Thursday, December 30, 2010

One of our more colorful nonagenarians stopped by our front desk this week and asked the sister on duty: "What are those lights on the front lawn?"
The sister answered, "Those lights are on our peace sign."
"Peace sign?"
"Yes, P-E-A-C-E, the peace sign that's at the front entrance every Christmas?"
"Oh.......Are we still for that?"

Lots of Christmas photos here on our community's website if you haven't browsed lately.

And the new AIM USA newsletter is now online here.

Happy 2011 to all....and thanks for being a reader of "Light Through Stained-Glass Windows." Let us all pray for peace this Saturday...New Year's Day but also a World Day of Peace.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas at our house

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Mary Oliver

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Emmaus Ministries, the umbrella organization of what started as simply the Emmaus Soup Kitchen, gives presents to 2,000 children every Christmas. I bought for 35 this year--four families.

The shopping is easy: online-with a generous budget-and the search for sneakers that double as snowboots, hoodies that are thick and warm, jeans and tops that can last a year of laundering, and outfits for 6 month-olds (Did you know they still sell Carter's?)

The wrapping is great fun: using all those brightly-colored character paper--heavy on the Santa Clauses and snowmen.

Yesterday came the deliveries. And there was no more fun. The worst was a second-floor apartment. I got to it by climbing bare, old wooden steps with no carpet, no treads, no anything. The room I entered was maybe 12' x 12'---maybe. It was hard to tell, for it was nearly pitch dark inside--at 3:00 pm in the afternoon. No lamps, though there might have been one light bulb, and some light did come from the TV.

All the windows were covered by sheets or blankets, hanging down their full length. Five or six little kids were on a couch or a chair or just milling around. It was claustrophobic--for me, maybe not for them.

Michelle, the mother/grandmother/aunt, gave me a big hug and a thanks as I put the large boxes down, gave our greeting and pivoted in-place going back down the bare and well-worn stairs.

Oh, I almost forget, over in the corner was a little three or four foot artificial Christmas tree, with a few lights.

Today we put up our trees:

In chapel.

In the community room.

Even outside in the inner courtyard.

So tell me, why do I keep seeing theirs?

Friday, Isaiah 52: 1-6
Saturday, Christmas, Isaiah 49: 7-9
Sunday, Holy Family, Sirach 3: 2-7, 12-14

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent's Fourth Week

Saturday afternoon I had a deer encounter that was a first for me.

In the last week or so we have been seeing deer prints in the snow right under our bedroom windows, right up by the house. While sitting in my room at about 4:30 pm I saw something moving outside. When I looked up there were two deer right underneath my window. They were slowly moving along the house--so I went out into the hall, down to the entrance way foyer where there is also a window and where the ground rises to window level.

Lo and behold, as I got there (all of 10 seconds) one of the doe reached it, too. There we were: I, five feet from the window inside, and she, five feet from the window outside. She came nearer but I, of course, didn't move. She was just beautiful and managed to stay still and stare at me for about 30 seconds. Another sister was able to join me for most of the time.

Finally she quietly turned as a smaller deer arrived and they both walked away across the yard where a third one was waiting. We returned to my room and watched all three make their way, casually and calmly, into our woods. It was just a beautiful experience.

That kind of moment is especially memorable in Advent when our senses of waiting, watching, being aware, are highly tuned. Every day we hear in our readings of the prophets' words of watching for "the days to come" for God's people.

This week, too, we are beginning full press preparation for the weekend Christmas liturgies. Practices are scheduled and last minute organization is everywhere. Trimming of the whole house will begin slowly tomorrow, I'd expect, and hit full steam on Wednesday with the formal tree trimming ritual.

A very nice touch this year is the hanging of the O Antiphon banners in the cloister walk / hallway between chapel and the dining room. Here are the first three from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The O Antiphons, sung by a small group of our sisters.

Our Sr. Anne McCarthy recently spent a week in Haiti. A registered nurse, Anne and the rest of the delegation spent some time in a clinic in Haiti. This op-ed piece by Anne appeared in our local paper Sunday. It gives a firsthand view of many of the present situations in this poorest of Western hemisphere countries.

Monday, O Key of David, Isaiah 22: 19-23
Tuesday, O Dayspring, Isaiah 60: 1-5
Wednesday, O Ruler of Nations, Isaiah 16: 1-5
Thursday, O Emmanuel, Isaiah 62: 10-12

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The O Antiphons are here-Christmas must be close

Our Sr. Stephanie Campbell passed away last weekend. Her service of memories and funeral were very, very nice. She was a unique woman in many ways, not limited to the fact that we were her third Benedictine community: she lived with her first group for 30 years, her second for 10, and with us for 29. In between was a very full and interesting life. Here are links to her obit and prayer card.

With every sister's death one of our sisters has taken on a beautiful "tradition"---forming a living memorial display using photos, memorabilia, whatever we come upon that gives a visual memory of her and her life. They are truly looked forward to now. Here are a couple views of the area in the dining room where she set up one for Sr. Stephanie.

Our community website has lots of newsy items from the last week or so. A busy time in a busy month. Click here.

Here is the link to Sr. Mary David's O Antiphons, sung by a small group of our sisters.

Thursday, Isaiah 45: 1-13
Friday, O Wisdom, Wisdom 6: 12-20
Saturday, O Adonai, Micah 5: 1-4
Sunday, O Root of Jesse, Isaiah 7: 10-14

Monday, December 13, 2010

Great Lakes Life

The locally published magazine, Great Lakes Life, gave a unique and generous holiday gift to five non-profits: they offered them a page in their December issue. We were one of the five.

The editor is a lovely woman, a seeker and person of faith, trying to make it on her own in a business while raising two young sons, on her own again. If you'd like to browse on the GLL website, here it is.

Here is the page our communications director and Benetvision graphic artist developed. Click to enlarge.

Monday (Lucy) Isaiah 44: 1-8
Tuesday (John of the Cross) Isaiah 44: 9-20
Wednesday Isaiah 44: 21-28

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Weather Channel

Awhile ago I read that the top three cable TV channels are ESPN, CNN Headline News and The Weather Channel. That makes perfect sense: sports, news and weather are topics most of us have a basic interest in and some of us are fanatic followers.

This week Mike Seidel from The Weather Channel was here in Erie! The city got only a few inches, but the little towns around us got socked with lake effect snow. And everywhere there were tremendous drifts because of strong winds. Here are some of ours:

Peeking out our patio door at a 4' high drift.
It looked like something from a desert scene in National Geographic.

The east side of the patio and the end of a drift that formed and hung there from 2-3 days of strong winds.
Photos by Charlotte Ann Zalot, OSB

Thursday Isaiah 42: 1-9
Friday Isaiah 42: 10-17
Saturday Isaiah 42: 18-25
Sunday Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas MOUNT

Advent is moving along as we enter Week 2 of this favorite of all liturgical seasons. The Christmas issue of The Mount magazine was published this weekend. It is just beautiful and is online here.

Sunday afternoon we hosted the Penn State Behrend choir as one venue for their Christmas concert. It was magnificent. Whenever I visited European monasteries I always noticed pamphlets and posters announcing musical events that were held in the monastery church. I'm sure their acoustics and historical settings are the best in the area. It's just great that we can host such events, too. May there be many more!

Sorry, Californians, it's not sand...wish it was! Last flowers of summer still holding on got caught this weekend in "the white stuff."

Monday (Nicholas) Isaiah 41: 8-20
Tuesday Isaiah 41: 21-29
Wednesday (Immaculate Conception)
Gen. 3: 9-15, 20

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Doings at home and abroad

A number of our sisters are out of the country this first week of December: Sr. Joan Chittister in Mexico for the Global Peace Initiative of Women who are holding gatherings in concert with the climate control international meeting there; Sr. Anne McCarthy in Haiti with a delegation headed by Bishop Tom Gumbleton that will work among the poor along with other peace efforts: Sr. Stephanie Schmidt in Bavaria, Germany attending the AIM International Council meeting at St. Ottilien Archabbey; and Sr. Christine Vladimiroff and Sr. Mary Jane Vergotz in Polokwane, South Africa, continuing our 150th anniversary commitment to the Benedictine Sisters there.

This week our community's website has a nice photo gallery of last Saturday's chapel preparations for Advent. And here is the prioress's Advent reflection, too.

Our teaching roots are never far away, and to that end we're going to see the (first part) of the last Harry Potter movie this weekend. Read the books, seen the movies. Great fun...especially if you've ever taught teenagers!

Thursday, (North American Martyrs) Isaiah 40: 18-26
Friday, (Francis Xavier) Isaiah 40: 27-31
Saturday, Isaiah 41: 1-7
Sunday, Isaiah 11: 1-10

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Arrivals

This weekend we welcomed two "visitors" the Vigil and First Sunday of Advent and, yes, the first snowfall of the year here in Erie. This photo was taken right from my bedroom window at 7:00 am Saturday morning! The second photo is of one of our four Advent "wreath" candles that frame the front section of our chapel. And if these two events weren't enough for one day, Saturday was also the day of our four birthdays: four of our sisters all share November 27. Lots of desserts will be coming this week!

This year I thought I'd list the reading we're using at our Advent Morning Praise for any of you who would like to read them along with us:

Monday, Isaiah 40: 1-8
Tuesday,(St. Andrew) Phil 1: 13-20
Wednesday, Isaiah 40: 9-17

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving gratitude

For over 30 years the Emmaus Soup Kitchen has served the poor and hungry of Erie. Four of our sisters, a number of our oblates, and numerous loyal volunteers work there to provide these meals. A little slideshow of their Thanksgiving Dinner this week is here.

Our own Thanksgiving meal will be attended by sisters, some of their family members, and others that "just get invited along the way." Our tables this year:

Philip's Birthday

I gave,
to a friend that I care for deeply,
something that I loved.
It was only a small

extremely shapely bone
that came from the ear
of a whale.
It hurt a little

to give it away.
The next morning
I went out, as usual,
at sunrise,

and there, in the harbor,
was a swan.
I don't know
what he or she was doing there,

but the beauty of it
was gift.
Do you see what I mean?
You give, and you are given.

Mary Oliver

Monday, November 22, 2010

Balancing Act

As the "rest of the world" gears up for Thanksgiving--amidst the Christmas hoopla--we are doing a balancing act this week for both Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent this weekend. As a community we are reading this little booklet by Fr. Edward Hays: Meeting Christ at Broadway & Bethlehem.

If you live in the Erie area and are looking for something a little extra for pre-Christmas days, you are most welcome to our Saturday night vigils at 7:00 pm. They are about 30 minutes in length and are very nice prayer moments. "Come as you are" and join us: Nov. 27, Dec. 4,11,18. Sunday liturgies remain at 9:30 am.

All of us here love Advent, as can be seen from the outstanding job our liturgy and prayer planners do during these four weeks. It's very special and we are grateful for the creativity in music, prayer and liturgies that come out of all their efforts.

Some Sunday afternoon scenes at our Presque Isle State Park. Yes, those are swans...migrating through, I guess, but they've been here a couple weeks. Just beautiful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Variety is the...

A variety of recent happenings to share today: four of our sisters are returning from recent trips out of the country. Two sisters went to visit a sister-friend in Honduras and experienced her life and ministry in this Central American country. Two others spent 10 days in and around Merida, Mexico visiting the Mission of Friendship, an Erie diocesan-sponsored mission. All came home with new experiences to share with all of us.

Meanwhile three sisters "back home" are in the news. Sr. Annette and Sr. Pat received a national award from the Wildlife Habitat Council. Sr. Pat was able to travel to Baltimore to accept it on behalf of the EarthForce staff. Sr. Ann M., a social worker specializing in trauma in young people, gave a presentation this week to an Adoption Conference in the area. You can read more about both of these here.

Meanwhile, "on the home front," a half a dozen guests are still in our guest hall this week and all three hermitages are full. This Sunday will bring more visitors as we have invited our November Community of Life participants to liturgy on the feast of Christ the King. Big crowd expected.

Fall weather is holding strong. No snow clouds on the horizon....yet.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Future Church

Had the opportunity to spend a day in a seminar with John Allen, Vatican correspondant for the National Catholic Reporter and author of the 2009 released book, The Future Church.

I had always wanted to hear him live, as I've read his columns and analyses for years. Here. He seems like a great guy and fine, fine journalist! Here are just a few of the "sound bites," as he calls working on TV for CNN...get the book if you want a good read on his ideas of the 10 global trends that are changing the church right now.

* Only the West has secularism as a threat. In the southern hemisphere, if you ask them what is the greatest threat to religion, it is other religions--not secularism.

*20-30 year old Catholics in the West: 30% are baptized but are totally unchurched. Wouldn't even check Catholic as their religion; 30% would check Catholic as their religion, but not practicing; 20% are into social justice issues and involvement; 20% are evangelical Catholics=searching for signs and symbols and public acclamation of their Catholic identity;

* World Catholics do not understand the splits/in-fighting and divisions within American Catholicism;

*We need to create "a place at the table," become friends with different ideaologies within Catholicism. No one else is going to do it, especially from the top down.

*An important reference book for him is The Big Sort by Bill Bishop.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autumn Days Continue

As another beautiful autumn week comes to a close, I can report that our stained-glass window restorers remain hard at work--a side benefit of the good weather. Here's what it looks like when they work on the inside of the small chapel:

This weekend we're hosting the fall edition of the Seasons of the Spirit retreats. The retreatants should have a glorious time, as our grounds are so nice to walk through....real leaf-covered walkways and lots of naturally drying bushes and flowers of all sorts.

I was walking by our gift shop yesterday afternoon and poked my head in to see their latest wares--here's a beautiful arrangement of wood-turned candle holders et al--very striking "in person."

And, not immune to the early season customer demands, a selection of Brush Dance Christmas cards. Don't know Brush Dance? Click here. Also, click on any photo to enlarge it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Windy Days

Life in Erie, PA: average snowfall in November is 10" So far this month: 0" But, over the last week the days have gotten noticeably chillier and more winter-like ...though this upcoming week's predictions are back in the 50s--Go figure! Sunday afternoon was so sunny and clear we decided to take a trip around our Presque Isle State Park and lo and behold a kite flier was out at sunset beach--the best kite flying spot on the whole peninsula.

Here's a link for your browsing pleasure, our diocese's November-December issue of Faith magazine. My column is on page 6, but you might enjoy paging through it generally. It's quite a step up for our little diocese and is quite well received from what I hear.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Just Having Fun

Tonight while I was sitting having dinner in our dining room I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a chair passing by! What was this, I thought? I guessed what it might be and sure enough it was what I thought: one of our new electric chair "drivers" had (very quietly) hooked a dining room chair in her passing and, since we have carpet in our dining room, didn't even hear her own newly-attached sidecar traveling behind her.

This sent me into gales of laughter inside as I remembered a much louder and more dramatic sidecar adventure a dozen or so years ago when the (in)famous electric chair driver, Sr. Anne Marie, hooked her chair (which she drove like a maniac) onto a little old-fashioned desk that was in our front hall---dragging it, not quietly, about 20 feet across the tile flooring, until we could get her attention to stop.

It's no wonder many of our visitors are so attracted to our senior sisters. First, they are most willing to sit and listen and talk with our guests, especially at breakfast and lunch--while the rest of us rush here and there from point A to point B in our "busy" jobs. Second, they're interesting--they talk about life here, spanning 50+ years most often, giving a kind of first-person history of our community--always punctuated with personal opinions and madcap adventures of the pre-Vatican II days and "survival" in religious life.

So, next time you come, don't sit with me--pick one of these great seniors, they're much more interesting----and fun!

Here's a link to our ceremony last Saturday for new and renewing oblates. And here's one from our prioress Anne--November reflections.

Monday, November 1, 2010

October Community Weekend

New oblates, a wonderful guest speaker and a sad goodbye came to us through this weekend's Fall Community Days. The speaker is worth a special mention: Sr. Amata Miller, IHM...surely one of the premier Catholic economists (of all things!). What a marvelous presentation she gave us, with a look at economics from the perspective of a life following the Jesus of the Gospels, the Vatican II documents and contemporary world realities.

Check out our website here for photos I took of "little saints" that attend our St. Benedict Child Dev. Center as they trick or treated in our offices Friday. Photos of our new oblates and our departing Benedicta Riepp participant will be there soon if not already.

Happy All Saints Day....hope you have access to some special prayers as we do.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Favorite

I think I've posted about two dozen of Mary Oliver's poems throughout this site. If you put the word "Oliver" in the search box in the upper left, most of them will be brought up.

I want to end this month with what may be my favorite of hers, though that is really silly to say because there are so many that are truly wonderful. Let's say instead that this one is in the top three--at least for now!

If you don't own a Mary Oliver book of poems I would suggest Thirst as one you might consider. Here's an amazon link if you wish.

"What I Said at Her Service"

When we pray to love God perfectly,
surely we do not mean only.

(Lord, see how well I have done.)

One of our October morning skies--just yesterday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Monastery Almanac

I worked for Benetvision Publications for 12+ years. During that time I got used to very high quality publications, be they booklets, prayer cards, a couple large books, and about 150 issues of The Monastic Way. Everything produced was just first class. After awhile I admit I just took them for granted, but this past week their latest product has amazed me.

Just arriving from the printer is A Monastery Almanac, a 75-page, full-color book that is just magnificent. Why did it strike me so strongly? Because (1) it includes over three dozen color photos throughout, adding strong visuals to the wonderful text; (2) it is written by Joan Chittister and is similar to her Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, where she uses the everyday incidences and events of life as inspiration for her reflections; and (3)many of the daily entries are drawn from monastic life, generally and ours in particular.

We're putting one in every guest room and hermitage and will certainly have a supply for sale in our gift shop--a lovely remembrance for all our visitors. Benetvision's website is here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Traveling through Pennsylvania

Many years I don't get the opportunity to travel through the unique and colorful world of our state during the month of October. This month I've done it twice in the last week and will a third time this weekend.

This time I'm near Pittsburgh at a regional meeting where our immediate past prioress, Sr. Christine, delivered fine presentations on religious life and the prophetic challenges therein---especially for our time and our culture. Here are two thought-provoking ideas: "Who we are and how we live this life is our witness." And, from Sandra Schneiders, IHM, "Religious profession is a promise to live by the coordinates of God's reign not the world's."

On an Erie note, two events are on our website this week: the new residence of our sisters at Sophia House and the annual dinner with our neighbors at Benetwood Apartments. Nice photos of the large groups who attended each.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Faith in Chile

There were two things in particular that struck me about the rescue of those miners in Chile this week. The first was the spirituality piece that undergirded a lot of the story, even to the point where we all witnessed some of the miners kneeling right down when they were rescued to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. The second was the worldwide example of this relatively small and insignificant country (one that is never listed in the G8 or G12 or G anything conference) of its dedication to its people, its ingenuity and determination over the last 2 months, the turning of all its resources to rescue a couple dozen of its people.

Isn't it nice....much more than "nice"....that along with all the problems of our present world, not the least of which is the corruption of leaders everywhere who become among their own people's worst enemies, that a story like this can show us the best parts of being human beings: love, family, sacrifice.

If you haven't read it yet, an end-of-summer reflection by our prioress is here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October Events

Lots of "events" going on in and around our place the past 5 days: the visit by an 8th grade class from Mentor, Ohio; Joan Chittister's presentations both in Erie and nearby New York State; and the AIM USA Board of Directors meeting at the Mount on Tuesday. You can read all about them and see photographs here.

I left the AIM USA secretariat recently after 17 years as part of the staff. It was very nostalgic for me to see the Board members for the first time since then. They are a marvelous group of monastic men and women and I feel blessed to have been among them for so long. Here are the reflections I wrote for our newsletter as yet another transition came along:

"This year the AIM USA secretariat commemorates 20 years in Erie, PA, sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of AIM for most of those two decades, coming on board in 1993. The community and I have been profoundly blessed to host the US secretariat. Our sisters have embraced AIM and all its activities. They each receive every issue of the AIM USA newsletter, reading it from “cover to cover,” they tell me. They marvel at the breadth and depth of Benedictine monastic life as it is lived in the Philippines, India, Latin America and throughout the continent of Africa. Their monastic world has grown considerably throughout these years and so has mine.

Our Benedictine community is no longer just 104 women here in a corner of Pennsylvania on the northern US border with Canada–our “community” is all over the world now. Our sisters have contributed to every AIM USA Lenten Appeal--out of their individual budgets. They have spoken at countless parishes in annual mission appeals, raising money for AIM grants. We are not the same community that we were
before the US Secretariat came here in 1990.

We have three prioresses, Sisters Phyllis Schleicher, Christine Vladimiroff, and presently, Anne Wambach, to thank for being willing to sponsor the secretariat—all who have encouraged sisters to join the staff, did all they could to promote and assist the secretariat, and even served on its Board of Trustees.

If Sr. Joan Chittister hadn’t first accepted the AIM USA’s Board request to be its director and immediately set out to establish an endowment fund to assure a future for the secretariat, it may not have evolved into what it is today. If Sr. Mary Lou Kownacki hadn’t brought her professional skills in journalism and fund raising to her role as director, again the office may not have become what it is today. And if so many monastic men and women throughout this country hadn’t responded positively to a request to serve on the Board of Trustees, it surely would not have spread throughout the US Benedictine and Cistercian communities in both knowledge and support.

This month I leave the AIM USA secretariat to minister at our monastery as subprioress and we pass its directorship on to a fourth Benedictine Sister of Erie, Sr. Stephanie Schmidt. I know that she and the staff will continue the dedication and love for the good work of the Alliance for International Monasticism. Welcome to the “AIM world,” Sr. Stephanie. May you make as many new friends, enjoy the expanse of your monastic heart, and broaden your own commitment to the Rule and the Gospel of Jesus as I have through my years with AIM."

In the midst of all our "special" events and visitors, everyday life goes on. Here in the form of stained-glass window repairmen, helping preserve our windows from decay and wear and tear!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest Lists

We are "packed with guests." Some are here for retreat experiences, others for recent lectures; some are family, others are just getting in some away-time during the beautiful month of October, before the bad weather or holidays set in. I, for one, love having these guests and a full, full chapel on Sunday mornings, too.

Here's our internal communication about guests. It's put out every week or so by our sister in charge of hospitality, so that we are all aware of who we might be running into in chapel, the dining room or around the grounds. It's very helpful and this is the actual list from October 1...except in reality the columns are straight and even...just couldn't figure out how to do that here! (The names have been changed to protect the innocent)!


Annie Bradshaw    1    Sept. 29-Oct 4
Cherie Davidson   2    Sept. 29-Oct 10
Edie Falco, obl     3    Oct. 1-2
Gerrie Harrison     4    Oct. 1-2
Isabella Jackson    7    Oct. 1-3
Kerri Lawler,obl   9    Oct. 1-2
Melinda Nicolia    10  Oct. 1-2
Ophelia Post        12   Oct. 2-3
Sr. Aquina,SND   1   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Betty, SND     2   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Carla, SND     3   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Dolly, SND     4   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Edith, SND     5   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Fran, SND      6   Oct. 8-9
Q. M. Rodrigues   7   Oct. 7-9
Sheila Tarquino     8   Oct. 9-10
Una Victorino       9   Oct. 8-10
Wilma Xavier       10  Oct. 7-10
Yolanda Zoey      11  Oct. 8-10
Anna B.obl          12  Oct. 8-10
Carl Davis, obl &
   Ellen Davis        14  Oct. 9-10
Frank George      15  Oct. 9-11
Hank & Ida Jenk 16  Oct. 8-13


HILDEGARD   Kevin Lleander  Oct. 3-7
                      Marie Nelson    Oct. 8-10
WALBURGA Sr. Ophelia Pew  Oct. 3-10
SCHOLASTICA Rita Scalzetti  Oct. 4-6
                      Terri&Ugo Vanco Oct. 8-14

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oct 7 - Our Lady of the Rosary

A couple weeks ago a friend asked me, "Want to ride out with me to deliver a rosary?" A rosary? What in the world is this about?

The day before, she had called a woman who had been in our community for years and, after she left, became a college professor. She was a real go-getter---a larger than life person in everything she did. She is now in her late 70s and after a series of serious physical ailments has come to the realization that her days of independent living are over. She has round-the-clock care and is on the waiting list for a local nursing facility. When my friend asked if there was anything she could get for her she hesitated and then rather sheepishly replied, "I suppose I'm the only person left who still says the rosary, but could you bring me one--I've lost mine?" So off we went, with two: one red, one blue. She was extremely and humbly grateful. It was a simple, yet beautiful experience to see what this gift meant to this woman--who has everything and could have anything she wanted.

It took me back to the last time I had said the rosary. It was during a 60-minute wait on a plane on an airport tarmac after arriving home from a long, long trip overseas. I was tired and weary and didn't think I could stand sitting in that cramped little seat another minute, let alone endure the now familiar waiting game of "a mechanical difficulty." Then I remembered the blue rosary that spends its life at the bottom of my tote--in its soft blue zippered case. Desperate for calm, lo and behold I found it in the mantra-like prayers and consoling repetition of saying the rosary.

I have a friend who says the rosary has been Catholics' prayer beads long before the New Agers brought forth theirs.

Today the liturgical calendar celebrates this "old-fashioned" devotion.

Electronic copy of our Mount magazine online here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Feast of St. Francis

In case you're not a regular NCR reader or you only see it occasionally. You might like to check out this week's column of Joan's "We need St. Francis now."

This weekend she is engaged in a rare public speaking engagement in Erie at the Wayside Presbyterian Church's annual fall event. They expect a very good crowd.

Here are some new items posted on our community website this week--namely Sr. Stephanie Schmidt's "retirement" party from 13 years at House of Healing. You can view them here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Amidst the Angels

One of our sisters, who works at a local hospice, invited the staff to the Mount for some prayer together. She set it up in our new gathering space--this is what it looked like: very intimate, conducive to a prayer group--really quite lovely. This hospice is just starting out so it was an important and special experience for them as a new staff.

This is a nice end-of-the-week time: our prayer has brought us amidst the angels, with Michael, Gabriel and Raphael's feast yesterday and the Guardian Angels this Saturday.

Here's one of Mary Oliver's takes on these heavenly companions:

About Angels and About Trees

Where do angels
fly in the firmament,
and how many can dance
on the head of a pin?

Well, I don't care
about that pin dance,
what I know is that
they rest, sometimes,
in the tops of the trees

and you can see them,
or almost see them,
or, anyway, think: what a
wonderful idea.

I have lost as you and
others have possibly lost a
beloved one,
and wonder, where are they now?

The trees, anyway, are
miraculous, full of
angels (ideas); even
empty they are a
good place to look, to put
the heart at rest--all those
leaves breathing the air, so

peaceful and diligent, and certainly
ready to be
the resting place of
strange, winged creatures
that we, in this world, have loved.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall Beauty

Our community website continues to add updates while in the process of a total redesign. I will note the updates here for you. They give news and insights into the community's life. Here's one.

A new edition of Joan Chittister's commentary on the Rule of Benedict just arrived at Benetvision. Essentially it is the same text as the original from 1990, with a new introduction and some additional text for a few of the days. The addition of photos and font changes give it a very up-to-date look. After all, it has been 20 years between editions!

Chapel environment this weekend.

Right from our gardens.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Irish Weekend

Lots of tourist places and cities with large Irish-American populations have a type of "Irish Weekend" in late September--6 months from St. Patrick's Day.

Here at the Mount, home of a lot more German and Polish ancestry but with a smattering of Irish, we're having our own Irish Weekend with our autumn Seasons of the Spirit retreat that has a Celtic Spirituality theme this fall. To that end, the director, Sr. Carolyn, has engaged our local Rince Na Tiarna Irish dance troupe, a couple dozen 8-18 year old girls, to perform Saturday night for both the retreatants and community. I've seen them many times on television or video, but never live. It ought to be great...can't wait! (The link takes you to coverage by one of our local TV stations. Google the name to get more information.)

The "Christmas" cacti in the library are blooming wildly this week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Weekend

A few interesting things "around our place" this weekend. First, the monarchs. Monarch butterflies are migrating back to Mexico these days and we've seen them fluttering all over the grounds for about a week. One of our guests even saw one of those large gatherings of them hanging on a bush down at our Glinodo Center this weekend. A unique sight.

Secondly, our crab apple trees--we have at least 5 near the monastery building--are loaded and our deer are feasting these days with the apple orchard, our grape arbor, the crab apples, and with the acorns under the large oaks. Living off the land easily!

Which brings us to #3. We sat at dinner with a first-time visiting couple from the Cleveland area. They were very interesting telling us of their 48-acre property in the city of Cleveland and their interest in growing their own food. After Cleveland passed an ordinance that city residents could have up to 6 chickens, they bought some and find them easy to raise. They get 24 eggs a week from their six. They also grow or pick loads of veggies and fruits--canning like mad for the months to come. They compost and indulge in a variety of such pursuits. Their 17-year-old daughter tells her friends that she lives with hippies! She eats all the food they produce but doesn't do much to help they said. The table, which was full of jr. high and high school teachers, just howled.

And finally, especially for those of you who know our place: We walked to the lake Sunday night and were sitting on the pier, about half way out, on the steps there. Suddenly a blue heron (we have lots at Presque Isle State Park) flew up and landed right at the end of the pier. We became like statues and spent 20 minutes watching it--just 25-30 feet from us. A very, very rare and wonderful experience.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One Week Before Autumn

It's only one week till autumn officially comes, but we are experiencing seasonal pre-fall days this week: which means, in our part of the world, temps dipping into the 50s overnight and high 60s or low 70s during the day. Dramatic temperature differences after a very steady hot summer.

One other noticeable change that we observed last night with an after-supper trip to a nearby marina: beautiful, colorful skies at sunset. Here's the marina to the east and, shifting to face west: the sunset. Yes, WOW!

PS. Last night was the annual Taste of the Arts fundraiser for our Inner-City Neighborhood Art House. Beautiful evening--under the tent. See this link for lots of photos of the event.