Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve at the Mount is hardly a wild affair! No one goes out to a club, some go to family or friends in the early evening, but most stay at home. We do have a party of sorts, with great snacks and a movie or two. Some of us manage to watch Dick Clark's Rocking New Year's Eve (he's still on?!), but most go to bed before midnight. We also have beautiful prayer, both for Evening Praise and then on New Year's Day itself, which is a Solemnity of Mary, too.

Here is something I've shared before (see December 10). It's from a rather old little book that is turning out to be a gem. The copyright is 1994 and although it has a very attractive hardcover, it is only about 5" x 8" x 1/2" in size. The title is Meditations..on the monk who dwells in daily life, by Thomas Moore.

Each of the 100 or so pages has a short reflection on some aspect of monastic life, coming from the dozen years he spent in a monastery as a young man...and his reflection on such years later. They are so simple, so beautiful and so right on.

Here's one to start the new year:

Withdrawal from the world is something we can, and perhaps should, do every day. It completes the movement of which entering fully into life is only one part. Just as a loaf of bread needs air in order to rise, everything we do needs an empty place in its interior. I especially enjoy such ordinary retreats from the active life as shaving, showering, reading, doing nothing, walking, listening to the radio, driving in a car. All of these activities can turn one's attention inward toward contemplation.

Mundane withdrawal from the busyness of an active life can create a spirituality-without-walls, a spiritual practice that is not explicitly connected to a church or a tradition. I have never forgotten Joseph Campbell's response when he was asked about his yoga practice: laps in a pool and a drink once a day. Anything is material for retreat--cleaning out a closet, giving away some books, taking a walk around the block, clearing your desk, turning off the television set, saying no to an invitation to do anything.

At the sight of nothing, the soul rejoices.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Traditions

Photo by Susan Freitag, OSB

The answer to the question, Where did we put the large Christmas tree in chapel this year? is, we didn't. It was replaced by two average size trees right at the entrance...and that worked out just fine. The manger scene that used to be in front of the glass doors was placed in one of the alcoves in the back of chapel and was just perfect. Everything about the Christmas Eve "Midnight mass," held at 9:00 p.m., and the Christmas Morning liturgy at 9:30 a.m. went beautifully...and again, the acoustics in the chapel just "blew people away."

Personally, Marilyn's annual rendition of O Holy Night was Number 1 for me. Every note just soared through the space and when she hit that note at the end...what is it, upper G? A flat?! I think the congregation almost was so beautiful.

The weather, too, cooperated---with just a light covering of snow that presented no problem for drivers---so everyone was able to get around to visit family and friends.

One somber note...after 22 years, Brother Thomas's annual Christmas gift of pottery wasn't in the community room's glass display cases. Many of his pieces were brought out and placed around the house however and in that way it did seem as if he was present with us again.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

"Ask for a sign from your God; let it be deep as the nether world or high as the sky....Therefore God will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall be living on curds and honey by the time he learns to reject the bad and choose the good."

"What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God 1,400 years ago and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time...? We are all meant to be mothers of God." Meister Eckhart

"Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it...His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured and exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst." Thomas Merton, OCSO

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas at Last

We really do love Advent, but after 21 days of living in the Advent "bubble" as Christmas explodes all around us, it's time to change over and this is the week! The smell of anise and vanilla is wafting through the house since the big 2-hour pitzelle-making party this week. Complete with unofficial contests on who could make the perfect pitzelle in each waffle iron.

Christmas cards have begun appearing as decorations on doors and other very subtle changes are starting. I even saw a cart of poinsettias going down the hall Monday.

Friday will be the real transition day as we have our annual Trim the Tree party right after supper. It's really a Trim the Whole House time as the whole monastery will be transformed Friday and Saturday. The Dickens village will come out on the buffet in the dining room, as will the train that goes around the ficus tree. The huge manger scene, minus the Christ child and Magi, will go up in the community room and most resident halls will have ribbons or candy canes or some other decoration the length of them.

Only the chapel will remain in its Advent mode...until Monday after morning praise and then it too will transform.

I'm glad Christmas is on a Tuesday. Last year when it was Monday things really were bizarre, there's no other word for it! Saturday night was the last Advent vigil service, Sunday morning was the 4th Sunday of Advent, Sunday night was the Christmas vigil and Monday morning was Christmas Day. Next year the 25th is on Thursday...perfect!

Monday, December 17, 2007

O Antiphons

For those who have ever prayed the daily Divine Office of the church--Opus Dei--you know that today is the beginning of the week of the beautiful O Antiphons said during Vespers. I believe they also appear in one of the prayers of weekday Masses this week. There are many translations of these names of's just one:

December 17: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

December 18: O sacred God of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

December 19: O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples: kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

December 20: O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: Come break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

December 21: O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

December 22: O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind, Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

December 23: O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people; Come and set us free, Lord our God.

A few years ago a small schola of the community recorded the O Antiphons to music written by our Sr. Mary David. You can hear them online this week at Benetvision.

An extra: our Sr. Ellen Porter, who is the final stage of metastasized breast cancer, is a marvelous writer. Starting today and every Monday hereafter, seven of her poems will be posted on a new site, Ellen's Poems. Give it a try, I think you'll like her thoughts as much as we do.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mission of Friendship

In 1971 the Diocese of Erie and the Diocese of Yucatan established a cooperative relationship with each other and began the Mission of Friendship in the city of Merida on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. It has expanded over these 36 years to include numerous ministries with the people, especially with children. Four of our sisters have spent extended time there and another dozen or so have had short visits, either by themselves or accompanying mission experience groups. This week one of our sisters is returning from ten days there with physical therapy majors from Wheeling Jesuit College.

The rest of us try to contribute as we can. My favorite is the yearly display of four or five dozen little summer outfits for young children. We help by "buying" one for the child whose name is on the clothing--Jose or Angelica, Hernando or Maria. I always pick the ones with matching sandals!

One of the co-directors is a former member of our community and Benedictine spirituality permeates the mission in its prayer and philosophy. We even have a dozen oblates from the Mission of Friendship area. Our Latin America connection!

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Advent Afternoon

Twenty-five oblates were with us all afternoon Saturday. They stayed for dinner and for the Vigil of the 2nd Sunday of Advent, too.

Every Lent and Advent the oblates have a Saturday afternoon retreat...translate that to mean quiet time, together time and reflection time... right in the middle of the two most well-known liturgical seasons.

Our oblates are very active and have been for years. Recently we added an "Oblates Only" section to our website, where the director can post information and announcements to our 200+ lay members.

There are quite a few websites for oblates, and even an international, ecumenical Oblate Forum site. And the premier Benedictine website has links to numerous sites that would particularly interest Benedictine oblates, too.

If you missed it, see the October 25 entry here for a list of some of the latest books on Benedictinism for the laity...or as one is titled, How to be a monastic and not leave your day job!

More on reading: I'm reading a little book by Thomas Moore that I accidently came upon, Meditations: on the monk who dwells in daily life. Moore entered a monastic community at age 13 and spent twelve years there...all just before the Vatican II Council. His take on the essence of monastic life is very good and these small reflections are powerfully apropos today. Here's one:

In an age of profound cultural transition,
religion itself appears to be going through
its own rite of passage.
For some it is in a time of crisis,
for others a period of vibrant change.
I see religion moving toward a diminishing of dogma,
authority, membership, and belief
and an increase in everyday ritual,
poetic theology, social engagement,
guidance in contemplation, and care of the soul.

In this new setting monasticism, too,
can become more a spirit than an institution,
one element among several
in establishing a soul-centered life,
and a style that invites beauty and culture
into a life of pragmatism and efficiency.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Jolly Ole' Saint Nicholas

Happy St. Nicholas Day! Such a lovely legend especially with the put-out-your-stocking part. Yes, we have stockings here...doesn't seem to matter if you're 5 or 50, 8 or 80...outside of everyone's door on December 6 a stocking appears like magic.

One of our sisters, who has been recovering from bunion and hammer toe surgery for 8 weeks, took the opportunity to make a set of family stockings for each of her siblings' families. She just finished and are they beautiful. Each family's was made with the same red or green material, not plain material, material that had Christmas-y patterns. At the top of each is a 3" band of complementary material and the name of each family member that she cross stitched. They are quite large and could hold a dozen oranges and apples, not just one in the toe!

At our house we use to look forward to the stockings as much or more than the wrapped presents. What do kids get in their stockings these days? Still special, large Sunkist oranges or apples, packs of socks, candy bars and gum, your own private toothpaste and a new brush, and those little hand toys from the dollar stores? Or are they filled with DVDs and CDs and games for the family Wii?

Oh, by the way, here's what was in ours this morning: a pocket pack of kleenex, chapstick, a pad of Christmas post-its, a small bag of M&Ms, 1 fat Tootsie Roll, 1 Cow Tales, 5 Christmas cards, 3 Christmas postcards (already stamped), 1 pack of self-stick gift labels, a 2008 calendar, and a $5 bill. I kept reaching back in: where was that Sunkist orange?

For weather watchers: yesterday's weather in Erie.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Advent-Week 1

Right now everything seems to revolve somehow around Advent. The weekends, for instance, are liturgical "festivals." Every Saturday night we have a candle-lit vigil at 7:00 pm. A small group leads the singing and a member of the community gives a short reflection. The people from around Erie who attended this week included a group of young adults who had spent an Advent reflection afternoon here at the Mount on Saturday.

Sunday liturgies are rich and creative. Yesterday's included: the addition of this year's Advent wreath, four large candles each sitting in a bed of evergreens and poised on four graduated stands in the very middle of chapel, a gift time piece by the community schola, "Long Is Our Winter," and a modern chanting of the Second Reading of the day by four cantors.

Even weekdays are a little different, as we use a special hymn booklet of Advent songs that we seldom hear the rest of the year.

Tonight we have a special Evening Praise, using an AIM USA prayer service to commemorate World AIDS Day. A number of our Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries, particularly those in Africa, are ministering to children, adults and families that are suffering the multiple effects of HIV/AIDS. AIM USA is assisting them in a special way this year by collecting donations for communities running orphanages, food programs, home visitations, and local clinics. AIM USA developed and distributed this prayer service to increase awareness in the broader monastic world of this still very real pandemic. It is available online at the AIM USA website.

Photo by Susan Freitag, OSB

Thursday, November 29, 2007


The community has lots and lots of Advent customs. The #1 one is simply that we celebrate it! In a shopping-crazy, consumerism society, and with the great shrinking of the Catholic school system, I doubt that Advent is much celebrated by the majority of Christians. But, if you're aware of the liturgical year or somewhat attached to a group that is, voila, the new year is about to begin---this Saturday night with the Vigil of the First Sunday of Advent.

By Saturday noon there will be a large Advent wreath and other simple but always striking additions to our chapel environment. Liturgically this is a beautiful time of year, too, rich with all those messianic foretellings and poetic readings from the Old Testament prophets. The songs and hymns of Advent are gorgeous, too, and even the feasts that fall in the middle of it only add to the fullness of the prayer days: Nicholas, Lucy, Mary, Guadalupe, usually Hanukkah, and finally, the seven days of the O Antiphons.

One of our customs is for the community to read the same book and meet in small groups to share reflections on the reading. This year's book is The Flowers in the Desert by Demetrius Dumm, OSB, a monk of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA. (Also the summer home of the Pittsburgh Steelers if you're of that persuasion!)

As much as we all love Advent, it's hard not to have at least some thoughts of Christmas---especially since our new chapel will bring a flock of new arrangements and customs. What's the burning liturgical question on everyone's mind? That's easy, where will we put the chapel Christmas tree this year?

For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Holy One from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on all the peoples.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;

One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.

O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of our God.

Isaiah 2: 3-5

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

"It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon," Garrison Keillor would begin...and we can echo him today: "It's been a quiet weekend on Lake Erie, too." And everyone is glad about that!

Black Friday was a quiet day-after around the Mount. No one was part of the 4:00 a.m. line outside of Kohl's or the 6:00 a.m. mob waiting to get into Penney's at the Millcreek Mall! I suppose there may have been a little shopping, but mostly the day was spent just puttering around, taking advantage of a day when our ministries are closed, grabbing a post-Thanksgiving nap, or catching up on things that have been on hold for awhile.

Sunday was the culmination of our annual Community of Life program. This program offers our families, friends and benefactors an opportunity to pray with an individual sister for living or deceased family members and friends. Every day during November those special intentions are mentioned at both Morning and Evening Praise. Additionally, most of the sisters I know try to communicate with those whose lists they receive. All participants are invited to the end-of-November special Christ the King liturgy.

And, finally, Monday is a day off for most of us. Pennsylvania, Penn's Woods, is one of the top deer hunting states and the schools and even some businesses still maintain the first day of deer hunting (bucks not doe), the Monday after Thanksgiving, as a free day.

Some years the Thanksgiving weekend overlaps with the First Sunday of Advent, but this year we have this kind of liminal week, an in between time before the rich and beautiful Advent season begins next Saturday with the vigil of the First Sunday.

P.S. Oh, here's a quirky addition to these days: This week holds one of two unusual days for us. On November 27th, the other one is in July, four sisters celebrate their birthday...lots of ice cream and favorite desserts for all this week!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

We'll be feasting today...all 160 of us: community, family members and guests. Here's a lovely poem by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver--to add to your Thanksgiving reflections.

Coming Home

When we're driving, in the dark,
on the long road
to Provincetown, which lies empty
for miles, when we're weary,
when the buildings
and the scrub pines lose
their familiar look,
I imagine us rising
from the speeding car,
I imagine us seeing
everything from another place--the top
of one of the pale dunes
or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea--
and what we see is the world
that cannot cherish us
but which we cherish,
and what we see is our life
moving like that,
along the dark edges
of everything--the headlights
like lanterns
sweeping the blackness--
believing in a thousand
fragile and unprovable things,
looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping
barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Similarities and Differences

I have just spent three days in each of two very different Benedictine communities in southeast England, Worth Abbey and Tyburn Convent. Worth Abbey is about 30 miles south of London right in the middle of the English countryside-- picturesque, contemporary and energetic. The 22 monks there sponsor a large school(400 boys, 300 of whom are borders) and busy 20-room retreat center. They are still very much in the public eye even three years after the popular BBC TV documentary that featured their life.

In contrast, the Benedictine Sisters of Tyburn Convent live a quiet life in central London, right on a bordering street of Hyde Park. They have a small home for the 15 sisters there, little grounds, and live a life of total enclosure centered around 24/7 adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. They have eight other similar convents in eight countries around the world.

In both places the Benedictine charism of hospitality and the primacy of the Opus Dei dominate. Both community groups were very gracious and welcoming to us.

All Benedictines know that there is great diversity in Benedictine houses even though they are all living the same Rule. And it is so...and seems to work...and that's what counts. I hope if you only know one or two Benedictine places, you'll take the opportunity to visit others when you can. Go to the Geographic Data section of and search for those nearby.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gregory's Angels

This is a kind of book review. The book is Gregory's Angels by Gordon Beattie, OSB, of Ampleforth Abbey in northeast England. The book is subtitled: "A history of the abbeys, priories, parishes and schools of the monks and nuns following the Rule of Saint Benedict in Great Britain, Ireland and their overseas foundations." It was published in 1997 to commemorate the 1400 year anniversary of the arrival of Saint Augustine in Kent in 597 AD.

It's over 300 pages long--with one or two pages devoted to each present monastery/abbey. Full color pictures accompany each place as do basic statistics and facts, including mailing address, telephone, directions on how to get there and a half page of their history and uniqueness. It is a coffee-table type book, but so beautifully laid out that the facts and figures don't dominate it....the photos, descriptions and essays do.

Since I am at Worth Abbey in West Sussex, England this week I thought a sharing of Gregory's Angels (Pope Gregory the Great, author of The Life and Miracles of Benedict, Book 2 of the Dialogues) would be appropriate.

Amazon does seem to carry used copies, a little pricey but if you're into all-things-Benedictine-Cistercian and/or enjoy the countries of the United Kingdom or the history of western civilization, you'd like it.

PS. There are pages of great trivia, too: Benedictine saints of Great Britain, Benedictine popes, and pre and post-reformation monasteries in Great Britain.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Volunteer Fire Fighters

This week we host one of the most enjoyable and unique events for our year--our annual dinner for the local (all-volunteer) fire fighters: the Fairfield Fire Department. For many years one of our sisters was a member of this volunteer corps, serving as an EMT on many of their runs.

As we are located outside of the city limits, in Harborcreek Township, we are serviced for fires, emergencies, ambulances, etc. by one of the many volunteer fire departments that exist in the townships, boroughs and small towns that completely surround Erie. Ours is the Fairfield Fire Dept. located just 2 miles down Rte. 5 and the one that services the lake shore area from the city limits outward through Harborcreek. Their area includes our Benetwood Apartments, the large Brevillier Village complex, and Twinbrook Nursing Home, so their most common call is for assistance and/or transport for the elderly.

Each year we invite the dozen or so fire fighters and their families for dinner--often spaghetti. Inevitably they receive a call during the meal, but since they always bring one fire truck and one ambulance with them, the ones on call just excuse themselves, go to answer it and their family packs up their meal and takes it home.

A door prize is one of the highlights of the is always somehow connected to their duties. Last year a large framed cross stitch was featured an old-fashioned firetruck, complete with accompanying dalmatian in the front seat.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lake Effect Snow

If you were watching The Weather Channel Tuesday night you saw us--here in little Erie, front and center. Along with many other cities on the southern shores of the Great Lakes, we experienced our first snow of the season: Lake Effect Snow, as it's called. The Weather Channel said we had 3.5" and we did, sort of...depending on where you live. The official total is calculated at the airport.

Yes, we talk about snow a lot during the winter months of November through March. The conversations today went something like this: Wow, that was quite the first snow, Waterford got 14". Did you hear that I-90 had a dozen accidents by noon? The lake shore only got 2-3" and it was really just slush, not real solid snow. Did you see those downed tree limbs all over town? There were too many leaves on the trees and the limbs cracked right off. Power lines came down, too, from the heaviness. They say I-90 was closed from the Ohio line to Girard most of the day and I-79 was down to one lane south of McKean!

And so the morning conversations, coffee break discussions go for the next five months.

The Mount is right along the lake shore, but just 4 miles south is a glacial ridge on which interstate I-90 was built. The climates north of I-90 (along the lake) and south of I-90 (inland for 40 miles or so) are two different worlds. One gets snow and other nearly nothing, and then in the next storm, visa versa.

Today it's all gone! And so goes our first little snowstorm, on our way to our average of 90". I know that sounds wild to many, but remember, it doesn't come all at once and usually melts considerably before the next 2-3" arrive. We just keep on going along right through it. As my Dad, an Erie native used to say, "When I watch the natural disasters that many people have to live with: fires, droughts, hurricanes, I don't think our snow is so bad. All we have to do is shovel it a little and then it melts away." Way to go, Dad--a true Great Lakes acclimated veteran!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Diocesan Event

About 15 years ago the Bishop of the Erie diocese began an annual Mass for Deceased Religious. Over the years it has grown to become a Eucharist in remembrance of the religious women, priests, permanent deacons, and members of the diocesan Serra Club who have died in the past year. Tonight is this year's liturgy.

It is held at the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse in south Erie and our community's musicians form the core of the music makers, including our full 12-member handbell choir.

This year we have only one sister on the list for remembrance, Sr. Nora Curran, who died in July. The Sisters of St. Joseph (130 members), the Sisters of Mercy (55), the Sisters of the Divine Spirit (40), a community of eight enclosed Carmelites, and the Benedictine Sisters of Saint Marys, PA (25), are the other major religious communities of women in the diocese. There is a smattering of other sisters working in the diocese and maybe 200 priests, and numerous Serrans---an organization that promotes vocations to priesthood and religious life. There are no longer many religious communities of men here, though there are a few Benedictines from Latrobe at parishes in Saint Marys. At one time there were Redemptorists, Brothers of Mary, Society of the Divine Word, and probably others that are unknown to me.

Early November here can bring 50 degrees or 3" of new snow. Unless there's a freak snowstorm---that first wet, heavy, perfect for snowballs and snowmen kind---it will have a nice attendance.

Click here for more about the Diocese of Erie.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Sound of Cathedral Choirs

Last Friday night the choir from the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul here in Erie came to the Mount and sang Evensong for us. If you don't know what a cathedral choir sounds like here's one: at Westminster Cathedral in London no less. Our little town's choir sounded similar...really it did...just smaller! When you get there click on Listen to Music in the upper right and then pick a track and you'll hear the cathedral choir sound.

Some of our musicians who studied at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Indiana, were part of a cathedral choir during their summers of study. They reminisced that it was a lot of work, but a marvelous experience that they do miss, especially after last Friday night.

By the way, the acoustics in our new chapel did themselves proud. It was a great sound.

Monday, October 29, 2007

War is not the Way to Peace

Back in March, on the anniversary of the Iraq War, ten local peace advocates were arrested for blocking an entrance of our local federal courthouse. They were fined, but 6 of the 10 did not pay it. As a result, last Thursday the six were sentenced to five days in our local county jail. One of our sisters is a member of that group. The stories, experiences, and philosophies they shared at their hearing were impressive, heart-wrenching, and inspiring.

Our community has been known for its efforts in peacemaking since the end of the 60s and the Vietnam War. Our Benedictines for Peace group has over 140 members. Dozens of sisters turn out for any local peace event in town, many more come to events we sponsor at the Mount. One of the mottoes of Benedictine life is Pax, peace. This is one way we live it.

Here is a beautiful poem to encourage us all in our life commitments:

The Low Road
by Marge Piercy

Alone you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.

A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

Update: The six were released Monday, October 29.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wild and Wonderful Weekend

This will be a wild and wonderful 90-some oblates "come home" for the October Community Weekend. This annual event includes a ceremony for new initiates into our oblate program..this year 18 of them, as well as the annual re-commitment of all oblates.

Of our 200 oblates, a number live outside of Erie and do not make the trip to the Mount very often. The oblates who live in Erie we see quite a lot. Some come every Sunday for liturgy. Some work in community ministries. Some are part of standing committees/groups such as Benedictines for Peace. Some participate in community peace rallies, Take Back the Site vigils, etc. Quite a number are former members of a religious community, so have "come back" to a community connection again. All of them are committed to living Benedictine spirituality in their everyday life.

There is a surge of books these days on that very subject:
How to be a monastic and not leave your day job--Tvedton;
The monk in the world: cultivating a spiritual life--Teasdale and Wilber;
Finding sanctuary: monastic steps for everyday life--Jamison;
The Family cloister: Benedictine wisdom for the home--Robinson;
Illuminated life: monastic wisdom for seekers of light--Chittister;
and Kathleen Norris has a new book due out in December:
Monk habits for everyday people.

Why did I title this wild and wonderful? Because, although they are all wonderful, there are a few that are totally w-i-l-d women....loads and loads of fun...but it takes a few days to recover from their visit!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Musicians All

A first-time event for us took place last Saturday: the Erie diocese's chapter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians held their annual workshop and reflection day at the Mount. Forty-five musicians from parishes and other religious institutions (nursing homes, religious communities, etc) spent the day together---singing, sharing, praying. The facilitators were two of our sisters who are professional musicians themselves and hold degrees in liturgy and music. Three other sister-musicians were part of the musical accompaniment for the many songs.

Two of the four sessions were held in the new chapel and, with no offense meant to our everyday singing, the sound that came from this large group of trained singers was gorgeous---as song after song, as the poets say, soared into our new space and beyond. They were really, really good!

One of the side benefits of our chapel renovation is to be able to host events such as Thomas Moore's lecture a couple weeks ago, this workshop, and other large gatherings. There are about 200 permanent (yet movable) seats set up, with perhaps another 150+ easily accommodated.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Guests from Benetwood

Twenty-five years ago, through the HUD federal program, a 75-unit apartment complex for low income or handicapped seniors, Benetwood, was built behind the Mount---on the other side of the back woods. Each year we invite our "neighbors" for evening prayer and supper. Wednesday was this year's event as 57 men and women from Benetwood Apartments came over for an evening with the community.

Currently four sisters minister at Benetwood, which has also been the home to many oblates and parents of community members. When BenetPress was active, ladies from Benetwood would come over to the Mount to collate printing projects. Nowadays the most consistent Benetwood visitors are two women who help out as aides in our infirmary and another who is a faithful member of our Friday night card club that meets weekly in the community room. I think their #1 favorite is a rummy/canasta game called Hand and Foot!

Monday, October 15, 2007


The AIM USA Board of Trustees meets at the Mount today. AIM, the Alliance for International Monasticism, was founded by a retired French abbot in the early 1960s to offer assistance by Benedictine and Cistercian communities in what used to be called the "first world," to Benedictine and Cistercian communities in what used to be called the "third world," now more commonly referred to as the "developing world."

Although the international office remains outside of Paris, today there are national secretariats in six countries bringing alliances between 100s of monastic communities in Europe and North America with those in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The US secretariat, which has been in Erie and sponsored by our community since 1990, coordinates fund raising, used book distribution, spirituality magazine subscriptions, mass stipends and yearly trips to women's Benedictine communities in sub-Saharan Africa for US monastic women.

This fall AIM USA has responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by producing a "Prayer of Monastics in Response to the AIDS Pandemic" and distributed it to communities worldwide calling for a common prayer on December 1, World AIDS Day. Special awareness is focused on monastic communities who minister to HIV/AIDS patients. The Prayer Service will be posted on the the AIM USA website soon or contact them at and ask for a copy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Care of the Soul

What a gift! Thomas Moore, author of the huge best-seller Care of the Soul, was in Erie this week for a lecture at Mercyhurst College...and, yesterday, he came to the Mount for a question and answer session with community members, prayer, supper, and then a public presentation. In response to the most frequent subject that people talk to him about: that they have left formal church membership because it holds no meaning for them yet they are on a continual search for the spiritual in their lives, he is writing a book on the Gospels, looking at the original Greek that he studied as a collegian, to uncover fresh and original meanings. He is concentrating on four words that he believes are the basis of Jesus' message: kingdom, metanoia, healing and agape.

If you have the time, this link is a short but very good interview with him that's worth reading.

Two more things: a) He has been a psychotherapist for 30 years. His definition of psychotherapy? "Care of the soul." b) Was he as great as you'd think he would be? Yes....maybe even better!

Monday, October 8, 2007

October Art Show

Our Chapter 57 Gallery opened a month long art show Sunday, as Sister Margaret Ann hung nearly 50 of her latest pieces, including numerous color photographs of our chapel windows and their reflections on the bordering ceramic tile. Titled "The mystery of it all," she explains her new works as "seeing light in a new way, seeing nature in a new light and seeing what is ordinary and celebrating life."

The Gallery, which is a long inner hallway, is highlighted by an 8' by 2' glass exhibition case cut out of one wall. One side of the case is on the hall/gallery side, the other is in the adjacent community room. It's perfect for displaying three-dimensional pieces. We are fortunate to have a number of talented artists and crafters and two or three times a year Margaret Ann organizes a showing of their latest creations. This show is unique, however, as it is all her own work.

The name Chapter 57? It's a reference to chapter 57 in the Rule of Benedict where he discusses the role of artists in the monastery.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah

The Tent of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah, a group of Jews, Christians and Muslims who have joined together to promote shared concerns for peace, justice and care for the earth, have designated Monday, October 8 as a day of fast and prayer: "a day to come together, to turn attention to spiritual depth and communal sharing."

The month of October brings holy days for many faith traditions: the month of Ramadan and the Night of Power; the High Holy Days and Sukkot; the feast of Francis of Assisi and Worldwide Communion Sunday; Pavarana/Sangha Day; and Mahatma Gandhi's birthday.

Our community will hold a special evening praise at 6:30 p.m. Monday followed by a meal to end the all-day fast. Rabbi Leonard Lifshen will open the Vespers service with the playing of the shofar. The public is welcome and invited to join us.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Motley Crew

Another word about this year's jubilee celebration, as it did encompass the entire weekend--a special supper Friday night, the jubilee Vespers on Saturday, and special inclusions at liturgy on Sunday morning. Being another "first" in our renovated chapel, there were lots of new rituals, two of which were particularly nice: the Sisters' seven title banners were hung in the cloister walk from chapel to the dining room, and, after renewing their vows, the jubilarians stood in two rows to sing the "Suscipe" as they moved from the ambo to the altar. All in all everything was lovely--and shared by 200 friends and relatives, in addition to the community.

I always thought the phrase, "What a motley crew!" was one of those hidden compliments that says: We're not all the same, Look at our diversity, We've got a little bit of everything! Well, this jubilee group has a good claim on being a motley crew, not to be confused with the rock band, Motley Crue, of course! Only four of the seven entered this community originally. Two were part of the Benedictine Sisters of Benet Lake, WI, whose community merged with ours in 1991 and the seventh was a Sister of St. Joseph before transferring here 25 years ago.

In fact the whole community has this flavor. Out of the 112 members, 30 (over 25%), were novices or professed members somewhere else. Some came directly from their first community, others were out of religious life for some years and then re-entered here. This certainly qualifies us as a motley crew...and it does make for an interesting variety of backgrounds. No cookie cutter cutouts are we!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The First is Paper

Jewelers have a list of gem stones for every anniversary. There are the traditional remembrances and modern ones. There are jewels and flowers and house gifts that we use to commemorate years of commitment. Some of the more unusual ones are: 1st-paper or clocks; 6th-candy or wood; 9th-bronze or linens; 15th-crystal or watches; 20th-china or platinum; 35th-coral or jade.

This weekend we'll celebrate our 50 and 60 jubilarians...golden and diamond. It's a very moving ritual, especially for those of us who haven't reached that point. All those weeks and months and years on the journey: ups and downs, joyous highpoints and difficult low times...all wrapped into what has become, when suddenly you just seem to turn around, 50 or 60 years.

Congratulations to our 2007 jubilarians and to all who reach a milestone on their path through life this year....a cause to celebrate no doubt.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Let All Around Us Be Peace

This Tuesday and Wednesday two back-to-back events remind us that a world of peace is a dream so many of us share, yet at times seems so far off.

On Tuesday a "Reclaim the Site for Nonviolence" prayer service will take place at the site of the recent murder of a local woman. These prayer services take place whenever a homicide occurs in Erie and are scheduled for 5:15 p.m. so that many individuals, groups, neighbors and friends can attend. This one is most poignant as the woman lived at Villa Maria Apartments, the converted Motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The complex also served as the original buildings of Villa Maria College, Villa Maria Academy (boarders and day students), and Villa Elementary School. The community moved to a new location in 1993, after over 100 years at 8th and Liberty Streets.

On Wednesday, Joan Chittister will give a presentation to local peace and justice proponents. Her presentation, "Women, Power and Peace," is part of our community's Heritage of Hope capital campaign events. The Benedictine Sisters of Erie have a 40-year history of active commitment to peace efforts--locally, nationally and internationally. Sr. Joan, herself, through the UN-sponsored Global Peace Initiative of Women, the International Committee for the Peace Council, and the Niwano Peace Award Committee, has traveled the world taking a strong leadership role in peace efforts among all peoples, religions, and cultures.

Pax, shalom, pacem, mir, patz, lape, nyiEe, pau, heiwa, pyonghwa, achukma, pace, friede, rauha, siochain, paix, sipala, amani, paz, heping, isithangami, amaithi, solh, pokoj. However we say it, it is one wish: Peace.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Modular Magic

The big news this week is across the street, down near the lake, yet on the Mount grounds: the arrival of the new modular house that will replace 4th Cabin. During summers, 4th Cabin served as housing for Glinodo camp counselors. The rest of the year it gave community members a place for "time away" and also a place where out of town families could stay when visiting community members.

The new place, Benedicta Riepp House, named for the first Benedictine sister in the US, is a little bigger and also a little closer to the lake. It has 2-3 bedrooms, an upper deck with a beautiful lake view, and an outside porch.

Additionally, the former Big House, the central meeting place, kitchen, dining room, and offices for summer camp, will now be available for sisters' families. It has seven bedrooms and maintains the summer camp feel it has had for over 70 years. It, too, has very large north windows overlooking the lake, picnic shelter and pool.

Here's a view of the sunset from either place. Lake Erie from Glinodo.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cloister Walk

Cloister walks are common, especially in the monasteries of Europe. I've seen some where a part of the monastery is built as a quadrangle with an open middle area of green space or garden. All around the perimeter of this garden is a cloister walk, covered but open-aired and often highlighted by archways. Perhaps in the middle ages the monks and nuns walked this path for meditation or a moment of solitude. Here's a sample.

With our chapel renovation this past year we gained a type of cloister walk. It used to be just a windowless hallway from the chapel to the dining room. But, it was renovated as an extension of the chapel, same walls, ceiling, and flooring. It also now has five tall, narrow windows enabling the passersby to look out into our inner courtyard garden. It has a lot of the cloister walk characteristics.

One of our own special additions is a hummingbird feeder on the second window. We have only ruby-throated hummingbirds in our part of the country, but we have a lot of them and when they are migrating north or back south to Mexico, the feeder can be drained every 2-3 days. A local birding expert reminded us to keep our feeders filled throughout September. Although most of the hummers have passed through, there are always stragglers she noted!

Finally, if you've never read Kathleen Norris's best seller, Cloister Walk, you should. She's a first-rate poet and her reflections on her two years with the Benedictine monks and sisters in Minnesota, are beautiful---along with being a pretty realistic look into contemporary Benedictine communities in the US.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grape Juice and Grape Jelly

As the result of a perfect growing season, the summer harvest of fruits and vegetables is upon us with a vengeance. One sister reminded us that the residents in a nearby small town used to joke that everyone locks their doors and keeps the lights low at this time of year so that their gardening neighbors don't think they're home and come ladened with squash and tomatoes to share.

The Welch Company, the world's leading producer of juices, jams and jellies made from Concord and Niagara grapes, has two of its four plants just east of Erie--in North East, PA and Westfield, NY. An article in the Erie paper this week features local grape vineyard owners proclaiming this year's crop as excellent.

We have a small 30-40 foot grape arbor on our property and its Concord grapes are already delicious. The only slight tension we have is competition with the deer. You'd think that with the apple orchard, salt lick, bushes and everything else they seem to nibble they could leave us the grapes!

Monday, September 10, 2007


Last week Sr. Mary Charles McGough, OSB, from Duluth, MN, a great artist of the US monastic world, died of cancer. Her contemporary and beautiful icons grace every monastery I've ever visited. Her Benedict & Scholastica, the second one you'll see if you click on this link, is one of the most popular images of the founders of Benedictine monastic life.

For the last 6-7 years, AIM USA used this icon as the front of its prayer card. Requests to have it reproduced with the prayer in English, Portuguese or Spanish came regularly. One monastery in Asia liked it so much that they set up a display to duplicate the icon, using similar statues and the same background. If you live near enough to visit Duluth, go to St. Scholastica Monastery on Kenwood Avenue and see some of the originals that hang there and pay silent homage to Sr. Mary Charles and all the women and men who gift us with such beauty for our spiritual journey.

At Mount St. Benedict the icons of Benedicta Riepp, the first Benedictine woman to come to the United States (1852) and Scholastica Burkhard, our first prioress (1856), hang in the hall outside our prioress's office. They were both done by Sr. Mary Charles.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Before You're a Toddler

This week the schools opened in Erie and the five-year-olds at St. Benedict Child Development Center went off to kindergarten. The Center's largest program is an East Coast Migrant Head Start program for the children of Hispanic migrant workers that come north to work in the grape vineyards, the fruit tree orchards, potato fields, etc. From April through early December, 80-90 newborns to five years old come for 8-12 hours every day. The program is terrific, as it includes meals, health screenings, highly certified teachers and aides, and lots of parent and family education.

Last week the sister in the infant room told me that when the kindergartners left for school, they were getting four new babies, but had to move their four oldest onto the next level. "Oh, to the toddlers room?" I said. "No," she answered, "we're opening a new room: the waddlers room.....for our just-learning-to-walk waddlers!"

Webster: "an awkward clumsy swaying gait." Yep, that's it exactly!

PS. The Erie Seawolves did win the game Monday and now enter the league playoffs.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ora et Labora

I heard a funny story on the radio yesterday. A union worker was bemoaning the fact that the real meaning of Labor Day has been lost and that it has become just another day off from school and work. He had also read that a third grader, when asked what Labor Day was about, had answered, "It's a day when we think about all the women who have had children."

Work has an important place in the Rule of Benedict and one of the popular Benedictine mottoes is "Ora et Labora." Terrence Kardong, OSB, an excellent commentator on the Rule, has a good, short essay on Ora et Labora. Here's an excerpt:

"It cannot be denied, of course, that the Benedictines themselves have cheerfully plastered this motto on everything from their napkins to the carving above the front gate. So our friends (or enemies) can hardly be blamed for assuming that the slogan expresses something important about our monks and our monasteries. If the monks themselves have clasped this euphonious moniker to their bosoms, it must have a basis in reality. What is it? St. Benedict does indeed make some comments about work in his Chapter 48. The text begins with another pithy saying: 'Idleness is the devil's workshop.' In this chapter he sets up a rather precise daily schedule that includes time every day for manual labor. Some commentators have claimed that this is in fact the first time in history that a precise work schedule was set up, and they add that this is the real beginning of the history of the modernization of work. Without regular hours, not much gets accomplished."

Today we have a day off of ministry/work, of course, and this year, before our annual Labor Day picnic, a dozen of us are going downtown to the last baseball game of the season for our Erie Seawolves. They are a Double A farm team of the Detroit Tigers and can clinch first place in their division with a win today! Go Seawolves!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Creation, Creativity, Christianity

This week our 97th Spirit of the Seasons retreat weekend took place at the Mount. That means the spring 2008 one, May 2-3-4, will bring a glorious celebration! We don't have a formal "retreat center" but we do offer some organized retreats and, for private time, three hermitages in the nearby woods and a whole floor of 16 guest rooms.

The Spirit of the Seasons program is the jewel of our retreats: weekend creation-centered spirituality that attracts three dozen participants for each season. What do they include? I'd describe them as a mix of creation, creativity, and Christianity. The four seasons themes feature earth, air, fire, and water, but it's the creativity that has made them so enduring. The coordinator is extraordinarily gifted in group process and retreat work. It's her "gift" as we say. How she and her assistants continually come up with new ideas and new prayer experiences is a wonder...but they do, and each weekend is unique and special.

Here's one long-time retreat participant's take on his experiences: "I am a United Methodist. My life has not been the same since 1998 when God intervened to bring me to this community. My family and I choose Mt. Saint Benedict, not for the benefits we receive, which are many, but for those in the future who will need to hear the truth, be transformed, and find a place of loving respite...."

Monday, August 27, 2007

She/He Loves To Read

Well, that may be what proud parents say about their 9-year-old, but recent facts about the American reading public are disappointing. A study reported that the average number of books read by adults last year was four--and that 25% of adults in the US did not read even one book all year. Women are the most avid readers and religion and popular fiction are what is read most.

Sister Joan Chittister's latest book, Welcome to the Wisdom of the World, has only been out 5 weeks, but the publishers, Wm. B. Eerdmans, have already distributed 6,000 copies. If you love wisdom stories and always wanted to know something about the major world religions, in a non-threatening way, with non-theologically choking vocabulary, you'll love this book. Since 3,000 copies is an average yearly run for a book, these early numbers are terrific.

Here's another look at the publishing world: Nielsen BookScan of White Plains, NY, reports that 1.44 million different books were sold in the US last year and 1.12 million of them (77%) sold fewer than 99 copies! I believe the seven Harry Potter books have sold something like 325 million in 65 languages. WOW! And, yes, I just finished the latest one...and it WAS great.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Just Work---Just Be

"I am not doing art, I am doing theology," Brother Thomas Bezanson

Some met him years ago at Weston Priory in Vermont. Many met him here in Erie. Some were invited to his special tea ceremonies...using his own Japanese tea bowls, eating fruit and cheese and good wine. Others knew him more generally. All of the mourners who attended Brother Thomas' wake and funeral mentioned one common element: the beauty that he created and brought to the world.

A touching moment occurred when Bernie Pucker, owner of Pucker Gallery, recited from the Morning Prayer service at the synagogue that he attends daily. He read first in the Hebrew and then in English. He also told the chapel-filled group that he had been to Erie two times in the first 21 years Thomas lived here, and 16 times in the past nine months, sharing the unique experience of being part of Thomas' dying moments.

Sister Joan Chittister reflected on John's gospel and Jesus' exhortation to "Love one another" in her homily. Here is an excerpt: "Jesus message of friendship is very, very different. Jesus message about friendship is about revolutionary love. Love for the tax collectors you resent and suspect. Love for the fishermen who have no economic clout. Love for visionaries who want peace, but also for the zealots who want war. Love for the women and the lepers, for the rich and the poor, for the handicapped and the outcast, for the Jews and the Samaritans, for the Roman soldiers and the Canaanite women. Jesus message is about love, it’s about a friendship that is more than marriage, more than politics, more than convenience, more than personal comfort. It’s about being for one another. It’s about caring for one another. It’s about loving one another as God has loved us, all together, all at once.

"Thomas’ whole message, like Jesus’, these last seven months has shown us how he loved his whole life. It showed us what it means to love inclusively, to love widely, to love wholly, to love without bounds. Who here is not certain that they had a special relationship with him? He was the universal “brother” and people trooped in from across the United States, came from the homes and offices of the city, overflowed in this community. He showed us all how to be about more than the pots–whatever those talents, those gifts, those life-giving centers of creation may be–in our own lives. He showed us how to give our gifts without becoming captive to them. His work brings us all together today not because Thomas did pots, but because the pots he did generated a whole new way of living in each of us."

The full text will be posted at

Monday, August 20, 2007

An Extraordinary Talent

Twenty-five years a Benedictine monk at Weston Priory, twenty-two years an artist-in-residence at Mount Saint Benedict Monastery, internationally acclaimed potter, Brother Thomas Bezanson, died on August 16 here in Erie. An article in Erie's Saturday paper gives a beautiful overview of his life and work. If you google "Brother Thomas" you'll find books and photos and information galore. Go to Pucker Gallery (his sponsors in Boston) to see a sampling of his ceramic pottery work. Or better yet, come to Erie and see our 120 piece collection--his extravagant thank you for offering him a home and place to pursue his art for the last two decades.

Brother Thomas, Potter

Your hands
the miraculous modelers
of clay, remain long
and thin and beautiful
while the sum of your essence,
body and soul,
splinters like dry wood,
thirsting for rain.
It is the antithesis of
clay to porcelain.
Secret glazes have
fashioned pots
their value in museums
their sacredness in your heart
keep them the sole
gift of your flaming spirit.

Now cancer captivates your body.
Today you cannot sit at your wheel
and today you cannot lift virgin clay.
You rest in your studio
waiting as malignant cells
take your magnificent dreams
and, pressing them earthbound,
forbid their transformation to miracle from clay.

Ellen Porter, OSB

Thursday, August 16, 2007

R & R & R

August is time for R&R&R, rest, relaxation and retreat time. Our hermitages and guest rooms have been filled with people trying to find a precious few days before the summer ends for these three R's. I noticed that the meditation labyrinth we put in a few years ago outside the east front door is a little overgrown right now. You can still see the stones that mark the spiral path, but it takes a bit of looking. Maybe it's better that way, as a slow watchful walk is certainly the best way to move through it.

When I visited the Abbey of St. Scholastica in Dinklage in northern Germany, I happened upon their cemetery as I was strolling the grounds. It is just lovely. There were perhaps 15-20 stones...not lined up, not flat to the ground, not in a manicured setting. The cemetery is set in just a large grassy opening, surrounded by large bushes and trees. Seven or eight large flat-topped stones, marking the graves there, are placed within a long area perhaps six feet wide. The area is filled in with a ground cover of greenery. It has a very natural, very personal feel. This cemetery isn't Dinklage's "claim to fame," however. That belongs to the water-filled moat that surrounds the monastery, over which you must pass to enter. Unique? Absolutely. As is this marvelous community.

Go to , click on "Bilder" on the left side menu and enjoy browsing through their website's photos. There are some beautiful shots of the moat, grounds and the community. If you want to see the cemetery, you'll have to contact me!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sacrament of Anointing

One of the most special moments of summer community days is the annual Sacrament of Anointing. This year 25 were anointed as part of Evening Praise Thursday night. Our relatively young member, well along into Alzheimer's, was there. The sister who is in the final stage of breast cancer came with all her oxygen paraphernalia. Another, just recovering from extensive foot surgery, wheeled herself to the chapel. And, of course, our oldest members ask for anointing each year just to receive the grace of the sacrament.

Along with the sisters who were anointed was the brother of one of our sisters who resides in our infirmary, two mothers of our sisters who live at nearby Benetwood Apartments, and one of our infirmary aides who herself has serious health problems. The prioress and the director of health services accompany the priest as he makes his way from one person to the next. As the person is anointed everyone nearby joins the presider by laying a hand in blessing on the person. It is a lovely and very moving service.

Here's an excerpt from Miriam Therese Winter's prayer that we used. "Anoint me with the oil of integrity, O God, and the seal of Your sanctifying Spirit...Anoint my heart with warmth and compassion and a genuine generosity toward all who are in need...Anoint the whole of me, O Holy One, that I too may be holy..."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

LLL Days

"Learning, Leisure and Legislation," summer community days this week, features four presentations by Sister Dianne Bergant, CSA, a member of the large community of the Sisters of Saint Agnes, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Dianne is a professor of Old Testament Studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and the author of numerous articles and books in theology and liturgy. She was the editor and writer for the journal Bible Today for many years and most recently published Israel's Story, parts I and II. All four speakers for this year's community gatherings: LLL days, October and April community weekends, and June's community retreat will focus on Scripture: God's Word.

The "leisure" in LLL days features a lunchtime ride on the Victorian Princess, a Mississippi river boat that offers three-hour cruises of Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie and is docked at the foot of State Street for the summer.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Awards Weekend

A dozen community members traveled to Kansas City this weekend to be present at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) awards banquet where Sr. Joan Chittister received the 2007 LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award. Since its inception in 2003, LCWR has honored five women whose work and leadership have affected religious life for women in the United States. A DVD presentation and remarks by Sr. Joan highlighted the banquet for the 700 assembly attendees.

In Erie, prioress Sr. Christine Vladimiroff was the guest speaker at the 25th anniversary dinner for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania. Twelve sisters who have worked at the food bank or who served on its Board also attended the banquet. From 1982-1993 Sister Augusta Hamel, OSB, served as the food bank's first director and Sr. Christine served as the executive director of the Chicago-based national Second Harvest network before her election as prioress in 1998. This fall the food bank will move from its Ash Street location to Grimm Drive near 12th and Greengarden Blvd. The anniversary dinner was held in the just-opened Bayfront Convention Center built right on the shoreline of Presque Isle Bay in downtown Erie.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

An Exaltation of Larks

Since I haven't written about our deer since the end of June, it's time for an update. In the mid-90s a dozen apple trees were transplanted from the grounds of the original motherhouse in Erie to the Mount, behind the back parking lot, right next to the tree line. During the last month the first of these trees have begun producing this year's apples and the deer have gone wild! Here is our present herd as we know them: One solo doe practically lives in the orchard. She's there every morning, throughout the day, and every evening. If you arrive home in the pitch dark and turn your car lights toward the orchard, she is always there--- sometimes alone, sometimes with others. We still have the two doe and their fawn: one quite small and the other medium. One or both pairs come every day. The lady across the street who lives on the hill next to Glinodo says she has seen a doe with identical twin fawn, but I don't know of anyone who has seen them on our side of the road. The two young bucks are around, but not very often. Maybe when the rest of the apple trees produce they'll be lured back. There are probably a few others among our herd, too; it's hard to tell who's who.

The best thing about the increased sightings is the increased sightings! All of our guests are seeing the deer regularly. Nearly every breakfast and supper has people at the dining room windows watching the adult deer up on their hind legs stretching for the fruit while the fawn romp around and mimic their mother's behavior, getting their apples from the ground. If a walker is on the path or just standing watching them from a distance, they don't seem to mind. But get too close and they will disappear into the woods---just waiting until you leave to return and continue their feasting.

One of my favorite quirky books is An Exaltation of Larks (James Lipton). It contains over 1,000 group names. Here are a few: a leap of leopards, a smack of jellyfish, a kindle of kittens, a watch of nightingales, a charm of finches, a string of ponies, a tissue of lies, a parliament of owls, a college of cardinals, a skulk of friars...and on and on and on.

If you like these kinds of word games, here's a listing online of more group names:

Monday, July 30, 2007

Let Us Pray

There are two main bulletin boards at the Mount. One is for community business and information and is located in a room for the Sisters only. The other, near the gift shop, is for more public messages--nearly half of them asking for prayers. It is not uncommon to see Sisters and guests standing there reading the latest requests. I did this over the weekend and here is a sampling of what I read: "F., a frequent retreatant, is having difficulties and would appreciate our prayer assistance;" "L. a 49 yr old who survived lung cancer, now has 14 lesions in her brain;" "K. the sister of our former Sister Mary S., wants to sell her home and she asks for our prayers;" "Would you please offer some prayers for my Dad?" "Your prayers have been requested for K. for healing of her ankle;" "Please hold my grandnephew M. age 21 in your prayers. He is in critical condition in a hospital. He is now on a respirator. His mother and father are still praying for a miracle. Thank you."

These requests for prayers come directly to Sisters from co-workers, oblates, SBA alumnae, family members, friends and even casual acquaintances. They are included with donations to the community, come from guests after their visit here, and even arrive via anonymous phone calls to our switchboard.

Let us remember these and all the special needs of our friends, families and all the people of God.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Swiss Connection

A friend told a friend who told a friend. And that's how lots of people get to our place! This month we welcome Monika from Switzerland, whose close friend visited us awhile ago and encouraged Monika to come. The mother of three young adults, she is also a teacher on a psychiatric ward at a children's hospital. Since English is now obligatory in Swiss schools, all teachers are encouraged to spend some time in the summers in English-speaking countries. For three weeks she has been with us, spending days at various ministries, helping with events, attending prayer, working at the Mount and just participating in as much as possible. Monika comes to gain facility in English and we gain by a firsthand and intimate exposure to another culture through one of their own people. I think we're the winners.

P.S. There are a number of Benedictine monasteries in Switzerland. The largest: Maria Rickenbach, for women, and Einsiedeln Abbey for men.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ceremony of Hope

Erie, one of 4,800 US sites for the American Cancer Society's international fund raiser, Relay for Life, held its 2007 event this weekend at the McDowell High School track. Congratulations to our team who came in #1 this year in money raised with over $11,500--and also had the highest individual fund raiser of the 130-team Erie event. The team from the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, sisters, oblates and friends, is one of only four teams that has been a participant from Year One, 14 years ago. Highlights include the Survivor Lap and the Ceremony of Hope, a stunning after-dark event featuring paper bag luminaria that ring the track. Each light honors a cancer survivor or the memory of a cancer victim. The 24-hour walking event, which raises millions each year for cancer research, has grown to include Relays in over 20 countries.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Compassionate Presence

Our first death and funeral in 19 months occurred this week when Sr. Nora Curran passed away most peacefully. About 10 years ago we changed the prayer card that is available at the viewing: it now has a picture of the sister on the front and a prayer, specially written for her, on the back. It makes a lovely keepsake and can be sent to friends who live out of town or who cannot attend the services. To read Sr. Nora's obituary, go to the obit section of the online version of the Erie Times News.

Here is an excerpt from her prayer card, which tells us much
about the life and person of Nora:

Nora was a compassionate presence
in our midst.
She sought out those whom the world forgot.
Her love knew not borders as
she shared life with the poor.

God, we discover you in the
everydayness of our lives.
We are ever grateful
for your abundant blessings
and the life of Nora.
In her name, we ask your blessings upon
our sisters and brothers for whom
this day will be burdensome and
for those who will have their needs
unknown and unmet today.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Oenothera Missouriensis

Finally the Night-Blooming Evening Primroses are comfortable in their new location. Because of the chapel renovation, they had to be moved for eight months, along with most of the inner courtyard garden plants, to a corner behind the house. All three plants returned in early May, but their first eight weeks have been traumatic as we only saw a bloom here, a single flower there. This week their transition time seems to be complete as multiple, strong, bright yellow flowers have been emerging every evening on all plants.

Visitors never cease to be amazed at this live time-lapse photography event: flowers blooming right before your eyes! An 80-year-old grandmother was as astonished as her 12-year-old grandson just this weekend. I can't recall any visitor who has admitted to seeing this 90-second wonder ever before. Many photograph it and a few have even tried to make a mini-video show. You can see the results of the grand openings at To see it're going to have to come for a visit.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

July 11-St. Benedict, patron of Europe

Here's a look at the present Benedictine world courtesy of the newly updated Catalogus Monasteriorum...male and female editions. Among the women: 15,400 throughout the world, over 3,000 in the United States in over 65 houses. Benedictine men number 7,800: in the US over 1,500 in 60 houses. St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN (60 miles west of Minneapolis) is the country's largest with 165 monks. Kathleen Norris wrote her wonderful book Cloister Walk there. Their neighbors, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Joseph Monastery, are the largest women's monastery in the country. These totals do not include the Cistercians and Trappists, followers of the Rule of Benedict as their founders sought to reform Benedictine monastic life in 1098 and the mid-17th c. respectively.

St. John's Abbey is home to the poet Kilian McDonnell, OSB. In his book, Swift Lord, You Are Not he gives a glimpse of everyday life in his abbey....and in every Benedictine house.

The Monks of St. John's File in for Prayer

In we shuffle, hooded amplitudes,
scapulared brooms, a stray earring, skin-heads
and flowing locks, blind in one eye,
hooked-nosed, handsome as a prince
(and knows it), a five-thumbed organist,
an acolyte who sings in quarter tones,
one slightly swollen keeper of bees,
the carpenter minus a finger here and there,
our pre-senile writing deathless verse,
a stranded sailor, a Cassian scholar,
the artist suffering the visually
illiterate and indignities unnamed,
two determined liturgists. In a word,
eager purity and weary virtue.
Last of all, the Lord Abbot, early old
(shepherding the saints is like herding cats).
These chariots and steeds of Israel
make a black progress into church.
A rumble of monks bows low and offers praise
to the High God of Gods who is faithful forever.

For all things Benedictine go to

Monday, July 9, 2007

Of the Probing Heart of God

This weekend brought a final monastic profession (final vows) for one of our junior members. It is always a very moving experience. Reflections on one's own years as a perpetually professed member of the community fill everyone's mind. A 150-year-old tradition accompanies this day: the giving of a community title. In past years these titles have ranged from the devotional: Sister Emily of the Sacred Heart; to qualities of Jesus, Mary or the saints: Sister Jeannine of the Patience of Jesus, Sister Pauline of Our Lady of Good Counsel; to events from the gospels: Sister Mary Bernice of the Ascension. Today the given titles are qualities of the faith journey, often particular to the person. Our latest member received this one: Sister Katherine of the Loving Generosity of God. And it fits!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ite ad Google

Memories of our spring community days speaker Nathan Mitchell keep coming back to me. Unfortunately it's just that one line he used, "Ite ad Google," as he referred to the ease of finding the art pieces he was using in his power point presentations...they were all drawn from google images. "Ite ad Joseph" was the phrase I knew well, back when Catholics of every educational persuasion had Latin phrases slipping off their lips with ease. I'm reading a very witty real-life account of a journalist's year covering the Vatican, When in Rome. In one chapter he relates a day visiting, as he calls him, "the only man in Rome who really speaks Latin." This priest is the reference for all things Latin, for everyone---for official documents and everyday questions from Vatican personnel. The priest contends that Latin for Catholics was akin to Hebrew for Jews. They were proud of it, felt special because they knew some of it, and with its loss lost something unique that helped glue the Catholic community together. He makes an interesting point, but I'm not sure I could go that way if it meant abandoning the vernacular. Some of the translations are certainly more functional than moving, but the ones that are first rate, are just that: first rate. The best translations not only allow us to understand the words easily, they move our souls, give us visual images---without google's help---that make our encounters with the God of scripture and liturgy, true encounters of grace. (When in Rome is by Robert Hutchinson.)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Even With Wimples, We Can't Fly

A film crew from Loyola University of Chicago spent the day here last Friday. The director of the Women's Studies Dept. is making a full-length documentary, A Question of Habit, on the visual portrayals of nuns in pop culture (movies, greeting cards, ads of all kinds, even Halloween costumes) versus the reality of who "real" nuns are and what they do. They were here to interview Joan Chittister as one of the most well-known and gifted articulators of the life of women religious in the United States. In addition to the interview they taped the community's Evening Praise and visited some of the community ministries to use as background shots for the film. A producer from the Chicago Sunday Evening Club accompanied the crew and held her own interview of Sr. Joan for her fall appearance on "30 Good Minutes," the CSEC weekly TV interfaith speaker series.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Around the World in 730 Days

This week Michael Pierre arrived at the front door early one evening. His story? He's cycling around the world and has been doing so since July 2005. The USA is his 44th country, Canada will be the 45th, and then home----to France. He asked permission to set up his tent in our backyard. Yes, we gave it to him, and took him to a cool, flat area near one of our hermitages in the adjoining woods. He came in for breakfast the next day and then was on his way. His six continent travelogue can be read at Even if you can't read French, the pictures beautifully tell his story.

Also this week our new fawn and the doe made their debut---at 7:00 a.m. in the apple orchard right at breakfast time. He/she bounced and ran and leapt around its mother and then, after 3-4 minutes, scooted after her into the woods.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bavaria to Pennsylvania

Saturday we celebrated "Founders' Day" and honored two Benedictine women from our own history. The founder of Benedictine life in the U.S. was Benedicta Riepp, who arrived in central Pennsylvania in 1852 at the age of 27. She died just 10 years later in Minnesota, a member of what was to become, and still is, the largest Benedictine community in the country. The other is the first prioress of this community, Scholastica Burkhard, prioress for 22 years, beginning with her arrival in Erie on June 23, 1856---age 24.

Iconographer Mary Charles McGough of the Benedictine Sisters of Duluth, MN recently wrote contemporary icons of these two young, pioneer leaders. They appear together in our administrative hall outside the office of the present prioress.

Today's U.S. Benedictine women number over 2,500---the vast majority of whom trace their roots back to Benedicta Riepp.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Solstice

Today is the summer solstice and in our Great Lake plains region a welcome feast, as our winters are long, grey, snowy and cold. Additionally, Erie, named for the Erie tribe that lived along the southern shore of Lake Erie until the late 1600s, has claim to the Native American tradition of respect for and awareness of the earth, its rhythms and cycles.

Benedict, too, makes note of the changing seasons. In his Rule, he adjusts the arrangement of prayer times, clothing, and even the amount of food and drink, aware of the manual work in the fields under the summer heat.

Each solstice and equinox we have special psalms and prayers as part of our prayer. Here's one by John Muir:
"This grand show is eternal.
it is always sunrise somewhere;
the dew is never all dried at once;
a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continent and islands, each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Chapter 53 of the RB states "...guests, and monasteries are never without them..." Our house was filled with guests this past week. They included an abbot from England and a sister from the Philippines and many others from around the US. All summer we'll have a "full house" as family members visit from out of town, many ministers, sisters and other people on their faith journey take private retreat time, and oblates come for summer community events. And, of course, new people hear of the hermitages and just come to see what they're all about.

The sister in charge of hospitality posts a list of all guests for the community. One day I saw the name "Eunice Shriver"...and then another time there was "Henri Nouwen." Visitors from Europe, Africa and South America aren't all that rare, but ones from Asia and especially Australia, are not an every day occurrence. A few years ago we had a rarity: one weekend we had a guest from each of six continents. I wonder what this summer will bring!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Time Out

Our community is on its annual retreat this week. A monk of St. John's Abbey is the director, giving two conferences each day. Many sisters contribute to extra special prayer and liturgies, which are creative, prayerful and add much to the week. The theme is the gospel message through the evangelist Mark and, to that end, here are two recent books on Mark's message that have excellent reviews: Fully Human, Fully Alive by the Australian Trappist, Michael Casey, a much admired and excellent spirituality writer, and The Lost Spiritual World by Ruth Rimm. The latter is a very contemporary, interfaith, beautifully illustrated experience. has 10 sample page illustrations which give a good flavor of the book. The book isn't even rectangular--the right side is a sort of wave! It's quite the creative endeavor. Michael Casey's latest book is An Unexciting Life: reflections on Benedictine spirituality. When I first read that I just laughed....I can't imagine his is such and mine certainly isn't, but I think I know what he means!

P.S. Anyone who read the May 3 posting remembers I promised an announcement of any new fawn.....and here it is: this Tuesday one of our sisters came upon a brand new fawn in our surrounding woods, right across from Hermitage #1 about half way to the gas well, for those who know our place. It was in the long grass, just peeking up its head. WOW! I think the fawn from last year are still around as we keep seeing two young ones---with the velvet beginnings of antlers between their ears. They must be our last year's twin boys.

Monday, June 11, 2007

3,500 + 65,000

Today the Erie Peace Initiative is organizing a public gathering marking the 3,500 deaths of American military men/women in the Iraq war. The silent vigil will be held between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the intersection of I-79 and Frontier Park, a busy corner in west Erie. Thousands of peace cranes, made for the 2,500th commemoration, will be on display and 171 gold star flags will be held, in honor of the 171 Pennsylvanians who have died. Benedictines for Peace is a member of this local coalition and many community members plan to participate.
The website estimates that between 65,000 and 71,000 Iraqi civilians have died in this war also. I wonder who is standing vigil for them today.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

X Out Those Days

Both the Catholic and the public elementary and high schools in Erie end their 2006-2007 year this week. For decades a majority of the community was in elementary or secondary education. Today there are only five sisters who are directly in the schools...although I counted more than 25 in education generally--that's including things like childcare and preschool, adult education, and religious ed.

I remember as a teen making a calendar of the final month on the cardboard in the back of each subject's notebook and crossing out that day as each class period ended...a 30-day countdown to "freedom"! Later, when I became a teacher, I was surprised to find out that teachers counted down those last days, too...with just as much anticipation and yearning as we had as kids...maybe even more. They just kept their crossed out calendar days hidden!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Rites of Passage

This weekend we experienced a day of "Rites of Passage" for three people with special connections to the community. Saturday afternoon brought a high school graduation party for the daughter of an El Salvadoran refugee who was befriended (along with her six children) by our Sanctuary Committee 14 years ago. When the rest of the family moved south she returned to Erie and has lived with us for three years to become the first in her family to earn a high school diploma. In August she will begin her college studies at Penn State University-Behrend College in Erie.

Saturday's Evening Praise (Vespers) incorporated a funeral service for a 94-year-old resident of our Benetwood Apartments--the father of one of our sisters. For over a decade this man had joined us for Sunday liturgy, weekday prayer, and an occasional evening meal. Saturday ended with another celebration for a Benetwood resident as the mother of two of our sisters reached her own 90th. A daylong get-together topped by cake and ice cream was enjoyed by both her immediate family and by her many friends and extended family members from Benetwood and the Mount community.

Our prayers go with all three of these special friends as they embark on the next stage of their journey.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reclaiming the Site

In November 1999, our Benedictines For Peace committee began a Reclaim the Site for Nonviolence effort--offering on-site prayer services whenever and wherever a homicide occurs in Erie. This week the 28th Reclaim the Site prayer service was held for the victim of a house fire that was ruled an arson. These 5:15 p.m. prayer services have had such a widespread effect that frequently the victim's families respond when contacted, "Are you the sisters that do the prayers? Would you do one for our brother?"
Young adults, murdered as the result of an argument or dispute, often between people under the influence, are the most common victims, but not always. We have held sites in residential areas, too.
The one thing they all have in common is the sadness and sincerity of the attendees: family members, neighbors, and anonymous members of the Erie community that gather together to mourn such tragedies in our midst.

Let us pray for an end to all violence--especially in our own cities, between our own neighbors.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Americas the Beautiful

Too often, in our country, the term patriotism is equated with a strong war mentality. That definition makes holidays such as July 4th and Memorial Day a difficult celebration for nonviolent, peace-loving, justice-seeking people. However, when patriotism embraces a spirit of freedom and acceptance, equality and care for all a country's people, the celebration can go on.
When we sing Miriam Therese Winter's lyrics for "America the Beautiful" on national holidays such as today, they do make our feelings of patriotism valid:

How beautiful, our spacious skies, our amber waves of grain;
our purple mountains as they rise above the fruitful plain.
America! America! God's gracious gifts abound,
and more and more we're grateful for life's bounty all around.

How beautiful, two continents, and islands in the sea
that dream of peace, non-violence, all people living free.
Americas! Americas! God grant that we may be
a hemisphere where people here all live in harmony.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Send Us Your Spirit

The new All Saints Church in Waterford was the setting for the spring diocesan priest-sister gathering this week: "Claiming Our Pentecosts: the Role of the Spirit in our Lives and Ministry." Rev. Scott Detisch, a former presider at Sunday Eucharist at the Mount, gave reflections on four "Pentecosts" in our lives: ecclesial, sacramental, personal, and cosmic. He was---as always---just great! The reflections were creatively intertwined with readings, psalmody, and sung canticles. Four of our sisters, a Sister of Mercy, and one of the diocesan priests provided the music. Scott and one of our sisters, a recent recipient of a doctorate in liturgy, put the event together.
This month, Scott is leaving his teaching position at Christ the King Seminary to become pastor of Holy Cross parish in Fairview, a suburb just west of Erie.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Follow the Leader

A pair of Canada geese are back at the pond in front of the plastics plant right up the road. Any day now we'll see this year's crop of fluffy goslings trailing after their mother in daily parades around the area.
Last Saturday some of our own goslings were back, following after our sister-recreational therapist all day. They started coming five or six years ago: high school students or young adults needing community service hours for school or after some minor infraction with the law.
For those who aren't Catholic, or even for those who are but have never been inside our place, it must be like entering a parallel universe! Shy, quiet, and obedient are their first reactions. But after two or three times they seem to relax, talk to us in the halls, and actually appear to catch on to the rhythm of the place and what's going on.
The Sister that they follow around all day is marvelous with them...teaching, sharing, modeling all sorts of behaviors, attitudes and lessons. At the end of their time she often invites their families to come for dinner, as a kind of informal "graduation." In the Benedictine world we call that hospitality....a unique version no doubt, but hospitality for sure.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Where Is Love?

The Neighborhood Art House had its annual spring show last night: stage performances along with art displays and craft projects from the second semester classes. When I saw my first show 10 years ago, I thought that the musical Oliver had come alive in Erie....especially that opening scene of the ragtag children holding out their bowls, marching and singing "Food Glorious Food."
A decade later, after hours of classes, instruction, experiences, and practices the performances now showcase great talent and abilities that usually come only from private lessons or classes--unaffordable to most NAH families.
Congratulations to the sisters who are on the day-to-day staff and to the many others who help each year with public relations, fundraising, and behind the scenes special needs whenever asked.
"Where Is Love?" Love is right here.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Spring has burst out everywhere the last few days. Hummingbirds have returned to our window feeders, that unique spring green now colors the trees, and all the areas that have been muddy with construction received a leveling and that funny grass seed spraying they do nowadays.
The Spirit of the Seasons came back to the Mount this weekend,too. It was great to have all 25 of them for the Spring: Air as Transformation retreat weekend. Erie is a perfect place to hold a seasons-based retreat program as we have all four spades!
There was quiet time for private prayer, liturgy of the hours with the community, group activities, much laughter, and a few tears. It is good for us to have these seekers among us again. It helps us not take our own spiritual journeys for granted.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Silver Lace

One of our sisters is in the end stage of cancer. After many years in remission it came back two years ago last February. Everything about her journey is inspiration. One bonus for us is her return to the poetry writing she began as a child. A chapbook of her poems, A Hermit Holds My Heart, has just been published (Benetvision ). Here's my favorite, written to our oldest member:

For Margaret Harrison

It is too late for miracles
my friend.
You wear your years
like silver lace
your hair white as ermine.
Ninety three years
lean toward resurrection,
and I do not begrudge
you that journey.

But I, too,
move toward death.
Yes, I am young
but more than half your age.
I am growing familiar with tumors
and aching flesh.
My soul years are tidied up
and finished like drying hay.
I am also ready
for resurrection.

So, let us leave God in peace.
I promise I will not beg for your longevity
if you will stop hounding heaven for mine.
We have no need for miracles

Monday, May 7, 2007

A Tisket a Tasket

About 125 of our major donors joined us for Sunday liturgy and brunch yesterday. "The weather cooperated beautifully" as they say: sunny, warm---the best of spring in the northeast. As part of our annual thank you, donors receive a small gift bag. One year it included a key chain with a wooden fob made by a sister who is a wood turner. Another year, a 5" x 7" cross-stitched Benedictine cross with "Pax" in the center---the product of a half dozen sister crafters. Our donors always ooh and aah at the year's special gift, but we know why they really come: the fresh loaves of Benedictine bread that are a part of the bags each year! We could probably skip everything else and just give a "breads basket" and they'd still faithfully attend. I can't believe the $50,000+ gift baskets for last year's Oscar award presenters are more valued....or delicious.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mint Julep Week

The deer have returned to our backyard. Somewhere between 7:00-8:00 pm most nights they emerge from the woods that borders two sides of the Mount. They slowly graze, stop at the salt lick, and wander in and out, making their way across the backyard before turning north to cross East Lake Road to the lake side of our property for the night. (At least that's where we think they're going.) This week we witnessed a first: three of them, not the fawns we saw do this last summer, initiated their own Kentucky Derby of sorts, as they ran, full out, the length of the yard next to the tree line, for about 15 minutes. Back and forth, back and forth, pausing only long enough to take a breath before turning around and tearing back the other way. We are used to seeing the fawn romp and jump and frolic, but we had never witnessed grown deer in such a racing contest. Must be the week, even though we are 400 miles from Kentucky!

(Future posts will announce the arrival of this year's fawn....we hope.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Stained-Glass Windows

We are all still reeling from the "official" opening of the renovated chapel this weekend. This morning's Morning Praise was breathtaking. The no-longer-carpeted floor, now ceramic tiled....and the no-longer acoustically-tiled ceiling, now Pennsylvania natural wood have transformed the sounds of the chant and music. It is overwhelming. The 16 floor to ceiling stained-glass windows still make up the north and south walls. I'm taking a seat on the north side, facing south, so that I have a view of the morning sun through the windows and their reflections on the tiles.

One of the most popular Benedictine mottoes fits the day: That in all things may God be glorified.