Monday, October 24, 2016


These days are bringing three great opportunities for discussions that are thought-provoking to say the least. The first one was last Saturday when we traveled to our public television and radio station, WQLN, to be part of the live audience for a webinar sponsored by our Monasteries of the Heart ministry. The topic was Women and Moral Leadership with the presentation by our Sister Joan. You can get a DVD or see it online by contacting them.

Monday night we have one of our Enrichment Series talks with Fr. Jim Piszker who is speaking on Catholic Social Justice. He is one of our best Sunday homilists and this presentation is bound to be good, too. It's at 7:00 pm, if you're in the area.

Finally, Wednesday, Benedictines for Peace (BFP) is organizing a Holy Hour of Prayer at 7:00 pm Wednesday to pray for our upcoming national elections and for leaders who value the common good and will promote justice, mercy and peace among all peoples throughout our country.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Inside and outside

I'd been waiting for months, even a couple years for this to happen. This week it finally did.

Here's the back story. In the mornings I "bird sit" a small caique parrot. We get along very well, practicing English every now and then, taking a sink bath once a week and going for "walks" up and down the hall when I need a stand up break from computer sitting. At one end of our hall there is a window that opens onto an old fashioned wrought iron four-story fire escape! Right out of West Side Story or apartment complexes in New York City! We are at the top of said ladder and therefore there is a little landing right outside the window. Lady, the parrot, loves to sit on the windowsill, up against the screen and chirp, talk and whistle to the outside. I always wished that some wild birds would hear her and for some bird reason, come and chirp back.

And, that's exactly what happened Monday. A flock of 5-6 little brown sparrows or finches came calling and "looked inside" at the much larger parrot looking out at them. By the time I got my camera only two were left, but here they are---birds of a feather, I guess you could say, probably somewhat bewildered at each other's presence!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bountiful harvests

It seems that thanks to a sunny and warm summer, with just enough rain but not too much, the fields and vineyards that surround the city of Erie and its suburbs have had a flourishing season.

Grapes, potatoes, fruit trees, corn, squash, etc. have all done well. For the last 2-3 weeks we have been the recipient of boxes and boxes of locally grown apples, either donated or purchased by our kitchen manager---maybe a combination of both. Anyway, the boxes have been huge and as one would expect, there are always a few too soft ones or bruised ones to put out for the sisters, our guests, employees---whoever is sharing meals with us that day. So, another sister and I have been collecting those dozen or so imperfect ones each week and laying them along the eastern tree line as a pre-winter treat for our deer herd.

She has told me that she has seen deer coming and going regularly, but I haven't caught them at it yet...until last evening, about 6:30 pm, dusk.

Two of them wandered over from the apple-bar, up very close to the house, and I did catch this one before they spied me and ran into one of their hidey-holes! Such fun to see them a little closer than usual!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Back door

In our chapel there is a somewhat hidden door. If you visit and regularly sit on the right/north side you'd never see it. Even if you sit on the left/south, you might miss it. It's behind the main chapel area, back by one of the storage areas. But every day when I go out our side door I see it from the outside and I often see flowers that are either on their way into the chapel or coming out of the chapel, promised to one of our gardeners.

This week, as is fitting in October, I spied these two very full mums, sitting at the end of the row of now-trimmed back baby pink rose bushes. I think they may be on their way into chapel for this Sunday.

Erie, or more correctly North East, PA, 10 miles east of the city, is famous for Paschke's Mum Farm which produced a seasonal windfall each autumn with its acres and acres of mums, cider and everything else that celebrated October, Halloween and all things fall. Sad to report that Paschke's just announced its closing as the founding couple has retired. Here's a photo of a portion of the acreage they planted. A gorgeous sight at its peak each year.

Paschke's Mum Farm in North East, PA with Lake Erie seen in the background.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Welcome guests

This first weekend of October has continued the onslaught, no not onslaught, a parade of guests that have been slowly but surely coming in and out of our home since Labor Day. One of the groups this weekend included early arrivals for Benetvision's Readers' Retreat.

One of the nicest things about this 12-year event is where it is held. The place is at a lovely country setting about 20 miles south of Erie. Here is a drop-dead-gorgeous orchid that was at the entrance of the foyer.

On the other hand, most of our guests have raved about our own grounds which they walk faithfully throughout their stay and,thanks to a mild weather week, here are some of what they are seeing:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Third in the series

I'm writing again about the BBC mysteries that we love and taking this time to introduce a new one: Endeavour.

To go back to the beginning: in the 1990s in Britain, a detective show began based on a popular series of novels. The series was titled, Morse, and turned out to be extremely popular---in large part for its great acting, fine mysteries and top notch writing. The lead was fashioned as one of the last of the "English gentlemen detectives": highly educated, just a touch snobby, lover of opera, art, and all things British! The setting was Oxford, England and the stories were just wonderful. Morse's asst. was Sgt. Robbie Lewis. We watched all the Morse shows and, gratefully, then found the Inspector Lewis series, a spin off from the first, which began in 2006.

Lewis and his assistant, James Hathaway, became the second series that we watched from beginning to end and enjoyed just as much, if not more, than the Morse series. We finally finished the Lewis series with great lamenting for the end of these great, great mysteries. But, soon after we were surprised and thrilled to discover the third in the series: Endeavour, a prequel to the first two--with the main character being Morse (Endeavour Morse) when he is just starting out as a young detective. Kudos to the Erie County Library for carrying the DVDs of all three series.

The first name of Morse was never mentioned throughout the series, until the very last show. Now "Endeavour" is known by all his fans!

Morse and Robbie Lewis in the Inspector Morse mysteries.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sitting on bells

Tonight I am "sitting on bells" which means, translated to everyday understanding, I am taking my monthly turn sitting at the front door and running the switchboard. In old monastic terms it means being the portress. In the Rule of Benedict there is an entire chapter on this service: Chapter 53. Here we find this lovely and oft quoted line: "All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ..." And in a contemporary commentary on this we read, "Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time."

In reality, being at switchboard-bells (in the old motherhouse, Morse Code-like bells were rung to indicate which sister was being called) is 1/2 a time to say hello to lots of sisters, as many pass through the front foyer on their way to somewhere and 1/2 a chance to catch up on anything that 2-3 hours of presence in one place with few interruptions can facilitate. Of course there is the occasional guest at the door, and when that happens it's a chance to live out Chapter 53--in real time.

Here's our front not really! But this is what you see if you come to our front door and look up: the bell tower and the new clerestory on the chapel.