Another Suscipe

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:

The sun shining into the Chapel as Sister Maria-Placida sings her “Suscipe”

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.

Esther de Waal, Living With Contradiction

Signs of Summer

The below “photo story” highlights some of the things that make this season special at our monastery:

The sound of singing birds filling our chapel through the open windows is a sure sign that summer has arrived. This year a Red-winged Blackbird nest was found woven through the grass along the bank of one of the irrigation ditches.

Mowing, weeding, and gardening are very time-intensive during the summer months, but even more so this year since we are in the process of moving the location of the main vegetable garden to be closer to our cloister area.

Wooden crucifix in the Sisters’ Refectory
The Blessed Sacrament as seen from one of the upper loft oratories in our chapel

One of the best things about summer is the liturgical Solemnities that are celebrated, including Pentecost, the Most Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul, Saint Benedict, and the Assumption of Mary. In honor of Corpus Christi, here is a beautiful word about the institution of the Eucharist:

Our Lord raised His hands over the apostles, His lips moved in prayer, and He then said: “Do this in commemoration of me”…

By this act Our Lord made possible for all time His stay on earth amongst men, whom He loved to such an excess. And yet He knew with His Divine foresight what that meant for Him. Though He saw that His Body and Blood would be treated with reverence by a multitude of devout souls, yet He realised full well that in many and many an instance in the course of ages He would be placing Himself at the mercy of unworthy and sinful priests who would treat Him with irreverence and sacrilege. He saw in vision all the profanations, outrages and, what was more painful still to His loving heart, the cold indifference that He was to endure…

Love, especially Divine Love, does not halt to calculate and weigh advantage and disadvantage in the balance.

Excerpts from “The Last Supper” by Edward Leen, C.S.Sp.

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

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)

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

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.

2022 Abbey Calendars for Sale

This year’s calendar features stunning pictures of the tapestries that hang in our Abbey Church.  They were woven for us by Frau Walburga, OSB, at our motherhouse in Germany for our chapel in Boulder in the early 1960s.  Woven of hand-dyed and handspun wool, they depict the “Mysteries of Mary,” something like but not quite identical to the mysteries of the rosary.  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 the Abbey Gift Shop, either by telephoning us at 970-472-0612 or by ordering online (see below). The prices listed for one, two, or three calendars include tax, shipping and handling.

Order Quantity

Chris Stefanick Interviews Sister Immaculata

On October 25, our Sister Immaculata appeared on the Chris Stefanick Show to talk about the joys and challenges of the Benedictine life. Click here to watch!

Sister Immaculata and Chris share a laugh about how nuns can’t “defriend” each other on social media

St. Walburga’s Oil

Every year on October 12 the holy oil from Saint Walburga’s tomb in Germany begins to flow, and it continues until her Feast Day on February 25. Due to the testimonies of many people who have experienced God’s healing power after anointing themselves with the oil and asking Saint Walburga to pray for them, it seems that this quote from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux may also be applied to our patroness:

“I wish to spend my heaven in doing good upon the earth.”

Photo of Saint Walburga’s crypt at the Abtei St. Walburg in Eichstätt, taken by one of our Sisters who travelled to Germany for the Abbatial Blessing of Mother Hildegard, OSB. The images on the walls are memorial plaques depicting miracles attributed to Saint Walburga, donated by patrons in gratitude for her intercession.