Monday, June 28, 2010

Young People's Chorus

A couple of years ago a new music teacher at our local Penn State University-Behrend College had the idea of a Young People's Chorus---composed of children from our area with an emphasis on diversity of backgrounds and abilities.

It has flourished in its first two years and this past Friday the chorus came to our chapel and spent the afternoon rehearsing and recording for upcoming events--one of which was the Erie Summer Festival of the Arts this past weekend.

Here's their website and an article from our local paper the Erie Times News. Before they left on Friday they invited all the sisters who were here to come down for a special song as a thank you for the use of the chapel. Maybe some day they'll come back and put on a full concert!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Weekly Briefs

This week finds everyone "recovering" from retreat--which just means adjusting back to the normal schedule, especially earlier Morning Prayer!

Here are some unconnected goings-on around the Mount/community this week:

* The SBA alumnae will hold their summer picnic Thursday at the Mount.  It includes dishes brought by the members---salads and desserts mainly--delicious!

* Wednesday was Founders' Day, the anniversary of the arrival in1856 of the first sisters who will become the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. They came from the little town of St. Marys, PA, about 100 miles SE of Erie.

* Four of our sisters are in Atchison, KS as delegates to the Federation of St. Scholastica quadrennial General Chapter (see blog entry of May 20).

* Our sisters involved in major federally-funded programs are wrapping up their year (June 30) which means, of course, piles of paperwork and deadlines. Their programs are truly wonderful, but the work they have to do to keep them going is mountainous.

* Although we read of wild summer weather in parts of the country, we continue to "bask" in gorgeous warmth and sun. These are also the weeks for our area to be covered with orange tiger lilies. They are everywhere: along the side of the roads, in gardens, and in cultivated patches.

Here is a sampling:
I found these up against this fence about three miles east of us--right on East Lake Road. Pretty setting.

And here is our own greenhouse with its annual display. This was taken from the south side of the little land bridge known to everyone who has stayed in our hermitages as it is part of the path to the Mount.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Flavor of Retreat

Retreat ended with all of us so touched by Konrad's wisdom and sharings. He was just great. Here is a short excerpt from his marvelous reflection on the corrupt judge and the insistent widow who won't leave him alone. (Luke 18: 1-5). This loses quite a bit without his delivery, as that was a great part of the lectio, but he taught us so much by modeling depth and creativity and freedom in his scripture reflections. I heard 80-year-old sisters say that they had never in their lives had the ideas about the parables that he presented. They, and all of us, were just thrilled with this year's retreat.

"We, often, almost by instinct, project the widow as an old woman, and put ourselves in her shoes. We’re the cheated ones, demanding just treatment. We often pray like that, demanding our supposed rights from God, when ultimately prayer is acknowledging we have no rights, that we rely on God’s mercy, and we cast ourselves on God’s generosity, entrusting our heart and lives to God alone.

A second reading of the parable reveals that it’s not quite right to assign God the role of the judge, as one 'who neither feared God nor respected any human being.' So what if we turn the tables and assign the role of widow to God? It doesn’t surprise us that Jesus would tell a story about prayer using God as a corrupt, uncaring, insensitive judge. Jesus often surprises us. But might he also speak about God as the widow: poor, unprotected, patient, faithful even in the face of our rudeness?

The story turns everything upside down. God is after us! God is always after us, has been throughout history, never relenting, always finding new ways to wake us up. If the judge is the type of those who are powerful and care neither for God or human values, then God is the widow.

God is in the powerless, those looking for justice. God is on the side of the poor, those crying out for justice and not getting it, from the world’s systems and political and social structures. If God is the widow, then God has a claim on us. What is God’s right? That we recognize our responsibility toward the widow. God is a widow with no viable means of support, and her rights are not protected. God calls us constantly to care for the least among us if we are to be faithful to the covenant.

The prophets speak on behalf of the helpless, and now God himself speaks on their behalf. Prayer has a great deal to do with whether or not others are getting justice and attention and dignity. God pleas for dignity and we are the judge, with the authority to respond or not."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Retreat in the Summer

Konrad is a great group retreat director, as his reflections are personal, solid, reflective, and yet creative and real.

One of the great experiences of retreat days is the opportunity to "see" the world around us right here at home. The Mount grounds are absolutely bursting with flowers, birds and other early summer life. Everyone is walking the paths around the building, into the woods, and down to the lake.

Another unique experience happens at night--if you sleep with your windows open a little. Just one mile south of us are three train tracks that traverse the city of Erie. They mostly service freight trains, but the Amtrak line runs through here, too, on its way to and from New York and Chicago. The low sounds of the trains in the late evenings and early mornings easily travel through the air to our place. Hearing them is a real small town, Norman Rockwell experience that many of our guests comment on: "Did I hear the sound of trains last night?" "Yes," we answer with a smile.

There is a fourth set of tracks there, also. This set is only about three miles long and extends from the local General Electric plant right out to our area. Our GE plant specializes in the production of locomotives and this is their test track. All year long we see brand new shiny locomotives going back and forth on this rail--all newly painted and often easily identifiable by country symbols and names. Here's one I saw this week. As I said, very Norman Rockwell-ish.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June weekend

Saturday brought 40 women for a daylong "Women in Transition" program by our spirituality director. The weather was gorgeous allowing the participants lots of time outdoors. Here they are at a gathering at the end of the day in our inner courtyard.

This week, Monday evening through Saturday, also brings our annual community retreat. A number of our oblates come for the twice-daily conferences; some are here for the week, others come as they are able. This year's retreat director is Konrad Schaefer, OSB a monk from Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, and professor of sacred scripture. He has been living in their dependent house in Cuernavaca, Mexico since 1995. Konrad is a member of the AIM USA Board of Trustees and as such has been here each fall for the annual meeting, so he and the community are not complete strangers.

Sitting on the dock of the ....lake.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vacation With Mary

I'm out of Erie this week on a week's vacation. And what does one do during such a week? Among other things, enjoy some reading. So here's Mary with a lovely summer poem: Empty Branch in the Orchard.

To have loved
is everything.
I loved, once,

a hummingbird
who came every afternoon--
the freedom-loving male--

who flew by himself
to sample
the sweets of the garden,

to sit
on a high, leafless branch
with his red throat gleaming.

And then, he came no more.
And I'm still waiting for him,
ten years later,

to come back,
and he will, or he will not.
There is a certain commitment

that each of us is given,
that has to do
with another world,

if there is one.
I remember you, hummingbird.
I think of you every day

even as I am still here,
soaked in color, waiting
year after honey-rich year.

Mary Oliver

Monday, June 7, 2010

Catholic Bestsellers

She's had one or even two on the top ten before, but this month---holy mackerel!

Catholic Bestsellers June 2010, Catholic Book Publishers Association.


1. "The Prayers and Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica" by Raymond Arroyo, Doubleday Religion
2. "Rediscovering Catholicism" by Matthew Kelly, Beacon Publishing
3. "The Dream Manager" by Matthew Kelly, Beacon Publishing
4. "The Rhythm of Life" by Matthew Kelly, Beacon Publishing
5. "Uncommon Gratitude" by Joan Chittister & Rowan Williams, Liturgical Press
6. "The Seven Levels of Intimacy" by Matthew Kelly, Beacon Publishing
7. "The Catechism of the Catholic Church," Doubleday Religion
8. "Signs of Life" by Scott Hahn, Doubleday Religion
9. " The Breath of the Soul" by Joan Chittister, Twenty-Third Publications
10. "The Gift of Years" by Joan Chittister, BlueBridge

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Our community has come up with an e-newsletter which is quite nice.
Here is a link to the latest one, out just this week.
Enjoy! News and Views.