Saturday, August 27, 2016

Be on Your Best Behavior!

This upcoming week I will be retreating as I prepare to enter the novitiate. Behave while I am gone! To hold you over, a poem I love (by Tamara Madison) titled Behaving.

All day I have scowled and looked askance,
thrashing in a tide of hormones. I want
to make the world act the right way
and it has resisted. It will not see the obvious.
I want to tear out its eyes and place them
where they cannot help but see.

Until I go outside.

The warm, late-summer afternoon has spun down
to a balmy evening. A brassy sunset casts light
from somewhere in the sea. This light flows
around the trunks of sycamores arrayed in a row
and through their fluttering branches;
the air is tender on my bare arms and legs
and the world feels for this moment bathed in grace.

At last, I realize, the world is behaving.
At last, says the world, she is behaving.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Liturgy of Life

When Miriam Therese Winter came to present for our April community weekend, she talked about how we need to turn life into a liturgy. While the Eucharistic liturgy is most central to our monastic life, the Liturgy of the Hours is our daily form of communal worship. With its "hours" marked by different prayers (read more specifics here), the Divine Office, as it is also named, calls monastics to prayer throughout the day. As I reflected on our visit to our sisters in Port Allegany this weekend I realized that I found a liturgy of life there.

Early, early in the morning, you could look out the front window for a most beautiful view, including stars in the lingering darkness of the sky. Their chapel is in the front of the house. My favorite thing hanging on the walls is a favorite quote from The Little Prince.

Both mornings when we woke up, I got to fry up fresh eggs from the farm where our sisters live. With fresh coffee and peaches, plus good conversation, I couldn't have asked for a better breakfast! That long, thin, white line that you see horizontally across the center of the picture is bales of hay wrapped up.

On Sunday morning, we traveled to the small town of Genesee for Mass. Our bishop was presiding, and the community had a lovely gathering with hospitality after the liturgy ended. I think it was the smallest parish I've ever seen; I stood in the last row of pews to take this picture!

In the middle of the day on Saturday, we traveled into town to buy corn from a local grower. I was grateful to feast on so much fresh corn over the weekend. We also feasted on fresh tomatoes from the garden. Yum!

We were able to take two walks along the road Friday and Saturday afternoon. Going just a little north, we came across a church with an old cemetery. You could barely even read some of the tombstones since the dates were from the 1800's.

Yes, we did pray, too! It was actually my favorite thing about the weekend. This was because we prayed from the same psalter that we use at the Mount, at the same time that our community prays. It created an authentic connection that was quite powerful for me. The family dog, Ben, the most gentle dog I've ever met, even came inside to pray with us!

Before we retired, we played a few games, including a favorite: Rummikub. Then, before we went to sleep, we prayed a short version of Compline, which included the Salve Regina. Of course, as we played games, we could always see some life outside the window. Here are the alpacas that live on the farm.

One sad part of farming has to be separating the mother cows from the calves. This just happened to happen on Saturday during our stay. Throughout the entire night, we could hear the mothers crying for their children - so sad! You can see some of the herd closer and in the distance.

What a liturgy we experienced!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sneak Preview

We just returned from a weekend visiting our sisters in Catholic Rural Ministry. I need time to process the wonderful experience before I write more, so for now...the view from the backyard!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sit and Pray

One morning while I walked, this prayer bench invited me in...

And as I was praying on this prayer bench some days later...

I got to thinking about all the prayer benches in my life.

I thought about my most "official" prayer bench...

And the prayer bench that helps me wake up with words each morning...

The prayer bench where I pray while the children sleep...

And another "all-natural" prayer bench where I like to read...

Let us be grateful for all the places God invites us in.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Variations on the Word “Present”

I have had the conversation before,
Present, present, presents, presence,
These words all similar,
But each, a unique key,
To being fully human.

Present…Here. Not absent.
An easily recognizable word for a teacher,
Each morning roll call makes monotonous,
This disyllabic word,
But so much more underneath.
Present…Aware. Conscious.
How do you hear the needs,
Of those who cry around you?
Forget the past, ignore the future,
You are made alive,
To serve in this moment now.

Present…Put forward. Show.
I would like to present to you – life.
How do you present yourself to others?
Are you caring, compassionate, giving?
Or do you tuck away your abilities,
Knowing the potential which lurks inside us all?
To present yourself well,
Be a light in the dark.

What presents do you bring?
Are they material – items which cannot last?
Or are your presents something more?
Patience, love, faith, spirit,
And which do you think the child needs,
Who waits for saving hope?

Your presence. You. Your vitality.
Your presence creates community,
Loneliness ends in your presence,
Love needs to be the music played,
And community, our instrument,
Your presence is the rich wood, the shining brass.

God is calling your name always.
How do you answer?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Stranger Things

If you live in Erie you know that last night we had quite the storm. What I watched outside my window forty-two minutes after the electric came back on - my clock was blinking 12:42am - looked like the way movie makers portray the apocalypse: the sky continually illuminated by lightning while booming thunder filled my ears.

So this morning I wanted to go over to the lake and check it out. The scene this time was definitely "the calm after the storm," but I did notice a squirrel running around the beach. I couldn't think of another time when I'd seen a squirrel scurrying around on the sand. Seeing a squirrel seemed much stranger to me than seeing a seagull! (There were also plenty of them.)

In case you've missed it, Stranger Things is THE show to watch on Netflix right now. One of our sisters told me about it, and within a week, I finished the eight episodes that comprise the first season. I even realized that with my new pixie cut, I could easily pass as 011, the show's heroine, for Halloween. What I loved about the show was the way that the outcasts, the people many would deem "on the margins," were the ones who persisted and believed - without saying any more about the show. (Today also happens to be the Feast of St. Lawrence - when the prefect of Rome asked him to gather up and give him all the wealth of the Church, Lawrence proceeded to give all the riches to the outcasts, to those on the margins, and present those people to the prefect, telling him that they are the real treasures of the Church.)

Wait, why am I writing about all of this?

Well, all of these things have helped me as I reflect on what's coming next - the novitiate. On Saturday morning, the community voted affirmative on my request to move into the next phase of the initial monastic formation process. After the vote, I received affirmation in the form of hugs, well wishes, and kind, thoughtful words from the entire community. It was a beautiful experience, one that will carry me on even longer than just the novitiate year ahead.

Overall, I have been so grateful for the support of community, friends, and family as I journey into this life, but there are still people who question my choice to enter a "dying institution," joining a religious community where I am the youngest by more than twenty years. But as for me, I think there are many stranger things I could be choosing to do with my life, things that don't fit with the person I know myself to be here and now. By entering this community, I am choosing to make a commitment to a group of wise women who live a life of prayer and witness, a life that upholds those on the margins, a life that demands relationship with God and with others. I have no doubt that this life is not dying, but rather is exactly what our world yearns for right now.

And, yes, age is certainly a factor, as it is for many of us entering religious life in the 21st century - a squirrel among a flock of seagulls perhaps - but we who are entering are receiving the wisdom and love of those who have journeyed ahead of us, and I believe it is that very wisdom and love that we receive through relationship that will give us the energy to continue on the journey.

It felt appropriate that Parker Palmer posted these words from Wendell Berry on Facebook the day my novitiate vote took place. They are titled The One-Inch Journey.

Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.

What you are doing is exploring. You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is an experience of essential loneliness, for nobody can discover the world for anyone else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes a common ground and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.

I have no doubt that God knew it would be a good day for me receive these words. I have no doubt that the novitiate will challenge me in many ways. I have no doubt that this community will support me through the challenges. I have no doubt the journey is worth it.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Zip, Zip, and Away!

This past week our community had its annual LLL days. One of those L's stands for leisure, so on Friday, I, along with two other sisters, went to Peek 'n' Peak to enjoy the adventure course and ziplining there. It might have been a bit more exhausting than leisure, but it sure was fun!

The adventure course was like an obstacle course through the trees.

We had to move from one tree platform to another through the air.

Some parts were harder than others!

But the reward...zipline! You can see where the line ends, in the distance.

And then we did the big zipline - two lines about 900 feet each.

And to get down when it ended, you could choose to take the stairs or to bungee jump -
we all jumped from the platform!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tasty Traditions

One of my favorite parts of my postulancy is experiencing the traditions of this community. Today I experienced a particularly sweet tradition: annual homemade pies! My contribution was key lime.

Graham Cracker crust...

Ready for filling!

Add some zest...

And lots of key limes!

To create a tasty treat!

I am particularly grateful for this tradition!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Prophets of Peace

We spent this weekend celebrating the Feast of Saint Scholastica, Benedict's twin sister. Each year the community gives an award called ...