Thursday, August 28, 2008

Monastic Lexicon #4

Opus Dei.

The Latin phrase, Opus Dei, came into the public vocabulary with the novel and follow-up movie, The DaVinci Code. In it, the term referred to a conservative, radical branch of the Church that served as one of the "bad guys" through an improbable albino monk who was following the heroes. There is an Opus Dei organization but it doesn't resemble the movie version.

For us, Opus Dei appears in the Rule of Benedict and refers to the Divine Office or the Hours of Prayer. We chant from our own office book, That God May Be Glorified, an inclusive language five-week psalter. It uses a variety of terms and names for God, and the pronouns are gender inclusive throughout.

Here is the full length east wall of windows of our adoration chapel. Three Benedictine crosses are at the top of each and the phrase, "Let nothing be preferred to the Work of God," is embedded in the stained glass.

Here is one
up close.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ellen Porter, OSB

Ellen Porter, OSB
July 2, 1948-
August 21, 2008

She was a California girl--who visited a friend here in Erie thirteen years ago and ended up staying for the rest of her life, trading the scenic beauty of the mountains and valleys of the west for the four seasons--including 90" of snow each winter--of the Great Lakes plains.

She traded her Episcopal roots for Roman Catholicism in order to enter the community she said she loved--the community she found here. After seeking for 40+ years, she'd found "home."

And we were blessed to have had her in our presence.

Ellen was also a musician and this photo shows her drumming during one of our events.

Here is a perfect portrait of our Ellen, as written by Mary Lou Kownacki for her prayer card.

Come, let us praise our God.
Let the soaring mountains and giant redwood
leap in praise.
Let all poets and lovers of the Word sing a verse.
Let wisdom figures of all great spiritual traditions
lift a prayer.
Let peacemakers and compassion seekers
bow in honor.

For our dear sister, Ellen Porter,
--this steady mountain of truth
--this gifted poet
--this magnet to God in monastic life
--this deep pool of peace
--this woman of rare integrity
--this heart of boundless friendship
has graced our lives and left a valued memory
of how precious is each single breath we breathe.

We are grateful, O God, for the priceless gift of a life
that will impact our own for days upon end. Amen

Her full obituary can be read here.
Her poetry is here at

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Library Light

Whenever an attic, a basement, a garage or even just a cupboard has to be cleaned out or rearranged not only is cleaning and moving done, but the opportunity is taken for a good weeding out. That's exactly what has been happening in our library since it was upended in mid-February. On the floor it was getting a new carpet and in the ceiling lots of tiles had to come down so that the electricians and plumbers could get into the pipes et al. that are above the library but below the 2nd floor rooms that are being renovated.

All of that is done now and, finally, the new windows are being put in. I think we'll be seeing our "old library" re-emerging in a matter of days.

The first of the new windows are installed. View from the outside: the upper floor is the library. The older windows are still on the lower level. No more leaks, no more loss of heat!

View from the inside looking east.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jubilee Weekend

Seven of our Sisters celebrated 60-50-25 years of monastic profession this weekend. The temperature stayed warm and sunny the whole time which helped those coming from out of town to make the trip to Erie with ease.

The Jubilee celebration required an additional 150 chairs, even in the area usually reserved for handbells and other instruments.

The reception that followed spilled out onto the patio. The backyard provided lots of running around space for the children who attended.

Our Korean sisters, Sister Madeleine and Sister Elia, along with niece, Caritas, danced in their traditional Korean dresses to one of the hymns. Breathlessly beautiful.

The seven sisters' title banners were displayed in the hall between the chapel and dining room.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back to Normal

During our summer community days last week, we had our annual Blessing of Ministries ceremony. At that time we all give to the prioress our written support for our community's Corporate Commitment. In turn we each receive the name of a sister for whom we will pray throughout the year. This year we also each received a small, simple wooden Benedictine cross. Although we all receive a community ring at final profession, most of us also wear a Benedictine cross in a variety of sizes and settings, as a kind of unofficial symbol.

After community days it was back to "normal life."

On normal days many of us travel along Route 5, East Lake Road, back and forth from the Mount to Erie or visa versa. Along these 7 miles we pass the General Electric plant, the upcoming tire recycling site, a strip tease bar, the oldest part of inner city residences and small corner stores, bars and establishments of all kinds. Although there are some spruced up places, this passage would not be known, generally, for its scenery.

However, with my new camera in hand, and therefore with new eyes for such, I am seeing some of the hidden beauty along the way. You just have to be more on the lookout for it!

This was about 3 feet from the curb where busy traffic whizzes by in front of the proposed
tire recycling plant. It was much prettier than I caught on camera but the next day--it was all mowed away!

Here's a large swatch of orange lilies right across the street from the strip bar!

Wonder if the patrons look at it, too?!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sophia Commentary

Barbara Reid, a Dominican theologian teaching in Chicago, was just a terrific speaker. We had four sessions with her during our summer community days. She spoke, primarily, from her book on the women in Luke's gospel.

"As we know well, the scriptures were written:
by men,
for men,
about men, and
from men's points of view and concerns,"
she reiterated.

"Even the commentaries about the Bible have been written by men--until recently. In our time women are finally educated, can study theology, have studied the original Hebrew and Greek, and, therefore, can know for themselves, firsthand, the difference between the gender of pronouns, the difference between words such as "leader" and "deacon." Biblical commentaries are now also written by people other than white, western males."

Barbara has just been named general editor of a series that will be published by Liturgical Press over the next few years. It is tentatively called, Sophia Commentary, and will be a commentary on every book of the bible, from a woman's perspective--something that has never been attempted.

Best of luck to her and all the writers of this groundbreaking series.

On Saturday we reached the "leisure" part of the four days and one of the activities was a trip to the Erie Zoo! Much fun was had by all. Here is one of our new friends!

Photo by Margaret Ann Pilewski, OSB

Thursday, August 7, 2008

August Community Days

Summer community days began Tuesday evening with an excellent presentation on the value and centrality of community prayer. The hour-long presentation interwove Evening Praise, music, discussion and a fine presentation by one of our liturgists.

Wednesday's evening meal was our annual Awards Dinner when we recognize the year's accomplishments and awards received by community members. This dinner is also our annual steak dinner (salmon steaks or grilled veggies for the non-meat eaters)--all done on an outside grill! Reports are that all three were delicious.

The view from our tall narrow alcove chapel windows--from the inside looking out.

And the same view from the outside looking in. The lilies extend about 15' both left and right of the windows.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Another entrance to eternal life

Over the past seven weeks our three most senior sisters have all passed onto eternal life. This week it was Sr. Joanne Huether, age 96.

God of Glory, welcome into your presence our Sister Joanne.

Love of Christ was the center of her calling to monastic life, and her heart overflowed with love toward all. May the love of Christ be the center of our lives.

She taught us in many ways how abundant God's love is for each one of us. May we be bearers of God's love to everyone we meet.

Her faithfulness to community, prayer, family, and friends was a strong model of the beauty of monastic life. May we, too, be signs of the gift and grace of Saint Benedict's way of life.

We give praise and thanks for the long life of Sister Joanne. May her memory continue to live in us as we strive to prefer nothing whatever to Christ.

I hope "heaven" is full of flowers--and no one has allergies!

Photo by Stephanie Schmidt, OSB