Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Power of Words

Photo by Pexels.com

Scripture says, “When Jesus spoke, even demons heard his Word.”

Words matter! Words are powerful! Words are also humble, searching and colorful! Most words have multiple meanings! “We speak eternal languages: the syntax of wind, the diction of doves. Our tongues are tongues of fire. No one knows how we know what we know but the Spirit who taught us words to speak of these realities,” says a Presbyterian clergywoman and Benedictine oblate (Give Us This Day, Liturgical Press, 9/4/2018).

But our parlance in many sectors of our society, today—in the streets, on Twitter, on TV programs, to mention but a few—can only be characterized as a travesty of our gift of language, words, communication! We lack respect for words! We forget that, having listened to or used words in such devastating ways, WE, in turn, are being formed by those words! Rachel Scrubas continues: “Evil is no respecter of holy days or places, but a violator of souls who want nothing more than to hear the Word of God...” (Ibid.) We, as intelligent and sensitively-loving human beings are meant to speak as intelligent, sensitive and loving human beings!

Do you believe that we are able to temper our hateful language and foster loving expression? I do. We can turn off some of those TV programs, computerized comments, negative talk shows—as well as our own—lest they fill our minds and hearts, spoiling our responses to one another as reasonable and loving participants of a democracy where EACH of us can repeat, gratefully: “We the people are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Are YOU happy with your use of words? Are you alert to what is happening to you and through your words? Do you truly respect words, as well as the person(s) to whom you listen or speak? We can change!

What is there about Jesus’ words? We will know, once—the Spirit willing—we have the mind of Christ!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Apprehend God in All Things

Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.

Meister Eckhart

Every day when Blue Bonnet (BB) and I come to Shodair Hospital, we are greeted with a friendly hello and a smile. Regardless of my agenda or time constraints, BB stops to greet everyone, and when I tug her along, she stubbornly stops and insists that she be petted. BB distinctly and intuitively understands the gift of being present to everyone she meets. She has a remarkable gift to be hospitable to patients and staff when they need her the most. As well, she is keenly aware of people she does not trust or feel safe with. One day I was talking to a patient in my office and she was on her bed resting. When the conversation went into a very dark context of violence and killing, BB got up, went to the door and requested to leave. What struck me was her self-regulation of knowing her limits and the kind of energy she wanted to be around.

Shodair Hospital has recently started an outpatient school for troubled children with mental health issues. Last week when I was eating lunch with the director of education, one of the teachers came and grabbed me. They had exhausted all their resources trying to calm a boy down and asked if BB and I would go and meet with the boy. BB and I took the boy to the gym. I gave the boy some treats and asked him go to a corner and squat down to BB’s eye level. When he got there, I told him to call BB and I would release her. His mood of agitation melted to joy as BB ran to the patient with exuberance to get a treat. I asked the patient to run back to me and race BB, and so we began this process for 20 minutes of BB and him running back and forth. With some exercise and oxytocin he received from BB, we were able to shift him out of his prefrontal lobe and regain control of his emotional state. He told me his story of hearing demons and I took him back to my office and anointed him with some healing oil and blessed his mind, heart and hands.

BB did the work that most of us humans often fail to produce  unconditional love, non-judgment and giving this boy a hands-on experience of being cherished as BB ran toward him with glee as well as the warmth of tactile stimulation. For BB, it was just another playful day in her life, but for the hospital staff, if was a continuous confirmation of the gift of grace and hospitality of BB. She continues to teach me through her life to work and be present, to live humbly, to just be the divine creation I was created to be and give and receive love without any strings attached - well, maybe a few treats. And for goodness sake Trish, learn to roll in the grass after work – release the stress of each day back to creation and our Creator.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Prayer Space

Photo of Sacred Heart Chapel by Susan Sink

This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit an Indian village in North Dakota called Slant Village. As I walked around the five mud and grass-type dwellings covering logs, which appeared to be the main support system of the structure, it was amazing to look into the past and vision how these people lived. 

Their life was not an easy one. Fire pits in the middle of the space used for cooking and a source of heat were central in each dwelling. Some information I read informed me that a dwelling was usually a home to the extended family, so a real sense of community was evident. 

One dwelling in particular caught me off guard. It was the largest one in the circle. As I entered it, I stopped, aware of a presence I had not experienced in the other dwellings. This dwelling, arranged with benches around the central fire pit, told me it was a worship space. I wanted to sit in the space, alone, yet many other people like me were touring the village. I said to a companion in my group, "This must have been the prayer space; do you feel the Spirit here?" I really wanted to shout to everyone, "Be quiet; this is the Church of the village." It reminded me of our Chapel where we sit in a circle around the altar in praise and worship as a community every day. I was grateful to walk into the church of the past in this village.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Seeds of Faith

“Why do you not leave the Catholic church?”

At this debilitating and demoralizing time within our church, I decided to take a small survey on why some people choose NOT to leave the Church, why they don’t do as so many refugees do as they run away from what is harmful, abusive and a tremendous challenge to their very lives and faith! Here are some of their answers:

  • "Like Peter, I respond, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'"
  • "Even when our favorite pastor got into abusive relationships, I never even thought of giving up my faith! I’m not tied to an individual; I believe in God."
  • "I believe in Pope Francis and broke into tears when the election returns were announced five years ago. The Spirit was in that election, and is in him!"
  • "I love the church; this is my home; this is where I was nurtured!"
  • "I believe there is a Higher Power who will sustain us."
  • "I don’t put my faith in anyone except God. We all fail; God doesn’t."

Photo by Lisa Rose, OSB

Are you able to make a decision like these persons have made? Are you standing firm? This summer, on our small veranda where the "floor" is made of cement bricks, I felt myself confirmed in hope! There were eight or nine seeds of one kind or another that found their way up through the narrow openings between the bricks! Would you believe that the floor began to sprout? Even a Canadian thistle! Somehow, perhaps metaphorically, these seedlings were the message: LIFE finds a way! For weeks, I had waited until the tiny seedlings began to grow and blossom! The promise of Christ to be with us til the end of time gives me life and hope! "I believe, Lord, help thou by unbelief!"

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Food for the Journey

Photo: Jennifer Morrissette-Hesse

During these harvesting months, it’s easy to think about the smell of homemade bread, and if you are from Minnesota, you perhaps have the memory of delighting in the hearty taste of Minnesota harvested wild rice soup. This grain has been harvested from the river grasses for many centuries by the Ojibwa/Chippewa peoples (they refer to themselves as Anishinabe, which is an Indian term meaning “original person”). I can’t help but wonder if the early Anishinabe peoples wondered what they actually were eating as they first cooked this treasured grain. Maybe they were like the Israelites in the desert who exclaimed "What is this?" when they first saw the Manna in on the desert floor ("manna" is translated into English as "What is this?"). Is that the question that all of us need to keep asking ourselves on our life journey? 

What might we discover if we look at each surprising event in our life, whether it delights or confuses us, as “Manna,” food for the journey? How might “ruminating” on these surprising events teach and nurture us? How might we share it? How might the sharing of these events with one another actually pollinate and create a nurturing environment for us personally and for our journeying companions?

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

We Create the World We Want!

James Bowey, photographer and oral historian for refugees running from their native "homes that won’t let them stay," recently provided an exhibit at the Paramount. The documentary hopes "that portraits and vignettes are universally humanizing" (St. Cloud Times, 7/8/2018), that refugee stories and experiences might touch our hearts while endless debates seem to not only prolong the process, but deaden our spirits! Many of his comments penetrated my soul; e.g. "We create the world we want by the stories we tell of one another!" I keep reminding myself: "WE CREATE the WORLD we WANT by the STORIES we tell of ONE ANOTHER!"

What do I say after having watched my country’s tribute and burial of Senator John McCain? Of singer, Aretha Franklin? Of the wounded and wounding Church I love?

Can I find never-failing goodness there and reveal that to my world?

What about my next door neighbor who may be one of the Muslim strangers in my country? Or our present and past presidents, black or white, beloved or not? Can I find and celebrate their goodness?

Recently I raised a glass of wine while my friend toasted: "To the goodness in all of us!" I like that! "We create the world we want by the stories we tell of one another!" Therefore, I raise my voice, over and over again, to the goodness in YOU, my reader, and YOU...and YOU...and YOU whom I do not yet know, but in whom lies so much goodness! Adelante! Salud! L-chaim! To LIFE!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Sparking a Flame

Photo: Nancy Bauer, OSB

One of the sanctuary candles in Sacred Heart Chapel was bathed in sunlight on a recent summer afternoon. Its beauty caught me immediately by surprise as I was walking through the chapel. One candle was lit by the sun while the other three remained in the darkness of shadows. I had to slow down my usual quick walk through the chapel and simply pause for a prayer of gratitude. The candle was brought to life that afternoon by the sunlight shining through the windows. The light that surrounded the candle had more splendor than I had ever witnessed before. A flame sparked within my heart, and in that moment, I felt like I was in touch with God in an intimate way. I took a few seconds to ponder what I was witnessing, grateful that as I paused, I was living fully in that moment of time. We celebrate the Eucharist in our chapel, surrounding the sanctuary and the candles, on a regular basis, so the space is one I am accustomed to seeing. At the same time, on that particular afternoon, the familiar changed for me. I opened my eyes to a new experience. I learned again to be aware of God in everything at any time.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB