Thursday, December 29, 2011

For the End of the Year

An end of the year thought from Mary Oliver:

"Trying to be Thoughtful in the First Brights of Dawn"

I am thinking, or trying to think, about all the
imponderables for which we have
no answers, yet endless interest all the
range of our lives,

and it's good for the head no doubt
to undertake such meditation; Mystery, after all,
is God's other name, and deserves our
considerations surely.

But, but--excuse me now, please;
it's morning, heavenly bright,
and my irrepressible heart begs me to hurry on
into the next exquisite moment.

Lots of variety when it comes to manger scenes:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas at Our House

Here's a small sampling of Christmas at Our House.

This year we have a unique and lovely tree in chapel--this little wispy, looks-like-it-was-hand-drawn beauty.

And look what it "gave us" Christmas morning--a unique view of the reflection of the stained glass windows on the west chapel wall, seen through the trees branches.

Thank you, Jean, for first noticing this and sending all of us amateur photographers to our cameras to shoot uninterruptedly for five minutes.

Here are two of mine:

Click on any photo to enlarge.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Close

One of our sisters organized an outing last Sunday night to view Christmas house decorations in our nearby neighborhoods. It was a great success, topped off by hot chocolate upon return.

We are in the very middle of the O Antiphons, yet getting closer and closer to the celebratory weekend every second. Here are a few Christmas scenes that you may not see even if you visit us because most of them are in offices or the private hallways of our living areas. I'll post more after official decorating begins tomorrow night.

Our Community Room tree before decorating. Is that someone peeking around from the back...maybe looking for an early present?

Here is a delightful 2-minute Christmas video from the small Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska. Much to the villagers' shock, over a half million people have viewed it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sneaking In

Christmas is slowly sneaking into Mount St. Benedict even though we still have the 4th week of Advent to celebrate. The O Antiphons are prevalent everywhere here...not only at Evening Praise where they appear in the Divine Office but one panel of the O Antiphon's banner goes up every day-- by Friday all seven will be hanging in our cloister walk between chapel and the dining room. You can also see them on individual cards on our Pray With Us page here and you can hear us singing them here.

Also there is a new recording--our handbell choir playing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" Advent's #1 hit.

If you haven't visited our site for a couple days you'll enjoy some Smile Boxes on the front page: Benetwood's Christmas dinner and all the SBA Lassies turning out for their annual December event, too.

Here's a collage of Christmas's attempts to "infiltrate" the Mount! (Officially we trim the whole house on Thursday).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

O Antiphons begin Saturday

Advent moves along, albeit amidst rain here rather than our typical snowy December, but no one is really complaining! I saw three deer on the east lawn the other day. They certainly know it's winter; their coats were so dark that at that 5:00 pm late afternoon they almost looked black.

Our newly designed website continues to get rave reviews from visitors. If you enjoy the O Antiphons you'll find both the text and our singing of Sister Mary David's musical version of each on the site beginning Saturday the 17th..."O Wisdom."

I attended the annual Christmas dinner/party at Benetwood Apartments this week. What a delightful time. I think every single one of the residents from the 75 apartments was there: all dolled up and ready to enjoy this annual very popular event at Benetwood.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gifts Galore

For five or six years now I've participated in the Emmaus Children's Christmas Gift extravaganza by purchasing gifts for some of the over 1,000-1,500 children that are in the families they serve. The first year, full of first fervor, I actually traveled up and back to our local JCPenneys three or four times--evenings or after work, to find all the items the children wanted (one special item of clothing per child). My fervor was quickly dampened by holiday traffic, elbowing busy shoppers, out of stock colors and sizes and just plain fatigue.

The second, and all subsequent years, I got smart and ordered online--delivery right to my door, free shipping and all. No more going out at night, getting there only to discover unavailable styles and colors. It worked to perfection!

This year's purchases for 40 children were no exception. I am almost done, with the assistance of my 2011 Sister Santa's helper at the Mount who graciously does all the wrapping for me. I'm ready for next weekend's delivery.

My favorite thing to order? Older boy's sneakers! I'm proud that I realized that boys over age 12 won't wear I buy the best sneakers we can afford knowing that they will be both sneaker and snow boot and might last all winter. My least favorite thing? girls jeans. Every year I am overwhelmed with the variety of jeans for teenage girls and I cannot imagine choosing jeans for any teenager that they would like and actually wear. But, I do it...grimacing at the thoughts of their faces on Christmas when they open their package and say, "I won't wear these, they are so lame."

Nevertheless, this huge project is a wonderful Christmas endeavor for Emmaus and I am grateful to be a small part of it.


As Mary Oliver's poem last week remarked, our first snow coverage occurred this weekend. Just beautiful.

With the snowfall I made sure my window bird feeder was filled. Ten minutes afterwards lo and behold I spied a bird I had never seen on our grounds, a red-headed woodpecker in the tree right outside our rooms. And, yes, minutes later he came right over to the feeder. What a thrill. He was beautiful. I'll keep trying for a closer shot, should he return.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


See our just-released winter issue of The Mount magazine here on our community's new website.

I just love what graphic artists around the world do with the google logo. Most of them are posted on google only in one country but some are posted worldwide. Here's one from November 30 posted here in the US: a tribute to Mark Twain on his birthday.

Google Doodles

And, an inspiration from Mary Oliver on the coming of the winter season, particularly for those of us for whom winter is spelled s-n-o-w!

In the Pasture

On the first day of snow, when the white curtain of winter began to stream down,

the house where I lived grew distant and at first it seemed imperative to hurry home.

But later, not much later, I began to see the soft snowbound house as I would always remember it,

and I would linger a long time in the pasture, turning in circles,

staring at all the crisp, exciting, snow-filled roads that led away.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Between Tuesday & Thursday

Some time between Tuesday and Thursday our community's redesigned website will go online...and are we excited. This past weekend the organizing committee offered a Sneak Preview of the site to the community. Great fun, oohs and aahs, and much anticipation. It won't be perfect all at once (you faithful readers, don't hesitate to report typos or corrections to our webkeeper--she'll be grateful) but the general pattern will be there. Hope you like it---and let us know what your favorite sections are!

Check our current website's front page for three recently posted items: a new e-course on the RB by Sister Joan Chittister, a way to help SBEC receive a $15,000 grant by voting via the web (takes a few minutes the first time and after that only 20 seconds), and a photo from the beginning of Advent here at the Mount.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Visiting Rome

This website is wonderful and quite appropriate for this time of year, I think, as we are awaiting the annual celebration of Jesus and his life among us.

Here is an interactive website that takes you inside the Sistine Chapel and enables you to "look around." If you've been there you can verify that this is exactly what it looks like. In reality it's wall-to-wall people with a United Nations of languages all around the room.

After seeing this site, I dug up my own photos from Rome a couple years ago and want to share my favorite thing about Rome: the Pieta.

Well, we survived November with 0.8" of snow against an average of about 10". But the last two days have brought in rain, cooler temps and these clouds that give new meaning to "ominous." Now to see what December brings---winter, surely.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent begins

The Thanksgiving week 60 degree temperatures are making things a little surreal here, including the beginning of Advent which is usually accompanied by our first lake effect snowstorm.

Despite the unusual weather Advent has begun beautifully. Prayer and liturgy this weekend were just wonderful. We even "survived" the first Sunday with the new missal wording! By the way, the new Mass we're using is by Dan Schutte, aka one of the four St. Louis Jesuits of the 1970s and 80s. His new one, "Mass of Christ the Savior," is just as melodic and upbeat, yet reverent, as his others.

Here are some photos of chapel with the Advent environment. Our Advent speakers are here.

If you like online prayer, there will be a section of daily prayer on our new website set to debut December 8th. Meanwhile here's one.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

How the World Eats Each Week

My friend Pat shared this with me this week and it blew me away. I thought it would be an appropriate reflection for all of us here in the USA on Thanksgiving Day. We have had some excellent presentations and "encouragements" this year in our own community on healthier eating---and I think a lot of us are doing better. This is an encouragement of a different sort.
Click on photos to enlarge.

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide. Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina (Sure hope most American families eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food than this family.) Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Italy : The Manzo family of Sicily. Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca. Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna. Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo. Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo. Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village. Food expenditure for one week: 22493 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp. Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Our Community's Thanksgiving Greeting here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

South of the Border-one more day

Our community website has a little smilebox scrapbook of our trip to the Mission of Friendship in Merida, Mexico. Enjoy!

Here are some more, too.

The Cathedral in Merida is one of the oldest in North America, begun in the 16th century. The stonework is awesome and this crucifix is beyond huge.

Many statues and altars fill the cathedral, each expressing some devotion of the people/area. Here is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Another one is covered with long colorful ribbons that people drape all over it with prayer intentions written on the ribbons.

Iron grates cover most first floor windows, especially in town. They have beautiful decorative designs. Someone should take photos of the best/most unique ones and develop a poster or website. Some are quite intricate and artistic, not merely functional.

This is the water source for a poor family that we visited. It is outside at the front entrance. Do you see the toothbrush and toothpaste in the cup in the stone wall?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More on Mexico

Visiting the Mission of Friendship and the surroundings of Merida, Mexico was great. We were there so that Anne, our prioress, could receive, in person, the annual commitments of a group of our oblates. It took place in the context of a true Mexican liturgy Saturday evening.

The music at Mass was great, a bit louder than we're used to, but well played and sung. The oblate ceremony after the homily was serious, touching and very meaningful.

In between the "oblate business" we visited some of the Mission's ministries, homes of the people they serve, and did the "tourist thing" at the Gulf of Mexico and the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza--amazing.

While we were gone Erie received its first snow of the season, 1/2" on the 11th. That's one of the craziest things about traveling, isn't it? That you can go from 85 degrees on the Yucatan peninsula to 40 degrees back in the northeast!

Here I am with a little 3-year old in his home--which was for all purposes like a cinder block garage with two inside rooms, some plastic chairs, a TV, a refrig with no food inside, some sort of hotplate for cooking, and a covered small area attached...what we might describe as really rough "camping out."

An oblate who is now a school administrator grew up on a farm outside of Merida and he has planted in their backyard grapefruit, orange, coconut, and many other types of fruit trees.

The party following the oblate renewal ceremony.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Visiting Mexico

The Mission of Friendship in Merida, Mexico.

Oblate Renewal during Sunday liturgy.

The 15th year celebration cake.

Oblates, directors and guests.

Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.

Mission's Day Care facility.

Visiting a home.

The Yucatan peninsula is on rock and they are used for everything, especially walls.

More Thursday.