Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May you find God's peace and joy in your lives as you celebrate the birth of Jesus and as you ring in the new year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Party

Though we may still be in the Advent season liturgically, many are beginning to look ahead and celebrate Christmas. My deanery* did just that last night. We had appetizers and desserts and enjoyed each others company. We told stories of Christmas' past and played a couple Christmas games.

Pictured are (from the left): Sisters Michelle Catherine (me), Mary Carmen, Martha Marie, Mary Agnes, Michelle W., Mary L., LaVerne, Mary Carmel, Mary Austin, and Rosa Lee.

*Deanery means small living group. We have 173 sisters in our community and 108 of us live here at Ferdinand. Though we pray and eat as a whole big group, for some celebrations and gathering in the evenings we do so in our smaller deaneries. We often visit other groups, too though. My deanery is 5 East and we are 10 sisters. The other deaneries not here at Ferdinand are called mission deaneries and they are generally located in towns and cities within a 3 hour radius of Ferdinand.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

These pictures are of Newgrange, which is one of the passage tombs in County Meath, Ireland. It is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world and the most famous of all Irish prehistoric sites. Newgrange was built in such a way that at dawn on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, a narrow beam of sunlight for a very short time illuminates the floor of the chamber at the end of the long passageway. I find this a fascinating place, one for it sheer oldness, being over 5,000 years old and two for the ingenuity of those ancient people to figure out how to build such a structure to catch the suns rays as a way of finding hope on the bleakest of days. Click here to read more about Newgrange.

On this, the shortest day of the year, take heart and look for the light. We likely will not see it come through a little opening of an ancient structure but we will see it all around us in the people who surround us. How appropriate that this day always falls during our liturgical season of Advent, when we are watching and waiting for The Light. As we make our way through this day we also are encouraged that after this day the days begin to get longer and we can look forward to spring!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Are You Ready for the Ride?

With children, you have to be ready for anything! Sometime between our 9 am Christmas program and our 7 pm Christmas program, Santa lost his pants. Fortunately, he wasn't wearing them at the time. In the morning he had on the whole Santa outfit, but in the evening, he wore a red suit with blue pants. He still looked great and did a good job spreading Christmas cheer. They were later found in his backpack.

Today at Mass, the server I had just taught wasn't there and the cantor who had been practicing was also absent. In every ministry, it's good to always have a plan B and a C and a D . . . In teaching flexibility is the name of the game.

This all ties into Advent, don't you think - where what we are waiting for doesn't come as we expect. What we think will happen is turned upside down. Sounds like life in general. You never know what twists and turns are ahead. Here's praying that whatever comes our way, God may always be at the center.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Seeing Double Christmas Joy

No, this is not a double exposure, they are our identical twin sister, sisters. Sister Mary Carmen (left) and Sister Mary Carmel (right) can be found all over the place here at the monasery. You may find them working in the flowerbeds all over the grounds, inside decorating for Christmas, outside decorating for Christmas, any number of places cleaning, or maybe in the Simply Divine bakery helping bake cookies. They seem to be anywhere and everywhere and it's not just because there are two of them. For being 83 years old, they seem to have a boundless amount of energy, though you will find them sitting down when there is a Notre Dame or Indianapolis Colts football game on - yet even then, they will probably have cross stitch in their hands stitching away as they watch the game.

Blessings on the rest of your Advent! May it be a graced time of holy darkness and radiant light. In the waiting may you find your Jesus!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reflection on Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe by Sister Mary Ann Verkamp, OSB

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6, 10ab; Luke 1:39-47

Reflection by Sister Mary Ann Verkamp
Monastery librarian, chauffeur, gift shop staff
Some of us may think this is a Mexican feast, however, Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared “Patroness of the Americas” by Pope Pius XII in 1946. I personally like to think of her as “Mother of the Marginalized.”

In 1531 Mary appeared to a marginalized Indian peasant and said that she wanted to be known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Many people today do not know the origin of the word “Guadalupe.” Some believe that our Lady used the Aztec Nahuatl word of “coatlaxopeuh,” which is pronounced “quatlasupe” and sounds like the Spanish word Guadalupe. “Coa” means serpent; “tla” can be translated as “the,” and “xopeuh” means to crush. So Our Lady called herself the “one who crushes the serpent.”

This title fits perfectly with today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation. The woman is in a truly difficult situation but the forces of evil are destroyed by God’s saving power. In the Gospel passage from Luke, Mary is presented as the true believer in God’s protective love especially for the poor.

Let us implore Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede for us, for our nation and our world.

Mother of the homeless, pray for us
Mother of the unemployed, pray for us
Mother of the uninsured, pray for us
Mother of all immigrants, pray for us
Mother of all people with disabilities, pray for us
Mother of all on death row, pray for us
Mother of all victims of war, pray for us

We come before you, dear Lady of Guadalupe, to ask you to teach us how to crush the evil of discrimination, alienation, indifference, and aversion for certain persons and groups of people in our society. May we be God’s handmaid and proclaim the Lord’s greatness as we strive to bring all people under your protective mantle.
Click here for more reflections on the Advent readings on our web page.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Santa's Elves are busy at the monastery!

Santa's elves are not just at the North Pole these days. Many of the sisters have gone to Santa Claus, Indiana (about seven miles from here) to help Santa answer the many, many letters he has received this year. Santa is really, really busy and he can use all the help he can get these days. I had the priviledge of helping Santa with some of his mail. Some of the letters that Santa has received are from children who want everything. Their lists are so long! Others are from children who say things like, "Anything you bring me, Santa, will be fine with me. I have some used toys down in my basement. If you'd like to take these to give to other children, that would be fine with me, too." What a giving spirit this child has! Some letters are so sad. The children say things like: "All I want for Christmas is for my Dad to come home from Iraq so we can all be together." Some tell about their parents being out of work and how down and out their family is right now. Some of the letters come from adults who don't have much and are afraid their children will be disappointed this Christmas. Some are asking for help so they can have a nice meal for their Christmas dinner, or for help with their utilities or other bills.

May God bless all the children and their families this Christmas in a special way. May they know our love for them and may they find joy in their hearts and homes not only during this holy season but throughout the coming year. May those who have, be willing to share with those who are in need. May those in need have the courage and strength to reach out for the help they need and not lose heart. May all of us have generous hearts and be willing to share with those around us. May we look to Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, to give us hope. And may God bless all the elves as they give Santa Claus a helping hand with all his mail!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gathering Scattered December

This weekend I met with my spiritual director. I told her how my sense of discipline has flown out the window lately, and she responded with a grin, "'Scattered' is the name of the game in December." In a season where Advent calls us to get it together and be prepared for the coming of Christ, finishing a semester of teaching, preparing finals, and getting cards, gifts, music, and travel plans ready for Christmas seem to spiral everything outward. My desire for inward order is working against the laws of entropy, apparently.

Yesterday I attempted to gather the scattered forces together. I took some extra time for sleep, extra time for personal prayer, and extra time for doing some art. I exercised and ate properly. Usually people make resolutions for the new year in January. Our new liturgical year started two weeks ago, though, so I figure, why not recommit to resolutions now? I will make more time for prayer. I will remain faithful to exercising and eating healthily. I will make time for art. Monastic life is about balance and discipline in the little things.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tricky Words

I recently heard "The Little Drummer Boy" on the radio. I love that song and can certainly relate to the message. Last year I had the students sing it for the Christmas program at school. It was getting close to the performance, so I asked the 3rd graders what they needed help on. One boy responded, "Everything but the pa rum pum pum pum part."

This year the 2nd grade teacher was getting her students ready for the Immaculate Conception Mass. Instead of reading "A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians," he read, "A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Amphibians."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I cannot believe that it is already Advent, much less December. It feels like the last few months have gone by at breakneck speed and that I am sitting here staring down winter. The branches here are pretty much bare, and they seem to claw at the leaden sky. While I join everyone in Advent waiting, in preparing my mind and heart to receive Christ, I know that I am also waiting for spring, for the new life that bursts forth from cold earth and barren trees. I am waiting for the days to lengthen and for the sun to once again play among the leaves and blossoms.
As I write this, I have to ask myself, "Am I waiting and longing for Christ in the same way that I am longing for spring?" While I would like to think that I am, the waiting and longing takes on a different meaning when I compare it to my longing for spring. Christ is our light. If I am waiting and longing for Christ as I am for the sun, I am waiting and longing for the light of Christ to fill my heart -- so that even in the dead of winter I am bathed in light. Somehow that is comforting yet challenging at the same time. If I am living as one who experiences that light, how will that change my relationships with others and with God?

Monday, December 1, 2008


Advent is also my favorite time of the year. I love the music and the waiting and preparing for Christ coming. I am also enjoying teaching Advent to my 4th graders. I want them to get excited for Jesus coming. I want to help them understand that there is more to Christmas than getting presents. I teach in a Catholic school and I think it is great that we don't put up any Christmas decorations until the last week before break. This is a great time to be all about Advent. Have a Blessed Advent!

New Beginnings

Yesterday was the first day of this new Advent season. I just LOVE Advent. It is my favorite liturgical season. Advent is not a word that you will find in many shopping ads. Not many people get excited about Advent, like I do. It is a season full of meaning and symbolism. The prayers of Advent touch each person that may be walking in some kind of darkness and yet awaiting and anticipating light. It is a time for us to hear quiet whispers in our lives of a God gently calling us from darkness into light. Advent is a reminder of how we need this light more than ever in our own lives.

Speaking of new beginnings - today is also another new beginning for me - the beginning of another year of life. Thirty-nine years ago I began my life outside my mother's womb. It was a struggle for us both in that I came out backwards with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. But, by the grace of God I am here! I am thankful for my parents who brought me into this world and raised me. Happy birthday to me!