Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Reflection on Lent

Written by Sister Kristine Anne Harpenau, Prioress

Today we begin the Season of Lent, the liturgical season that is typically thought of as the “penitential” season of the Church year: the season of fasting and abstinence! And there is truth in this image of Lent! However, there is another image that I have of Lent: an image of Lent as the liturgical season of “inner growth.” I have a feeling that it is no accident that the Church has deliberately located Lent and Easter during the late winter and early spring -- during the time when farmers begin their preparation for spring planting.

Typically throughout the season of Lent, we see the farmers out in the fields on their tractors. . . plowing and preparing the fields to receive the seeds that soon will be planted. These seeds will sprout and grow over the next few months and eventually produce an abundant harvest---when the time is “right”! In some ways, this is what we Christians are called to during the season of Lent: we are called to prepare our hearts, to prepare the ground of our inner being and trust that the “seeds” we plant with our Lenten resolutions will break open, sprout and grow and over time will produce the fruits we long for.

Perhaps this is why the Church encourages us to “make” Lenten resolutions! However, the purpose is not just to “give up” something or to be penitential! Rather, the Church recognizes that it is helpful for all of us to stop periodically and assess our life, our behaviors and attitudes and figure out how we need and desire to grow. Our Lenten resolutions are a means to support the growth we long for. Our resolutions are NOT the end!!!

Think about the Lenten resolutions you have made and ask yourself: What is the growth YOU desire this Lent? How do you hope you will be different when Easter morning comes? We ALL need “practices” or “resolutions” that nurture the growth, the pattern of new life within us! Hopefully our Lenten resolutions are practices designed to support the growth and the new life we desire. Yet, for any seed to produce fruit, first of all, that seed has to be broken open!

In the same way, for US to grow usually something within us needs to be broken open! That’s one of the reasons we have Lenten resolutions! Our Lenten resolutions are not just something to do because it is Lent and because the Church asks us to make resolutions! Rather, these resolutions are meant to “break open” our hearts in a deeper way to God’s love, presence and action---so that new life can emerge.

Ask yourself:
What needs to be broken open in me?
Where is my heart hardened? Where is my heart fearful? Or guarded?
What do I hope that my Lenten resolutions will break open up in me?
What is the life I hope will be mine on Easter?

This “breaking open” of our hearts is what are Lenten resolutions are meant to do! Our Lenten resolutions are practices that hopefully will nurture new life and growth within us. They are not something to “do” because it is Lent and because it is what I’m “supposed to do.” If my Lenten resolutions have no real connection to my life, if they have no real inner meaning, on Easter Sunday I will NOT be any different than I am today!

It might help to think of the process of Lent as “a slow greening” of our hearts… just as the coming of spring is a “slow greening” of the earth. This is the way most growth and change takes place---slowly---a little bit at a time… but eventually producing new and often abundant life! However, desiring new life usually means we have to “die” a bit also: die to old habits, die to old patterns that undermine our health and happiness and inner freedom.

As we enter into Lent, perhaps we can let nature be our guide and mentor. Let us be attentive the coming of spring all around us. Let us be mindful of the slow greening of the earth that we soon will begin to see! Let us trust that as we strive “to keep” our Lenten resolutions, there will be a “slow greening” within us, a growth that is going on deep in our hearts. . .that will bring us into new life!

Let us pray for one another during this season of Lent! Let us pray that God will slowly “green” our hearts and gift us with new and abundant life! Let us trust and hope that we CAN AND WILL be a new creation on Easter morning! And finally as Saint Benedict says: Let us “look forward to Easter with joy and spiritual longing.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Mardi Gras!

Happy Mardi Gras! I hope this was a fun day for all of you. This morning I went to Saint Joseph Catholic School in Princeton, Indiana and talked about vocations with the 5th and 6th graders. They were very attentive and had a lot of great questions! Tonight we had a nice meal and cream puffs for dessert. We were all doned in our Mardi Gras beads and played a Mardi Gras game. No one found a baby in their cream puff though. Too bad!

Today is also the feast of Saint Walburga. She is a special Benedictine saint to us. Her actual feast is tomorrow but it was transferred to today because of tomorrow being Ash Wednesday. During Vespers this evening Sister Kristine Anne, our prioress and Sister Jane, our sub prioress, blessed us with Saint Walburga oil, asking her intercession for our wellness and healing. To learn more about her, click on her name.

I would also like to take this time to wish you many blessings on your Lenten journey. I pray it will be a blest time for you, a time of prayer and renewal. Let us all remember especially those who are preparing to enter the Catholic church this coming Easter.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A BIG Thank You!!!

The Sisters would like to extend a BIG thank you to all the volunteers who helped us today. About 25-30 people came this morning to help us clean up the downed limbs and branches which occurred as a result of a recent ice storm. Thanks to these wonderful volunteers we were able to clean up the campus in less than three hours! Thank you to those parishioners, Confirmation students and children from St. Ferdinand, St. Henry, Mary Help of Christians, and St. Meinrad parishes. We couldn't have done it without you!

Lenten JOY?

Today I had the pleasure of attending Sr. Karen Joseph's "Saturday at the Dome" program on St. Benedict and Lent. With Ash Wednesday coming up this week, it seemed an appropriate time to start getting ready for a new spiritual season. Some years Lent just kind of comes and goes, but this year I want to pay enough attention to let it be meaningful.

In his Rule, St. Benedict devotes one chapter to Lent: Chapter 49. (It's two paragraphs long. This is a bit shorter than the three rigorous chapters devoted to Lent in the Rule of the Master, one of St. Benedict's main sources for his rule.) Getting to the point, St. Benedict says that Lent is the time for us to get real, to "wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times." The whole idea of Lent is for us to get refocused on who we actually are called to be, to awake from spiritual torpor, and to get with it. I like a kick in the pants when I need it.

The thing that Sr. Karen really brought out, though, is that St. Benedict's vision of Lent is aimed toward JOY. (Did you know that the chapter on Lent is the only chapter of the Rule where St. Benedict mentions JOY? I didn't.) He says,

During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the JOY of the Holy Spirit. In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with JOY and SPIRITUAL LONGING (emphasis mine).

The point of compunction of heart and penitence is to leave behind what would keep us from fully connecting with God, for whom we all long. And the result when we leave behind those chains of lethargy or sin or half-heartedness? We will catapult with good zeal into the arms of God! That is indeed cause for joy!

Lent isn't just about a long dirge leading up to the crucifixion. We are EASTER people. The resurrection always trumps the crucifixion. The whole point of Christianity is that life wins out over death. Good triumphs over evil. With the Holy Spirit working through us, we also will win out over the forces of death and live with God. Wow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I just received this email and thought I'd share it with you. Enjoy!

Angels Explained by Children

I only know the names of two angels. Hark and Harold... Gregory, 5

Everybody's got it all wrong. Angels don't wear halos anymore. I forget why, but scientists are working on it. --Olive, 9

It's not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven, and then there's still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes. --Matthew, 9
Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something else. --Mitchell, 7

My guardian angel helps me with math, but he's not much good for science. --Henry, 8

Angels don't eat, but they drink milk from Holy Cows. --Jack, 6

Angels talk all the way while they're flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you got dead. --Daniel, 9

Love this one:
When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he lets out his breath, somewhere there's a tornado. --Reagan, 10

Angels have a lot to do and they keep very busy. If you lose a tooth, an angel comes in through your window and leaves money under your pillow. Then when it gets cold, angels go north for the winter. --Sara, 6

Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his son, who's a very good carpenter.--Jared, 8

All! angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn't go for it. --Antonio, 9

My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth. --Katelynn, 9

Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they don't make the animals get better, they help the child get over it. What I don't get about angels is why, when someone is in love, they shoot arrows at them

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wii Bowling

Yesterday afternoon I went over to our infirmary where our older sisters live. For activities that day, we played Wii Blowing. It was a lot of fun watching them. It was especially fun to watch the reaction on their faces when they hit a lot of pins. This is Sister Benita and Sister Agnes as they watches the results of Sister Benita's recently thrown ball. She got a strike! The camera would not work fast enough to capture the BIG smile on her face when she got it.

Happy Feast of Saint Scholastica

Today is the Feast of Saint Scholasatica. She was the twin sister of Saint Benedict. This is a special day for us here at our monastery. We believe that because of her close relationship with Benedict she had a big influence on Benedictine monastic life and how it was formed.

There is a wonderful story told about a time Benedict was visiting Scholastica at her monastery for his once a year visit. It was going on evening but Scholastica begged Benedict to continue visiting and praying with her but he said "no" because of the rules. Scholastica bowed her head in prayer and though the sky was clear, a big thunderstorm hit and forced Benedict and his brothers to stay there. Thus they were able to visit and pray through the night! Three days later as Benedict stood in his cell looking up to the sky he saw a dove rising to heaven and knew it was his twin sister's soul. He praised God for their extra long visit three days before.

Friday, February 6, 2009

God on Our Side

At school today, my fourth block class was wound up. With ten minutes left in the day, and a big basketball game tonight, they were not deeply concerned about studying for the test on the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching I will be giving them Tuesday.

"Are you going to the game, Sister?" they asked.
"Sorry, but I have to get back to the monastery tonight."
"You should bring all the nuns to the game! We could have a whole section of just nuns. Then we'd know we really have God on our side."

Hmm. Perhaps. When it comes to high school basketball, do you think God hears nuns' prayers more than those of the regular screaming fans? We ALL are the Church.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Back to a regular Schedule

It is great to be back on a regular schedule. We have been out of school the past 5 days. The first day was fun and relaxing, but then the power went off and then it got tiresome and long. I made it until Friday until a close friend of mine came and picked me up. I spent time at one of our other houses in Evansville that had power. It really showed me the love that we share for each other that she was willing to come all the way to Rockport to pick me up. We got our electricity back on Sunday. We were off school again on Monday. I haven't been this excited to be back at school for a long time. I really think my students were ready to come back, too. Last week we were supposed to have Catholic Schools Week, so this week will be the time to celebrate our wonderful Catholic School, which has now been extended to this week.

I am also getting to experience something for the first time tomorrow. We are adopting new Social Studies books next year and I am going with our principal to a conference that shows us different book companies. I have never been to one of these and I am looking forward to it. The only fall back is putting together sub plans for my classroom and we have to leave at 6:15 am. As you can hopefully tell, I really love to teach!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Saint Benedict 5 East Super Bowl Party

Last night the sisters in my deanery, Saint Benedict Hall 5 East, had a Super Bowl party. We were joined by a few sisters from other deaneries to watch the big game. Some were rooting for Arizona and others for Pittsburgh. I was for Pittsburgh because I lived there for seven years as a child. Once a Steelers fan, always a Steelers fan! It was an exciting game and a super fun party!

See Ben Rothlesberger getting ready to throw
a pass! Yeah, Steelers!!!

Sister Karen's family lives in Arizona so she was
rooting for them!

Of course we had to watch the 3-D preview.
We weren't very impressed!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hands Separately

For those of you who have ever taken piano lessons, has your teacher ever said, "Play hands separately." I used to think that would take twice as long, but in actuality it saves time in the long run.

I believe this is true in relationships as well. How can I expect to have a relationship with someone if I'm not healthy myself? I'm the right hand and someone else is the left hand. I need to work on my own issues first before coming together with someone else and forming a relationship.

In community, we work on taking care of ourselves holistically. We know that the healthier each individual is, the healthier the community will be. Just as in piano, if I work on my right hand separately and then my left, I'll then be able to bring the 2 together and play the intended melody. If each individual does what she needs to do to be healthy, we'll then be able to come together and make music. Our notes will be more accurate and our tempos and rhythms will be more in sync.