Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week

One of our more talented writers was listening to Garrison Keillor last week and heard his rendition of a springtime ABC's. She loved it and was inspired to write her own--a poem in abecedarian style. Since Easter is celebrated in the secular world as a grand welcoming of spring, I thought it would be appropriate for today and it may even encourage some of you to write your own this week--as a Holy Week lectio or as an ode to spring and Easter.

A is for APPLE have you had one today?
Better do so, it's good for you they say.
Christ, more advice from strangers to make my ills go away
Do you think an apple is really the way?

Enough about apples, let's go to the
Fair, the last one of the season--everyone will be there.
Grab some money, a Hat for the
Hot September sun, an umbrella, too.
In case it rains. And don't forget a light
Jacket for the evening cool.

Kick the dust under your feet
Let's go--me and you together--ain't that sweet?
Maybe this is the beginning, I think in my head, of a
New love that will never end.
Oh, speaking of love, have you heard about Tim and Marie
Pity, that torrid affair is dead, but here's a
Question that won't disappear: is the first worth the pain, the ecstasy, the tear?

Right. Enough of Philosophy 1, your hand in mind, the
Scent of summer almost done is
Taste enough of "good" and "now"--nothing more to
Understand--I bow, I bow, I bow.

V is for voice,
Whispering like the breeze, "Please, a candied apple to share."
eXcellent choice. I say,
"You take the first sweet bite"
Z is for my end of the fruit. Mmmm. Delight! Delight!

Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Holy Week Reflections

This was my contribution to our diocese's magazine for March-April, but it was not chosen by the editors so it wasn't included in the issue. I thought that Holy Week, which begins with our magnificent Passion Sunday liturgy, would be a good time to share it in this venue. Hope you like it.

A confession I finally feel confident enough to make: I dislike Lent. Well, I mean, I used to dislike Lent. Nowadays I look forward to it, especially for Holy Week and the Easter Triduum. But I really dreaded it for years.

Did anything specific precipitate the change? Of course. I met a group of creative, generous and inclusive people: liturgists. Their knowledge and interpretations of the church’s documents generated the most dynamic and meaningful liturgies that I had ever experienced–particularly during the Church’s #1 liturgical season: Easter–and its predecessor, Lent.

The first time I witnessed the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, told not by a reader standing at a lectern, fine as he/she may be, but from Sarah seated in a rocking chair relating the “family history,” I couldn’t believe my eyes–and ears.

The rendering of the Passion of Jesus, by a narrator while the Jesus figure traveled through the darkened church singing Jesus’ lines, brought Christ’s journey to his death and resurrection to a whole new vision for me.

Once during a vigil service of a Sunday in Lent, after the gospel reading, the followup reflection was told through the perspective of a “bug in the rug”–who happened to be in the room with the apostles. The reflection was solid, the packaging refreshing, and the memory of it long-lasting.

One Lent the foyer of the church became a mini-desert--large enough to seem real and get the point across, yet small enough not to interfere with the actual comings and goings of the people.

Now don’t misinterpret all this: I’m not talking about children’s liturgies or anything even approaching irreverence or gimmicks. These are nothing short of marvelously creative expressions, within the rites and formularies, to bring new light and contemporary cultural expressions to the same messages that have been handed down throughout the centuries.

These expressions bring a new angle, a different slant, a fresh look that enable me to see more deeply and newly into the depth, the message, the meaning of these more-than-familiar tales.

One of the most amazing things about the liturgists I know is their inclusiveness. Sure they have the appropriate university degrees, but they work generously to form liturgy groups and set about teaching all the “liturgy-planning novices” what they’ve learned and experienced. And not only teach them, but encourage them to bring out their own creativity.

Whether it’s eye-catching ways to arrange the environment, interrelating readings and song, or using dance, poetry or any of a myriad of art expressions, there seems to be no end to the ideas these talented liturgists have.

I hope you have known great liturgists–and good musicians, too--wherever you celebrate liturgy. They are an especially talented and important blessing to the Church.

More from the March Art Show: Here's a Great Blue Heron by oblate Jo Clarke and our flagship Niagara by Ann Muczynski, OSB.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monastic Lexicon #14


Since many of us are following one of our local Catholic high school's girls basketball teams who are in the semi-finals of the State Basketball AA Tournament this week, I thought it appropriate to tell you what it means to hear the word Lassies around here.

Lassies was the nickname of the St. Benedict Academy students, especially its sports' teams. Even though the school closed in 1988, its alumnae association is very active, especially locally. Every month or so their officers come for a supper meeting at the Mount and we just might hear, "The SBA Lassies are meeting tonight."

This time of year is a particularly good time to hear this word as the SBA Lassies were well-known, for decades, for fielding strong, strong basketball teams. In fact, in their very last year they made it deep into the state playoff tournament. And, yes, a number of our sisters were players on those teams and a couple even coached, "the Lassies."

For this year, we're cheering for the Victors of VMA: Go Villa!! (Also the high school Alma Mater for a couple of us!)

Our March Art Show entries: a water lily by art show coordinator Sister Margaret Ann Pilewski and a tall, tall waterfall by Sister Pat Hause.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Rituals

Lots of early spring activities going on. I could probably write a paragraph on each sister's comings and goings this week, but here are just a couple. Congratulations to two of our musicians who just finished 6 weeks of training and practice of the 60-member cast for the upcoming production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" by a local Catholic high school. The show is Palm Sunday weekend....appropriate!

Another group of seven of us is caught up in March Madness as another Erie Catholic school's girls basketball team has won its first two games in the state playoffs. Game number 3 is this Friday. They'll travel to Sharon, PA to cheer their team on. The teams that win four games meet for the state championship at Penn State University.

And, a third kinda' spring activity: we've "dug out" the composting equipment and plan on starting it up within the month. The main contribution will be vegetable matter from our kitchen. Luckily, the grandmother of one of our kitchen's food prep gals is the #1 composting expert in the county--talk about a built-in resource!

Here is a perennial spring tradition for this site: the first picture of spring flowers. I caught it yesterday, March 17th, right on E. 10th Street under one of the St. Benedict Education Center signs--aren't they something?!

Not to jinx us, but here's the reason for our growing euphoria: the first number is the average snow each month, the second one is this season's:

November 10" vs 0"
December 20" vs 29"
January 30" vs 31"
February 20" vs 30"
March 10" vs 0" (so far)

And, finally, from our Art Show, here's Sister Susan Freitag's tribute to "hope of things to come" with this array of daisies.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring is (almost) here

In all honesty, there is no way that spring is here or even on the horizon, although we had a terrible teasing of it this week. Sure the temperatures were in the 50s and even low 60s, but our March averages 10" of snow and I can't believe we'll get through the next 15 days without some. Nevertheless, we are all "posturing" for spring, regardless of our unspoken awareness that we're not even close!

However, here are a few spring-like signs:

In town at the site of our first motherhouse, this week found local window restorers removing the three semi-circle stained-glass windows that are over the main door and side windows at the building's entrance. Most of the beautiful original windows that are still in the building are inside, protected from the elements and the "outside world." These three aren't and have developed some fine cracks and even a couple small holes. The restorers are confident that not only can they be restored, but they said that we will be surprised how close they'll be able to get to the original colors of the glass.

And from our March Art Show, Stephanie Schmidt, OSB, found a rain-covered leaf and Bernadette Sullivan, OSB, a morning sunrise.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

We love lighthouses

On the left, a triptych of clouds and a rainbow seen down at our Glinodo property by Laura Beichner, OSB, and two wood-turned pieces, a bowl and a lighthouse, by Audrey Steff, OSB.

On the right, a trio of photos from children at our Neighborhood Art House.

We love lighthouses and have three in Erie. The best is the Presque Isle Lighthouse right on the peninsula, occupied and functioning and a favorite of local artists and photographers.

The second is also on the peninsula. The North Pier Lighthouse is also functional, as it leads boats into the channel in order to enter the bay.

The third one, the Land Lighthouse, is restored except for its light. It is at the foot of Lighthouse Street, of course, and is tucked in a now residential neighborhood, hard to find unless you know where to turn. Hint: It's about 6 miles west of us off East 6th Street.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Women, Wesleyan and Weather

Our place was rockin' this weekend. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration--let's try: our place was really busy this weekend! That's more like it.

The "Women in Transition" retreat days have returned. The Mount retreat facilities are available again and the director is 99% recovered from a knee replacement last November. Forty-seven came for the day Saturday. Their focus was the book The Fine Art of Living by our Sr. Joan. When we were talking about how glad we were to have them back, one of our more witty members remarked, "Yes, it's been a long time for them to be in transition!"

Saturday afternoon the six collegians from Ohio Wesleyan arrived for a week of ministry, prayer and community living with us. One of their moderators is an oblate of our community and this is her 6th year bringing a group of students. Welcome Jen, Michelle, Kathryn, Laura, Grace and Taurey.

And, our winter weather has officially broken...hit the 40s this weekend and the same is predicted for the next 4-5 days. I think we're over the hill and on our way down from the snow-covered mountain top--at last.

More entries from our March Art Show: A shedding birch tree by Katherine Horan, OSB, and, by Lucia Surmik, OSB, a shot taken at the peninsula, I'd guess, with the city across the bay in the background.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Women's Art Show

This year's annual art show--in celebration of Women's History Month--opens Sunday, March 7 and will run through Sunday, April 11. The title is "Looking Large" and all of the pieces are at least 8"x10"--most even larger. Many of the photographers also have new smaller works inside our gift shop, Chapter 57.

Each Monday and Thursday this month I'll feature one or two of the pieces--with a sneak preview starting today, since the show was hung yesterday.

Here's an appropriate beginning, Benedict and Scholastica, taken by Sr. Ann Hoffman in Italy last summer.

The beautiful windows are by Marie Turner, sister of Sr. Margaret Ann, art show director.

My pictures don't begin to do these justice. Stop by and see them for yourself!

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Like a Lion

The phrase, "In like a lion, out like a lamb," has its origins with the constellations Leo, the Lion, and Aries, the ram or lamb. It has to do with the relative positions of these constellations in the sky at the beginning and end of the month of March.

Ours is running true to form, as the last February snow began Thursday and continued through Saturday. It was a typical late winter snow--large white, wet flakes many of which melted as they hit the roads, but also clung to tree limbs and bushes turning our grey, dirty old snow world into a beautiful one. One of the sisters remarked at lunch, when the snow was falling beautifully, "This reminds me of those perfect snow scenes in the movie White Christmas." And it did, except ours was absolutely real, not Hollywood produced!

It is also a "week of preparation" as the pieces for our annual March art show are being hung for the opening next Sunday. Also next weekend the collegians from Ohio Wesleyan arrive for their week of Spring Break Service. From the schedule I saw, they will have a wide variety of experiences in both our ministries outside the Mount and within it. And finally, the first "regular" guests are arriving beginning today, as our 15 guest rooms and 3 hermitages are all spruced up, complete with a new hospitality and information book and other donated spirituality books in each room for our most-welcome and greatly-missed visitors.