Monday, November 30, 2009

The Coming of Advent

Advent crept in over the Thanksgiving weekend, but our first vigil Saturday night and Eucharist of the First Sunday of Advent, Sunday morning, were as lovely as ever. The most commonly heard reaction from all community members was something along the lines of, "I just love those Advent hymns--prayers--readings--environment (fill in the blank!).

And I say, ditto, ditto, ditto and ditto.

This year's chapel wreath, with some late-day light from the south windows:

"Our God is coming and will not delay; every hidden thing will be brought to light and God will be revealed to every nation."

Morning and Evening Prayer for Advent, here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Mary Oliver has a lovely poem on things we are most grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day--the people in our lives who we love.

"What is the greatest gift?"

What is the greatest gift?
Could it be the world itself--the oceans, the meadowlark,
the patience of the trees in the wind?
Could it be love, with its sweet clamor of passion?

Something else--something else entirely
holds me in thrall.
That you have a life that I wonder about
more than I wonder about my own.
That you have a life--courteous, intelligent--
that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.
That you have a soul--your own, no one else's--
that I wonder about more than I wonder about my own.

So that I find my soul clapping its hands for yours
more than my own.

Mary Oliver

Our dining room before the guests arrive.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our own Macy's parade

Our halls continue to be packed full of visitors as the final weekend for the St. John's Bible exhibit overlapped with our annual Community of Life Sunday liturgy on Christ the King--and then, Sunday evening, we hosted an ecumenical Thanksgiving service of Harborcreek churches. Whew!

Here's the north alcove for Christ the King:

A nice spin-off of all the visitors is the interest they've shown in our new chapel and in Brother Thomas's works, which are displayed all over the house as usual. Here is the current look of the large glass case in the front parlor that carries a continual display of his works.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Benedictine Medal

Since we are hosting visiting monastic men and women this week perhaps it is a good time to share the medal of St. Benedict that many of us wear and that appears in many logos and through most Benedictine institutions--and the meanings behind all the symbolism on it.

One side of it has St. Benedict holding a cross in one hand and the Holy Rule in the other. On both sides of the statue are the words: Crux S Patris Benedicti: "The Cross of Holy Father Benedict." Under his feet are Ex S M Cassino, MDCCCLXXX: "From the Holy Mount of Cassino, 1880." Around the circumference is, Ejus in obitu nostro presentia muniamur: "May we be protected by his presence in the hour of our death."

The other side features the cross of St. Benedict with many letters.

The four letters around the center, CSPB, stand for "The Cross of Holy Father Benedict."

In the center cross are the letters CSSML-NDSMD: Crux Sacre Sit Mihi Lux-Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux: "May the sacred cross be my light--let not the devil be my guide."

Around the edge are VRSNSMV-SMQLIVB: Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!: "Begone, Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! Evil is the cup you offer. Drink the poison yourself!"

And at the very top is the word, Pax, peace.

The best place to find them is at Liturgical Press. They are available in gold plating, silver, or these jubilee ones, with gold and blue and red. Their sizes are compared to coins. The most popular size I've seen is about one inch in diameter--a nickel!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Special Visitors

Busy weekend as the first of 22 monastic men and women from Europe and across the US arrive for the AIM International Council and AIM USA Board of Trustees joint meeting this Tuesday and Wednesday--first time it's been held in Erie.

Here's a preview article about it in our Mount Monthly--page 3 and a poem to help us all through our busy week--from Mary Oliver's new book, Evidence.

"Mysteries, Yes"

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Winter Warmth

Winter coats came to many of Erie's inner-city children this week through three of our ministries: Emmaus Ministries, St. Benedict Child Development Center and the Neighborhood Art House.

Operation Warm has provided 600,000 coats to needy kids across the country over the past 11 years but this is the first year the program has been in Erie. The Child Dev. Center and the Art House were two of eight local sites chosen to receive winter coats. Over 200 coats were delivered and given out to their children. A big thanks to our local PNC bank who sponsored the coats for these families.

Emmaus Ministries (soup kitchen, food pantry, women's advocacy, Kids Cafe) partners with a local Catholic parish each year that collects coats and other warm weather "gear"--sweaters, gloves, hats. Monday the parish delivered this year's donations which included over 300 coats for Emmaus families.

Operation Warm supplied colorful, hooded boys and girls winter jackets, sizes 4-18.

Monday, November 9, 2009


When I visited the Abbey of Montserrat outside of Barcelona, Spain a few years ago, I remember thinking, "What would it be like to live in a place that hosts hundreds and hundreds of visitors every week---to have the public walking around your monastery all the time?" Montserrat, as the center of the Catalonian culture, has a huge basilica, museum, famed boys choir, and retreat house and grounds which attract visitors 24-7. They stream up the mountain on tram cars and buses every day of the year---and the community of monks minister to them with constant patience and kindness.

We are getting a very small idea of what that might be like as the past three weeks have brought groups of visitors into our house every day to view the Saint John's Bible exhibit. I believe they are usually confined to afternoon and early evening hours, but on weekends it seems like they are here all day long!

Don't get me wrong, it's been absolutely great but it has also brought out our creativity to try to find new paths around the house to get from one place to the other without having to navigate the crowds! The best bet is to take the high road (2nd floor) or the low road (basement) that are generally reserved to just us!

Saturday morning there was a large group from down in the diocese and as we've been granted a surprise "gift from the weather gods" of three consecutive days of bright sun and 65+ degree temperatures, I thought that since they were going around the inside of our house, I'd take a trip around the outside! Here's how early November is looking in some of my favorite places:

Three shots from our Garden of Memories: I've photographed this little tree a couple of other times. Here it is with blossoms almost gone. Still beautiful.

I think these were hydrangea. Still such large balls of petals. Now tan.

Our large, broad swatches of Black-eyed Susans are now just black eyes!

Around the corner I peeked into the greenhouse and found some geraniums.

Notice what's different about this view of the back of our place? No dumpsters! Finally removed this week. Hopes are high that the great move-back will be in late December or mid-January at the latest. Guests will be welcomed back where they belong: in our guest rooms.

Coming around the west side, this large willow on the west lawn is the last tree to cling to its greenness. If you enlarge this you can see the bare trees across the street and some of the evergreens throughout the west lawn that now draw all the attention.

Don't know if I've ever shared this Pax cornerstone to commemorate the chapel revision. It's right in the front corner of the house. Highly visible.

And, finally, a walk in the inner courtyard found much the same as outside, except for this lone morning glory, right behind Mary.

My November-December "Light Through Stained-Glass Windows" column in our diocese's Faith magazine. See page 15.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mother Benedicta Riepp

In honor of Mother Benedicta Riepp, OSB, first US Benedictine prioress and one of the first Benedictine sisters to come to the United States from the Bavaria region of Germany, our community instituted the Benedicta Riepp program a decade ago.

This "temporary membership" type program enables women to come and live among us and work in our ministries with us for a year.

We have had about 10 women in this venture and it has truly been an enriching experience for us and, hopefully, for them.

This week we welcomed our latest member of the Benedicta Riepp program, Janice. Janice is an Erie native, an SBA grad, who now lives in New York City. She pronounced her intention to be with us for the next year and will participate in all non-canonical parts of our life.

Of course, there's is one catch to this: we never anticipated that we'd miss them so much when they left. But that's what happened. It's surely worth it, but we do miss them greatly when they return home!

Icon of Mother Benedicta Riepp, OSB by Sr. Mary Charles McGough, OSB.

Mother Benedicta, who died at age 37, is buried on the grounds of the Benedictine Sisters of St. Joseph, MN.

FAQ on our Benedicta Riepp program.

New Morning and Evening Prayer for November (see sidebar).

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Hallow's Eve + Little Saints

When these children from our Child Development Center---and their 50 closest friends---came "Trick or Treating" to our offices Friday we were all ready: red licorice, packages of little cookies, and mini candy bars. Then one of our lay employees brought out her treat: gummy bear body parts. "Yuk," I said, "those are gross." "The kids will love 'em," she replied, unphased by my evaluation. Eye balls, lips, an ear, end of a finger, a brain! And they did--as she gave me, ever so slightly, that I'm-out-in-the-world-with-kids-more-than-you-are look. She was right, but they were still gross.