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!


Shake the Dust Off

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

“Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”

Mark 6:11

I have to laugh when I imagine Jesus teaching His followers that they don’t have to fight people who don’t agree with them – they can just shake the dust from themselves (c.f. Mark 6:11).  Not everything that sticks to you is mud.  Most of the time it’s just dust.  And you have to know how to discern that.  Don’t see everything as big heavy weights.  It’s as if Jesus asks us, “They’ve been mean to you?  Shake the dust off!  Why worry about it?”  What a nice way to handle it.  Sometimes we have to physically do something to shake off the dust; when something is really painful or hurtful, if we don’t physically do something it can run around in our heads.  But a way to stop it is to physically do something.

I think hearing and understanding Jesus’ words tells us a little bit about how Jesus Himself had to handle things.  How He took things, so that it wasn’t so heavy for Him.  He didn’t let it become heavy.  It was a choice: He could be upset, mad, and let it run around; or He could just shake off the dust, turn around and go to the Father.  You don’t have to do it noticeably all the time; you can go into the inner corner of your heart and shake off the dust.  But I would suggest that you find something to do so that you don’t carry around the dust of the world on your shoulders.  Otherwise it just all collects.

One of the most helpful ways to shake the dust off is to turn to the Scriptures.  Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks loudly.  That’s so often how things are answered. 

Cherish the Scriptures.  Put love into reading them.  Pray them.  This should cause our hearts to love more.  It should cause us to want to do more.  It should teach us how to love more.  True prayer will make us love others more.  It won’t make us separate.  Although as nuns we may appear separated because we’re cloistered, for us, praying with the Scriptures makes us love more in a different way, in the sense of bringing people before the Lord in prayer, caring about their cares.  True prayer should bring us even more together.  It is a happiness, a joy, to be united to all those you love in the Spirit.  Let your prayer bring you to that place.  It should really root us together in that way, and then it won’t be a surprise in Heaven when we’re together, too.


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.