Thursday, November 25, 2010

An American Tradition of Gratitude

How Good It is to Give Thanks to the Lord

The scent in our monastery this morning is redolent with that of roasting turkey, simmering  garlic and onions. These aromas replace the sweet smell of yesterday's apple pie and pumpkin baking.

Often we are asked how we celebrate holidays in our monastery. How do contemplative nuns, in the privacy of the enclosure mark the great feasts of the Chruch year and those held dear in our national culture? We certainly will not succumb to the enticements of Black Friday. Nor do we, as contemplative nuns, separate from the community on such days to reunite with family and friends in celebration. Rather, we reamin here in the monastery, within the community which we took as our permanent home and family when we first pronounced vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Today we will have our full horarium of the Liturgy of the Hours which began this morning with the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer especially constructed with the holiday occasion in mind - Psalms of thanksgiving, appropriate readings from Scripture and other sources, a joyful Te Deum (a hymn of praise and thnaksgiving). And for today, the Intercessory Prayer of the Morning Office was adapted from a traditional prayer of native Americans of the Iroquois Nation.

Let us off thanks for all the marvelous blessings we have received.

Response to each is: We thank you, Creator and Lord.

For our mother, the earth, which sustains us,
For rivers and streams, which supply us with water,
For all the herbs which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases,
For corn, and her sisters, the beans and the squashes, which give us life,
For the wind which scatters our seed and the rain which waters our crops,
For the sun, that looks upon the earth with beneficent eye,
For the moon and the stars, which give us their light when the sun is gone,
For all manner of living things,
For the rich heritage of freedom bequeathed to us by the founders of our country,
For you, Great Spirit, in whom is embodied all goodness,
and who directs all things for the good of the children of earth,

We thank you Creator and Lord.

There followed a variety of spontaneous petitions for our families, our nation, for the world, and for those who find this time particularly diffulcult: the poor and homeless, the unemployed and the under-employed, those separated from loving family, especially those deployed to far off places in our military.

Our Prioress shared a reading in which we were invited to pay attention to the real challenges in our nation and the world but not to lose sight of the good that has been ours - the peaceful passage from one set of elected officials to another in our recent elections; financial measures that kept us out of absolute financial meltdown, continuing negotions for peace on every front, among so many others.

The holiday decorations at the base of our chapel altar are arranged to emphasize our gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist, so faithfully provided for us daily by our Redemptorist brothers. Certainly, this is both the source and summit of our gratitude.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Book Corner

In my former life as a middle school librarian, I loved the "book talk" aspect of the work. My job was to make a selection of books so irresistable that they would immediately "walk off the shelves" in the hands of an eager students.

Here I would like to recommend two books which are more than worthy of walking off the shelf of your local book store or online provider. The first is The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind - A New Perspective on Christ and His Message. The second is The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity. For some, this author, Cynthia Bourgeault, PhD, may be a new voice of spiritual guidance.  Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader, she divides her time between solitude on Eagle Island, Maine, and a demanding schedule traveling globally to teach and spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative path.

Cynthia Bourgeault is also author of:  Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, Mystical Hope, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, Chanting the Psalms, and Love is Stronger Than Death. She has also authored or contributed to numerous articles and courses on the Christian spiritual life. She is a past Fellow of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural research at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN, and an oblate of New Camaldoli Monastery in Big Sur, California.

This author invites her readers to consider Jesus from the biblical and theological perspective that reminds how radical the essential teaching of Jesus was in his time on earth and how that radicality needs to be reconsidered today. Bourgeault engages us in an attractive conversational tone that is, nonetheless, rooted in sound theological and biblical teaching. The heart of the message is expressed in the first two of its three parts: The Teachings of Jesus and The Mysteries of Jesus. The last part covers Christian Wisdom Practices - centering meditation, lectio divina (sacred reading and meditation), chanting and psalmody (Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours) and the Eucharist. These are presented as the spiritual practices in which lives must be grounded in order to enter into and live out the radicality of Jesus' message in their everyday lives.

The second book concerning the figure of Mary Magdalene, much honored in Sacred Scripture and much maligned throughout the ages is a most welcome addition to general consideration of her importance in  Christian tradition. Here Mary Magdalene is presented not only as Apostle to the Apostles  but also as model of the spousal relationship of the Christian soul and Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Last Sunday of Ordinary Time

Solemnity of Christ the King

Christ the King! What does "king" mean to me today? Living in a 21st century democratic society does not offer much in the way of context in which to consider the term. If historical perspective is applied, the title of "king" brings to mind words like rule, reign, authority, power and lord. These terms get slightly bent these days by our American preoccupation with the current British royals.

Today I prefer to meditate on the title of Christ as King through the lens of the benevolence; the care, concern, and protection offered by the good king or queen to the people entrusted to them. Having equal weight with power, this benevolence was called the 'divine right of kings'.

In knowledge of this great benevolence, we accept Jesus Christ as the King of our hearts; the principal director of our lives who invites us to constant converstion of heart through which we grow our own brand of human benevolence in accord with the Gospel of Love preached by Jesus.

This interpretation is fostered in our Redemptoristine contemplative life by the formal Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which we will pray as a community following Vespers this evening. The image of the Sacred Heart speaks of the benevolence of true kings; and of true followers of Jesus.

Please remember us in prayer today - "Pro Orantibus Day" - a day of prayer for those who pray; for all the communities of contemplative nuns and monks around the globe whose apostolic work is to be a praying presence before the throne of God. Thank you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November: Month of the Holy Souls

Adele Chambart Tutter
October 26, 1932
November 20, 2007
Remembering Those Who Have Stepped
Through the Door:  The Story

Contemplative nuns in their monastic horarium are wedded to the events of the Liturgical Year and the special traditonal themes of prayer that are woven through it. November begins with the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls with special remembrance of them continuing until the end of the Liturgical Year. Before we launch into the wonderful first season of the Church's year, I would like to share remarks presented at the Annual All Souls' Remembrance Service in a local parish. Our grieving for the recently deceased and our continued mourning of their departure from our lives here can be complicated by "our story" and the weight of our loss. But light can still be found.

Each of us has come here today with a story. It is the story of our relationship with someone who has gone to the other side; who has passed through the door from one state of being to another; who is dwelling in the eternal presence of our loving God. But we have been left behind. And all we have is our story.

Three years ago I was called to the bedside of a dying friend – really more friend, mother, sister and spiritual companion rolled into one huge heart of love. She rallied a bit and the next day, as I sat silently waiting, her eyes opened and looking directly at me she said, “I have been told that I am going to be an angel.” She died within a week. When I think of her I know exactly where she is and with whom. And so I must rejoice. But every day I miss her. That daily missing may be part of your story too. When it gets very hard, I make myself think of all she wanted for me, of all she was sure that I could be and do. I think of how much she loved. And I move on. I move on in that positive direction to which she always pointed. I move on because it is the finest tribute to her memory that I can offer.

But, what if the story is not so sweet? What if, although love is surely there, disappointment, hurt, or betrayal is also present in the story? What if unresolved issues linger and unfinished chapters remain? It is a joy to remember the light and happy parts but we find the dark episodes very difficult. Yet, there may be a silver lining. The difficulties, however dark, may have developed in you a strength, a determination, a courage or gift of character or personality that has served you well in dealing with the rest of life. If you can recognize that you are more compassionate, more independent, more thoughtful, or more forgiving today because of the difficulties in your story, you can find a way to come to terms with painful memories.

Another strand woven through so many of our stories is regret. Sometimes relationships never develop into all that is possible. And we accuse ourselves. “I could have done…” “I should have done…” “Why didn’t I?” It may just be the ego or our savior complex talking. Or, perhaps, there may be some real truth emerging from examination of conscience. In either case, the story of your intertwined lives is over. The one we loved is in another place. What can we do with the regret? Completely filled with divine forgiveness, the one whom we mourn would have us make restitution in the here and now; to be, in the here and now, in live action at every moment possible, the very embodiment of the love we may have failed to offer in the past. It is never too late for that.

Love cureth all things. Love enables us to continue to strive for all that our beloved dead wanted for us in life. Jesus, mirror of the Father who is pure love, spoke of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Healthy self-knowledge and self-love can make us aware of some good that came out of even the greatest pain or hardship. With a dose of self-forgiveness and a willingness to make amends in the here and now, we can grow into and exercise that radical love to which Jesus invites us. We can overcome any regret or remorse lingering in our hearts.

These are ways to deal with our tremendous grief and embrace the varied textures of our stories which are always a mixture of light and darkness. Each is a great challenge. But Jesus soothes and comforts the troubled soul, saying over and over, “Do not be afraid…I am with you…I am the way.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On-line Advent Retreat






An Online Discernment Retreat for men and women who would like to explore a call to Religious Life. In the privacy of your own home and at a time convenient for you, you will be able to receive materials for reflection via the internet. After your time of prayer, you will be invited to contact a retreat director via e-mail where you will share your thoughts and reflections. Retreat directors are experienced spiritual directors committed to a daily exchange with participants assigned to them.

December 5-9, 2010 - five days beginning the second Sunday of Advent. Sponsored by the Religious Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of New York. For information and registration, go to:

or Contact: Sr. Deanna Sabetta, CND,

Deadline for registration is December 1, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day of Prayer for Contemplatives

Pro Orantibus Day

“For Those Who Pray”

Nov. 21, 2010

Our community of contemplative nuns, a community dedicated to the apostolic work of prayer, would very much appreciate the support of your prayers for our perseverance in this vocation and surrender to God in the process of on-going conversion. Pray also that we may be faithful to the Redemptoristine charism; "to be in the Church and in the world a living memorial of Christ the Redeemer."
News Release

Catholics throughout the world are encouraged to honor the cloistered and monastic life on Pro Orantibus Day, which is Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010.“The primary purpose of Pro Orantibus Day is to thank God for the tremendous gift of the cloistered and monastic vocation in the Church’s life,” noted Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem., National Director of the Institute on Religious Life. “Since the lives of these women and men religious dedicated to prayer and sacrifice is often hidden, this annual celebration reminds us of the need to support their unique mission within the Body of Christ,” he added.

In 1997 Pope John Paul II asked that this ecclesial event be observed worldwide on November 21, the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Presentation in the Temple. It is a special day to thank those in the cloistered and monastic life for serving as “a leaven of renewal and of the presence of the spirit of Christ in the world.” It is also intended to remind others of the need to provide spiritual and material support “for those who pray.”
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken often of the tremendous value of the cloistered, contemplative life. Speaking to a group of cloistered Dominican nuns in Rome this past June, the Holy Father referred to such religious as “the heart” which provides blood to the rest of the Body of Christ. He noted that in their work and prayer, together with Christ, they are the “heart” of the Church and in their desire for God’s love they approach the ultimate goal.

The nationwide effort to publicize Pro Orantibus Day is coordinated by the Institute on Religioious Life, a national organization based in the Chicago area. The IRL was founded in 1974 by Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J., and is comprised of bishops, priests, religious and laity who support and promote the vowed religious llife.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Redemptorist Seminarians

Redemptorist Francis Seelos Community, Chicago
Facebook Message from
The Blessed Francis Seelos

Chicago, Illinois

Good Morning Sister,

 Thank you so much for publishing our picture on your blog, this is great ;). Front row from left to right: Fr. John Fahey, Fr. John Schmidt, Fr. Robert Fenili, Fr. Vincent Minh Cao. Back row from left to right: Fr. Steve Rehrauer, Br. Bruce Davidson, Br. Aaron Meszaros, Br. Ted Dorcey, Br. Landon Cao, Br. Thanh Nguyen, Br. Mario Gonzalez.

We have 10 members in the community now, 4 professed Redemptorists and 6 students. Most of time we are studying at CTU, Catholic Theological Union. We are taking classes at different levels, but all aiming for the same degree which is the M.Div. (Master of Divinity). We are also in different stages of the journey to ordination. Ted and Bruce are in the third year of theology; about a year and half toward their ordination. Landon and I (Thanh Nguyen) are in the second year and have about 2 and a half years to go until ordination while Aaron and Mario are in their first year and will not be ordained until about 3 and half years from now.

I don't know if I have answered all of the questions. Let me know if I miss anything. Thank you and pardon for my english. :). Have a blessed day sister and pray for me. Thanh

Please join me in praying for these great guys pursuing their seminary education. Pray too for the men who are helping to mold them into good priests and true sons of St. Alphonsus. All of their stories are unique and impressive. As their 'sisters' and as contemplative nuns whose apostolic work is prayer we are very dedicated to intercession on their behalf. We keep up with their progress and enjoy their occasional visits to the monastery when Redemptorists events bring them to Mt. St. Alphonsus. And now Facebook keeps us even more in touch.

Redemptoristine International Meeting

General Assembly 2011

Unlike congregations of apostolic (active) religious sisters which have general governments presiding over all their missions and regulations, contemplative nuns belong to orders consisting of autonomous (independent) monasteries where the prioess and her council have authority in accordance with a rule (constitution and statutes) observed by the entire order. Knowing that this is more legal trivia than most want to know about, I will only add that in addition to the differences above sisters take simple vows, whereas nuns take solemn vows. 

This is to explain the nature of our  Order's General Assemblies. Representatives of the monasteries of the Order around the world come together, usually in Rome with the assistance of our Redemptorist brothers, every seven to ten years. It is only in such assemblies that our rule can be amended by vote. But these meetings are also a vehicle for communication and part of the unifying cement that holds us together as an Order in spite of the lack of a governing superstructure. We come together in the spirit of our charism - to a be a living memory of Christ the Redeemer - knowing that to the extent that we cultivate unity in a spirit of mutual charity we can mirror the 'peaceable Kingdom' in this time and place.

We are currently planning for a General Assemble, hoping that it will take place in 2011. Therefore we have begun to pray for the planning process and for the fruit of the Assembly. This prayer card was designed by our Sr. Moria. It incorporates a photo of a statue of Jesus on the grounds of our monastery in Foggia, Italy near the Adriatic coast  and a logo designed by the prioress of the Dublin monastery, Sr. Gabrielle Fox. Perhaps you will join us in praying for this intention.  

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hildegard of Bingen on the Screen

New Film from Germany  

A few months ago I received notice from Zeitgeist Films (US distributors of "Into Great Silence") of their coming release of VISION, a German film about the life of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), medieval abbess, mystic, writer, herbalist and composer. I read reviews in the NY Times, Huffington Post, and Commonweal. All give account of this amazing woman's accomplishments, courage, ingenuity and trust in her inspirations - the prophetic visions which she believed came from God alone. They also spoke of the intensity of direction and acting and the visual beauty of the film. This is the kind of movie that will appear only in theaters specializing in foreign films and art cinema so you may have to hunt around for it or wait for the DVD to be issued. It is worth the effort.

Monday, November 08, 2010

History of American Catholic Women Religious

Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America

an exhibit mounted by the Leadership Conference of
Women Religious
currently at Ellis Island Immigration Museum,
New York Harbor
until January 11, 2010

We recently had the privilege to view this exhibit currently housed on the third floor of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. If you have never visited the Museum, plan on spending a day taking the tour and then visiting the LCWR exhibit. To view the memorabilia, read the inspiring accounts of dedication, bravery, compassionate service, courage and great achievement was an inspiration. I was particularly struck by the account of the courageous sisters who went to their death comforting and trying to save the orphans in their care during the hurricane that hit Galvaston, Texas early in the 20th century. I was also enchanted with a slide show that seemed to be coming out of an old film strip projector. The slide show covered the progress of Catholic education via class pictures from different eras, extracurricular club groups and activities, children at recess, devoted teachers bending over their pupils, and on and on. So many classroom scenes looked very familiar.

This exhibit and all of Ellis Island are too good to miss. It can be reached from lower Manhattan or from Liberty State Park in New Jersey (much easier parking there) via a ferry that stops at both Ellis Island and Liberty Island (Statute of Liberty).

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Story of One Redemptoristine

Her True Colors

Sister Angelina Celeste, member of the Redemptoristine Community in Legazpi, Philippines popped up in my "Google Alerts" this morning. Her story recently appeared in a newpaper there and provides inspirational reading. It details her life work dedicated to ministering to the poorest of the poor, a work which has, at times, been unacceptable to those in power wishing to maintain absolute control over the people.  Sister paid the price for being a community organizer at a time when to do so was to be labeled a Communist. After 30 years in that work she heeded the call to become a contemplative nun; to offer her contemplation and intense intercessory prayer for the needs of the poor and cause of justice in our world.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Comfort in the Monastic Horarium

Joy in the Morning!

It is always good to get back home. How many vacationers, however much their time away was enjoyed, will say with gusto, "It is so good to be home"? As much as we may beg for respite from routine, there is something we find comforting in the familiar.

In the last month or so we have enjoyed some time for community recreation in which the regular monastic horarium or daily schedule was somewhat abbreviated. We also experienced our annual ten-day community retreat. This year the time was given to five days of hermit retreat within the monastery for all the sisters, followed by five days of directed retreat with a Jesuit priest. Those ten days were a special time. My mother always asks why contemplative nuns should need a retreat. "Aren't you always in retreat?" The monastic tradition encourages times of withdrawal from ordinary community life. The customs of our house provide for one day of retreat per month for each sister. Each of us also has an annual ten-day personal retreat. And then there is the community retreat. The abbreviated community schedule and fewer work hours provide opportunity for more and deeper silence and solitude. Every sister would say that these times of retreat are most welcome.

Yet, as special as these times are, we all agree that returning to regular community life feels so good and right - a sort of grand reunion with each other and as a community before our Loving God. Time apart is a blessing but our time together is a blessing too, especially as we pray the Divine Office and share in the Eucharistic banquet. There is a dignity in fulfilling our vocation to be a prayerful presence before God for the needs of the world. There is always joy in the morning when we come together again.