A 2023 Resolution: Kindness

A reflection for the New Year by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

In 1 Corinthians 2:10, St. Paul says, “Brothers and sisters: The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.”  You know what he doesn’t say?  He doesn’t say that the Spirit criticizes; he doesn’t say that the Spirit murmurs.  He just says that the Spirit scrutinizes.

What’s the difference?  To scrutinize means to examine or inspect closely.  You really, really look hard at it.  To criticize actually means to indicate the faults of someone or something in a disapproving way.  That’s criticizing, and a murmur is a soft, indistinct sound by a person or a group speaking quietly at a distance.

When there’s something in you that starts criticizing everything about yourself, I think you need to turn it off and not listen to it.  There’s a time when we can critique ourselves, which means to look and be able to see a balance of good and bad.  But criticizing yourself – to speak so negatively – I don’t think that’s what God wants for us.

We need to pay attention to these things because usually what you do to yourself, you will do to others.  When you’re really hard on yourself, guess what?  You won’t notice when you’re hard on someone else.  And you don’t even mean it, but it’s just your way of thinking that’s come out.  

Then, in 1 Corinthians 4:5 St. Paul says, “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and will manifest the motives of our hearts.”  But the more wonderful thing is that he goes on to add, “And then everyone will receive praise from God.”  He’s actually anticipating praise!  What a way to live!  Do you live like that?  When we have that way of living, anticipating good, it changes how we hear and see things.  Instead of seeing black, we see that the dawn is coming; instead of seeing just the negative, we give the positive the first place.

In your desire to achieve great holiness, it’s in making those little changes.  It’s the little things that make a lifetime.  Think of that today: the little voice with which you speak to yourself.  How is it?  Know, however you’re speaking to yourself, everyone else will become aware of it.  So don’t judge yourself or others too harshly.  You too must know that you have a good intent.  You too must know that, deep within you, you really mean well, and so does your neighbor.

Be kind to yourself, and you’ll be kind to others.


Photos from our chapel this Christmas season


…Give his people knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of their sins,

because of the loving kindness of our God

by which the daybreak from on high will visit us

to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,

to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Luke 1:77-79

Advent: He Is Coming!

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

One of the first readings the Church gives us during Advent is from the book of Revelation: “‘These words are trustworthy and true, and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits, sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.’ ‘Behold, I am coming soon.’” (Rev. 22:6-7).  And that’s Advent.  He is coming soon.  Either we will see Him when He comes in the clouds, or we will see Him when we die and He comes to us, but one way or another we will see Him!  Am I ready?  Am I ready to see Him?  I think that we should have great joy when we think about this, not because we are confident in ourselves, but because we are confident in Him.  We should put great confidence in Him alone. 

Then we will have a great sense of joy about His coming, and we will strive to live for Christ purposefully at every moment, so that when He comes we are ready.  Part of that means being present to our prayer very purposefully, being present to each other very purposefully, giving a good example very purposefully.  Take the time to notice one another.  Don’t be too busy to notice those who are closest to you – those you whom you may take for granted.  Take the time to encourage one another.  Now is the time.  Now is the real time of joyful conversion.  Don’t wait, even an hour.  Begin.  Let each moment be a new beginning.  And then how bright would this world be – how bright! 

Mother Maria-Michael praying in the Chapel this Advent with our postulants Clare and Caitlin

I also want to point out that in one of the special collects (prayers) that the Church has during Advent, we implore the Lord that “when He comes and knocks, He may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in His praise.”  He comes and knocks in a special way during this season, and it is for us to ask ourselves, “How does God knock on my soul?  Is my soul attentive?  What are the deepest desires of my soul?”  The season of Advent is the season of silence, so that you can be aware of what is going on in your soul, not only the negative things, but also the joyful things.  What do you do throughout the day that makes Christ say, “I’m so happy I knocked on your door!”?  The silence of Advent is a joyful silence, kept so that we can hear His footsteps when He comes, so that we can hear His voice.  It’s a happy waiting, like a child at Christmas waiting for Santa Claus to make noise on the roof.  It’s that sense of waiting in expectation, of asking: “When is it going to happen?”  You don’t want to miss it.  That’s the joyful silence of this season. 

And if anyone feels like a lost sheep this Advent, just remember the importance of crying out to the Good Shepherd to be found.  Why would someone not cry out?  Shame?  Pride?  Self-reliance?  But the Lord hears the cry of the poor, and He wants to find you and be found by you this Advent.  So remember to cry out to Him, and let yourself be found!


Fall Features

Our Chapel Window Tinting Project

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. 

Click here to read more about our retreat.

Bringing in the Fall Harvest

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.

Psalm 96:11-13

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.

The Holy Rule Leads to Love

A reflection on the purpose of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

The Rule of St. Benedict outlines for us how to live a righteous life, and most importantly, it leads us to love.  At the end of our lives, we will be judged by love.  Just as the law isn’t going to save us so the Rule isn’t going to save us.  But if we do what it says, it leads us to love.

In the Prologue, St. Benedicts says that his Rule is from “a father who loves you” (RB Prologue:1).  His bottom line is that he’s writing it out of love.  According to the dialogues of St. Gregory, at the end of Benedict’s life, his love needed to be perfected.  So St. Scholastica, who was more perfect in love, was there to show him this last mark of his life that was needed—that love triumphs.  The law was good and necessary, but it leads to love, and that’s its only purpose. (Click here for Gregory the Great’s account of this meeting).

Again, we hear in the Rule that “as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love” (RB Prologue:49).  That’s what we’re all supposed to become.  That’s what St. Benedict so desires for us.  It is nothing more than the gospel message to love God and love our neighbor, and he shows us clearly a way to do this in his Rule.  I challenge everyone to read Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule and pick one thing to work on for the good of the Body of Christ, for the better of another, for love.  Do this seriously, that Christ may look upon you and say, “What a light in this world, which is so needed.  I see clearly that my death meant something.”  And in this way we will comfort the heart of Christ.

One of our Sisters reading the Holy Rule of St. Benedict and enjoying the beautiful Spring weather.

Embracing the Cross

A reflection on the triumph of Love by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB

I was thinking about the incredible words we sing during the Divine Office on the Feast of St. Andrew: “Seeing the cross [of his own martyrdom], Andrew cried out with joy, ‘O precious cross! Truly I have always loved you, and I have desired to embrace you.’”

This is a disciple who ran away in the garden of Gethsemane—he didn’t stand by Jesus on the cross—so the greatest gift that could be given to him was another chance to stand by the cross. What did he do with it? He embraced it. He longed for that moment to tell Christ, “I love you, and I want to be with you, wherever that leads.” This is the power of the triumph of the cross. Love is the triumph of the cross. When we love enough that we no longer fear the crosses in our lives but we embrace them and we long for them because they unite us with him who has loved us beyond all love, that is the triumph of the cross. So today we celebrate that we no longer fear the cross; it is truly the exaltation. Of course we cannot do this of ourselves. St. Andrew, St. Peter, none of them, could have embraced the cross on their own, but with divine strength they could embrace and kiss it. And their suffering turned into gratitude. Yes, when we can thank God for the crosses in our life, God has triumphed. When we can see that it is Love that has given us once again the chance to prove our love, we will rejoice and say, “Amen!” and run toward it, because we have a chance to prove our love. Let us pray today that the cross may triumph in our own lives, because it will not happen on our own. It is completely divine strength.

May this Easter season bring you much joy in the resurrection of Our Lord, who suffered his cross for the love of us, that we might have a sense of the depths of his love and desire to return our love for his.

Artwork by Sr. Ancilla Armijo, OSB