Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Path of Life

The spring/summer issue of the MOUNT magazine has "the path of life" as its major theme. It seems appropriate, then, that one of our sisters got it in her head that the stone path in our inner courtyard was way overgrown and had to be cleared out. Everyone knows that keeping grass and weeds from growing in, around, and through stones is a full time job...unless you use chemicals like Round Up, which is a no-no at our place...and understandably.

She and her helpers have done a beautiful job, as you can see here. But, what a task...hard, hard manual labor.

She told me that her family home had a brick path and that when her father got it in his head to change the direction of the path all the kids would dig up the bricks and re-lay them into the new pattern...until his next idea!

Thanks to Sister Marla and friends for this beautification of our inner courtyard. Greatly appreciated by guests and sisters alike (and especially by those whose offices look out upon it...yours truly included!)


and AFTER!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Faith entry

My column in the July-August Faith magazine:

Recently I visited the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage outside of Cleveland and although the exhibit we went to see was excellent, what made a lasting impression on me was their gift shop!

It was one of those non-Hallmark places with things you don’t see anywhere else. Resisting the urge to buy everything, I did limit myself to what I wanted most, a mezuzah. Originally a mezuzah was a scroll in a little case fixed to an orthodox Jewish family's doorpost to remind them of their faith. This one is a metal “scroll” about 6” high and it announces, “Peace to this house.”

Peace/Pax has been a Benedictine motto for centuries. Pax Intrantibus, “Peace to those who enter here,” was placed above many of the doors and entrances in early monastic houses throughout Europe. Even today it is most common to have phrases or symbols built into the front doorways of our abbeys and monasteries. Though the phrases may vary, most include the word Pax/Peace.

In Benedictine communities the message of peace can be found not only over entryways, but in art pieces, liturgical books, medals and in many other formats.

In 1880 the abbey at Monte Cassino in Italy commissioned a jubilee medal in honor of the 1400th year anniversary of St. Benedict’s birth. Today that same medal is worn by followers of Benedict’s Rule throughout the world. It is crowded with symbols and letters, but clearly right above the cross on one side, is the word “Pax.” Coincidentally, the abbot of Monte Cassino at that time was a monk originally from an American abbey.

Here at our Erie monastery we continued this tradition by designing a four-foot high cornerstone to commemorate our chapel renovation in 2007. PAX is the only word; engraved under the same Benedictine cross used on the medal.

The modern “Welcome” mat may be a contemporary cousin of the mezuzah, placed at a house’s entrance as a sign of hospitality. In country living stores I’ve seen hangings such as: “Smith home since 1975” that can be hung on the lintel along with the house number.

Our contemporary mezuzah tells of our dedication and commitment to peace. What would you choose to say on a mezuzah if it hung at your entranceway?

P.S. By the way, the exhibit we visited was fantastic. It’s “Women and Spirit,” a traveling history of Catholic sisters in the USA and shares the effects thousands of religious women have had on education, health care and social services for 200 years. Go to for a great summary of it—with pictures!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Addition

In the late 1980s the community constructed an addition to the east end of our two residence wings. The addition added on 30 rooms in total, five on each of the three floors of both the north and south wings.

Also added on every floor was a porch. Only the front wall of each porch is open, making them really lovely places to sit outside and yet be enough out-of-doors without being in the direct sun.

The one right by my room has benefitted from the care of one of our green-thumbed sisters. It not only boasts a little patio set of table and chairs, but has the healthiest and prettiest plants, as the "open side" has a southern exposure.

I never cease being amazed at the decorative and design talents of so many of our sisters. Usually we see their talents in the chapel environment, but every once and awhile some little corner of the Mount benefits from a type of "makeover" and it always is just------just so right.

If you haven't seen these yet, on our community website are links to the spring/summer MOUNT magazine and a newspaper column by our Sister Mary Lou. Both are great! (Scroll down the news a bit)

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 21-Welcome Summer

"Small Bodies"

It is almost summer. In the pond
the pickerel leap,
and the delicate teal have brought forth
their many charming young,
and the turtle is ravenous.
It is hard sometimes, oh Lord,
to be faithful.
I am more boldly made
than the little ducks, paddling and laughing.
But not so bold
as the turtle
with his greasy mouth.
I know you know everything--
I rely on this.
Still, there are so many small bodies in the world,
for which I am afraid.

Mary Oliver

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Desert Ammas

This year's retreat is going along nicely--weather is cooperating beautifully so everyone can get outside as much as they wish, including for meals on our back patio. The subject matter is interesting: the desert mothers (ammas) of the 4th and 5th centuries. Amazon lists four current books on this subject: The first one, The Desert Mothers by Mary Earle, gives a very quick Q&A on the subject--just scroll down a bit, only takes one minute---it's very good.

The other three are: The Forgotten Desert Mothers by Swan; In the Heart of the Desert by Chryssavgis, Ward, and Ware; and Praying with the Desert Mothers by our own retreat director, Mary Forman.

If you like a little pre-Benedictine monasticism and monastic tales of the desert I think any of the four would be good.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Small town girl in the big city

Just back from a great time in Detroit, Michigan, just 275 miles from the Mount. We attended the final day of the American Catholic Council an organization of groups promoting the tenets of the Vatican Council II--which opened 50 years ago this coming year.

Our Joan Chittister was one of the keynote speakers and brought hope and inspiration to the 2,000 attendees with her presentation titled, "Good Event, Bad Event--Who knows?" She used scripture stories, contemporary tales, and a summary of the major documents of the Council to urge these faithful and long-standing proponents of the Spirit of this Council and Pope John XXIII, to carry on, as "seeds that may or may never see the flower."

Detroit was a major underground railroad site during the days of slavery. Many moved on to Canada after arriving in Detroit--some came back after abolition.

This sign was translated into Spanish and Arabic.

A large park is right downtown. Mostly large cement areas with huge metal art pieces. Beautiful in its own way, I suppose, but give me more grass, flowers and average scale art any day!

A gigantic ferry boat, the Detroit Princess, was docked right by the convention center. That's Canada in the background, right across the Detroit River. The bridge is one of many over to it.

Here's Sister Joan (sorry for the fuzziness) on the large stage area giving her presentation. DVD will be available from either the ACC or Benetvision soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is the spirit a bird?

Pentecost week songs are coming fast and furious. Here's part of "Pulsing Spirit" by Benedictine Delores Dufner of Minnesota.

"Spirit free, unbounded motion,
Beauty's mirror, heart's delight.
Gift abundant all around us,
flood the world with life and light."

Noisy daytime hours at the Mount this week. Landscapers are giving our gardens their annual clean up and clear out. And, workers are giving our famous stained-glass windows a once-over, to minimize the build up of condensation between the windows themselves and the plane glass on their outer side. They're trying some sort of venting system. We'll see!

Funniest double-take at prayer today as I looked up and saw...the outside trees instead of stained-glass. Here's the whole south side. Can you spy the one whose window is out?

They're hopping around all day, but still spend a great deal of time in their "hatching area," near the nest. Three are in this photo. I've named them: A,B,C,and R. "American, Boy Wonder, Christopher and Rockin'."

Great coverage in our local paper for a very sad prayer vigil yesterday for a 14-month old.

On my way to Detroit this weekend for American Catholic Council gathering.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spirit Week

Lots of activities going on in and around the Mount/in and around the community these days. But I want to mention just two of them. One: Visitors are always a favorite topic of mine and this weekend we had a Seasons of the Spirit retreat with lots of high-energy retreatants who enter into the activities and spirituality experience with such enthusiasm. They are always, always delightful to have around and seem to have a wonderful time whether this is their first retreat or fortieth! Two: Our prioress, Anne, has been faithful to giving tours all week of her robin babies, but on Saturday she found an empty nest when she checked. She heard and then spied the babies in her little garden area, with their parents still supplying worms to them all weekend.

Click to enlarge and look in the very center!

Three: (I know I said two) This is one of every one's favorite liturgical weeks--the week leading up to Pentecost Sunday. We started with our "spirit" songs Saturday and will work our way through the entire repertoire by next weekend. One is just as great as the other and we usually sing them with great....well, spirit! I hope you have found enlivening liturgies in your area, too.

Our Sheraton Hotel on the far left, Bicentennial Tower on the right, Presque Isle Bay behind them and Presque Isle State Park beyond that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A "Happening"

When I was growing up my mother and dad had this wonderful friend: Sally, who was just eccentric enough to seem delightfully different from all their other friends. One of Sally's greatest lines, whenever she had an experience that the rest of us might say was "interesting," was to announce, "I had a happening"! I have adopted that in my life now, shared it with friends and keep the memory of Sally alive through it!
LTSGW is late today....because I had a happening!

I was just going about my "normal" life Tuesday evening, experiencing what I thought was a slight stomach ache or passing gas (you know the feeling!)...flash forward 12 hours to Wednesday morning, same feeling, but too strange, so we chose a trip to the ER at Saint Vincent Health Center by noon. Flash forward 24 more hours to noon today and I've been out and back home with a laparoscopic appendectomy!

What's going on at the Mount? Who knows? I was busy "having a happening"--Sally would be so proud.

Memorial Day dawned warm and sunny. Spent some time at our Presque Isle State Park with the amazingly tame geese and their goslings and then back to the Mount for a great hamburgers and hot dogs picnic. Fun, fun for sisters and guests!

On our community website: nice Letter to the Editor of our local newspaper from Fr. Jim Gutting, local pastor and supporter of all our endeavors.