Spiritual Taxes

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

In the first year of his reign, King Cyrus issued a decree:
Let the governor and the elders of the Jews continue the work on that house of God; they are to rebuild it on its former site. I also issue this decree concerning your dealing with these elders of the Jews in the rebuilding of that house of God: Let these men be repaid for their expenses, in full and without delay from the royal revenue, deriving from the taxes of West-of-Euphrates, so that the work not be interrupted.
I, Darius, have issued this decree; let it be diligently executed.

Ezra 6:3, 7-8, 12

In the book of Ezra, we hear how King Darius encouraged the building of the house of God.  Would that our world had leaders that cared about God’s will, and that encouraged the things of God – I think there would be greater peace!  In Chapter 2 of the Rule of St. Benedict, we hear what kind of person the Abbot should be: “Above all things, he must be careful not to take lightly the souls committed to his care, or to have more care for fleeting, worldly things than he has for them.  Rather, he must always consider that he has undertaken the government of souls, for which he must give an account.  And so that he will not complain out of desire for worldly things, he must remember that it is written, ‘seek first the kingdom of God’ and again, ‘nothing is lacking to those who fear him.’”  Worldly leaders do have to worry about worldly things to an extent, but I wish I could send all the leaders around the world a copy of the Rule of St. Benedict, to share some insight on how God might help them out.  This world belongs to God, and I wish there was more of a sense of serving Him in it.  Let us pray hard for our leaders, that they will have a good sense of protecting the things of God, and that they would lead the people of the world to live on a higher plane, soaring with the eagles, rather than giving in to living as earth worms.

As religious, we also have a role to play in helping this change come about.  King Darius instructed that the workers should be paid “from the royal revenue, deriving from the taxes of West-of-Euphrates,” (Ezra 6:8).  Nobody likes taxes, yet I was thinking of how in the spiritual realm, the religious are the rich.  We live in the house of God, we live to do the work of God, and so many others are tasked with doing the work “of the world.”  So God taxes the rich, and asks us, “Can I have some of your works?  Can I have some of your graces?  Can I have some of your prayers to uphold those who are out in the world?”  Yes, we are taxed a little bit extra: “Will you wake up a little bit earlier?  Will you be on time for the Divine Office?  Will you stay one second longer to offer that for the people?”  These things are asked of us, because through them, God is “diligently executing” His work.  If we give freely of the little extra things the Rule asks of us, if we do them specifically and mindfully, for the good of others, we will truly build up the body of Christ in the way in which we have been asked.  We are richly blessed, and it is a joy to pay these taxes.

Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, celebrated her 45th Anniversary of Monastic Profession on September 8. During Mass, she led the nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga in singing the “Suscipe” chant (Translation: “Uphold me, O Lord, and I shall live, according to your promise; do not disappoint me in my hope.”)

20 Years Our Abbess

(left) Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, and Archbishop Kucera, OSB after her Abbatial Blessing in 2003
(right) Portrait taken by Timothy Hurst in 2023

The year 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Mother Maria-Michael’s service as Abbess of the Abbey of St. Walburga.  And truly, her leadership is that of a servant, modeled after Christ who “came to serve, not to be served.”  We are so blessed to have such a good shepherdess for our community.  On honor of 20 years, here are 20 fun facts about Mother Maria-Michael:

  1. Her birthday is February 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter – what a prophetic date, since as Abbess she is the “rock” (petra) of our community, as St. Peter is the rock of the Church.
  2. Mother’s family is of Irish descent, and she was named “Kerri” by her parents after County Kerry in Ireland.
  3. She has a twin sister who lives in California (their home state), and whenever she comes to visit the Abbey and the two of them get started on a work project, they are unstoppable!  It’s incredible what they can accomplish together.
  4. When she was 17, she prayed a novena to know God’s will for her life, and on the day her novena ended, a priest told her after Mass that God had a place for her in the United States (rather than Africa, where she had thought), and that she would be there very soon.  Within a few months she heard about the convent of St. Walburga in Boulder and went for a visit, and then entered soon after, at the age of 17.  Oh that everyone’s call would be so obvious and responded to with such abandon!
  5. She got her name “Maria-Michael” because she always had a special love for the Blessed Mother even as a young child (she took Mary as her Confirmation patron), and she loved the name Michael since she was about 6 years old and learned that Michael was a name that God, not man, chose, in naming the Archangel Michael.  Her respect for the Archangel grew even more when she learned of his deep love for God, and how he challenged Lucifer after his rebellion, and was put in charge of God’s army to fight evil.
  6. Soon after she made her solemn vows she was made the farm manager, a position which she held for over 20 years, until she was elected Abbess on July 17, 2003, and she traded in the tractor for a crozier and pectoral cross (although she still finds excuses to drive the tractors on occasion!).
  7. Her Abbatial Blessing ceremony took place on September 6, only two days before her Silver Jubilee Profession Anniversary (25 years as a professed nun); needless to say it was a special week for her!
  8. She is an impressive guitar player – Without touching a guitar for a year she can still play “Take Me Home, Country Roads” like it was yesterday.
  9. One of her more surprising gifts is that she can weld.  Last year she fixed the hinge to our cemetery gate when it broke, and one wonders how many Abbesses could do that?
  10. Her current favorite book is Ludolph of Saxony’s Life of Christ, a series she highly recommends to all.
  11. She has a great devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and started a weekly 3:00 a.m. Holy Hour a few years ago for any interested Sisters in our community, which is still going strong.
  12. Mother is the kind of person whose “Plan A” is to be available to her Sisters for whatever they need, and whose  “Plan B,” which is the long list of temporal things that need her attention, is accomplished with what time remains.
  13. She is an excellent dog trainer – she even taught Simon, her last Grate Dane, to dance!
  14. Even amidst all the demands of being Abbess, Mother is very dedicated to praying the rosary every day.  If you are looking for her in the early afternoon, it is very likely that she is on her “rosary walk.”
  15. She has a gorgeous voice, and it seems to run in her family since one of her biological sisters is a member of a barbershop quartet!
  16. One of her special projects as Abbess has been to create a beautiful courtyard in the Sisters’ enclosure, decked with so many kinds of rose bushes and fruit trees and plants – a little Eden.
  17. She daily encourages her Sisters at breakfast with reflections based on her lectio divina prayer time, using her gift of contemplate prayer to build up the body of Christ in our community, and outside our community on the website blog.
  18. According to Mother, there is a time for everything, including snow sledding on days that the hillside next the Abbey is freshly packed!
  19. One of her favorite things she gets to do as Abbess is serve the Sisters at the Holy Thursday Last Supper meal each year, and wash their feet afterward.
  20. Anyone can tell you that Mother has a spiritual gift of joy; she is always smiling and passing her contagious joy to others, regardless of the heavy burdens she may be carrying.

A Tribute to Our Pilot

A reflection by our Prioress, Sister Maria Josepha, OSB on the 17th anniversary of Mother Maria-Michael’s Abbatial Election

I think the book Strangers to the City by Michael Casey is a great title for her life, because Mother truly is such a stranger to the city.  She would rather be here, living the monastic life with us, and especially praising God in the Divine Office, than anywhere in the world.  She always admonishes us to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” (using the words of St. Benedict), and her life is a visible testament to this fidelity to the monastic life, seeking God above all else.  If Mother was not in the monastery, I think she may have been a pilot.  But the Lord has made her into a different kind of pilot, nonetheless.  Just as He made His apostle fishermen into fishers of men, so He has done for Mother Maria-Michael.  As her passengers, we know that we are headed for eternal life.  The flight may have turbulence, but I do believe that with her as the pilot of our community we will all be brought together into everlasting life. 

On July 17, the anniversary of Mother Maria-Michael’s Abbatial Election, we celebrated with a picnic supper. Mother enjoyed an ATV ride to our picnic site.
As Prioress, Sister Maria Josepha was in charge of planning the celebration. Here she drives the Mule loaded with folding chairs to bring home after the picnic.