Thursday, December 31, 2015

So You Say You Want A Resolution?

Last year my friend and I joked that we would make New Year's resolutions to do things we really had no desire to accomplish, knowing the general success rate of these sorts of decisions.

This year I read a piece that Parker Palmer wrote for the On Being blog, one of my favorite blogs and my favorite radio show.

He said that as he was writing about resolutions, he made an easy typo, and "resolutions" became "revolutions." He then realized it wasn't a mistake at all and instead wrote about the revolutions of which he wants to be a part in the new year:


  1. The revolution against our fear of “otherness,” and against those who manipulate this fear for their self-serving ends. I want to stand in solidarity with those whose lives have been made even more difficult by the ignorance, cruelty, and shamelessness of the Donald Trumps of this world and their minions. When I hear people speaking against Muslims or Mexicans, to take but two examples, I need to say, “Your words are personally offensive to me. I am one with the people you’re insulting, and I can’t remain silent while you put my sisters and brothers down.” I may not change anyone’s mind, but I need to witness to my membership in the human community whenever I get the chance.
  2. The revolution against the state of denial in which most white Americans live, as when we refuse to acknowledge the power of white privilege and white supremacy in our lives. This revolution begins at home, in my own heart. I’ve never known a white person who was pulled over for “driving while white,” or tracked through a store for “shopping while white.” But I’ve known many who believe that the very idea of white privilege insults the way they’ve “worked hard and played by the rules,” and I can feel the same evasiveness in myself. If white people want to join the fight to bring racism down, we need to begin by coming clean about the benefits that accrue to us as long as racism reigns.
  3. The revolution against the nonstop attacks on our K-12 teachers and public schools. Most of the problems we blame on public education begin upstream; e.g., in the poverty that has nearly one-fourth of our kids coming to school too hungry for their brains to work well. So why do we blame teachers for children’s failure to learn — then double down on their burden by pretending to “solve” the problem with punitive, high-stakes testing? The only winners right now are those who want to force failure on public education in order to make privatization a more attractive option. I want to join with those who say, “Enough! This demonic scheme is crushing teachers and kids alike, and we will all pay dearly in the end. Let’s stop evading the real issues. Let’s deal with the upstream problems so teachers can help kids learn.”
  4. The revolution against gun-related policies driven by the delusional mentality of policy-makers and power brokers. There’s a link between mental illness and gun violence, but I’m not talking about the shooters right now. I’m talking about the people who have power over gun policy in this country. It’s urgent that we find some way to cure or at least contain the delusional minds that keep repeating “more guns” and “Second Amendment” as the way to end the terrifying torrent of headlines about yet another shooting. The murderous results of this madness were on display almost every day in 2015. I’m quite certain that this is not what the framers of the Bill of Rights had in mind. The “more guns” insanity poses a grave threat to public health, and if we can't cure it we must contain it by legal and cultural means.
  5. The revolution against the fantasy that a few of us can live secure private lives while ignoring our complicity in conditions that put many others at mortal risk. I’ve been contemplating the lessons to be learned from the well-known mental experiment of shrinking the world to a village of 100 people. In that village, demographers tell us, five people would control nearly one-third of the world’s wealth, and all five would be U.S. citizens. Of the 100 residents, 68 would live on less than $2.00 a day, and 50 would be malnourished. If that village were built on a hill, I would live up top in splendid isolation with the other four U.S. citizens. How long would it be, I wonder, before the folks at the bottom of the hill would rush our gated community not out of greed but simply to keep themselves and their children alive? Even if they didn’t, how well would I sleep at night?

I think part of the reason why I like Parker Palmer's idea so much more is in the word choice: resolve versus revolve. Resolving implies definite commitments. Revolving implies turning, changing. Perhaps some of the groundwork is already there.

It seems that if the revolutions that Parker writes about are to catch on, we would have to look to models of those who are already doing it, those committed to bringing about a kinder, more compassionate world.

In the new year, I want to take what's already being birthed inside me and continue to nurture it into new life. Why start from scratch if there's already good stuff there? Let my prayer be that God helps me see the kind, compassionate parts of myself and bring them forth in ways that serve others.

Where are the kind, compassionate places already inside you waiting for a revolution in 2016?

Happy New Year!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Friday, December 25, 2015

"and the darkness has not overcome it."




May your eyes and your heart be open to the Light that reveals itself to us at Christmas.

A blessed holiday to you, one and all!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Slowly, Slowly

Be gentle, Val.

No, these aren't words I heard as a baby getting ready to pet a bunny. These are the words I hear as a twenty-seven-year old receiving self-care advice from wise women who surround me.

Be gentle, Val.

I, like many others, have a hard time showing myself care and compassion. But, the past few weeks I have had no choice but to practice as I have been under the weather. God literally said, "Slow down, my child. Rest."

Be gentle, Val.

So, this Advent has been full in a different sort of way than my normal. I haven't been reading. I haven't been writing. I haven't been riding my bike or running to the lake. I can't give a lot of detail about how I've filled my days.

Be gentle, Val.

But, I have spent a lot of time with the Visitation, my favorite Bible story. Although Mary traveled "in haste" to Elizabeth, she stayed for three months. When I imagine what might have happened during that time, I have visions of nurturing, compassion, and relationship. I cannot imagine Mary or Elizabeth feeling rushed or moving from one task to the next. They were both pregnant with amazing Life, after all!

Although they are both undoubtedly models of courage, I also have spent time contemplating their tenderness and care. They knew how to slow down and be gentle. As I finally got back on my bike yesterday, I found myself singing one of our Advent tunes to myself.

The lion will lie with the lamb, and all will worship your name.

I envisioned my own lions greeting my lambs with peace and gentleness. Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom came to mind.


And, when I checked my mailbox this morning, this quote was waiting for me:

"Mary herself did not completely understand what was going on in her life. She knew a call from God and she knew the power of God in her life. She knew commitment. But all the rest was mystery. There were no assurances - no blueprint - no security. There was only the sense of call and the will to respond. For those of us who want to be part of the birthing of Christ in our time, like Mary, we must go on, we must treasure the call of God, and we must be content to ponder in our hearts the mystery of God in life, the understanding of which comes only slowly, slowly."

And, which picture came with it? This one, of course.


Rejoice! Even though I am twenty-seven, God takes care of me as I take baby steps on my way toward gentleness. Slowly, slowly.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

With Christmas less than a week away, I am beginning to see more than Advent blue. Each day decorations and ornaments slowly show up around the monastery. There is much joy in being observant right now! On Friday, I helped a sister put up the tree in our hallway. This evening we will decorate our tree in the community room. And, look! It had to happen...our first real snow that accumulated to something, though not much. Remember that view out my window from August and October? Here is the December 20th version!





Let us walk in the holy presence.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

An Almost-Christmas Blessing

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal's, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.


Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Matter of Perspective

Within the past few days, I have had two experiences stay with me.

One: Classrooms have shifted around at daycare as the East Coast Migrant program ended for the season. This means some children have new teachers. I was across the hall from the classroom where two of our sisters teach. I listened to one child who wanted to get the attention of his teacher as he said loudly, "Sister! Sister!"

Two: I walked to the lake on Saturday. I spend most of my time at the lake as close to the water as I can get without soaking my shoes. This time I tried something different. There is a steep hill right next to the water. So, I climbed. Once I reached the top, I was able to see a lot more lake.

Perspective.

By (literally) looking at a much bigger picture of the lake, I was reminded how important it is to always bring more and more into my image of God. God is the entire picture, no exclusions. Ilia Delio writes, "Only in embracing all can we become the arms of God."

And, this whole "Sister" thing.

Having my only experience of the moment be auditory, I was able to really hear the call that by choosing to enter into the Benedictine community, I am choosing to relate, in all parts of my life, as a sister - a sister to my community, a sister to the earth, a sister to the kids, a sister even to my enemies. That demands a very big embrace, and it isn't easy.

But, as a postulant, I am given the opportunity to witness women who are doing this. I am watching them act with tenderness and humility. I am experiencing them treating me with compassion and care. I am learning the devotion and attentiveness it takes to be present to life this way, to relate to life with love.

What an amazing perspective to have.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

lots of water

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The One Where Val Walks Into Chapel on Reflection Day

But I wasn't the only thing reflecting!

Check out our stained glass windows! Can you even tell where the glass ends and the walls begin?

Let us walk in the holy presence.




Sunday, December 6, 2015

I Can(not?) Wait

Last night we had our second Advent vigil. Each week a sister offers her reflections, and in this week's reflection we were given three words to ponder: waiting, birthing, and gratitude.

I hold much gratitude for my experience yesterday. I attended an Advent retreat given by the poet, writer, and all-around lovely person, Edwina Gateley. The theme of the day was birthing God in the contemporary world.

Edwina reminded us that we are called to gestate. Growing into God's fullness isn't a day-long project. How often I believe that if I can just figure out this puzzle or that idea, then I will finally get the ever-elusive "it" and understand the Mystery of the fullness.

And so I read a poem, engage in a conversation, sit with my thoughts, work with the kids, all the while search, search, searching for the answer. And I cannot wait for those moments. I cannot wait to spend time with a friend. I cannot wait to find that poem that I've been thinking about all day. I cannot wait to take on that new adventure. I cannot wait. I cannot wait. I cannot wait.

But here's the thing. I can wait. There has yet to be a time in my life when I haven't had to wait for that time, or that poem, or that adventure. I try to rush to them because they are my hope for finally finding the understanding I so desperately crave.

And here's the other thing. We need opportunities to practice hope. If we didn't have to wait for the things we claim we cannot wait for, we wouldn't have to have hope. It would all just be here now. I would have already figured out the fullness. And then what...?

During this Advent time, I have an opportunity to practice my hope for fully embracing the Mystery, for knowing that the time with the friend, or the words, or the kids, or the adventure are only steps along the way of true hope, steps of growing into God's fullness. Each of them is only a tiny birth compared to Christmas.

So, now I hope to know that it is okay to not have everything I will ever need right now, to know that I have been given exactly what I need in this present moment, to trust that God always does that providing for me and for everyone else, to hope that I am able to trust that everything will be okay if I let go of the figuring a bit. The words from our responsorial are just the prayer for me.

For you, O God, my soul in stillness waits,
truly my hope is in You.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Art and Advent

Advent is a great time for me to use my favorite painting as prayer.

That painting is "The Annunciation" by Henry Ossawa Tanner. Not only is it my favorite, but it lives in my favorite city, Philadelphia.

Robert Morneau also wrote a beautiful poem to go with the painting - called Fiat:

On her bed of doubt, in wrinkled night garment,
she sat, glancing with fear
at a golden shaft of streaming light,
pondering perhaps, “Was this
but a sequel to a dream?”
The light too brief for disbelief,
yet its silence eased not her trembling.
Somehow she murmured a “yes”
and with that the light’s love and life
pierced her heart
and lodged in her womb.
The room remained the same
     -rug still need smoothing
     -jug and paten awaiting using.
Now all was different
in a maiden’s soft but firm fiat.

Perhaps you, too, have a favorite piece of art to use as prayer during this Advent season.

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Christians are so countercultural that we begin our new year a month early. Advent is my favorite liturgical season, and we entered in at the Mount last night with our first prayer vigil.

As goes the tradition here, the newest postulant carries the candle during the first week, and I happen to be the newest postulant. The experience helped bring me in a little closer to the season of hope, patience, preparation, and holy waiting.

The easy reflection during Advent is to remind ourselves how desperately our world longs for the love of Christ to be revealed. I'd be surprised if you didn't hear words along those lines at least once each year during the season.

But, the harder thing for we humans, I believe, is to trust the words of the song we are singing here in our chapel each week:

We are here, here in the presence of God.
We are on holy ground.

Sure, our faith tells us this is so, but do we actually trust our faith enough to do the hardest thing? Do we trust our faith enough to be as bold as Mary and say "Yes." Yes, yes I will live on this holy ground. Yes, I will live into everything that my "Yes" demands of me. Yes, God is here.

Because, then, everything around us might still look the same, but we won't be the same. Our "Yes" is a yes to see the desperate world with new eyes -- eyes of hope and of love that turn us toward Christ.

The season of Advent, for me, becomes an opportunity to be patient with myself as I turn closer and closer to Emmanuel. I looked up synonyms for "preparation" in a thesaurus: education, groundwork, anticipation, foresight, and formation. "Formation" obviously speaks to me quite loudly right now, but all these words signal the truth that the turn won't happen overnight.

So, we light one candle the first week and see the light that it gives us to guide our turn. Then, we are given another light, and another, and another. This is why we wait. We wait until there is enough light to illumine the Holiness within us so much so that the ground on which we stand shines with Holiness, too. Yes. This is what we do. Yes.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

the chapel windows are particularly glorious this time of year

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanks Giving

To the younger,
Thank you for revealing God.

To the wiser,
Thank you for revealing God.

To peers,
Thank you for revealing God.

To strangers,
Thank you for revealing God.

To the green earth,
Thank you for revealing God.

To the blue sky,
Thank you for revealing God.

To changing trees,
Thank you for revealing God.

To places of desolation,
Thank you for revealing God.

To all life,
Thank you for revealing God.

God, I give you thanks,
For connecting me to you,
In relationship,
With all your creation.
Amen.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(c/o waaytv.com)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

How Annoying?!

I did not know the topic of our presentation before we went into our weekend with Sister Simone Campbell. I do not know why I did not put two and two together either. But, we spent the weekend immersing ourselves in the world of Catholic Social Teaching...of course. Sister Simone immerses herself in CST; she lives and breathes it.

There are some key principles that make up Catholic Social Teaching: honoring the dignity of every human being, using the government to promote the common good, living out our obligation to one another, and caring for all God's creation, among others.

Throughout the weekend, we talked about the principles that make us feel most enthusiastic, as well as those that make us most nervous. We searched for the principles of CST in recent news articles, as Sr. Simone likes to "pray with the news." We had conversations with members from other communities, as well as among our own, about the way that our charisms align with these teachings. It was a rich weekend in many ways.

I walked up to lunch with Sr. Simone on Saturday, and I told her how all this talk reminded me of the importance of grounding ourselves in community and prayer. There is no way to sustain the energy for this work without it. It was more than apparent that Simone roots herself in both of those, as well as deep listening. (Naturally...her community follows the Rule of Benedict, which reminds us to "Listen with the ear of our heart," after all!)

I also noticed that there were a few lines that Simone repeated over and over throughout the weekend. "Good point!" "How cool is that?!" "Holy moly!" "How annoying?!"

I thought about everything that we are being called to do. The list is not short. Just within our community, Sr. Simone called us to keep alive our long memory, to have intergenerational discourse, to touch the pain of the world as real, and to have abundant hope. But, then, we have to go out in the world and do that with all our brothers and sisters.

It feels so, so daunting to think about the work that goes into truly living out Catholic Social Teaching. Even more than that, it can feel annoying when we have to continually face so much working against us -- The government doesn't actually work for the common good. People only worry about themselves. The world is already so lost. And on and on and on.

So, we need weekends like these that remind us of our abundant hope. Community and prayer are our backbones, and it's a lot less annoying to face everything in front of us when we know that we are not doing it alone. We are doing this with God and with each other.

How cool is that?!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nuns in the Van

This weekend the formation crew will take another road trip to Villa Maria, PA for a retreat given by Sister Simone Campbell. If you have heard of Sister Simone, it is probably because of Nuns on the Bus or her work with the NETWORK lobby. I am looking forward to the weekend.

Until I am back and able to write, here is a great poem: Memo to Self Re: Meditation by Ron Stone. It relates nicely to humility, my current topic of reflection. I hope you enjoy.

Right now you don’t have to parse the entire
universe in infinite, particulate detail;
for just these few minutes merely sit and become
only breath, that is to say, spirit.

Now… what you see is a world without you,
as it was before you were born and
will be when you’re no longer here.
Are you amazed that it goes on without you?

Slowly learn the lesson about who you are:
dust of the earth, dust of a star.
The stuff that is you has always been here
fulfilling its purpose in losing its Self.

Until you.

Now it’s become human body and brain;
it believes it’s an I and stands apart
from the rest of creation, asserting its right
to be Lord of All, whatever the price.

But you know in these moments the price is too high,
far more than our planet is able to pay.
In your ego-fed effort to have it your way
you have "become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

The world doesn’t need you the way you need it.
For these next few minutes, let go and just be,
and become not an ego in charge of it all
but a part of the Whole in search of your place.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

We Are Climbing Benedict's Ladder

At the lake this morning, I noticed:

The waves meeting the shore;
The leaves meeting the ground;
The water meeting the horizon.

No wonder nature helps me feel connected. No wonder it revives me.

My evening on Monday revived me, too. We had the first of a two-part formation session on the topic of humility. One of the first questions: What do you know about humility?

Uhh...

Well, I can easily answer the question by telling you about the roots of the word: humus, human, and all of that, but what IS humility?

Benedict devotes an entire chapter of the Rule to humility, so we know it must be important. But, what IS humility?

After we dove a little deeper and received a little guidance, we were able to say that humility is recognizing, trusting, and acting on the presence of God. We recognize God not only in ourselves, but in others, and in the world around us. We do not receive God after we work and work on our humility; no, God is here...now, calling us into relationship. The humility lives right in that.

In chapter 7, Benedict writes about the twelve steps on the ladder of humility. The first step is to consciously place my whole self in God's presence, and we go on from there. After ascending up through the twelve steps, we arrive "at the 'perfect love' of God which 'casts out fear'." So, without even going into further detail, you can probably tell that humility is the journey of a lifetime.

Besides recognition, humility also demands trust. Not only do I need to trust the God in others, but I also need to trust my own journey as just that: a journey. Things do not always make sense in the moment, but I can trust that they fit into my story.

And once I am able to trust God's presence, I suddenly become free to act, knowing that God is holding me up and calling me forward. That thing that didn't make sense a year ago, a month ago, or even a day ago suddenly becomes clear given the moments that followed and the choices I made. I can act with the understanding that all my actions are part of a bigger picture.

Now, why did all of this revive me? So, so often I compartmentalize a moment in my life. I take it out of context and try to write my own text. "This happened because..." "She reacted this way because..." "It could have been different if..." No. No. No. When I do that, I remove it from the whole, the truth, where it naturally belongs. I forget about humility. These moments belong to God, not me. God's picture is BIG; I am such a small part of that picture.

Just as the waves meet the shore, just as the leaves meet the ground, just as the water meets the horizon, one moment meets the next. They are all connected in the flow of God. May we live in the flow. May we trust the flow. May we humbly join the flow.

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Let Us Walk In Holy Peace

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.

-Warsan Shire

Sunday, November 15, 2015

To Be of Perfect Use

This week I had the opportunity to revisit the Enneagram. For those unfamiliar, the Enneagram is a model that uses nine different categories to describe our personality types. While we probably have a little bit of each type influencing us, we have one basic personality type that describes us best. These types help us better understand the motivations behind our behaviors.

So, for instance, I am a One on the Enneagram, which means I am a Reformer type. The other eight are types are: Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, and Peacemaker. As with any personality there are plusses and minuses about each type, and we try to work our way toward becoming the healthiest parts of whatever we are.

I first encountered the Enneagram a little less than a year ago as a member of a Contemplatives Leaders in Action cohort, but I revisited it this past week as part of my monastic formation. As my teacher, a sister in our community, pointed out, God is the best parts of each personality type, and we have each of the nine types in our community here.

The reformer, as I am, is also known as an idealist or advocate depending on how that person leans in other types. Descriptors of this type include being principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic. Perfectionistic. I don't doubt that anyone who has met me, even for just five minutes, might be laughing right now reading that word. Let me in a cluttered space, and everything will return to being organized in right angles in no time. Give me a piece of paper to fold in half, and the crease will be exactly down the center; if it isn't I will ask for a second piece and discard any evidence of my first attempt. I even use the word "perfect" to describe anything that brings me slightly more than minor delight.

While not everyone buys into the Enneagram and other personality-type models like the Myers-Briggs, I think they are useful tools for self-awareness and other-awareness. When we recognize that not everyone cares about maintaining an orderly space or doesn't self-critique so much, it can help us be open to different ways of being that are not our own.

You can read more about the different types, if you'd like. As for me, and the other Ones out there: "Ones are people of practical action—they wish to be useful in the best sense of the word." But, I do think that is true for all the types - we wish to be of use. God wishes us to use our specific gifts for the greater good. Again, on Friday night, we were reminded of the need to do that after the attacks in Paris. It reminds me of the poem titled To be of use by Marge Piercy.

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Let us each listen deeply to the ways we can serve.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Knowing Your Roots

Our novices just returned from a visit to one of our out-of-town ministries, as well as a visit to St. Marys, Pennsylvania. This small town is home to some big Benedictine history.

St. Joseph Monastery is located in St. Marys. Benedicta Riepp, a Benedictine sister, founded this monastery when she came over from St. Walburga Abbey in Eichstatt, Bavaria. The monastery is the first in the Federation of St. Scholastica, of which the Erie Benedictines are a part. (We are actually the second monastery.) So, basically, we are talking about the roots of our family tree. The community there has since dissolved, and three of the sisters joined us here in Erie.

When the novices returned yesterday, they had a gift for me. They brought me a medal of St. Benedict from the motherhouse there. Much bigger than the one that I wear around my neck, I was grateful to receive something that connects me to the larger history of Benedictinism.

Each and every day I am learning more and more of the history into which I am entering. Whether through reading, hearing a story, or asking a question, I am also growing in appreciation for all that history means: the hard work, the dedication, the change throughout the years, and the spirit of community that connects our sisters across the ages.

All of these things come together to create our Benedictine tradition. One tradition that I love is hearing the names of the sisters who came before us. You can easily read those names on our necrology board, but if it is the anniversary of a sister's death, we remember that sister's life in a special way during evening prayer. Hearing the year in which the sister died adds even more to my appreciation of the lineage.

In this month when we celebrate the Communion of Saints, I, too, am reflecting upon the Communion of Sisters that we share as Benedictines. How exciting to enter into the history!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ordinary Time

This past week I have been grateful for a light schedule. Compared to the month of October, the first week of November was calm. As we prepare for Advent, preparing for the coming of Christ, I have had more time to read, bike, get creative with card making, and catch up with friends from home, which has meant more time to pay attention to God living inside me. I think this is the gift of ordinary time.

I have been paying attention to a lot of words in the daily, too - a sort of living lectio, if you will. Today, during morning prayer, I focused on these words that we sang:

"Open wide the gates. The Holy One will come in."

And during Liturgy, it was these from our communion hymn:

"I, myself, am the bread of life."

Sometimes it is really easy to pass over words and pass through prayer. I know I am guilty, especially when I have other thoughts, or whatever comes next, on my mind. So, this bit of slow down this past week has been a great re-focus for me, because while the extraordinary can be just that, the ordinary can be, too.

Rather than write more, I am going to let this post off the hook now, too. Just go back and pray with those two sets of words, if you'd like. Pray with the God living inside you. Happy Sabbath.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mind, Body, Spirit

Postulants and novices in our community have the privilege of receiving one day each week that is set aside for reflection. That means we do not go to work at our ministry that day, but rather we take time to sit with and be present to all the emotions, all the thoughts, and all the wonderments that come our way through living a monastic life.

We meet with our formation director and perhaps catch up with another person or two, but other than that, the day should be one where we focus on the balance of mind, body, and spirit. Benedict reminds us often of the importance of balance -- ora ET labora.

Wednesdays are my reflection day. And, it just so happened that yesterday it was 72 degrees and sunny in Erie...in November! What a delight! I was able to spend almost all of daylight outdoors. What a delight!

I find that if I am renewing my mind, body, or spirit, I cannot compartmentalize. If I am renewing one, I am usually renewing another one, or two, simultaneously. For instance, my bike ride yesterday morning refreshed all three. My time at the lake with my lectio partner was the same thing as well.

While by the water, we shared conversation about a poem called Hokusai Says. The poet is Roger Keyes. I think that if we were truly able to live these words, we'd find a pretty amazing balance in our lives.

Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.

He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself
as long as it’s interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,

every one of us is ancient,
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive—
shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your verandah or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
are life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.


Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Blessing the Future

Many people have been asking: Do you miss teaching?

No, I don't.

That is because I am still teaching through my ministry at Saint Benedict Center. Yes, you have to make the distinction that it is no longer my classroom, but the kids are still kids, and they are great.

It is the standard teacher cliché to say that we are the ones who do the learning, and I do think that it is true, but since arriving at SBC, I have noticed something else happening in the classroom, too.

Mutual relationships have been a topic of reflection for me recently. As I enter into community, I am forming new relationships, and mutuality has to be a part of that. In some ways, mutual relationships are impossible in the classroom for all the obvious reasons: age, authority, etc. But, there is still some mutuality to be found. For instance, there can be mutual respect between a child and the teacher.

There can also be mutual blessing.

When I became a postulant (just over two months ago now!), I received a medal of St. Benedict to wear. Since I have started working at SBC, the children have taken to taking my medal into their hands and playing with it throughout the day. Some like to make sure the clasp is at the nape of my neck; others just like to hold it. I don't know how many little hands have touched it at this point.

One day, as one of the kiddos was holding the medal, I realized that what all these kids are doing is blessing my future. All their presence, all their love, all their joy, and all their spirit get poured into this visible symbol of where I'm headed as a Benedictine monastic.

So, in turn, as I take a child into my hands who is having trouble napping, or take the hand of the kid who is walking up the stairs, or reach out to calm the child who is moving through the classroom a bit too fast, I try to do the same -- and bless their future.

For the children whose parents cannot support them for whatever reason, may they find themselves learning in an educational system that gives them an opportunity to be successful. For the young girls developing their sense of self, may they be valued as equals in our male-driven society. For the energetic kids with lots of youthful passion, may they have teachers who recognize and match their love of learning.

May we bless the bond of mutuality that we share as God's Beloved.

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Opening up our home to eighty or so friends last weekend gave me a great opportunity for reflection, as do most of the things that happen to me right now!

When I first heard sisters refer to the Mount as "the house" (which was before I became a postulant), it threw me off a bit. What? The house? It sounded so weird. It's a monastery.

But...

Now the Mount is my house, and I get it. We have a kitchen. We have a dining room. We have a living room. We have bedrooms. We have guest rooms. We have family rooms. We have a basement where we store things. We have friends over. We have chores.

We just have it all on a big scale. Because we have a big family living here.

I am slowly learning how slow the process of gaining a "wide view" can be. But, as you witness more and more diversity, it happens. Living in a different home makes it happen. And yes, helping with the process of setting up, welcoming, hosting, and cleaning up when we had our friends over for the weekend made that widening happen again for me. I spent some extra time in the kitchen. I showed some people where to find things. I helped to rearrange the furniture and clean the tables after dinner. I did all these things at my house, along with the rest of my family who lives here.

Experiencing change also causes that widening to occur. And as Elizabeth Dreyer, our presenter last weekend told us: "Think about no change in life; it's hell." I am grateful for everything that this change is teaching me.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

P.S. Speaking of change - the view from my window in late August and late October.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Precious Moments

Last month when we went on retreat, our presenter, Lynn Levo, CSJ, spent a great deal of time on the topic of intimacy: intimacy with self, intimacy with others, and more. It broadened my perspective on what intimacy is: opening myself up fully. But there are so many ways to do that; we can be intimate in more ways than just the first one that comes to most minds. There is intellectual, crisis, spiritual, communicative, creative, and aesthetic intimacy, among others.

I had heard the word broken down before. Intimacy: in-to-me-see. Lynn's presentation gave me an opportunity to reflect on what that really looks like in the daily, where Benedict reminds us we live as spiritual beings - in the nitty gritty of the day.

Something with which I have struggled here is that I find it difficult to articulate what makes my days so darn special and wonderful right now. Yes, I witness and partake in beautiful prayer and liturgies. Yes, I am so well supported on the journey. Yes, I have opportunities to pray in new ways. Yes, I am meeting some incredible people. Yes, I am doing meaningful work. Yes, I live across the street from a big body of water. Yes, all of these things would naturally fill my Spirit, but, yet, they fail to adequately capture what fills me right now.

Then, on Saturday evening, after the ceremony we had for our oblates, old and new, something (or things) happened. I shared a very touching conversation with a sister at dinner. Another sister asked me sincerely how I am doing. I helped a sister with a small task. One sister asked how I enjoyed the day. Another sister made sure I was ready to play the role of Bartimaeus during Sunday's liturgy and offered me quiet space if I ever need it. I hugged another sister, or two, or three, as we said good night.

Then, as I was walking back into the monastery, it finally came to me: what makes my days so darn special and wonderful right now is that they are filled to the brim with intimate moments. I am sharing so many moments of mutual care and love with my sisters. As my own monastic call to conversion occurs within this context of reverential relationships, I can only sing praise and gratitude to God.

We can develop a beautiful intimacy with each other when we recognize the importance of reverencing relationship. God, guide each of us to this level of intimacy with one another. How could we keep from singing?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Community

This weekend at the Mount, you can feel excitement. We are holding our community weekend where our oblates join us and either begin or renew their commitment to live with Benedictine spirit.

This means that we have about 80 oblates here with us at the Mount today. A few people started arriving earlier this week, but we officially began last night. Our speaker is Elizabeth Dreyer, who wrote the book, Accidental Theologians. She is speaking about women and the Church. Her chosen themes for the weekend include:

Women, Tradition, Reform, Church, World, Conversation, Holy Spirit, Prophecy, Communion of Saints, Justice, and Hope

Not a bad list!

Another exciting part of a weekend like this is that our out-of-town sisters come home to be with us. So, with all of this, there is lots of beautiful energy filling our home right now! Yesterday afternoon, there was a knock on my door. One sister who lives out of town brought me a plant. She said that she and the other sister with whom she lives began a tradition of giving a plant to new members. What a lovely way to begin the weekend!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

a new friend for my "growing" collection!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Springing Up

I spent the first month of my postulancy spending time at many of our community's ministries to see where I might like to be on a regular basis. I went to our Neighborhood Art House; I went to our food pantry; I went to our Kids' Cafe; I went to our education center where we work with adults; I visited the office of the Alliance for International Monasticism; I explored a few other odds and ends. I experienced many people and places, and I gained a greater appreciation for just how much our community is doing for the city of Erie and beyond.

But, I also spent a lot of time at our childhood development center, Saint Benedict Center (SBC). Yesterday, as I discussed this coming week's gospel with my lectio partner, the phrase "sprang up" called her. She asked me, "For what do you spring up?" I quickly responded, "The kids." After visiting the first time, I also knew very quickly that I wanted SBC to be my ministry. The kids there are just great kids. They are creative, happy, curious, and full of potential.

Besides the awe that I have for children, the reason why I think I spring up for the kids is because it pains me to know that far too often the cards are stacked against them through no fault of their own; it is the reality of the system - unfair distribution of wealth, unfair education system, unfair, unfair, unfair.

But yet, despite so much, kids are so resilient. They fall and they bounce back up - literally and figuratively. I get to watch this each and every day, and it teaches me so much. I watch 1-year olds learning to walk and to eat with a fork for the first time. I watch 3-year olds fearlessly climbing up the playground bars. I watch pre-K kids learning the alphabet. I watch 2-year olds agreeing to share a toy. I watch so much potential. It stops me in my tracks sometimes. Am I doing everything I can to help these children recognize their potential?

So often in those moments I get curious myself - what will their futures hold? How will their potential develop and actualize? Given the realities of our society, where will these kids be in twenty years? It brings to mind a Mary Oliver poem called What is the greatest gift?

What is the greatest gift?
Could it be the world itself--the oceans, the meadowlark,
     the patience of the trees in the wind?
Could it be love, with its sweet clamor of passion?

Something else--something else entirely
     holds me in thrall.
That you have a life that I wonder about
     more than I wonder about my own.
That you have a life--courteous and intelligent--
     that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.
That you have a soul--your own, no one else's--
     that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.
So that I find my soul clapping its hands for yours
     more than my own.

I think these are important questions: What is the greatest gift for you? For what do you spring up?

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Monday, October 19, 2015

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Over the weekend, we (in formation) traveled to Bristow, VA for an east coast Benedictine formation conference. The title of the presentation was "The Benedictine Way: A Journey To Wisdom." Our presenter, a Benedictine sister from the Pittsburgh community, provided wonderful reflections on the word "wisdom," which allowed us to make connections to our growing understanding of monasticism.

But, more than that, the weekend provided me with an opportunity to experience another Benedictine monastery. I made a remark to one of my sisters that you can feel the difference when you are in a Benedictine home compared to the homes of other orders; there is a sense of hospitality that I have yet to experience anywhere else. From the welcoming at the door, to the open recliner to watch Notre Dame beat USC (Go Irish!), and even a Mucinex for my congestion, I felt the Benedictine heart of hospitality in each experience throughout the weekend.

So, on the way home, when we reflected on what we noticed about their monastery compared to our own, I needed some time to think. Yes, there were differences in the physical environment, the prayer, the size of the community, and some other things, but I found the overall spirit to be one and the same - joyful, generous, and gracious.

Lately, I have been reflecting on the Christian life as one of non-judgment. It is so easy to compare and contrast; I must admit: a Venn diagram is one of my favorite teaching tools. That's okay, but often times as soon as I start noticing similarities and differences, I find myself entering into judgment - which way is right, which way is wrong - which way is better, which way is worse, and so on. But, the thing is, the one true similarity of all life is that God is pouring through it. That alone makes it good. That mark trumps any differences, and actually, makes diversity beautiful. We often hear about avoiding "either/or" thinking in favor of "both/and" thinking. To do that we need to put on the mind of Christ and get rid of the Venn diagram in our minds.

I just finished reading a book about lectio by Christine Valters Painter (which I highly recommend), and I found some words that spoke to this idea for me, referring to the prayer style of lectio:

This...means entering the profound mystery of God and allowing ourselves to move beyond...dualities. [...] We no longer have to reconcile opposites. We recognize how little we know of God, so we can't say God is this way or that way; God is both and neither. This path requires a radical sense of humility and embrace of our limited vision. God is beyond our ability to understand or grasp.

If we are willing to open ourselves up to the limited nature of our humanity and embrace the unknowing, we become free to move away from judgment. And, I don't really have to worry about it anyway - God already saw it all and said it is very good. Who am I to judge?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

The still-blooming dahlias in the teaching garden at the monastery

 The very-cool stained-glass silos at the prayer labyrinth

The view from inside looking up

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thank You, Again, Stephen

Please do yourself a favor this weekend and enjoy the interview between Stephen Colbert and Oprah Winfrey from Thursday night's show. How wonderful that two celebrities openly shared dialogue about faith and belief on network television. We need more of this. Here is a bit of the interview.

Let us walk in the holy presence.



Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Change in the Weather

I decided to go for a bike ride when I got home this afternoon. I was pedaling up the road, and the wind started rolling, the rain drops starting dripping. I started pedaling harder. I couldn't help but sing with Teresa de Avila, who we celebrate today:

Nothing shall disturb you,
Nothing frighten you,
Patience obtains all things,
In God you lack for nothing,
For God never changes,
God alone is enough.

I thought I would make it home before the sky broke open, but as I made my last turn, I was proven wrong. Evidence:

The weather has been changing fast; at dinner there was talk of the first frost! Yesterday I went for a walk during my reflection day. I think this picture of Lake Erie captures the season nicely.


This weekend, we will travel to Bristow, VA for a formation conference with other monasteries on the east coast. I will report back next week!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Turn, Turn, Turn

It is official - fall has arrived. My mother and grandmother have been visiting the past few days, and yesterday we were fortunate enough to take in some of the glorious colors as we visited a local winery, a local farm, and Findley Lake.

Findley Lake


fall colors

I have many more trees surrounding me here in Erie as compared to life back in Philadelphia, so it has been easier to pay attention to the changing colors. Monastics are called to conversatio morum, or conversion of life. Monastics recognize that each day is a new start, an opportunity to do better than yesterday. We are called to change and to grow. Trees are nature's way of reminding me of this call.

As my first class on monastic values has ended, I have started a class about the Liturgy of the Hours. We took some time to do lectio reading with parts of the Rule of Benedict relating to prayer. Often times, Benedict adjusts prayer according to the season. As I commented on living with the natural cycle of the earth, we began discussing the fact that we do not do that in today's world. We continued on to talk about how we might grow in mindfulness if we were to live by the seasons. Someone commented, "We'd learn to wait."

Wow - this comment gave me pause to reflect. If we actually waited to eat lettuce until spring or strawberries until summer or apples until fall, we might learn to wait; we might learn to be patient as trees, or flowers, or seeds waiting to germinate. We might learn to live in harmony with our earth.

Maybe as I am watching these trees turning, I, too, am beginning to turn a bit. Maybe I am changing and growing into someone more whole, more able to listen to God's call deep within.

Let us walk in the holy presence.



Friday, October 9, 2015

Relationship

My lectio partner and I met earlier this week. She had picked up a book of poetry, but later realized that she already had a copy. I benefitted! The book is called, Love Poems From God. Daniel Ladinsky compiled poetry from twelve different men and women, some of which include Rumi, St. Francis of Assisi, Hafiz, and St. Teresa of Avila - a pretty strong line-up!

This week's gospel reading brings to our attention the importance of relationship - relationship with others and relationship with God. I found these words from St. Catherine of Siena a comforting reminder of our relationship with our Creator. The title is The Foundation of God.

My perfect Lord sang,

"Less likely is God to condemn my hand's action
than condemn any
soul."

How could that be possible,
my heart thought?

And the Christ, knowing all minds, replied,

"Forgiveness is the foundation of God's
being."

What are you doing to build relationships in your life right now?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Single Ray of Light

When writing a blog was still just an idea that I had, I was telling a sister about it while we were driving home one day. At that point I was still on the search for the right name for the blog. As we were chatting, I was telling her about some of the things that I was noticing at the monastery. She kept saying, "That's a blog post right there!" I hadn't thought of these experiences that way before she pointed it out. She was able to see the worth of each moment that I was sharing with her; I was grateful for her perspective.

To be attentive to the life around us takes practice. To recognize the beauty in all the life around us takes even more practice. On Monday night we wrapped up our monastic values class. Some values of monasticism include: prayer, work, community, peace, holy leisure, and stewardship. As Benedictines, our daily practices should cultivate these values in our lives. Being attentive certainly plays a role in this cultivation.

I think that being attentive also allows us to see the interconnectedness in all life. Saint Benedict is our example. To learn about the life of Benedict, one looks to The Dialogues of Gregory the Great. In one chapter, we read about an experience that Benedict had one evening where "he saw the whole world as in a single ray of light."

To see the whole world "as in a single ray of light" did not make his world smaller; on the contrary, it enlarged the world for Benedict. When we have purity of heart, we can call it single-mindedness. You read about it in the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God." Seeing life in a single ray of light allows us, then, to be attentive to God in each moment -- what my sister did for me in the car that day.

Imagine being able to see God in all of life. When you think about it, of course it enlarges your world, and your heart; suddenly nothing can be excluded because everything has God's love poured into it. Inclusion requires a place and a space for all God's creation. For me right now, I am learning to see God in and through prayer, work, community, peace, holy leisure, and stewardship, among other values, as I cultivate a monastic heart that sees the whole world as a single ray of light.

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

One Origin

I have been spending my weekend sitting in on a retreat offered here at the Mount called "Seasons of the Spirit." Our sister who facilitates these retreats put together a wonderful program on the topic of pursuing peace. We spent Saturday listening to perspectives on Rosa Parks, Thomas Gumbleton, the women martyrs in El Salvador, Thomas Merton, and Pope Francis.

We also did a communal painting activity where we sat in a group of four. Each person used a different shade of green as we passed papers around our table. We had to listen to what was already on the paper before we added our own brush strokes. At night we were treated to a documentary about Bishop Gumbleton, learning about his ministry of nonviolence.

It was a great experience, but it was a different experience for me. This was the first time that I attended a retreat as a member of the hosting community. My perspective changed as a result. So, I started thinking about the way that our identity affects our perspective. My perspective of the world might be different if I were a veterinarian instead of a teacher, a male instead of a female, a wife instead of a woman seeking religious life, a realist instead of an idealist.

We see this all the time in our society. The businesspeople often see the world much differently than the environmentalists. Liberals often see the world much differently than the conservatives. You see where I'm going. We can easily divorce ourselves from one another because of the way we identify.

But, what if, what if, we all claimed our true identity first and foremost, seeing the world through that perspective? Then, we would identify by and recognize our common humanity. If we could all see the homeless man or woman as human, too. If we could all see the immigrant as human, too. If, before any other identity, we could all see each other as human, I think we would treat one another much differently. I think we might unite.

How can we find our common humanity and use it to pursue peace in our world?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

-Picasso-

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Honest Truth

Thank you, Stephen Colbert. (Watch the first two minutes, in particular.)

Let us walk in the holy presence.


c/o cbs.com

Friday, October 2, 2015

Only the Essentials

In the spirit of trying new things (like, you know, a whole new way of living!) I have embraced another change in my life. For the past three weeks, I have been transitioning out of shampoo and conditioner and into baking soda and vinegar. Before you call me crazy, I'm not the only one!

This move has prompted some interesting conversation at the dinner table as I explain my choice to sisters in the community. My reason for swapping out the shampoo is to go natural. Our scalp, as well as the rest of our body, naturally produces an oil called sebum; it is what makes our hair oily. Rather than using chemicals to get rid of those oils, I am using baking soda. I can't lie - the baking soda leaves your hair a bit gritty. This is where the apple cider vinegar comes in; it does a great job rinsing out and conditioning. The goal of this whole experiment is to balance out the sebum production, which can be elevated through the use of too much shampoo.

So - is it working? Well, I think so. From what I've read, getting over the three-week hill is a bit trying, but once you get to the other side, your hair is healthier. I do think that my hair feels better after I wash it with baking soda and AC vinegar, but it is an on-going experiment.

There is also the group of people who question what your hair smells like after conditioning with vinegar. Great question! It does dry fairly odorless, but I am also counteracting the stinky possibility with another experiment - lavender oil. When I told one of our sisters about this, I entered into another phase of this journey.

Our community is blessed with many sisters who have lots and lots of interests; this gives us some pretty cool ministries - one of them being Wellness. As our Wellness director introduced me to everything available through the Wellness ministry (much more than I could have imagined!), she showed me a book she had on the ministry's shelf called, Aromatherapy A-Z. The book gives suggestions for how to counteract illnesses or other issues with essential oils. Had I known that lavender oil can be used for ADD, allergies, anger, and anxiety, I would have had a school-year's worth stashed in my classroom closet!

I have enjoyed journeying through the world of natural hair cleaning. Next up, toothpaste!

Let us walk in the holy presence.


lavender fields discovered during a summer road trip

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sacred Future

There are three different orders of women religious in Erie: the Benedictine Sisters, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. This past Thursday many of us joined together, along with others, to listen to a panel of women and men religious discuss religious life and its future.

A Benedictine sister, a Mercy sister, a Cistercian monk, and a Franciscan friar comprised the panel and answered the questions of what brought them to religious life, what religious life means to them, and where they see religious life headed in the future. All four provided wise insights, especially for me as I enter into this new way of life.

One highlight for me was hearing again the Pedro Arrupe, SJ quote that many Jesuit-educated
students know and love:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

It was obvious that the entire panel had fallen in love with God, and, furthermore, recognizes that staying in love is a lifelong journey. That journey involves answering the question (many times over) of what the vocation is to which God calls us. The joy that both God and their vocations bring them were also obvious.

I am often asked about my choice to enter religious life at a time when vocations, in that sense of the word, are on the decline, but my answer feels consistent with the panelists' answers as to where religious life is headed. Truth is -- we don't know, but we are excited. (The Cistercian monk wisely said: "We don't know where God's going to lead us, and it's probably better if we don't.") But, if we trust that we have fallen in love in the way that Arrupe describes, then we pray to trust that God will lead us exactly where we need to be.

Let us walk in the holy presence.


savoring the remaining warm weather at the lake on Sunday

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Peace on Earth

Today marks the final day of our Pope's visit to the United States. I loved watching him emerge from the airplane yesterday and step foot in my dear Philadelphia. I am also grateful for his message last night at the Festival of Families:

"All that is beautiful leads us to God. Because God is good, God is beautiful, God is true. Thank you all those who have offered their witness."

His message of love and mercy can transform if we become the hands and feet of Christ, like St. Teresa reminds us.

Yesterday afternoon I participated in an event called "On the Move." It was an opportunity for the community to join together and offer witness to the fact that we, as Christ's hands and feet, are called to be stewards of our earth. Groups came from the north, south, east, and west and met in a plaza where we celebrated with music and addresses that united us with one another and with our planet. As our group walked from the east, we chanted together, "Peace on Earth. Peace in our city."

Like the Pope, another prophet calling us to be witnesses was Oscar Romero. His prayer reminds us that we cannot do everything, but what we can do, we can do well. I believe "On the Move" was an example of that - a community doing its small part to raise awareness of the work that builds the Kingdom. From our Art House students who created paper butterflies and peace flags to the sisters who joined the walk and to those who spoke, I think our Pope would have been proud of our celebration.

Where does Christ call your feet to move and your hands to build? How do you offer witness?

UPDATE: So cool! Francis on campus!

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Planting Peace


Friday, September 25, 2015

One Month

Today marks one month since I moved into Mount Saint Benedict to begin my postulancy. What an amazing journey with this community so far!

Two days ago when I was reading the Gospel reflection from Notre Dame, I read these words about Jesus:

He knew that if his followers had to rely on others, they would come to rely on God.

After sharing this line with a few sisters, I had fruitful conversations about learning to trust and what it really means to rely on God. Jesus sends out his disciples to heal the sick and proclaim the Kingdom of God. He also calls them to take nothing with them for the journey. So, we are called to do the same. This is scary stuff! So far, for me, community makes it seem more possible. I have been so grateful for the love and support of the sisters in this community.

This morning I was absolutely peaceful and joyful during Morning Prayer, reflecting on these beautiful Benedictine women. Then, I read this line in the Psalms:

Happy are they who rely on God.

As I looked at all the sisters sitting around me in chapel, it just made sense.

And this morning, our community needed to rely on one another as there was a fire at our soup kitchen. Fortunately no one was hurt and the damage appears to be fairly contained. Please keep the community and especially those we serve there in your prayers. We need to rely on community in times like these, and you are part of our community, too.

Let us walk in the holy presence.