Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wild & wonderful February

February 24th in our town: the average high is 37 degrees. The record high was in 1906, 67 degrees....until 2017, when the record was not only broken, it was smashed----77 degrees. Everyone who lives in a cold wintry climate knows what this does to a people: we go crazy! Teenagers and college students are seen wearing shorts; kids are riding on dusty bicycles; and Moms and Dads are pushing babies in strollers down the streets---in other words, we act like spring has arrived.

But, the truth is that it is just a gigantic tease. Spring is a month away on the calendar and more like 5-8 weeks away in reality.

Sure enough, February 25th the afternoon temperature dropped 40 degrees; clothing returned to sweats and corduroys; sleds and boots came back out; Moms and Dads were driving their cars and everyone was just shaking their heads (but with a slight smile and dreamy look about them: "Was it real?")

Hang in there: the "febs" are almost over; Lent and Easter are just about here; Can daffodils and crocuses be far behind?

February 24, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mexico to the USA and home again

Tuesday Jessica returned to Mexico and we all miss her terribly already! Jessica is a 25 year-old oblate from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico who came to live with us last August and stayed six months, improving her English, joining into every facet of our life through the Benedicta Riepp program, and endearing herself to all.

Jessica was the latest in a list that began January 2, 2001 which now includes 17 women who have been a part of this program named for the first Benedictine sister to come to the USA--Benedicta Riepp from the Bavaria region of southern Germany.

Since the first women began the program we have shared our ministries, prayer and community life with: Pat, Kathy R, Kathy H, Barbara, Jean, Christine, Judith, Claire, Maryann, Janice, Alyssa, Carrie, Glory, Susan, Kylie, Joanne and Jessica. All of them were just lovely and entered fully into their "monastic experience." However, when we were planning all of this out, we forgot one thing: they would have to go home! And, that would happen after we had formed bonds of friendship that couldn't be suddenly laid aside on moving-home day!

Yet, we would surely all agree that the "missing" is far outweighed by the joys and sharing that we had with them when they were here. Thank you, Jessica, and thank you to all of the other Benedicta Riepp participants (Rieppers, as we call them) for giving so much of yourselves and for making our monastic life fuller and richer because of your presence.

Here's a link to an "Ode to Jessica" by one of our other 20-somethings---which they even call themselves now, but they roll their eyes, too!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Coming of "fog"

To paraphrase Carl Sandburg's famous poem "Fog," this weekend the whisperings "on little cat feet" began to be heard throughout the Mount that Lent is coming soon. But I, for one, was not interested in this "gossip." Not that I dislike Lent, in fact I like it very much--with its special music, rich psalmody and once-a-year tenor.

My interests this weekend were on the record high for the date, 70 degrees on Saturday and near record 55 Sunday. Both of these took place with the slow return of the s-u-n. So much so that I was able to drive to work Friday for the very first time in a long time without turning on the headlights! Alleluia! (whoops, Lent is coming, did you know!)

The appearance of strong sunlight bring this sight back every morning:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thirty days

Every school, club, sport team, family and even work places have rituals and traditions. Hopefully, if they are sincere and faithful to them, these times become an important part of the life of the group.

Being Benedictines, forerunners in liturgical movements since the Middle Ages, our rituals and traditions are a rich and significant part of our community life. Here's a very small but much-treasured one that we have. It only lasts a month at a time, so if you're not here or you're here but don't notice it, it could go right past you. But, for us, it marks a very special time.

For the first month after one of our sisters passes away we place a small, round table right at the entrance to our chapel space. On the table is a candle that is lit during every prayer time. An acrylic frame holds a sheet on which we read the words:

This candle burns
for thirty days
in memory
of our sister
who shared her life
with us
in community
until her death
May peace eternal be hers!

This one has about 5-6 days to go and has been a beautiful reminder for me and many others, I'm sure, of the life of Sr. Maureen who died in January. One sister has kept a vase of fresh flowers on the table, too. (Where she finds these in the middle of an Erie winter is a mystery to me!)

I think after the 30 days I will steal away the little table, along with the candle, frame and vase for fresh flowers and place them in my room for the next 30 days---no, I think 300 days.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Building a better world

Having loved enough and lost enough,
I'm no longer searching,
just opening.

No longer trying to make sense of the pain
but trying to be a soft and sturdy home
to which real things land.

These are the irritations
that rub into a pearl.

So we can talk for a while
but then we must listen,
the way rocks listen to the sea.

And we can churn at all that goes wrong
but then we must lay all distractions
down and water every living seed.

And yes, on nights like tonight
I too feel alone. But seldom do I
face it squarely enough
to see that it's a door
into the endless breath
that has no breather,
into the surf that human
shells call God.

"Yes, we can talk" by Mark Nepo

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sci-fi lives on

I enjoy the sci-fi genre of books and movies. Not the fighting, war types, more the ones with advanced ideas or experiences that are beyond our current life. Just like in today's world the most common theme is "good vs evil," with good taking a beating, but coming through in the end.
My latest sci-fi fix is from the Netflix series Travelers. People from
the future return and take up in the bodies of people who are dying and continue with their life while working together "to save the world." (Another common theme). The team that we meet are: left to right, a young mother and abused wife of a police officer, an FBI agent, a teenage football star, an autistic library aide and a heroin addict. At least those are the bodies they must live in.
There's only been one season so far, twelve episodes..but I'm hooked!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Immigrants-refugees welcome

From Sunday's reading: "Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked..and do not turn your back on your own....If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness..." The book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 58.

My great-grandparents were from France, Ireland and Germany. How about yours?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Two important events

Two important events, though often low keyed and in the background, will occur in the next two days for our community.

After 17 years of Take Back the Site prayer vigils at the site of every homicide in Erie, we will have #100 for the Dec 31st death of yet another young man through gun violence. It will be held Thursday at 5:15 pm on Rte 20/Buffalo Rd. one block west of the  intersection with Franklin Avenue.

Friday, we will hold our monthly First Friday prayer for equal rights and acceptance for immigrants. They were held at 2nd and State for a long time but are now at 6th and State in front of the Federal Building---12:15-12:45 pm.