Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Companion to Today's Gospel

Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples:
"No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet our heavenly God feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will God not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?'
or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?'
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Creator knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and God's righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil."

Camas Lilies
Lynn Ungar

Consider the liles of the field,
the blue banks of camas opening
into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?
And you—what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything—
leaving only a note: “Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming.”
Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.
Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ode to Jessica

For the past six months our community was blessed with the presence of Jessica, a participant in our Benedicta Riepp program.

Jessica came to us from Merida in Mexico, connected through our oblates there. What a risk to take -- a 25-year old young woman entering into a completely new culture and way of life for six months! And, she jumped right in! Her infectious laugh and smile will be greatly missed. (Especially every time she laughed at my use of superlatives!) I was personally grateful for an opportunity to practice my outdated Spanish, but more than that, I was grateful to experience her beautiful spirit.

Thanks for the memories, Jessica! You are the BEST! Until we meet again...

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Our last batch of chocolate chip cookies! With all the leftover dough in one cookie!

 Our first adventure to the peninsula...with Erin, too.

Celebrating the Feast of Scholastica

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chef's Table

A few days ago I discovered that Netflix released season 3 of one of my favorites, Chef's Table. The series documents chefs from around the world, giving us a glimpse of the food and the restaurants they create.

I don't just love Chef's Table because I love shows about food. I do, but I also love it because, for these chefs, the creation of a dish is an art; it is their form of self-expression, their passion. They have found purpose in this work.

To my even greater delight, the first episode of this new season gave spotlight to a Buddhist monk from Korea whose customers are the other monks in her community. Her name is Jeong Kwan, and her food is not anything extravagant. What makes her food so incredible is her mindfulness and her mindset that food contributes to our spiritual journey. I particularly loved this quote:

Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment. You must not be your own obstacle. You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind. This is being free. There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. That is my belief.

I highly recommend!

Let us walk in the holy presence.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Just Kids

A week or so ago I finished reading Patti Smith's memoir, Just Kids. Memoirs are my favorite genre of books because I love learning the stories of people's lives, and memoirs often feel more intimate than an autobiography.

I found this particular memoir to be wonderful; in it, Patti Smith details the relationship she shared with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe during the ultra-bohemian days of NYC. The title comes from Robert's words, and as I read this poem (The Chance, Arthur Sze) a few days after I finished reading, it made me think of the book again.

The blue-black mountains are etched
with ice. I drive south in fading light.
The lights of my car set out before
me and disappear before my very eyes.
And as I approach thirty, the distances
are shorter than I guess? The mind
travels at the speed of light. But for
how many people are the passions
ironwood, ironwood that hardens and hardens?
Take the ex-musician, insurance salesman,
who sells himself a policy on his own life;
or the magician who has himself locked
in a chest and thrown into the sea,
only to discover he is caught in his own chains.
I want a passion that grows and grows.
To feel, think, act, and be defined
by your actions, thoughts, feelings.
As in the bones of a hand in an X-ray,
I want the clear white light to work
against the fuzzy blurred edges of the darkness:
even if the darkness precedes and follows
us, we have a chance, briefly, to shine.

Here is a video of Patti Smith paying tribute to Bob Dylan at the Nobel Prize ceremony. Beautiful!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nevertheless, She Persisted

Those three words in the title have been popping up quite a bit lately and in a lot of places. How grateful am I for strong, compassionate women who model for me what commitment and truth are? My life is full of examples.

And, as if I needed another reason to love Elizabeth Warren...

I also saw this picture on Facebook about our most persistent mother, which I quite liked:
(c/o Women's March on Facebook)

We celebrated Saint Scholastica on Friday, Benedict's twin sister. The only real story we have of her is one of persistence. She wanted Benedict to stay in conversation with her one evening. He wanted to follow the rules and go back to his monastery. She prayed, and a storm began, making it impossible for Benedict to leave. #neverthelessshepersisted In my bedroom I keep another visual reminder of persistence, given to me by a spiritual director who taught me well.

And, here is a great list of other women who persisted.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


One of my novitiate projects is writing a research paper on the Rule of Benedict through exploring a theme found in it. I chose to explore the theme of peace, and I am deep into the nitty gritty of writing the paper.

Surprising (to me at least) is the fact that Benedict uses the actual word peace fewer than a dozen in the text of the Rule. Pax is ubiquitous in the world of Benedictinism. But, even though it is seldom mentioned explicitly, the theme still runs rampant throughout the Rule.

As I started working on the paper, I told some sisters about my work. They were quick to offer to read my paper and to answer any questions. One sister gave me books with quotes about peace. Certainly the experience of writing this paper is much more peaceful than those college days!

Here are a few quotes from the books.

It's a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problems all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than "try to be a little kinder." (Aldous Huxley)

If you live alone, whose feet will you wash? (St. Basil)

At some ideas you stand perplexed, especially at the sight of human sins, uncertain whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide, "I will combat it with humble love." If you make up your mind about that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force; it is the strongest of all things and there is nothing like it. (Dostoyevsky)

What is (hu)man?
Hope turned to dust.
What is (hu)man?
Dust turned to hope. (Elie Wiesel)

Be not lax in celebrating.
Be not lazy in the festive service of God.
Be ablaze with enthusiasm.
Let us be an alive, burning offering
before the altar of God. (Hildegard of Bingen)

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Saturday, February 4, 2017


Much of the solitude time during my novitiate takes me to my bedroom window and the area right outside of it. I have never paid so much attention to birds or squirrels or deer, ever. When snow lingers on the ground, the birds go through an entire feeder worth of food in a day. Anytime we put out old apples, the deer (or maybe squirrels) have consumed them by the next morning. (I have also learned that these animals do not like oranges and pears as much as apples.) Another sister has even told me that she spotted a pregnant deer right here on the monastery grounds outside her window!

It is sort of interesting to me that these animals are what have drawn me in - I certainly couldn't have predicted it, but as I reflect on it I am realizing that they are showing me a different way of being. They aren't worried about all the things I consume myself with; they just are. They come and go and are. Here are some of the tracks they (and some humans) have been making as they move about.

It makes wonder: What kind of tracks am I making right now?

I think my tracks are bit different than usual, as should be the case during novitiate. I feel myself calming down a bit inside, becoming more peaceful where I am. This is certainly a fruit of this unique year in my life. Brother John Mark Falkenhain, OSB says:

"Monks aren't terribly different than other people. Monks are very ordinary people who do very ordinary things - but are constantly seeking God in the ordinary. That's what distinguishes us and makes us extraordinary - looking intentionally and intensely at the ordinary in our search for God."

I am hoping that this is what my new tracks are teaching me - the peace of seeking God in the ordinary. And, if my tracks aren't teaching me, certainly the animals' tracks are.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Starlings in Winter

Because there can never be enough Mary Oliver...

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Let us walk in the holy presence.