Sunday, June 17, 2018

OSB women-alive and well in Alabama

My time in Alabama has been delightful, albeit hot, especially in the afternoons. The early mornings and evenings are much like deep summer in Erie, warm, blue skies and clear---nothing short of simply beautiful--in all ways.

Here are some shots that "called out" to me when I saw them. Their small retreat chapel was built incorporating stained-glass windows that include statements that are perfect for a retreatant at a Benedictine monastery.

The saying goes that in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, you could travel around making stops at a Benedictine abbey every night, as there was one a day's ride away from wherever you were! Of course we're not riding horses nowadays, but you might be able to still do such by car throughout the USA. So if you're doing a "monastary road trip" start with this Geographic Index of Retreat Houses here and see who has available guest rooms that match your path and, if they do, Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

All the same yet each unique

Every single time I visit another Benedictine women's community I find the same thing: we are all alike, yet unique. This week at Sacred Heart Monastery in north central Alabama is no exception.

The ways we are alike are in the important things, the differences are in the little customs, cultural pieces, individual monastery ways that have grown up over the years.

Here is Part I (Part II will be next time) on some of the things that caught my eye!

In the little kitchen in our guest quarters--two panels, that slide sideways.

They reveal a heavy door that opens into....a tornado shelter! I knew this part of Alabama was in tornado alley but I didn't know what they did about it!

And at the back of the room, an "escape" tunnel, with a large wrench to open the bolts, in case you can't get back out the door.  Geeessh, this is serious business.

Meanwhile, on their lovely grounds, a brick-bordered labyrinth. They have a large retreat program with many "meditating" visitors.

And, for all who knew her, Sr. Maurus Allen's grave--13 years now.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Daisy and Iris Time

These first days of June are the days of daisies and irises here in our part of the country. The irises have suffered a bit from our rough winter. We still have loads of them around: yellow, purple, blue, white and multi-colored, but in the inner courtyard and other small gardens they just haven't come up as usual. This happened to our forsythia a few years ago and we had hardly a one in all of the bushes. Luckily they all came back the next year and by now they are their old selves now! I hope this happens to the irises!

Meanwhile, how could I not share this, surely one of Mary Oliver's most frequently quoted and most beautiful poems.


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

My favorite iris photo: one of the Benetwood out buildings.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


A few years ago I discovered the fine mysteries written by Charles Todd. Since then I've been working my way through them, generally from #1 in 1994 to #21 in 2017. According to my maybe-it's-accurate list, I have six more to go--and after this weekend it will be only five, as I finish Legacy of the Dead.

What do I like about them that has held me through 15 books?
1) The writing is good, very good;
2) The setting is 1920s, post WWI rural England which is teaching me a bit about WWI, from a European viewpoint, and about life in the proverbial small English villages, which always seem to hold the most quirky inhabitants;
3) Inspector Ian Rutledge is a great character: high commitment to truth and honor, humble about his own abilities, and struggling with the internal demons of returning from dreadful war experiences.

Ah, summer reading. I must get about bugging the sisters to send in paragraphs from their own summer reads for our What Sisters Read section of our website. I believe we're fast approaching 100 "book reports"!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A rare event

Yes, since I am beginning my 12th year writing a blog under the name "Light through Stained Glass Windows" I do feel a strong affiliation with our stained glass windows--especially those in the chapel. But, in truth, we all love them. That is why this entry is so special to me and, I hope, for you.

Here's the back story. Last Thursday I stopped by chapel at about 7:45 pm. Since I was the reader at Morning Prayer Friday I wanted to check to be sure the reading was marked so I that could open the book right to it (a helpful thing at 6:30 am!)and I wanted to be sure the microphone was at the right height for me. As I was standing at the lectern getting those things settled something caught my eye and I looked over to the windows. No, not to the south windows, the ones on the left as you walk in, the ones through which all the light comes, the ones where all the reflections are made on the ceramic tiles, the floor and on the Pyrex stands that we use for the environment, the ones that everyone takes hundreds of pictures of, including me.

No, I was staring at a very rare moment when the setting sun was bright and perfectly angled through the NORTH windows. I really cannot remember ever seeing these reflections before--or at least not all at one time and not as bright and clear and full. WOW--luckily I had my camera and did the best I could to catch some shots of this rare occasion.

Enjoy them with me!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nature girls all

Isn't this a riot?! Right under our windows here on the east lawn. This is just another example of "nature" appearing all around us these days. Even the prayer leaders have taken to offering praise in their closing and opening prayers for the beauty of the natural world of spring.

I know that many of our sisters have been "nature girls" for a long time, but it seems this spring as if everyone is especailly attuned to it: telling each other of the hummingbirds, fawn, bluebirds, blossoming rhododendron etc. that they saw that day. Could it be our 198" of snow (at the airport.....130-140" here!). Yes, I think that has to be a definite factor.

A new resident to Erie said to me this week that she comes from a four-season region but was never so aware of the seasons as she is here! I laughed and said that yes, in order to love Erie (and other Great Lake regions) you have to be able to embrace and appreciate all four INTENSE seasons, not just four seasons! Luckily she's on her way.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Food connoisseur

One of our sisters could be our local newspaper's restaurant/food critic. If there's a new place anywhere within 10 miles of center city, she's there in the first two weeks. And she shares her critique with everyone she meets over the following two weeks.

The thing is, she's really good at it. So, I feel rather intimidated even writing this review of a new restaurant, but it's not really in her realm--just a standard brand all-American place--but very nice.

For you Erieites, it's the latest place to open in the old Fergie's building on W. 26th St. Most recently it was the Summerhouse Cafe, I believe. Now it's Arnie's! Don't let the casual guy-name discourage you, it was just fine. And, yes, I'd go back again.... moderate prices, clean, fresh, nice wait staff and both of our meals (1/2 to eat and 1/2 to take home) were generous and tasty.

Here's my pasta dish. Don't you love the presentation? It comes with chicken or shrimp, but I had it plain...but there was a bite to it that was not unpleasant! 

My friend's pork chops don't look as special, but the meat was golden and the potato perfect. I forgot that we both had generous (not all lettuce) house salads that were great!