Monday, November 18, 2019

Celebrating the In-Between

Yesterday we celebrated an "in-between" moment of our community history as we marked the 50th anniversary of the Mount, the monastery where we live today. Fifty years ago the community moved from its inner-city motherhouse on East 9th Street seven miles east to Harborcreek. We can call that period an "in-between" time because the move occurred amidst Vatican II and the renewal of religious communities.

By entering into a new home, it called for renewal of customs and traditions that had been familiar to the sisters. This allowed the community to create a much more open way of life. Hearing the stories of this time gave me, yet again, a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices of our sisters to turn the Mount into the welcoming and loving monastery it is today. I especially appreciate the Sisters '66 show that was a fundraiser for the project.

Happy Birthday to our home!

It is also very much an "in-between" moment in the year as noted on a long, sunny walk yesterday afternoon.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Listen With the Ear of Your Heart

I was happy to come across a nice article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about some work being done in Philadelphia by some people I know. Can radical listening transform prison culture? The project is called Just Listening and works to bring listening hearts to places where those ears and hearts are greatly needed. Very good stuff.

This weekend I enjoyed a little getaway with a friend in State College—a welcome change of pace: lingering mornings, quiet evenings, quality conversation. A gift.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Glass work, Firebird by Etsuko Nishi in the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State

Glass work, Elegance by Danny Perkins

The Harp by Augusta Savage (replica)

our own masterpiece, a fall feast!

a quirky pumpkin in the front yard

Monday, November 4, 2019

Preparing to Hibernate

Yes, even though we can still feel the warmth of our sun in the afternoon, we are definitely preparing for winter. The clocks have turned, and this weekend we put out the bird feederswith even more locations this yearin the inner courtyard, too! We are hoping the birds will come to greet our sisters and bring some much needed winter cheer and light.

This year we’ve also “enhanced” our feeder collection! One cathedral-like home given us by another sister, as well as another caged feeder that advertises as “squirrel-proof!” Fingers crossed!

And even though it isn't officially winter, this poem always helps me as I linger in many layers through the cold months.

The Winter Wood Arrives
Mary Oliver

I think
     I could have
          built a little house
               to live in

with the single cord—
     half seasoned, half not—
          trucked into the
               driveway and

tumbled down. But, instead,
     friends came
          and together we stacked it
               for the long, cold days

that are—
     maybe the only sure thing in the world—
          coming soon.
               How to keep warm

is always a problem,
     isn’t it?
          Of course, there’s love.
               And there’s prayer.

I don’t belittle them,
     and they have warmed me,
          but differently,
               from the heart outwards.

     what swirls of frost will cling
          to the windows, what white lawns
               I will look out on

as I rise from morning prayers,
     as I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves,
          as I go out into the yard
               and bring the wood in

with struggling steps,
     with struggling thoughts,
          bundle by bundle,
               to be burned.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

what I believe to be fothergilla

Monday, October 21, 2019

Fall and Falls

It was one of those autumn days that makes you wonder if it really is the "last day" of summer. Cool in the morning, but warm and wonderfully sunny by the afternoon.

How fortuitous that my parents had come up for a visit and that we had already decided to make a trip up to Niagara Falls after a very, very cold attempt last year.

A small glimpse of the appropriately-named Rainbow Bridge...

And a ride on Maid of the Mist...

And yes, there still have been two more "last days" of summer that followed Saturday. Glory be to these splendid days!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Searching for God

Psalm 84 begins this way (from the translation we pray in our office book):

How lovely is your dwelling place,
God of Life.

I am longing and yearning,
Yearning for your presence.
My whole being cries out to you,
To you, the living God.

Even the sparrows find a home,
And the swallows a nest for their young.
As for me, I search for you,
God of Life, Eternal One.

We prayed this psalm on Sunday at morning praise, and it was those last two lines that got me.
“I search for you, God of Life.”

It’s all I really want to do—search for God, the One who gives me life. Maybe it resonated more this past Sunday because it’s been almost two years since I made my first vows to God—to search for the Divine Presence in and with this community.

What have I found? Mostly just the reality of being human—challenge, sadness, confusion, clarity, abundant joy, and plenty of love.

I shouldn’t have expected much more, I guess!

Let us journey on, sister sparrows!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

passion flower

Monday, October 7, 2019

Life and Death

I enjoyed some quiet time this weekend, taking the opportunity to reflect on a few different parts of my life.

As I looked out the window, I couldn’t help but notice how the autumn season was displaying herself.

The fullness of life and death all in one view. It reminded me of the liturgical environment created two years ago in chapel when one of our sisters made her perpetual profession—another display of life and death exhibited through nature.

That is what the vows that we, as monastics, profess are all about—embracing the inevitable death of some parts of ourselves that must happen in order to experience the fullness of life.

The self-centeredness, the desire to accumulate, the close-mindedness—all of this and more must go.

What parts of yourself do you need to embrace to live and to celebrate life? What parts must slowly fade, like what we witness in nature during these autumn days?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond 
Mary Oliver

As for life,
I’m humbled,
I’m without words
sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
still unhatched

though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen —
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective. 

It suffices, it is all comfort —
along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever, 

and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can’t wait to be the hummingbird,
can you?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Announcing Your Place

The other night we walked over to the lake for sunset. A perfectly gorgeous end-of-summer evening, all was in harmony.

A friend had also reminded me that we are nearing that moment of beautiful natural synchronicity when the temperature of the evening air matches the temperature of the lake. Into the water I stepped.

And then I saw this right over my head...

And how can I resist?

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Celebrating the In-Between

Yesterday we celebrated an "in-between" moment of our community history as we marked the 50th anniversary of the Mount, the monas...