Saturday, May 11, 2019

Continued Communal, Culinary Creations!

In the kitchen I played again, this time attempting to create something playful for a 6-year old going on 7. My friend’s daughter celebrated her birthday this past week, and I offered to make the treats. My friend showed me a picture of unicorn cupcakes, unicorns being “all the rage” these days for the kiddos. Although I hadn’t attempted anything like it, I said, “Sure, I can do that!”

Away we went.

Of course, I must say “we” because I did not pull this off on my coming to the rescue yet again. I had to make fondant for the first time to shape the unicorn horns and ears, as well as tie-dye frosting for the first time, too. After some internet research, I had a plan. Here’s how these edible, sweet unicorns came to life.

This was the creation of fondant. Although the recipe claimed that it would be a messy experience, I should have trusted the words a bit more. Melting marshmallows, adding heaps of confectioner’s sugar, and kneading it all together left us gooey and full of laughs. Thanks to all who cut open bags of sugar, scraped the mess off our hands, and a special “Thank you!” to the saint who cleaned up the sticky remnants when we only had 6 minutes left to get to our new class on the Gospel of John!

The next afternoon, I ventured to create tie-dye frosting in bright colors. This involved making icing, dividing it up and coloring it vibrantly, then placing it in a piping bag in thirds. Finally, squeeze away!

Lastly, the belles of the ball, the unicorns! Fondant was much harder to work with and much more unwieldy than expected. You can see how the “slimy substance” became more solid overnight and with—yes!—more sugar. This got rolled out and shaped into horns and ears. Jackie was an inspired co-decorator!

What fun it was to create these little mythical, magical monsters. And when I saw the recipient’s reaction, “Oh wow! These are beautiful!” the effort was well worth it!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

P.S. Bonus! Spring-time-flowers-and-unfurling-ferns edition!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Liminality & Becoming

I am not sure how many posts I’ve written about liminality since I began writing this blog, but I know it’s at least a handful.

It’s impossible to not write about it yet again as we have reached a unique time nestled within the season of spring, the time in which trees become a home for both flowers and leaves in the same moment. I took notice this morning while running, and then again while looking at the gorgeous tree outside our library window with another sister later in the day. I thought about how the trees know they must transform those lovely blooms in favor of the leaves that will sustain them in the summer and into the fall—less showy, for sure, but outstanding nonetheless.

I thought about how full of life and color we are in our youth and how things might mask themselves as sameness in our lives as we get older, but the green on those leaves certainly changes throughout the months they live on branches.

I thought about my friend who entered the monastery one week ago, who is definitely lingering in liminal space. I thought about myself, who feels settled at times, but who is still most definitely living liminality in discerning her vocation. (I think about this each Sunday as we pray for those discerning a vocation in our Prayers of the Faithful; although some might think of those people as the women who are considering entering the community, that prayer spans a larger group—in my opinion.)

I thought about my sisters who have lived this life for a decade, or maybe many decades. They must discern to stay and live this life each day; anyone living life authentically must do it each day with whatever path they have chosen.

Liminality is an uncomfortable reality of being human; there is no certainty. And that uncertainty and liminality—they’re constant, though some experiences of them are more pronounced than others. Besides experiencing liminality in nature, I think I might be pondering this because I just finished reading Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. In the epilogue, she writes:

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as a forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end...It’s all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.

I want to be patient with my liminality, as much as it makes me feel weird inside. I want to be patient with others’ liminality, recognizing the call to compassion when being present to others in their evolving. I want to be rigorous about attempting to live authentically. I want to learn from the trees.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

All that fog: unable to see what came next on the morning’s run

Living in-between: Our lovely tree outside the library

Another teacher

Monday, April 29, 2019

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

Although she has been helping out on dish teams, reading at prayer regularly, and working at a community ministry for more than a year, yesterday was a special day, indeed. The Erie Benedictine community welcomed Jackie Small as a postulant, the first part of the journey toward discerning a monastic vocation with our community.

The ceremony, which involves knocking on the door to the welcome and blessing of the women who create the community, is simple, yet touching. I still remember looking at the group of people in front of me when I knocked three and a half years ago and seeing those women who would teach, guide, listen, and accompany; it was a bit overwhelming and so full of gratitude

Whatever Jackie ends up discerning for herself, we are graced with her presence in the here and now, and we offer our prayers of support to her. Of course, I might be a bit biased, but I hope her journey with the community lasts and lasts and joy and more of it.

Jackie is a wise woman, a passionate voice, and a true seeker. Yay for us all!

This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
She did not cry, “I cannot, I am not worthy,”
nor, “I have not the strength.”
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

(Consent, by Denise Levertov)

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Happy Dirt Day!

Today is a gorgeous, sunny day here in Erie, the perfect day for Jackie Small, our upcoming newest postulant, to move into the monastery. It also happens to be Earth Day, a perfect day to celebrate the new life that Easter brought us this weekend. As I took a walk in the sunshine today, I listened to a fantastic episode of On Being featuring the poet Sharon Olds. In it, she read a poem called Ode To Dirt, and I couldn’t help posting it here on this feast of our planet, our land and waters so in need of the new life and love that we can offer to them.

Also, enjoy a photo of Jackie holding dirt, or to be more politically correct, soil. One of Jackie’s resolutions, as she tries on monastic life, is to grow a deeper appreciation for nature. Call this photo “forced growth” on my part, a pre-official-entrance foray into conversatio morum.

Dear dirt, I am sorry I slighted you,
I thought that you were only the background
for the leading characters—the plants
and animals and human animals.
It’s as if I had loved only the stars
and not the sky which gave them space
in which to shine. Subtle, various,
sensitive, you are the skin of our terrain,
you’re our democracy. When I understood
I had never honored you as a living
equal, I was ashamed of myself,
as if I had not recognized
a character who looked so different from me,
but now I can see us all, made of the

same basic materials—
cousins of that first exploding from nothing—
in our intricate equation together. O dirt,
help us find ways to serve your life,
you who have brought us forth, and fed us,
and who at the end will take us in
and rotate with us, and wobble, and orbit.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Welcome, Jackie!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Waiting—“Triduum at the Monastery” edition

Triduum has been a most blessed time here at the Mount. And now, “This is the night.” Here is a bit of a photo log from the past few days.

The tables waiting for Holy Thursday dinner...

The fog waiting to clear on Good Friday morning...

This year’s Good Friday Peace Pilgrimage focused on the climate crisis. Cherylann was a beautiful Mother Earth, waiting to begin the Stations...

Processing down State Street to Dobbins Landing, waiting at the crosswalk...

The Vigil candles lit walking into chapel, waiting for the day to break...

The Tenebrae candles ready for prayer, waiting to be lit...

Flowers waiting to be placed...

The Easter cloth unfurling over the balcony, waiting to be seen...

The Easter fire, waiting to ignite us into “Alleluia”...

The Exultet waiting to be proclaimed...

A chickadee feasting at the window, waiting for me not to look...

How I’ll feast tomorrow!

The wait is over. Gone is the night.

Happy Easter everyone!

Let us walk in the Holy Paschal Presence.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A Weekend of Wonders

This past weekend held much magic and wonder:
  • An early-morning bike ride in which the day slowly revealed itself
  • The first hammock sit/read of the year
  • An incorporation of Mary Oliver poetry into a Lenten reflection
  • A pitch-perfect Passion Sunday Liturgy
  • A gearing-up for Holy Week via practices and anticipatory Spirit
  • A birthday celebration gathering/garden blessing/friend sing-along

It was just lovely. 

Private Lives
Allan Peterson

How orb-weavers patch up the air in places
like fibrinogen, or live in the fence lock.
How the broom holds lizards.
How if you stand back you will miss them
afflicted by sunset,
the digger bees mining the yard,
birds too fast to have shadows,
the life that lives in the wren whistle.
You will see moth-clouds
that are moving breaths
and perhaps something like the star
that fell on Alabama
through the roof of Mrs. E. Hulitt Hodges
and hit her radio, then her.
No, you must be close for the real story.
I remember being made
to stand in the corner for punishment
because it would be dull and empty
and I would be sorry.
But instead it was a museum of small wonders,
a place of three walls
with a weather my breath influenced,
an archaeology of layers, of painted molding,
a meadow as we called them then
of repeatable pale roses,
an eight-eyed spider in a tear of wallpaper
turning my corner.
The texture. The soft echo if I talked,
if I said I am not bad if this is the world.

Let us seek and find the smallest of wonders in this holiest of weeks.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


This past weekend we enjoyed an inter-community formation gathering in Villa Maria, PA, as we do a few times each year. Fr. Tony Gittins, CSSp was the presenter; he spoke on intercultural mission, and he was quite a fine presenter at that. Tony used the sessions to help define for us interculturality, distinguish it from multiculturality and crossculturality, and incorporate these ideas into the Christ life and discipleship.

Tony even admonished us to never put our race on a form; always write in the word "human," as is the truth of our shared life. This made me think of these words from Joseph Campbell, this week's poem for National Poetry Month.

The divine manifestation is ubiquitous,
Only our eyes are not open to it.
Awe is what moves us forward.

Live from your own center.
The divine lives within you.
The separateness apparent in the world is secondary.
Beyond the world of opposites is an unseen,
but experienced, unity and identity in us all.

Today the planet is the only proper “in group.”
Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
We cannot cure the world of sorrows,
but we can choose to live in joy.

You must return with the bliss and integrate it.
The return is seeing the radiance is everywhere.
The world is a match for us.
We are a match for the world.
The spirit is the bouquet of nature.

Sanctify the place you are in.
Follow your bliss...

Let us walk in the holy presence.

total bliss imbibing the gift of morning in the natural world

Continued Communal, Culinary Creations!

In the kitchen I played again, this time attempting to create something playful for a 6-year old going on 7. My friend’s daughter celebrate...