Monday, August 31, 2009

Fall books

Four new books by Joan Chittister are being released this summer and early fall:

The Liturgical Year-Thomas Nelson Publishers. This is number six in Thomas Nelson's eight-part Ancient Practices Series. It begins with Advent and proceeds through the Christian church's calendar. Due out in early October.

Daily Gospel 2010-Claretians, Madrid. Short reflections on the daily gospel reading of the day for every day of 2010. Released, simultaneously, in ten languages. English books are on their way from the Philippines, distributors of the English editions!

The Breath of the Soul-Twenty-Third publications. Sister Joan's writings on prayer. Available now.

The Fine Art of Living-Benetvision. Twelve short lectio-appropriate reflections on attitudes of the heart, with smaller quotations, poems, action suggestions and the original art of Anne Miller. Full color. Available now.

New Light Through Stained-Glass Windows column in Sept-Oct. Faith magazine see page 6.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Our city's newspaper, the Erie Daily Times, has a terrific group of photographers: Janet, Jack, Rob, Rich and others. They're so good that every year or so the Times sponsors an exhibition of just their photographs--the best ones they've taken on the job. Many didn't make the paper itself, I'd guess, but they are unique shots of people and events and moments that they've seen through their lenses.

I've run into a number of these photographers in my ministries and I think of them so often when I see something that I wish I could catch on camera. I'll find myself thinking, "If Jack or Janet were here they could get this shot."

That's what went through my mind when I walked out into our library courtyard last week and saw it full and absolutely lush with late August flowers, bushes and foliage galore. I wanted to catch the full range that my eyes were seeing--all at once, in one shot.

Here's what I settled on: the old bell from the original motherhouse in Erie, surrounded by black-eyed Susans---at least as many as I could fit into the photo. There were many, many more all around the courtyard.

This is what also makes, in my opinion, our very popular retreat programs--so popular: the use of our natural surroundings . Whether they are used directly as part of the program or just available to the participants during their own reflection time, the lands, the woods, the walk to Glinodo and the lake itself can't help but bring the spiritual life nearer to all who spend time with them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One Year Ago

On Friday, 35 of us gathered at Trinity Cemetery on the first anniversary of the death of our sister, Ellen Porter, OSB. Her sister, niece and great-niece from Oregon came, as did two of our infirmary aides who worked with and then cared for Ellen during her last weeks. The rest of the group were "just us," her daily community: sisters, co-workers and friends, those who still think of her, miss her and wanted to join together in this remembrance.

Ellen, a fine, fine poet, leaves us with a treasury of her reflections. Here's one I like.


Faith requires new vision
though vision
long held or nascent
guarantees nothing.
Still, walking into
newly fashioned chapel space—
wood and glass
trees and water—
freshly seen,
we stir toward the sacred.

We sing first alleluias
choirs tossing tones to each other
face to face
and up to clerestory sky.

Then our voices quiet,
their praises received,
and we eye each other
tentatively in silence.
The building walls
singing, echoing,
fling our alleluias in return
up through vibrant air.

Our clerestory.
Photo by Charlotte Ann Zalot, OSB

For more of her beautiful insights, see the link at right.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Someone's at the Windows

We had one of those "Weren't they interesting guests!" experiences this week.

In the middle of Evening Praise Monday those of us on the north side of chapel could see--through the south stained-glass windows--a person walking up the sidewalk beside the chapel to a seldom-used door. But the sisters on the south side weren't aware of this because the windows are behind them--so no one got up to see what was going on!

Minutes later I spied the person again as she came around the perimeter of the chapel on her way to the front door; so I got up and went to see what was going on. In halting English, a woman introduced herself as Hildegard--and her husband Alfred, who was sitting in their large camper that was parked in our side lot.

They are oblates of two monasteries in Germany and, for her 70th birthday, her husband gave her a 6-month "pilgrimage" visiting Benedictine abbeys and monasteries in the US--we were #42 on their list! They began their extraordinary trip in Baltimore where they picked up their camper that they had sent ahead, via ship, from Hamburg. They began traveling the southern route of the US, up the California coast, even visiting one OSB place in southwestern Canada, and then heading back through the north, hitting many of the OSB places in the Dakotas, Minnesota and all those other Benedictine-rich midwest states.

As we were having one of our rare 90+ temperature days when they arrived, we insisted they stay in one of our guest rooms rather than in their non-air-conditioned camper. They were really suffering the effects of the very hot afternoon.

They told us of being in some of our midwest summer weather: a small tornado, rains, a little flooding. When you consider that Germany is about the size of Montana, this US adventure is quite a daunting task.

They were delightful and even though the language barrier was severe, our common Benedictinism was enough to make a connection. They left the next morning after breakfast heading to Toronto for more Benedictine experiences.

Guests are always interesting! We can't wait until our entire guest hall (15 rooms) is back to being fully available. Book your stay now!

Benedictine oblates, Hildegard and Alfred,
from Haltern-Sythen, Germany.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lazy, Hazy Days

Hot summer August days have come to Erie and although our grass and bushes are not browned out nor has the city had to put out a schedule for non-essential water use like washing cars, the heat has hit us. For us, that's temperatures in the high 80s--with humidity.

These last weeks of August find many community members getting in their final days of vacation, welcoming visiting family members--especially from out of town, and just generally getting in last-minute summer events before the school year begins. Since for years and years many of our schedules revolved around the September to June school calendar "when school starts" or "after Labor Day" continue to be popular reference points that are hard to put aside even when we now work at the same ministry year round.

It's been a month since I shared a Mary Oliver poem, so here's one perfect for these August summer days.

Song of the Builders

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God--

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

Why I Wake Early
Mary Oliver

Our monarchs are beginning to gather to begin their migration south.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vatican Visits

At the risk of sounding like a news report: Lots of interest and talk in our community--and indeed in the over 300 Catholic religious communities of women in the USA--is going on these days as we are in the midst of an apostolic visitation by the Vatican. If you Google "apostolic visitation" and then pare down your search by hitting News at the top, you'll find a long list of articles and opinion columns on the topic from members of religious communities, religion writers from the media, and "ordinary lay folk."

One that caught my eye, more because of his extensive background as the longtime religion writer for Newsweek magazine and as the author of the book, Double Crossed: uncovering the Catholic Church's betrayal of American Nuns, is an article on all this by Kenneth Briggs.

Just keeping up with the official announcements let alone the opinion columns and the dialogue on the internet: back and forth, pro and con, this way and that, would make a full time job--and probably will be a doctoral thesis or two somewhere.

I took this on an early evening walk around our place, which explains the darkness in the background. They really are quite striking.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Post-LLL Reflections

Richard (Rick) Gaillardetz, PhD, from the University of Toledo was very fine as a speaker for our LLL days last week. He adopted a "behind the scenes" posture for his Vatican II sharing and it was both entertaining and enlightening.

His other presentations on the Church were equally good and, to cut to the chase, beg a number of questions for our own reflection, one of which is surely: How can we as a Benedictine community of women model the church that we wish the Church could be?

As usual, the daily Liturgy of the Hours were marvelously creative, prayerful and moving. We are so blessed and "lucky" to have them. Both of our speakers for LLL mentioned them, as well as our Eucharistic liturgies.

I'm told these are amaryllis. I "discovered" them in our inner courtyard this week. Hardy little things--as they balance on a single stem, survive some fierce summer rainstorms, 80+ degree heat and everything else that comes in the day of a flower.

Anyone have a memory of the musical "The Music Man" and one of the little girls who taunted the little boy with a lisp who couldn't say her name--wasn't her name Amaryllis?

Part of our LLL Sunday environment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Rest of the Story

Here are a few more samples from the delightful Rule of Benedict by Mary Charles McGough. Click on them to see an enlargement--not for printing, please, but for details. Scroll down to the July 16 entry to see the cover.

It can be purchased from the Benedictine Sisters of Duluth at 1001 Kenwood Ave, Duluth, MN 55811. I think it retails for around $50 US.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Early August

Early August this year brings our annual LLL days (Learning, Leisure and Legislation) aka: Summer Community Days. As part of the upcoming week, Wednesday through Sunday, Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, a theologian from the University of Toledo in Ohio, will give four presentations to the community and oblates on "The Post-Vatican II Church."

For those who cannot always recite or who don't have easy access to a Morning and Evening psalter-based prayer, a shortened one using our inclusive psalter as well as other parts of the hours, can be found here: Morning and Evening Praise for Ordinary Time-August.

And finally, here is a site that I have in my Favorites. I don't go to it more than once a month but every time I do I think to myself, "Why don't I look at this site more often?" The answer, of course, is that there are just so many hours in the day. Regardless, it is a real beauty and I can't resist sharing it with you. Even if you only scroll down it for one minute, I think you'll agree with me that it is aptly named: Eye Candy

Here's our own "eye candy" right from our garden.