Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Living in two worlds

Here's how it goes. This year Advent started just three days after Thanksgiving and 10 days after the radio stations had started playing Christmas music. Black Friday sales continued throughout that whole weekend, as did Cyber-Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday....

I've made it very clear that I love Advent and so does every other sister I know. But it causes us to live in two worlds--simultaneously. Whenever we walk in chapel, we enter the world of Advent: quiet, peaceful, waiting, preparing. And then we come out of there into the American consumer's high point of the entire year, it's a Hallmark and frenetic whirlwind!

We try, we really do, but we love Christmas, too. So, waiting until the "official" deck the halls (and decorate every place else) date of December 21 is just too hard. Advent managed to maintain its prominence last week, but this week (Advent week #2 aka 16 days until Christmas) Christmas has started to creep and seep and ooze its way in--ever so slowly but steadily!

I took a walk around the Mount, with my camera in hand last night and this is what I found: Creeping, everywhere.

An everyday plain night light has been replaced!

A small white angel has landed.

What is this? No Advent wreath!

We haven't had snow yet, how can we have a snowman!

Just because it's holy doesn't hide the Christmas message!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Wind chimes

When we renovated our chapel 10 years ago, we replaced a large gallery that was at the east end of it and completely spanned the width. We also removed a kind of open-air stairway that was one way to access the gallery right from the chapel floor. With the removal of the stairway it opened up the entrance space and also allowed the east wall (of stained-glass windows) to be pushed back about 15 feet to form the back wall of a new small, enclosed, private prayer/devotional space fashioned there.

As for the gallery, a smaller version of one was designed off to the side and accessible only from the second floor. It was meant primarily for any sister who wanted to be present for a chapel event, yet couldn't be in the main chapel area downstairs. It isn't used very much these days, probably because we also installed a video system that broadcasts chapel events on channel 72 of our televisions.

But lately there's been a very nice addition to the chapel entrance way and it's hanging from said gallery: a large set of wind chimes. I've always loved the sound of wind chimes and have two sets in my office now. One is solar powered instead of activated by the wind. Here are a couple views of our new one. Look up next time you're with us and take a look. How do they sound, you ask? Low in pitch and very mellow, but very beautiful.

From the gallery.

From the chapel below.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A morning with Mary

A couple weeks ago I spent a Saturday morning at a writing workshop of sorts, which used as its core the poems of Mary Oliver. Yes, it was wonderful. It made me realize however, that it has been way too long since I've shared one of her poems here. So here's one to start a new beginning of sharing the works of this very special writer. It also happens to be the one I read when we were asked to bring one of our favorites to the workshop.


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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Four full weeks

This week is somewhat unique in the pre-Christmas time called Advent. Because Christmas itself falls on a Sunday, Advent is a full four weeks long, 28 days. For those like ourselves who follow the Church year every day, it is a very welcome phenomenon from a prayer perspective. Why? Because we get to sing these wonderful Advent songs and listen to the poetic scripture coming-of-the-Messiah passages more than usual.

Case in point, one of today's readings was from Isaiah 2, a passage which speaks of everlasting peace with poetic beauty: "...For from Zion there will go forth instruction...They shall beat their swords in plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation will not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." Our presider noted this when he said, "Of all the things we could read about in the scriptures on the first day of the liturgical year the choice is peacemaking."

Here's this year's Advent wreath: four white candles set in new candle holders made by Sister Audrey in her woodworking shop. Setting them in the Pyrex stands, on mirrors, makes quite the special effect. See the reflections? And this was on a cloudy day. Can't wait to see what happens when the sun shines in those windows and travels over to the mirrors.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Year is 1947

and like most Catholic dioceses in the US, I suppose, the Erie diocese gave out an annual recognition to "The Catholic Family of the Year." That year the award was given to the Albert Lorei family of St.Boniface Parish. The family worked a farm in the rural community of Hammett, just south of the city of Erie and even today this small community maintains its rural heritage.

Their second son would be ordained to the priesthood within weeks of the family recognition; two of the oldest daughters were already in religious communities: one a Sister of St. Joseph and one a Benedictine. The parents were active in their parish and sent all 12 of their children to the parish school and local Catholic high schools. All of that contributed to their nomination as family of the year.

I never met any Loreis until I was a teacher. I taught a number of the girls in the next generation, both of this family and of cousins, but they continued to be a longtime backbone of the Catholic Church in Erie, not just the three in religion, but as active and committed lay men and women in the parishes.

This week they, and our community, lost an original member of this 1947 family, Sister Bernadette (see full obit here). About 1/2 of the original dozen are gone now, the other 1/2 no doubt carrying on a life of good works, as they all seem to have done for decades.

We still have a few sisters from families of 10, 12 or even 14 children, but they are getting fewer and belong to an age that is pre-1960s. Having come from a family with just three, the very idea of such size is amazing to me. However, their stories and family lore are fascinating--as is the expansion of the original siblings into dozens and dozens of nephews, nieces and grands. I'm sure the Loreis will grace us with many of their memories next week as we celebrate Sister Bernadette's life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Goodbye autumn and thanks

This season's autumn is gone and it left via a classic "in between" weekend: record high Friday of 75 degrees and the first measurable snow Sunday (2" at the airport--although it varied from a trace to 9", well south in Erie county)!

Four of our sisters are very happy right now because all four of them guessed November 20 as the first day of snow! Congratulations Sisters Laura, Karen, Marcia and Valerie. You'll split the $5.00 gift certificate equally. Have fun at K-Mart. (Ha, ha just'll each get your own!)

And finally, since I started putting out suet bars in the little "suet house" the birds, particularly the ones that spend most of their summer in the woods, have started to appear. I think this little fellow (or gal) is a downy or hairy woodpecker--not sure which, but it sure is fun to watch them.

A final salute to autumn: this near perfect golden tree was still hanging on before the wind and snow arrived.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cactus, cacti

This is the week---the one week in the year when all of my cactus plants bloom at once! So I drag them out of their "home" on the library east window sills and place them on the display counter between the community room and dining room so that they can absorb all the oohs and aahs of the sisters and guests.

This yellow one is special because I started it with a single leaf from Sr. Benedict Grotzinger's plant--the first yellow cactus I had ever seen. Soon after that her's died but this offspring lives on and is just beautiful.

I can't remember where I got this white cactus but it's probably my favorite because it is such a pure and sparkling white. Just lovely.

There are four all total now, yellow, white, salmon and pink. They will all bloom again this winter and a couple may even have a third blooming period, but these are the only days they'll all be flowering at the same time.