An Eden for God

On July 17, we celebrate the 21st Anniversary of Mother Maria-Michael’s Abbatial Election. Below is a reflection she gave this year on the 35th anniversary of our community’s elevation to an Abbey, and it paints a perfect picture of our Abbess’ spirit: joyful, grateful, loving, wise. We are truly thankful that God has blessed us with such a wonderful shepherd.

 

Today we celebrate the “bar mitzvah” (in a sense!) of our Abbey—the day on which the Church elevated our monastery to an Abbey.  With this gift, we are able to make foundations, we have an Abbess, and we have the responsibility to lead within the Church.  We joyfully take on this responsibility to be faithful to the Church, to Christ.

I think of this place as a little Eden for God, and that we truly have an atmosphere of seeking God.  In Eden, God came every day to Adam and Eve in the garden.  Well He still comes every day to us in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist—You can’t get better.  

We are surrounded by beauty, and the greatest beauty is what each of you brings into the community.  That is the greatest beauty that God gives.  We truly should be a portal of heaven.  An Abbey should be a portal of heaven, a “thin place” where God pulls back the curtain between earth and heaven, so that people can come here and recognize that, and then take it home with them.  

I rejoice in seeing how the Abbey has grown, and how God is so powerful in this place.  It is not we, but He, who has done this; and what a glory that we get to be a part of it.  He has called us to be a lantern, a lighthouse, which the world needs.  We stand for Christ, and people know that when they come here.  They see us in our habits and know what where’re about.  Isn’t there a saying that the greatest sermons are not said, but walked?  Our great witness is to simply live our monastic lives with rejoicing and gratitude.  I can’t thank God enough for what He has done to make this house what it is, and for every Sister who has ever lived in it.  In your prayers, remember to thank God.  Above all, thank Him.  That is the greatest gift we can give Him, when you pray, “I recognize, God, Your goodness, and I thank You.”

 


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

Clothed in the Benedictine Habit

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, on the morning of Sister Clare’s clothing day, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2023)

The Immaculate Conception has a lot to do with hope.  Hope, biblically, is a confident expectation and trust in God and His promises.  You will find the word “hope” everywhere in the scriptures.  For God has boundless hope in His creation.  After the fall of man in the garden of Eden, God immediately began the process of restoring man to an even greater glory.  And it was in the immaculate conception of Mary that man began to shine once again with its original beauty, with the perfection that God intended from the beginning.  In Mary, God burst forth with His hope for mankind.  You and I are also part of His hope.  Do you know how much hope He has in you?  As nuns, we sing the “Suscipe” chant when we make vows: “Uphold me, O Lord, and I shall live.  Do not disappoint me in my hope.”  Well, think of turning the “Suscipe” around, and God singing it to you!  “Uphold Me, and I will live in you.  Do not disappoint Me in My hope.”  Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine God saying that to us? 

Mother Maria-Michael and Sister Clare

Mary did not say, “Be it done to me according to Your word” only once, but throughout her whole life.  It should be the same with us.  Even when things are difficult, we have to be able to say with confidence, “Be it done unto me according to Your word.”  Because by our response is how we are transformed into that perfection; and God is staring at us full of hope, saying, “Come on!”  He wants that for us.  He wants that purity.  He wants that love that He intended for man. 

So Clare, today you will be clothed in the garments of one who lives for God, under the guidance of our Holy Father Saint Benedict.  You are putting on what you are hoping for.  Your hope is not alone – we join you in that hope; and heaven, too, is full of hope.  May the habit you will wear remind you of the words of our Blessed Mother, “Be it done unto me according to Your word.”  Your novitiate has a beginning in time, as the immaculate conception of Mary did.  May she guide you through the novitiate, and may God’s hope for your life color every day, and be filled with the breeze of Eden that says, “He is coming.”  And I hope that we all experience this breeze, as when the Holy Spirit comes powerfully into our lives.  Remember that it was a relationship that was lost in Eden; it was a love that was lost.  God expects a different response from us, so that we might reverse the effects of the fall by turning to Him, and continually pursuing that loving relationship.  The next time you feel a soft breeze on your face, think of God coming quickly to see you.  And be ready to respond with love.

Every year on December 20, the Church gives us this beautiful reflection by St. Bernard on Mary’s fiat in the Office of Readings:

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

In Praise of the Virgin Mother by St. Bernard (Hom. 4, 8-9: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4 [1966], 53-54)

2024 Calendars for Sale

Photos from the 2024 calendar

This year’s wall calendar features photos of our Abbey and surrounding landscapes.  It notes the days of the Church’s liturgical seasons, together with days commemorated by the Order of St. Benedict, as they are observed by our community. 

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