Monday, September 29, 2008

Monastic Lexicon #5

Suscipe: sue'-she-pay

To a Benedictine Sister of Erie the Latin word suscipe, which translates to "receive," refers to the verse from Psalm 119, "Uphold me O God and I shall live, and do not fail me in my hope."

This beautiful mantra is sung at three pivotal moments in a sister's life: at her final monastic profession, at her jubilee celebrations, and as her casket is brought into chapel at her funeral liturgy.

It is often sung three times in row, in increasing keys, and, perhaps because of that beautiful musical setting, it never fails to deeply touch many of us. I don't think I've ever sung in without tearing up.

The section of Psalm 119 that contains this verse is also part of our Week III Friday Evening Praise, but it is intoned using one of the standard chant modes, not the melody used for the occasions above. Nevertheless, when it does pop up on those ordinary Fridays it is a reminder of those three special times when the community sings it with great, great joy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

September Monastic News

This month two major gatherings of monastic leaders are taking place.

From September 2-23 the abbots and abbesses of the Trappist branch of the Cistercian order met in Assisi, Italy. Among the business they conducted was the election of a new Abbot General. Dom Eamon Fitzgerald, OCSO, from Ireland was elected. A daily news blog, reader-friendly and quite interesting, can be viewed, in English, here. Or, you can go through the OCSO website. Click on "News from the MGM."

Every four years the Benedictine abbots meet in Rome. This year's meetings are being held between September 17-27 at the Benedictine college there, Sant' Anselmo. The major outcome of this gathering will be the election of an Abbot Primate. Abbot Notker Wolf, OSB, from the German abbey of St. Ottilien, has held that position for eight years. I have met him often and as far as I've experienced, he is a wonderful guy.

One of the things he is famous for is his flute playing. Everywhere he travels, and traveling is one of the major "jobs" for the abbot primate, he takes his flute and

Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, OSB

plays for any occasion. When he was in Erie a year or so ago, he played a flute and piano duet with our Charlotte Zalot. They were excellent!

Friday Sept. 26: News! Notker Wolf, OSB, was elected for another four-year term as Abbot Primate by the Congress of Abbots.

Even though the Benedictine meeting is titled the Congress of Abbots, there are a number of Benedictine women who attend. The United States has a good representation.

Morning prayer for the first day of autumn.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Endings and Beginnings


The last week of summer brought the annual Taste of the Arts fundraiser for our Inner-City Neighborhood Art House. Featuring performances and a silent auction of works by Erie's best artists, this yearly September event brings supporters from throughout Erie to the 10th and Holland after-school and summer program. Their latest newsletter can be found here.

This year's theme was "Come and See"---everyone left with a special pair of spectacles!

As always, the children stole the show.


And this morning we welcomed autumn to the four-season part of the northern hemisphere. Here is the opening "Call to Worship" which also brought forth all pieces of the environment for the day's prayer.

"Out of the blooms of summer solstice comes the bounty of autumnal equinox. In the quiet of morning, here in this hallowed space, in the presence of each other, let us set the environment for prayer.

I call forth the table tapestry.
I call forth the poplar and weeping willow branches.
I call forth the annabelle, the lace cup and the oak leaf, hydrangeas.
I call forth the pods and seeds of the purple cone flower, the black-eyed Susan, the sunflower, and the peony.
I call forth the apples from our orchard.
I call forth the sedum, the hosta and the marigolds.
I call forth the candles and the cross.
I call forth the Rule and the Scripture.

Let us arise singing our hymn, for the day has come..."

Photos by Charlotte Anne Zalot, OSB

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Late Summer Walk

I took a morning walk around the Mount the other day. What I saw reminded me why, when you ask people to name their favorite season, so many of them answer: autumn. Here's a peek at some late summer, early autumn scenes in our part of the world.

In the memory garden.

Cosmos: Back of the house by the greenhouse.

View from the first hermitage.

One of many crab apple trees in the front yard.

"Vocatue atque non vocatus, Deus aderit."

A birch tree right on the edge of the woods.

One of many trees and bushes that have exploded with berries!

As the Buddhists say, "After Ecstasy the Laundry!" And our renovations continue on.

Monday, September 15, 2008

September beginnings

As we get into September some things that were "on hold" during the summer months begin anew. Two of these involve returning to practice schedules and this week the handbell choir and the schola begin their 2008-2009 seasons--beginning with practices.

The handbell choir has 10 members, practices every Tuesday evening and "performs" with special pieces at Christmas and Easter, but can also be heard many Sundays playing the parts of the Mass and, on some Sundays and special occasions, a general piece.

Playing handbells generates great interest from the audience. The bells have such a unique sound and it looks like "fun" to play them. And it is.

Here is a link to a professional and well-known handbell group. Enjoy!

The schola is a large group of sisters (25-30) who sing for special occasions, too. Most of the songs and hymns we sing have three parts, but just recently, at Sister Ellen Porter's funeral, we sang one of our 4-part hymns and it was truly beautiful.

The schola doesn't "appear" quite as often as the handbells, but when it does, it's a beautiful addition to our liturgies, too.

Nearly 10 years ago a small sub-group of the schola recorded the CD Te Deum. It sold over 2,000 copies as a CD and audio tape. Maybe we can finagle around and see if another CD could be in the offing!

Lake Erie--Photo Elia Lee, OSB

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Library Browsing

I am a library browser--as perhaps you are. I love to walk up and down the aisles between the stacks. I usually do it on the run however, but every now and then I get to spend 45-60 minutes browsing in the main downtown library or in our area branch on Iroquois Avenue that was recently rebuilt to look like an old train station. (It is located near a GE plant that specializes in train locomotives.)

But the one I most often browse through is our own at the Mount and--ta-da--finally the second half of the new carpet is down and I expect the full library to be rearranged into its "old self" again soon. I can't wait! I'm sure many other sisters, visitors and oblates--not to mention the patient librarians--can't wait either.

We've missed it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Faith magazine

The September-October issue of our diocesan magazine, Faith, is both out in the mail and online. This is the annual "teen issue" and besides featuring 10 top teens from around the diocese, the editor tried to have a number of articles/columns that might interest teen readers. So, I tried. After teaching high school for 25 years I hoped I knew a little bit about teenagers.

Of the three articles, I tweaked one that had already appeared here, but two I newly wrote for the issue. Here's one of them. If you want to see the other two, click on the link on the right side bar.

"At 6:30 a.m. anything can happen...and does"

We hold Morning Prayer in our monastery at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays. With no intention to “toot our own horn,” without cause, I must say that our prayer is quite special: we chant most of the psalms and canticles, have a variety of musical instruments played, and have many sisters who generously share their creativity and experience in presenting the Word of God.

However, that 6:30 a.m. time can sometimes overwhelm even the best of intentions. A stand-up comic couldn’t compete with some of our faux pas, for they aren’t rehearsed or timed or planned, they just happen.

Here are some of the best from recent mornings:

The reading from the Rule of Benedict says: “Those guilty of a serious fault are to be excluded from both the table and the oratory.” One morning we were told, “Those guilty of a serious fault are to be executed from the table ….”

During the Easter season the solo reader was supposed to be telling us, “Let us go forward with branches….” But that day we were told, “Let us go forward in branches.”

And then there was that time when our prayer asked God to "Free us from our tendency to sin." But our leader begged God to “Free us from our tendency to sing.” And, she was one of our musicians, too!

On hot August days you can tell even in the early morning that it’s “going to be a scorcher,” as they say, so who could blame one of our sisters when she quoted the chapter on humility in the Rule by reading: "Therefore any requests to a prioress should be made with all humidity..."

Everyone loves the Advent readings especially the Old Testament scripture prophesies of the coming of the Messiah-- except one day when we were told, "Wait in patience for God's promise takes forever."
And finally, in our prayers we often pray for all the intentions that are asked of us. Many of them are posted on our prayer bulletin board. Here’s one of our memorable ones from that board: "Please pray for Maria K. who broke her hip and her husband Chuck."

None of these hilarious moments change the beauty and sincerity of our prayer, of course. They just remind us that we are human.

Photo by Margaret Ann Pilewski, OSB

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Moving In

Tuesday was a big day this week. Our infirmary staff and eleven sisters from that wing made a temporary move "around the corner" into the newly renovated second floor West Wing. They are expected to be there four or five months while the infirmary wing is updated. Then they will return to that hall and a dozen sisters or so will move into the West Wing's assisted-living rooms for good.

Everyone is enjoying the newness and freshness of everything--ie: the hall, floors, windows, bathrooms, laundry and small kitchenette.

Monday, September 1, 2008

End of Summer

Our sisters involved in the elementary and secondary school systems, Sisters Mary Ellen (Villa Maria), Katherine (St. Luke's) and Veronica (All Saints), are a week back into the new school year already. Best of luck to them as they continue their outstanding dedication to grade school and high school teaching.

Hopefully there will still be many summer-like days in September. Here is a look at the Labor Day scene at our own state park, Presque Isle, which many sisters will probably visit this weekend--after all, it's also where you'll find Sara's--home of the best orange-vanilla twist ice cream cones in the city!

Kayaking in the Presque Isle marina channel.

Sails are down when coming through the channel.

One of the larger boats that docks at the Presque Isle marina.

And finally, this is Ferncliff--a small "village" of a dozen or so homes located right on the bay--literally. The only access is by the Erie Yacht Club road or by boat. The residents park their cars nearby and navigate the one lane pier walkway to their home. The buildings are narrow, attached and right over the water--oozing uniqueness. See this link for a closer look at Ferncliff Beach.

Photo by Stephanie Schmidt, OSB, probably taken from the Victorian Princess during our Community Day's riverboat luncheon cruise last summer.