Monday, June 29, 2009


June is nearly over, one month of summer gone. But its last two weeks were beautiful, warm and sunny in this part of the world. Let's hope July and August bring the same.

Here are a few pictures taken around the Mount during the past week.

Here's a lone deer that frequents our backyard daily.

Found this white flower in the back of the house, in a corner all by itself, blooming beautifully.

This delicate arrangement of daisies stayed alive all week after its use as part of the Sunday environment. It's in one of Brother Thomas's pots.

Some eagles nest on our Presque Isle State Park and have often been seen over our property, flying up along our creek or in nearby neighborhoods. One of our oblates caught this photo as one flew right over her yard.
Photo by Jo Clarke.

From God was in this place & I, I did not know:

Spirituality is that dimension of living in which we are aware of God's presence....I once knew a man who was in psychoanalysis. His doctor's office was across the street from an old, red-brick inner-city psychiatric hospital. One day, as he had regularly done for a few years, my friend walked down the street to his car in front of the hospital. Suddenly he heard a blood-chilling scream from the top floor. This unforgettable noise etched into his soul. The following day, back on the couch, he told his doctor of the scream from the top floor.

To his astonishment, his therapist was surprised that he should mention it at all. "You mean you just now heard it?" asked the doctor. "After all these years? On the top floor that's where they put all the screamers." And from that day on, my friend said, he was able to hear the screams on the top floor almost every time. "The screams are all around us," he later mused, "waiting for our ears and eyes and hands."

New Morning and Evening Prayer

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The MoMA piece

I think this is what must have happened.

An 18-wheeler was driving along I-90 traveling from New York to Chicago. As it passed just south of us, in the midst of a early summer rainstorm, it slid on the wet road and toppled over.

The rescue crew that arrived found no one seriously injured, but the truck's frame was heavily damaged and they decided to unload its contents for safekeeping. It seems that it was transporting art objects from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York to Chicago for a temporary exhibit.

The Erie Art Museum offered to take much of it, but a couple pieces were so large that they had to look around for some other place to house them. Since one of the rescuers was from our local Fairfield Fire Dept. and knew that we are just 4 miles from the I-90 exit, he thought of us and our large facility.

They soon arrived at our front door with this piece. The sister on the front desk, who is used to a variety of UPS deliveries, welcomed them but concluded that they absolutely could not put such a thing in our front entrance way.

After a little conversation, our large back patio was chosen as a convenient and appropriate site for the MoMA sculpture.

And here it is!

Visitors and sisters alike have been fascinated with it. Some think it's an angel, with wings folded up tightly. Others mentioned the chrysalis of a butterfly or a hooded and robed monk bent over slightly in quiet prayer.

The SBA alum association held their summer picnic at the Mount this week and this comment was overheard during the set up: "And then all the gals can go outside with their picnic supper, including hot dogs and hamburgers on the new grill. That will be a great treat. And they can observe the modern art while they're out there, too!"

And then, very quietly, barely audible, and certainly not heard by the group in general, from the side of the crowd our physical resource director muttered, "Sure, and if it rains the new grill's tent-like umbrella will shield the grillers just fine."

Monday, June 22, 2009


Lamar Advertising has joined again with the three Catholic religious communities of women here in Erie to provide billboards proclaiming our commitment to peace.

This one is presently located on the south side of W. 26th Street right after the off ramp for the I-79 exit there, traveling east. It is a great location and will certainly attract much attention, in both its simplicity and message.

For Benedictines the call to peace efforts is deep and strong, as the Latin word, Pax, is much used in monasteries and abbeys throughout the world. I have seen it over doorways, on art pieces, liturgical books, medals and in countless other formats in monastic communities.

Here in our community it is the pivotal subject of our Corporate Commitment.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Retreat Musings

Retreat is a good time to do some reading. I found a book that I hadn't read by one of my favorite writers, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. The seven chapters bring us that wonderful Jewish midrash--seven different ways of reading the same biblical verse. In this case it's the Jacob's ladder story in Genesis 28 and in particular verse 16: "God was in this place and I, I did not know it," which is also the title of the book.

I love Kushner's writing and I love Jewish midrash, at least the little I've read of it, so this is perfect for this week. I'll be sharing tidbits from it for awhile. Here's the first one:

"Gershom Scholem, the master historian of Jewish mysticism who is not customarily on stage with American standup comedians like Abbott and Costello, nevertheless expressed this idea. He once told me that the ultimate question one can ask is not, What is the meaning of life? or even, Why am I here? but simply, Who? Like all questions, its syntax predetermines the range of possible answers. And the question, Who? is a request for either a name or a personal pronoun. The answer, in other words, must be personal. It must be a self.

Like the Zen monk who, after years of study, formulated what he thought was the ultimate question, Who am I? only to be surprised by the voice inside him that replied, Who is asking? You are looking for the one who is looking. In this sense, then, this tale is not so much a literary fantasy about the possible meanings of a biblical verse recorded centuries ago, but a journey into the "self" who is reading these words."

One of our tall processional crosses--this one by the St. John's Abbey oblate and liturgical consultant and designer, Frank Kacmarcik--as it is caught in the early morning sunlight from the clerestory. To read about this unique artist go to this article, page 4, written by one of our sisters.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Retreat Week

This week brings our annual community retreat. The presenter is Sr. Shawn Carruth, OSB, from the Benedictine Sisters of Crookston, Minnesota. Sr. Shawn is an associate professor in the Religion Department of Concordia College in Minnesota. Her specialties include the Sources of the Synoptic Gospels, Feminist Studies and Benedictine Monastic Studies. Her theme for the week is "Jesus Christ Dwelling Place of the Living."

The week includes eleven conferences by Sr. Shawn and specially prepared Morning and Evening Praise periods prepared by various community members. Silence and quiet is maintained throughout the monastery, except for the evening meal.

A lily pond at our Presque Isle State Park.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Seasons of the Spirit Begins

After 100 weekends of Spirit of the Seasons retreats, our retreat director extraordinaire, Carolyn G-K, introduced a new retreat program, Seasons of the Spirit: a time for prayer, meditation, presentations and creativity.

The first Seasons of the Spirit was held last weekend and brought old timers and first timers to the Mount for the "Greening of the Earth" themed retreat.

Congratulations to Carolyn, her assistants and retreatants for their seemingly endless source of ideas, shared wisdom and unique retreat experiences.

A prayer space from the first Seasons of the Spirit weekend. The next weekend is October 2-4: "The Mystery of Chaos and Change."

For information on Seasons of the Spirit or other day or weekend retreats, contact Sr. Carolyn at the Mount.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our Daughterhouse Celebrates

In 1859, three sisters from the small fifteen member community of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie left Erie to start a community in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio river from Cincinnati, Ohio.

This weekend St. Walburg Monastery of Covington is celebrating its 150th anniversary as a Benedictine community. Five of our sisters traveled there to represent us. They took with them special gifts for this daughterhouse of ours: a Paschal Candle and a Processional Cross both made by our sisters.

Many Benedictine communities are beginning to celebrate their 150th anniversary as the first Benedictine women came to the US over a century and a half ago, in 1852.

I believe these are wisteria. They hang down from the roof of an arbor-like structure in our Memory Garden. It includes two swings, a bench, a small fountain, four corner posts and a latticed roof that hold some beautiful growth.

A sunset last Friday night seen right from our beach.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


We are woods wanderers. Most nights we manage to spend 30 minutes to an hour roaming through the woods that surround the monastery, extend back to Benetwood Apartments and all the way across East Lake Road to the lake.

One of our favorite areas is near our hermitages, as that is the deers', too. It was a perfect location to build them, as our guests continually tell us of the wildlife they see out the windows and on their way to and fro.

Here is the signpost at the intersection of the paths. Can you see Scholastica hermitage through the woods in the right photo? There it is, on its stilts, when you get a little closer.

Good luck if you try for a reservation now. You might get lucky or catch a cancellation, but they are just about booked solid--April through October.

New Morning and Evening Prayer for Ordinary Time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

May did not disappoint

The month of May ended gloriously with Pentecost Sunday--a beautiful, spirit-filled celebration. Here is the poem that was read as part of the Vigil of Pentecost.

Apocalypse by Edith Lovejoy Pierce

God is coming!
Hear the wind of the Spirit
Rushing through the upper reaches of the mind.

Bolt no door, turn no key:
Roof will be shaken from floor.

Hear the crash of wall,
The fall of tree, and the sound of towers that smash.

Never came such a gale on earth,
Fanning spark to flame.

Nothing is safe but flung seed,
Spun spray, birds' wings
And flower petals that weigh nothing at all.

Nothing is safe but what flies, what sings;
Nothing dies but what is strong.

Prepare for the wheels of the wind
Racing through the upper air!

The atmosphere quivers and shakes,
The world quakes:
God is coming.
The Holy Spirit is here!

The outdoor world of spring continues with these final shots of May: a rainbow during an early evening soft rainstorm last Friday night. I acted just like a professional photographer--as I was driving when I saw it and pulled right off the road. It was the first time I wished I'd had a $1,000 camera!

Our night-blooming evening primroses are erupting. We must have a dozen plants now and this one actually had about a dozen flowers one night. It was overcast and a bit dark the morning after, about 7:15 a.m., when I caught this picture of 1/2 of them still open and 1/2 beginning to close and die after their one-night life. Our chief gardener told me she'd gladly give one of our many little primrose plants to anyone who would like one. Just let me know.

Photo by Columba Kim, OSB

Another sister from the Benedictine Sisters of Daegu, South Korea is visiting us for a month. The first night we took her on a long walk around our property and voila! a deer at the newly placed salt lick. She caught this with her camera.

New Morning and Evening Prayer for Ordinary Time.