Showing posts from March, 2017

The Many Names of God

In our community when you are the prayer leader, you begin the Prayer of Jesus as part of the role. This means that you are the one who addresses God, beginning the prayer with a title of your choice.

I'd say that the most common choice is "Loving God," or, to change the syntax a bit, "God of Love." Loving Creator also shows up often, as well as God of Compassion, or God of Mercy, or Ever-Faithful God, or God of Our Longing. Sometimes we get less oft-used titles: "Abba," "Divine Source," or "Mother/Father."

The other day I started thinking about this practice, and it became more and more beautiful as I reflected on it. By listening to the different images that our sisters have of God, we experience a more complete image of our Creator, one that includes more than just our own perspective. Maybe the prayer leader feels especially in need of mercy or forgiveness that day and chooses the fitting title. Maybe the choice was just the ti…

Leaping in Joy for Spring

I cannot dance, O God, unless you lead me. If you will that I leap joyfully then you must be the first to dance and to sing!
Then, and only then, will I leap for love.
Then will I soar from love to knowledge, from knowledge to fruition from fruition to beyond all human sense.
And there I will remain and circle for evermore.
Mechthild of Madgeburg

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Cenobitic Living

Benedict is pretty clear: Be a cenobite.

When I first entered community, I have to admit, I hadn't heard of the word cenobite before, but after the Prologue in the Rule of Benedict, Benedict goes straight to a description of the different types of monks in Chapter 1.

"First, there are the cenobites, that is to say, those who belong to a monastery, where they serve under a rule and a prioress/abbot."

Sounds good...rather straightforward. Then, he goes on to explain the hermits. Following the hermits come the sarabaites, "the most detestable kind of monastics." According to Benedict they do "whatever strikes their fancy." Doesn't lend well to obedience, does it?

But, it gets worse. Fourth and finally come the gyrovagues, those monks who never settle down. "In every way they are worse than the sarabaites," says Benedict. If you do the math, then, gyrovagues are worse than the most detestable kind of monastics. Yikes! The chapter concludes:


Simple Delights

An essential part of novitiate is learning presence. By not having an external ministry in the community, there are many opportunities for it. The other day I popped into the room of one of our sisters. She happens to be the other slice of bread in the community's age sandwich - we are seventy years apart!
I thanked her for some photos she sent me the day before. At 99 years of age, she loves her iPad and capturing special moments on it! I looked at the wall of her room, and I saw this:

She explained to me that it was Mary having tea! It made me smile quite a bit, and she told me that another sister in our community gave her this unique tea set. What a simply joy she shared with me! Then, she asked me if I could take a picture of her so she could send it to her friends. Today I asked if I could use it on my blog, and she said yes.

What a great photo! Today she was looking through a home design magazine to which she subscribes. She not only shared with me pictures of fancy living …

Committed to Refugees

Our community has a corporate commitment that gives focus to our vision and work. Our commitment reads:

"As Benedictine Sisters of Erie we commit ourselves to be a healing presence and prophetic witness for peace by working for sustainability and justice, especially for women and children."

As a novice, we work on a project that aligns with this corporate commitment. After a few ideas, one fell into my lap that combines a few things which are right up my alley.

I am participating in a project called "Young Peace Journalists." The youth coordinator of Pax Christi International coordinates this effort to give voice to refugees internationally. There are about twenty of us, all under 30, from the following countries: Portugal, Democratic Republic of Congo, England, Kenya, Germany, The Netherlands, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and the US.

All of the participants have connections to refugees where they live. Through Pax Christi we are learning some basics of journalism …

Transfigure Us, O God

One of my Lenten practices has been to read a chapter of Joan Chittister's, In Search of Belief every morning. In each chapter of the book she writes about a phrase of the Creed, breaking down the prayer. This morning I read, "He Was Conceived by the Holy Spirit."

Here is the quote that received a few underlines:

"The Spirit opened Jesus to a world beyond his own."

I thought about the implications of this, which brought a line of poetry to mind, as well as a few verses from Scripture. First, the poetry:

"The world is charged with the grandeur of God."

Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us that sacred presence immerses this world, and we know this is true because Jesus, the Christ, came to share his humanity, as well as his divinity with us. It was the Holy Spirit that allowed Jesus to do this, to enter into the world. So, I also thought of the oft-heard Philippians 2:5-11:

"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, …

To Pray These Words Each Morning

Neither I nor the poets I love
found the keys to the kingdom of prayer
and we cannot force God
to stumble over us where we sit.
But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway.
So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting,
making friends with the habit of listening,
hoping that I’m being listened to.
There, I greet God in my own disorder.
I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions,
my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble.
I say hello to distraction and privilege,
I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus.
I recognise and greet my burdens,
my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story.
I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story,
my unloved body, my own love, my own body.
I greet the things I think will happen
and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day.
I greet my own small world
and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day,
and hope that I can hear some stories,
and greet some surprising stories d…

The Lenten Journey Continues...

So, this is the first Sunday of Lent, and I have already encountered the first struggle.

After choosing something I wanted to do for the season, I heard what was simultaneously the best and the worst homily this morning. (#superlatives)

Today's Gospel focused on the temptations of Jesus before he began his public ministry. Our presider reminded us that the temptations we face are not really between good and evil, but rather they are a temptation where we must choose if we will rely on ourselves or if we will rely on God.

Adam and Eve decided to go it alone. Jesus? Not so much.

Then, here comes the punchline: "The greatest (note: superlative) temptation we face during Lent is to believe that we can effect our own conversion."

I repeat: The greatest temptation we face during Lent is to believe that we can effect our own conversion.

Uh oh.

And with those words from Fr. Jim, I knew I had a problem on my hands.

You see, I had already decided how my Lenten action would help me…

The Lenten Journey Begins...

The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of our own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 1:6). In other words, let each one deny herself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.Everyone should, however, make known to the prioress what she intends to do, since it ought to be done with her…