Monday, December 31, 2012

During my vacation...

Besides all the wonderful Christmas prayer, liturgies and rituals throughout the last week, I fell upon a great book that I can't help but share with you. It is the seventh in a series of mysteries set in rural Quebec and there is a charming and attractive overarching French and wilderness feel throughout the story.

The Chief Inspector, Armand Gamache, is one of those rare, high moralled, kind, humble and intelligent legendary detective figures that we all dream exist in our imperfect world. The Beautiful Mystery has Gamache enter the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, the home of 24 Gilbertine monks, cloistered and carrying on the life there, all but "invisibly," over the last four centuries! They have but one specialty: Gregorian Chant--sung better, clearer and more beautifully than anywhere else on earth.

When the choir director/prior is found murdered, the Surete is called in. Louise Penny must have visited a monastery or thoroughly picked the brain of some monastic, for there is no way she imagined this quite accurate look into community life. Armand's experience at Saint Gilbert's, both spiritual and professional, is a great read--especially for those of us who also know the insides of monastic life.

12+ inches turned our world into a beauty.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Behind the scenes

When choosing photos to share here I usually choose ones that are in the public areas of the monastery, ones you'd see if you were here right now. Today, however, I chose ones that you would not see, here or not. These are all photos taken from little nooks and crannies in the residential areas of our sisters. Decorating goes on there, "behind the scenes," as much as in the common areas.

Hoping your Christmas week is going well and you had times of sharing with family and friends, either in person, via Skype or by phone.

As I'm sure you've seen on The Weather Channel, Erie was in the path of the storm that came northeast from the Gulf. When it reached us it arrived as snow--our first real storm. I think 5-8" are predicted, but with schools closed and many of us on abbreviated schedules this week, it couldn't come at better time--except for travelers, of course. It's suppose to clear out by mid-day the 27th. Let's hope.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas comes bounding in

After steadfastly hanging onto Advent in a Christmas-all-month culture, we let Christmas in with a vengeance this weekend. See below:

The tall, skinny chapel tree.

The fat unadorned community room tree.

Now decorated.

The Dicken's village bakery.

The Dicken's village.

Looking out back.

And from the dining room door.

The Windsock Visitation by Michael McGrath.

The community room's creche.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Here's a photo of our large Peace sign that we put up every Christmas. It's right on East Lake Road, near our permanent Mount Saint Benedict Monastery sign. I took it last week one night long after dark when I was driving in. You can just see the bell tower between the two signs.

Monday, December 17, 2012


I'll be taking a brief hiatus from my blog this week. I'll be back with you next Monday. Please remember my mother in your prayers, she was a great woman.

April 29, 1924--December 16, 2012

Follow the O Antiphons on our website--December 17-23.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Concert

We'll all be trooping out to North East (a little borough about 8 miles east of us) Friday night to attend the annual North East Choral Club Christmas Concert at Park United Methodist Church. One of our sisters has been a member of this choir for a number of years and we support her and the group by attending, en masse, this annual event. The church will be packed, as it always is, and the music of this all-female group will be very, very fine.

It has a small town touch every year, too--with the local high school choir often joining them for a number or a local trio of guys in Santa Claus hats playing along on a few songs. All are very good musicians and it is a favorite holiday event for all of us "locals."

This year however they'll be singing of an imaginary white Christmas in the midst of our still-green area. No snow even on the horizon, except for the occasionally predicted snow flurries.

Sweet memories:

This week in 2011--the library courtyard.

This week in 2010--the back patio.

This week in 2009--my window bird feeder.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent specials

Here's an old but beautiful Advent hymn, "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming." It came to mind because of this--a perfect white rose that bloomed in our courtyard garden this week! We did have a couple 60+ degree days, but this was unexpected. We'll enjoy it's beauty either way.

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

Otherwise I want to encourage you to visit our community's site and see a) the SBA Christmas party Smilebox. Even if you're not a grad, it's fun to watch and b) the latest issue of The Mount magazine just published this weekend. It's online--scroll down a bit--on the left. Great stuff!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy St. Nicholas

Nothing overly "exciting" going on this week! The First Week of Advent has us remembering the Advent songs that we haven't sung in 48 weeks; most of us are resisting the Christmas buying frenzy as much as we can (though I admit publicly to being the purchaser of 62 gifts--online, of course--for the Emmaus Children's Christmas project--kids' clothes are so cute!).

Our weather has continued to fluctuate from the 60s to the 30s, back and forth, up and down. Yesterday we took a walk in the barely-light-of-day, before prayer, and found that the gray and tans and overall bleakness of our woods and surrounding areas have a beauty still---in a strangely sparse and wintry way.

One of our sisters came around the corner of the house yesterday, went to push back the hood on her jacket and almost literally ran into one of our deer. Both were equally shocked. He just stared, she knew enough to just stop and then she saw its twin a few yards away. A rare and up close encounter for sure. They have been closer and closer to the house, especially after sunset.

Here is a sweet little Advent scene in our dining room. Easy to miss, but very nice.

Oh, there was one "wild" thing this week...the St. Benedict Academy annual alumnae Christmas dinner and 92-baskets raffle! Nearly 500 attended and had their usual terrific time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent is here

The beginning of Advent was very, very nice. We had a community gathering Saturday afternoon where we were lead through a couple hours of reflection, conversations--both serious moments and fun moments. Then everyone stayed for supper (spaghetti--our favorite!) and the first Vigil of Sunday. It is held in dim light which gives the chapel, especially the candle lighting ritual, a special atmosphere. The choir was good, the reflections by Sister Margaret were excellent and we had many visitors that joined us. The only thing that was a bit "odd" was the weather...50s and rainy. No one's complaining, but it is not our average!

And then on Sunday morning it was a continuation of our entrance into the Advent season. How nice to hear a new version of "O come, O come Emmanuel."

Finally, here's an excerpt from our Give Us This Day readings for the weekend:

For Jack's 10th birthday, the family went out to eat at his favorite restaurant. Jack always ordered extra so he could enjoy the leftovers the next day. After dinner, Mom, Dad, Jack and his best friend were walking to the car when a homeless man stopped them and asked for a couple bucks. Unprompted, Jack offered the man the Styrofoam container of his precious leftovers. As Jack's Mom followed the boys into the parking lot she overheard his friend say to Jack, "Wow, man, that was cool. I bet that sure made God proud." Jack answered his friend, "Maybe that was God."