Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lenten experience

One of our sisters, who is the campus minister at a local Catholic high school, is involved in offering a unique Lenten experience for her students.

She and her campus ministry team have come up with The Poor Person's Fast. Their idea offers a diet that varies dramatically from their norm. Although they know that many poor people most commonly suffer from a diet of poor nutrition, their experience focuses on food's sameness and quantity, a reality for the very poor.

Here's their Lenten plan: They eat eggs every morning. Throughout the day their choices are only fruits and vegetables (whole or as liquids), hearty soups, milk, and plenty of water. No junk food, pop, desserts or fast foods of any kind. Some teachers and kids are doing it Monday through Saturday--others a couple days a week, others as they can.

At their Ash Wednesday liturgy the student body watched the "We Are the World 25" video and used it as their closing song. In solidarity with the people of Haiti, the money that will be saved through this change in food choices (especially from things like morning latte stops!) will be collected and sent to an orphanage there that has been visited by one of the school's teachers.

"Prayer with fasting is good, but better than both is almsgiving..." Tobit 12:8

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monastic Lexicon #13


The Fairfield Fire Department is our local, volunteer rescue and response team. The firehouse is located about 2 miles west of us, toward the city of Erie. Their area of responsibility is along the lake shore for 2-3 miles and about a mile south. This strip includes 4-5 institutions with an elderly population so many of their calls are for medical emergencies or transport.

They are a generous and well-trained group and we are very grateful for their presence here in Harborcreek Township. Once a year we invite all the volunteer fire fighters, rescue teams and their families here for a spaghetti dinner---complete with door prizes and neighborly socializing. They seem to really look forward to this annual dinner as we do.

This year the new chief--son of the longtime chief who is still a volunteer member--gave a little greeting and talk at the microphone. He was quite articulate and very funny. The one story that really broke us up, though we controlled ourselves admirably, was when he said this: "We love coming here for this dinner and even for calls. Whenever we do, whether it is 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning, we always go home with a couple loaves of fresh bread. And another thing we can always count on, too: as soon as we walk in the door, there's a sister at every corner, even at 2:00 a.m. in her bathrobe, pointing and directing us to the right place."

As I said, we laughed courteously, but inside were howling! Nothing goes on in a house of 60+ that is secret--not even illness!

The First Sunday of Lent

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nathan and Thomas

This Lent we, as a community, are reading Nathan Mitchell's little pamphlet, Daybreaks: Daily Reflections for Lent and Easter 2010 from Liguori. He is a former Benedictine and a noted theologian, currently at the University of Notre Dame. Here is an excerpt from his Ash Wednesday reflections: "Paradoxically, then, the ashes that signal our mortality, our world's extinction, and our sore need for repentance also symbolize God's choice to forgive everybody everything. This was the unimaginable secret Abraham learned when bargaining with God. Our destiny isn't destruction but dancing. God seeks not the sinner's death but the heart's return: not ashes to dust but ashes to Easter."

The "other man" in our lives this Lent is our Brother Thomas. We are used to seeing his work around the house and in our display cases, but when they are arranged singularly as these are now in the east hall and community room cases, they remind me of how striking his work is and how perfect they are for our Lenten days.

This is the view as you come out of chapel.

Morning and Evening Prayer for Lent here.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Sad news today, our Sr. Roseann Rice passed into eternal life Saturday morning. She was only 72 and had lived with Alzheimer's for 10 years--The Long Slow Goodbye--as the acclaimed TV special named it a few years ago. She was a lovely, sweet gal---and did indeed love roses, too. Memory service Wednesday evening followed by the funeral liturgy on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

One of Mary Oliver's takes on death:


That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it--
books, bricks, grief--
it's all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down."
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also, troubled--
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

Horseshoe Pond--where the houseboats "live" in winter. See the skaters and hockey players?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Geographically Challenged

February 10th was one of our favorite feasts, little-known as it is: the feast of St. Scholastica--sister of Benedict, as the tradition claims.

And here is how she looked in our Memory Garden on her feast yesterday. Oh, I'm just kidding! This is her summer look, captured beautifully by our Bernadette Sullivan!

Here, on the other hand, is the look of one of our cars yesterday, with 6-7" of new snow. Looks nice on the evergreens behind it though.

If you are "geographically challenged" or just can't remember all those miscellaneous facts from fourth grade, here's one for today: Pennsylvania is a Mid-Atlantic state--the ones that have been in all the headlines for the last week for their unusual amount of snow. But, here in Erie, particularly, we are smack on Lake Erie and are really in the Great Lakes Plains region and its weather patterns. The conclusion? The 20-30" of snow that blanketed Washington, Baltimore and even Philadelphia and Pittsburgh brought us nothing---until this "little bit" yesterday from our usual west and north winds via Chicago and Canada. No schools closed and most of us made it to work--yes, on time!

And finally, a treat, as promised: here's our schola singing "Da Pacem" via YouTube. Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

In Memory

This is our necrology board. Because of our renovations it had to come down from its former location and was just recently put up again.

There are 246 names of our deceased sisters on it. The first name is Sr. Benedicta Riepp, the leader of the first German sisters who came to the US. Although she was one of the first sisters to come to Erie, she didn't stay here but kept on going west and settled in Minnesota founding St. Benedict's Monastery, about 60 miles west of Minneapolis near St. Cloud. She is buried there.

No sisters died during 2006, our 150th jubilee year and the beginning of these renovations. But since then seven have, including five in 2008 alone. Three were in their nineties, three in their eighties and one just 60. It's both comforting and meditative to see all their names, birth and death dates on this board again. Memories come flooding back and that is good. Nora, Mary Philip, Margaret, Corinne, Joanne, Ellen and Mary Ann--we miss you.

For those who know the Mount, you'll find this board right near the north elevator, in the little alcove where you can look out into the large library courtyard gardens.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

St. Blase and the Bonsai

When a sister is the day's prayer leader she has the freedom to arrange the environment as she wishes. Often, if there is a feast or a particular season of the liturgical year (Lent, Advent, Christmas), the environment is set for the entire season, but on "regular" days we have more options.

One prayer leader this week is our resident bonsai aficionado and she had the opportunity to show us her three bonsai plants by adding them to the environment around the lectern. Very nice touch---on the feast of St. Blase.

And, from Mary:

Mozart, for Example

All the quick notes
Mozart didn't have time to use
before he entered the cloud-boat

are falling now from the beaks
of the finches
that have gathered from the joyous summer

into the hard winter
and, like Mozart, they speak of nothing
but light and delight,

though it is true, the heavy blades
of the world are still pounding underneath.
And this is what you can do too, maybe,

if you live simply and with a lyrical heart
in the cumbered neighborhoods or even,
as Mozart sometimes managed to, in a palace,

offering tune after tune after tune,
making some hard-hearted prince
prudent and kind, just by being happy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

February settles in

A week ago our schola sang "Da Pacem" at our Sunday liturgy. Afterwards a couple of our sisters who work in vocation and development ministries asked if they could video the schola singing it and then work at getting it uploaded on YouTube.

Here is the schola singing it again for recording. I'll announce when it gets uploaded onto YouTube. Seems it's time to have an updated group of Benedictine Sisters of Erie shown singing something other than "Kum-ba-ya"! (see Jan. 18 post)

Though you can hear our sisters singing the Benedictus and Magnificat on our prayer page.

A friend sent me dramatic photos of "icebergs" on Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is having one of the coldest winters in recent decades and the water freezes the instant the wave breaks through the ice. The temperature of the water is already some degrees below freezing.

We here on Lake Erie feel much better when we see something like this! Our temp. dipped to 1 or 2 degrees this weekend, and we have ice dunes--but nothing even close to these "bergs"!