Monday, January 24, 2011

One of Our Own in the Greatest Generation

Mother f Perpetual Help Monastery
Esopus, New York
Celebrating 60 Years 
as a Redemptoristine

Tom Brokaw has declared them to be "the greatest generation". These are the sturdy souls whose earliest years were often marked by the hardships of the Great Depression; whose youthful adulthood was given to defense of liberty; whose later years were filled with accomplishment produced by dedication and

Sgt. Peggy Banville
Canadian Women's Army Corps - 1945

faithful perseverence. Our Sister Peg is one of that generation. She is celebrating the 60th jubilee of her first vows in religious life. Never tall, always petite, she is now our small treasure, ailing but still so spirited, faithful and wise. After serving in the Canadian military during W.W. II and having had a taste of civilian life she went on a retreat only to be surprised by a call from God. She found it rather unbelieveable at first. Especially unbelieveable was the call to be a contemplative nun. But she never pushed it away. Much to the surprise of family and friends, she followed the call into the first Canadian Redemptoristine foundation then only a few years old. 

Toronto, Canada

Like most of the older members of our community, Sr. Peg has served in almost every  post in community including that of prioress for a number of terms.  She has been our representative at international meetings, become certified as a spiritual director ,  organized our archives, and continually enriched her mind. She was one of six young nuns who came from Canada to Esopus, New York in 1957 to make this foundation. So she is a pioneer.

One of six foundresses
of the Esopus monastery

Her favorite theological theme is that of the humility of God; a God who endowed created humanity with free will; a God who condescended to take on our mortal flesh, our fragile physical and emotional being for our sake that we might know the love of the Father, the energy of the Holy Spirit, and see the life of Jesus as invitation to transformation.

With author Madeleine l"Engle - 1990s

Sr. Peg's energy held yesterday through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at which she renewed her "vows of proverty, chastity and obedience in the Church and for the world." She intends to continue to attempt each day to be a "living memory of Jesus Christ" in the true spirit of Redemptoristine life, the charism first revealed to Maria Celeste Crostarosa in 1725. We are so blessed to have a member of  "the greatest generation" among us today.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Have some time to give away?

Many Programs and
Organizations Looking for
a Few Good Women and Men

You might think that as the Vocation Director for our contemplative monastic community I wouldn't be pointing to other avenues of service to God, the Church and the world. But it was our Prioress who passed this booklet on to me because sometimes those who think they have a religious vocation to enclosed contemplative life need to have an experience of active apostolic ministry in order to make an informed discernment.

But I am also passing this information on because I know that there a lot of high school grads these days who think its a great idea to take a sabbatical year before entering college. They also want to make it pay off as a positive contribution to society and a good looking addition to the college application, maybe even a topic for the essay.

And there just may be some folk out there contemplating retirement but not ready for the rocking chair.

This booklet is a directory of volunteer opportunities across the country and around the world. It was produced by the St. Vincent Pallotti Center for Apostolic Development, Inc. Their motto is "Inspiring volunteer service, strengthening faith and community." Check out their website. Request a copy of the directory for someone in your family, for the guidance office of your high school, or for the Religious Education Office of your parish. And how about you? One of these opportunities could be your next adventure, your next response to the mysterious invitations issued by God.

Monday, January 17, 2011


To Get More
Out of this Blog (and increase readership)
You Can...

Not so computer savvy? Are some things on this page a real mystery? The following might help.

1. Subscribe to this blog - have new articles sent directly to your e-mail address.

a. scroll down to the very bottom of the page and loofor "subscribe" at lower left
b. click on orange botton next to "posts"
c. click on symbol next to "atom" in the dropdown menu
d. on the Feedburner drop down click on the envelope symbol next to "Get Contemplative Horizon delivered via e-mail" in the box on the right
e. type your e-mail address in the box and type the myster word given
f. hit "enter"

2. At the bottom of every article posted to this blog are five little symbols in a row. What can you do with these?

* The "M" button allows you to email the article to a friend (tip: have the address handy
* The "B" botton allows you to send the article to your blog
* The lower case "t" button allows you to share the article on Twitter
* The "f" botton allows you to share the article with Facebook
* The "Q" botton allows for sharing to Goggle Buzz

3.Please do leave comments.

Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of an article and go for it. Since all articles get posted to my Facebook page I receive many comments via Facebook. I get to approve all comments sent directly to the blog before they appear.

4.Want to see if an article has appeared on a given subject?

Scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find an alphabetical index. Click on the topic and you will get all the articles related to it.

5. Do check the side bar. Lots of stuff there.

Thanks for reading. Any suggestions? Any comments? Go for it!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"The times they are a changin' "

Ordinary Time:
Not So Ordinary

This is not an ordinary sight. It is called hoarfrost; the masterpiece created by mother nature when residual moisture from rain or snow is quick frozen during an exceptionally cold night. In the process, every branch, twig, blade and pine needle receive a crystaline coat which glitters in the light of dawn. Everything is at one with the ice coated river.

We may have entered Ordinary Time in liturgical terms but these are not ordinary times in our nation and our world. Hoarfrost served as a reminder of the lack of ordinariness. The violent event, the tragedy that took place in Arizona earlier in the week had already set another tone.

We live in exceptional times. The violence of murder, the savagery of war are surely exceptions to the norm. The current economic challenges experienced by so many are not ordinary. Surely these times are exceptional in the speedy application of every technological advancement. Today I searched the Internet, blogged, sent e-mail and enjoyed a video SKYPE conversation with a friend in Europe. That is exceptional in my lifetime. But, at the other end of the spectrum, the continuing violence of war, civil unrest, and natural disasters are also exceptional, disturbingly exceptional.

In the last and glorious liturgical season we celebrated the Incarnation, the Mystery of Emmanuel, God-With-Us. In these times, in this lack of ordinariness, in this period of exceptional challenges we have an invitation to more consciously walk with that God-With-Us, that God who is faithful companionship. We are also called to live our lives more consciously, always asking ourselves about our actions, our choices, our commitments, our responses to the exceptional. In the face of such 'not so ordinary times', everything we do becomes so much more important. 

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Great Feast for the "Double Institute" of Redemptorists and Redemptoristines

St. John Neumann,
and Bishop of Philadelphia

Today is the feast of a great Redemptorist and immigrant American saint. It is receiving a great deal of attention from the Redemptorists and in the Diocese of Philadelphia because this year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Newmann in Bohemia. In addition, his shrine at St. Peter the Apostle Church in that city has recently undergone an extensive renovation in preparation for celebrations and for receiving many pilgrims.

St. John Newmann was very small in stature, spoke with a strong accent and indifferent to his attire. He did not suit the Catholic elite of Philadelphia set as they were on enhancing their image in the eyes of what was perceived as a critical if not prejudiced Protestant majority. It seems that those who supported John Neumann's assignment as Bishop of Philadelphia were less interested in the the needs of the wealthy than they were in the needs of an ever increasing flow of immigrants into the city. For them, John Newmann was the prefect choice for Bishop, a true pastor. A narrated slide show on the life and work of this saint can be viewed at the Redemptorist website.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Manifestations of the Lord Jesus Christ

Epiphany of the Lord

In our monastery the three kings and a trusty camel have gradually made their way, day by day, through the public space outside our chapel. This morning we found them integrated into the manger scene so lovingly and artistically created by our Sr. Moira Quinn. She incorporated a back drop originally painted for an outdoor Bethlehem in our garden. Redemptorist seminarians offered that generous work over thirty years ago.

The Three Kings at the Creche
Redemptoristine Monastery, Esopus, New York 2011

While we most commonly associateEpiphany with the arrival of the magi at the stable in Bethlehem, the Church presents this feast as a celebration of multiple 'manifestations' of the Kingship of Christ. The word 'epiphany' is ordinarily defined as a sudden realization or a  sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence. It is also defined as an appearance of God or a manifestation of a divine being.

Not one but three manifestations of Jesus the Lord are referenced in the liturgies of the Church today. The first is the revelation of the divine indentity of Jesus to the shepherds by a host of angels. The second is the revelation to the three kings who steadfastly followed the star to Bethlehem. The third requires a counter intuitive leap because our minds are focused on a little babe. It is the manifestation of the divinity of Jesus which took place at the wedding feast of Cana. Following our Mass today, we gathered around the refectory table, complete with its centerpiece depicting the the magi in adoration before the child Jesus. But at that moment we re-enacted the Cana story in parts complete with waiters pouring wine into our glasses. There was prayer and then a toast too.  

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Great Feast to Welcome the New Year

Our Lady of the Sign
egg tempera on gesso with gold leaf

We Welcome
the Year 2011
on the Solemnity
of Mary,
The Mother of God

One of the principles I carried away from a Christology course taken years ago asserted that the dogmas concerning Mary the Mother of Jesus which came out of the early ecumenical councils of the Church were often promulgated in an effort to underscore the truth of who Jesus was and is for us. Declaring Mary the Mother of God, the Theotokos, while praising her, served also to declare, contrary to various heresies, that Jesus was indeed God and man. 

We have just celebrated the great feast or solemnity of the Incarnation, the coming of Jesus among us. And the Church would have us enter the New Year, one fraught with challenges at every level, in the sure knowledge that the Jesus to whom Mary gave birth is the Son of God, master of the universe and also Emmanuel, 'God-with-us'. We can begin the year in a most auspicious way; with the image of a mother caring for her son and also caring for us. She presents to us the true God who lived among us and now walks with us, travels with us, will be at our side during the next year and always.

The icon above is making its debut today. Our Lady of the Sign may not be familiar to you but she is an ancient image in Greek and Russian iconography. The icon depicts the Theotokos, the Mother of God during the Annunciation at the moment of uttering her assent to the Angel Gabriel, "Let it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) Mary's hands are raised in the orans position of prayer. She is flanked by the seraphim and cherubim. The letters at the top are shorthand for the Greek title Mother of God. The colors of Jesus' robes indicate his humanity and divinity; the scroll his role as teacher; his face like that of an old man to indicate that he is both fully human and fully the eternal God; his right hand raised in blessing.

As a contemplative monastic community we gathered last night to celebrate the Vigil Office of Readings for this sacred solemnity. The Office was followed by Adoration of the Eucharist Exposed. We prayed for not only our families, friends and benefactors, but also for the people with whom we have only slight contact, like yourself, the local community, our nation and the needs of the entire world. We remembered the poorest of the poor, the unemployed, those struggling with diseases of body, mind or spirit, the wartorn and ravaged nations.

May much grace and and many blessing be yours in this new year. Let us love each other well.