Thursday, September 29, 2011

Benedictine Land--southern Indiana style

Two-thirds of the Benedictine communities in the US are within 100-150 miles east and west of the Mississippi River, from Canada down to the Gulf. This week I'm in the very south of Indiana and spending time in "Benedictine land--southern Indiana style."

The two huge Benedictine places here are the community of women in Ferdinand, Indiana and the men's community in nearby St. Meinrad, Indiana. Both are among the two or three largest in the US and have made this part of the country a Benedictine landscape if there ever was one, with their large, large arrays of buildings, influence and century-old affects on the people, land and Catholicism here.

My time is at a subprioresses' meeting at the monastery of women in Ferdinand and a more welcoming and lovely community there cannot be...except for my own in Erie, of course!

Enjoy the scenes.

Imposing Monastery Immaculate Conception. Newly restored church is front and center. You can see it for miles around as it is on a hill high above the little town.

Blessed Sacrament chapel behind main altar. Wooden-outlined dome mimics the stone one it is under.

One of many gardens. This one styled amid a Benedictine cross.

The view from the other swing seat where yours truly was relaxing!

Just a fraction of the buildings and land that compose St. Meinrad Archabbey, seminary, guesthouse, Abbey Press, et al. Just a monstrous plant.

Some of the 3,700+ pipes of the organ in the main church.

Art is everywhere, including right on the walls. This one in a stairway.

Unique windows in the monks' Chapter Room. The ceiling, like the Sistine Chapel, was painted by a monk and is completely covered with bible-inspired themes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

One of Erie's Hidden Gems

This weekend we finally got a chance to visit one of Erie's hidden treasures: the mile-long walkway along the edge of the bluffs overlooking the Bayfront highway and Presque Isle Bay. This partially hidden and not oft traveled path--except at noon time by nearby health-conscious employees--begins downtown across from Hamot Medical Center and continues west all the way to Liberty St.

On its south side is a blend of 100 year old simple city homes mixed in with more modern new or restored lofts and townhouses with large front windows facing north. A couple playgrounds and lots of natural green space are also along the path.

But the north side....the north side is a continuous, uninterrupted view of the bay, with all its marinas, restaurants and waterside parks viewed from 50-100 feet up (See two samples below). A blest way to spend an hour and a half on a beautiful early autumn afternoon!

Erie's bicentennial tower (1795-1995) and State Street marinas.

Marinas and the Bayfront Civic Center. The walkway connects to the Sheraton Hotel.

And on our walk we had an up close and personal experience with nature--ta da: a grasshopper that hitched a ride on my pant leg!

Couple new entries on our community website, here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sand Mandala

All week six monks from the Tibetan monastery of Gaden Shartse in southern India have been at Gannon University in downtown Erie constructing a sand mandala and sharing their life, music, prayer and dance with the Erie community.

These six have been sharing their "Sacred Earth, Healing Arts of Tibet" tour throughout the States for 15 months and will return to their community of 400 in a few months. We attended their Monday evening presentation and were transfixed for two hours as they truly mesmerized a packed auditorium with their folk dance, music, costumes and some of their other rituals.

From here they go to Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

Go here for more and click on any photo to enlarge it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

We Are Ready to Sing

This weekend brought the beginning of a "new year." September marks the return of many of our yearly pursuits that take a summer hiatus and one began this Sunday: schola practice. Over 25 sisters belong to this community singing group and we were greeted with news of four new members who have joined and three new songs that we practiced right on day one.

Although we only practice a couple times a month (there are just so many opportunities to get 25 people's schedules free at the same time) we do offer some good choral numbers for special events, feasts and for the traditional liturgical holy days.

Our first "appearance" this year will be in 3 weeks at the 2011 Jubilee weekend.

Two links that I think you'll like--One: the catalogue from the just-opened new show of Brother Thomas' pottery in Boston. Click here and then on the catalogue you'll see on the upper left.

And one of my favorite blogs from one of our best writers. It may be new to you but I know you'll like it. Click here and you'll see it on the right.

And finally, see our website this week for the story and photos that accompanied the welcoming of two gals to our Benedicta Riepp program for the next year. Lucky us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Berry Good Week

Took a walk "around the back forty," down to the lake and along East Lake Road this week and was amazed that it seemed like every other green bush was loaded with berries. Purple, red, orange, green, the late summer berries are everywhere. Back at the Mount, I just walked right out the door of the library courtyard and found all these within a few yards of the house. Quite beautiful, but I think you have to be on foot to spy them, flying by in a car won't do.

If you haven't been to our community website this week there's a lot that was just posted, including Anne W's beautiful closing prayer at Sunday's Interfaith Service. She repeated some of it the next night, too, at another interfaith 9-11 service.

And, finally, I turned into our driveway Tuesday at about 8:15 pm and caught the somewhat unusual sight of our chapel, lit up from the inside after sunset. This is all I could do, I just knew my camera couldn't catch what I was seeing. But, the experience convinced me--I'm investing in a new camera ASAP. Watch for better photos coming soon!

Monday, September 12, 2011

-18x + 16 = 25

What a thrill, I'm with the Pope! See Page 17 of our Erie Catholic diocese's September-October edition--OR--you can just read my column here:

I’ve spent a good deal of time tutoring since I left full-time teaching. Most of it involves “prepping” for the college entrance exams—the SATs or the ACTs. Recently I spent some sessions with a junior who had taken the tests in early spring but was unhappy with his math score and was determined to take the tests as many times as needed to get the score he wanted. Since he’s dreaming of pre-med I could understand his concern.

I don’t believe in trying to teach too much of the actual mathematics learned in algebra, geometry or trigonometry during these sessions. I’d rather do problems and "diagnose them" especially with the challenging or tricky problems that go way beyond a textbook’s presentations.

With this latest student I soon realized that it wasn’t a matter of knowing the college prep mathematics. He knew it quite well and had good recall. It was not a matter of memorized facts or regurgitated knowledge. It was about learning to think. Every time I realize that we’re getting to that point with a student I say to myself yet again, “How do you teach someone how to think?”

The pace of the life doesn't help thinking: fast, busy, over-involved and committed. None of us seemed to be in a lifestyle that fosters much learning through “thinking.” Undaunted, every time I jump into the hardest problems somehow, in one of the mysterious parts of teaching, something does happen--more miraculously than controlled--and we move into the realm of "thinking."

This latest junior did get it and not only did his scores go up, but I could tell he was sensing a different way of going about it. He was beginning to think.

There is a strong analogy here to our spiritual life. After learning the catechism questions and answers, adult Christians, both young and old, must face a spirituality and relationship with God that takes qualities far beyond black and white facts. It takes praying, learning, searching, faith development, love and the building of a mature relationship with your God. It's not easy and it certainly continues throughout a lifetime--not just for a few weeks before an important test.


I was out near the peninsula this week and caught these photos in the early evening:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Word For the Day

I love those 4" square one-day-at-a-time calendars that flood the market every Christmas. But I hardly ever buy one because I can never choose just one. Do I pick the one that gives you a Jeopardy answer every day? or a little crossword or sudoku? or how about a laugh a day? or word a day? or hundreds of other topics that give you 365 doses (366 next year) of your favorite subject.

But in their honor I do offer a word for today: rhymes with colt.

One of our resident wild turkeys, which we pay only passing attention to because: a) we love the deer more, and b) they are just homely birds, is a new mother. And, as proof of that, she is parading her 8 babies (poults) around our yard regularly. From afar they seem like they may even be cute, but come next spring...yikes!

Speaking of cute, here are two other late summer photos I took of the newly-finished "poetry park" that some of our sisters had a hand in and is located in an impoverished neighborhood of southeast Erie. This wonderful endeavor brightens up the block considerably.

And, finally, happy feast to all those for whom September 8th, the celebration of the Birth of Mary in the liturgical calendar, and a common entrance day for young nuns back in the day, is special. We do Marian feasts well, if I do say so myself. Bringing devotions to a contemporary post-Vatican II spirituality is not easy, but our liturgists are very good at it and we celebrate many Marian feasts gladly and meaningfully.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Post-Vacation Thoughts

Yes, I'm a homebody and yes, I get homesick, no matter how much I enjoy the travel away. I miss my community, friends, family, the beauty of the peninsula and Erie summers (for all our brutal winters the other three seasons can be quite glorious) and, of course, my own bed!

But what I miss most is our prayer and liturgy and this Sunday's didn't disappoint---wonderful music, creative presentation of the Word, great homily reflections and an assembly fully engaged.

The seemingly simple environment caught my eye, too. On the left side was a tree! The "artist" brought one of our indoor ficus trees into the chapel. It was beautiful standing there rather stately and comfortable. Its leaves may react if it stays too long, but they do survive the moves. On the right was an orchid that's been around for months, and there it was with 3 new flowers. Again, rather unobtrusive, yet stunning in its own right.

And a final reflection: the current Monastic Council is continuing the practice of past councils of a common reading with the sharing of our reflections at the beginning of each Council meeting. This year we'll be reading Hope Abundant, Third World and Indigenous Women's Theology. I was able to get into it during vacation and admit, first: that my ignorance is embarrassing and, second: the first chapters are fascinating. Each one is on the challenges and nuances of being a feminist/women Christian theologian within her own country/culture. The first four chapters are by women from Kenya, Hong Kong, Brazil and Native American (Cherokee).

I'm looking forward to our sharings. So glad to be home.