Thursday, November 29, 2012


I got a strong reaction to my mathematical diversion in Monday's blog from a friend who herself is a computer geek! Okay, okay, I told her, I won't do that again soon! She probably had to check it first to be sure I got it right--that's the way we math-types are--continually proving, proofing, double checking. It's a curse!

So today I am happy to report that the "in between" week is going along just fine in fact, as we head toward Advent's beginning. This Saturday we have a small community Advent reflection gathering before the Vigil of the First Sunday. A nice way to start.

Those who know that we, as a whole community, have a common reading during both Advent and Lent, always ask what we've chosen. This year we have copies of the Liturgical Press-produced Give Us This Day for the month of December. It gives the readings and prayers of both the Eucharistic liturgies and a short Liturgy of the Hours. It also has other prayers and wonderful reflections on "saints," most not well known. We will all be getting a subscription to it in 2013, so we wanted to introduce it to the sisters and, more importantly, enjoy a very good publication.

My new morning companion.

Monday, November 26, 2012

No wasted degree

In deference to my degrees in mathematics and analytical pursuits--such a necessity for the spiritual journey--I share with you some thoughts on the anomaly of this "in between" week.

Up until the 1930s Thanksgiving was not celebrated on a universal day. Some states celebrated it on the fourth Thursday in November, some on the last. But at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the business community, Congress passed a law in 1941 setting the fourth Thursday, not the last Thursday in November, as the official Thanksgiving holiday. Since then we know that Thanksgiving will fall on any of the seven days from November 22nd through the 28th. My own parents were married on the last possible day, but I knew a teacher who was also married on Thanksgiving on November the 1930s!

This Thanksgiving reflection is just a warm up to the same idea on the First Sunday of Advent. Advent's beginning is always between November 27th and December 3rd. In five of those cases (November 27th-December 1st) it falls on the Sunday of the Thanksgiving weekend. (Are you still with me or even interested?!!) Just joking; I can throw in the Pythagorean Theorem if you wish, giving you one more chance to master it before too much longer.

To continue: When the First Sunday of Advent falls on December 2nd or 3rd, there is a week between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Advent season. Ta da: 2012.

Now, I'm not quite sure what the conclusion to all this is, it's just something to notice. Personally I do have a favorite combination which occurred just last year. Thanksgiving was on November 24th and Advent began November 27th. It is my favorite because we had four full weeks of Advent, with Christmas also on a Sunday. If you are into the liturgical calendar even in the slightest it may be your favorite, too.

So anyway, back to reality. Here we are in the last week before Advent but our thoughts are already turning toward it here at Mount St. Benedict. Temperatures have plummeted this week and snow flurries have been with us: soon to become real snow flakes and accumulate surely. The nights are longer and darker every day and I know that the pre-Advent liturgical signs will start to show as the week goes along.

One final thought (thanks for persevering through all this!): the holiday cacti are blooming all over the house now. Here are two quite opposite ones: the white one is very small and delicate, the red/pink one is huge and overgrown. Yet, both were used in our Sunday chapel decor yesterday and were just beautiful.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Much gratitude

Our Sister Joan Chittister has a new book just released this week: The Art of Life. It is the 2011 Monastic Way, which is always valued by readers since it brings the monthly pamphlet into a more permanent edition.

Many of her annual Monastic Ways are in book form but what amazed me about this one is that the publishers, Twenty-Third Publications in Connecticut, spent the extra money to buy the rights to all the art work on which the year's reflections were based. I'm sure many of the readers will be surprised when they open the book and find it full of the full-color reproductions of the master works. It makes the book just beautiful and much more than written reflections.

Isn't this google doodle a beauty? From India.

If you haven't been on our community website almost daily this week you're missing many new posts. There has been a great deal of activity these days--WOW!

Monday, November 19, 2012


This past Friday we had a unique and quite wonderful experience as we hosted the funeral service of one of our oblates--an interfaith, creative and memorable service at that.

This oblate, Cecile, was an artist, a devoted friend to many and diverse people, and a committed member of the groups and causes that she believed in. It seems that for her funeral all of the people and memories from her life came together--as the Erie art community, her family and friends, her Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic communities rejoiced in her life and its effects on them.

Two of our liturgy planners met for nearly two hours with the ministers and family and came up with a beautiful service. We were so blessed to be exposed to such diversity and richness.

Deep purple flowers from the funeral.

Trying to capture our gigantic fireball sunsets these days. And at 5:00 pm to boot!

Don't miss the fun Smilebox of our annual dinner for our local volunteer firefighters unit. It's on our community site.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving project

We've embarked this week on what started out as a small idea and has become a large project: collecting winter wear for the refugees enrolled at our St. Benedict Education Center. Thanks to boxes from our friend who owns a local Hallmark Gold Crown Store, we started to build this mountain of boxes in our library--labeled Boots, Blankets, Sweaters, Coats/Jackets, Gloves, etc. Suddenly we were going back to the Hallmark store for more boxes and piling them 2-3 high!

The Sisters have been most generous in responding to this real and present need. The collection runs through this Sunday which will get the Erie-winter gear into SBEC right before Thanksgiving. One good-intentioned sister said to me, "Maybe we should open this to our oblates, too." My response? "There are 280 of them! We'll have more than we can handle just with the 100 of us--maybe another time!"

P.S. We had our first measurable snow this Tuesday: an inch and a half--but more will surely come!

Monday, November 12, 2012


After a very busy week that kept right on going through Saturday, two delights that Sunday brought: the first, reading a new book by one of our sisters. Here's a teaser for you and a link to Benetvision. Very nice "stuff." You could substitute your own word for "Monk" in the title and your own experiences in the poems--I'm sure it wouldn't be hard at all.

New Book from Sister Mary Lou: Old Monk

"The poems in Old Monk are inspired by Han-shan, a 9th century Chinese poet and recluse, whose poems are collected in the classic book, Cold Mountain. For my morning spiritual practice, I read a poem from Cold Mountain, reflected on it, and then wrote my own poem and short commentary in response," said Sister Mary Lou of the new collection.

From Old Monk:
Old Monk has spent fifty years in the monastery.
She is left with a life of good deeds,
at least three friends to carry her casket
a bagful of poems
and a nagging ache
that she chose the wrong road
when she left father and mother
for some sake or other.

The second delight: a warm front came through this corner of northwestern Pa. this weekend bringing near 70 degree temperatures--a last goodbye till April I fear. But it was beautiful nonetheless. Afternoons and evenings outdoors without coats, collegians in shorts (of course) and kids playing everywhere.

Here are three bursts of color that we found on an afternoon walk around our place.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Too busy

We're just too busy this week! Tuesday night many of us traveled the 35 or so miles south to Edinboro University to hear our Joan Chittister speak to a packed audience on the state of women in the world today. Much of it was based on her own travels and experiences over the last 10-15 years. It was a very serious talk, almost a university lecture. You could hear the proverbial pin drop--on the carpeted floor. Edinboro is inaugurating its first female president this week and is holding a week-long series of events in celebration.

Last night it was out and about again. Up to the annual Liturgy for Deceased Religious, Priests, Deacons and others. Our new bishop presided and we "took our music show on the road" so to speak. It's always a nice and well-attended event, but since the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse is located 2-3 miles south of the lake, on the beginnings of the rise up and away from the flatter lake shore, we have had some horrendous November snowy nights at this event. Carrying 25 pound handbell cases is hard enough; in the ice and snow it's miserable. But not this year--or the last few even. Our early Novembers can be cold, but there hasn't been much snow lately; in fact the weekend is predicted high 60s. Imagine!

The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti throughout the monastery don't seem to mind that there's no snow in sight. They react to the changing light and temperatures. Here's the first one to burst into bloom: Sister Colette's. We even used it as part of the chapel environment last Sunday. A couple of mine are just starting with buds and are sure to appear in upcoming posts!

Monday, November 5, 2012

November days

In November, because of its beginnings of All Saints and All Souls, I presume, we remember those who have passed before us into the next stage. For us it is our Community of Life program, where each sister receives six, eight or ten cards for people who have asked for our prayers. These prayers are for the living and the dead, for relatives who are sick, or children suffering the experiences of youth, or just for people who are important to them--who they care about. I enjoy this praying together very much--I read through the cards every day and do add my prayers to theirs.

November days are special, too, for feasts, both liturgical and from the civic world--as the crazed commercialism of our holiday season begins with a vengeance.

This weekend we escaped a busy time of guests and retreatants to take a walk through our woods and down to the lake. Color is quickly disappearing from the natural world around us. We found some leftover spots, but mostly we were in a brown, tan, grey world. It has its own beauty, I suppose, in its sparseness and scarcity. Sort of like a photo printed in that sepia tone. Not quite black and white yet not full color either. In between, just like November.

Mary Oliver's take on November:

"Visiting the Graveyard"

When I think of death
it is a bright enough city,
and every year more faces there
are familiar

but not a single one
notices me,
though I long for it,
and when they talk together,

which they do
very quietly,
it's in an unknowable language--
I can catch the tone

but understand not a single word--
and when I open my eyes
there's a mysterious field, the beautiful trees.
There are the stones.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints

As followers of this blog know, my office desk at the Mount faces outwards into our beautiful inner courtyard garden and particularly at a statue of the Blessed Mother who makes regular appearances in this blog.

When I pivot 180 degrees I'm looking directly out the door into the hall. But not just into any ordinary hall. This hall has a long display case filled with Brother Thomas' ceramics.

This week the sister who is in charge of changing these displays all over the house, changed "mine" and here it is--beautiful golden brown pieces of various sizes and styles.

Ah, outdoors in one view and artistic beauty in another. Who could stare at a computer screen for hours on end?!

Don't miss our community website and photos of our busy weekend last Friday-Sunday with events and lots and lots of oblates.