Showing posts from November, 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 …

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.

Let us walk in the holy presence.


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 ric…

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;

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?


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, calling us into relationship. The humility liv…

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

-Warsan Shire

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 bes…

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…

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 …

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 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 …

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…