On this day, the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, two of our Sisters renewed their monastic vows for another year. Join us in praying for them in their final year of the Juniorate as they continue to prepare for their solemn vows.
Visit our website to learn more about the stages of monastic formation in our community: Becoming a Nun
In the Holy Rule, St. Benedict recommends that we keep death before us daily (Rule 4.47), and the point of this is to keep our eyes on the goal: eternal life. St. Benedict writes in the Prologue, “We shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. Amen” (Rule Prol.50). If you keep your death before you, if you keep your goal before you, it will help you to live more purposefully. It is so important for us to live attentively in the present moment. Every chance you have to love now, you will never have again. And it’s not that there won’t be more opportunities to love, but each specific one, when it passes, is gone. And we don’t want to miss them too many times. We want to be attentive to love, so that we can truly love as Christ does, laying down our lives in a sort of martyrdom, dying to selfishness and living to selfless love of others. The Resurrection of Christ shows us that life doesn’t end with death—death is just a step into eternal life with God. Every single one of us will stand before the door of death one day, and if you have already met it many times throughout your life, there won’t be a question of what you’re going to choose. Live a lifetime of learning how to choose well, so that the final choice will just be the same as you have chosen throughout your life. When He asks us as He asked St. Peter, “Do you love me?”, I hope that our answer will be the same, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15).
A reflection on the call to loving obedience by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB
We hear over and over in the Old Testament the words of the prophets calling the people to return to the Lord. It makes me think of our Holy Father St. Benedict—could he not be considered one of the great prophets as well?
In chapter five of the Rule we hear about St. Benedict’s teaching on obedience. It has a value and a power far beyond our little means, because it is united with Christ. It can be a golden tool in our lives if we allow it to be. If we think only of being “forced” to obey, we will not get very far. But if we think of being obedient because Christ was obedient, and to counter the fall in Eden, which happened out of disobedience, then we will be using the gift of obedience for the highest good. If we cherish Christ above all, cherish Him deeply, we will carry out all our duties as if we heard them from God Himself.
The Rule tells us that monks who truly practice obedience abandon their own concerns, leaving whatever they have in hand unfinished, in order to hearken to the signal for the Divine Office (Rule 43.1). If we don’t practice this form of obedience in the little things, we will be tempted to reason our way out of everything. It is love that impels us to pursue everlasting life and the narrow road, no longer living by our own judgment or giving in to our own appetites, but saying with Christ, “I came…not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (John 6:38). Christ’s love working in us impels us to act as He did. Love alone will give us this grace.
And when we feel that we cannot handle the obedience being asked of us, we can look to Christ’s example on the Mount of Olives. He cries out to the Father for help, “Father, take this cup away from me,” but ultimately surrenders Himself with the words, “but not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
“At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’”
We know what it means to be a child: a child can’t provide for itself. A child is watched after. A child is fed. A child is wrapped in light as in a robe. A child is kept warm. A child is cared for. A child is loved. Or it should be. That’s what is means to be a child.
Unfortunately we live in an age of entitlement, in an age of “I deserve…”. And if that’s the approach, nothing will be gift, because “I’ve deserved it, it’s just mine.” Instead we should try to practice gratitude, because everything is gift. Nothing is yours to keep, but for you to use for the glory of God. When we live this way, there is a real freedom of detachment. We are so cared for as God’s children, and in return we have One who deserves all our love. Thank Him! Never stop answering His call to be His child. How fully are you giving yourself to Him who has given you everything?
I think it’s so delightful in the Gospel of John when Jesus says to His apostles, “A little while, and you will no longer see me; and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16). Doesn’t that sound like the spiritual life? A little while and you won’t see Him…and it’s so true. You find yourself asking, “Where are you, Lord? Where is Your voice?” and then He pops in all of a sudden and reminds you that He’s right there and He’s been there the whole time. But in those times of seeming darkness we can really focus on hearing and seeing God in our neighbor. A good word from someone is often His word. A look of kindness is His look. A little gesture of love is from Him.
God loves that disappearing and reappearing act. You see it all through the Gospels as Christ comes to and then vanishes from His disciples after His Resurrection. I think it helps us to always look for Him. It keeps our heart searching and attentive. It’s as in the Song of Songs where she “sought him but could not find him” (Song of Songs 3:2), but then she went out on the streets looking and there he was. Seek God with all your heart and you will find Him, and you will truly be a happy soul.
Thanks to our friend Martin, we now have two thriving hives of bees again. Since this coming winter will be their first one here, we likely won’t harvest any honey this year to make sure they have enough for themselves. Needless to say, we look forward to enjoying the fruit of their labors in years to come, so long as they can survive the cold weather and the bears!
A reflection by our Prioress, Sister Maria Josepha, OSB on the 17th anniversary of Mother Maria-Michael’s Abbatial Election
I think the book Strangers to the City by Michael Casey is a great title for her life, because Mother truly is such a stranger to the city. She would rather be here, living the monastic life with us, and especially praising God in the Divine Office, than anywhere in the world. She always admonishes us to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” (using the words of St. Benedict), and her life is a visible testament to this fidelity to the monastic life, seeking God above all else. If Mother was not in the monastery, I think she may have been a pilot. But the Lord has made her into a different kind of pilot, nonetheless. Just as He made His apostle fishermen into fishers of men, so He has done for Mother Maria-Michael. As her passengers, we know that we are headed for eternal life. The flight may have turbulence, but I do believe that with her as the pilot of our community we will all be brought together into everlasting life.
A reflection on 1 Kings 17:7-16by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB
In the Book of Kings, we hear that the brook near where Elijah was hiding had run dry because no rain had fallen. As we know, there is a real test of hope when it’s really dry, because there’s the sense that it’s really out of our hands. So Elijah leaves his cave and goes to Zarephath and asks the widow he meets there for a small cup of water to drink. Water was precious in the drought, so you notice he doesn’t ask for a few gallons, or even a large glass of water. He is sensitive to the situation, so he asks for a small cup. This scenario reminds me of how God is with us—He knows what we can give and what we can’t give. He’s well aware of when it’s difficult, and of the things we struggle with. He doesn’t put a load on us heavier than we can carry—He’s very sensitive to us. He too says, “Bring me a small amount. Bring me even the little you may feel like you don’t have. Just a little bit, please bring Me.” It’s like the times when we are so tired and ready to leave the chapel, and yet what do we do? We turn around and kneel, just for a minute, to say, “I love you,” and ask for His blessing. Or there may be a time when someone has been particularly nasty to us, but we have a moment of grace and, before we end our time together, we have the charity to say, “Thank you.” It’s just a small thing, but these small things give life. They mirror the tenderness of God. When we know God’s tenderness we are tender toward each other. However tender you are, that is how tender God is toward you that you’ve noticed. It’s not that He isn’t tender—it’s that you haven’t always noticed. Pay attention to the tenderness of God, because it will stretch your soul to holiness. Start to notice the little ways in which God blesses you throughout the day.
You hear about all the negativity happening in the world, and the problem is not that it isn’t true (although sometimes that is the problem), but that we forget that there is always the Risen Lord to turn to. They key is that all these negative things don’t have the final word. Whenever we give negativity the higher place in our lives, we have chosen the wrong thing. We can’t sit in that state, because then it has power over us, and eventually it wears us down.
Never forget the power of the Risen Lord. He has promised His Church that He will be with us, and so He will. He already is. In spite of everything, He is the victorious Lord. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at and acknowledge all the negativity, but only that we don’t stop there. We have the victorious Lord. I always like being on the winning side, that’s just the way it is. And with Him, I am. Every day we have the chance to sing of His victory, and in doing that we are lifting the world up. Remember that evil never has the last word; it’s always followed by an apostrophe, and the exclamation point that follows is Christ, the victory of Christ.
By doing and choosing the good things, and not allowing ourselves to sit in negativity, but choosing the Risen Lord, we will choose the right thing. Let our focus be on our closeness to Christ. Let me give you an example of this from the geese I was watching this morning walking through the field. It was delightful—there were so many geese followed by their little goslings hopping through the grass. And then I saw a blob in the field but couldn’t tell what it was, so I took the binoculars to get a better look. It was two geese so close together that they looked like one. What a beautiful image—so close that they looked like one. If that can be our image with God, if that can be our choice, we’re already living a portion of heaven on earth.