Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Birthday Surprise

I'm a people person. I like to be around people and get to know them, but I also have a belief that if the people at McDonald's know you by name, you probably go there too often. One summer in college, I worked at McDonald's. I usually didn't know the people by name, but often the same people would come in, so I knew them by order. As they walked in, we'd get their regular order ready for them. Rarely did it change. We're creatures of habit.

Today, I stopped off at McDonald's for breakfast to celebrate my birthday. The lady who took my order was so nice. Extremely friendly. She's the type of person who you'd want to stop by and order from, regardless if you're hungry or not. I told her it was my birthday. She then started singing to me like someone on American Idol. It was hilarious. She now knows me by name, rather than "a sausage biscuit and Diet Coke."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Community Days at the monastery

July 27-30
Every July, all of us sisters come together for our summer Community Days at the monastery. We pack a lot into those four days - community business and updates, ongoing formation presentations, "open forum," strategic planning and review of goals, prayer and rituals, and fun activities, especially our Familien Fest. Our time together concludes with our "missioning" ritual followed by Mass and dinner. During the missioning ceremony, each sister receives a blessing from the prioress and a commission to go forth to serve in ministry. This year we were privileged to have Bishop Charles C. Thompson, newly ordained bishop of our diocese, to preside at Mass on the last day of our community gathering. (Sister Paulette Seng)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Welcome, Postulant Beth!

Today our community officially received Beth Fritsch into our monastery as a postulant. The simple ritual of Beth's reception into the monastery began in the cloister hall at the entrance doorway as Sister Kristine Anne Harpenau, our prioress, invited her to enter the monastery. After being called forth into the gathering of the community, Beth listened as Sister Michelle Catherine Sinkhorn read from the Rule of St. Benedict about receiving postulants into the monastery. Sister Kristine Anne then placed a medal of St. Benedict on Beth and presented to her a Liturgy of the Hours Book and an apron, representing prayer and work, key elements of our Benedictine life. We warmly accept Beth into our community life and pledge our love and support. (Sister Paulette Seng)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Do Not Be Unbelieving, But Believe

I've been meaning to post this for some time, but never got around to it. This is a reflection on the Gospel about Thomas. Hope you enjoy.

There’s something special about being a twin. There’s a bond that’s hard to describe, but understood, I believe, only if you’re a twin. When my brother and I were younger, we were best friends. We shared the same experiences at the same time. Now, along with this close relationship came difficulties. For starters, we shared the same experiences at the same time. Although this could be nice, it also led to people comparing us. We were known as “The Twins.” We were so much a pair that I would often unknowingly answer in the plural even when I was the only person around. Once in kindergarten, the teacher asked me to move to a different desk, so my brother decided to move with me. He thought he was supposed to.

We were a pair, but as we grew older, we wanted to be treated more as individuals. This is something you really have to work hard at if you’re a twin. I read somewhere that maybe this was why Thomas was away at the time. Did you ever wonder why the other disciples had locked themselves in a room, but Thomas was out and about? Was he the bravest one? Maybe Thomas was trying to sow his wild twin oats. Maybe he needed to get away where he could be thought of as an individual and not as “the twin.”

Regardless of why Thomas was away, I do know for a fact that all of his descendants ended up in MO. Thomas said, “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands and put my fingers into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Sounds like a true Missourian to me. His descendants had to have ended up in MO, which is known as “The Show Me State.”

In fact, since having twins runs in families and since Thomas’ descendants ended up in MO, and since I’m a twin and I’m from MO, that must make him my great, great, add a few more greats, uncle or grandpa.

I certainly can relate to his disbelief and wonder if I can blame that on genetics. Many times, I do blame it on my MO heritage, but Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

I’ve been reading a lot lately about living in the present moment. I’ve either been reading more about it or I’ve been in the present moment enough to be more aware of reading more about being in the present moment. The idea is that when one feels fear, like the disciples who had locked themselves away, or worry or regret or in Thomas’ case, doubt, to take a deep breath and focus on the present moment. Somehow we’ve lost our focus on God by worrying about the future or brooding about the past. God, as we know, is a God of the present. In the present is where we meet God, not in the future with all its worries and uncertainties, not in the past with its mistakes and regrets, but here in the present.

I know what you may be thinking, “I’ve heard this before. Easier said than done.” We’re called to not just hear it or to think it, but to live this way – to live focused on the present moment. The disciples, however, were wrapped up in their own fear and had taken their eyes off God.

Jesus came, breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In Genesis, God breathed life into Adam. From God’s breath, we were created and given life. Can it be that when Jesus breathed on them, he was giving them not only the Holy Spirit, but also new life - new life to see things in a new way. New life filled with peace and the ability to forgive sins.

This sounds wonderful. It sounds reassuring. They’ve seen the Risen Lord. He’s brought them peace and has breathed new life into them. That should be enough to get them going. Why is it a week later they are still in a locked room?

Does this remind some of you of your teaching days? You tell your students something and a week later, it’s as if it never happened. Or you come back from spring break, and it seems like it’s the first day of school again as the students get reaccustomed to the rules and routines.
Learning something new or living in a new way takes time and repetition. It takes falling and getting back up. The disciples didn’t get it the first time. We certainly don’t get it the first time. One thing I enjoyed learning when I came here is that it’s a lifelong journey. Thank goodness. Learning that certainly took a lot of pressure off.

Thankfully, we are all on this journey together. It takes daily prayer and lectio. It takes reading and living the Rule. It takes faithfulness to spiritual direction and yearly retreats.

Over time, we grow and change. Some of the changes in our lives are drastic, but many occur slowly over time like the way the rough edges of a rock are worn away from constant and steady drops of water.

We may not get it the first time, but our God is a patient God who keeps coming back even when the doors are locked. We’ll still have our doubts from time to time. We’ll still come up with excuses, like blaming things on genetics, our environment, our personal background, or in my case, my MO heritage, my being a twin, or my being a descendant of Thomas, but how fully are we living in the present moment? How fully are we believing and trusting in God?

Jesus comes in our midst and reassures us, “Peace be with you.” He is always present, breathing new life into us. Jesus tells all of us, even those of us from MO, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Positive Side of Loss

I recently went home to MO to visit my mom. During the trip, I listened to Robert Wick's Riding the Dragon. The book is full of great wisdom. One thing he talked about was how we look at loss and change.

Wicks was telling the story of members of a L'Arch community, a community for the mentally challenged. The founder, Jean Vanier, asked the members what the most challenging aspect of being in the community was for them. One member commented on the sense of deep loss. She went on to say that they get to know each other and become a family, but over time members of the group, either the employees or the residents, leave. Vanier acknowledged that as being a difficult part of living in community, but then challenged them to look at it in a different light.

Those who were leaving, he said, were leaving as new people, having been formed and transformed by their involvement with the other members in the community. In a sense, those who were staying were forming each other. Those who were leaving were able to take all that they had learned from the others and use it in their new ministries and environments.

I've heard that same philosophy spoken here as women leave the community. Just because a woman comes to the monastery does not mean she is stuck here. It's a discernment process. It took me 7 years before making perpetual vows. Over time, I've seen people come and go. These women were open to following God, gave monastic life a try, and then realized it wasn't the right fit. It wasn't where God was calling them to make a lifetime commitment, but it was where they felt called temporarily. It was where they received formation, grew in their spiritual journey, remained open to God's call, heard God calling them to something else, and then felt free enough to leave.

I believe leaving is difficult for those who are leaving as well as for those who are being left. It shows that we cannot hold on to anything too tightly. We can, however, be grateful for the time that we have with each other, acknowledge what we have gained in the process, and then use that knowledge in other areas, with other people.