As I see brave spring shoots receiving just the right amount
of light, warmth and moisture to break through the dry, cold soil, the word
“tender” keeps surfacing for me.Everything about spring seems to have a gentle hue.My hibernating winter gaze begins to soften,
as I allow an increasing number of subtle smiles to warm my face. I sometimes
even catch my voice whispering to budding trees and perennial flowers, “You
sweet surprise, you’re lovely. And then I giggle a bit and add, “I see you,
you’re such a delight for my exploring eyes.Thank you.”
The Latin root for tender is “tener” defined as “yielding,
easily broken”.I find myself looking
across the oratory when we sing the Liturgy of the Hours.We sing antiphonally, so one side sings and
then the other.I pray that as I am
attentive to one familiar face at a time, my moistened spring-gaze will imagine
a new aspect of her unique beauty that will reveal itself to me as the day unfolds.
If my heart remains
cold, dry soil I’m tempted to say, “I have her all figured out.I know exactly what she will likely do or
say.” I’ve actually given her the greatest insult I can give her.“Tender moments” acknowledge that each day
she is no longer exactly like she was the day, month or year before. She is
changing and transforming. Hopefully my attentiveness will change my heart too.
I pray that the warmth and light of the Spirit can use this present moment to tenderize
my vision and let my stereotypes be more “easily broken”.Allow me, my unconditionally loving God, to
be surprised each day at discovering hues of beauty in the people that I think
I have “all figured out”.
Friday is Earth Day.We
need to ask forgiveness of our Mother Earth for our communal and individual
abuse of her and therefore of all our brothers and sisters with whom we share
this gift from God to all of us.Let us
pray as we image our holding and embracing Mother Earth just as she holds
“We hold brothers and sisters who suffer from storms and
droughts intensified by climate change.
We hold all species that suffer.
We hold world leaders delegated to make decisions for life.
We pray that the web of life may be mended though courageous actions to limit
We pray that love and wisdom might inspire my actions and our actions as
communities…so that we may with integrity, look in to the eyes of brothers and
sisters and all beings and truthfully say, we are doing our part to care for
them and the future of the children.
May love transform us and our world with new steps toward life.”
April brings with it new
beginnings. Buds appear on trees and flowers start to poke up through the
earth. One new beginning for me was many Aprils ago, in 1981, when I was
accepted as an affiliate at Saint Benedict’s Monastery. As an affiliate I was
beginning the first step into becoming a member of the community. I had written
a letter of request, and I received a letter in return welcoming me as an
affiliate. When I read my letter there was a scripture passage from the prophet
Isaiah inserted into the body of it. This is what the prophet Isaiah had to say
to me on that memorable day.
"Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a
new earth;The things of the past shall not be
remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and
happiness in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people
to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people
(Ch.65:17-19) Before they call, I will answer; while they
are yet speaking, I will hearken to them. (vv.24)"
When I came across my letter of
acceptance this past February, I recalled reading the letter for the first
time, and this particular passage from Isaiah. I remember thinking, yes, I was
being created anew and God was/is the creator. God was calling me into new life.
God has continued to call me forth, challenging me to trust and follow. So what
new beginnings may be happening for you in your life at this time? What may God
be asking of you on our own unique journey during this month of new beginnings?
On April 9th we will be hosting a retreat from 9-4 for women: Is God calling you to Religious Life? If
you would like more information please contact Sister Lisa Rose at
I love to spend Triduum* with my community at the
monastery. We have such wonderful, rich liturgies that call me into a
space of deep reflection, sorrow, repentance, wonder and joy.
This year I did not make it up to the monastery
for Triduum because of my resident chaplaincy work at Abbott Northwest
Hospital. I had the opportunity to preside and gather with folks in the
Mental Health Unit for a Good Friday service and time of reflection. As I
prepared my reflection I found myself at a loss to know what to say to those who
would be part of the gathering. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say or
could not come up with material – it just seemed out of context with these
folks. How do you talk about the cross with patients who have mental
health problems, who daily bear their cross because they are stigmatized,
misunderstood in their suffering, marginalized in our society and often looked
on with disdain? Frankly I was at a loss how to communicate the
suffering of the cross to these patients. In desperation I looked on the
internet for some reflection resources. I couldn’t find much information and
what I did find often felt as if I was trying to put a square block in a round
hole. I was stuck, or at least felt stuck, about how to communicate
the meaning of the cross to these folks who have a deep, anguishing faith
because of their suffering. I found some words from Henri Nouwen on
brokenness and the cross that I tried to reflect on and communicate the following:
“Your broken heart is the source of my salvation, the
foundation of my hope, the cause of my love. It is the sacred place where all
that was, is and ever shall be is held in unity. There all suffering has been
suffered, all anguish lived, all loneliness endured, all abandonment felt and
all agony cried out. There, human and divine love have kissed, and there God
and all men and women of history are reconciled. All the tears of the human
race have been cried there, all pain understood and all despair touched.
Together with all people of all times, I look up to you whom they have pierced,
and I gradually come to know what it means to be part of your body and your
blood, what it means to be human.”
We broke bread together in the solidarity of our brokenness
and suffering and Jesus’ love for us shown on the cross. I want to
fully acknowledge that I truly do not understand completely my brokenness as
these folks understand their brokenness. Their brokenness and willingness
to embrace the cross of Christ and claim it as Good Friday haunts my soul in
mystery. This Good Friday service impacted my sense of suffering and the meaning
of the cross. I still don’t fully comprehend the cross, but I have
experienced a whole new sense of the cross – and it causes me to tremble,
*The Triduum (a Latin
term meaning ‘three days in one’), stretches for the Mass of the Lord’s supper
on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Sunday.
Exultation of the Cross on Good Friday
Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB
I've been living at Saint Benedict's Monastery now for about nine years. I come from England, so answering God's call to this place meant leaving behind those near and dear to me and things that I was familiar with. I don't regret the choice, but I still have moments of intense homesickness when I feel it isn't possible not to live back at home, not to be with those people on a daily basis, for the rest of my life.
Christmas and Easter have always been particularly difficult times for me. They are, of course, rightly, the times when we are obliged to be with the monastic community. Well, what would a monastic community be, if they didn't celebrate the major events of the liturgical year together? So, no complaints about that. But that doesn't mean it's easy.
However, this Easter, I've noticed a change. Some of it's to do with the fact that if I went to England now, I couldn't fall back into Easter as it was when I left. People there have moved, died and churches have evolved. So this year, I couldn't keep thinking, "If I were in England, I would be doing this now, with this or that person." Well, I could think that some of the time, but not all of it.
The other thing is that this is the tenth Easter I've spent at the monastery and there's now a familiarity about the sequence of how we spend it. There are certain things that I love, like the sung Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and the three-part sung Gospel on Easter morning. Where changes have been introduced, I've been part of the process and, as that's happened, I think I've developed a sense of this becoming "my" Easter. It seems I'm reaching a point where I can look back over the Easters of my life and appreciate all of them for what they are. I've stopped comparing them and finding the present wanting in relation to the past. Instead, I'm grateful for Easters past, and I wouldn't change them for anything, but I'm also grateful for the Easter of the present and grateful to realize that, wherever, and however, and with whomever I celebrate Easter, it still carries the same message - the triumph of love over death.
“Good Morning” one bright eyed sister chirped to me with a big
smile as she met me on the way to prayer one morning. Still trying to wake up,
I nodded my head in response…the most I could do at that time of the day. I
don’t know what it is, but no matter how hard I try, I can never make it to bed
before a very late hour. This would not be much of an issue except that our
community prays at 7 a.m.! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love our Liturgy of the
Hours, but 7 a.m. comes too quickly for me. During Lent I tried extra hard to
get up early so that I could be at prayer at 6:45 a.m. instead of rushing in at
6:57 a.m. or later. This was quite a challenge for me, but on most mornings I
did succeed. I do have to say it was a good feeling to be ready to chant or
recite our psalms when the bell rang promptly at 7 a.m., than trying to figure
out what song we were going to sing and what pages we would recite from. But
mornings are still a challenge for me. It amazes me when many of our sisters
say they get up at 4 or 5 a.m. I just can’t see it. But then again, most of
them are gone to bed when I am getting my second wind at 9 or 10 in the
evening. Most sisters laugh when I tell them I was working out at 9 p.m. or
just starting a movie at 10 p.m.
And the funny thing is, have you ever noticed that if you wake
up and it is 6 a.m. and you close your eyes for “5 minutes” it is 7:45 a.m.,
but if you are at a meeting, school or work and it’s 1:30, close your eyes for
5 minutes and it is 1:31? Well, that’s the way it goes for me anyway.
While mornings are a bane for me, I am always grateful for the
day when I get up. I remind myself I am here to sing praise to God with my
sisters and that is my incentive to get up each morning when I want to stay in
bed. And until we move our morning prayer to 10 a.m., I will continue to find
ways to make mornings a more joyful time for me.Who knows, my next blog may be inspired by me
waking up at 4 a.m. with the larks. Until then, I will keep tending to the
“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. John 1:14.
Our God loved us so much as tobecome
human, live among us and die for us. What a magnanimous, powerful and loving
deed!How can I ever fathom such
Jesus was put to death
on a cross experiencing rejection, humility and excruciating pain. “Greater love has no one than this that
one lay down his life for his friends. John 17:19” And the words that came from
the cross were “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
God will never stop
loving you, me and every person in the world just as we are.I can respond to that love by reaching out to
Moreover, Jesus taught
us how to live. When caught in a dilemma, I can now say, “What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD)”.
For example, I’m in a situation where I don’t know because I am driving to the
hospital to be with my dying father when I am the first to come upon an
accident where immediate help is needed. WWJD? Or, I am visiting a group of friends who constantly
carry on with gossiping about others. WWJD??
This blog is maintained by a group of Sisters at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. We try to post weekly and often succeed at that.
The opinions on this blog belong to individual writers and do not reflect any official position of the monastery. Please feel free to comment on any of the entries-- comments are moderated, but we'll publish any reasonable comment.