go a little deeper.

Now that I’m unable to see any teachers in person, I am more aware of the lessons found in nature. The natural world has always inspired thinkers and writers to find great truths outdoors or at least out the window. During the pandemic, we have found beauty and hope in the spring and summer. Then we marveled at a splendid array of fall colors and an abundant harvest. Now may we look for the lessons of winter—bare trees letting in light even on gray days, buds sealed tight but still visible, and sparkling fresh snowfall to blanket our sorrows. This is the time to trust our greatest Teacher to reveal what we might learn from the season of winter.

Marge Lundeen, OblSB

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Cooking is a Vocation

Sister Dolores Super cooking spaghetti sauce,
taken by Sister Laura Suhr

Last April, during the Stay at Home order because of COVID-19, our cooks stayed at home as we took on their positions in the kitchen. Many sisters were in the kitchen with our aprons, hats and plastic gloves to peel vegetables, wash pots and pans, and prepare the meals. Cooking has always been a favorite activity for me, so I enjoyed taking my turn preparing meals every other day for our sisters living at the monastery.

Preparing meals for 85–90 sisters was a challenge, yet it also brought me great joy. My cooking companion and I would begin our six-hour shift with prayer. We made soups and stews, baked chicken and turkey, steamed potatoes and vegetables. I was energized when I cooked. I always knew that I was a hands-on person; this opportunity proved to be true once again. As we recognize National Vocation Awareness Week, November 1–7, 2020, I am asking you to look at what you like to do; recognize the gift you are and the gifts you have. Celebrate your gifts with joy, it is part of your vocation. I followed my Baptismal call which led me to become a member of Saint Benedict’s Monastery over 37 years ago. It is here where I find great joy and discovered my hands-on vocation of service to others. How have you followed your Baptismal call?

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Much To-Do About Everything

Masks available for purchase in Whitby Gift Shop,
taken by Sister Moira Wild

It’s been a week of “too-muchness” of some things: positive cases of COVID; who will win the election...and how; concern about what the near future, much less the distant future, will bring; when  we will be back to normal or on to new challenges; restlessness and fatigue while getting nothing done; fighting among siblings; more and more masks to hide smiles and muffle laughter.

It has also been a week of “too-littleness”: too little energy; too little time to just “stand and stare” or sit and watch it snow; too little time to gently listen and converse, much too little time and willingness to admit or grieve loss, death, isolation, lack of touch, hugs, tender glances or anything other than kisses in the air as the kids get on the school bus every other day or a spouse ventures off into the big world of business—would it be safe and kind?

We wonder whether big business will survive the stacks of unsold Halloween costumes this year—from father down to the puppy! Or what if, in the traditional Thanksgiving gathering, we have to uninvite some? What will we be grateful for this year? “Over the river and through the woods” will but linger in our memories; my roasted apple and fresh cranberry salad recipe for 15 will need to be pared down to only 6...if that!

Oh, dear, I tell myself I need to do something positive! So, I decide to empty my waste basket! Now, what is this? A Payday candy wrapper, a newspaper from which I saved of a Jeff Keane’s “Family Circus” to send to a friend, some reworked poetry I had forgotten about, and too many envelopes begging for money usually to feed the babies lying listlessly on their mother’s breast or the beggar wheeling his cart down the hill where he’ll sleep for the night. To which of these will I send my next Payday candy bar? It’s so little for this “too-muchness” day!

Renée Domeier, OSB