Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What's It Like in a Monastery During These Days of COVID-19?

As many of us have been spending more time on the phone, or FaceTime, or Zoom, or whatever way we connect with technology, people have been asking what it's like in the monastery during these days of necessary distancing. We don't have any guests or visitors right now; nearly all of us usually going out to ministry are staying home; we are seeking new ways to support one another.

Yes, things are different...but they are still very monastic.

So, I decided to take a few photos illustrating some of the ways we are adapting here at Mount Saint Benedict.

1. A large, gridded white board hangs outside our community room with a variety of activities offered, creating a new kind of horarium.

2. Last night was the first (with hopefully more to come) folk concert during dinner time...fun sing-a-longs! Thanks, Marilyn!

3. Waste cans outside each bathroom so that you don't touch the doors with your clean hands and can throw away the paper towel afterward instead.

3. Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes...everywhere!

4. You can see that the tray holder is down on one side of the line. We are serving meals to one another so that there are fewer people touching the serving utensils. "The members should serve one another." (RB 35:1)

5. A variety of light viewing options. Today is Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

6. And no names in the guest wing. I don't know if this has ever happened (outside of community meetings) since I entered the monastery.

So, yes, as everyone across the globe acclimates to a new way of being for who-knows-how-long, this a brief glimpse of some acclimating here.

Be safe and healthy.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Rhythm of the Days

Well, words are certainly hard to find these days. We have only just begun this new time of indefinites and uncertainties.

And, like the rest of you, anxiety is hard to control right now.

Although the psalms can be hard to pray right now, as we prayed psalm 79 this morning...

Throughout Jerusalem
they have poured out blood like water.
No one is left to bury the dead.
How long will this endure?
May your compassion enfold us;
we are in the depths of distress.
We, your people, the flock of your pasture,
will give you thanks forever.

...they still are my greatest comfort. The routine of the Liturgy of the Hours is comfort.

I helped to sort through some books yesterday and was reminded of Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB's book, Seven Sacred Pauses. In it, she offers reflections and antiphons to pray the seven traditional prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours. Here are a few from the book...

The Night Watch (Midnight through Dawn)
"And I said to the one who stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely in the Unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'" (Minnie Haskins)

The darker the night, the lovelier the dawn she carries in her womb. (Dom Helder Camara)

They also serve who only stand and wait. (John Milton)

For God alone my soul waits in silence. (Psalm 62:1)

The Awakening Hour (Dawn)
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love;
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door. (Emily Dickinson)

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn. (Henry David Thoreau)

Bathed in morning light, pray that the lantern of your life move gently this day into all those places where light is needed. (Macrina Wiederkehr)

The Blessing Hour (Midmorning)
Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes. (Etty Hillesum)

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:16)

I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know--the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. (Albert Schweitzer)

The Hour of Illumination (Midday)
Only in embracing all can we become the arms of God. (Coleman Barks)

Commit your way to the Holy One. Trust and God will act. Integrity will rise like the sun, bright as the noonday will be your healing. (Psalm 37:5-6, paraphrased)

To become [human] means to have no support and no power, save the enthusiasm and commitment of one's own heart. (Johannes Metz)

The Wisdom Hour (Midafternoon)
Sustain me as you have promised that I may live; disappoint me not in my hope. (Psalm 119:116--NAB)

Death belongs to life just as night belongs to day, as darkness belongs to light, as shadows belong to substance...death belongs to life. (Rabbi Alvin Fine)

Who knows what is beyond the known? And if you think that any day the secret of light might come, would you now keep the house of your mind ready? Would you now cleanse your study of all that is cheap, or trivial? (Mary Oliver)

The Twilight Hour (Evening)
O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. (Psalm 43:3)

O [God], support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, [God], in your mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at last; through Jesus Christ. (John Henry Newman)

A soul flare is what happens when someone shines [his or her] light no matter what it is. In a song, a smile, or a well-made soup; they send out a flare of light that inspires others to shine their own. Soul flares make this world better. (Annie O'Shaughnessy)

The Great Silence (Night)
I yearn to be held in the great hands of your heart--oh let them take me now. Into them I place these fragments, my life, and you, God--spend them however you want. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

The more faithfully you listen to the voice within your, the better you hear what is sounding outside of you. (Dag Hammarskjold)

O Most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

As we continue to walk through these days, marking our hours with whatever sacred strength we can find, let us pray for one another.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Those Early Days...

Between yesterday and today, we have been given "the gift." It's those early days that remind us that spring, the sun, and green life really do exist.

I capitalized on this beautiful, 50-degree-and-sunny-day yesterday and went for a little hike around Shades Beach, totally delighted to even sweat just a little bit!

It is an exciting time of year, indeed!

Yesterday we also celebrated International Women's Day. What better poet to read than Marge Piercy?

The Sabbath of Mutual Respect, excerpt

In the natural year come two thanksgivings,
the harvest of summer and the harvest of fall,
two times when we eat and drink and remember our dead
under the golden basin of the moon of plenty

Abundance, Habondia, food for the winter,
too much now and survival later. After
the plant bears, it dies into seed.
The blowing grasses nourish us, wheat
and corn and rye, millet and rice, oat
and barley and buckwheat, all the serviceable
grasses of the pasture that the cow grazes,
the lamb, the horse, the goat: the grasses
that quicken into meat and milk and cheese,
the humble necessary mute vegetable bees,
the armies of the grasses waving their
golden banners of ripe seed.
               The sensual
round fruit that gleams with the sun
stored in its sweetness
          The succulent
ephemera of the summer garden, bloodwarm
tomatoes, tender small squash, crisp
beans, the milky corn, the red peppers
exploding like cherry bombs in the mouth

We praise abundance by eating of it,
reveling in choice on a table set with roses
and lilies and phlox, zucchini and lettuce
and eggplant before the long winter
of root crops.
     Fertility and choice:
every row dug in spring means weeks
of labor. Plant too much and the seedlings
choke in weeds as the warm rain soaks them.
The goddess of abundance Habondia is also
the spirit of labor and choice.
                    In another
life, dear sister, I too would bear six fat
children. In another life, my sister, I too
would love another woman and raise one child
together as if that pushed from both our wombs.
In another life, sister, I too would dwell
solitary and splendid as a lighthouse on the rocks
or be born to mate for life like the faithful goose.
Praise all our choices. Praise any woman
who chooses, and make safe her choice.

Habondia, Artemis, Cybele, Demeter, Ishtar,
Aphrodite, Au Set, Hecate, Themis, Lilith,
Thea, Gaia, Bridgit, The Great Grandmother of Us
All, Yemanja, Cerridwen, Freya, Corn Maiden,
Mawu, Amaterasu, Maires, Nut, Spider-Woman,
Neith, Au Zit, Hathor, Inanna, Shin Moo,
Diti, Arinna, Anath, Tiamat, Astoreth:
the names flesh out our histories, our choices,
our passions and what we will never embody
but pass by with respect. When I consecrate
my body in the temple of our history,
when I pledge myself to remain empty
and clear for the voices coming through
I do not choose for you to lessen your choice.


Praise our choices, sisters, for each doorway
open to us was taken by squads of fighting
women who paid years of trouble and struggle,
who paid their wombs, their sleep, their lives
that we might walk through these gates upright.
Doorways are sacred to women for we
are the doorways of life and we must choose
what comes in and what goes out. Freedom
is our real abundance.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Snow and Savory Smells are in the Air

Even though the snow has melted the past few days, we had a streak of chilly, snowy, icy weather at the end of last week. The lake was quite the sight!

But, I have been doing quite a bit of cooking to keep me warm. I cooked my first meal at the Emmaus Soup Kitchen last week. Lasagna for 200! Plus, homemade bread. What a delight to see everyone enjoying the meal!

And then, on Sunday, it was another evening of Mindful Eating—Bread for the World edition. We enjoyed our recently deceased Sister Irene’s famous dill bread, with a few mindful changes (some whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose), feasted on naan with chicken (or chickpea for vegetarians) curry, and snacked on cinnamon sugar tortillas with our canned peaches from our September meal for dessert. All along with some education on anti-inflammatory foods from our nurse and nutritionist, it was another wonderful gathering.


That’s how I am getting through the winter months—food!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Friday, February 14, 2020

In Honor of Valentine's Day...

Here are three things currently on my "love list."

1. This photo that Jen, a postulant in our community, took of a snowy tree in our back yard.

2. This quote from Margaret Gonsalves in a Global Sisters Report article that describes consecrated life:
Embodied consecrated living is a constantly evolving nomadic community, a band of inspiring seers and cosmic dancers having paradoxical celebrations of creation's goodness; embodying profound brokenness, structural injustice and suffering of humans and creation; marching valiantly and consistently; radiating the expansive wisdom of being one cosmic community.

3. And this poster from the New York Times of all the women in the 116th Congress hanging in our library.

Feelin' the love. Happy Valentine's Day!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Working on the Single-Hearted Love of God

Perhaps these thoughts connect with some of my thoughts on stability, which I offered after returning from spending a week at the border last month.

I have been reading Ilia Delio's memoir, Birth of a Dancing Star, and I have been thoroughly enjoying it. Her ability to articulate God as cosmic, divine Love is beautiful and inspiring. Here, she is writing about how this all fits within the lens of religious life:

Religious life is a perpetual fitness center for the soul or a "training center of love." The pursuit of holiness is learning to integrate the threads of our many loves into the single-hearted love of God. "You truly exist where you love," Bonaventure wrote, "not merely where you live." Where we grow in love is where we find our true being because it is where we find our freedom; and where we find our freedom is where we grow into our true identity in God.

"Religious" life is a life tethered to God and should be a life of growth in freedom and thus growth in courageous love, a life bountiful in love and thus the most daring life possible.

There are so many things I love about these words. They provide another example of what stability can do for one's heart. When we do the inner work to ground ourselves solely in God, uniquely as that might look in an individual's life, we can become free to live "courageous" and "daring" lives rooted in the gospel message of Love.

And yes, one must stay perpetually fit in exercising her spiritual life, but isn't the feeling of being truly free to love as one's best, fullest self worth it? Even if not vowed to religious life?

How can a monastery become the local Y for the spiritual life of its community?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

the gift of sunshine on a winter day, but don't be fooled...
the photo on the left was last week, the right was yesterday!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Latest in "From Scratch"

I don't hide the fact that I am a "foodie." I really, really like really, really delicious food. So, my most recent request was to learn to make homemade enchiladas from scratch.

This past weekend, my friend and I made two different salsas, red used to dip the tortillas and green used to top the finished product. She had already made the homemade tortillas before I got there. We mashed up the boiled potatoes as filling.

The assembly line went something like this: dip the tortillas in the red salsa, fry them up in oil, fill them with potatoes, roll the tortillas. Much messier than it sounds!

Then, we topped them with sliced cabbage, tomato, sour cream, and salsa. Olé!

What a delicious undertaking!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Mornings at Blackwater
Mary Oliver

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
it was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond
or the river of your imagination
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

What's It Like in a Monastery During These Days of COVID-19?

As many of us have been spending more time on the phone, or FaceTime, or Zoom, or whatever way we connect with technology, people have been ...