Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A morning with Mary

A couple weeks ago I spent a Saturday morning at a writing workshop of sorts, which used as its core the poems of Mary Oliver. Yes, it was wonderful. It made me realize however, that it has been way too long since I've shared one of her poems here. So here's one to start a new beginning of sharing the works of this very special writer. It also happens to be the one I read when we were asked to bring one of our favorites to the workshop.


Today I'm flying low and I'm
not saying a word.
I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I'm taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I'm traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Four full weeks

This week is somewhat unique in the pre-Christmas time called Advent. Because Christmas itself falls on a Sunday, Advent is a full four weeks long, 28 days. For those like ourselves who follow the Church year every day, it is a very welcome phenomenon from a prayer perspective. Why? Because we get to sing these wonderful Advent songs and listen to the poetic scripture coming-of-the-Messiah passages more than usual.

Case in point, one of today's readings was from Isaiah 2, a passage which speaks of everlasting peace with poetic beauty: "...For from Zion there will go forth instruction...They shall beat their swords in plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation will not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." Our presider noted this when he said, "Of all the things we could read about in the scriptures on the first day of the liturgical year the choice is peacemaking."

Here's this year's Advent wreath: four white candles set in new candle holders made by Sister Audrey in her woodworking shop. Setting them in the Pyrex stands, on mirrors, makes quite the special effect. See the reflections? And this was on a cloudy day. Can't wait to see what happens when the sun shines in those windows and travels over to the mirrors.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Year is 1947

and like most Catholic dioceses in the US, I suppose, the Erie diocese gave out an annual recognition to "The Catholic Family of the Year." That year the award was given to the Albert Lorei family of St.Boniface Parish. The family worked a farm in the rural community of Hammett, just south of the city of Erie and even today this small community maintains its rural heritage.

Their second son would be ordained to the priesthood within weeks of the family recognition; two of the oldest daughters were already in religious communities: one a Sister of St. Joseph and one a Benedictine. The parents were active in their parish and sent all 12 of their children to the parish school and local Catholic high schools. All of that contributed to their nomination as family of the year.

I never met any Loreis until I was a teacher. I taught a number of the girls in the next generation, both of this family and of cousins, but they continued to be a longtime backbone of the Catholic Church in Erie, not just the three in religion, but as active and committed lay men and women in the parishes.

This week they, and our community, lost an original member of this 1947 family, Sister Bernadette (see full obit here). About 1/2 of the original dozen are gone now, the other 1/2 no doubt carrying on a life of good works, as they all seem to have done for decades.

We still have a few sisters from families of 10, 12 or even 14 children, but they are getting fewer and belong to an age that is pre-1960s. Having come from a family with just three, the very idea of such size is amazing to me. However, their stories and family lore are fascinating--as is the expansion of the original siblings into dozens and dozens of nephews, nieces and grands. I'm sure the Loreis will grace us with many of their memories next week as we celebrate Sister Bernadette's life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Goodbye autumn and thanks

This season's autumn is gone and it left via a classic "in between" weekend: record high Friday of 75 degrees and the first measurable snow Sunday (2" at the airport--although it varied from a trace to 9", well south in Erie county)!

Four of our sisters are very happy right now because all four of them guessed November 20 as the first day of snow! Congratulations Sisters Laura, Karen, Marcia and Valerie. You'll split the $5.00 gift certificate equally. Have fun at K-Mart. (Ha, ha just'll each get your own!)

And finally, since I started putting out suet bars in the little "suet house" the birds, particularly the ones that spend most of their summer in the woods, have started to appear. I think this little fellow (or gal) is a downy or hairy woodpecker--not sure which, but it sure is fun to watch them.

A final salute to autumn: this near perfect golden tree was still hanging on before the wind and snow arrived.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cactus, cacti

This is the week---the one week in the year when all of my cactus plants bloom at once! So I drag them out of their "home" on the library east window sills and place them on the display counter between the community room and dining room so that they can absorb all the oohs and aahs of the sisters and guests.

This yellow one is special because I started it with a single leaf from Sr. Benedict Grotzinger's plant--the first yellow cactus I had ever seen. Soon after that her's died but this offspring lives on and is just beautiful.

I can't remember where I got this white cactus but it's probably my favorite because it is such a pure and sparkling white. Just lovely.

There are four all total now, yellow, white, salmon and pink. They will all bloom again this winter and a couple may even have a third blooming period, but these are the only days they'll all be flowering at the same time. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016


Some thoughts following the last week.

First, here is a very fine graphic that is making the rounds of the web. I call it _____ophobia because you could put any word you want in the blank. A friend who is a counselor tells me that this is basic strategy to counter bullying in schools. Here you'll see it as it pertains to adults, more specifically anyone who is "not like me." So sad, so very sad. But, there is always hope and here's a piece of it.Click here.

And in the everyday, we took a walk down to the lake and found a number of fishermen and women taking advantage of the good weather. We asked these fellows if we could take their picture with their impressed catch! "Of course," they said, and as we talked, guess what? Only one seemed to be what we'd call all-American, the other two spoke fine but with accents. Alleluia!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Autumn work

The east side and back of the Mount have a half dozen beautiful, large comfy benches scattered along the sidewalk. They were part of a remembrance project a few years ago to add these very nice features to our grounds, in memory of loved ones.  Although they are brought in for the winter months, the 6-7 months outdoors do take their toll, but a miracle has arrived.  The benches, two tables and the two glider swings that hang from the arbor near the library are all being washed thoroughly and finished anew with Teak Wood stain through the talents of one of our sisters. 

Here's the table that is in the center of the large gazebo. Retreatants and visitors alike enjoy their time there. The project is being done in the receiving room, a garage-like entrance on the ground level which offers plenty of fresh air when the door is opened.


and After.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Voting in the USA

We've taken a page out of Norman Rockwell's America every year when it comes to our local polling place: an all-American fire hall--The Fairfield Hose Co, an all-volunteer group of men and women who service a large swath of lake shore properties here in northern Harborcreek Township. Here is what it looked like at 7:15 am eight years ago, when we stopped to vote on our way to work--a line that extend well into the parking lot, maybe 50-60 ahead of us when we arrived! This year I expect as much, if not more.

The Norman Rockwell part of the scene is connected in part to the bake sale by the Fairfield Auxiliary that is set up right inside the doorway and tempts you with delicious smells and displays of cookies, brownies and more, as you move up one place at a time, past the baked goods tables.

Another Rockwell piece might be the fact that the people seem to know many of the "locals" by sight. They particularly greet us with "Good Morning, Sister," and then attempt to remember our family name before we tell them. I'd guess that about 40-45, of the 65 that live at the monastery, travel to Fairfield to vote. Another dozen probably vote by absentee ballot and some are past voting ability. I, myself,even recognize the voting workers! The same men and women have been there volunteering for years, too.

November 2008

One of the many issues (in a campaign that seemed more about personalities than policy) was the Supreme Court and the nominees for its judges. On our What Sisters/Oblates Read page of our community website, we have two reviews of the book Sisters In Law, a great read about the first two female judges, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I think after reading both reviews you'll rush to your local library or and get a copy. Our reviewers both give it two thumbs up!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

What makes me howl with laughter

Two things I ran across this week that not only made me smile and laugh all over the place when I first saw them, but have continued, just on memory, to make me laugh and smile about them ever since. That's enough to encourage me want to share them with you. Here they are:

First: check out the website: On August 18, 1920 women in the United States were given the right to vote. This week thousands of women born before that date are proudly casting their ballots for the candidate they hope will become our first woman president! Here are their photos and a little blurb about each one. Should I enter our pre-1920 woman to the list?!?!

Second, as you may know from previous entries here and on our community website, we have a member of the BWSC, Benedictine Women's Service Corps, living and working with us this year. The other two members for the 2016-2017 class are at a monastery in Bristow, VA (about 30 miles west of DC). All of them blog monthly on the St. Benedict's Monastery (Minnesota) site. This week I read an entry from Mo (one of the Bristow volunteers) and here is the part that sent by into gales of delight: "Every Sunday night after supper, I play Rummy with Sister Mary Ellen, Sister Henry Marie and Bethany. I always end up losing, but it feels good to be in the midst of great company! Although I enjoy the company of the sisters, I feel myself turning into a middle-aged woman. Never in a million years would I think that I would find solace in knitting and watching “Jeopardy!” And never in a million years did I think that I would get excited about buying yarn."

I must try to adopt some 20-something interests/conversation topics so that our Erin doesn't "age" before her time!