Monday, June 30, 2008

Art & Sole

A beautiful summer Sunday morning greeted over 100 runners and walkers for the first ever Neighborhood Art House "Art & Sole" 5K walk/run through downtown Erie yesterday morning.

The participants traveled a 3-mile route west on 10th Street to State, north to E. 2nd Street, then east on E. 2nd to Reed, south on Reed to E. 10th and back to the Art House. The fastest runner made it in 17 minutes, the last walkers came in at about 75 minutes.

Although it's a little fuzzy, you get the idea of the 6:30 a.m. fruit prep done by five of us.
At least we all got a T-shirt!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Endless Search for Wisdom

Every spiritual seeker I know searches for wisdom.

In 2006 the prioresses of the 50 US monasteries that make up the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses released a 75-page booklet, Wisdom from the Tradition: a statement of North American Benedictine Women in Response to Our Times. This is, also, the overarching theme of our retreat.

Here is one of the last paragraphs which, I think, sums up the basic posture of this wisdom search for Benedictines in the 21st century.

"The wisdom to be found in the Rule of Benedict and in our living tradition offers God-seekers an alternative way for present and future generations to live together in mutual care.

Life lived according to the Rule can create communities that are leaven on every continent, able to lift up the confused, the fearful and the despondent.

In the tradition's timeless invitation that we respect, respond to and care for one another, we are taught how to protect the young, the old and the sick while providing for all according to their needs.

Benedict's message is straightforward and clear: rather than pursuing what you judge is better for yourself, choose what is better for others and the common good."

Beautiful weather has enabled much time for outdoor quiet and reflection.

Photo by Bernadette Sullivan, OSB

Monday, June 23, 2008

Retreat Week

This week (Monday evening through Saturday evening) the community is on retreat. This is a group retreat: everyone goes to the same two conferences a day, attends Morning and Evening Prayer and Compline together and keeps general silence at meals and throughout the Mount the whole time. In between the formal gatherings there is quite a bit of time for quiet, personal reading, prayer and rest. Our oblates are welcome to attend the group gathering and many of the locals, and a few from out of town, do.

We are permitted, of course, to attend directed retreats if we wish, but these five days are obligatory for all.

One of the nicest things about retreat week for me is the Liturgy of the Hours. Each prayer time is prepared by a different group of sisters and they are full and rich, as no one is rushing off to work or evening events afterwards.

The conference director this year is a Benedictine Sister from the Midwest, Mary Collins, OSB. She is a retired theology professor from the Catholic University of America and a longtime leader in crafting Benedictine life for women in the US since Vatican II.

The over-all title of her presentations is Wisdom from the Tradition.

Mary Miller, OSB captured this beautiful display of summer on the lamppost outside of St. Scholastica Priory.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Requiescat In Pace

Our senior community member, Sr. Margaret Harrison--who entered our community in 1928, 80 years ago--passed on to eternal life this week. Her memory service was Wednesday, funeral today and the burial will be tomorrow morning.

The memory services are something special--just family (albeit a large one) sitting around sharing stories and memories. These are especially significant experiences for those of us who haven't known the sister for her entire religious life. We only know one small part--maybe just the last 20 years or so. The other parts, the younger adult years, we didn't share and they are a delight to hear about.

About 10 years ago we developed a new prayer card with a photo of the sister on the front and a specially written prayer on the back. Here's Sr. Margaret's:

"O God of life, of all life, of each life,
embrace with love our sister, Margaret.
She yearned to be in the fullness of your presence.

Her life was one of fidelity to the monastic way of life.
May her example of faithfulness give us courage for our monastic journey.

Her cheerful smile, twinkling eyes and kind words

brought us joy.
May we give the gift of love and compassion to others

as she did to us.

Lover of music and sewer of fine fabric she delighted in the surprises of life.
May we learn to be attentive to the hymn of the universe and the beauty of all creation.

We praise you, O God of all life.
Bless us who celebrate the life of Margaret.
Give us the grace of fidelity to our monastic way of life.
May we witness to your faithfulness as you hold us in your love."

Full Obituary

Monday, June 16, 2008

Maori Liturgy

Every day a different sister serves as prayer leader for Morning and Evening Praise. This involves finding readers, cantors, candle bearers--any needed participants--choosing the hymns, and adding any special blessings or prayers appropriate to the feast, memorial or vigil.

Everyone does a good job, but there are 3-4 leaders that are outstanding. When they have prayer I wouldn't miss it for anything. They just have a knack for liturgy--selecting just the right things, interconnecting the various parts of the office, and bringing in creative and meaningful options that make the prayer even more special than it is normally.

Last Friday one of these sisters was listed as prayer leader--and she didn't disappoint.

After the psalter, near the very end of the liturgy of the hours, we recite the Our Father--which we refer to as the Prayer of Jesus. For her Prayer of Jesus she came upon a different one, taken from the Maori liturgy. The Maori are the native peoples of New Zealand and here is their beautiful rendition of this most famous of all Christian prayers:

Earth-maker, pain-bearer, life-giver,
source of all that is and shall be.
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
the hallowing of your name echoes
through the universe.

The way of your justice be followed/
by the people of the world!
Your heavenly will be done/by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom/
sustains our hope and comes on earth.

With the Bread we need for today/feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another/forgive us.
In times of temptation and test/strengthen us.
From the grip of all that is evil/free us.

For you reign in the glory/of the power that is love.
Now and forever. Amen

I am proud to share the news of the arrival of the first of our 2008 fawn: twins!

They can be seen daily in the apple orchard, woods or fields at Glinodo. Here is a trio from a recent summer.

Photo by: Ann Muczynski, OSB

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Week in (small) Review

With apologies that I've been out of town for a week and am not up on all the usual goings on. But here's a small sampling of what I do know:

a) Two of our sisters continue on their journey to God...please remember them in your prayers, they are both magnificent women;

b) the renovations of our second floor west are coming along well, although they had a very rough week as temperatures here surpassed 90 degrees and broke all-time record highs on two or three days--90 is really unusually high for us;

c) Joining our international guest list, a sister of Filipino descent from California arrived to spend a month of her sabbatical with us. She'll be joining us for prayer, visiting and helping in our ministries--both at the Mount and in Erie, and just generally experiencing the life of a Benedictine community; and

d) Joan Chittister won her 8th Catholic Press Association Award for her book, Welcome to the Wisdom of the World.

Here's what the CPA page writes on her First Place award in the category of Hardcover Spirituality Books: "Joan Chittister seeks to engage the wisdom of all people as they grapple with life’s core questions. She explores this wisdom in five major religious traditions, demonstrating her understanding of each tradition and showing how the spiritual insights of each have sought to answer questions common to all persons. This book is a major contribution to the breaking down of walls between major religious traditions. The realization that each tradition holds valuable insights makes for a deeper understanding that each person, no matter of what religious tradition, is seeking answers to universal questions. This is a rewarding discovery!"

If you want to see the whole 2008 CPA list of winners go to their site and click on 2008 CPA Awards-Books. It takes 2-3 minutes to download but you'll see everything.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Indoor Windows

At the far east end of each of our first floor residence wings there is a stained-glass window--they are set inside a kind of hall divider, not part of an outside wall. They are from the original motherhouse and were placed in the new additions to these wings in the late 1980s.

Both of them are angels--which is a very comforting thought: to have guardians at the end of the halls all the time.

Speaking of angels, have you seen the summer TV series, Saving Grace? It's about an angel named Earl who can only be seen by a detective, Grace. It is admittedly a little raw, as Grace is a "one of the boys" type of gals in the Oklahoma City setting--but the acting is good and, if you can look beyond the sensational Hollywood parts, it has some pretty good messages about cooperation with grace and one's spiritual journey or the lack of both.

To add a little more spice and religion to the story, Grace's brother is a Catholic priest, her best friend is a Hispanic, Catholic girl, and one of her detective partners is a Native American with all that beautiful spirituality. The religious overtones aren't overtones at all; they're right out there.

Throughout the first season the story line has been inching closer and closer to what Earl's presence in Grace's life is going to produce. I'm hoping that this season we'll see a little more about Grace's response to Earl's attempts to bring her more in touch with her own life, her own spiritual journey, etc. Remember, angels are always messengers and, oh, does this gal have one on her back!

One of our angel windows.

Photo by Mary Miller, OSB

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I've been reading Mary Oliver's poetry rather steadily over the last year or two, so, when I got hold of her latest book, Thirst, I was excited and couldn't wait to start--but I was totally unprepared to be "blown away," as they say, by the poems I found.

The book jacket tells us that the Pulitzer Prize winner ventures into two new areas with this collection and one of these is her discovery of faith.

Oh my! For those of us who supposedly live a public life of faith each day, it is humbling and yet wonderfully inspiring to read such openness of someone's faith journey. And, of course, since it is Mary Oliver, it is expressed marvelously.

Here's one of my favorites--though I have others. Watch for them in the weeks to come.


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

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

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

Photo by Stephanie Schmidt, OSB

Monday, June 2, 2008

Monastic Lexicon #2


Cen-short e; o-long o; bite, as in to take a bite of an apple.
Cenobitic: cen (same); o (same); bi- short i; tic.

Here's a word I never heard before joining a monastic community, although it is indeed in the dictionary: Cenobite-a member of a monastic community under a Rule and an abbot/prioress.

When I was first in religious community I remember my father's response when I was sharing with my parents our routine in the convent: "Just like the army," he said. At the time I was a little offended, but I grew to understand that wherever you have a large group of people together--anything from schools to employees to apartment residents to the army to religious communities there are certainly commonalities in dealing with the everyday procedures of life.

Although almost every commentary of the Rule of Benedict has excellent reflections on the hardships and graces of cenobitic living, one of my favorite definitions was one that I read recently in The Abbey Banner, the magazine produced by St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

One of their older men was asked to comment on his many years in the abbey--as a monk at St. John's. "How has it been?" they asked. "Well, it's been fine," he replied, "there's only one problem: every monk's mother made potato salad a different way."

If you're laughing, you understand community living! If you're not--you've never had the "privilege" of trying to live it!

A sunset over Lake Erie.
Photo by Ann Muczynski, OSB