Padre Pio’s Example

“You ought to ask the Lord for just one thing: to love Him.”

PADRE PIO
“Joy, with peace, is the sister of charity. Serve the Lord with laughter.”

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

St. Padre Pio is a favorite of many; you cannot but love him.  His whole life was one of suffering, yet he was known to have a great sense of humor.  He also had a righteous temper!  Padre Pio knew what sin was, he knew exactly how it separated people from God, and he took offense at it.

The example of Padre Pio reminds me of what we read in the book of Haggai.  Haggai 1:7 says: “Consider your ways/Reflect on your experience.”  If we are serious about our lives, we will do just that.  Monastic tradition dictates that we reflect on our lives particularly twice a day: at noon and in the evening at Compline. 

“God’s spirit is a spirit of peace, and even when we have serious faults, he grants us a tranquil, humbled, confident pain which depends entirely on his mercy.”

PADRE PIO

We reflect on our day for the purpose of conversion.  It’s not to take into account everybody else’s faults; it’s to account for our own reactions.  I’m responsible for my reactions.  Yes, people can push my buttons: they can be nasty, they can do all kinds of things, but that doesn’t mean that I have to react badly.  The reason we are to consider our ways is so that we can change them.  Beware of going through life saying “it’s everybody else’s fault.”

We also play a part in how we are to our [brothers and] sisters.  Don’t push people’s buttons.  If you know something hurts them, be aware of it.  Go the extra mile to be kind in that area.  Be aware of the weaknesses of one another.  What we can do to help one another, we’re responsible for doing.

“Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:7).  People are saying “Oh no… no-no… it’s not the time for that.  It’s not the time to build the house within” (cf. Haggai 1:2).  That’s what the world says, but God says it is the time.  How are we supposed to do it?  Read again in Haggai, “Go up into the hill country; bring timber, that I may be pleased with it, and that I may be glorified, says the Lord” (Haggai 1:8).  Bring the Cross.  Carry It.  Follow Him.  

Remember Who Christ is in your life.  Keep Him before you daily.  Every moment.  Seek His Face every single moment. 

The Cross of Believing
I will give up my idols of silver and gold
So that my hands may be free to embrace the bronze
Serpent, mounted on the pole,
That is Christ the Lord,
Crucified for the unworthy.
And I will carry this cross wherever I go —
This burden, both sweet and light,
Of believing that this God-man has loved
And given himself up for me,
Satisfying the Divine Justice with his boundless Mercy.
Life can never be the same.

Anonymous Nun

Moses Being Sent

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

Mother Maria-Michael (then Sister Maria-Michael) may have been an unlikely candidate for managing our farm in Boulder since she was one of the smallest Sisters. But the Lord worked mighty deeds, and she was able to do everything she needed to do through His strength working in her.

We know the famous story about God telling Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let His people go.  He says, “Now, go!  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).  Don’t you think Moses choked at this command:  “Pharaoh?  I took off from there a few years ago… This isn’t what I had in mind!”  And isn’t it true that in our own lives, God also sends us to those places we don’t really want to go?  The things we’ve run from are the very things we slam into.  We think we’ve left them far behind when we’re in a new place…But there it all is again!  And you sit there saying, “Why?”

Moses says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11), as in, “Can we talk about somebody else going?”  But God answered, “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12).  There’s the difference.  It’s that now you’re being sent.  You’re being commissioned and now, personally, I will be with you.  There is no fear when God is with us.  I think that’s one of the most important things to remember: don’t be afraid of what God has ordained.  Don’t fear the things of God… even when you have to run right back into the things you were fleeing from, or not really wanting to be around.  Those are the places where He says, “Oh!  Come right in!  I’m here waiting for you.”  It’s something to think about.  God doesn’t want us to fear.  He wants to show His power in weakness because then we’re sure it’s Him. 

It’s nothing for a muscle-man to pick up a car.  But if somebody who weighs 60 pounds and doesn’t look too well, walks over and picks up a car, you would say, “It can’t be him – it must be the Lord!”  So He makes it evident, very often, that it’s His work and not our own.   So never be surprised when you’re asked things beyond what you think you can do.  God says, “This will be great.  Even you will know it is I who am doing it.” 

 …but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Becoming Prayer

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

The Sisters bow in reverence during the Divine Office in the chapel. Ideally, we learn to take this reverence and apply it to honoring God in every person and every created thing.

“The clear implication is that, even in our busiest and most engrossing moments, we will never be altogether forgetful of God’s goodness. In fact, the reality of the divine presence will be a kind of constant distraction so that we will occasionally smile, without apparent cause, as people are accustomed to do when they are in love.”

Demetrius Dumm, OSB, Cherish Christ Above All

We know that St. Benedict says in the Rule that one of the signs of a vocation is if the person seeks God.  That’s such an important part of our lives—that we never stop seeking Him.  In the Psalms it says, “Look to the Lord in his Strength, constantly seek His face” (Psalm 105:4).  I think sometimes we have to remember that prayer isn’t just when we’re in the Chapel.  Prayer is being in the presence of God.  That’s something we learn to carry throughout our day.  We learn to be in His presence in the Chapel, and then we love it so much, we desire to become being in His presence.  At the end of our lives, we are to become prayer.  That is our goal: that prayer never leaves us.  As Benedictines, we don’t separate the Work of God (the prayer of the Divine Office) from the rest of our lives.  We take it and we live it continually, wherever we go, whatever we do.  We never stop being the prayer.  And I would say that is the challenge of our day.  To become prayer means that we never ever cease having God in our hearts, on our minds, and on our lips.  But that’s something you grow into.  It takes a lifetime.  I think that’s the beauty of life, that you grow into being fully who you were created to be.  Your life will be holy and beautiful if you allow God to be the center of it. 

In the same Psalm we hear, “Glory in His Holy Name! Rejoice, O hearts, that seek the Lord!” (Psalm 105:3).  There should be a spiritual joy about us.  In spite of whatever is going on, the only things that are really important are those things that are Eternal.  All the rest?  It will vanish, and it won’t mean anything.  But everything that we do that has Eternity attached to it, we need to pay attention to. 

One of the things we have to pay attention to is compassion.  You learn compassion from being with others.  That’s why being in community is so important; you learn to love even those who don’t love you.  But what a gift!  It teaches you truly to love.  Don’t count it amiss when you have trouble with others.  Don’t count it amiss when you have to work a little harder.  Count it a gift.  It will teach you to love with the love of God.  Be sorry for those who never have that chance.  It’s so important to be tried.  It is so important in the monastic life that we work hard to be better than we could ever be alone.  I’m finding that more and more, as I get older, you become more compassionate because you’ve had to struggle through many things.  You also have moments when you realize your mistakes and say, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that!”  These experiences teach us to have compassion on others who are in the same situation we were in.  In these cases, how could you not care?


Walk with Him

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

It seems to me that God loves to meet people on a walk.  Starting in Genesis we hear that God walked with Adam and Eve through the gardens.  And we have Jesus meeting the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  And we have Saul on the way to Damascus.  And how many other encounters there have been, we don’t know, but I’m sure there are many.  And I think they still happen today.  Enjoy your walks!  You never know if He is going to be upon you, quickly, and with a great deal of love.  But remember He also walked His Passion.  The Way of the Cross.  And He met each one: His Mother, Veronica, Simeon… Think of all those He encountered on the Way, specifically. 

We have to be able to allow God’s presence, and not pass Him by.  On the road to Emmaus, the disciples had the chance to let Jesus go, and they didn’t.  “Stay with us,” they said.  I think the excitement of every day comes from wondering, “Where am I going to meet Him?” “How am I going to meet Him?”

Jesus wants our lives to be mixed with His.  It’s like in a marriage, how over time a couple even grows to look alike, because they transform each other.  That should be true of all of us.  By the end of our lives we should be transformed.  By doing things so much like Christ we should begin to look like Him.  I wish that for everyone, and for you to have a lovely walk, encountering Him all along your way every day.

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

Rejoice!

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

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.

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

The Advent Word—“Come”

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

Singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” before supper in our refectory

What do we hear in the Liturgy during Advent?  “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain… Come let us walk in the light of the LORD… Come and save us,” “I will come and cure them … many will come from the east and the west,” and, “come, oh LORD visit us in peace.”  That word: come.  Have you ever said to somebody, “Oh, just come!” and they don’t do it?  I wonder if it’s the same with the Lord.  When He tells us to come and we look at Him like, “huh?”  The word “come” means a movement forward towards something (I looked it up).  I think this is the invitation of Advent.  Come.  Come in every way you possibly can.  I think it is what Christ does for us.  When we say “come and save us” to the Lord, I don’t think He just stands there with a confused look on His face.  I think He truly comes, and quickly.  When we pray “come, come Holy Spirit, come oh Lord and save us.”  I think He responds more quickly than a flash of lightning.  I think this should be our response also—to hear Him say “come” and for us to do it quickly.  It is our duty to respond when He tells us to come and climb the Lord’s mountain or to come and walk in the light of the Lord.  Our response means something.  Come!  Let us ADORE HIM.  Come, let us sing the praises of our God.  It’s good to think about how we respond to this word, come.

St. Andrew on Embracing the Cross

A reflection commemorating the Feast of St. Andrew, originally given by Mother Maria-Michael in 2019

I was thinking about the incredible words we sing during the Divine Office on the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30): “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.

Artwork by one of our sisters