Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Saving Mother Earth


All of us have heard of and try to practice the so-called corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy that help to draw us out of ourselves into the lives of the poor, the imprisoned, the homeless and the discouraged brothers and sisters that surround us and increase in numbers daily. Pope Francis would add a complementary Act of Mercy to these! Recently he said, “The poorest of the poor, the very poorest, is our Mother Earth.” We abuse her, thoughtlessly, mercilessly and irresponsibly, grabbing from her but not replenishing her needs! In his encyclical, Laudato si, he categorically declares: “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth (#21).”

Is that what we see also? I do - and so I rejoice in his adding an additional exhortation to the fore-mentioned seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy: “Take care of our Common Home.”

In these wonderful summer months when we care for our individual lawns, gardens and homes, how about extending that care to our Common Mother when we are tempted to toss garbage out of car windows, on the beaches or wherever? A little challenge? Yes, but when we consider how one tiny step begins the walk of a mile, we may yet take a serious look at how our consumerism, our grasping of more and more, better and bigger products, depletes the total supply, dulls or destroys our need to discipline our individual tastes. We may be given a kaleidoscopic view of the hungers of the poor, among them our Common Mother Earth. She wants to save us; when and how do we plan to save her? Today? This summer? We must become responsible, merciful, thoughtful in returning that care and help save her!

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What's Your Name?

Sister Stefanie Weisgram greeting a
guest at Gratitude Day 2017.

A few months ago, I was meeting a friend for lunch in the college dining center. As I was making my way to the tater tots, a woman stopped me. She said, “What’s your name?” She did not look familiar to me. I thought, am I supposed to know you? I was uncomfortable in the situation, a stranger asking me my name. I noticed that she was wearing a name tag; her name was Betty. Once again, she asked me, “What’s your name?” I told her, “My name is Lisa,” then we parted. This brief encounter left me very puzzled. As I reflected on it later that evening, everything made sense. Betty is a mentally-challenged adult, yet she knew I was not a college student; in her eyes, I was someone new and she simply wanted to know my name. By asking me my name, she welcomed me into her space; she was living the value of hospitality. I was a guest in her work place. I realized that I had missed the opportunity to welcome her into my life. The more I reflected upon this encounter, I wondered how many other people I have failed to welcome into my life. How many opportunities have I missed in not recognizing Jesus in all people? So now I ask myself, “How will I live the value hospitality from this day forward?”

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Vocation Story: Part 2

We so enjoyed the train ride, especially through the mountainous area. After visiting with our relatives, we took a bus tour through the mountains. While seeing and enjoying the beauty of the Cascade Mountains, images of the nuns would come back. I did not like that; I thought I was leaving them behind. Because this was very bothersome to me, I went to a spiritual director when I got home, wanting his response. After an hour of sharing my experiences with images of nuns in my mind when least expecting it, his final suggestion was to give it a try. He said, “You have five years before making a commitment and then you will be better able to discern whether it is for you or not.” That sounded good to me.

Since I didn’t want these images of nuns at the least expected time, I wondered, “Where did they come from? Was that my inner wisdom or inner spirit telling me that it would be in the convent where I could best live out my talents and be happy?" Trusting this inner wisdom, I gave it my best and entered that fall.

On September 12, I joined as a postulant, the first hear of preparation. The second year, called the novitiate, was dedicated to more study on the life in a monastery, its daily schedule, daily prayer, its works and studies. The evening of the first day in the novitiate, there was a meeting for all new novices. Since I wasn’t planning to stay, I did not go. One of the new novices was sent up to get me. She said, “The director sent me to tell you to join us.”  I answered, “I am not planning to stay, so why should I go?" But I went.

A Benedictine monk from St. John’s in Collegeville, Minn., came weekly to talk about the New Testament. Besides being a scripture scholar, he had the gift of making it interesting and easy to listen to. We had a Bible at home on the lamp stand, but never used it; it just collected dust. His sharing in class about the life of Jesus touched my heart deeply.  IT WAS A REAL CONVERSION EXPERIENCE. Then I knew that I wanted to commit myself. After class, I went to the college library and checked out four books on the life of Jesus by different authors, because I wanted to know everything about Jesus. By staying in the convent, I would have more time for Bible study and spiritual readings. Of course, I wanted to stay.

I knew that near the end of the year, the novice director would give a report to the total chapter (the whole community) on each of the novices and suggest who was ready and who was not ready for the next year. I sent her a letter! In it, I apologized for my rebelliousness at the beginning of the year and that I have had a real conversion and so I am asking to continue my journey here and become a sister. The last sentence was, “I will make a novena to St. Jude so that I would be accepted.” St. Jude was known as the patron of hopeless cases.

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My Vocation Story: Part 1

My aunt, Sister Petronella, sent me a holy card for my first communion as a second grader. On the cover was a picture of a girl, dressed in a lovely white dress and veil, kneeling by the communion railing to receive her first holy communion. On the reverse side was a prayer for a religious vocation. S. Petronella wrote, “Pray this prayer after every time you go to communion.” I knew what it was to become a sister, but I did not know the meaning of a religious VOCATION. I liked and admired her, so I followed her advice. I understood the meaning to be like a VOCATION, so I prayed it every time I received communion.

One Sunday, as a 7th grader, having prayed that prayer faithfully after communion for the past five years like she asked me to do, I became aware that this prayer is telling God I wanted to become a sister. When I got home, I ripped it up in small pieces and threw it away making sure that no one would see it in the waste basket. Becoming a sister was the furthest thing from my mind!

While a junior at St. Francis High School, a boarding school for girls, I was sick in bed with the flu. A Franciscan sister checking in on how I was doing also asked me if I ever thought of joining the convent. “Oh, no,” I said. I was not ready for that. During the summer months between my junior and senior year, I started to date a very fine young man, Don.

Soon after graduating from high school, I accepted a one-week trial offer as a nanny for the three children of Eugene McCarthy, a Minnesota democratic senator. During that trial week while being with and caring for their children, I did a lot of discerning what I wanted to do with my life. To accept that job and move with them to Washington, D.C., was too far from home, and I did not feel suited for a full-time babysitting job.

During this time after graduation, I continued to date Don quite regularly. One evening, he wanted to give me a ring. I was not thrilled and couldn’t accept it. In our conversation, I had to be honest with him and say that often when we were at a movie or a dance, I would have images of nuns in my mind. I didn’t wish for them, but they just came. My aunt, Sister Macaria, who taught at Cold Spring, said, “You are not going to find a nicer guy than Don.” “I know," I said, “but why do these images of nuns just come while at a movie or a dance?” Ending that two-year friendship made me sad. Yet, at the same time, knowing that I was not ready to think about marriage and children so soon after high school, I refused his ring. Refusing the ring made it easier to continue with my life.

After several months, my girlfriend, Bernie, who had thoughts about maybe entering the convent someday, invited me to take a trip to Cottonwood, Idaho, where we had aunts in the Benedictine monastery. While in the area, we would also do some sight-seeing and especially enjoy the mountains. Neither of us had been out of state, and we thought it might be good to get away from a very Catholic Stearns County.

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Philosophy on Aging

Jonathan Herda, OSB
I perceive aging as a normal facet of the total process of life. I envision it to have its own distinctive challenges, frustrations and rewards.

I believe that the attitude with which one approaches his/her own aging and how one relates to this growth process in others is a significant indicator of how one views the mystery of life and living, of living fully and richly each developing stage of maturity.

Aging and maturing do not necessarily occur simultaneously. Mental alertness and interest in life are found in very aged individuals, while it is possible to find a young person whose mental alertness and interest have atrophied from disuse. (Jelled!)

I also associate aging with wisdom…wisdom gained from living and loving deeply, from making and keeping commitments, from taking risks and preferring to sustain scars rather than not trying at all. Aging gives a sense of history and one’s place and contribution to it. It gives one the opportunity to recognize true and lasting values. Pain, grief, physical disability and similar realities may be more pronounced at this stage of life, but can also evoke a positive response.

I am convinced that the best preparation for fruitful aging years is to live fully each NOW. Old age is the crowning part of our total NOW.

Written 1978 during a final test, in response to the question, “What is Your Philosophy on Aging?”  The class was “Aged Family."

Jonathan Herda, OSB

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

No Separation, Here!


Pope Francis never fails to both inspire and challenge me! Recently, I read his short message on faithfulness. He invited his hearers to ask themselves “...how am I faithful? Let us take the question with us to think about during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to make my faith seen with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I notice who is in need, do I see everyone as brothers and sisters to love?”

In the big picture, we may think we are faithful to Christ, but is it not in the daily, small, tiring ways in which we meet and speak and live with our brothers and sisters that we prove whether or not our faith in Christ is authentic? No separation, here!

Am I self-giving to my family, kin, stranger, especially those who do not merit it, the suffering and the marginalized? Then, and only then, am I simultaneously faithful to Christ. No separation, here!

Do I draw near with tender love to those in need of care? Do I bring hope and God’s smile to the contradictions of our world? Then, and only then, am I faithful to the resurrected Christ who appeared, unbeknownst to Mary Magdalen or to the disciples on the way to Emmaus and who always waits for me to  recognize Him in the brother or sister I meet on the way!

When we feel stymied, unimportant or even bored with the status quo, we could take to heart what Pope Francis said via twitter to young people: “Be amazed by what is true and beautiful, what is of God! Do not be satisfied with a mediocre life.” God is good. Let us imitate God. He waits for us to both carry Him to others and find Him there.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

We've Always Done It This Way


How often have you heard the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way”? I have an idea that the phrase dates back hundreds of years. You may hear it at family gatherings, at work and yes, we do hear it at the monastery. The phrase could actually have multiple meanings. “We’ve always done it this way,” could be said to a new sister “because it is part of our tradition.” Or else, it could mean, “I like it my way, so why change?” Recently, I was reading some old documents that I found in a file drawer. One document was a presentation given to the sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery on March 30, 1926. From what I was reading, it appeared that the sisters were in dialogue about how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) with the current changing demographics and ministries that took them away from the motherhouse campus. A quote from the presenter challenged the sisters to look to the future in order to grow. He was telling the sisters that they may need to let go of things as they always were. I read “We did not have this before!” and “Must we always do as has been done?” As I read these words, I laughed out loud. I thought to myself, some things never change. As we move into our future in today’s world, there is always a need to let go, in order to let the dreams come alive. At Saint Benedict’s Monastery, we are looking into the future as we keep the traditions we hold dear to our heart.

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

Lisa Rose, OSB