Thursday, December 31, 2009

Schneider's Essay

Associates and oblates of religious communities are, obviously, dedicated to their own spiritual journey and, particularly, drawn to a group/a community to share that journey. Some are former members, if not of the community with whom they associate, with another community earlier in their life. Others often speak of their interest in religious life when they were young, and still others either admire the life and works of the religious group, know members personally, or through a particular event or experience, come to feel "at home" with a community's philosophy and charism and wish to be closer to them through an association.

These women (and men) will be especially interested, as we are, in a weeklong series that the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) is running January 4-8 on the life of women religious in this country, by one of the premier writers in the field: Sr. Sandra Schneiders, IHM. Their site already has a pre-interview with Sandra on why she took on this latest reflection and the positions she posits in it. I have read a lot by Sandra and find her thoughts and reflections compelling, encouraging and inspiring.

I think all of us that are in any way associated with religious life in the Catholic Church will benefit from her ideas. Here's a link to the NCR--use the Search in the upper right for "Schneiders" if it doesn't come right up.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Gift

Every Easter and Christmas we "pass the collection basket" at our liturgies and the money is given to a cause or a ministry we select. The sisters can make suggestions for the collection and then the prioress and council select one.

This Christmas we chose Gannondale as the recipient. Gannondale is a resident facility for teenage girls placed there by the courts. It was founded 75 years ago by a group of Sisters of Charity at the request of the then-archbishop of Erie, John Mark Gannon. (Gannon University, Gannondale, Archbishop Gannon Scholarship program, etc).

The provincial of this group of Srs. of Charity is a St. Benedict Academy grad and basketball teammate of many of our sisters who played for the Lassies in the late 50s. The current administrator is one of our oblates and a former high school student of mine--great gal: bright, funny, capable and a longtime Gannondale employee--totally dedicated to their mission.

The financial crisis has deeply affected non-profits such as Gannondale, as a large portion of their funding comes from private donations and the state of Pennsylvania--whose budget was held up for months--delayed way beyond the ability of many small state-funded groups to survive.

Around the altar.

The Dickens Village in the dining room.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas 2009

Of Love (by Mary Oliver)

I have been in love more times than one, thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting whether active or not. Sometimes it was all but ephemeral, maybe only an afternoon, but not less real for that. They stay in my mind, these beautiful people, or anyway people beautiful to me, of which there are so many. You, and you, and you, whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe missed. Love, love, love, it was the core of my life, from which, of course, comes the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned that some of them were men and some were women and some--now carry my revelation with you--were trees. Or places. Or music flying above the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun which was the first, and the best, the most loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into my eyes, every morning. So I imagine such love in the world--its fervency, its shining, its innocence and hunger to give of itself--I imagine this is how it began.

Blessings of Christmas to you, your family and friends and to all you love. Morning and Evening Praise for the Christmas Season here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Saturday, Solstice and Surprises

Today is the Winter Solstice and our Morning Prayer celebrated it with this prayer: "In the heart of every person on this earth burns the spark of luminous goodness; in no heart is there total darkness. As we celebrate this winter solstice--the returning of the sun, may we call forth from one another the light and the love that is hidden in every heart by our lives and service, by our prayers and love."

The blizzard that swept up the east coast this weekend did not come far enough inland to affect us--our weekend was cold, but mild--perfect for an afternoon walk to the lake. Here are some scenes. The first two were taken right at the bend in Seven-Mile Creek, the first one is looking left, the second looking right.

Same thing with these two shots; we were standing at the top of the steps down at the lake. First one is looking left or west, then just pivot and look east.

Finally, on our way back we cut through the woods, passed the hermitages, and as we began to emerge out onto the back lawn look what we ran into--almost literally! They are easy to see these days as you can see right into the woods for yards, but it's so dark (4:50 pm till 7:25 am) most of our viewing is from bedroom windows in the morning or from cars returning home at the end of the work day.

December 13th was the one-year anniversary of the photo of the chapel windows and their reflections that you see on the right. As luck would have it, this year December 13 dawned sunny and bright. Another sister and I ran for our cameras right after prayer and tried to catch some photos of this unique time of the year for our south windows. I tried to catch all eight windows and their reflection on the ceramic tile. Here's one:

And from the poet Sally Dyck:

Winter sleeps heavily in the spirit;
Eyes are windows to the glacial land;
Fog curls into the valleys of decision;
No way forward: where is God
in the winter of the soul?

Faces smile and flash content
but like sparkling snow cover
the dirty slush of despair.
In silhouetted barren branches;
Nothing growing, nothing resting...emptiness.

Where is God in the winter of the soul?
Will ice-logged rivers of love flow again;
Will warmth burn away the cold?
Believing in things unseen:
hope is the winter name of God.

(Click any photo to enlarge.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O and oh, wow!

As we've done every year, here is the link to listen to Sr. Mary David's O Antiphons, sung by a small group of our sisters. We will be singing them as the Magnificat Antiphon every day December 17 through the 23rd. Enjoy! (If you really like them, I think you could get them on a CD if you contact Benetvision and ask very nicely---tell them I sent you!)

17th O Wisdom; 18th O Adonai; 19th O Root of Jesse; 20th O Key of David; 21st O Radiant Dawn; 22nd O God of all the Earth; 23rd O Emmanuel.

The "oh, wow" is the reaction of a dozen of our sisters who, after spending five months in our guest wing, move into their newly renovated rooms today on 2nd floor south. The other dozen have one more month, or less, until they can move back to 1st floor south---and then, and then--- we will be back to "normal." (No comments, please!)

Two skinny little rooms from 1969 have become one larger one with more closet area, space for a comfortable chair, and still a little room left to maneuver around.

Through it all the stained-glass window at the end of the hall survived.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Week 3 brings s-n-o-w

Oh, no! After "stealing" 40 days from winter (November 1-December 10) we finally received that storm that had raged through the midwest last week as it made its way to the Great Lakes. On Thursday the 10th and Friday the 11th the "official" snow count was 8" at the airport. The city recorded about 6", and the little town just east of us, 19". It was very windy, so the drifts where huge, but I'd say we got about 10-12" here in Harborcreek.

It was beautiful--especially for these pre-Christmas days--but a shocking awareness of what our winters are really about: slower driving, cold and dry air, and snow and ice to contend with or to enjoy, depending on your frame of mind!

On the other hand, Advent week 3, Gaudete Sunday, brought lovely reflections by one of our sisters on this week's Gospel where the people continually ask John the Baptist, "And what should we do?" She answered that question beautifully.

Also, Evening Prayer on Saturday ended with this blessing, which I pass on for all of you: "This Advent may you seek opportunities to affirm one another, ever mindful that we ourselves have been touched by God's loving mercy; may we take seriously our mission to be precursors of Christ for one another; may we allow God to warm each of us with Christ's presence."

This is just plain wonderful: Advent Conspiracy 2009. Click on the two-minute video in the upper right corner, enjoy and share.

Isn't it nice to know that lots of others share the desire to live more simply, share more generously, and accept one and all?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December Displays

I had the opportunity to visit the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Erie this week and came upon their display of nativity sets from countries all over the world. It is quite a sight, especially this month. I ran into their PR director, who is also the editor of their community magazine and a former high school student of mine! I encouraged her to do a story of these unique nativities, along with how they were acquired. We'll see how "obedient" she is, now that she's not 16 anymore!

Our own nativity sets won't be out until December 20 or so. Look for them here right before Christmas. On the other hand, we do have one "Christmasy" look---the large magnolia bush in the inner courtyard is lit every night. No one has complained yet! (See end of this post.)

(click to enlarge)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent-Week Two

Three dozen of our oblates were here this past Saturday for an afternoon of reflection during the Advent season. They are a great group of people---all 250 of them. Glad they never all come together--there'd be two and a half of them for each one of us!

News about our oblates, requests for prayers, and spirituality reflections can all be found on our oblate director's website, here.

Advent vigils and Sunday liturgies continue to be wonderful. Our first snow of the season fell late Saturday afternoon (less than an inch) adding to the pre-Christmas feelings.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two Memorable Weeks

If you like to keep up on the professional commitments of our Sr. Joan Chittister, this is a unique two weeks for her.

Last weekend she flew to Melbourne, Australia where she will take part in three major events. First, she gave a public lecture Tuesday night for the John Garrett Publishing Company that carries all of her books in Australia. Then Dec. 2-3 she is one of three keynote speakers for the Women, Faith and Development Summit to End Global Poverty. She will speak on poverty, especially as it affects women.

And finally, she is a speaker at the Parliament of the World's Religions, and, as such, is part of five panels on various topics of both religious and social issues. A sixth commitment there involves a session titled, "A Conversation with Joan Chittister." Sr. Joan is well-known down under as she had two lecture tours there in recent years.

This coming Sunday she "heads home"--via Copenhagen--where the group she has co-chaired for 10 years, The Global Peace Initiative of Women,(GPIW) is holding a conference simultaneously and in support of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP15, also in Copenhagen next week. The GPIW is a UN-sponsored organization of women religious leaders and their conference will present global climate and environmental concerns from a faith perspective.

Sr. Joan received an invitation to attend an Ecumenical Celebration Service on December 13 at Copenhagen's Lutheran Cathedral, the Church of Our Lady, with Rowan Williams as preacher. Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Sr. Joan are co-authors of the book, Uncommon Gratitude, which will be published by Liturgical Press next spring.

More information will be posted on Benetvision's home page.

Links are included here if you'd like to browse through any of the home pages--all of which include programs, participants, conference summaries and goals.

And, lest we not forget, December 2nd we commemorated the death of the four American women martyred in El Salvador nearly 30 years ago. Maura, Ita, Dorothy, and Jean pray for us and our poor war-torn world.