Monday, July 25, 2011

Federation Chapter ‘Expands Our View of the Benedictine World’

The 24th Chapter of the Federation of St. Gertrude (June 30 to July 6) brought 54 sisters to Ferdinand from 15 monasteries in the U.S. and Canada. The Chapter marked the beginning of the observance of the Federation’s 75th anniversary, which will take place in April 2012. Each monastery received a binder that included copies of historical documents and submissions from the member monasteries.

“One of the gifts of hosting the Federation Chapter was the opportunity for our community members to participate in parts of the Chapter,” said our prioress, Sister Kristine Anne Harpenau. They were able to attend some of the talks and receive some “food for thought.”

Sister Celeste Boda was one of the Ferdinand sisters who took advantage of the opportunity. She called it “invaluable” to be able to “interact with so many sisters from so many Benedictine houses. It expands our view of the Benedictine world. We see the gifts that each community brings. There’s different input from different perspectives. Large communities may see it one way, small communities may see it completely different. Yet we’re all speaking from a Benedictine framework.”

Sister Kristine Anne had a similar observation. “Realizing that in essence the Benedictine charism and life is the same, no matter where it’s lived, is really strengthening. There’s that sense that we’re not alone in this, that we are together on this journey.”

Our own Sister Joella Kidwell is president of the Federation of St. Gertrude. Delegates representing Monastery Immaculate Conception at the Chapter were Sister Kristine Anne, Sister Jane Will, subprioress, and Sister Jean Marie Ballard, treasurer. Other community members who took part were Sister Mary Carol Kinghorn, secretary for the Chapter; Sister Jane Becker, presenter; Sister Maria Tasto, facilitator; Sister Kathryn Huber, former president of the Federation; and Sister Mary Dominic Frederick, chair of the 75th Anniversary Committee.

Top photo: Those attending the 2011 Chapter of the Federation of St. Gertrude gathered Sunday morning on the monastery steps for an “official” photo.

Above: The Federation President and Council. Council members were elected during the Chapter. Front row: Sister Barbara Rinehart, House of Bread Monastery, Nanaimo, British Columbia; Sister Myra Schmeig, Mount St. Benedict Monastery, Crookston, Minnesota. Middle row: Sister Maria Goretti DeAngeli, St. Scholastica Monastery, Fort Smith, Arkansas; Sister Jacquelyn Ernster, first councilor, Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton, South Dakota. Back row: Sister Joella Kidwell, Federation president, Monastery Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand; Sister Jill West, Sacred Heart Monastery, Richardton, North Dakota.

Right: Sister Penny Bingham (Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton, South Dakota), Sister Lynn Osika (Mother of God Monastery, Watertown, South Dakota), and Sister Mary Dominic Frederick (Monastery Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand) review publications produced by the Federation over the years. Sister Mary Dominic chaired the 75th Anniversary Committee, which provided each monastery with a binder documenting the history of the Federation and its members.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Benedictines: Liturgical Powerhouse for a Liturgical Transition

This past week a number of our sisters who are musicians attended the National Pastoral Musicians convention in Louisville. A major theme of the week was the role of musicians in preparing parishes for the new English translation of the Roman missal, to be implemented starting this coming Advent. As many of you probably know, the new translation of the mass is richer Scripturally, and is closer to the Latin base text produced by Rome. As many countries use the English translation as well as the Latin to get a meaningful version of their own, it is important that our words actually capture the meaning intended by the Church. Lex orandi, lex credendi is our traditional saying that we pray what we believe. We need to make sure we're getting the words right.

Of course new words mean new music. Composers have been hard at work writing new masses, and at this point it's anyone's guess as to which one will be the next "Mass of Creation," the one that everyone knows. The directives coming with the new translation also call for common knowledge of particular chant versions of the mass. Both presiders and the congregration will be chanting more of their parts at mass. Benedictines, as major keepers of chant, have written most of these new chants in the missal. At the the NPM conference, the meetings on chant were packed. Frs. Anthony Ruff and Columba Stewart were teaching and sharing their new work, as well as former Benedictine Charles Thatcher and oblate Paul Ford. People want to know how to do chant well, and they want to know how to introduce it in their parishes so that people will find chant engaging and beautiful, not slow and ponderous. Done well, it can actually flow more quickly than some traditional musical settings.

Benedictines also are physically producing the new translation of the missal. Liturgical Press, a work of the monks of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, is producing an edition of the hefty tome, along with various worship aids that will help the average parishioner follow along in the first days of the new translation. Their missal also features the artwork of Br. Martin Erspamer, a monk from St. Meinrad.

Our sisters will be on the front lines as music ministers in parishes and schools, helping to prepare people for this transition in Catholic liturgical life. Keep your eyes and ears open over the coming months. November 27 will be here before you know it!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Brothers and Sisters

When I entered the monastery eight years ago, I looked forward to gaining a bunch of new sisters. Little did I realize that I also would be gaining a whole set of new brothers, too! Our monastery is about five miles from St. Meinrad Archabbey and School of Theology, and the lives of our sisters are intertwined with the lives of the monks there. Not only are the monks our chaplains, but as new sisters, we take formation classes at the school alongside the monks and seminarians. We often collaborate in parish and retreat work, and occasionally work together on musical endeavors.

This past week, we jointly hosted the Monastic Worship Forum, a conference for Benedictine men and women across the U.S. involved in liturgy and music. While attending some of the talks at the archabbey, I had a chance to catch up with some monks with whom I've worked and studied. A few of our sisters joined some monks in recording some new chants to be used when the new translation of the Roman Missal goes into effect. A monk friend and I put in some practice time on some music for violin and cello. Yesterday several of us joined them in singing a special song at mass as they celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Einsiedeln, St. Meinrad's patroness.

From the beginning of the order, St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica both shared in the work of helping people seek God in the everyday stuff of life. How blessed we are to share in Benedictine life as sisters and brothers today!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Love Will Set Us Free

If I think of the things that bother me, maybe someone's negative comment, an inconsiderate act, worry, difficulty, family situations, or things going on in our world, it's like adding links to a chain. This chain gets heavier, wraps itself around me, and weighs me down. What if, one by one, I broke the links to that chain by sending out love?

That cruel comment. It doesn't do any good to hold on to that. Whoever said it has issues of his/her own. That person spoke out of his/her own pain and insecurities. What if I acknowledge it for what it's worth - a cruel comment and then pray for that person, sending out love and peace?

The same goes for any inconsiderate act or situation to which I have no control. I can control, however, how I respond. What good does it do to respond with hatred? I'm just adding more hatred to the world - the very thing we don't need. What if, instead, I respond with love? What a difference that will make in my own being, in the situation, and in how I relate to the other people involved.

Instead of letting things or people or comments or situations weigh us down, as if adding links to a chain, let us respond with love.

Take a look at Romans 12:9-21 on mutual love.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Risk Being Heard

I remember the first time I started playing the organ for prayer and Mass. Someone made the comment afterward, "You did well, but you can be a bit louder." I responded, "But people will hear me!"

As soon as I said it, I realized how ridiculous it sounded. Being heard, obviously, was the point, but I was brand new and very unconfident. At this point, I probably wasn't even playing the pedals even though I would still put on my organ shoes. Eventually, I did gain enough confidence to get louder and also get my feet moving.

I do find this incident to relate to life - the fear of being exposed, of being too vulnerable, wanting to hide and not let certain aspects of who we are and what we do not be seen or heard.

I was afraid of being heard when I played the organ. No doubt I was afraid of making mistakes. Fortunately I've made lots of mistakes, so I had to conquer my fear by facing it head on. I've been there, done that. And, you know what? I survived! The world didn't come to an end. I'm accepted regardless and am encouraged to continue.

It is difficult to be exposed, to be vulnerable, to take risks. The community certainly does hear me when I play. There's nothing I can do about that. I could have let fear and worry control me, but like everything else in life, I had to begin with the first step.

Is there something you've been hiding or keeping secret, hoping others won't find out? Why is this? Pray about it. What's keeping you from being who you are? What's keeping you from trying new things and letting others know? Nothing, of course, is hidden from God. Just look at Psalm 139.

Nothing is hidden from God, who created us, knows us, and loves us unconditionally.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

I've been meaning to post this ever since June 25 - the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. You can see how crazy things get here at the monastery. I'm working hard on my "to do" list since I start retreat on Friday.

Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Here at the monastery, we have the opportunity for daily Eucharist and receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass. We are called to become the Body and Blood of Christ. We are called to be broken, poured out, and given to others. We are called to be Christ for one another. We prepare ourselves by feasting on God’s Word, partaking in the Eucharist, and becoming more of the person we are called to be, but so much of our life is spent comparing ourselves to others. This, unfortunately, begins at an early age.

Children today seem to be dealing with certain issues at earlier ages. What was once considered in the past to be more of an adolescent issue may now be experienced in the primary or intermediate grades. “They’re only in 2nd grade,” or “They’re only in 5th grade,” are common remarks that I hear in the faculty room as teachers talk about negative peer pressure and concerns regarding low self-esteem.

There’s no doubt that children have it rough. We can place the blame lots of places. Families do the best they can, but many children do not come from very stable homes. Models in magazines and on TV keep getting skinnier. Advertising wants us to see our flaws so that we have a need for their product. Whatever the excuses we come up with, the truth is that we often do not see the beauty within ourselves, and consequently, compare ourselves to others. Comparison can lead to feelings of failure, low self-esteem, low self confidence, or defensive behaviors such as jealousy and judgment of others. We may spend our time trying to be like someone else rather than the person we are called to be.

It is easy to lose sight of our beauty. To lose sight of who we are and who we are called to be. We may obsess over our weight, our social or professional status, our inabilities, or our appearance, but do we know who we are? We are the Body and Blood of Christ. We are God’s creation.
Before coming to the monastery, I worked with children who were mentally challenged. Someone once asked me, “Why do you want to do that? With all your work and effort, you won’t have much to show for it.” If I look at the progress of each child, that person was right. With all my work and effort, there really was not much visible progress.

I spent days, if not weeks, trying to get one child with autism to simply wave and say the word “Mama.” I kept going for the mom’s sake. I taught another child how to respond to simple questions, such as “What is you name?” and “How old are you?”

It was challenging and the progress was often slow or unnoticeable. The knowledge I gained, however, was invaluable. Here was the Body of Christ. Pure, without need for comparison, without any concept of low self-esteem.

I worked with another child who had Down’s syndrome. Was she aware of what she could not do? Possibly. Did she belittle herself or others because of her lack of ability. Not to my knowledge or observation. She was the person she was called to be. She seemed to love others wholeheartedly and delighted in simple pleasures. She honored God by using her gifts to the best of her ability. Here was the Body of Christ for others.

I remember one summer, absorbed in trying to map out the rest of my life. I was worried about finances and which college classes to take. A hundred things were spinning around in my head. At the time, I was working at a camp with an adult who was mentally and physically challenged. The camp was coming to a close, so I asked him, “What are your plans for the future?” “Well,” he said, “I guess I’ll go home and make a sandwich. Then I may take a nap.” My mind was swimming with the 100 things necessary for the months and years yet to come. He simply delighted in the here and now. Here was the Body of Christ. Pure, simple, living in the now.
The progress I made when I worked with those who were mentally challenged may not have been earth shattering or even noticeable. The knowledge I gained, however, moved mountains.

Be present to the moment.

Be who you are called to be. Without comparing. Without belittling yourself or others.

This, I believe, is how we can truly celebrate this feast – the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The feast where we recognize the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, in our brothers and sisters, and in ourselves.

Don’t we know who we are? We are the Body and Blood of Christ. We are broken, poured out, and given to others.