Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Two weeks together

The Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality, known as JCICS on all the signs around the monastery, is off and running through Day 4 of its two-week run here at the Mount! Offered to Catholic graduate students or recent graduates of programs in a MDIV, theology, religion or spirituality field, we have 9 women in the program of "broadening their thinking and deepening their understanding regarding monasticism, women in the Church and contemporary spirituality."

Beneath all the rhetoric we are finding them just great to have at the monastery. The sisters are enjoying their presence already and, I hope, that they are enjoying their time in Erie and with us, too. We are so blessed!

Click here to see the news item on our website earlier this week.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

OSB women-alive and well in Alabama

My time in Alabama has been delightful, albeit hot, especially in the afternoons. The early mornings and evenings are much like deep summer in Erie, warm, blue skies and clear---nothing short of simply beautiful--in all ways.

Here are some shots that "called out" to me when I saw them. Their small retreat chapel was built incorporating stained-glass windows that include statements that are perfect for a retreatant at a Benedictine monastery.

The saying goes that in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, you could travel around making stops at a Benedictine abbey every night, as there was one a day's ride away from wherever you were! Of course we're not riding horses nowadays, but you might be able to still do such by car throughout the USA. So if you're doing a "monastary road trip" start with this Geographic Index of Retreat Houses here and see who has available guest rooms that match your path and, if they do, Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

All the same yet each unique

Every single time I visit another Benedictine women's community I find the same thing: we are all alike, yet unique. This week at Sacred Heart Monastery in north central Alabama is no exception.

The ways we are alike are in the important things, the differences are in the little customs, cultural pieces, individual monastery ways that have grown up over the years.

Here is Part I (Part II will be next time) on some of the things that caught my eye!

In the little kitchen in our guest quarters--two panels, that slide sideways.

They reveal a heavy door that opens into....a tornado shelter! I knew this part of Alabama was in tornado alley but I didn't know what they did about it!

And at the back of the room, an "escape" tunnel, with a large wrench to open the bolts, in case you can't get back out the door.  Geeessh, this is serious business.

Meanwhile, on their lovely grounds, a brick-bordered labyrinth. They have a large retreat program with many "meditating" visitors.

And, for all who knew her, Sr. Maurus Allen's grave--13 years now.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Daisy and Iris Time

These first days of June are the days of daisies and irises here in our part of the country. The irises have suffered a bit from our rough winter. We still have loads of them around: yellow, purple, blue, white and multi-colored, but in the inner courtyard and other small gardens they just haven't come up as usual. This happened to our forsythia a few years ago and we had hardly a one in all of the bushes. Luckily they all came back the next year and by now they are their old selves now! I hope this happens to the irises!

Meanwhile, how could I not share this, surely one of Mary Oliver's most frequently quoted and most beautiful poems.


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

My favorite iris photo: one of the Benetwood out buildings.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


A few years ago I discovered the fine mysteries written by Charles Todd. Since then I've been working my way through them, generally from #1 in 1994 to #21 in 2017. According to my maybe-it's-accurate list, I have six more to go--and after this weekend it will be only five, as I finish Legacy of the Dead.

What do I like about them that has held me through 15 books?
1) The writing is good, very good;
2) The setting is 1920s, post WWI rural England which is teaching me a bit about WWI, from a European viewpoint, and about life in the proverbial small English villages, which always seem to hold the most quirky inhabitants;
3) Inspector Ian Rutledge is a great character: high commitment to truth and honor, humble about his own abilities, and struggling with the internal demons of returning from dreadful war experiences.

Ah, summer reading. I must get about bugging the sisters to send in paragraphs from their own summer reads for our What Sisters Read section of our website. I believe we're fast approaching 100 "book reports"!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A rare event

Yes, since I am beginning my 12th year writing a blog under the name "Light through Stained Glass Windows" I do feel a strong affiliation with our stained glass windows--especially those in the chapel. But, in truth, we all love them. That is why this entry is so special to me and, I hope, for you.

Here's the back story. Last Thursday I stopped by chapel at about 7:45 pm. Since I was the reader at Morning Prayer Friday I wanted to check to be sure the reading was marked so I that could open the book right to it (a helpful thing at 6:30 am!)and I wanted to be sure the microphone was at the right height for me. As I was standing at the lectern getting those things settled something caught my eye and I looked over to the windows. No, not to the south windows, the ones on the left as you walk in, the ones through which all the light comes, the ones where all the reflections are made on the ceramic tiles, the floor and on the Pyrex stands that we use for the environment, the ones that everyone takes hundreds of pictures of, including me.

No, I was staring at a very rare moment when the setting sun was bright and perfectly angled through the NORTH windows. I really cannot remember ever seeing these reflections before--or at least not all at one time and not as bright and clear and full. WOW--luckily I had my camera and did the best I could to catch some shots of this rare occasion.

Enjoy them with me!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nature girls all

Isn't this a riot?! Right under our windows here on the east lawn. This is just another example of "nature" appearing all around us these days. Even the prayer leaders have taken to offering praise in their closing and opening prayers for the beauty of the natural world of spring.

I know that many of our sisters have been "nature girls" for a long time, but it seems this spring as if everyone is especailly attuned to it: telling each other of the hummingbirds, fawn, bluebirds, blossoming rhododendron etc. that they saw that day. Could it be our 198" of snow (at the airport.....130-140" here!). Yes, I think that has to be a definite factor.

A new resident to Erie said to me this week that she comes from a four-season region but was never so aware of the seasons as she is here! I laughed and said that yes, in order to love Erie (and other Great Lake regions) you have to be able to embrace and appreciate all four INTENSE seasons, not just four seasons! Luckily she's on her way.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Food connoisseur

One of our sisters could be our local newspaper's restaurant/food critic. If there's a new place anywhere within 10 miles of center city, she's there in the first two weeks. And she shares her critique with everyone she meets over the following two weeks.

The thing is, she's really good at it. So, I feel rather intimidated even writing this review of a new restaurant, but it's not really in her realm--just a standard brand all-American place--but very nice.

For you Erieites, it's the latest place to open in the old Fergie's building on W. 26th St. Most recently it was the Summerhouse Cafe, I believe. Now it's Arnie's! Don't let the casual guy-name discourage you, it was just fine. And, yes, I'd go back again.... moderate prices, clean, fresh, nice wait staff and both of our meals (1/2 to eat and 1/2 to take home) were generous and tasty.

Here's my pasta dish. Don't you love the presentation? It comes with chicken or shrimp, but I had it plain...but there was a bite to it that was not unpleasant! 

My friend's pork chops don't look as special, but the meat was golden and the potato perfect. I forgot that we both had generous (not all lettuce) house salads that were great!

Extra! Extra!

One of those photos I never even
dreamed of catching.
West lawn of the Mount, under the trees.
Sunday, May 27, 2018

click to enlarge

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Before, during and after

About 250 of our sisters are buried in Trinity Cemetery in Erie. The gravestones are flat and therefore have made it a losing game to keep the ever-spreading crab grass and other weeds at bay--from overtaking them and making quite a number unreadable. To the rescue this week came our landscapers who agreed to help. The results? Beautiful.

Come to 8th and Peninsula and see for yourself. Click here for a cemetery map.






Sunday, May 20, 2018

To join or not to join...

Since we were up for a spin around Presque Isle on an otherwise damp and cool day, we decided to go the the advertised Open House of the Erie Coast Guard Station.

We were first met by Sea Cadets, aka high schoolers, think of Jr. ROTC or Explorers clubs. They were helping park cars, give directions etc in their very neat looking cadet "uniforms"--think camouflaged pants and shirts, except in shades of blue and white instead of olive green and brown!

Our station now has 22 coast guard men and women assigned to it but 16-17 have apartments in the city although we were told all 22 have a room at the station and can stay there on the days they're on duty. We met a young guy from nearby Ashtabula who began his career in Virginia, then spent a year in a small town in Michigan before getting a chance to come to Erie (just 25-30 miles from his hometown). He told us that an average week sends them out into the lake/bay for emergencies on the water about one or two times, although they had a day last year when they were called out 8 times!

I found out that we've had our Coast Guard station since 1878, although its first year or two it was mid-way down the peninsula before moving out to the very tip where it is today. It's now on the peninsula side of the channel and next to Misery Bay where our houseboats are located.

I mentioned on the way home that although I can swim and enjoy boats I didn't think I'd join the Coast Guard..I don't think I'd like that much time on the water; ditto for the Navy. I guess it would be the Air Force IF I had to choose. Anne listened to my little speech for a bit and then asked, "Are we talking about next week or in the next life?" Ha ha!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Virtual evening walk

Come take a virtual after supper walk with us around the monastery and see what we just saw the other night!

Right outside the front door we find two new little trees, in full spring purple bloom. One on each side of Benedict himself.

Turning right we start down the sidewalk and run into another new tree--red maple I think. It's pretty big already and was planted in the spot where an older tree had to be removed after our early March ice and snow storm. Can you see the little bird on the shepherd's hook bird feeder?

Going around the east end we come to the library courtyard and its centerpiece tree--appropriately right in the center. It has bloomed its annual white cloud blossoms and is now shedding them. Underneath is a white carpet.

Little plants nearby the tree get a sprinkling of the falling blossoms, too.

In the back of the Mount we take a quick jaunt over to Benetwood and find that their lone, somewhat wild grape vine seems to be starting up again--all on its own. No worry, these aren't grapes for humans--primarily they just feed our deer!

Coming back along Troupe Rd. we pass lots of roadside wildflowers. Here is a very large patch of dandelions that have changed from yellow to their fluffy whiteness--ready to take to the winds.

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

My protector

These 9 days between the Ascension and Pentecost are filled with 15-20 songs of the Holy Spirit every Morning and Evening Prayer. Many of them we sing only at this time. They are all inspiring and filled with hope. The singing, even at 6:30 a.m., is loud and strong!

Here is verse 3 of one of our favorites, "Send Us Your Spirit" by David Haas.

Send us the wings of new birth,
fill all the earth
with the love you have taught us.
Let all creation now
be shaken with love,
come to us, spirit of God.

Also arriving this week, another type of bird--our ruby-throated  hummers!This one already staked out my feeder by "patrolling" on the nearest tree, in order to keep others away.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Filling My Days

My days are a mish-mash of things for sure. Serious things, trivial things, funny things and all other sorts of things.

Here are a few of my early May "fillers."
Every day I try to work a little on the Title Banner for our latest professed sister. It's rather like a yard-long cross stitched sampler that will read "Of the loving hands of God." It's a privilege to do them--but they take a couple months to complete. A yard is long! We've come upon a new (to us) BBC mystery series, "Blue Murder." It's one of those gritty city locales rather than the (supposedly) calm English villages, but we like the female lead and the cast of characters in her precinct. Good stories, great acting.

Thanks to donations, we are able to continue to "spruce up" our hospitality ministry--aka guest rooms. Some new mattresses are the latest acquisition. Just in time for the busy summer season. Getting outside every day is a novelty and a welcome follow up to a day behind a desk. Hard to get use to but we're doing our best at walking 1/2 hour or more every day. Sometimes down to the lake and other times just around our property, which is large enough!

This week's new bloomers are our two Bleeding Hearts plants. WOW.

And, finally, as always, I'm reading Mary--here she is on the wonders of spring:

This Morning

This morning the redbirds' eggs
have hatched and already the chicks
are chirping for food. They don't
know where it's coming from, they
just keep shouting, "More, More!"
As to anything else, they haven't
had a single thought. Their eyes
haven't yet opened, they know nothing
about the sky that's waiting. Or
the thousands, the millions of trees.
They don't even know they have wings.

And just like that, like a simple
neighborhood event, a miracle is
taking place.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Let's show off!

Hey, all you readers who live in Erie---or love Erie--let's show off something other than our Golden Snow Globe Winning 198.5" of snow this past winter season! How about we all "document" our beautiful spring and send, say, one photo a day to our friends who live south of the Mason-Dixon line, or winter in the south or who use to live in the north and no longer experience spring! Let's show off our beautiful May days--No one, I  say no one, can be more appreciative of this season. Time to do a first class Show-and-Tell.

Here's mine this week:

Lots of birds are frequenting our many feeders.

Right up the road: the first goslings of the season. These are very small.

Pesky garden violets, but they are beautiful this week when they are blooming.

Benedict from the back...awash in daffodils.

Do you think they are attracted to our Morning Prayer in the chapel?!
Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What's Up?

Often on Sundays and Wednesdays, days when I'll be blogging, I find myself asking the same question, What would visitors see if they were with us today? Or, what would they hear us talking about? Or, what would they think about if they were among us?

Today I answer as if I were a broken record--as we are still in the first euphoria of spring and all things are centering around the natural world around us.

I saw a man and woman at prayer today and wondered if they were first-timers or if they had been here before and I had just not crossed their path. Right after prayer I ran into the woman at our glass double doors, which open into our inner courtyard--she was just standing and smiling. I passed her and said something like, "We've waited a long time, but things are finally bursting forth!" She turned and surprised me when she said, "It's just beautiful. We're from Toronto and we don't have any flowers out yet." Amazing...someone came to Erie to experience springtime!

We switched our shepherd's hook this week, too. During the winter it holds two bird feeders: a long tube and a suet cage. But the birds have slowly been ignoring it and not coming so often, so it was time to move it to the inner courtyard garden and hang a hummingbird feeder from it now!

At lunch time I saw about 25 Villa girls in the food line. They had come to volunteer with us on the school's annual spring Giving Back or Community Day. One of the things they did while here was get out, set up and clean/dust all of the patio tables and chairs. Thank you, girls. About a dozen of us took immediate advantage of our outdoor eating season for lunch and again at dinner today. Warm, sunny and glorious!

So, if you're among us these days you'll certainly still hear Easter hymns (Week 5 right now) and you'll see the chapel still decked in its Easter finery. But, the new addition is certainly SMILES! Smiles on everyone's face because it is warm, sunny and beautiful. We are indeed blessed!

Our annual row of wild daffodils came up right on schedule. They are right at the edge of our woods, behind the apple orchard.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Weekend delight

We are, it seems, continually blessed with the most wonderful, top notch, gifted speakers at our spring and fall community weekends, for our June retreats and just about any other time we engage such.

This year's April community weekend was no exception. Massimo Faggioli is a youngish (47), native Italian, professor at Villanova and an expert on Catholic church history, particularly the Vatican II Council. That may sound rather academic put like that, but believe me he was charming, intelligent, humorous and simply fascinating as he shared his "take" on Pope Francis, the 50 years since the Vatican II Council and the overall state of the Catholic Church, worldwide, today.

We had 3+ hours of him, but I found a 5 minute excerpt from an interview he gave. It gives a good taste of what he shared with us. Give it a chance, it's really a captivating subject--if you're Catholic, like Pope Francis or just enjoy information and (educated) opinions on the state of our world and life at this time in history. Click here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Dessert week

We are awash in ice cream, Texas sheet cake and one dessert yet to be determined as we celebrate an unusual number of birthdays this week.

Since there are 90 of us and 365 days in a year, in the perfect mathematical world that would mean a Sister should be having a birthday every 4 days. But the mathematical world is far from the real world, in many instances, and this is one of them. Instead, our birthday celebrations are scattered every which way:

1) This week we have 5 birthdays in 6 days!
2) Instead of being evenly distributed throughout the year (average 7.5/month), we have one month with only four birthdays (February) and three with eleven (April, September and November)!
3) More crazily, we have seven sets of duplicates, one set of triples (June 23) and even one quad (November 27)!

A friend of mine was nearly obsessed with a statistic she read that said, "In a random group of 30 people the chances that two will share the same birthday is nearly 70%." Every year when July 2 would roll around, the birthday of two of our sisters who worked in our offices, she would go bananas all over again, stating this amazing statistic and implying that it was unbelievable. Finally one year I'd had it, I looked up the "proof" of it and subjected the whole staff to the actual process of the proof using newspaper print-sized paper on the walls and markers to go through all of the steps! She believed me (or rather the proof) but one year later went back to exclaiming about it again!!

Anyway, as I started, this last week of April we celebrate five birthdays in six days and therefore, we have dessert almost every day--every celebrant can choose the desert of her choice! Yum, yum!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ta da---real news, real time!

April 22, 2018
Mount St. Benedict
Inner courtyard garden

We can hardly stand it...
spring sprang today!
Daffodils and hyacinths opened--
Welcome, welcome.

Warm, sunny weather rolled in this weekend, just in time for our wonderful event Saturday and for our inner courtyard garden (and others) to begin its transformation. Easter flowers still deck our chapel, guests are numerous and we are all smiles. Spring is here!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Winter visitors hang on

Right outside my window yesterday. Everything that comes with snow is not all bad!

We're getting ready for what promises to be a lovely event this weekend, as another sister (this will make #4) from St. Joseph Monastery in St. Marys, PA will transfer her monastic vows to our community and become a Benedictine Sister of Erie. Four years ago the Benedictine monastery in St. Marys closed and the remaining 17 sisters all entered decision-making processes for their future. Four of the sisters have transferred to us and we are very happy to have all of them.

Next week there's sure to be coverage of the ceremony on the front page of our community Don't miss it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


My friends are all laughing at me and with good reason. They say I am showing untruths on this blog as I have been posting spring pictures that aren't quite 2018 reality. They are correct! I am living in a dream when I see our daffodil buds lightly yellowed but not open yet and our hyacinths close to the ground and not bursting into all those little swirls of color that get top heavy and fall over at maturity! Yes, I have been stretching the truth, but like all of us who are squirming in the last grasps of winter (poor folks in Minnesota this weekend--12" of snow?!??!!?) we know that we are oh, so close.

Inside we do encounter spring every day, however. Our chapel is full of lilies and mums and daffodils fully bloomed. It's beautiful and fragrant and, along with the Easter songs and hymns we sing at Morning and Evening Prayer, does at least remind us that we are suppose to be in springtime.

From our tornadoes, no snow blizzards, no flooding, no thunderstorms, ONLY cold temps, a little wind and a Sunday morning surprise: I ran outside with my camera and caught our first ice storm....gone by 9:00 am.