Loving Like Mary Magdalene

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

The story of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb is so delightful.  She is so intent on finding Jesus.  How long does it take her to notice the angels there?  But they address her with such honor, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (John 20:13).  Heaven is concerned when we are weeping.  They don’t pass it by.  They want to know why we are weeping.  They want to be a part of it.  They want to give us direction.  I wonder how many times we’ve encountered angels and didn’t know it.  It’s a beautiful thing when God breaks through our world and tries to show us the way.  And it’s always to Jesus that we are being pointed. 

Mary Magdalene’s great love for Jesus is so powerful.  She tells the guard that she’ll take His body away; do you know how much a corpse weighs?  Her love would have carried Him.  It is for us to love Him just as much.  It’s for us to care enough to keep searching for Him no matter what.  No matter what our emotions are, or whether we’re having a good day or a bad day, it is for us to continue seeking Him, and listening to what He has to say.

Jesus will call our name.  Be ready to answer.  What are you going to say?  “Teacher”?  “My Love”?  What are you going to answer when He calls your name?  And we also hear Jesus asking Mary Magdalene, “Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:15).  He’s going to be asking us that too.  What is your answer?

At the top of our Stations of the Cross

So I tell you,
her many sins have been forgiven;
hence, she has shown great love.

Luke 7:47

Paschal Candles + Exsultet Audio

Thanks to the hard work of the Sisters in our paschal candle department, parishes across the state are now burning our hand-painted candles in their churches. Sister Fidelis’ beautiful scene of the tomb on Easter morning was replicated by each artist on candles large and small, depending on what each parish ordered. Paschal candles are used during the Easter Vigil Mass to carry the flame from the Easter fire into the church, and from which every other candle in the church is lit, as a symbol of Christ the true Light enlightening the world and dispelling the darkness of evil.

A very blessed Easter season to all—He is Risen!

Abbess Mother Maria-Michael sings the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil Mass. The final part of this age-old prayer is about the Easter candle, featured in the audio clip above.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone.

Isaiah 9:1

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. This was the scripture passage he was reading:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,

and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

In (his) humiliation justice was denied him.

Who will tell of his posterity?

For his life is taken from the earth.”

Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.

Acts 8:30-35


A reflection on the joy celebrating Holy Week by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
            my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
            be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
            I will never forget you.

                        -Isaiah 49: 14-15

This reading from Isaiah reminds us that we are never forgotten.  Everything is done, or allowed, for our good.  But when you think of all the sorrows of Holy Week you might say, “How in the world is this about rejoicing?”  Because Somebody has come to save us.  We could not do it on our own.  We couldn’t bear that weight.  God alone could bear the justice; and so there is rejoicing.  If Jesus were to go into a prison and say, “You are all free, because I’m going to undergo the death penalty for you,” I don’t think the prisoners would just shrug their shoulders.  There would be a real sense of freedom and gratitude.  Holy Week should bring gratitude for what He has done, and we should express that gratitude throughout each day.  I’m sure you already tell Him many times throughout the day, “I love you, Jesus,” but maybe do it a little more.  I think that’s what encouraged Him during His Passion.  I read that at one point in His agony He heard all the voices throughout time expressing gratitude.  Make sure your voice is there.  Make sure He hears how grateful you are to serve and to love Him.

Cross on the monastery property

The Trinity holds nothing back, but pours forth abundantly and completely.  We should marvel at that, because that is so unlike man.  The world teaches us to protect ourselves, and hold all our cards so nobody can take thembut the Trinity lays them all out.  Try to live at that supernatural level.  Be brave enough to not hold back.  Be brave enough to serve and to be the servant of all.  That takes true courage, because it is not the way of the world.  Climb.  Always climb, and you truly will rejoice.  When you die, you won’t be saying, “I wish I had…” You’ll be saying, “I’m so glad I did.”

Exult greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
Behold: your king is coming to you,
a just savior is he,
Humble, and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9
Donkey on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage one of our Sisters made before entering the monastery

On the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out:
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, [even] the king of Israel.”
Jesus found an ass and sat upon it, as is written:
“Fear no more, O daughter Zion;
see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt.”
His disciples did not understand this at first, but when Jesus had been glorified they remembered that these things were written about him and that they had done this for him.

John 12:12-16

Annunciation Motet

On March 25, the Annunciation of the Lord, Sister Maria renewed her monastic vows for another year. Join us in praying for her, as her next step will be making her Solemn Profession next year!

During the celebration of the Eucharist on that day, some of our Sisters sang a motet called “Dixit Maria” by Hans Leo Hassler, in honor of Mary’s response to Gabriel’s message. The video features their singing, along with the tapestries hanging in our chapel woven by a nun from Abtei St. Walburg in Eichstätt, Germany:

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

In Praise of the Virgin Mother by St. Bernard (Hom. 4, 8-9: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4 [1966], 53-54)

The Monastic Vocation: Teaching the World about Humility and Obedience

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, on the Benedictine’s call to practice some of the least popular virtues in our world’s culture

Statue of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy (his birthplace), taken before the 2016 earthquake

In Chapter 7 of his Rule, Saint Benedict tells us, “We must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw angels descending and ascending (Gen. 28:12).  Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility.  Now the ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts the Lord will raise it to heaven.  We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend” (Rule 7:6-9).  It says our divine vocation.  As some say, the monastic life is the life of the angels.  It’s a bit hard on us because we have original sin hanging on us, but really it is like the life of the angels in that we have the ability to be undistracted in our praise of God.  A married woman’s first duty is her husband and her family.  We have given up things and that particular love, the pleasure of a family– all of those things we have given up because of the divine call.  The divine vocation to praise God in a particular way.  We have to remember it is a divine call.  It’s not something we imagined up together and decided to do.  It cannot possibly happen without God’s grace and His call.

I want to share with you this part about what happened after Jacob’s dream: “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, ‘Truly, the LORD is in this place and I did not know it!’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome this place is! This is nothing else but the house of God, the gateway to heaven!’” (Gen. 28:16-17).  God’s almighty power and His presence can be fearful, and we should remember who God is.  We are not His equal.  There should be some true fear of the Lord in our lives.  When you really love someone, you fear to hurt them; you fear to do something against them.  I think that is part of the fear of the Lord.  We should fear to offend Him and to live against Him.  We should fear to harm that relationship.  This fear is appropriate because we know the consequences.  This fear is the foundation of the dear virtue of humility.  Humus: we are all made of the same dirt.  There is not anybody who is made of something better – unless you’re not a human being.  There is nothing that makes us greater, except what St. Benedict says: one can be more loved because of their obedience.  This is, because of our nature, a tug of war, due to original sin.  We carry within us the desire to be like God—to have all the knowledge, to be equal with Him.  Obedience is the recognition and submission to someone being over you—to have someone over you and to have the right to ask of you great (and sometimes difficult) things, and for you to then have the duty to obey.  This is our struggle in life, and why obedience is such a great virtue.

Saint Benedict was a wise man and he loved the Lord profoundly.  His order continues to this day and it is the order that the mystics say will continue until the end of time.  I believe this is because this order teaches man about Eden: the right relationship with God, the work and the prayer, the honor of God and the honor of one another.  This is the work that we are showing to the world by our life and example—To teach them again how to communicate with God, how to love God, and how to act appropriately with our beloved Savior.  Let’s think of this today: How much are you loving God in your life?  May your goal be to love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and your whole body.

Our Feb. 2 Tradition

Every year on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, after the blessing of candles and the celebration of the Eucharist, we place our candles in a heart candelabra in front of the altar to burn throughout the day.  It is a tradition that honors the Sacred Heart of Christ, which burns with love for us, and serves as a reminder that our vocation is to return love for Love – that in us, Love Himself may be loved.

Watch this video to see our candles burning on the Feast of the Presentation, and hear some of our Sisters sing “Ave Sacer Christi Sanguis”.

“GOD has created my heart only for Himself. He asks me to give it to Him that He may make it happy. “

Saint John Vianney

You Are a Teacher

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

We hear in the Gospels about the schedule of Jesus.  What was on his work list was very simple: “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness” (Matthew 9:35).  That was His work; that’s what He did.

I was thinking of the importance of teaching, and how according to the Rule of St. Benedict the Abbot does the teaching, but every one of you teaches as well.  Your actions teach.  Are you a good teacher?  What is your class?  What are you teaching?  These are important questions.  We hear from St. Benedict in his Rule what he would like to see in teaching:  

…Anyone who receives the name of abbot is to lead his disciples by a twofold teaching: he must point out to them all that is good and holy more by example than by words, proposing the commandments of the Lord to receptive disciples with words, but demonstrating God’s instructions to the stubborn and the dull by a living example. Again, if he teaches his disciples that something is not to be done, then neither must he do it. (RB 2.11-13)

We should all look at this in our lives.  What are we actually saying by our actions?  Are we saying one thing and doing another?  Are we expecting one thing and then not expecting it of ourselves?  Think if everyone acted like you all day, how would it look?  It might just be the most wonderful thing in the world, but it does help to ask that question.  This is a part of renewal and conversion.  I think in community it’s hard not to hold ourselves accountable.  Somehow whatever we do always comes back to us.  But even if this wasn’t the case, we hear from St. Benedict, “Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do, aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be” (RB 4.48-49).  So God too is watching.  What is the discipline in your life that helps you?

Remember how important your life is.  Whether you like it or not, you are sisters!*  You have an impact on your community.  You do.  What is that impact?  This is for you to think of.  Remember that everything God made is very good, so you have no excuse by saying you were made bad.  You are wonderful in the eyes of God.  Don’t put aside the impact you have.  Don’t belittle it and think you’re nothing or that nobody sees you.  That is completely untrue.  You are seen and you are loved.  Look honestly at your life, and if you’re looking honestly you will see the good as well as the not-so-good.  Capitalize on the good – invest in it!  Do all you can to be all the good you are; the rest will fade away.  I wish this for everybody.

*This meditation was addressed to the community of nuns at the Abbey, where only sisters were present.

“Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others.”

Pope Saint John Paul II

Wisdom from St. Francis de Sales

Today the Church commemorates St. Francis de Sales, whose Introduction to the Devout Life has aided many on their spiritual journeys. Here are a couple passages from his writing which are as relevant today as they ever were:

“Anxiety proceeds from an inordinate desire of being delivered from the evil that we feel or of acquiring the good that we hope for.  Yet there is nothing that tends more to increase evil and to prevent the enjoyment of good than inquietude and anxiety.  Birds remain caught in nets and traps because when they find themselves ensnared, they eagerly flutter about and struggle to extricate themselves and in that way entangle themselves all the more.  Whenever you are pressed with a desire to be freed from some evil or to obtain some good, before all else be careful both to settle your mind in repose and tranquility and to compose your judgment and will…When you perceive that anxiety begins to affect your mind, recommend yourself to God.”

Introduction to the Devout Life

“Now then, as to these smaller temptations…As it is impossible to be altogether free from being plagued by them, the best defense that we can make is not to give ourselves much trouble about them.  Although they may annoy us, yet they can never harm us, so long as we continue firmly resolved to dedicate ourselves in earnest to God’s service…Turn your heart gently towards Jesus Christ crucified and by an act of love kiss His sacred feet.  This is the best means to overcome the enemy, as well as in small as in great temptations.  As the love of God contains within itself all the perfections of all the virtues, and more excellently than the virtues themselves, so it is also the sovereign antidote against every kind of vice.”

Introduction to the Devout Life
A statue in our monastery of the child Jesus standing with St. Joseph

“Turn your heart gently towards Jesus Christ crucified and by an act of love kiss His sacred feet…”

St. Francis de Sales

Remembering Sister Pauline

Sister Pauline LaPlante, OSB, September 4, 1934 – January 2, 2022

Sister Pauline was born on September 4, 1934 in Verdun, a suburb of Montreal, in the province of Quebec, Canada.  Her birth name was Marie Anna Yolande, and her father Louis LaPlante worked at a hosier factory, and mother Emerilda Chartier LaPlante had been a teacher, but became a full-time home-maker after Yolanda’s birth.  She was the only child.  At four years old, she saw a film on St. Therese and was so deeply impressed that she decided she wanted to become a nun.  After her first year of high school, her parents transferred her from the French section to the English section of the same school, in order for her to learn English.  After high school, Yolande attended a private secretarial college and worked as a secretary for the next six years.

At 19, she visited the Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac and fell in love with the Benedictines.  In opposition to her parents’ wishes, she entered the Monastery Mont-Laurier, 150 miles north of Montreal on October 8, 1956.  She was occupied mostly with secretarial work and bookkeeping, but was also a printer for nine years.  She made her first profession on October 7, 1958 and took the name Pauline.

In 1980, she transferred to the monastery of St. Walburga in Bouder.  It happened like this: One afternoon in Fall of 1979, there was waiting in the parlor a tall, slim lady in her forties with carefully arranged reddish-blond hair. She was announced as Miss LaPlante, coming from Texas. After the exchange of a few pleasantries, she inquired when we would have Vespers and Compline, whether we said Matins in the morning or anticipate it the day before, and then she asked whether she could see Reverend Mother.  Then she “confessed”: “I am really Sr. Pauline LaPlante, a Benedictine for almost 25 years from Mont Laurier close to Montreal.  For certain reasons, I had to leave my monastery, and am now in search of a new community.  I did not write beforehand, because every monastery I wrote to either did not answer at all or denied my request of transfer.  So, I thought, if I am just here, you would not turn me out.  I only want to save my monastic vocation!”  She was close to tears. The Prioress, Mother Gertrude, agreed that Sister Pauline could stay in the guest house.  She was given some work to do for two months, and on January 25, her name-day, after a letter of recommendation from her former Abbess had arrived, she was allowed to enter.  There were no formal Constitutions nor Canon Law regulations known for a case of “transfers”.  So, after a year of probation, again on her name day, Sr. Pauline transferred her vows to our community.  

She has been a most faithful and loyal member of our community, and a stellar model of a Benedictine nun.  Many people have been blessed by the correspondence she kept up as our community secretary for decades, as well as by purchasing one of the thousands of rosaries she made throughout her life. In fact, it was due to her repair of a rosary that the possibility arose for us to move to Virginia Dale from Boulder. She was known for the “twinkle” in her eye, and a thoughtful and gentle spirit that became the essence of her personality.

The Original Cabbage Patch Kid

A reflection on the life of Sister Mary Sebastian, OSB, by a nun of the Abbey of St. Walburga

Sister Mary Sebastian Geary, OSB

July 4, 1933 – December 13, 2021

I will never forget the day that I had the opportunity to hear the story of Sister Mary Sebastian’s life.  Knowing what little I did about this fun-loving nun who goes around asking people if they’ve seen her baby picture and then showing them a photo of a monkey, I was utterly shocked when I heard from her what growing up in Whiting, Indiana was like.  For one, she was born and raised in a boxcar.  Her dad worked for the railroad and so they offered for him to live in a boxcar, and he agreed because he didn’t have enough money for anything else.  They were the only Mexicans on that side of town, so at school the kids would hit her and call her African American racial slurs since they had never seen Mexicans before.  She was bullied quite a bit, but she had one friend named Camilla, a big tough girl, who stood up for her.  The same Camilla also taught Sr. Mary Sebastian how to steal from stores, but apparently that only happened once, with a pencil. 

With three older brothers, Sr. Mary Sebastian got the last “bed” in the boxcar: the couch.  She was also last to bathe in the metal tub, after all her brothers had already bathed in it, and only once a week.  Her mother made tortillas, rice and beans every day, and that’s all they ate.  They used the restroom in an outhouse.  No electricity.  No running water.  But lots of pet cats!  Sr. Mary Sebastian didn’t let living in poverty get the best of her.  She became the mother to many stray cats, whom she buried in the feline cemetery she created for whenever they got run over by the trains.  Her Birthday was on July 4, so her father told her that the parade and fireworks were in honor of her, and she believed him for a long time.  She also believed that she was born in a cabbage patch because that’s what her dad told her when she asked him where she came from, and she was so proud to tell the kids at school that she was born in a cabbage patch, when all of them were born in boring old hospitals and homes. 

My heart broke when she told me about the loss of the brother she was closest to when she was 8 and he was 11, and how her mom died tragically not long after that.

The silver lining of her story was when she started talking about Morris, her husband, who she grew up going to school with.  He asked to walk her home in middle school, but she was so embarrassed about the boxcar that she never let him take her all the way.  One day he sweetly asked, “Will you not let me walk you all the way home because you live in a boxcar?”  She was amazed to find out that he knew all along and didn’t care!  Morris wasn’t Catholic, but he knew how important Sr. Mary Sebastian’s faith was to her, so he secretly went through RCIA in high school and surprised her by becoming Catholic their senior year.  Their plans to go to Florida State with Morris’ football scholarship changed when he went into the Army right after they graduated.  Ironically, instead of sending him to fight in the Korean War, they recruited him to be a dog trainer, even though he had never worked with dogs before.  So he returned home safe and sound after about a year.  They soon married and moved to Hammond, Indiana, where she worked as a switchboard operator and he went to work at the steel mills.  Here it was that they began their family, 4 boys and 2 girls, and they lived a happy life in Hammond until Morris passed away from lung cancer at the age of 52.  Before Morris died, he told Sr. Mary Sebastian that she would become a nun – a prophetic word, it turned out to be.  Two years later she talked to her children about her religious calling, and after that she felt free to pursue what she felt was the Lord calling her to: the consecrated religious life.  She entered a Benedictine community in Illinois that did nursing, and received some training as a nurse’s aid, but sought to transfer to our community after the Illinois community began to struggle.  St. Walburga’s was happy to accept her transfer, and the rest is history.  She made her profession in 1990, and has been a faithful nun of our community ever since.  Her life is truly one of contagious delight.  She brings so much joy and laughter to everyone she meets.  I am truly inspired by the life of this dear Sister of mine – she is the living testimony that, come what may, you can make lemonade when life hands you lemons, or more appropriately, delicious coleslaw when life hands you cabbage.

She was the loving mother to her 6 children: Susan Vandersteen; Michael (Allyson) Geary; Laura Jean Geary; Steven A. Geary; and Benjamin A. Geary; as well as her son, Mark A. Geary, who preceded her in death. She is survived by her brother, Jess (Velma) Sandoval, as well as her gandson, Eric (Nancee) Havill, granddaughters Lauren Vandersteen (Michael Reed) and Kristen (Marcus) O’Reilly, granddaughter Mary Rayburn, grandson Zachary (Samantha) Geary as well as numerous great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Morris Dean Geary; brothers Frank, John, and Peter Sandoval and sister Yolanda Sandoval; and her sisters of the Abbey of St. Walburga.