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.”

 


Monastic Poverty Regarding Food

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

The idol of body image is very common in the world today.  If people cared half as much about what their souls looked like as what their bodies looked like, we would be one holy people!  But the monastic diet is different—we receive whatever we are given, and with gratitude.  It is one of the ways in which we express monastic poverty.  Monastic poverty regarding food is to accept what you are given with thanksgiving (except if you have a serious allergy!).  According to St. Benedict, there should be balance and moderation in all things, and that means there is a time for fasting, and a time for feasting.  Haven’t you heard that the acronym BMW stands for “Benedictine Moderation Works”?  For we know from St. Gregory’s writings that the Lord sent a priest to St. Benedict on Easter Sunday with prepared delicacies, in order that His servant (St. Benedict) got a share in the feast day meal.  So it isn’t that God doesn’t want us to have feast days, but rather that He doesn’t want our bellies to be our gods.  Let us be aware of this temptation, so that we can fight the idolatry of body image in our world.  It is a great witness today that we are just grateful for everything we get, and in this way we not only feed our bodies, but our souls as well.

A feast day specialty — a berry tart in honor of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart


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