Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Companying and Abundant Fruit

Apple saplings Common Ground Garden 2012
As we companion family and friends and hear their troubled times, it sometimes occurs to us that silent presence is the only word of choice. While we are listening we remember times we walked similar paths and didn’t want anyone to take our pain away until we were ready.

 The commentary by Patricia Sánchez for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 13, 2015) provided a clear image for wounding events and the results they can produce.

I am reminded of a sermon once given by the Rev. Henry Emerson Fosdick at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He related the experience of a friend who visited an apple orchard in Maine. There, he saw apple trees so laden with fruit that their branches had to be propped up to keep them off the ground. When asked about it, the orchard owner told his visitor to look at the trunks of the trees near the bottom. When he did, he saw that the trees had been wounded with a deep gash. “That is something we have learned about apple trees,” said the owner. “When the tree tends to run to wood and leaves and not to fruit, we wound it, gash it, and, almost always, no one knows why, this is the result: It turns its energies to fruit.”

It makes one wonder if silent companioning may be the gradual anointing that allows wounds to transform into the fruit of renewed energy. The gentleness of tender energy can become the nourishing fruit that bonds us to one another as we walk together day by day.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Transcending the Boundaries of Our Human Perspectives

Lately I have been interning in a hospital as a chaplain.  A couple days a week I have had the joy of meeting up with Tucker, the Golden Doodle Dog and working on the floor with him.  Why would the hospital with its highly sterile conditions allow dogs on floors?  Maybe it’s because science is finally confirming what people have known intuitively for years therapy dogs help heal people physically, emotionally and socially, and spiritually.
Most of us never think about how animals have the capacity to lead us spiritually in a variety of ways. They can teach us about death,  participate in our social and moral development, enhance our physical and psychological well-being and heighten our capacity to love and to experience joy.
Animals, however, offer us a unique opportunity to transcend the boundaries of our human perspectives, they allow us to stretch our consciousness toward understanding what it is like to be different. This stretching enables us to grow beyond our narrow viewpoint. It allows us, I believe, to gain a spiritual advantage.
How can we possibly appreciate and move toward spiritual wholeness if we cannot see beyond our own species? How can we come to know God, or grasp the interconnectedness of all life, if we limit ourselves to knowing only our own kind? The goal of compassion is not to care because someone is like us but to care because they are themselves.
Any spiritual discipline, in any tradition, invites us to open our hearts and minds. This invitation represents an ongoing exercise; the desire and attempt to open to others in our midst are the essence of the spiritual process.   
Trish Dick, OSB
We don't have a photo of Tucker but here's what seems an appropriate substitute - a picture of Sister Trish forming a bond with a dog on one of the dogsledding retreats she regularly leads!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Waking Moment

As babes we are born with a tabla raza (blank slate) upon which all that we choose, all that comes to us and goes forth from us forms our own personalities and affects the world we live in.  

David Whyte suggests that maybe the same image could apply to our daily risings, for this day and for as long as we live. He has a suggestion about what to remember as we awaken, “in that first hardly noticed moment ...”


In that first

hardly noticed


to which you wake,

coming back to this life

from the other

more secret,


and frighteningly



where everything


there is a small


into the new day

which closes

the moment

you begin

your plans.

What you can plan

is too small

for you to live.

What you can live


will make plans


for the vitality

hidden in your sleep.

To be human

is to become visible

while carrying

what is hidden

as a gift to others. 

To remember

the other world

in this world

is to live in your

true inheritance.

You are not

a troubled guest

on this earth,

you are not

an accident

amidst other accidents

you were invited

from another and greater


than the one

from which

you have just emerged.

Now, looking through

the slanting light

of the morning

window toward

the mountain


of everything

that can be,

what urgency

calls you to your

one love?  What shape

waits in the seed

of you to grow

and spread

its branches

against a future sky?

Is it waiting

in the fertile sea?

In the trees

beyond the house?

In the life

you can imagine

for yourself?

In the open

and lovely

white page

on the waiting desk?

-David Whyte (The House of Belonging)

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No Need to Run on Fumes

"Selfie": Joanne outside Sacred Heart Chapel
With so much on the go to meet the myriad demands of family and work, sometimes we miss the signs of thirstiness in our spiritual lives.

Following three years of volunteering as a writer and administrator on a very busy hospital ship serving the people of Africa, I found myself parched for a long and deep spiritual drink.

I connected with the living waters I thirsted for through the Studium Program at Saint Benedict's Monastery. By living in residence here at the St. Joseph campus, I have ready access to the soul-nourishing daily Liturgy of the Hours, prayed morning, noon and evening in the Oratory. I also sup the Body and Blood of Christ at daily Mass held in Sacred Heart Chapel.

I have come to realize, after a number of weeks of daily spiritual imbibing, that even the occasional prayer-filled sip can provide much needed refreshment. This, in turn, leads to revived energy and the return of a more joyful perspective.

No need to let your well-being run on fumes when daily prayer and Mass is open to all in the environs of the monastery of Saint Benedict or anywhere with a monastery nearby.

Joanne Thibault
Studium Scholar