Lent 2024: Restoring Reverence and Gratitude

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, given to the nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga in preparation for Lent

The 40 days of Lent are such a wonderful gift that we give to God because we love Him.  Rather than being a big burden, Lent is really a joyful time, a time to look forward to and get excited about.  It’s a time to give to God in a very special way, and we do it in union with the whole Church – It’s so much bigger than just us.  This Lent, let us focus on amending the things we do which harm relationships, because unity is a very serious thing to God, who prays “that they may be one, as we are one,” (cf. John 17:22).  As you prepare your Lenten resolutions, ask, “How can I improve?”  Specifically, let’s consider how we can grow in the areas of reverence and gratitude.

Reverence seems to be a lost art, which I think Benedictines are truly called to bring back.  St. Benedict expects reverence from us: reverence for God, reverence for one another, and reverence for the abbot/abbess/those in authority.  I don’t think we learn this very well in our society today.  Rather than treating all people with dignity and respect, there is this idea that anyone can say anything they want to anyone they want, and just lay it all out there, and there is little consideration of those in authority.  What people don’t understand regarding authority is that it’s the office that is respected.  Even if we don’t respect the person, we treat them with respect because of the office they hold.?Whether we agree with a person in authority or not, it is not our place to tear them down and speak disparagingly of him.  Listening is an important part of respecting one another.  You have to put yourself aside and recognize Christ in another, even if you go blind because you’ve strained your eyes so much trying to do it. 

Keeping our rooms in good order is also a part of reverence.  We hear Christ tell His disciples to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).  One such deserted place should be our cells (the monastic term for “bedrooms”).  Our cells should be “deserted” in the sense that they are free from clutter, so that we are truly able to rest in them.  We should be able to sit down and rest a while – and notice that it doesn’t say to stay there all day, but just a while.  This coming Lent we should really take care to get rid of the things we don’t need, so that we are able to come into our cells and sit down and be quiet and know the Lord’s presence there.  If we come in and we just ask to be in God’s presence, the walls of our rooms will pick up that peace.  It will be as if “The Peace of Christ” is written on your walls.  And think about the pictures/artwork you have on your walls, and that they too will reflect on you – Do they foster the sense of God’s presence?  I truly hope that they do.

Another thing to think about this Lent is gratitude.  Try to rejoice and love the gifts of God.  I don’t think God wants us to walk around like Eeyore all day, saying, “Oh poor us” or “Don’t be too happy.”  We belong to God – there is every reason to be joyful!  Don’t be afraid to express joy.  Don’t be afraid to be happy.  I know sometimes people are afraid to be happy because they’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and so they’re afraid to rejoice.  But if we take everything from the hand of God, then it won’t matter.  We will accept with gratitude whatever it may be, because we know the Lord, and we trust the Lord, and we are not afraid of anything, because we have put everything into His hands. 

A cross visible from the Abbey of St. Walburga guest courtyard and cloister courtyard, after a big snow on February 4

The First Day of Ordinary Time

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

Happy first day of Ordinary Time!  (Ordinary Time comes from the Latin word “ordinalis,” meaning, “numbered,” and constitutes the period of the Church’s liturgical year which falls outside the two great seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter.  The first day of Ordinary Time in 2024 was January 9.) 

Today, the First Tuesday in Ordinary Time, the first Mass reading is about Hannah and Samuel, and Hannah’s sorrow over not having any children.  When she goes into the Temple to pray for a child, Eli the priest calls her drunk, but do you think she pays any attention to that?  Absolutely not!  She simply explains to him that she is not drunk, but in a great deal of sorrow.  When we are in pain, and acting out a little bit, we know what’s really going on and why we are hurting.  So if anyone says something contrary, we don’t need to get worked up about it.  We know what is going on within us, and what we need to address.  That is why self-knowledge is so important, and living in the truth.  Live in what is real, because if you can do that, nothing is going to bother you.  You can pour it out before the Lord, and bring it to Him simply, as Hannah did (cf. 1 Samuel 1:9-20).  She abandoned her situation into the hands of the Lord, and was completely at peace.  And we can remember that in community life, when things are not going exactly as we planned, or we experience some jealousy or rivalry, we should give it over to the Lord.  Acknowledge what is really going on, what is hurting you, but then put it into His hands.  To live this way is to live for Christ.  When you can value His opinion more than anyone else’s, and count all the little hurts as nothing in comparison to pleasing Him, then you are truly living for Him.  And living for Him is the greatest thing you can do. 

In the Gospel for Mass today, we hear about Jesus entering the synagogue where there was a man with a bad spirit.  Christ never condemns the person, but He says to the demon, “Quiet!  Come out of him!” (Mark 1:25).  I love that.  It teaches you what to do when you find something in yourself that is not of God – anger, jealousy, etc.  Why don’t you just turn to that spirit and say, “Get out of me!  I don’t want you – you’re not my company.”  You do have authority to do that.  And you should, you should fight it head on.  Be straightforward about it, and count on the Lord to join you in your fight.  He Himself will say, “Get out of her!  Leave her alone!”  But you have to acknowledge it, and you have to want it to be gone.  Do this, and you will see how much freer you are.  

In transitioning from Christmastide to Ordinary Time, we take down all our Christmas decorations except for the trees in our chapel, which we leave up until February 2 (The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple).

The Dash of Christ

A reflection by our Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, shared with the nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga on the day before Christmas

Abbey of St. Walburga Outdoor Nativity Scene

This Christmas I have for you a poem, which is not necessarily about Christmas, but I think you’ll see how it truly is. It’s called “The Dash,” by Linda Ellis (click to read full text of poem), and in it she talks about the significance of the line between the two dates on a tombstone, and how important it is that we “spend our dash” on the things that matter.

Tomorrow we celebrate the birthday of our Lord and Savior – the day His dash began.  I also see the word “dash” as “to run,” because Jesus did dash, with great joy and with great glory, to accomplish the work His Father had sent Him for.  So He dashed not only with a line, but with a roar.  And as I read the life of Christ, I am seeing more and more how in the gospels Jesus is giving great hints, insights that He knew long before.  He knew the beginnings of His life, and far beyond, before He was born.  We read in Matthew 25:5-7, that while the bridegroom was slow in coming (mind you, it really was a long time between the time of Adam and Eve and the Messiah!), they all began nodding their heads and fell asleep, but at midnight there was a shout: “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (Matt. 25:6).  We should respond to this coming with the author of the Song of Songs: “Hark! my lover—here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills” (Song 2:8).  Yes, we do come, as the shepherds did and the magi did.  There were radiant stars and angels, and perhaps even our own guardian angels, present there at the birth of Christ, with our future lives in mind. 

Tomorrow we will celebrate His wondrous birth, showering the world with radiant beams, salvation, and healing grace.  Over the next few months in the Church’s liturgy, we shall traverse the dash of His life, and then we shall come the date of His death.  But that isn’t the end – there is the explosive power of His Resurrection.  As we make this journey, let us remember that, “What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.  So, think about this long and hard.  Are there things you’d like to change?  For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged” (excerpt from “The Dash” by Linda Ellis).

And so now here we come, and the road is the dash, the dash of our life, and how we live it will depend on how we dash.  Will you run with the light of life?  Will you run with joy to do whatever is asked?  Let us light our lamps and be ready to meet the Bridegroom when He comes.  Think of Paul and Silas singing in prison, and how at midnight there was an earthquake and they were freed – the chains dropped!  Let us all be ready to drop the chains that keep us from dashing through life, dashing along the Way that is Christ. 

There was a beam of heaven that intersected the dash of His life, making His dash a radiant cross.  Let us not let His dash pass us by, but instead intersect our own and make us one.  I wish that each one here would truly dash as He did, living to please the Father.  And let your life be written on the parchment of Mary.  She will keep it safe, and she will not let it go.  I wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas.

Abbey of St. Walburga Outdoor Nativity Scene

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)

Address to Oblates

On October 8, 2023, we gathered to celebrate the final oblations of three of our oblates.  During the ceremony, Mother Maria-Michael delivered an inspiring address, emphasizing our Benedictine call to stability, obedience, silence, humility and prayer. Below is an abridged form of her address to the community of oblates and nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga.

I welcome each one of you, and I am so happy for this day, and for our new oblates!  I want to thank all of our oblates for pursuing the Benedictine way.  I thank you because you are living in the world what we are living here, showing a glimpse of our Abbey to those who may never come here.  It is you who bring us out into the world by living the Benedictine spirituality.  That is no small thing!  We are so grateful that you are doing that important work of living in the world amongst God’s people (and they are God’s people, whether they like it or not!) and being a witness to Christ for them. 

What a joy and blessing it is to be united in our love for God and our desire to live lives of holiness by following the precepts of St. Benedict, as given in his Holy Rule.  You notice it’s not just a “rule,” it’s not just a way to be; it’s a holy rule.  It is a way of life hastening us toward our heavenly home by providing us with tools for the cultivation of virtues.  In the Holy Rule of St. Benedict we learn about the great pillars of monastic life, the things that make monastics.  One of these pillars is stability, and by this I do not mean that the vocation of oblates is to live with us in our monastery (we don’t have the room anyway!).  The Holy Rule helps all of us with establishing stability in our lives, stability in the community in which we pray, stability in the Church, and most especially, stability in Christ.  Stability in Christ is not to live in fear and worry about what will happen in the future, or constant regret over the past, but to embrace the sacrament of the present moment.  Really, this is a wonderful mark of a Benedictine: If you wake up in the morning and say, “I get to do this again!”  “I get to do it as I want, as I will…To follow God.”  “I’m not going to hold on to the burdens of what went wrong yesterday; I’m going to wake up fresh, and with the desire for conversion, in order to live this day the best I can.”  Because you never know what day will be your last, so try to live each day well.  That is truly a Benedictine way of being. 

Mother Maria-Michael addresses the oblates making their final vows:
I want to thank you for coming forth to make your final oblation to our Benedictine Abbey of St. Walburga.  Continue to get to know St. Walburga; she is an incredible saint.  She truly loves God and everything He loves, so she has the holy oil flowing from her bones to this day, as she never ceases loving God’s people and interceding for them.  

Another pillar is found in Chapter 5 of the Holy Rule, the chapter on obedience.  “The first step of humility is obedience without delay, which comes naturally to those who prefer nothing to the love of Christ.  Because of the holy service they have professed…they carry out the superior’s order as promptly as if the command came from God himself.”  When you practice obedience in your life, what does it look like?  As an oblate, paying attention to what the Abbess says is important, because it is a bond that unites us.  It also means obeying the Church, reading the Holy Rule and doing the best you can to live it out.  It means obeying your husband, obeying your wife, and not following your own will all the time.  If you’ve been doing something a certain way for a really long time, would you be open to changing it?  When you go about your day, don’t just do things because that’s what you’ve always done – think again why you do it, why you do the things you do, and maybe you will find that there is something that God wants to be perfected.

Then we have the pillar of silence: “I said I would guard my ways lest I should sin with my tongue” (Holy Rule, Ch. 6).  We really should watch our words, because words are a mirror of the heart.  What you say matters.  St. Benedict also says in Chapter 6, “To speak and to teach is the province of the master, whereas that of the disciple is to be silent and listen.”  This is especially true of our time spent in lectio divina (praying with Scripture).  Through this, we receive food of our souls.  On the Twenty-Sixth Thursday in Ordinary Time, we had a reading at Mass from book of Nehemiah that beautifully emphasized the importance of listening to the Word of God.  We read, “The whole people gathered as one in the open pace before the Water Gate, an they called upon Ezra the scribe to bring forth the book of the law of Moses which the Lord prescribed for Israel” (Nehemian 8:1).  I like that word “prescribed,” because it’s like a prescription, a medicine for our souls.  It was what was prescribed by God.  The Scriptures are like medicine for us.  They heal, they enlighten, they show us the way…But we have to be silent and listen.  We have to give time to God to speak.  Nehemiah continues, “He read out of the book from daybreak until midday…and all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law…Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord, their faces to the ground…Then Nehemiah [and Ezra and the Levites] said to all the people: ‘Today is holy to the Lord your God.  Do not be sad, and do not weep’–for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law…Then all the people went to eat and drink, to distribute portions and to celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been expounded to them” (Nehemian 8:3, 6, 9, 12).  There you have a wonderful example of lectio divina, because the people listened, they understood, they cried, and they rejoiced.  Sometimes there will be tears with our prayer, but we should never leave the experience without rejoicing, because it is such a gift of God to know and to understand His word to you. It is essential to allow God’s Word to form you, to confirm you, to convict you, and most especially to love you.

Anna-Marie, a niece of one of our Sisters, signs her oblation card

Then we have humility, another one of those great pillars.  One aspect of humility is acknowledging one’s faults.  How often do you say you’re sorry?  It is so important to be able to apologize to people you have hurt and ask their forgiveness.  Another of St. Benedict’s points in his chapter on humility is contentment with one’s circumstances (cf. Holy Rule, Ch. 7).  Are we content with the circumstances we find ourselves in, or do we spend more time complaining about them than we do facing them and asking God to help us understand them?  Do we ask Him what He might be trying to show us through them?  Or if He doesn’t wish to reveal His reasoning to you when you ask, can you live with that, and be content anyway because you trust Him?  St. Benedict talks about not laughing in Chapter 7 as well, and I believe what he means is that kind of boisterous laughter that prevents you from hearing anything else that’s going on.  There is also the laughter that hurts others, which should certainly be avoided.  Laughter should never tear another person down; it is good to have a good time and laugh about happy things, but never to laugh in a way that harms another.

The chapters between 8 and 20 of the Holy Rule are about prayer – private and communal – and I want to emphasize the part about reverence in prayer.  St. Benedict writes, “Whenever we want to ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption.  How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion” (Holy Rule, Ch. 20).  I think of how the Old Testament prophets like Daniel prayed for the people by saying, “We have sinned…”  They didn’t point their fingers and blame the people, but they rather included themselves with the people and said, “We have done this…”  Similarly, when we pray for the Church, when we pray for the world (especially when we pray the Divine Office), we too are a part of that Church, a part of that world; and so when we stand before God to pray, we don’t blame others, but pray for them by standing by them and saying, “We have sinned…” “We have done this…” If you pray this way, you will start to see things differently, and it will transform how you pray.  Also regarding prayer, St. Benedict quotes the psalmist saying, “Seven times a day I praise Thee” (Holy Rule, Ch. 16).  I’m not sure if you have seven times a day to pray the Psalter, but you do have seven times in the day when you can say, “My God, I love You.”  How many times do you just stop what you’re doing and acknowledge God’s presence?  That is Benedictine. 

Oblates make their promises to Mother Maria-Michael, OSB

If our Church today could take these simple things, the Benedictine pillars of stability, obedience, silence, humility and prayer, and place them in the core of the Church, do you think it would look different?  Would we hear different things?  Let us assist the Church by embracing these pillars in our own lives.  I offer this challenge to you, as you make your final oblation, and to all of us – the challenge of living the Benedictine virtues of stability, obedience, silence, humility, and prayer.  The sacrifices you will make to live out these precepts of St. Benedict are no small ones, but in faith, we know that, “Never departing from this guidance, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. Amen” (Holy Rule, Prologue).  This is what I truly wish for you: the Kingdom of God.

Oblates and nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga sing the “Receive me, O Lord” chant

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.