Monday, February 28, 2011

If you were here...

If you had been with us this weekend here's a sampling of what you would have experienced:
a) We had about 15-16 retreatants here for a weekend, silent retreat following the writings of St. Gertrude. One of our sisters just received her certification from Shalem Institute and hopes to offer retreats more often;
b) Our most senior sister turned 97 on Sunday! Great singing at every meal, well wishes and desserts!
c) See photo: note the lowest level of limbs is almost buried on this magnolia bush...courtesy of 7" of snow Friday on top of 11-12" last Monday. Our February is now the second snowiest of all time: 34". And our season average has just been met: 89". Thankfully a 4-5 day warm spell is due this week. We have had quite enough of winter, thank you very much.

d) And finally, Evening Praise Sunday was going along quite normally when all of a sudden a ripple started through the south side of sisters, quickly spreading to the north side. Soon most of us saw it: a chipmunk darting this way and that, back and forth throughout the chapel! Finally he/she, made its way into the sacristy and a sister closed the door. When prayer ended 4-5 of us ventured chipmunk! We set two "live traps" anyway: peanut butter covered with bird seed. Tomorrow we'll see. I'll give a report on Thursday.

PS. For beautiful statues of five Benedictine women, including St. Gertrude, go to this section of the Benedictine Sisters of Clyde, Missouri's site. Their chapel is gorgeous and these five women "reign" over it from above.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

OMS #5

In the Middle Ages, four of the Marian hymns composed during that time were added to the various daily offices said by orders such as the Benedictines, Franciscans and Dominicans, and were then added to all the Church's daily office. Today they are still quite popular in church prayer, Catholic as well as other Christian denominations, and are sung in Latin, especially at the end of Vespers or Compline. Each one is sung at a specific time of the liturgical year.

The "Alma Redemptoris Mater" was mentioned in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; "Ave Regina Caelorum" is what we're singing presently, and will continue through mid-Holy Week; legend has it that St. Gregory the Great heard angels chanting the "Regina Caeli" one Easter morning and was inspired to write another line to it; and the "Salve Regina", Hail Holy Queen, is perhaps the best known of the four, and has many translations and melodies besides the original.

You can hear us singing one of these, a cappella, every Saturday night and on special Marian feasts.

Here our Sisters sing another Marian hymn, one that is sung every day at the end of Vespers, the Magnificat.

And then, for a change of pace, we have this "Salve Regina" from Sister Act!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blogging nuns

On the blog "A Nun's Life" there is a link to "Blogs by Catholic Nuns." I was surprised at how many there are. Here are just the Benedictine ones. I browsed myself and offer the links to four that I thought were the most interesting (besides our own, of course!). Enjoy.

Abbey of Saint Walburga–Benedictine Nuns in Virginia Dale, CO

Colwich Novitiate–Benedictine Nuns of Saint Mary’s Abbey, Colwich, England

Day by Day –Sister Lynn Marie, OSB Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, MO

Discover God in the everyday. With us.–Sisters of Saint Benedict of Ferdinand, IN

Light Through Stained-Glass Windows–Sister Susan Doubet, OSB Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA

Living the Tradition: A Benedictine Blog–Sister Lynn Elisabeth Meadows, OSB Benedictine Sisters of Cullman, AL

Living the Zeal of Benedict–Sister Marilyn Schauble, OSB Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA

The Monastic Mirror–Sister John Paul, OSB, the Benedictine Sisters of Elk County

Monastic Musings Too–Sister Edith, OSB Order of Saint Benedict

Monastics on a Journey –Sister Vicki Ix, OSB, Director of Vocation Ministry for the Benedictine Sisters of VA

Nun Bytes – Sister Diana Seago, OSB Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, KS

Nun Like Us–Sister Suzanne Fitzmaurice, OSB Vocation Director at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery

Ponderings: A Benedictine Blog–Sister Jeanette von Herrmann, OSB Mt. Angel, OR

Paths Without Obstacles Lead Nowhere–Sister Kimberly Prohaska, OSB, of the Monastery of Saint Scholastica

Seeking God: A Benedictine Ministries Blog–Benedictine Sisters of Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, OR

Seeking God: A Benedictine Blog–Benedictine Sisters of Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, OR

Sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery–Benedictine Sisters in St. Joseph, MN

So that in all things…God may be glorified!–Sister Nicolette Etienne, OSB Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Beech Grove, IN

This weekend's chapel environment.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

OMS #4

The book Three Religious Rebels tells a story of Robert, Alberic and Stephen, founders of the Abbey of Cîteaux and the seat of the Cistercian reform movement of Benedictinism.

As well-known writer, Australian Trappist Michael Casey, OCSO, writes, "As you know Cîteaux was founded from Molesme which had begun as a reformed monastery but, according to Cistercian sources, had declined as its riches increased. Because many of its recruits were not zealous for an austere life, contact with the world and the acceptance of a lower standard of monastic discipline left the more conscientious brothers dissatisfied. Under the leadership of Abbot Robert, his prior Alberic, who succeeded him as abbot of the New Monastery and Stephen, who followed Alberic as abbot, a small number of monks set out for what was described as the “wilderness” of Cîteaux, although in fact they were only 20 km from Dijon and under the protection of the Duke of Burgundy.

The new foundation was poor and isolated, without many of the material benefits of an established monastery; the monks attempted to live by the Rule quite literally, distancing themselves consciously from many (but not all) customs derived from traditional Benedictine centers."

The Cistercians and Trappists are followers of the Rule of Benedict whose founders sought to reform Benedictine monastic life, first as Cistercians, as described above in 1098, and then again as Trappists in the mid-17th century. Both reform movements began in France.

Today these two groups have all but merged, all referring to themselves as "Cistercians." There are only about 3,000 Trappists (OCSO) and 2,000 Cisterians (OCist) in the world today.

Most of them have extensive guest accommodations, as part of their income ministries. Many in the USA produce delicious and unique food products: jelly, candy, bread, honey, cheese, fruitcake and natural wood caskets!

In the USA you'll find Cistercian/Trappist monasteries in these remote places--but all have easily accessible websites! I've included links to places I know in case you'd like to browse a bit. A link to the excellent worldwide Trappist website is in the right-hand column.

Lucerne Valley, CA
Vina, CA
Snowmass, CO
Conyers, GA
Peosta, IA
Argo, IL
Trappist, KY
Spencer, MA
Ava, MO
Mount Laurel, NJ
Piffard, NY
Lafayette, OR
New Ringgold, PA
Moncks Corner, SC
Irving, TX
Huntsville, UT
Berryville, VA
Sparta, WI

Sonoita, AZ
Whitethorn, CA
Dubuque, IA
Wrentham, MA
Crozet, VA
Prairie du Sac, WI

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monthly Mary

On the 10th we celebrated the Feast of St. Scholastica, first Benedictine woman. Sr. Anne's reflections from Evening Praise are here. About 100 came--great time for all.

Daisies in February for the feast!

February's Mary Oliver poem is from her new book, Swan: "In Your Hands"

The dog, the donkey, surely they know
they are alive.
Who would argue otherwise?

But now, after years of consideration,
I am getting beyond that.
What about the sunflowers? What about
the tulips, and the pines?

Listen, all you have to do is start and
there'll be no stopping.
What about the mountains? What about water
slipping over the rocks?

And, speaking of stones, what about
the little ones you can
hold in your hand, their heartbeats
so secret, so hidden it may take years

before, finally, you hear them?


The answers I received for "OMS" were better than the real one I came up when I started this! They included: Old Monastic Scenarios, Old Monastic Stories, Old Monastic Services, Old Monastic Signs, Old Monastic Symbols, Old Monastic Sights, Old Monastic Sagas and Old Monastic Sayings. Runner-up prize goes to BR for entering Old Monastery Stuff, which was so-o-o close. But, the winner is VE from northwestern England: Old Monastic Stuff! Just "stuff," anything I come upon. Hope you enjoy the upcoming OMS--watch on Thursdays.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

OMS #3

The Angelus was a popular and widespread devotion dating from the Middle Ages when not only monastic houses, but parish churches, rang their towered bells at morning, noon, and/or evening. Three rings: antiphon and Hail Mary; three more rings: antiphon and Hail Mary; three more rings: antiphon and Hail Mary; Final numerous rings: closing prayer. It was meant to help people to pray, whether out in the fields, away from the church or from the main monastery building.

In our early days of religious life the Angelus bell was rung by pulling on a long rope extending down from the roof's bell. Novices or juniors rang it daily. It wasn't as easy as it first appeared and a strong and responsible young sister was always assigned to this task. Shenanigans accompanied it however, as others would try to mute the ringer so that when pulled, nothing happened. If young sisters were guilty of Angelus-tapering, I can't imagine what young monks did!

Our own pells (an electronic carillon nowadays) still sound the Angelus every day at noon. We usually are just ending mid-day prayer and don't recite the Angelus per se anymore. If you hear the bells of your local church(es) ringing at noon, listen; it might be the Angelus, not 12 tolls for the time.

To hear our own noon-time Angelus peal, go here and click on "Angelus" in the right-hand column.

A well-known painting: "The Angelus" by Jean-Francois Millet.


Announcing a mid-winter "Perk you up contest": What do the letters OMS stand for in my new series? All entries must be received by the end of the day Saturday, February 12th. You may enter up to 3 guesses. All correct entries will receive a unique and coveted prize from LTSGW.
A hint: the "O" stands for "Old."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Houses in winter

Twenty years after the last standing building of the original motherhouse downtown was renovated, we have new windows on the uppermost floor. The first ones never quite did the trick with the old moldings: they often let in drafts, occasionally fell in themselves and, over the last few years, were nearly impossible to re-lock once opened. But, ta-da, this week brought new, better fitting windows. Here's one of the guys inserting one (albeit 20 degrees outside and, for awhile, inside, too!).

And here's my four-stories-up view: north over the housetops to the bay, the peninsula and, on a clear day, the lake beyond.

A trip to our Presque Isle State Park this weekend brought this winter view of our famous houseboats. For comparison purposes go to the blog entry for Oct. 27, 2008 to see them in summer. Put the word "houseboat" in the search box in the upper left hand corner, hit enter and that entry should come up. You can also see this photo in the 2011 Benetvision calendar--July or August I believe. Both seasons have their beauty, but only one has human inhabitants!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

OMS #2

St. Augustine, sent by the Pope to evangelize what is now Britain, founded Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, in the County of Kent, in 602 AD. In the 10th c. a Benedictine Abbey, Christ Church Priory, became part of Canterbury. It grew and expanded adding numerous monastic buildings until the Dissolution of Monasteries imposed by Henry VIII caused it to cease existence in 1539. Since then it has been the central church for the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England.

A few years ago our Joan Chittister was invited to speak there. Everyone in the audience knew, of course, that she was both Catholic and Benedictine. As she reached the podium for her presentation she paused, looked up and down, around and around the massive Cathedral. Then she turned to the audience and said, "I can see you've taken real good care of the place--thank you." She brought the house down!

Our Sr. Linda Romey was featured in an Erie Times News article this week on "upcycling." Linda is a marvelous fabric artist.