Monday, June 29, 2009

Home at the Monastery

I am here at the monastery for two weeks of service. I love spending time here. This week I am giving tours. Next week I am working in our nursing facility with out older sisters. The great thing about being home at the monastery is being with some of the sisters that I don't get to spend time with very often. I just spent a week with my family. That was a great time and I got to spend time with my nieces and nephews. But it was great just to be back here and be able to be at communal prayer and meals. That is something I really miss when I am not here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's Better to Give AND to Receive

If you've been to the monastery, you know it's a pretty big place. I used to not think twice about running here and then forgetting this and running back to get that. That is until I had knee surgery on Wednesday. Now I'm aware of conserving my trips as well as the most efficient routes to take. It's not as easy nor as quick as it used to be to get from Point A to Point B. I'm a very independent person, so this is certainly a lesson in humility and vulnerability. I'm usually the one doing and giving, so I've had to switch roles and be on the receiving end.

I have needed more help with everyday things that I didn't think twice about before. I know there are people who will help me if (and here's the tricky part) I get out of the way and let them. We often hear, "It's better to give than to receive." I had this quote embedded into the fibers of my being, so receiving becomes down right strange. Foreign.

Grace has to come in order to be able to give and receive. It is a grace to be able to give to others. It is also a grace to be able to receive, to be aware of our limitations and weaknesses, and to accept kindness and help from others.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Right on Target

I don't know where I first heard this story, but I thought about it today, so wanted to paraphrase and share it with you.

There was once a king who had great fame, fortune, and power. He was extremely talented and could do just about anything, except shoot a bow and arrow. This caused the king much distress because he thought he should be able to do everything and to do everything well. He summoned all those who were the best in archery and told them that the one who made him improve the most would receive half his kingdom.

Some came and helped him on his form. They taught him to stand a certain way and hold his bow and arrow just right. He improved, but not as much as he would have liked.

Others came and helped him with his aim. He learned about physics and how to aim given the direction and speed of the wind and the distance of the target. He continued to improve, but the king still wasn't satisfied.

Still others came and worked on his concentration and focus. If he could quiet himself, become one with the bow and arrow, he would improve. Once again, the king did improve, but still not as much as he would have liked. The king wanted to be perfect. After all, he was the king. He was looking for someone to help him hit the bullseye every single time.

He was just about to give up when one day, he was riding through the countryside. Everywhere he looked, there were targets painted on everything with the arrow in the exact center of the bullseye. Amazed, the king said, "Bring me the person who has shot these arrows. I must learn to do this also. If so, that person will receive half my kingdom." Word was sent out across the land. The king was dumbfounded when the person brought before him was a little girl.

"Young lady, did you shoot all these arrows?"
"Yes, your majesty."
"Well then, you must teach me at once. If I learn to shoot arrows just like you, you will receive half my kingdom."

The little girl wasted no time. She taught the king how she clears her mind and concentrates. She stands up nice and tall, pulls the arrow back, and then let's go. "Wait!" the king interrupted. "There's no target. Where do you aim?"
"Oh," said the little girl. "I don't paint the target until after I've shot the arrow."

The king laughed. He learned his lesson about trying to do everything and being perfect. He gave half his kingdom to the little girl.

The king thought he should be good at everything, including archery, because after all, he was the king. Do you ever hear yourself or others say, "I should be good at this job already because I've been at it x number of years." "I should be better at my prayer life because I go to church and have read lots of spiritual books." "I should know the direction of my life because I'm xx years old."

What are the "shoulds" we tell ourselves? What are the reasons we give for these "shoulds?"

How about "I should be easy on myself and love myself just as God loves me."
God loves us just because. No reason necessary.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What a GREAT Week!

This week we held our 9th annual Camp Marian! Actually this camp began in 1995 at Mount Saint Francis in Floyd Knobs, Indiana but in 2000 it moved to our monastery grounds and has been "put on" by our sisters ever since. Because of the popularity of the camp, beginning last year we started having two camps, so more girls could attend.

Monday through Wednesday, 12 high school counselors and 42 fifth and sixth graders camped in tents, played lots of games, sang, prayed and had many other fun adventures. Then after a short break with just the six counselors who stayed, two college counselors joined them and 26 seventh and eighth graders for more fun from Thursday through Saturday (today!).

It rained, it stormed, it was HOT, it was beautiful, it was clear, it was cool... you name it and we had it weather wise. Yet, all had a great time anyway! New friends were made. Lessons were learned. Lives were shared.

If you would like to see pictures from the camps, see the slide show to the right. If you click on it you can see a bigger version of the album. Enjoy! We sure did!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life's Instruction Manual

Don't forget Sunday is Father's Day. If you no longer have a father, is there someone who is a father figure to you now?

No one gets a "how to" book when becoming a parent. I guess there are probably books and classes that someone could take or groups new parents could join, but for the most part it's trial by fire. There aren't instruction books for any part of life really. At least not the instruction books I would like to see sometimes that have everything spelled out in nice, easy to follow steps - like instructions for making a cake or building a deck. Unfortunately, we don't have things written out for us. Our instructions would have to come from God through prayer. God may give us these instructions for life in all kinds of ways - through a friend, something we read, our feelings, a dream we have, or any other way God wants to speak to us.

I know some of us desire lightening bolt messages that tell us which decisions to make in difficult situations. I don't know if God speaks in lightening bolts, but God does speak in a variety of other ways if we open our minds and hearts.

Life is a "live and learn as you go" kind of thing. As one of our sisters would say, "We do the best we can with what we have where we are." We learn as we go, and hopefully get better along the way. Certainly we all make mistakes (a.k.a. learning opportunities). We all do the best we can though and have to trust that everyone else is also doing the best they can with what they have where they are.

The Bible - Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth - is our "how to" manual.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rise and Shine

I am not a morning person. I've tried to be, but I've never made it; nor do I think I ever will. In high school, I'd wake up so grumpy! Everyone in my family knew to watch out. I had getting ready for school down to a science, and no one had better get in my way.

I woke up every morning at 7:32. I spent 3 minutes banging on the door for my brother to get out of the bathroom, 2 minutes getting ready (getting dressed, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth), 6 minutes looking for my shoes and matching socks, 3 minutes looking for my math book, and 4 minutes eating breakfast. Ta Da! I was then ready to leave at 7:50. Granted, sometimes that meant going out to the car with my shoes and socks in my hands.

In monastic life, we want to spend our best time of the day in 45 minutes to an hour in personal prayer. I entered the community and heard the sisters talk about how wonderful the mornings are. According to some, it is a time when everything is still and the sun is just coming up. Everything is quiet and peaceful. (I had to take their word for it because of my limited knowledge of mornings.) It sounded ideal, so I tried on two different occasions to give my mornings to God in personal prayer. I tried it each time for a little over a week. Guess what? I became the grumpiest person ever! I didn't even want to be around me!

Mornings sound good, but they're not for me. At least they're not my best time to give to God in personal prayer. I'm definitely a night owl, and that's OK. We're certainly not all the same here at the monastery.

It may sound a little crazy, but my favorite time of day is 8:07. I love that time. I love when I look at the clock and see 8:07 whether it's in the morning or evening. I always say a prayer of thanks for I am reminded that God is with me. 807 is my parents' address. The numbers take me back to when I grew up at 807 State Street.

I remember when I was going to meet the vocation director for a behavioral assessment test (one of the pre-requisites for entering). I was to meet her in St. Louis for the evaluation. When I got in my car, I looked at the time. You guessed it. It was 8:07. I knew beyond a doubt that God was with me. I was thankful for God's presence and for my upbringing.

There's room for a lot of variety in monastic life. I'm a night owl and have become good friends with other night owls. I may give mornings another try down the road, but right now I know they're not really for me. I do know that I've grown in this way of life. I'm no longer as grumpy as I once was upon waking up and I have an easier time finding my shoes.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I am enjoying my time here at Ferdinand. This week I am busy helping with cookie making. We are making Springerle cookies. This is a German press cookie. I have been helping with these since I was a postulant(the first step to becoming a sister). Monday we made 189 dozen, Tuesday we made 172 dozen, and Wednesday we made 115 dozen. That is alot of cookies. We then sell these cookies in the gift shop. You can visit our website and check out the gift shop. It is great fun, but a lot of work. I am also working on getting ready for a Junior High Camps next week. Pray for good weather.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Proud As a Peacock!

I am totally proud as a peacock! My sister, Cathie was one of only 26 students nationwide to receive a Gold ADDY award! There are over 60,000 entries annually for the ADDY Awards and it is the world's largest and probably the toughest advertising competition there is. The ADDY Awards are meant to represent the true spirit of creative excellence and they recognize all forms of advertising from media of all types, creative by all sizes and entrants of all levels from anywhere in the world.

Cathie went back to school after 12 years of working as an administrator of a Franciscan retreat center and graduated this spring with a degree in graphic design. During her schooling she received several local awards. I was proud enough of her for all of that BUT now she has received national recognition for her work! As I hope you can tell from my post, I am extremely proud of my sister.

Check out her blog which features her work:
The Lost book is the project for which she received the Gold ADDY.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Brothers and Sisters

Today I had the joy of participating in the ordination liturgy of a dear friend who is a monk at St. Meinrad Archabbey, our neighboring men's community of Benedictines. Back before either of us knew each other or entered monastic life, we both went to the same morning mass in Chicago. Imagine our surprise when at our first gathering of St. Meinrad's monks and our sisters in formation, we recognized each other as morning mass buddies who had exchanged the the sign of peace! We've been good friends ever since.

From the beginning of the Benedictine order, both women and men have followed the Rule of St. Benedict, bonding us together as brothers and sisters. Traditionally, St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica, were twins. Benedict founded his monastery of men, and Scholastica hers of women. From The Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great we have a charming story of the last time the two met. Check out our own Sr. Gregory Ems's painting of this visit, and read the story here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Beautiful Days of Summer......School?

These are beautiful days of early summer with cool mornings and beautiful sunshine! For me though these are the beautiful days of summer school! No, I'm not being facetious. I'm being serious. Summer school is intense, yes, but I enjoy my classes and I am learning so much about what it means to be a good teacher in today's classroom. I am a full time student right now at USI. I plan to student teach in the Fall of 2011. I am very blessed with the opportunity to go to school right now and further my education-especially at this time in my life!

Though I am busily studying most every free moment I have, I am also enjoying the days of summer seeing friends once in a while and loving the early morning birds and sunshine in my back yard. I live in a house with two of our sisters on the north side of Evansville, Indiana-we have a beautiful home and lush yard that we enjoy every night as we have supper together.

God is so good! I will get to enjoy about six weeks off from school from the end of July to the first of September so I am looking forward to spending time at home at the monastery and vacationing with a friend on Lake Michigan. Until then, I soak up the sun here at home while I read, pray, and study.....

Holy Cow!

This has been the view out my window today! All day these men have been building the scaffolding so as to begin repairs on the church roof. During the winter ice storm we had a lot of damage to our tile roof. Many of the tiles were broken when the ice melted and fell from above. I will try to post more pictures as they begin the repairs.

Summer is Here!

I just unloaded my car with lots of stuff that I will need at the monastery for the next couple of weeks. I just finished with things at school this morning, and it is so nice to come home! I love being at the monastery and spending some relaxing time here. It has been so nice this past week to reflect on my year and think about all the amazing things that have happened. The students seem so ready for the next step in their journey. I love seeing them so alive with their faith! I was asked this week to be a part of a 5-K committee to help raise funds for the Coalition for the Homeless. I am very excited about that! I go into retreat tonight and am looking forward to some time with just me and God! Blessings!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spiritual Reading

Well, talk about things being up in the air and turned every which-a-way. I thought surgery was going to be on June 3. Then I thought it'd be on June 10. Now, it's going to be on June 24. It's been a lot of waiting. I'm now reading When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. It seems an appropriate book at this time. I've read and enjoyed some of her other books - God's Joyful Surprise, The Mermaid Chair, and The Secret Life of Bees.

I believe the best spiritual book I've read is Inner Compass by Margaret Silf. I'm a visual person, and this book is filled with tons of images relating to the spiritual journey. One of my favorite images Silf uses is that of "inner furniture." If someone says something that is upsetting, it's as if they have bumped into our inner furniture. The same thing said to someone else may not have any effect on that person because their inner furniture is arranged differently based on their priorities, history and life experiences. The idea is to be aware of our inner furniture and rearrange it if necessary, so that the next time it gets bumped, it won't have a devastating effect on us.

The whole book is filled with down-to-earth, real life stuff. The author makes herself very vulnerable, sharing on a very personal level. It is scriptural based throughout, and every chapter ends with "Suggestions for Prayer and Reflection." This is a book that I plan to read often. I find it so rich that it requires a slow reading.

If you enjoy images or are looking for a good spiritual book, I recommend Inner Compass. As for recommending When the Heart Waits, well, I only just started it, so I'll have to wait and see. Given her other books and what I've read so far in the preface, I'd say I'm off to a good start.

Home for the Summer

I have come to Ferdinand for the summer. I really enjoy coming home for the summer. It helps me to connect with others that I don't normally see during the school year. I also enjoy helping out where is needed. When we have 10 month jobs we come home and do two weeks of service. That includes tours, haircare, housekeeping, switchboard, or whatever needs to be covered. I feel like this is a way that I can give back to the community.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This Old Man . . .

. . . he played 3. He played knick knack on my knee!

I've been hanging out at the house with a bum knee. Has anyone had knee surgery out there? This will be #3 for me.

My first was in 1995. I was a freshman in college and had total knee reconstruction. I was in so much pain before and after surgery that I would have gladly agreed to an amputation. I would have even done it myself. It was excruciating. A 4 or 5 hour surgery that involved wire, a bar, a screw, some stitches. I went through 6 months of therapy, going 2 or sometimes 3 times a week and staying on average about 1 1/2 hours. Plus, I did daily exercises and had a machine that I used twice daily to build up the muscles.

Truthfully, even though I was in severe pain, I was very much aware of God's presence. Many rallied around and helped me out. I saw God wherever I went. My friend next door to me in the dorm came over and helped me with exercises. One simple exercise involved simply sitting down on the floor with my legs stretched out in front of me. All I had to do was lean back on my elbows and lift my leg. It sounds easy enough; however, I had no leg muscles. They were destroyed, and I needed to build them back up. I would try to lift my leg, but nothing would move. My friend would come over, place her hand under my foot, and help me lift my leg. I needed help with everything - getting food, doing laundry. You name it, I needed help with it.

That time in my life really showed me my vulnerability, my need for others, and the concern and support that was all around me if I simply stated my needs. Stating needs isn't always so easy when you try and want to do things on your own. However, that time in my life really showed me my need for others. It also showed me how much others are willing to help.

That was my first surgery. I had surgery again in 1998 to repair some of the stitching that had come undone. When I had that surgery, the doctor removed all the hardware in my knee. That surgery wasn't so bad. I honestly don't remember much about it. I remember being on crutches, but the pain wasn't as bad, nor was the surgery or recovery very long.

Now in 2009, I'm having knee surgery once again. I'm really not trying for a record here, I just apparently have bad knees. This time it's on my left knee - my so called "good knee." What I'll remember about this surgery is having to wait so long and that all my plans have been messed up. You know, they say a good way to make God laugh is to tell God your plans. This has been a lesson in patience and waiting. In going with the flow and being at peace (at least trying to be at peace) with having everything up in the air. A lesson in not being in control and relying on other people.

I guess there are lessons in everything if we're open to see them. It reminds me of that prayer that says something like, I asked God for patience and I received situations where I needed to be patient. Something like that. Unfortunately, it seems we don't always have life's lessons just handed to us. We have to work at it.

Praise God we're not alone. Blessings to all you bad knee people.