Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Praying a Jigsaw Puzzle

Photo: Tammy Shoemaker, OSB
I reflect as I work a jigsaw puzzle; I find that it depicts one’s life story. I invite you to go the journey with me as you work your puzzle. Here goes:

When just the outer edge of the jigsaw puzzle is completed, it shows the framework of the puzzle-to-be. In life, it might represent the whole world before God created humans. But as the puzzle is being worked on, each new piece represents a person.

As one works on the puzzle, some pieces connect so easily while others do not seem to fit at all. God has a niche for each of us and we each need to find where we are meant to be.

Sometimes the working of the puzzle moves along easily while at other times, it’s difficult to bring the right pieces together. In life’s story, there are many times when things just don’t seem to be working out while at other times, things move along so smoothly. Both on the puzzle and in life, our patience may be tried, but the only answer to success is to carry on.

When the puzzle pieces come together, each piece connects with four others which, in turn, connect with many. And so it is with us---we share God’s message with comparatively few, and we know not how many persons have been touched by our words.

Note -- most often, the puzzle pieces do not have straight edges. We, too, are imperfect and our encounters with one another may or may not yield our intent.

When we place the last piece in the puzzle, we are delighted to experience the joy that comes from a job well done. The intended picture seems to come alive.  At the end of our journey on earth, the reality we looked forward to will, indeed, come alive. We reap the rewards of life well lived as we see our God face to face.

Janet Thielges, OSB

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Cheese Is Always Cold

Cheese making

I have been a member of this community for just over eight years now and I’ve been reflecting on how my feelings about the monastery have changed in those years. I realize I’ve moved from being a polite guest to a family member with my own likes and dislikes.

What set me off thinking about this was the question of the temperature of cheese. No, I’m not being frivolous. Those small things, in the context of community, especially when added together, are a constant and real source of challenge, but I recognize that my response to them charts the course of my monastic “career” to date.

I like cheese. I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m cheese connoisseur but I’ve taken the trouble to find out a little bit about cheeses and tried lots of different kinds over the years. One thing I’ve learned is that the flavor of cheese develops at room temperature, whilst if eaten straight from the refrigerator the majority of cheeses are simply a lump of fat, distinguishable only by different colors and by slightly different textures (although my observation is that texture is also affected by temperature and there is a more noticeable difference if the cheese is at room temperature.)

Now, lots of people I know serve their cheese cold and, as a guest in their homes, I take it as it comes and say “thank you.” That’s how it was when I came to the monastery. I was so excited to be here, that I never even thought about the temperature of the cheese. Then I started to notice, about a year in, that it wasn’t quite as I liked it, so occasionally, I’d take a slice into my bedroom and let it “stand” before eating it. Three years on, I was at the stage where I would voice my feelings about the temperature of cheese to sisters I knew well. Six years and I would say it to anyone whether they wanted to know or not.

And now?  I buy cheese instead of candy. Different types of cheese, which repose in the refrigerator, clearly labelled, and which are taken out to “air” before I eat them as an evening treat. I feel completely at home with my cheese routines now, because this IS my home and it’s okay to eat my cheese the way I like it!

Karen Rose, OSB
(Photo is of curds being stirred during cheese making at Common Ground Garden - the closest I could find to a "cheese" photo!) 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Art of Living

Photo: Carleen Schomer, OSB
In his book, Living in the Presence, Tilden Edwards writes: “First of all, we need to assure ourselves a rhythm of Sabbath and ministry in our lives. Without unambiguous times in the week and day when we are free to just appreciate the giftedness of life, to recognize ourselves as intrinsically loved creations of God’s joy, we will likely smother our capacity to simply appreciate life in God as an art and narrow ourselves to life in God as a task.”

When does the normal “weekend” begin and end for you?  Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, as it does for me?  And do you “live for weekends?” And if you do, what about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday? Are those “lost days”… just as we sometimes experience “lost weekends” when we’ve accomplished nothing of what we had planned? Or what is a “mid-end” as one little child tried to use as an excuse for not being in school: “My dad had a mid-end” i.e., a middle of the weekend, equivalent to the normal weekend?

Imagine my surprise when, on a Tuesday – yes, a Tuesday---a few weeks ago, someone wished me a “happy weekend”.  I was stopped in my tracks!  It was only Tuesday, but two days away from my enjoyable weekend, just passed! Has our culture so changed that we scarcely notice week days in our rush to live and long for whatever it is we get out of weekends? Is it “happiness” that we long for and don’t experience on those other five days normally viewed as “work days?”

Change is inevitable. We admit that, but here an entire culture of work/rest seems to have changed, dramatically! Whatever happened to “catch-up” days like Saturday or Sabbath rest, Sunday worship, play, reading, visiting, a special meal or walk, a time to sit and muse, write a letter or poem? We used to go swimming, fishing, catching frogs or playing ball or cards, popping corn, even napping! Change. Cultural shifts. Adaptation. Nostalgia. Someone said, “Nostalgia is a form, of longing.”  Re-read what Tilden Edwards writes; is that what you long for too – life as art as well as task?  What will we do about it?

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

This Side of Heaven

S. Modesta Arceneau

This fall I have been working at a hospital as a resident chaplain. I’m learning a lot about tending to the needs of patients, families, medical staff and my own emotional needs in this work.

One day I was covering a floor for a colleague. One of the challenges of chaplaincy I enjoy is getting to know patients and their families. I walked into a room and began to converse with a patient and family. I disclosed I was a Benedictine sister from Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph. The mother of the patient jumped up and gave me a hug! Why? Well, that’s quite a story.

She shared with me that all her life she always wanted to be a Benedictine sister, but instead got married and had children. I asked her if she remembered some of the sisters who had influenced her. She told there was one sister she especially remembered “… because she was so kind and gentle with me. She always took me under her wing and gave me special attention. I will never forget her – her name is Sister Modesta.” She was keen to learn whether I knew S. Modesta and whether she was still alive?”  I replied, “I sure do and ‘yes’ she is!”   

I feel that writing this blog and being able to shine the light on our S. Modesta Arceneau is a privilege because she is a faithful Benedictine who goes quietly but tirelessly about the work of God. She is meek, caring and has a tender heart. I’m grateful to be able to acknowledge how, ever since I entered the monastery, she has always touched my life through her gentle caring and sincere concern for how I’m doing. 

It’s an honor to write this blog because I have a hunch S. Modesta has touched a lot of lives that we will not know of this side of heaven!

Trish Dick, OSB