Showing posts from 2017

Happy New Year

From Mary Oliver

Stanley Kunitz
I used to imagine him coming from his house, like Merlin strolling with important gestures through the garden where everything grows so thickly,  where birds sing, little snakes lie on the boughs, thinking of nothing but their own good lives,  where petals float upward,  their colors exploding,  and trees open their moist pages of thunder - it has happened every summer for years.
But now I know more about the great wheel of growth,  and decay, and rebirth,  and know my vision for a falsehood. Now I see him coming from the house - I see him on his knees,  cutting away the diseased, the superfluous,  coaxing the new,  know that the hour of fulfillment is buried in years of patience - yet willing to labor like that on the mortal wheel.
Oh, what good it does the heart to know it isn’t magic!  Like the human child I am I rush to imitate - I watch him as he bends among the leaves and vines to hook some weed or other;  I think of him there raking and trimming, stirring up those sheets of fire bet…

What Else?!

I mean, really, what else would I blog about right now?

If you visited Lake Erie on Friday afternoon, this is what you would have seen.

If you visited Lake Erie today, this is what you would have seen.

Yes, it's true we are setting records. This was just the beginning out my bedroom window: Christmas morning, 10:35am.

And, this was the latest adventure: A walk right before evening prayer today, 4:30pm.

Here is a true community effort: cleaning off the cars the first time. (Tomorrow will come.)

And, having some fun while doing so.

We ventured out for a late afternoon walk. See the depth!

Here are some sights along the way.

Then, we arrived at the lake. Reminiscent of last year's adventure!

We had to stop for a break on the way back due to exhaustion.

Stay warm everyone!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Or, as Erin says, "Let us trudge through banks of snow in the holy presence."

Where Am I?!

If you were to visit our chapel here at the Mount today, you would find many different scenes.
The chapel is one of the most essential places in the monastery where we practice our vow of stability, but with the fourth week of Advent and Christmas Eve falling on the same day, today's a bit unique. Take a look:
Kudos to the team who made this all happen! Great work! Tonight's Liturgy will certainly be unique, too! And note our lovely Christmas tree (quite unique), with arms extended upward, welcoming all who come to celebrate Christ incarnate.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Let us walk in the holy presence.

Experiencing Incarnation

Last night I was sitting at the front desk on "Bells," as we call them, while in the chapel the handbell choir very audibly practiced Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Glory to the newborn king!

Yes, we aren't there quite yet, but we are so, so close. You know how at some point during the final days of Advent...all of can feel Christmas? I felt that feeling while listening to that song being practiced.

Hail the Flesh, the God Head see;
Hail the incarnate Deity!

On Monday morning, one line from the gospel reflection in Give Us This Day read:

"What is worth beholding is astonishment at what God can draw out of each experience."

I shouldn't be surprised by how much I loved these words; they are truth. But, I am still quite stuck on this contemplative line; God packs each experience with the potential for sacred awe. Benedict, too, reminds us that all time is holy. In particular, by marking the hours of the day in prayer…

JOY to the World

It is Gaudete Sunday.

Joy abounds!

I began reflecting on so many small moments of joy throughout my day, and suddenly overwhelm overcame me.

Blessings abound.

Someone brought me sweet treats when she came to Liturgy today.We stood in our places and practiced songs for Christmas liturgies during Schola; as we were told that we would sing Adeste Fideles nextin the liturgy, we walked back to our seats singing the song to ourselves.My dear friend told me a story about a welcoming parish community.There were beautiful duets during prayer and Liturgy this morning: organ/piano for O Come, O Come Emmanuel and piano/flute for People Look East.I sat next to someone who was wearing the same shoes that I was, which gave us a laugh.It is week 3 in the psalter, which means it is the week that we sing "Let us walk in the holy presence" during the Isaiah canticle.The O Antiphons have begun.It didn't snow.
The list is longer...that's the thing; I am usually moving too fast to stop and…

Being and Doing

Ah, the great challenge...balancing being and doing within one self.

I just finished reading Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber. (Yes, it took a while, but it was worth the lingering. It felt like I was reading just the words I needed just as I was reading them.) Being/doing is a major theme in the book, an account of Ken Wilber's walk with his wife through cancer.

His wife, Treya, comes to learn the balance, to appreciate the being that is so difficult in our world, to share with others the wisdom she gains from being, to live "both/and."

That summarizes her entire life. Grace and grit. Being and doing. Equanimity and passion. Surrender and will. Total acceptance and fierce determination. Those two sides of her soul, the two sides she had wrestled with all her life, the two sides that she had finally brought together into one harmonious whole.

So, I have been thinking about this being and doing a lot lately.

On Monday we began a transition at daycare, my ministry. As the season…

Loco(a) for Coco

This really is the time of year to go to the movies. Because the race for the Academy Awards begins, all the best movies premiere around this close to the qualifying deadline as possible so that they will be fresh in the memory of the voting body.

Such as it is, I used to spend a lot of time at the movies around this time of year. Seeing two movies in one month is a lot for me now. I saw Lady Bird over Thanksgiving weekend, and I was supposed to see Coco on Thursday night. But, with a measurement of 10.3 inches of "the white stuff," we held off until yesterday instead.

I would see anything that had the names Disney and Pixar attached to it, and on top of positive reviews, I was quite excited to see Coco.

While there was definitely quite a bit of darkness in the storyline for a children's film, like Lady Bird, this is another one that I'd highly recommend. With themes such as family, vocation, life, and death explored through the story of Miguel, a young boy…

Pondering Nature

I remember being told how critical I was by my seventh grade teacher. I had just rendered my judgment on some project, and I most definitely had my opinions that needed to be vocalized. I have been told that this critical nature of mine will be with me, like a dear friend, most likely for the course of my lifetime.

That isn't to say that I cannot and do not take this part of myself to prayer, or that I haven't learned to keep my mouth shut a bit more frequently than I could when I was 12, but it's part of my nature, and I might as well embrace it.

I was struck by today's gospel and the reflection in Give Us This Day. I started to think about how Jesus's nature was bearing witness to the fullness of God in humanity--the unlimited potential of what the Divine can do through flesh and bones and emotions and earthly life.

So, what does it mean when...
Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, goes up on the mountain, and sits down there.

Great crowds come to him, having…


I was talking to a dear friend of mine who happened to be opening Mary Oliver's Thirst for the first time ever! What a life-changing moment for all of us, I'm sure! So, I picked up my copy, full of many memories used as bookmarks over the years (some Scripture, an answer key for grading a fourth grade test, a Google map print-out from 2012, and quotes scribbled down from Dorothy Day's journal, among other goodies). I started to list my favorite poems by page number for her. I just read selected lines from some favorites, too.

Dorothy Day's words marked one of my favorite poems that I use to accompany me through the winter months: The Winter Wood Arrives. (Page 14)

I think
     I could have
          built a little house
               to live in

with the single cord—
     half seasoned, half not—
          trucked into the
               driveway and

tumbled down. But, instead,
     friends came
          and together we stacked it
               for the long, cold days

that are—

Lady Bird

I had the good fortune to see the movie Lady Bird last night. I had seen some great early reviews of the movie, and it now scores 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I use as a pretty accurate guide since it averages many individual movie reviews to create a score for a particular film.
Lady Bird tells the story of Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a high-school senior who deals with all the usual high school "stuff": friendships, love, college applications, parents, dreams, idealism, and identity. Nothing happens in the story that we might characterize as "over-the-top" or "unrealistic;" there is nothing to really give away with spoilers, yet it totally captures you and invites you in because it is so true-to-life. And while she is dealing with her coming-of-age at 17 or 18, I think the movie would resonate with most people at some level because it tells a very human story.
The film was funny, yet heartbreaking...just like the teenage years. The relat…

Giving Thanks

Right now I am particularly grateful for this prayer from Hosffman Ospino that showed up in Give Us This Day on November 13 as the gospel reflection.

Lord, grant me your wisdom.
     Wisdom to learn what I must know to love you more and contemplate the depths of your mystery in the everyday.
     Wisdom to trust in the work of your Holy Spirit in my life and in the world, so I can walk with the confidence that in the end all will be well.
     Wisdom to listen to your Word with an open mind and a willing heart, making it the norm of my journey.
     Wisdom to long for you with the desire to be consumed by the power of your transforming and generous love.
     Wisdom to cherish your life-giving presence in a world charged with your grandeur.
     Wisdom to recognize you in my sisters and brothers, especially those most in need, starting with those who live closest to me.
     Wisdom to be conscious that I am but an earthen vessel sustained by your grace despite my sins and my limitations.

In Equal Measure

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one-- to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.
As I sit with today's gospel, I am pondering the numbers for the first time (at least for the first time that I can remember!). This is odd given my proclivity for quantitative reasoning, but I usually end up focusing on the cultivating versus squandering with this particular reading.

More specifically than just the numbers, I am spending time with the fact that each of the first two servants brings back the same number of talents as were entrusted to them.

What would it look like to use all the gifts God has given me? Not just the ones I feel like using that day, or the ones that are easy to harvest. Not just 1 of the 2, or 3 of the 5--50% or 60%, if we are talking numbers. What would it look like to live totally and completely, 100%, out o…

The Moment at Heart

I get tired of reading all the reflections on how busy we are, and perhaps I shouldn't spend my time reading them, but...

I did read a piece on my dear On Being blog yesterday by Omid Safi titled, The Disease of Being Busy. What was different about this reflection for me was that he suggested something that I believe might actually help us pause, might not stop making us busy (since it feels inevitable at this point), but might just help us grow in compassion for others, too. Safi writes:

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this
haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

Wow. How is your heart doing at this very moment? Imagine what might happen to us if we asked that question...a…

Listen With the Ear of Your Heart

For the past two weeks, it's been parent-teacher conference time at Saint Benedict Center. As I meet with parents and learn more about the whole picture of their children and their development into human beings, I have been reflecting on the ways I am also learning about the nature of God.

Parents are very excited to tell you about their children; I have learned how important it is to let them talk as I make sincere attempts to practice Benedict's art of "listening with the heart of your heart." I try to do this instead of immediately posing questions that will reinforce some of my preconceived notions about the child--something which I have practiced much during my brief time as a teacher.

I was sitting with one particular parent, and all of a sudden it dawned on me.

Having these conferences, I see how it is not just the parents who want to tell me about their children; God is always trying to speak to me about Her creation. Parents want an opportunity to be heard, …

More from Ken Wilber

From No Boundary: ________________________
Perhaps we can approach this fundamental insight of the mystics—that there is but one immortal Self or Witness common in and to us all—in this way. Perhaps you, like most people, feel that you are basically the same person you were yesterday. You probably also feel that you are fundamentally the same person you were a year ago. Indeed, you still seem to be the same you as far back as you can remember. Put it another way: you never remember a time when you weren’t you. In other words, something in you seems to remain untouched by the passage of time. But surely your body is not the same as it was even a year ago. Surely also your sensations are different today than in the past. Surely, too, your memories are on the whole different today than a decade ago. Your mind, your body, your feelings—all have changed with time. But something has not changed, and you know that something has not changed. Something feels the same. What is that?

This time a…

Coping With Reality

This weekend we returned to Villa Maria, PA for an intercommunity formation weekend as we do a few times a year. This time we heard a Marist brother, Br. Don Bisson, speak on religious life as a container. He meant “container” in the sense that it becomes the space and shape that holds our discernment. So, if I chosen to live the monastic life, that is the container that informs my choices.

He spent Saturday morning talking about the process of individuation and transformation that religious life uniquely offers. Each person, consecrated or not, enters into the life process of moving from False Self to True Self, as Merton put it. (Br. Don uses “Coping” instead of “False.”) But, by entering religious life we enter into that process of conversion in a heightened and conscious way. I loved his use of the term “Coping Self,” as it felt a gentler way of naming our rough edges that need some smoothing on our way to God. He reminded us to be grateful because what we did to cope got us to w…

Song for Autumn

I am finally willing to admit autumn is here. We haven't taken the kids out for playtime in a few days, and I have upgraded my coat. While I cannot admit that this is my favorite time of year, the colors are rather beautiful, and this poem from Mary Oliver makes it a bit easier, or at least it gives me something to ponder about the season.

Song for Autumn
In the deep fall don’t you imagine the leaves think how comfortable it will be to touch the earth instead of the nothingness of air and the endless freshets of wind? And don’t you think the trees themselves, especially those with mossy, warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep inside their bodies? And don’t you hear the goldenrod whispering goodbye, the everlasting being crowned with the first tuffets of snow? The pond vanishes, and the white field over which the fox runs so quickly brings out its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its bellows. And at evening especially, the piled firewood shifts a little, longi…

Living Stories

This weekend was our community weekend. Dr. Diana Hayes spoke to the community and our oblate community on the subject of race. She shared personal stories and encouraged us to share who we are, too.

The story that moved me most came near the end of the day on Saturday. A gay woman told us about a group to which she belongs that advocates for the rights of LBGT elders in the community, while providing them safe space, too. A similar group of young gay people invited them the night before to celebrate Halloween together. She noted that the younger gay community did not seem to have the same prejudices that the elders had; they were more open to intermingling among races, ages, and genders. She said it was the best party because, it seems, it was true community.

In community we celebrate together, support one another, and strive to live right relationship authentically. Today's Gospel reading reminded us of just that: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Our preside…

Back in the Classroom

On Monday I returned to full-time ministry at Saint Benedict Center with my dear 1-2 year olds. So far it has been wonderful; the past three days have been filled with runny noses and running feet!

I have always done a bit of pondering about the nature of God via classroom contemplation, and now the experience continues after a brief hiatus called novitiate. I think about what teachers offer to their students: compassion, mercy, instruction, and wisdom. But, while I often run out of all of those things (sometimes by 9am), God doesn't.

But I have also noticed that novitiate did work some conversion magic as I have found that I am more willing to be patient with these young explorers. It is exciting for me since I used to spend a lot more time worrying about small stuff in the classroom. To think of the infinite patience God has for us is magnificent indeed. May we bring that patience to everyone we meet.

Here is a Mary Oliver favorite on contemplation called Song of the Builders:
On …

At the River, Life

It's that wonderful time of year when you can still comfortably wear shorts to go for a run while also crunching leaves as you move along the pavement.

This time of year is also wonderful for a different reason now. Yesterday I made my first monastic profession--promising stability, obedience, and fidelity to the monastic way of life with the Erie Benedictine community.

I certainly do not have adequate words to describe the day yet, as the experience has only just begun to soak into my Spirit.

I do know that I am grateful that family and friends arrived safely on their journeys to be here with community for the celebration. I do know that I am grateful for the warm cup of coffee I drank in the afternoon. I do know that I am grateful for the quiet moments of reading Mary Oliver poetry right before the ceremony. I knew I had to read At the River Clarion, my Mary favorite poem, before the evening began. I am going to let a few lines from the poem do the talking until I am ready.

I don…

Community Milestone

Our community celebrates something big on this fine Sunday. Today is the birthday of Sister Placida, the first member of this group of Benedictine women to reach 100 years of age.

Placida's spirit is still young, vibrant, and sharp. She is an avid reader and lover of beauty. The other day when I was talking to her, she told me about her evolution of finding God. Now she finds God in the breeze.

My first memory of Placida takes me back to a time before I was a community member myself. At my first Holy Week, Placida sat at a table with me during dinner on Holy Thursday. We struck up a good conversation, and by the end of Triduum, she had given a Benedictine medal to another sister to give to me. The catch was that she thought she was my biological sister. It created a fun bond, and I credit my first Benedictine medal to Sister Placida. Since then, I have gained many more wonderful memories of a very special woman...and a few more medals to boot!

Join with me in celebrating our dear …

A Field of Stars

We just heard an enrichment series program from one of our oblates who walked the Camino--a pilgrimage through France and Spain that ends at Santiago de Compostela. It is well known now; most have probably heard of it, so it is always nice to hear a personal account.

My favorite book that I've read about the Camino is To The Field of Stars, which is the account of an American priest walking the journey. And these are my favorite lines from the book:

We want that one star to reveal a twinkle in the eye of God for us. Well, actually we want to see far more than just one star; we want to see them all, strewn, cast, dancing away in their galactic pinwheels. We want to see there an extravagant God who does not count or measure but just pours and pours and pours, grace upon grace, stars upon stars, in our sky, into us. We hope against hope that before we die we might see what Abraham saw: a universe shot through with sparkling care. Then everything will make sense. To witness all this, t…

Profession Blessings

Yesterday our community celebrated a beautiful moment--the perpetual monastic profession of Sister Pat. It was a beautiful day in every way: joyful, sunny, and full of love.

I personally loved the chapel environment with rose arrangements symbolizing death and life. They perfectly represented the Paschal Mystery into which Pat professed to live through obedience, stability, and fidelity to monastic life.

Many blessings to Pat as she continues her journey into the Heart of Love with this community.

Uphold me, O God, according to Your word and I shall live; and do not fail me in my hope.
Let us walk in the holy presence.

Cycling With Sisters

I went into Monday's bike ride knowing that it would personally be a fitting way to end my novitiate year: a tangible and meaningful journey that represents the commitment I am about to make two and a half weeks from now--a prayerful pilgrimage with community.

And it was just that.

There were no exceptional, extraordinary moments that were the "must-tell" stories. The whole experience was just plain ol' wonderful, filled with beauty throughout...and we did it together.

A fellow journeyer asked me about my vocation story while entering into Buffalo--telling my tale while riding felt appropriate. Riding across into Canada on the Peace Bridge was a thrill, too.

And, there was the destination.

Thank you all for your support, for staying connected with us throughout the day, for wanting to hear about it all upon our return. We did it together.

Let us ride in the holy presence.

The Journey

Here is a picture of the early days of me learning to ride a bike with a friend.

You might be surprised by how old I look. Yes, I learned to ride a bike when I was 24.

I don't have a picture of the actual day that I was first able to "push off" and remain stable, but it was a long journey to get to that day.

Tomorrow, a group of us will be riding our bikes from North East, PA to Niagara Falls in support of the Communicators for Women Religious (CWR) and women religious in general. The network's annual conference meets in Niagara Falls this year, and a bike pilgrimage will begin the meeting with prayer stops along the way--mindful of social justice issues at the heart of the Gospel work of women religious

Yes, a 100-mile journey. And, yes, we are excited!

You can follow us live on Facebook tomorrow by clicking on this.

You can also read about the ride, called Cycling With Sisters.

And here.

See you on the road!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Awesome Flowers

The other day at a meal a group of us talked about the way we sort all our photos on our computers. Some use categories; some use years; some use more specific dates. I use specific dates for the most part. But, I loved hearing one person tell us that a category she uses to organize is simply "Awesome." There were some who also used the category "flowers."

So, in honor of this conversation, here are some awesome flowers from my time in Maine during a visit to Thuya Garden.

This subcategory is Dahlias--one of my favorite flowers:

And file these in the subcategory "Becoming," as I found the same flower in different phases of its life cycle:
(Belle blanche) 

(Another Dahlia or two or three)
And, finally, creatures on flowers:

Let us walk in the holy presence.