Sunday, December 31, 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
between the smothering weights of earth, 
the wild and shapeless air.

May we all engage fully in the "great wheel of growth, and decay, and rebirth" as we enter the new year.

Happy 2018! May it be full of blessing.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

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."

Sunday, December 24, 2017

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:

 Morning

Noon

Afternoon

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.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

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 sudden...you 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.

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere...beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office. (RB 19)

May we pay attention, even during those "little hours," to the ways God marks all of life as holy. May we hear the music.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Someone started decorating the tree early!


Sunday, December 17, 2017

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 next in 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 pay attention. Mary Oliver reminds us, though: Attention is the beginning of devotion. (Which I just referenced a few weeks ago, but we also referenced during Advent sharing today...another joyful experience.)

Let us walk in the holy presence.




The accumulation has begun.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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 ended for families in the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program, classrooms were joined together. My group of 18-24 month-olds came together with the infants, babies between 6 months and 12 months. Well, there is a big difference between those two groups. Today I was able to identify it: being and doing.

The infants just are. The toddlers just do; they have entered the world of exploring, running, jumping, and playing. The infants will simply and peacefully sit with a toy just so long as they don't get hungry or sleepy. No wonder it can get a bit challenging with both age groups; I can barely manage the balance myself!

Then, because everything connects, someone sent me an email with a quote and a reflection today. The quote is from Pablo Picasso:

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

And the accompanying reflection:

Sometimes life seems like a never-ending battle between doing and being. If I wish to be present, I need to turn my attention toward myself, but most of us lose our connection with ourselves as soon as we go into movement. Yet as we watch great dancers, great athletes and great actors move, we can't help but see how deeply connected they are with themselves, seemingly listening to themselves while giving a superlative performance. What's their secret? It clearly has to do with attention, with focus. They offer hope that it's possible to do and be at the same time.

Clearly there is a call to sit more deeply with this balance in my life!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Lingering signs from yesterday's vigil in support of the children and DACA.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

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 time...as 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 whose greatest passion is music, the creators focused on the interconnected spirit celebrated during Día de los Muertos as a context for that exploration.

But perhaps my favorite part of the film was the "Spirit animals" of the strong, passionate women in the movie! For a thoughtful piece about women, our broken sexual culture, and all the reports of sexual abuse, read what Courtney Martin has to say on the On Being blog.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Already dreaming of warmer weather!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

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.

When...
Great crowds come to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.

When...
Jesus summons his disciples and says, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way."

When...
He takes the seven loaves and the fish, gives thanks, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples, who in turn give them to the crowds. 

When...
They all eat and are satisfied.

When...
They pick up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

Pondering this passage is part of my preparing during these Advent weeks. In the reflection, written by Chris Anderson, he reminds us that we too easily write off the miracles of Jesus as metaphors, but it is these miracles which we must find in the ordinary.

Being a critical person often makes doing this quite a challenge for me. I hear a story of "Spirit at work," and I hesitate to believe. I hesitate to believe in the fullness of God's possibility.

May my Advent journey open me up to the Divine ordinary and the Divine possibility, to the miracle found in the abundance of enough, to Jesus sitting down with us in the daily. May your journey do the same for you.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thirsting

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—
     maybe the only sure thing in the world—
          coming soon.
               How to keep warm

is always a problem,
     isn’t it?
          Of course, there’s love.
               And there’s prayer.

I don’t belittle them,
     and they have warmed me,
          but differently,
               from the heart outwards.

Imagine
     what swirls of frost will cling
          to the windows, what white lawns
               I will look out on

as I rise from morning prayers,
     as I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves,
          as I go out into the yard
               and bring the wood in

with struggling steps,
     with struggling thoughts,
          bundle by bundle,
               to be burned.


By the way Dorothy Day, whose Feast we celebrated yesterday, writes, "One's spiritual life takes three hours a day at least." According to my notes, that was on page 298 of her diaries!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

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 relationships were tender, yet complicated...just like all our years. Lady Bird attends an Immaculate Heart school in Sacramento. As she struggles with all those things I wrote about, she talks to one of the sisters at the school. It was this exchange that I particularly loved:

Lady Bird: “I don’t know that I love it, I just pay attention that’s all.”
Sister Sarah Joan:  “But aren’t they the same thing, love and attention?”

Yes, they are. They are the same. Just as Mary Oliver also says, "Attention is the beginning of devotion." So, if you cannot tell what I am getting at...go see Lady Bird! Pay attention; I hope you'll love it, too!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

a unique church we stumbled upon during a walk the other day...still open? unsure. love the blue doors? sure do.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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.
     Wisdom to forgive as many times as it takes, mindful that you forgive me infinitely with your abundant, merciful love.
     Wisdom to thank you for loving me into existence and, in light of that love, calling me to be with you, now and in eternity.
     If anyone ever sees a glimpse of that wisdom, may they know that it is you in me. Amen.

Isn't that beautiful? Doesn't that pretty much cover the bases? It is definitely one of the reflections that I tore out to save. May you be blessed with wisdom inside and out this holiday season.

By the way: Today I was grateful that I could hold a child in my arms in the rocking chair for twenty minutes without him squirming out! Small joys!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

"Gobble, Gobble" from the kiddos!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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 of the love that God has poured inside me? What would it look like for you?

Mary Oliver reminds us of our task in one of the first poems of hers that I loved, When I Am Among the Trees:

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
     but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

May you go easily through this world. May you be filled with light. May you shine. In equal measure to God's unique love for you.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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...and listened.

Over the weekend I was talking to a friend about the courage it takes to share yourself; she referenced this blog in particular. It can be challenging to know which parts of my life I want to share, and certainly risky, too. This question, "How is your heart doing right now?" holds much vulnerability in the answer, as well as for the listener who might not be prepared to hear a given response. It takes courage (or heart!) to engage the question.

If I were to tell you about my heart right now, I would tell you about a heart in transition, a heart trying to hold the sacredness of my novitiate year while also holding the sacredness of being with children. I love being in both those places, and I am in liminal space as I dance between the two. This reality also presents the mystery of being created for Love, which I experience in both places, while also being a limited human being, who can only be in one of those places. Oh, if we could only have it all.

And, I think that is what our hearts struggle with, no matter what form it takes: being a whole heart created by God while also being wholly human. It's messy, and it keeps our lives full as we try to do it all, but maybe sharing our unique heart space at any given moment is the real answer. Maybe feeling more deeply connected to someone else in the messiness and busyness of life is the best we can do.

How is your heart doing at this very moment?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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, so does God. God puts the lessons right in front of me; it is me who has to get quiet. Of course there is a place for clarifying questions and personal observations, just as there is a place for daily prayer.

Mary Oliver reminds us in a poem that I quote most often, At the River Clarion:

I'd been to the river before, a few times.
Don't blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don't hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don't hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it's difficult to hear anything anyway, through
     all the traffic and ambition.

As I learn to make space to visit the river she describes, as I imagine who these 1 and 2-year olds will grow up to become in their already budding personalities, as I grow in relationship with life, I am grateful for the opportunity to listen to the daily lessons around me.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

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 year ago you had different concerns and basically different problems. Your immediate experiences were different, and so were your thoughts. All of these have vanished, but something in you remains. Go one step further. What if you moved to a completely different country, with new friends, new surroundings, new experiences, new thoughts. You would still have that basic inner feeling of I-ness. Further yet, what if you right now forgot the first ten years, or fifteen years, or twenty years of your life? You would still feel that same inner I-ness, would you not? If right now you just temporarily forget everything that happened in your past, and just feel that pure inner I-ness—has anything really changed?

There is, in short, something within you—that deep inward sense of I-ness—that is not memory, thoughts, mind, body, experience, surroundings, feelings, conflicts, sensations, or moods. For all of these have changed and can change without substantially affecting that inner I-ness. That is what remains untouched by the flight of time—and that is the transpersonal Witness and Self.

Is it then so very difficult to realize that every conscious being has that same inner I-ness? And that, therefore, the overall number of transcendent I’s is but one? We have already surmised that if you had a different body you would still basically feel the same I-ness—but that is already the very same way every other person feels right now. Isn’t it just as easy to say there is but one single I-ness or Self taking on different views, different memories, different feelings and sensations?

And not just at this time, but at all times, past and future. Since you undoubtedly feel (even though your memory, mind, and body are different) that you are the same person of twenty years ago (not the same ego or body, but the same I-ness), couldn’t you also be the same I-ness of two-hundred years ago? If I-ness isn’t dependent upon memories and mind and body, what difference would it make? In the words of physicist Schroedinger, "It is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling and choice which you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather this knowledge, feeling and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings. The conditions for your existence are almost as old as the rocks. For thousands of years men have striven and suffered and begotten and women have brought forth in pain. A hundred years ago, perhaps, another man sat on this spot; like you he gazed with awe and yearning in his heart at the dying light on the glaciers. Like you he was begotten of man and born of woman. He felt pain and brief joy as you do. Was he someone else? Was it not you yourself?"
________________________

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

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 where we are in our journeys; befriending the gifts received leads us to awareness of God’s grace at work in our lives.

It is no secret that my Coping Self is a strong perfectionist, one who struggles with reality in favor of living in a self-created idealized world. Going back to work with two-year olds is surely helping me live in reality these days though! 

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, God, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. [...] Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I am reading Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber right now (highly recommend!). He speaks of the path that we heard about this weekend, as well as the yoke we seek en route to our True Self:

Well, we might say that there are several "paths" that constitute what I am generically calling "the Path" [...] For example, in Hinduism it is said that there are five major paths or yogas. "Yoga" simply means "union,” a way to unite the soul with Godhead. In English the word is "yoke.” When Christ says, "My yoke is easy," he means "My yoga is easy.” [...] But maybe I could simplify the whole thing by saying that all these paths, whether found in Hinduism or in any of the other wisdom traditions, break down into just two major paths. I have another quote here for you from Swami Ramdas: “There are two ways: one is to expand your ego to infinity, and the other is to reduce it to nothing, the former by knowledge, and the latter by devotion. The Jnani [knowledge holder] says: ‘I am God—the Universal Truth.’ The devotee says: ‘I am nothing, O God, You are everything.’ In both cases, the ego-sense disappears.” The point is that, in either case, an individual on the Path transcends the small self, or dies to the small self, and thus rediscovers or resurrects his or her Supreme Identity with universal Spirit. And that brings us to the fifth major point of the perennial philosophy, namely, that of a Rebirth, Resurrection, or Enlightenment. In your own being, the small self must die so that the big Self may resurrect.


Yes, Reality tells me: Jesus is the Truth. We are the Beloved. Coping with that is easy.

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

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,
longing to be on its way.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

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 presider reminded us how much that second commandment depends on the first, on developing one's own relationship with God. What I loved about his homily today was that as he shared those words with us, he realized he had nothing more to say. He sort of stopped and admitted, "I don't know what else to say," so he left it at that as he left the ambo. It was such a humble moment. There is only so much talk that we can do; then we have to go live.

I hope we all have opportunities to live stories like the one shared on Saturday, one that enlivens not only those present but those who hear the story, too. We need stories like that more than ever, and we won't be able to share them if we don't start living.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Geese getting on with living as I was getting on with running

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

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 a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God –

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.


Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

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’t know who God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.

If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.

He’s every one of us, potentially.
The leaf of grass, the genius, the politician,

     the poet.
And if this is true, isn’t it something very important?

Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and
     each of you too, or at least
          of his intention and his hope.
Which is a delight beyond measure.


Let us walk in the holy presence.


Friday's Sunset at Presque Isle

Sunday, October 15, 2017

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 Sister Placida! L'chaim!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(Placida trying on my scarf right after I entered the community)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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, to see the stars dance, to dance with them ourselves, this is what attracts us, this is what has grabbed us by our souls, and this is what is pulling us down this crazy road. Ah, yes, the seeing of stars is indeed a great thing in this life.


Stars, and the night sky in general, fascinate me. Isn't this a beautiful reflection?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(I don't remember where I found this picture, but I love it.)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

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.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

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.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

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.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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) 

(Zinnia)


(Another Dahlia or two or three)

And, finally, creatures on flowers:

Let us walk in the holy presence.