Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Retreat Report

A Good Retreat is a Gift from God

Some would ask, as my mother often does, "Why would a contemplative nun have to leave her monastery for a long retreat?" Some might even ask why a lay person would choose to do such a thing when they could just take some vacation time and remain in the comfort of their home. To remain at the monastery or to stay in ones home will work but only with a healthy dose of self-discipline and focus. But the call to retreat, especially to one longer than a couple of days or a weekend, is a call to re-awaken, to renew, to dismantle the false self under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to allow our loving God to bring you back together again both in your complexity as an individual and in your relationship with God. Getting away from the familiar, the usual stimuli and distractions, the social element is necessary for the process of abandonment of self to the work God intends to do in this graced time apart.

My recent eight days of retreat with daily spiritual direction at Linwood Spiritual Center, Rhinebeck, New York was just that kind of experience. The page below, my version of an illuminated manuscript, is a reflection of my meditation during those days. In the background behind the four scripture quotes at the bottom appears my effort at reproducing the spectacular view of the Hudson River from Linwood's beautiful grounds. 
The days leading up to my retreat had been filled with challenges- physical, mental, spiritual and relational. The time apart was perfect antidote as opportunity to just sit with God, to allow the Divine Son and the warmth of the sun above to heal and also opportunity to closely contemplate the wonder of God in every aspect of the environment. I thank God for that preparation for this Holy Week. As he did with the the daugther of Jairus, Jesus took me by the hand, bid me arise, and my spirit returned. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

History of Holy Week Liturgy

Peek into an Earlier Time


Have you ever wondered how the elaborate and very moving liturgies of Holy Week developed? The National Catholic Reporter publishes Father Richard  McBrien's  fine theological essays and opinion pieces. Here is the link to his latest in which he describes what scholars can tell us about early celebrations of these holy days and how liturgical practices haved developed overtime.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Entering Holy Week

Holy Week: A Sacred Season

Many years ago, in a pre-Vatican II Brooklyn parish Church, I was introduced to fine details and inner workings of Holy Week Liturgy. I was an 8th grade public school girl enamored with her CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) teacher, Sr. Mary Corita, CSJ. That year Sister decided to invite public school students to join her parish school students and participate in the children's choir which would accompany all of the liturgies of Holy Week with the traditional Latin responses set to Gregorian Chant. I was in awe of her and in awe of the privileged invitation. It was hard work to learn all of the Latin pronunciation and the tones. But I still rmember them and treasure the little book we used with all my chilidishly written pencil margin notes reminding me to go up here and down there.

That experience was a catechetical vehicle for me - creating a sudden explosion of understanding for what seemed arcane and incomprehensible rituals. Why a Eucharistic procession at Holy Thursday Mass? Why the tradition of visiting Churches on Holy Thursday. Why no consecration at Good Friday Liturgy? Why the darkness on Easter eve and the difficult way of creating a fire? Why did the priest plunge that big candle into a huge contatiner of water at Easter Vigil Mass? AND, of course, what did all those Latin prayers mean? By my participation in that choir all the questions were answered and I was invited forever into the mystery and mystical nature of the Easter Triduum.

Today, in the intimacy of the monastic setting that invitation and level of participation is repeated. Many go to monasteries for just that experience. Here is our schedule for this week should you wish to join us.

Holy Thursday - 7pm Liturgy
Adoration at the Altar of Reposition until 12 midnight
Good Friday Liturgy - 3pm
Easter Vigil Mass - 8pm
Easter Sunday Morning Mass - 11am

We will be blessed by the presence of three Redemptorist priests during the Triduum: Fr. Thomas Deely, assisgned to Mt. St. Alphonsus Retreat Center here in Esopus, Fr. Ronald Bonneau and Fr. James Gillmore who share a special mission for Hispanic Catholics in the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ.

The door at our Chapel entrance will be open well in advance of each liturgy. We welcome all who may care to join us. Let us be united in contemplation of the Paschal Mystery

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"Friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship. When other friendships have been forgot, ours will still be hot." Cole Porter, "Anything Goes"

The lyrics above come from 1930s Broadway musical. I thought of them while searching for a photo to accompany the homily shared here. I am not trying to be flip about Holy Scripture. This morning, Fr. Thomas Travers, CSsR gifted us with a touching and pointed reflection, the fruit of his meditation on today's Gospel, Matt. 20:17-28. He titled it "Listening." Listening is a mark of friendship; it generates the "blendship", and keeps it "hot". How are we listening to those we would call our friends, to those with whom we try to make community, to make family? And how are we listening to Jesus as he speaks to us each day?
Sr. Maria Celeste and Sr. Weena 
Redemptoristines, Liguori, Missouri


by Father Thomas Travers, CSsR
Espous, New York

I think that a very interesting and instructive exercise is to try to, as they say, get 'inside the head' of Jesus. For instance, we can ask ourselves: what was he thinking, what was he feeling when he went through the experieces of today's gospel?

This gospel reminds me of a commercial on TV. I do not remember what it was for (maybe you remember it). The scene shows a guy, who looked like a teacher in school. He is seated at a table or desk and he is engrossed in something he is doing with his hands, perhaps playing a game or trying to figure something out. Then some little kindergarden kids bring in a rabbit and put it on his desk and say with tears in their eyes and voices, "There's something is wrong with Peter." The teacher just keeps on playing his game; does not even look at them and says off handedly, "Oh, that's OK. I still have the receipt."

He is completely oblivious of what is really going on. And then, somehow, he realizes what the kids are talking about and jumps out of his chair, raises his arms, grabs two balloons, touches them to the rabbit, says something and heals him. And the kids, all smiles, take the rabbit back in their arms again and go out to play.

I really think that Jesus can relate to those kids. He had a real problem. Not a sick rabbit but a life-changing event he had to face; a matter of life and death. And he told his disciples about it and they paid no attention. They kept right on with their useless chatter about who was going to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I mean, just look at the gospel. Jesus is really serious. The gospel says that he takes the twelve disciples aside by themselves. (He did that when he was serious.) He tells them that he is going up to Jerusalem to be handed over to the leaders of their people, to be condemned to death and passed off to the Gentiles, then mocked scourged and crucified. Now that is serious stuff. He is telling them of what is going to be the saddest experience in his life. And all they are thinking of is who is going to sit at his right and left hand when he gets to the kingdom. And then the other disciples, realizing what is going on, get all bent out of shape, not because of Jesus' predicament but becasue they might lose out on the best seats, the highest rewards, in the kingdom.

You can almost hear Jesus saying, "Hey, aren't you listening to me? I just told you I am going to die a cruel death and all you are worried about is your seats at the banquet. What did I tell you about seats at banquets?" But the disciples were not listening!!! How it must have tore at the heart of Jesus. All he wanted was a little support and consolation. And he got none.

A short while ago something like that happened at our dinner table. Someone had something really important to say. He said it, but no one listened. Someone else came right in and drowned him out, oblivious to what was going on.

I think that the lesson we can learn today, the lesson that Jesus wants us to learn because he felt the effects of those who did not learn it, the lesson is to listen; to listen to the other; not to be so taken up with our own world, our own life, our own games, our own rewards that we do not hear the other in their pain and sorrow.

If our whole life is supposed to be other-oriented, loving our neighbor as ourselves, the only way we are going to be able to do so is to notice, to see, and to hear, the other especially in their hour of sorrow. LORD, GIVE US A LISTENING HEART. AMEN.