Monday, February 27, 2012

Q is for Quidditch

I have had a fondness for the letter Q since the days I first learned cursive writing. I think it stems from two sources: that my grandmother's maiden name was Quigley and when my mother inherited her full set of sterling flatware there was a script Q on the handle of each piece; and secondly, that I loved writing the upper case Q in cursive, which looks something like a curly number 2. Most of the time I still write it like that. The font, Edwardian, has its capital Q that way, but most fonts have it as the printed "Q."

I remember in the alphabet above our grade school blackboard that the Q was accompanied by the picture of a queen. Nowadays teachers would gain much more attention if they designated Q for quidditch and had a picture of Harry Potter on a broomstick. (What would you choose for Q?)

Quidditch is the fictional sport in the Harry Potter series. It is played throughout the wizard world, similar to soccer in ours. Matches are played between two teams with all players riding flying broomsticks. The golden snitch is also flying about and if it's caught the game is over. Harry, of course, becomes an excellent quidditch player.

Here's my only Harry Potter memorabilia, an ornament of Harry on his quidditch stick, a Nimbus 2000.

Look what popped up in our inner courtyard this week: the year's first primrose. "Hope springs eternal"....spring is on its way!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

P is for Palm

Yesterday during the Ash Wednesday ashes ritual I got to wondering where our ashes came from: Did they actually come from burning last year's palms, did we purchase them or were they the ashes of something else besides our palms? So I asked our liturgist and sure enough they actually are the ashes of the palms we used on Palm/Passion Sunday. "Our maintenance men burn them every year for us," she responded.

Her answer made me smile--being in the maintenance department of a monastery is not exactly like that of the Erie Plastics plant right up the street!

Also yesterday I decided to check out the blog Busted Halo which I hadn't been to for months. Busted Halo is a contemporary webpage offered by the Paulists "for spiritual seekers of our the Catholic tradition." This "Lenten" entry on their site made me more than smile, I laughed right out loud. Enjoy! Click here for their unusual "Ash Wednesday tradition."

Monday, February 20, 2012

O is for Orchestra Bells

In 1998 at a Benedictine event that we hosted here in Erie, I heard one of the visiting sisters playing a musical instrument that I had never heard before. I was enchanted by the sound. When I asked one of our musicians what it was, she replied, "They're orchestra bells and they are ours." At the time no one in our community was regularly playing them. Soon after, I asked her if I could try them and with her usual encouragement she said, "Yes." A dozen years later I am still "plinking away" at this adornment instrument, as I think of it, adding a light bell sound to many of our hymns.

A sincere thank you to my friend, Marilyn, who encouraged me all those years ago. The sound still amazes me!

We have a number of mallet instruments: here's a xylophone--a set of tuned wooden bars--named from the Greek for "wooden sound."

When the bars are metal the term for the mallet instrument is metallophone. A glockenspiel is a metallophone where the bars can be mounted horizontally or vertically for easy carrying, as in marching bands. This one of ours has light-weight metal bars.

And here is another type of glockenspiel, our orchestra bells. These are quite heavy--though they emit a light, sweet sound.

Click here for a very short YouTube video of how they sound.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

N is for None

Ah, ha!
This is a test: how did you read the title today?

Did it sound like "N is for nun"

or as "N is for known"?

Congratulations, you Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours experts if you recognized it as "known," the ninth hour of prayer for the day.

So today I offer you five minutes of brushing up on your Church History and take you to a couple web pages so that you can read up on your Prayer of the Church--the Divine Office. Here's one for None itself and here's one for the whole Liturgy of the Hours. Very, very interesting reads.

Now if you visit us you won't hear the Little Hours (Prime, Terce, Sext and None) prayed. We pray what would probably be equivalent to Lauds and Vespers...with a mid-day prayer for all the "little ones," and occasionally we pray Compline. But if you visit some Cistercian/Trappist places around the US (there are only 20 or so) you'll have the opportunity to pray the whole set throughout the day and night. Note: they nap in the afternoon to make up for the night times, so if you're going to get up, go down for a nap...or for sure you will the next day! For a listing of Trappist places in the US, use the link in the right hand column and then the search box for monasteries in the USA. I hope you visit one someday, it's a great experience.

Valentine's Day brought a preview of things to come--
in 4 months!

Monday, February 13, 2012

M is for Mediate

This past week two sisters and I took an unplanned 370-mile trip and then turned around the next day and drove back. Who can drive through Pennsylvania in February--through numerous snow belts, the Appalachian Mountains, and on various truck-clogged interstates? Impossible. But it wasn't. It was smooth and easy and as clear as two days in July. Who would believe it could be possible?

As we set out to come home on the second day I experienced the oddest sensation--I truly felt there was something beyond ourselves that was affecting the day. Some may call it an adrenalin rush, in New Age vocabulary it might be labeled "receiving good vibes." I knew of the many sisters who were praying for us on this difficult journey and for that few minutes I truly "felt" them. It was an overwhelming feeling of strength, an awareness of being just one small part of a larger endeavor. It was so real, so tangible. I can tell you that it was a great support, a tremendous realization of togetherness and oneness of purpose and care.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

L is for Love

Really, in these days preceding Valentine's Day and our own St. Scholastica (10th) how can I pick anything else? A beautiful time for us--a time for friendship and kindness, family and hospitality, compassion and understanding. All of which we need ourselves and to be for others.

Mary Oliver's take:

I Want to Write Something So Simply

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think--
no, you will realize--
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.

Look what you can see in winter!
Along the creek path at Glinodo.

Monday, February 6, 2012

K is for Kitsch

Back in June 2008 I wrote this about a film maker who came to Erie to interview our Joan Chittister for a documentary she was hoping to complete.

"The director of the Women’s Studies Dept. at Loyola University of Chicago is on a sabbatical, taking time to produce and film a full-length documentary. Her thesis is that the visual portrayals of nuns in pop culture (movies, greeting cards, T-shirts, print ads, TV commercials, even Halloween costumes) don’t show or do service to the reality of who nuns are and what they are doing in our culture today."

Well, she did it and the film A Question of Habit made the rounds of film festivals last spring and, in January, reached a broader audience when a PBS station in her hometown of Chicago showed it to their audience.

When the directors were in Erie they taped our community’s Evening Praise and took a copy of our CD "Te Deum" home with them. When I first viewed the film I had forgotten that fact and was so surprised to all of a sudden hear us singing--both in the middle as background and at the very end as the closing music.

The one-hour documentary shows real nuns behind the kitsch that current American culture has turned the image of the habit-and-veiled nun into. Joan and Helen Prejean are the "real nuns" that appear throughout and both do a great job. Hopefully the film will continue to be shown to a larger and larger audience.

A visitor this week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

J is for Juxtaposition

I admit it, I am a weather junkie. I suspect that if I were home all day I'd have the Weather Channel on all the time, just so I could glance over and not miss anything. My poor friends must endure a constant barrage of useless weather-related statistics that I throw at them all year round, and the last thing I do at night before turning in is call 452-6311, the free weather line that has kept us "addicts" up on the very latest for decades here in Erie.

But this winter has taken the proverbial cake, as it may have in your area, too. Here is a side-by-side (juxtaposition) of 2012 and its immediate predecessor, 2011:

Jan. 31 high temp: 58 vs. 17
Jan. 31 ice depth on our bay: 0" vs. 6-8"
(Our bay and Lake Erie itself are ice free.)
Season snow through Jan. 31: 36" vs. 60" avg.

Here is the front page of our newspaper with photos of January 31, 2012 vs. 2011 accompanying the article, "No Deep Freeze." The visual is amazing for us Lake Erie/lake effect snow dwellers!

More related weather trivia: gratefully the number of fender benders from icy highways is way down, as are falls on icy parking lots. I saw a snowy owl fly along the east side of the monastery last week and later read in the weather section of our paper that some owls are beginning to nest in our area. Our hermitage guests are having more of a muddy walk to and from their cabins rather than the usual slog through deep snow.

And, a final nod to the coming of February. I heard an announcer on a morning radio show welcome his listeners to the new month of "groundhogs, love and the Super Bowl." I smiled to myself as I thought of the month. We Benedictines would quickly add: the Feast of St. Scholastica (10th), the beginning of Lent (22nd), as well as here in Erie, hosting three large groups of visitors this month. Hope the weather remains nice!