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Showing posts from 2018

Running Into Morning

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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.

—“Song For Autumn,” Mary Oliver
And just like that, autumn came. Yesterday we had to come in from playing outside because the temperature was too hot. Today, I wore a flannel.

It makes running much more pleasant. I went for an early morning run today, my favorite time to head out on the open road. Last weekend I did the same, but we were…

Cover Songs and Cover-ups

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What a treat! Last weekend we took a road trip to New Jersey. I went to celebrate the wedding of a dear, dear, dear friend who I met on the first day of college. My Erie friends joined. Who could pass up an opportunity to dive into the ocean in late summer? Especially when it’s your first time ever for one of them. So, we put on our cover-ups, got some sandwiches from Wawa, and headed out on the NJ turnpike. Below you see a true Jersey native, body packed with all things beach, getting ready for a day embracing sand.


Jumping waves for a few hours exhausted us, but we sang our gratitude to Mother Ocean.

One highlight of the road trip were two extended sing-a-long sessions. We cranked up an eclectic YouTube playlist and sang our hearts out. Here are three wonderful songs we belted, sung by someone other than the original musicians.

A Case of You — Passenger

Romeo and Juliet — Indigo Girls

America — First Aid Kit

This weekend, we are off to Villa Maria for a formation weekend with Nancy Sy…

To be of use, by Marge Piercy (aka An Ode to Labor Day)

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The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher …

The Big City, etc.

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We are back from a wonderful time in New York, where we struck a lovely balance between the city and the quieter outskirts. Here is a bit of a photo journey through our week.

First (and most importantly!) the completed chocolate tart. It worked! (And it was decadently delicious!)

We spent our first full day visiting the Met (and the Cloisters) to see the highly popular exhibit, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. The exhibit is on display in both locations and combines actual papal vestments with fashion inspired by the intricate and ornate designs. It was rather fascinating and over-the-top (in a few ways). These fashions were positioned between the usual art. Here is a statue of Mary and Jesus that I loved. It caught my eye because of Mary; the description spoke of the weariness of Mary that would cause her to lean forward.

Here is cardinal-inspired fashion, on a female (!).

The second day we visited Greenport, which is at the tip of the North Fork of Long Island.…

Adventures in Baking, Humility, and Community

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As someone who loves spending time in the kitchen (My dream job in second grade was to be a chef.), I enjoy taking on a new culinary challenge. The newest challenge is a pastry, a tart to be exact—something I've never made before.

I found a delicious recipe for a salted-caramel chocolate tart, and a trip to New York next week was the perfect reason to finally make it, in order to be shared with our host. So, off I went.


Here is the crust after the butter had been incorporated. I kneaded it a few times and formed it into a disk shape to be chilled. Then, onto the salted-caramel filling.



Those are the pictures pre- and post-butter.

I got the first two parts done Wednesday evening. Thursday night it was time to bake the crust, again, something I've never done. But, I began rolling it out...


And, I was pleased with the results.


So, I got it into the oven, and when the crust was done, I looked at it, amazed at how beautiful it was. I was so darn excited about the crust, and I began…

Today

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Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

by Mary Oliver

Happy Sabbath.
Let us walk in the holy presence.

A Little Manual for Beginners

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I have a dear friend who just moved to Erie, and with her she brought a “living artifact” of Benedictine life. It turns out that her grandfather was an oblate of the Benedictines in St. Joseph, MN. She discovered this treasure—with a copyright date from 1948!


How cool is this? Upon finding the Table of Contents...


I turned to the section on humility found in the “Benedictine Way of Life.” Here is the wisdom “of the day”:

St. Benedict could not have arrived at this beautiful thought of ordaining the monk to be, as it were, a courtier of the Great King, if he had not had a profoundly true conception of the relation of the creature to the Creator, of the Christian to Christ; and if he had not been prompted by this conception to make the monk’s life the expression, as perfect as human limitations may allow, of what ought to be the creature’s and the Christian’s attitude and manner of life over against God, so that it might be, in some measure, an expression of the service given Him by thos…

Merton on Monasticism

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Wherever you have [...] a small group attempting to do this thing, attempting to love God and serve him and reach union with him, you are bound to have some kind of monasticism. This kind of monasticism cannot be extinguished. It is imperishable. It represents an instinct of the human heart, and it represents a charism given by God to man [...] and because we believe this, we have given ourselves to the kind of life we have adopted.
I finished reading the book, The Life You Save May Be Your Own last week. It traced the intersection of the lives of Dorothy Day, Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, and Thomas Merton. This quote from Merton comes right at the end of his life, when we was speaking at the conference in Asia where he died by electrocution.
As I read these words, I stopped once, and again, and then again. I needed to keep re-reading them because they struck me (male language notwithstanding!) so strongly. The monastic life is gift that God continually gives to the world.
Let us …

Benedictine Travels

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I had the opportunity to travel to Minnesota on Thursday to attend the American Benedictine Academy (ABA) conference at St. Benedict Monastery in St. Joseph, MN. This community finds its home just a few miles down the road from St. John’s in Collegeville.

The theme of the conference was Artisans of the Monastery, or Chapter 57 of the Rule of Benedict. We heard thoughtful presentations on the creative process, viewed some art from both communities and other Benedictines, sang hymns together written by Benedictines, and enjoyed each other’s company.

I was struck by many moments throughout the time, most especially listening to a monk from St. John’s read his poetry. He first started writing at the age of 75, and he is now in his 90’s! But, what I loved about that particular experience was that Fr. Killian only has use of one eye, so his brother monk gently helped him read the words on the page. It was a true moment of tenderness and mutual love.

We witnessed some incredible needlework o…

Our God is Here

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The first step of Benedictine humility is to keep the reverence of God always before us.

For our current formation class, we are diving into Torah. This past week we focused on Leviticus, which while challenging because of all the laws, has some definite richness. Our teacher, one of our sisters, talked to us about the belief regarding the tabernacle present to the community. It was right there. And the people believe that it held God. God was right there. Changed the way one followed the laws a bit, no? God is right there.

This got me reflecting pretty quickly. Do I live from my belief that God is right here? Do I live the first step of humility? In the dailinesss/busyness/quickness of life, I probably don’t do it too well. How easy it is to forget that my call as Christian, and even more so, as Benedictine, is to live the truth that, indeed, God is here. It changes everything, as it should. We sing it in one of my favorite songs at Liturgy, too:

Here in this time, here in this place,…

I’m Back (and grateful)

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Yes, I have been gone for awhile. After wrapping up a lovely two weeks participating in the Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality, I headed out of town to help facilitate a retreat and take a bit of R&R time with a friend.

Between great and profound spiritual reflection with the group of young women at the institute, the experience of facilitating a retreat, lots of support from my sisters, and the gift of time with a dear friend, I am full and a bit unable to put into words what the past few weeks have held for me.

But I have been reflecting quite a bit on what it means to be a woman, in all its complexity and fullness—though part of the reflection came from the seeing the wonderful documentary about Mr. Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I think the thing that was most beautifully and well conveyed in the film was the ability of Fred Rogers to take the complexity and fullness of humanity and simplify them into daily lessons and the call to love. (I did tell some…

God Moments

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I have been given the gift of participating in the first Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality here at the Mount this past week. (We continue through next week, too.) Seriously, what a gift.

We have eight young women here (and for the most part younger than I, which is another eye-opening experience while living in the world of religious life) and they have such a fire to live their faith. Their passion is enlivening; their wisdom and knowledge are rich; their lives are authentic; their beliefs—holy.

One of the first days we talked about prayer, and Joan commented that she would not ask someone, “Did you pray today?” but rather, “Have you had a God moment today?”

I appreciated that question not only because I have had plenty of God moments surrounded by these women, but because it helps me broaden my perspective on what it means to live a truly prayerful life.

One God moment occurred on Thursday when I had an appointment after lunch. I was also going to the store, an…

Retreating

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We’ve been on retreat this past week with Abbot John Klassen from Collegeville, MN as our presenter. His conferences on the parables and the reign of God have been top-notch, offering some insightful and some uncommon takes on these well-known stories. My favorite conference was on the Prodigal Son. Perhaps because it’s one of my favorites, or perhaps it was because of his reflections, or perhaps it was because of both, I left the chapel “wowed.” I especially liked the reminder about conversion: “Grace is in the small steps.”

Besides his challenging reflections, this week has been one of renewal and refreshment, as it should be. (I must not lie—it’s also afforded me an opportunity to watch some of the World Cup when I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance!) Yesterday morning I went into my old journals looking for a poem that I thought I would use in this entry, but I came across these appropriate words from an old morning reflection I received in my inbox from the Upper Room back in…

Yes!

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I feel like nearly any Mary Oliver poem could apply to this time of year, when everything is bursting forth.

But, I chose one.

Feast your eyes on early summer. Feast your heart on Mary’s poetry.

A happy mushroom family...

The snake we encountered...

The chipmunk who cannot resist the bird food...

The peonies and daisies brightening my room...

The trees filling in where I rest in my hammock...

The first rose in bloom...

And the first lily...

The fawn living and finding rest on our grounds...

The plant I’ve been reviving who greets the sun with open arms...

May
What lay on the road was no mere handful of snake. It was
the copperhead at last, golden under the street lamp. I hope
to see everything in this world before I die. I knelt on the
road and stared. Its head was wedge-shaped and fell back to
the unexpected slimness of a neck. The body itself was thick,
tense, electric. Clearly this wasn’t black snake looking down
from the limbs of a tree, or green snake, or the garter, whiz-
zing over the r…