Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Our Common Home


A blog in two parts this week, by Sister Kathryn Casper, both inspired by the Pope’s recent encyclical.

i)                  Story in Prose
Here’s a story told to me by Sister Dennis Frandrup, who is a great observer of nature, dearly loving all of God’s wonders in creation.

One day as she approached the door to the monastery dining room, something fell in front of her. Wondering what it was, she stopped, and discovered a tiny baby bird.  She picked it up, with gentle care. The bird was still warm and she cuddled it in her open hands, protecting it until she could decide what to do.  Sister Dennis felt great compassion for this vulnerable little creature. She understood that the only way to save the baby bird was to restore it to its nest.  The nest was perched high upon a light outside the door.  Somehow Sister Dennis managed to put the bird back into its nest.  This firsthand experience for her was a direct realization of the vulnerability not only of this small bird, but of all creatures on our planet.  The experience opened her heart and mind to deeper compassion for all that is fallen and helpless, to see the great gift of redemption offered to us daily by our gracious Creator God. 
  
Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB

ii)               Poem of Praise

On the Care of our Common Home

Yellow day lilies in lift their heads
like golden trumpets
resounding in exuberant joy
          LAUDATO  SI!

Finches, wrens, sparrows
whistling, trilling, warbling
toss ecstatic song into the universe
          LAUDATO  SI!

Newest rabbit peeks from under
the glorious dogwood bush
offering shy worship
          LAUDATO  SI!

Squirrels digging in wood-chipped earth
stop, startled by some mysterious impulse
          LAUDATO  SI!

Fertile trees, laden with seed
Bow, bend, wave in wondrous rhythm,
          LAUDATO  SI!

Tall sedate firs in perfect, elegant symmetry 
announce a paean of praise
          LAUDATO  SI!

Sister Philip, rolls her lumbering cart
across the grounds
tools clang, thrum, resound
          LAUDATO  SI

Workers, grounds keepers,
security officers, secretaries, administrators ~
sisters, young and old working, praying
keep the monastery humming
          LAUDATO  SI!

In the sacred tranquil cemetery
holy witnesses bespeak in silent concert
lives of enduring faithfulness and ardent love
          LAUDATO  SI!
                                           

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Linking-In with the Needs of Women Veterans



Last fall I read articles in the local newspaper talking about PSTD and veterans. I have always had an interest in working with veterans, knowing that Saint Benedict’s Monastery could offer them a place of healing, self-reflection, safety, support and a sense of order through our schedule of prayer.   
Through the wonder of technology and Linked-In I was able to connect with Trista Mastascillo, program manager and chair of the St. Paul based nonprofit Women’s Initiative. Trista and I became fast friends and after she came to visit the monastery both us knew that this is a place where we wanted to create for the women’s veterans a spiritual space to call home. It was a sacred synchronistic moment.  With our entrepreneurial minds we went to work creating a retreat for the Women’s Veterans.  
I am excited to announce that Aug 14-16, 2015 the Women’s Veteran’s Initiative and the Sisters of Saint Benedict will host the first annual veteran’s retreat. We will focus on ministering to these women in traditional and alternative mental health ministries. Following the Rule of St. Benedict's core principal that everybody shall be welcomed as Christ, we will be extending our hospitality to the Women’s Veterans and meeting some needs of women that have not been tended to.   
Please pray for our retreat and that it will be blessed with grace, love, and peace for these veterans.

Trish Dick, OSB 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Subway Encounter


Supplied with two bag lunches, we made our way out of the pouring rain and cold down into the cavernous regions of the Philly subway system. 

We were told that we could expect to find many of the city’s homeless there because of the inclement weather. And sure enough, as soon as we entered, we were surrounded by hungry-looking men who immediately zeroed in on those of us who visibly held on to a bag lunch.
  
They knew the routine. Fabian, Kendra and I were suddenly facing a tall rather imposing man who told us his story of needing something to eat because his stopover in Philadelphia ended up being longer than he anticipated, forcing him to look for some food for the overnight. 

We gave him one of our bags and simultaneously another guy was begging for the second. He practically grabbed the brown bag out of my hands.

So, now what? We no longer had anything to give. How were we going to actually sit down and talk to any one of the others who mainly were also looking for a bag lunch?

Our leader encouraged us to wander, trying to be creative. Finally, my cohorts and I found Michael. Yes, he was searching for a sandwich, but in the meantime he engaged with us, telling us his story.

He was an older man whose family was in dire straits but Michael believed in hope and in God’s ever present generosity. Throughout his life God had provided and so while he was going through this rough patch, he knew it was not permanent.

While we three listened to Michael, a rather erratic young man approached our little group yelling and pointing straight at me, accusing me of something. I could not understand him and disgustedly he left us, only to reappear a little later.

Michael returned to his story with a most powerful message of gratefulness.  He virtually could not stop talking about his awe and wonder at having God in his life. Emphatically, he repeated that he was most humbled and grateful for life.

Moved by this man’s faith, Fabian gave him some money, even if we did not have food for him. Michael assured us it was enough to get a sandwich later. In turn, I was moved by my cohort’s action. In the end, all that matters is the encounters we have with one another and the love we show, no matter the circumstances.

                       ***************************************************

Michael did not ask about us, but if he had, we would have explained that we were part of a group of ten from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota on spring break in Philly. We chose to go to the fifth largest city (approximately 1.5 million people) in the United States, which is known for its many and growing number of homeless people.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB