Monday, March 31, 2008


"Light through Stained-Glass Windows" comes to the Erie Catholic Diocesan magazine, Faith.

Last month the magazine's editor got wind of this blog and, being in need of a new columnist, contacted me to say how much she liked it and asked me to consider being a columnist for the diocesan bimonthly magazine.

After a weekend of thinking, wondering, worrying, planning and talking with friends and supporters I decided that it would be a great opportunity to share the not-so-generally-known parts of our Benedictine life with the entire diocese and said "yes"---as long as the column could be blog-like---meaning a series of small reflections, not a long 1,000 word essay.

The March-April edition was just distributed throughout our diocese to the tune of 65,000 issues! Just ever so little more than the readership of this blog every week. 65,000---yikes!

It is also online; see Faith.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The West Wing

After a 10-month break, construction "stuff" has returned to the Mount this week, as the second phase of our capital campaign becomes reality: the renovation of some of our residence wings.

There are always two things that announce the beginning of a construction project: the huge, dumpster-like container that is brought up to the building---sometimes it even comes with a long chute coming down from the nearest window---and, of course, the blue Port-a-Potty, placed inconspicuously right out front.

So here we are into construction uproar again, but a necessity for our outdated bedrooms. The first hall for renovation is a set of rooms that will become a kind of assisted living quarters. This hall, on the west side of second floor, will be near helpful services for those who need them.

From the 1968 original design, two smaller rooms will be combined to make one. Doorways will be enlarged, as well as closet space. Right now that space is quite small, inaccessible to all but the hardy "Sure-I-can-climb-up-to-my-ceiling-level-storage-space" sisters.

Anyway, it's another opportunity to practice great patience and Benedictine hospitality! Patience with the noise, the clutter, the ever-present dust, and moving, moving, moving. And hospitality with the endless stream of workers, designers and visitors who parade through our home.

The best part? Sneaking up at night to see what's been done that day...Shhhh...don't tell.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting to Easter

"God had spoken again. Breathing forth a word of hope and freedom, God had banished darkness and another new day was born."

"For I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all foreign lands and bring you back to your own land...I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you hearts of flesh."

Easter Blessings to you and yours.

A two-minute video of our
Good Friday Peace Pilgrimage

Photos by Ann Muczynski, OSB

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In The News

While we have been deep in preparation and practices for the liturgical events of the upcoming four days, two of our sisters have been featured in our local newspaper, the Erie Times News. Each article emphasizes an important area of our life: our commitment to peace and justice and the importance of our community and prayer life.

Tomorrow is our annual Good Friday Peace Pilgrimage when we walk seven miles from St. Peter's Cathedral in downtown Erie out to the Mount, stopping at eight "stations" along the way. Sr. Marlene Bertke was the spokesperson in an article about this year's walk. You can read it at this link: Good Friday Pilgrimage.

This week the paper is doing a series on Women of the Greatest Generation. They featured our former prioress, Sr. Mary Margaret Kraus, on Wednesday. Along with the print article comes an 11-minute audio clip of the actual interview. It takes a couple minutes to download, but is well worth it and delightful to hear Sister Mary Margaret reflect on Benedictine life since she entered the community in 1939. Here's the link to the article where you'll also find a connection to the audio clip: Sr. Mary Margaret.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Paddy's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day, especially from those of us who are Bannon, Burke, Cummings, Quigley, Irish, Egan, Graham, Hynes, McCarthy, Horan, McGreevy, Dougherty, McLaughlin, Caskin, Sullivan, Eustace, Tobin, McMullen, Lynch and many others that are hidden in mother's maiden names!

The green sweaters, blouses, T-shirts and sweatshirts abound today, which, when you consider we were founded by Germans and drew many members from the Polish community of Erie, is a sign of delightful ethnic intercelebrations.

Yesterday, Passion/Palm Sunday was beautiful here. The liturgy, especially the Liturgy of the Word, showed off our liturgists at their best.The interweaving of narration, music and dance expressions during the readings was "awesome."

May your Holy Week be just that, a time of unusual "holiness" for whatever form that takes.

Here are four spirituality sites that I think have something to may enjoy browsing, especially this week:
Spirituality and Health;
Chicago Sunday Evening Club;

Photo by Ann Muczynski, OSB

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our Korean Connection

If you come down our administrative hall...when it's real quiet...and walk along the east wall right past the library, you'll hear this little swooshing noise and then a soft, not really offensive, "clunk, clunk," wood on wood sound.

You've just passed the Rule of Benedict, chapter 72 on The Good Zeal of Monastics...a huge 6' by 3' free-swinging, dowel-framed wall hanging, hand calligraphed in Korean. This beautiful piece, done on some kind of unique paper-like material, was given to the community by the Benedictine Sisters of Daegu, Korea after one of their sisters completed a year of living with us to increase her proficiency in English.

Next week, always a prime time for interesting visitors, the former prioress of their community will be with us for the Triduum of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. She is on a sabbatical of sorts, studying in Chicago since she left office last fall. Then, in early April, another sister from their community is coming for nine months to spend some time with us.

I can't wait to meet the next two. If they are even half as great as their first sister we'll be thrilled! I wonder if there's some sort of exchange program we could get into!

Photo by Charlotte Anne Zalot, OSB

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Week Off Campus

Eight girls from Ohio Wesleyan University in Columbus, Ohio arrive at the Mount today for a week of alternative spring break volunteerism...a phenomenon of increasing popularity on college campuses.

The director of the Wesleyan program is an oblate of our community and their week is a combination of Benedictine spirituality and ministry experiences.

Every day the girls will experience in-house ministries with options to work in the liturgy, development or wellness offices and infirmary. During the other half of each day they will choose from among community ministries such as St. Benedict Child Development Center, the Neighborhood Art House and Emmaus well as AIM USA and House of Healing that are administered by community members.

They will attend Morning and Evening Prayer and have sharing sessions on aspects of Benedictine life in general and in the particulars of the life as lead by our community. There are also lots of other times to casually interact with all of us.

The week after Easter, March 24-30, a group from Buffalo's Canisius College will be here for a similar program. This is the third or fourth year that we have benefited from this kind of spring break and it is a much-looked-forward-to week by all.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Winter Psalms

Yesterday a gal from northern England returned home after spending 10 days with us. It was also her first trip to the USA. It's wise to pay attention to first time visitors...their observations are always enlightening.

There are two specific comments that I gathered from her: First, she loved the snow...especially a soft, wet snowstorm we had that left every branch of every tree with 3-4" of the white stuff and truly made our grounds and our whole city appear to be a proverbial "winter wonderland." She had seen snow before, but never in this quantity! At this time in our winter (we've had 80+") it was good for us to see it through the eyes of someone for whom it was beautiful and unique.

Second, and most important, she loved our prayer...both the daily singing of the Opus Dei and Sunday liturgies. She raved and raved at first, and then, as the days went on, got quiet and reflective about it, giving us deep compliments and encouragement to continue this "gift," as she called it. Unlike the snowfall, this is not something we ever take for granted or forget its importance and effect on our lives. We know how significant it is for our spiritual journey and to our monastic life.

Here's a nice reflection on chanting by Thomas Moore:

Sometimes in their chanting monks will land upon a note and sing it in florid fashion, one syllable of text for fifty notes of chant. Melisma, they call it. Living a melismatic life in imitation of plainchant, we may stop on an experience, a place, a person, or a memory and rhapsodize in imagination. Some like to meditate or contemplate melismatically, while others prefer to draw, build, paint, or dance whatever their eye has fallen upon. Living one point after another is one form of experience, and it can be emphatically productive. But stopping for melisma gives the soul its reason for being.

Photo by Vena Eastwood, OSB oblate

Monday, March 3, 2008

Lectio--Not Just Reading

This past Saturday 30 oblates came to the Mount for a Lenten retreat afternoon. It was led by Sister Mary Lou Kownacki and revolved around the theme of lectio, the meditative reading of scripture or other spiritual works. Sister Mary Lou's primary source of lectio is poetry---poetry from all religious traditions. One of her favorites is the Sufi poet Rumi.

As part of the afternoon she shared what she called the four things she's learned about lectio in her years of religious life. Here are two of those four:

Don't read about lectio or make retreats on lectio.
Take time every day to pray.
Be regular about it.
Find a place and a time.
You become a pianist by playing the piano.
You become a writer by writing.
You become a cook by cooking.
You learn to pray by praying.

BE HUMBLE: There is no magic formula for prayer, no easy way, no way on earth that you can force prayer, no "one way fits all" prayer. You can't find God by a method.

So why do we do lectio?

Well, the ancients give us this answer:

Once upon a time a disciple asked the elder, "Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?"

And the Holy One answered, "As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning."

"Then of what use," the surprised disciple asked, "are all these spiritual disciplines you prescribe--fasting, lectio, meditation, almsgiving?"

And the Holy One answered, "To make sure that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise."

Here's a poem I found just googling "Rumi":

Where there is the fragrance of God,
The masses come in throngs.
Because the souls are thirsty for Him;
The thirsty hear the call for the water-bearer.
They are the suckler of His generosity and searching
For the direction from which mother may arrive.
They are in separation, waiting
For the union to draw near.
From Muslim, Jew, and Christian
Every dawn rise the sound of prayer.