Veni, Sancte Spiritus

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, as the Church prepares for the celebration of Pentecost and prays, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” (Come, Holy Spirit)

Abbey of St. Walburga Easter Vigil Mass

After Christ’s Resurrection, we hear that wonderful story about how He prepares a meal for his disciples on the shore of the lake, and tells them, “Come, have breakfast” (cf. John 21).  After this, he asks Peter three times if he loves Him, and instructs him, “Follow me.”  You would think that this would be enough for Peter, but of course he takes his eyes off of the Lord and sees John nearby, and has to ask, “Lord, what about him?”  It makes me smile how patient the Lord is with Peter, and how He simply responds, “What if I want him to remain until I come?  What concern is it of yours?  You follow me.” 

There is such wisdom in considering this – that if we get so wrapped up in the lives of everybody else, we might just miss our own.  Sometimes we get down with comparing ourselves with others, thinking, “He is more loved” or “She is more loved,” and we believe we’ve been left in the dust. Our love should be above that. What really matters is that we love.  There is such happiness in doing that. What an incredible gift it is, and what a freedom. So rather than getting caught up with how much we are loved, perhaps we should change the question to ask how much we love?  Others’ love for us may come and go, but our love doesn’t have to come and go.  Our love can be stable.   The best advice is to love God, and everything about Him.  Peter was still turning around looking at everything else, but all he had to do was look at Jesus, and it would have been enough.  Let us learn from Peter’s experience – sometimes the Scriptures are there to help us learn from others’ mistakes so we don’t have to make the same ones.  So let us be at peace with whatever the Lord gives us in life, and be content knowing that we are beloved by God.

In this blessed time after Easter, as the Church receives another outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, I encourage everyone to pray a Novena (a prayer prayed for nine consecutive days) asking the Holy Spirit to pour His gifts into you in abundance, especially the gift of love – And believe that you’re going to get what you ask for.  God is the “Creator Spirit,” and just as He is still creating new wonders in nature (have you heard about the new ocean being formed in Africa?!), He is still creating and re-creating you.  I heard that Michelangelo would look at a block of marble and start chipping away, and only then see what was “in it.”  The Holy Spirit is within us, and sees who we truly are, and chips away at everything that is not us – if we let Him.  And the more He chips away, the more we become bearers of light.  That is so key to the work of the Holy Spirit: Light.  Light in every way.  We can pray with Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new spirit within me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (v. 12, 14).  God is joy – let Him fill you completely with His joy.  We can pray that every day: “Give me Your joy!  Uphold me!  Create me anew.  Help me to follow You, that I may belong wholly to You.”  This is the Benedictine vow of conversatio morum, our ongoing conversion.  I pray this for everyone, that we might all be born anew each morning.

Evil wants to destroy life, but God wants to bring life – the world needs our witness to the power of re-creation today.  And one of the most powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit is forgiveness.  “[Jesus] said to the disciples, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:21-23).  Every time we go to the sacrament of reconciliation, we receive this gift.  Where there is unforgiveness, evil has an open door.  If you want to experience the power of the Spirit, then forgive.  Priests have the power to forgive us sacramentally, but we too get to participate in this healing power by forgiving another freely, mercifully, like Christ.  It doesn’t mean that you will forget the wrongs done to you, or feel good when you think about the person, but forgiveness is an act of your will.  Choose forgiveness, that you may release the captives in your own heart, and also be freed yourself.

We hear in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8), and I would add to that – “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God everywhere.”  I hope that we are given new eyes to see God everywhere, and in everything, for that’s what it means to have a new heart.  To be created anew is to see everything anew.  Be new.  God says in Revelation, “I will make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).  Do you believe that?  If you do, it will happen.  As one of the saints said (I forgot where I read this), you will be like a house on fire.  A soul afire with divine love is like a house on fire – when it is burning, everything inside is thrown out the windows.  And so when a soul is consumed by the flame of divine love, it casts out all that is unnecessary, and concentrates on all that is eternal: only love. 

I would like to leave you with these two Scripture verses:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O breath, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:9). 

“The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily…and you shall be changed into another man” (1 Samuel 10:6)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus!


Come, Holy Ghost
send down those beams,
which sweetly flow in silent streams
from Thy bright throne above.

O come, Thou Father of the poor;
O come, Thou source of all our store,
come, fill our hearts with love.

O Thou, of comforters the best,
O Thou, the soul’s delightful guest,
the pilgrim’s sweet relief.

Rest art Thou in our toil, most sweet
refreshment in the noonday heat;
and solace in our grief.

O blessed Light of life Thou art;
fill with Thy light the inmost heart
of those who hope in Thee.

Without Thy Godhead nothing can,
have any price or worth in man,
nothing can harmless be.

Lord, wash our sinful stains away,
refresh from heaven our barren clay,
our wounds and bruises heal.

To Thy sweet yoke our stiff necks bow,
warm with Thy fire our hearts of snow,
our wandering feet recall.

Grant to Thy faithful, dearest Lord,
whose only hope is Thy sure word,
the sevenfold gifts of grace.

Grant us in life Thy grace that we,
in peace may die and ever be,
in joy before Thy face.
Amen. Alleluia.

Translation of the Traditional Latin Squence for Pentecost

2024 Easter Candles

Thanks to the hard work of our Sisters in the paschal candle department, all the pastors who ordered candles from us are now burning our hand-painted candles in their parishes. Three different designs were created by three of our solemnly professed Sisters this year, and these designs were painted on candles large and small by the eight candle artists in our community, including two of our postulants. 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!

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

Obedient to Death

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

”The Last Sigh of Christ” by Julien-Michel Gue, 1840. Julien-Michel Gue, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Prayer is about listening to God, and obedience is about acting on what we hear.  Obedience requires that we be free enough in sprit to do what God asks of us.  We need to be free to do the will of God.  When there is right relationship, right order, in our lives, obedience is simple – If we just do what we’re told (unless it is a sin!), we will become holy.  Why do we sometimes try to make holiness harder than it has to be, by avoiding doing what we’re asked because we think there’s a better/holier way?  It’s only when our relationship with God is out of order that obedience becomes a problem for us – when our self-will becomes more important than serving God and our neighbor.  When we allow our inclinations that are not quite in order with God to take the first place, it puts a weight on us that makes obedience too heavy and hard to bear.  We get irritable.  We are unhappy.  It is painful.  But when our lives are brought back into proper relationship with God, and He can ask anything of us through obedience, then our peace is restored.

So the monastic vow of obedience is not a chain – it’s a ray of light.  It shows us the way to God.  It shows us the true path.  It gives us the way through the eye of a needle.  It allows us to practice every day what Christ did during His life on earth.  He who said, “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (John 6:38), and prayed before His death, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42), and then finally became “obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8), has gone before us to show us the way.  You can give up all your possessions, your time, your talent…But if you do not give up your will, you have not yet completely surrendered your all to God.  Try offering Him your will, and your will experience the fruit of His promise: “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

When we profess our vow of obedience, we place our hands between those of our Abbess

King David’s Humility

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

During the season of Lent, we traditionally process from our noon meal to the chapel to pray the Divine Office while chanting one of David’s penitential psalms

I have to smile when I read about Nathan pricking David’s conscience by telling him the dramatic narrative of the ewe lamb, and how Nathan likened David to the wicked man in the story who ate the innocent man’s precious lamb, which “shared the little food he had and drank from his cup and slept in his bosom…[and] was like a daughter to him” (cf. 2 Samuel 12:1-15).  How dramatic!  But David was humble enough to admit that he had done wrong.  His conscience was very pure in the sense that when he knew he had messed up, he wasn’t afraid to say “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”  That is so noble.  Admitting that we are wrong and sorry is something our culture doesn’t practice enough, in my opinion.  But when we bring our faults out into the open (like in the monastic custom of having a regular “chapter of faults”), it often takes away the bitterness we feel towards someone when we know that they are aware of their offences.  When you hear others admit their faults, you are more likely to feel for them and have compassion on them and try to help them, not condemn them.  It just takes courage.  It takes humility.  It takes not making excuses, but just owning up to the truth.  And living in the truth really makes you free.

David was a sinner, but he never turned his heart away from God.  David’s son Solomon, on the other hand, who was once told by the Lord that He had given him a heart so wise and understanding that there had never been anyone like him, and after him there would come no one to equal him (cf. 1 Kings 3:12), actually turned away from God when he grew older to worship foreign gods.  He did evil in the sight of the Lord, not worshipping God unreservedly, as his father David had done (cf. 1 Kings 11:1-10).  So the Lord said to Solomon, “since this is what you want” – and I think that is the most frightening word of all – “and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant” (1 Kings 11:11).  Solomon didn’t just fall; he wanted to.  Should you fall, get up quickly!  It can be good for you and keep you humble, if you respond like David did.  But to fall as Solomon, whose heart belonged at first so purely to God, and then to turn to demons…this is a true sorrow.  We have to pray for people in this situation today, because they never lose God’s love.  They just don’t respond to it.  If they would only respond, what joy they would give to God.  We have to pray that they see where they have gone wrong and trust in God’s word of mercy for them, not the lies of the demons that they use to try to shame them.  

As we learn from Solomon, it is so important to consider our desire.  What do we want in life?  What is it we want?  What is our deepest desire?  I think this is a good thing to think of, and to ask God to purify our hearts and help us to desire whatever He wants for us, so that we might be freed from anything that takes us away from Him and be ready to take His hands at all times, that we will be safe.  If your greatest desire is God, He will hold you.  

God gives you the grace every day to pick up your cross and follow Him.  But you shouldn’t look ahead at your whole lifetime of crosses – According to Luke, Jesus specifically says that we should take up our crosses daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23).  He gives you the grace for today.  You can’t look at tomorrow’s cross and feel comfortable, because you have not received that grace yet.  To pick up your cross daily is simply to desire to do God’s will.  It is to pray, “I accept this day, and I accept what it holds for me.  Whether the crosses be heavy or light, I will walk with Him.”  You know, when you love somebody you just want to be close to them.  Nothing else really matters.  When you love them, all you can think of is being close to them.  So if your cross is big or small today, He is carrying it with you, because He loves you.  He is saying to you, “Will you share My life?”

Lent 2024: Restoring Reverence and Gratitude

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, given to the nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga in preparation for Lent

The 40 days of Lent are such a wonderful gift that we give to God because we love Him.  Rather than being a big burden, Lent is really a joyful time, a time to look forward to and get excited about.  It’s a time to give to God in a very special way, and we do it in union with the whole Church – It’s so much bigger than just us.  This Lent, let us focus on amending the things we do which harm relationships, because unity is a very serious thing to God, who prays “that they may be one, as we are one,” (cf. John 17:22).  As you prepare your Lenten resolutions, ask, “How can I improve?”  Specifically, let’s consider how we can grow in the areas of reverence and gratitude.

Reverence seems to be a lost art, which I think Benedictines are truly called to bring back.  St. Benedict expects reverence from us: reverence for God, reverence for one another, and reverence for the abbot/abbess/those in authority.  I don’t think we learn this very well in our society today.  Rather than treating all people with dignity and respect, there is this idea that anyone can say anything they want to anyone they want, and just lay it all out there, and there is little consideration of those in authority.  What people don’t understand regarding authority is that it’s the office that is respected.  Even if we don’t respect the person, we treat them with respect because of the office they hold.?Whether we agree with a person in authority or not, it is not our place to tear them down and speak disparagingly of him.  Listening is an important part of respecting one another.  You have to put yourself aside and recognize Christ in another, even if you go blind because you’ve strained your eyes so much trying to do it. 

Keeping our rooms in good order is also a part of reverence.  We hear Christ tell His disciples to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).  One such deserted place should be our cells (the monastic term for “bedrooms”).  Our cells should be “deserted” in the sense that they are free from clutter, so that we are truly able to rest in them.  We should be able to sit down and rest a while – and notice that it doesn’t say to stay there all day, but just a while.  This coming Lent we should really take care to get rid of the things we don’t need, so that we are able to come into our cells and sit down and be quiet and know the Lord’s presence there.  If we come in and we just ask to be in God’s presence, the walls of our rooms will pick up that peace.  It will be as if “The Peace of Christ” is written on your walls.  And think about the pictures/artwork you have on your walls, and that they too will reflect on you – Do they foster the sense of God’s presence?  I truly hope that they do.

Another thing to think about this Lent is gratitude.  Try to rejoice and love the gifts of God.  I don’t think God wants us to walk around like Eeyore all day, saying, “Oh poor us” or “Don’t be too happy.”  We belong to God – there is every reason to be joyful!  Don’t be afraid to express joy.  Don’t be afraid to be happy.  I know sometimes people are afraid to be happy because they’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and so they’re afraid to rejoice.  But if we take everything from the hand of God, then it won’t matter.  We will accept with gratitude whatever it may be, because we know the Lord, and we trust the Lord, and we are not afraid of anything, because we have put everything into His hands. 

A cross visible from the Abbey of St. Walburga guest courtyard and cloister courtyard, after a big snow on February 4

Lamentations Audio

Our community hold the tradition of anticipating Easter by praying Jeremiah’s Lamentations during the Divine Office on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday every year. Our custom is to appoint a different Sister to sing these in Latin during Matins. Beginning with the most junior nun assigned to sing, and ending with our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael, this video highlights a short segment from each of the nine Lamentations passages we use.

Below is the full text of these moving scriptures:

Lamentations 1:1-5

How solitary sits the city,
once filled with people.
She who was great among the nations
is now like a widow.
Once a princess among the provinces,
now a toiling slave.

She weeps incessantly in the night,
her cheeks damp with tears.
She has no one to comfort her
from all her lovers;
Her friends have all betrayed her,
and become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile,
after oppression and harsh labor;
She dwells among the nations,
yet finds no rest:
All her pursuers overtake her
in the narrow straits.

The roads to Zion mourn,
empty of pilgrims to her feasts.
All her gateways are desolate,
her priests groan,
Her young women grieve;
her lot is bitter.

Her foes have come out on top,
her enemies are secure;
Because the LORD has afflicted her
for her many rebellions.
Her children have gone away,
captive before the foe.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 1:6-9

From daughter Zion has gone
all her glory:
Her princes have become like rams
that find no pasture.
They have gone off exhausted
before their pursuers.

Jerusalem remembers
in days of wretched homelessness,
All the precious things she once had
in days gone by.
But when her people fell into the hands of the foe,
and she had no help,
Her foes looked on and laughed
at her collapse.

Jerusalem has sinned grievously,
therefore she has become a mockery;
Those who honored her now demean her,
for they saw her nakedness;
She herself groans out loud,
and turns away.

Her uncleanness is on her skirt;
she has no thought of her future.
Her downfall is astonishing,
with no one to comfort her.
“Look, O LORD, at my misery;
how the enemy triumphs!”

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 1:10-14

The foe stretched out his hands
to all her precious things;
She has seen the nations
enter her sanctuary,
Those you forbade to come
into your assembly.

All her people groan,
searching for bread;
They give their precious things for food,
to retain the breath of life.
“Look, O LORD, and pay attention
to how I have been demeaned!

Come, all who pass by the way,
pay attention and see:
Is there any pain like my pain,
which has been ruthlessly inflicted upon me,
With which the LORD has tormented me
on the day of his blazing wrath?

From on high he hurled fire down
into my very bones;
He spread out a net for my feet,
and turned me back.
He has left me desolate,
in misery all day long.

The yoke of my rebellions is bound together,
fastened by his hand.
His yoke is upon my neck;
he has made my strength fail.
The Lord has delivered me into the grip
of those I cannot resist.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 2:8-11

The LORD was bent on destroying
the wall of daughter Zion:
He stretched out the measuring line;
did not hesitate to devour,
Brought grief on rampart and wall
till both succumbed.

Her gates sank into the ground;
he smashed her bars to bits.
Her king and her princes are among the nations;
instruction is wanting,
Even her prophets do not obtain
any vision from the LORD.

The elders of daughter Zion
sit silently on the ground;
They cast dust on their heads
and dress in sackcloth;
The young women of Jerusalem
bow their heads to the ground.

My eyes are spent with tears,
my stomach churns;
My bile is poured out on the ground
at the brokenness of the daughter of my people,
As children and infants collapse
in the streets of the town.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 2:12-15

They cry out to their mothers,
“Where is bread and wine?”
As they faint away like the wounded
in the streets of the city,
As their life is poured out
in their mothers’ arms.

To what can I compare you—to what can I liken you—
O daughter Jerusalem?
What example can I give in order to comfort you,
virgin daughter Zion?
For your breach is vast as the sea;
who could heal you?

Your prophets provided you visions
of whitewashed illusion;
They did not lay bare your guilt,
in order to restore your fortunes;
They saw for you only oracles
of empty deceit.

All who pass by on the road,
clap their hands at you;
They hiss and wag their heads
over daughter Jerusalem:
“Is this the city they used to call
perfect in beauty and joy of all the earth?”

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 3:1-9

I am one who has known affliction
under the rod of God’s anger,
One whom he has driven and forced to walk
in darkness, not in light;
Against me alone he turns his hand—
again and again all day long.
He has worn away my flesh and my skin,
he has broken my bones;
He has besieged me all around
with poverty and hardship;
He has left me to dwell in dark places
like those long dead.
He has hemmed me in with no escape,
weighed me down with chains;
Even when I cry for help,
he stops my prayer;
He has hemmed in my ways with fitted stones,
and made my paths crooked.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 3:22-30

The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted,
his compassion is not spent;
They are renewed each morning—
great is your faithfulness!
The LORD is my portion, I tell myself,
therefore I will hope in him.
The LORD is good to those who trust in him,
to the one that seeks him;
It is good to hope in silence
for the LORD’s deliverance.
It is good for a person, when young,
to bear the yoke,
To sit alone and in silence,
when its weight lies heavy,
To put one’s mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope—
To offer one’s cheek to be struck,
to be filled with disgrace.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 4:1-6

How the gold has lost its luster,
the noble metal changed;
Jewels lie scattered
at the corner of every street.

And Zion’s precious children,
worth their weight in gold—
How they are treated like clay jugs,
the work of any potter!

Even jackals offer their breasts
to nurse their young;
But the daughter of my people is as cruel
as the ostrich in the wilderness.

The tongue of the infant cleaves
to the roof of its mouth in thirst;
Children beg for bread,
but no one gives them a piece.

Those who feasted on delicacies
are abandoned in the streets;
Those who reclined on crimson
now embrace dung heaps.

The punishment of the daughter of my people
surpassed the penalty of Sodom,
Which was overthrown in an instant
with no hand laid on it.

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)

Lamentations 5:1-11

Remember, LORD, what has happened to us,
pay attention, and see our disgrace:
Our heritage is turned over to strangers,
our homes, to foreigners.
We have become orphans, without fathers;
our mothers are like widows.
We pay money to drink our own water,
our own wood comes at a price.
With a yoke on our necks, we are driven;
we are worn out, but allowed no rest.
We extended a hand to Egypt and Assyria,
to satisfy our need of bread.
Our ancestors, who sinned, are no more;
but now we bear their guilt.
Servants rule over us,
with no one to tear us from their hands.
We risk our lives just to get bread,
exposed to the desert heat;
Our skin heats up like an oven,
from the searing blasts of famine.
Women are raped in Zion,
young women in the cities of Judah…

(Jerusalem, Jerusalem, be converted to the Lord your God)


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.

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