“Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”
I have to laugh when I imagine Jesus teaching His followers that they don’t have to fight people who don’t agree with them – they can just shake the dust from themselves (c.f. Mark 6:11). Not everything that sticks to you is mud. Most of the time it’s just dust. And you have to know how to discern that. Don’t see everything as big heavy weights. It’s as if Jesus asks us, “They’ve been mean to you? Shake the dust off! Why worry about it?” What a nice way to handle it. Sometimes we have to physically do something to shake off the dust; when something is really painful or hurtful, if we don’t physically do something it can run around in our heads. But a way to stop it is to physically do something.
I think hearing and understanding Jesus’ words tells us a little bit about how Jesus Himself had to handle things. How He took things, so that it wasn’t so heavy for Him. He didn’t let it become heavy. It was a choice: He could be upset, mad, and let it run around; or He could just shake off the dust, turn around and go to the Father. You don’t have to do it noticeably all the time; you can go into the inner corner of your heart and shake off the dust. But I would suggest that you find something to do so that you don’t carry around the dust of the world on your shoulders. Otherwise it just all collects.
One of the most helpful ways to shake the dust off is to turn to the Scriptures. Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks loudly. That’s so often how things are answered.
Cherish the Scriptures. Put love into reading them. Pray them. This should cause our hearts to love more. It should cause us to want to do more. It should teach us how to love more. True prayer will make us love others more. It won’t make us separate. Although as nuns we may appear separated because we’re cloistered, for us, praying with the Scriptures makes us love more in a different way, in the sense of bringing people before the Lord in prayer, caring about their cares. True prayer should bring us even more together. It is a happiness, a joy, to be united to all those you love in the Spirit. Let your prayer bring you to that place. It should really root us together in that way, and then it won’t be a surprise in Heaven when we’re together, too.
This fall, we tinted the upper windows of our chapel to solve the dilemma of having very direct sunlight hit our faces when we are trying to pray the Divine Office. It was a three-day ordeal, involving moving our liturgies to the conference room, fitting a JLG lift through doorways it almost couldn’t, and a constant process of building and re-building scaffolding, but it was all worth it, because at last, “By day the sun shall not smite you, nor the moon in the night” (Psalm 121:6).
Annual Community Retreat
On October 9-15, we had Father Jeff Loseke, Ed.D., S.T.L. (currently serving as Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska) direct our annual community retreat. His daily conferences were on the topic of healing, and were a great blessing to us.
How wonderful to compare the before and after pictures of our garden this season!
The Changing of the Leaves
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.
This year’s calendar features photos of our Sisters performing daily monastic duties. The calendar also gives the days of the Church’s liturgical days and seasons, together with days commemorated by the Order of St. Benedict, as they are observed at our Abbey.
You can order a calendar from our Gift Shop, either by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by ordering online (see below). The prices listed for one, two, or three calendars include tax, shipping and handling.
St. Padre Pio is a favorite of many; you cannot but love him. His whole life was one of suffering, yet he was known to have a great sense of humor. He also had a righteous temper! Padre Pio knew what sin was, he knew exactly how it separated people from God, and he took offense at it.
The example of Padre Pio reminds me of what we read in the book of Haggai. Haggai 1:7 says: “Consider your ways/Reflect on your experience.” If we are serious about our lives, we will do just that. Monastic tradition dictates that we reflect on our lives particularly twice a day: at noon and in the evening at Compline.
We reflect on our day for the purpose of conversion. It’s not to take into account everybody else’s faults; it’s to account for our own reactions. I’m responsible for my reactions. Yes, people can push my buttons: they can be nasty, they can do all kinds of things, but that doesn’t mean that I have to react badly. The reason we are to consider our ways is so that we can change them. Beware of going through life saying “it’s everybody else’s fault.”
We also play a part in how we are to our [brothers and] sisters. Don’t push people’s buttons. If you know something hurts them, be aware of it. Go the extra mile to be kind in that area. Be aware of the weaknesses of one another. What we can do to help one another, we’re responsible for doing.
“Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:7). People are saying “Oh no… no-no… it’s not the time for that. It’s not the time to build the house within” (cf. Haggai 1:2). That’s what the world says, but God says it is the time. How are we supposed to do it? Read again in Haggai, “Go up into the hill country; bring timber, that I may be pleased with it, and that I may be glorified, says the Lord” (Haggai 1:8). Bring the Cross. Carry It. Follow Him.
Remember Who Christ is in your life. Keep Him before you daily. Every moment. Seek His Face every single moment.
On September 14, 2022, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, our Sister Mary made her First Profession of Monastic Vows during the Eucharistic Celebration, receiving the name Sister Maria-Rose, and taking Our Lady of Guadalupe as her Patroness. It was a beautiful ceremony, and unique because our Sister Assunta also renewed her simple vows for the final time before making her Solemn Profession next year.
We know the famous story about God telling Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let His people go. He says, “Now, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Don’t you think Moses choked at this command: “Pharaoh? I took off from there a few years ago… This isn’t what I had in mind!” And isn’t it true that in our own lives, God also sends us to those places we don’t really want to go? The things we’ve run from are the very things we slam into. We think we’ve left them far behind when we’re in a new place…But there it all is again! And you sit there saying, “Why?”
Moses says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11), as in, “Can we talk about somebody else going?” But God answered, “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12). There’s the difference. It’s that now you’re being sent. You’re being commissioned and now, personally, I will be with you. There is no fear when God is with us. I think that’s one of the most important things to remember: don’t be afraid of what God has ordained. Don’t fear the things of God… even when you have to run right back into the things you were fleeing from, or not really wanting to be around. Those are the places where He says, “Oh! Come right in! I’m here waiting for you.” It’s something to think about. God doesn’t want us to fear. He wants to show His power in weakness because then we’re sure it’s Him.
It’s nothing for a muscle-man to pick up a car. But if somebody who weighs 60 pounds and doesn’t look too well, walks over and picks up a car, you would say, “It can’t be him – it must be the Lord!” So He makes it evident, very often, that it’s His work and not our own. So never be surprised when you’re asked things beyond what you think you can do. God says, “This will be great. Even you will know it is I who am doing it.”
We know that St. Benedict says in the Rule that one of the signs of a vocation is if the person seeks God. That’s such an important part of our lives—that we never stop seeking Him. In the Psalms it says, “Look to the Lord in his Strength, constantly seek His face” (Psalm 105:4). I think sometimes we have to remember that prayer isn’t just when we’re in the Chapel. Prayer is being in the presence of God. That’s something we learn to carry throughout our day. We learn to be in His presence in the Chapel, and then we love it so much, we desire to become being in His presence. At the end of our lives, we are to become prayer. That is our goal: that prayer never leaves us. As Benedictines, we don’t separate the Work of God (the prayer of the Divine Office) from the rest of our lives. We take it and we live it continually, wherever we go, whatever we do. We never stop being the prayer. And I would say that is the challenge of our day. To become prayer means that we never ever cease having God in our hearts, on our minds, and on our lips. But that’s something you grow into. It takes a lifetime. I think that’s the beauty of life, that you grow into being fully who you were created to be. Your life will be holy and beautiful if you allow God to be the center of it.
In the same Psalm we hear, “Glory in His Holy Name! Rejoice, O hearts, that seek the Lord!” (Psalm 105:3). There should be a spiritual joy about us. In spite of whatever is going on, the only things that are really important are those things that are Eternal. All the rest? It will vanish, and it won’t mean anything. But everything that we do that has Eternity attached to it, we need to pay attention to.
One of the things we have to pay attention to is compassion. You learn compassion from being with others. That’s why being in community is so important; you learn to love even those who don’t love you. But what a gift! It teaches you truly to love. Don’t count it amiss when you have trouble with others. Don’t count it amiss when you have to work a little harder. Count it a gift. It will teach you to love with the love of God. Be sorry for those who never have that chance. It’s so important to be tried. It is so important in the monastic life that we work hard to be better than we could ever be alone. I’m finding that more and more, as I get older, you become more compassionate because you’ve had to struggle through many things. You also have moments when you realize your mistakes and say, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that!” These experiences teach us to have compassion on others who are in the same situation we were in. In these cases, how could you not care?
On July 11, the Solemnity of Saint Benedict, our Sister Maria-Placida renewed her vows for another year. Join us in praying for her as she journeys toward Solemn Profession!
During the vow renewal ceremony, the “Suscpie” is sung by the sister before the altar. The full text of the chant is “Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam et non confundas me ab expectatione mea,” which translates, “Uphold me O Lord, as you have promised, that I may live; and disappoint me not in my hope.” Below is a beautiful word about the “Suscpie” from Esther de Waal, a contemporary author on Benedictine spirituality:
We stand daily before God with empty hands, just like the publican. “Suscpie me, accept me O Lord as you have promised and I shall live; do not disappoint me in my hope.” [These words] mean more now that I have learnt that the Latin word comes from the verb sub-capere, to take underneath and so with the idea of supporting, raising, and that in Roman usage it was the word for a father taking up a new-born infant from the ground and thus recognizing it as his own…Accept me, receive me, support me, raise me up – wonderful singing words that say everything that I want to say as a prayer for myself.
It seems to me that God loves to meet people on a walk. Starting in Genesis we hear that God walked with Adam and Eve through the gardens. And we have Jesus meeting the disciples on the road to Emmaus. And we have Saul on the way to Damascus. And how many other encounters there have been, we don’t know, but I’m sure there are many. And I think they still happen today. Enjoy your walks! You never know if He is going to be upon you, quickly, and with a great deal of love. But remember He also walked His Passion. The Way of the Cross. And He met each one: His Mother, Veronica, Simeon… Think of all those He encountered on the Way, specifically.
We have to be able to allow God’s presence, and not pass Him by. On the road to Emmaus, the disciples had the chance to let Jesus go, and they didn’t. “Stay with us,” they said. I think the excitement of every day comes from wondering, “Where am I going to meet Him?” “How am I going to meet Him?”
Jesus wants our lives to be mixed with His. It’s like in a marriage, how over time a couple even grows to look alike, because they transform each other. That should be true of all of us. By the end of our lives we should be transformed. By doing things so much like Christ we should begin to look like Him. I wish that for everyone, and for you to have a lovely walk, encountering Him all along your way every day.