This motet, “Desidero mi Jesu,” composed by Kevin Allen, was performed by three of our Sisters on the Solemnity of St. Benedict, July 11.
Between battling the weeds, caring for the cattle, and tending the gardens, summer tends to be a busy season for us; but because of our monastic horarium that provides sacred time for prayer, the balance of “ora et labora” keeps our priorities in check.
One of our Sisters shares an experience she had before entering our community which gave her a foretaste of her future life as a Benedictine nun, though she did not know it at the time:
I was finishing up a day’s work at the hospital when the word was passed around the nurse’s station: “Rachel is going to go home on hospice this week.” The news wasn’t surprising; Rachel, one of our dear patients in her late teens, had spent a lot of time on our floor over the last couple of years, and her medical condition had gotten much worse recently. After I completed my shift, I walked down the hall and knocked on Rachel’s door. I wasn’t in such a peppy mood myself that autumn. The gentleman I had been dating had unexpectedly broken up with me a few months before, and I found myself unable to leave behind the deep sadness I was still feeling. But that night I knew I had to say goodbye to Rachel and thank her for the gift she had been to me. As I sat on her bed, she told me how sad she was to be dying. I was sad with her. As I drove home from work that night, I realized with a sudden insight that I was ALIVE, and I was filled with awe and gratitude at this awareness. By the time I stepped inside my house, I was so overwhelmed with joy at being alive that I began to write down all the things that made me grateful for my life. Memories and desires poured out almost faster that I could write them down. I was so overcome with joy for the gift of my own life that the sadness that had been oppressing me for the last few months was suddenly insignificant. I was alive!!! My vocational call didn’t come until several years later, but the grace I received from Rachel that night was a foreshadowing of the grace I receive now in my vocation as a Benedictine nun. The immense gratitude for the gift of my life demands a response, and my response is the complete gift of my life back to my Creator in a sacrifice of praise! In fact, for me personally, this is not only one way, but the fullest way possible I can express my gratitude to God for creating me. St. Benedict’s only goal is to seek God, so that we might begin now what will be brought to completion in heaven. Using the words of St. John, he urges his monks to “run while you have the light of life that the darkness of death may not overtake you” (Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue.13). No wonder St. Benedict directs even the most ordinary aspects of daily life so carefully. All those short moments together make up this great gift we have called LIFE, and there is no time to waste in complacency. I believe that the profound reverence and intentionality with which St. Benedict treats of those smallest choices reveals his deeply grateful heart. The final verse of Psalm 150, which we sing at Lauds every Saturday and Feast day concludes, “Let everything that breathes, praise the Lord,” and I often note with gratitude that I am indeed still breathing, and I remember Rachel as we sing it. Thank you, Rachel, for bringing me into such a full life by your death! I pray that when I follow you into eternity someday, together in the heavenly kingdom we will praise the Lord forever.
A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, on how Mary shows us the way to love beyond our hurts
The Office of Readings for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is so important. We see how Juan Diego is called tenderly by Mary to accomplish a special mission for the Church “in words both gentle and courteous.” That is really the speech of heaven—gentle and courteous. We should try to remember that and take it on as well. She calls Juan Diego to build a church so that people may “call upon and confide in me.” That is the call of the Blessed Mother. It’s as if she said, “Confide in me, and I will help you. Do not be afraid to tell me the things deepest in your heart. I will bring you to God.” That call hasn’t changed. She is incredibly loving toward the deepest sinners, because those are the ones to whom God says, “I want you, and I’m not letting go.”
Juan Diego approaches the bishop about building the church, but he is rejected. The next time he needs to pass over the same hill where he met Our Lady, he tries to skirt around the place where he met her last. What’s so beautiful is that the Blessed Mother takes no offence, she simply goes to the other side and meets him with a tender, “Juanito!” It is so lovely how heaven lets us be people, doesn’t hold our humanity against us, but simply goes to meet us where we are. She makes roses miraculously appear on the hilltop and asks him to cut them and bring them as a sign to the bishop to prove God’s will. She sends him forth, calling him her “ambassador, very worthy of trust.”
I pray that she would say the same to each one of us: “You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.” If you hear those words, can you embrace them, and act accordingly? When you ask a sign from heaven, not because you lack faith, but because you really want to do God’s will, receive it and shout for joy. Embrace it as a total gift. Our Lady truly cares. When you confide in her and ask her help, believe me, she does not leave you alone. And even if you should run round the hill to skirt her, she will just simply run sweetly to the other side and call you. Let us all follow the Blessed Mother’s example of meeting each other where we are, and not having unreasonable expectations for others that lead to us being impatient and frustrated. Remember that “as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,” (Matthew 7:2). So let us be generous in loving one another, even when we feel disappointed or hurt. When you decide to forgive people, you do not have to feel warm and fuzzy toward them, no, your love has to be deeper than that. You have to make up your mind that you want what is best for them, for their healing and salvation, and that you will one day be together in heaven as the people you were created to be. Healing from wounds is a lifetime of work, and we should try to support, not hinder, each other from this process. St. Benedict says in his Rule to pray for the troubled brother suffering from illness of the soul… and who of us is not this brother from time to time? We all need each other’s’ prayer and good will. It is my hope that the next time the occasion arises for you to shut down because someone offended you, you remember Our Lady of Guadalupe and decide to run to meet the person on the other side of the hill with a kind word and a smile.
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