Thursday, January 31, 2013

A 2 + B 2 = C 2

The last few months have found me doing a lot of tutoring. Specifically, sophomores trying to tackle Geometry. The very first year I taught school I had 5 classes of sophomores: two for Algebra II and three for Geometry. I remember it quite fondly, but I also remember that I was so naive that I never really knew that 10th graders are the challenge of the high school scene! And it continues today. The "sophomore experience" and fascination with right triangles are....well, let's say that they are on opposite sides of the interest spectrum when you are 15! But, I'm having fun trying to bridge the two and with 1 on 1 instead of a whole class with distractions of all kinds it does seem to be successful--I should say: somewhat successful!

Weather-mania continues in our town--in the other direction now. After surviving the 24" of snow that came last week, we were part of the heat wave that swept through the Midwest and East over the last two days. "Heat wave" for us in January was 57 degrees one day and 64 the next, but we'll take it. It's back to the grim and cold reality of January and February tomorrow.

Meanwhile, on the home front--literally--our dining room renovations continue. Everything is supposedly on far!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Special events and special guests

It started right away Friday at supper when the first of our special weekend guests arrived: 16 Methodist ministers, here for a retreat/planning weekend. They filled our guest wing and two hermitages. You won't be surprised to know that they were terrific, blended right in with the rhythm of the place, even our "temporary inconvenience, permanent improvement" eating facilities. They've made reservations for two more weekends this year and three for next year. The area bishop is asking all of his ministers to have these days once a year. April will bring another group from Erie and Crawford counties and then a third group in the fall. Best part? seven women and nine men. Oh, will it ever come?

Then, down at the Big House on the Glinodo property were a dozen "girl friends," who came to us via a Mercyhurst contact, and held a retreat weekend together. Worse part? One of them was a former student of mine who came right up and introduced herself. She loved the weekend and telling me of her three children: all in their 20s!!! How can that be? Yikes!

And best of everything? See our website for our new postulant, Jan. We are indeed blessed to have such seekers.

Finally, don't miss the new Winter Snow Meditation on our community website, too. The beautiful side of the 24" of snow we've received this past week! With great music.

"In the winter, all the singing is in the tops of the trees." Mary Oliver

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January's #1 Day

There's really nothing else I can talk about today except Monday which set a record here in Erie: with its 16.2" of snow (as shared with the world on Monday the 21st in 2013 became the snowiest day in the month of January for ALL TIME in our fair city! It was wild--and beautiful--but could have been 100 times worse. As it was all schools were closed, many businesses, too, and most people spent a great deal of the day watching the presidential inauguration on TV. It could have been much, much worse.

I'm sure we've all heard of rain gauges, but a quick search in google found many types of snow gauges, too. Here's one so you get the idea:

Not to be outdone, here is an assortment of "gauges" that I found around the monastery, to give you a more personal feel for 16 inches of snow that comes along with strong winds:

A drift in the inner garden right up to the foyer door.

The library courtyard's drinking fountain.

A railing at the lower level back door.

The back patio gets the best drifts. They actually look like a wall along the house.

My own personal bird feeder gauge.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cape Cod and Cana

Mary Oliver has a new book, A Thousand Mornings. I just got my copy and am already blown away by her new poems. Here's one that seems appropriate as our Christmas collection went to repair Hurricane Sandy damage at Mercy Haven, an organization for the homeless on Long Island run by two sisters who are regular Holy Week retreatants with us.


It didn't behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn't stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn't
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.

The first Ordinary Time Sunday and its Wedding Feast of Cana gospel brought out six of Brother Thomas's pots as the highlight of a creatively-expressed gospel story.

And finally, a note on guests. This weekend we had six students from the Gannon University Catholic House, recently renamed the Trautman House after our newly-retired bishop. An intentional residence, five of them are undergrads and one is a graduate student. They came for an overnight and a day of retreat/planning, etc. It's for groups such as this that I think our hospitality options are such a gift. It's always great to have them.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ordinary Time

Here we are in the first week of the short Ordinary Time that precedes the beginning of Lent. What "ordinary" is happening you ask? First, not-done-ordinarily is the continuation of our dining room/community room renovation--ta da!

Secondly, although we've only had 1", that's one inch, of snow in January, the pre-schoolers at St. Benedict Child Development Center are building---an igloo! Here it is this week--in its early stages:

And finally, our prioress Anne is on her way back from her adventure in India. They traveled from the southeast up to the northwest, to New Delhi and a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra before takeoff for Zurich, Chicago and then Pittsburgh. She sent emails home when she could, telling of her wonder and enjoyment of the customs and rituals that she experienced. So many of the people are poor, by our measurements, and yet they are happy, full of generosity and hospitality and very religious and rich in celebration. This week they experienced an annual harvest festival that Christians, Hindu and Muslims all enjoyed and celebrated together.

Here is the website of the Grace and Compassion Benedictines that she visited while there.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Video time

This week you've got to watch two Smileboxes posted on our community site--if you haven't watched them already. One is a summary of Christmas, now that the Christmas season has (liturgically) ended as of Sunday. The second one is a review of our week with the seven college students. They continued to be upbeat--about everything--until the moment they got into their van Saturday morning. The Smilebox will say it all.

The other unusal thing about this week is that our prioress, Anne, is in India. Good friends and supporters of ours have been asking her for years to accompany them to their homeland sometime when they visit their families--and this was finally the time. Before she left we rented the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. She tells us that that was a good preparation for experiencing India, at least where she is. Additionally, the movie is filled with those extraordinary British actors and actresses, namely Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) and Judith Dench. If you missed it, find a Redbox. Among many Hindu temple visits she has also visited a Benedictine community of women, a house of a community founded in England who minister to the poor elderly in both England and India.

Today we drove by a nearby bar/restaurant whose electric sign read, "Closed for renovation." The sister with me said that we ought to have the same sign! Here are some photos of the very early dining room renovation set up. Our guests are doing just fine adapting!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Never a dull moment" moment

This week is a "never a dull moment" moment, as we began on Monday the 12-week renovation of our Dining Room and Community Room space. The first thing the workmen did was build a temporary wall. They are working on one side and we are living, eating our meals at least, on the other side. This compresses our eating area into the Community Room--actually into about 1/2 of the Community Room for those of you who know our building.

I think it's an unexpected blessing that our first week of collegians are here right now. As with most teens/young adults, they are up for anything. Everything is a new adventure and they adjust as easily as they breathe. And so we are doing that, too.

Actually everyone is being extremely accommodating and the things we do by habit are changing rather smoothly and naturally into new habits for the next three months. Our maintenance "guys," the sister in charge of the physical plant, and the rest of the renovation committee have all done a great job of anticipating adaptations for a population of 60 residents, additional daytime staff members, and a dozen or so guests at any given time.

In case we get impatient, the college guests in March will surely help us loosen up!

Note our new ceiling lighting.

We even brought our Christmas table centerpieces!

And the salad bar.
We couldn't do without the salad bar.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Perfect timing

There couldn't have been more perfect timing for our first of three college service week visits this winter when six students and an adult leader from Canisius College in Buffalo arrived this weekend. This week is the beginning of our dining room and community room renovation and we welcomed seven young, strong volunteers to help us take down the Christmas tree, move some furniture into temporary storage in the basement and relocate our dining room into the community room. They took it all in stride, talking non-stop about the delicious dinner, their new adventures they're having and the promised chocolate brownie/cake that awaited us when we finished.

Unfortunately I don't have a ministry that lends itself to having volunteers, but I do try to interact with them in other ways. The first is as tour guide for a Sunday afternoon walk "around the back forty." We had a delightful hour-long walk, in new-fallen snow, through the woods to see the hermitages and then across East Lake Rd. into Glinodo and a long trek along Seven-Mile Creek down to our lakefront. We didn't come across any deer but we certainly saw their tracks everywhere. They were great sports and seemed to enjoy the physical activity after the early morning and long trip here. Watch for more upcoming reports on our week together.

Here are a couple shots I took along the creek path.
Beautiful snow scenes and the "gang" stopped on the trail!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Songs of Christmas

Over the years our liturgists have put together two booklets that present three or four dozen Christmas hymns that we use for Morning and Evening Praise during the three-week Christmas season. I'm sure everyone has her favorites--we sang one of mine yesterday for the first time this year.

I couldn't find the whole thing, professionally sung, online--but you can listen to a 42 second preview of it here. Marty Haugen's "Child of Our Dreams."

Chapel scenes with poinsettias galore.