Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Emma von Regensburg

If one truly wishes to understand the life and work of Blessed Emma of Regensburg, one must enter into the political world of that time period. Charlemagne who died in Aachen in the year 814 had a worthy successor in Ludwig the Pious (814-840), even though the latter lacked the hands-on decisiveness that Charlemagne had possessed.

Ludwig the Pious had a magnificent, deeply Christian view of the "Christian Empire" which would be located in the heart of Europe. In order to secure this goal, he divided the empire amongst his three sons in the year 817. His son Ludwig, who would later be called "The German", received the eastern part of the empire with Bavaria in its center.

And that same Ludwig married Emma, the daughter of a Bavarian Count. She had been born around 808 and had received a good, deeply Christian education. Both partners in this marriage (which occurred in 827) were very well suited for each other, even at an interior level. It was a very harmonious relationship. God gave them seven children. Unfortunately one child, Gisla, died when still quite young.

Our history books praise Emma's generosity. She was a great benefactress to the poor and the patroness of the Obermuenster female religious foundation which she headed. Most of her life was spent in Regensburg and it was greatly focused upon providing the children with a solid Christian education.

However, politics of the bigger world entered herein as well. Ludwig became involved in disputes over matters of inheritance and Emma also felt the effects. Not even the fate of the children was left untouched by politics: in order not to be tied down politically, their father gave all of his daughters into monasteries.

The children enjoyed their education in Regensburg, the favorite residence of their royal parents. The greater part of this education occurred at the Obermuenster foundation which, as religious foundation for noblewomen, also bore the task of educating the daughters of the nobles within the kingdom.

Emma, the queen of deeply-rooted faith, had much suffering to bear in her life: All her children died before they reached the age of thirty! She herself suffered a stroke in 874 from which she never recovered. On January 31, 876 she died in Regensburg, devoted to God and ready to meet Him. Her grave to this day (according to monastery tradition) is located inside St. Emmeran Church in Regensburg. Her tomb bears a beautiful and graceful facial image and is one of the most beautiful sculptures of the Thirteenth Century.

January 31 is the feast day of Blessed Emma of Regensburg.

"Emma" translated means "strong (lady) fighter"
Related names: Hemma, Emy, Imma.


Lord, Our God,
You alone are holy,
and no one is good without Your help.
Grant that,
through the intercession of Blessed Emma,
we may model our life according to Your will
and attain that level of holiness
which You intend for us.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Source:  translation of a small leaflet
from the Basicilica of St. Emmeran,
Regensburg, Germany

Monday, January 30, 2012

Adoring Him Whom We Receive

Receiving the Eucharist means adoring Him whom we receive.
Only in this way do we become one with Him,
and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy.
The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies
all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself.

~ Pope Benedict XVI

Sunday, January 29, 2012

May angels guide you and bring you into paradise...

1914 - 2012

The "dress rehearsal" of a few months ago when Sr. Gaudentia became extremely ill and was placed on hospice (for the 3rd time), did nothing to prepare us for the reality of truly having to say "Auf Wiedersehen" ("until we meet again").  That reality came yesterday afternoon shortly before 12:30. 

We had an overnight group and had literally finished serving the meal and the first round of coffee when the community was summoned from the retreat kitchen and dining room (as well as several other corners) that Sister Gaudentia would shortly meet her Bridegroom.  (Our tremendous volunteers took over our hospitality so that we could be with Sister during those final moments.)

For those who know Sister Gaudentia, this is not surprising.  For 50+ years she worked in the monastic refectory (dining room) at St. Vincent Archabbey (Latrobe, PA)  from 1934 - 1987, coming out to St. Emma's with the last group of Sisters.  Here at St. Emma's she served an additional 10 years in our monastic refectory as well as in our retreat dining room until her health declined.  Her care and concern for the needs of others cannot begin to be adequately described.

We shall dearly miss her warm smile, joyful presence and the peace and prayerfulness one sensed in her being.

Dear Sister Gaudentia, may the angels guide you and bring you into paradise...  You shall indeed be sorely missed.  Know that we love you and rely on your prayers for us from the other side of the veil...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Creation of Man by Science?

God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, "Lord, we don't need you anymore.  Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning!"

"Oh, is that so? Tell me..." replies God.

"Well, " says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of You and breathe life into it,  thus creating man."

"Well, that's interesting.  Show Me."

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.

"Oh no, no, no..." interrupts GOD.  "Get your own dirt."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rosary Nunning

While all that we do is in some way related to prayer, as we try to keep our attention centered on Christ, some occupations do seem to keep prayer more to the forefront of our thoughts. 

In her spare time, one of our Sisters has "revived" the art of handmaking rosaries -- and assuredly each bead is a prayer as she works to take the "raw materials" of beads, links, pins, crucifix and center and make it into something beautiful to help raise someone's heart and mind in prayer.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Holy Abbots of Citeaux

O God,
you inspired your Saints Robert, Alberic and Stephen
with a love of silence, solitude and poverty.
By their prayer and example,
may we be drawn to closer union with You,
and we may always cherish you above all.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
   in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The story and the image of St. Paul (or Saul as he was known then) being knocked to the ground as he approached Damascus is one that we are all familiar with. 

Today we celebrate this event in our liturgies.  Meditating and thinking about this episode in Paul's life, made me stop and think about how the Lord broke through into my life.

Today, take a few moments and sit and ponder this for yourself.  What are the times that the Lord has "knocked" you to the ground like He did Paul?  And, like Paul, how were you then able to hear His voice?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Prayer of St. Francis de Sales For Complete Trust in God

Do not look forward to the changes
and chances of this life with fear.
Rather, look to them with full confidence
that, as they arise,
God to whom you belong
will in his love
enable you to profit by them.
He has guided you thus far in life,
do you but hold fast to his dear hand,
and he will lead you safely through all trials.
Whenever you cannot stand,
he will carry you lovingly in his arms.

Do not look forward
to what may happen tomorrow.
The same eternal father who takes care of you today
will take care of you tomorrow,
and every day of your life,
either he will shield you from suffering
or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then,
and put aside all useless thoughts,
all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grant me, O Lord my God...

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.
~ Saint Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I will make you fishers of men...

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."  Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.  He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  Then he called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.  (from Mark 1:14-20)

Can you imagine what it was like for Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John?  Had they been waiting for Jesus to come by?  Searching the horizon for Him while they worked?  Hoping, against hope, that they could at least catch a glimpse of Him?  Can you hear their conversations:  "Did you see Him yet?"  "Do you think He will be on shore when we get there?"  "Do you think He'll let us spend some time with Him today?"  "What do you make of that last story He told?" 

Today, let's put ourselves in this Gospel passage and think about how we would react if we were called like Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John.  Would you, do you, have to courage to follow Him as unreservedly as these apostles?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saint Agnes, pray for us...

This young woman gave her life for Christ at the age of 12 or 13!  She promised her purity to Christ, and chose death rather than sin.  Many wanted to marry her because of her beauty, but she always replied, "Jesus Christ is my only Spouse."

It was due to her refusal to marry the governor's son, that he accused her of being a Christian and had her condemned to his father.  His father promised her great gifts is she would renounce Christ, but still she refused.

Today, let us pray to Agnes, that we may be strengthened by her love for Christ, her true Spouse, and so imitate her in following Him more closely.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Spouse of Christ

Yet the union is much closer, the quality of spouse shines with a much greater brilliance in the case of the souls consecrated to God by the vows of religion.  It is to these souls that in all verity can be applied the title of spouse of the Word; in them this sublime condition is realised in its plenitude.  That union which by its profound intimacy imitates, though in an absolutely spiritual manner, the marriage union, does it not constitute the summit of the religious life?  Ought not the soul to tend towards this union, by use of the many divine favours, by its generous and attentive efforts to remove all obstacles, and by using all means which lead to God?  Can it not be said that the virgin consecrated to Christ will not have fully attained His ideal, will not have completely realised the thought of God in her regard, if she does not tend with all her strength towards this blessed state?

...Without doubt we may say once again that we ought to dwell in a profound admiration for the thrice-holy God, yet at the same time we must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus Christ is the Sovereign Master of all things.  "You call me Master and Lord, and you say well for so I am. Vocatis me Magister et Domine et bene dicitis, sum etenim."  But this divine Master, this Lord before whom "the angelic powers, tremble," tremunt postestates:  a few moments before had so humbled Himself before these same disciples as to wash their feet.  It is love again which has led Him to descend to the consecrated souls, to raise them to the in effable dignity of spouse.  This love plunges reason in astonishment, but faith lifts them to these heights.  "We have known and have believed the charity which God hath to us": Et nos cognovimus et credidimus caritati quam habet Deus in nobis.  Every soul vowed to God by the religious consecration is called to this position of spouse to the Word; she carries the title; if she is faithful, she enjoys the rights which are attached to it; she is loaded with marks of tenderness by her divine Spouse, and her union with Him becomes the source of a wonderful fecundity.

...It was the habit of that great monk, St. Bernard, to talk to his cloistered brethren of the astonishing union which Jesus Christ deigned to contract with the souls dedicated to him, in terms which inspired them with his own piety; he himself had first entered into "the cellars of the King" 24 and to his monks who were eager for his teaching he gave of the abundant light which Incarnate Wisdom shed upon him.  You know that his commentary upon the "Canticle of Canticles," although unfinished, is a series of eighty-six conferences which he gave at the Abbey of Clairvaux.  In one of these the great Abbot traces with a master hand the portrait of the soul that is truly the spouse of Christ.  Here are his words: "When you shall see a soul leave all things to adhere to the Word with all her strength, live by Him, allow herself to be guided by Him, conceive what she should bring forth by Him; a soul, in short, who can say: for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, then you can indubitably recognise her for a spouse of the Word." 

~ quotes taken from Sponsa Verbi
by Dom Columba Marmion, OSB

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A man is known by his deeds...

A tree is known by its fruit;
a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost;
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.
~ Saint Basil

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Clothe your soul with the garment of faith...

"Every morning you put on your clothes
to cover your nakedness
and protect your body from inclement weather.
Why don't you also clothe your soul with the garment of faith?
Remember each morning the truths of your creed,
and look at yourself in the mirror of your faith.
Otherwise, your soul will soon be naked with the nakedness of oblivion."~ St. Augustine

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts

The text of this hymn is attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (ca. 1090-1153).  It provides a wonderful meditation for us as it did for his monks...

Jesus, Thou Joy of loving hearts,
Thou fount of life, Thou Light of men,
From the best bliss that earth imparts,
We turn unfilled to Thee again.

Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood;
Thou savest those that on Thee call;
To them that seek Thee Thou art good,
To them that find Thee all in all.

We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

Our restless spirits yearn for Thee,
Wherever our changeful lot is cast;
Glad when Thy gracious smile we see,
Blessed when our faith can hold Thee fast.

O Jesus, ever with us stay,
Make all our moments calm and bright;
Chase the dark night of sin away,
Shed over the world Thy holy light.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th Cen­tu­ry (Je­su dul­cis me­mor­i­a);
trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Ray Palmer, 1858, in his Po­et­ic­al Works (New York: 1876).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cleaning Up Nunning

Unless you eat a lot of take out, you know from experience that pots and pans at the end of a meal don't do themselves -- you need to roll up your sleeves and tackle the job.

It's no different at the monastery, except our pots and pans tend to be larger (our usual number for an ordinary meals is about 20 including volunteers).  Add a retreat group -- or two, and the number can climb to 60, 70, 80 or more!  So it definitely can be a bigger task.

Work in the monastery isn't viewed so much as a "job to be done", although it is that as well.  We try, sometimes better and sometimes needing improvement, to see every task as a manifestation of our love for God and for our neighbor.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Queen! My Mother!

Today in The Liturgy of the Hours and at Mass, we commorate the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We hope you find this prayer, by St. Gertrude the Great, one that you will want to turn to again and again...

My Queen! My Mother!
I give thee all myself,
and to show my devotion to thee,
I consecrate to thee my eyes,
my ears,
my mouth,
my heart,
my entire self.

Wherefore, O loving Mother,
 as I am thine own,
keep me,
defend me,
as thy property and possession.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I love you Lord my strength..

I love you, LORD, my strength...
(from Psalm 18)

From where do we gain our strength?
From communion with the Lord
and from service to our brothers and sisters.

We have wonderful examples of both these in Jesus's own life:
long nights spent in prayer -- in communion with the Father
and in healing the sick,
forgiving sins,
raising the dead,
preaching the kingdom of God was present.

Take a few moments today
and see how you derive your strength
from the Lord.
And if you find you are weak,
ask yourself how you can find your strength in Him...

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Confession of sin comes from the offer of mercy.
Mercy displayed causes confession to flow,
and confession flowing opens the way to mercy.
If I have not a contrite heart,
God's mercy will never be mine;
but if God had not manifested His mercy in Christ,
I could never have a contrite heart.

~ William D. Arnot

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening...
(from 1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20)

This quotation taken from Samuel's first encounter with the Lord is one that is well known, but perhaps not pondered often enough.

Each time we hear the scriptures proclaimed at Mass or we sit and read scripture on our own, it is a graced experience wherein we hear the Lord speaking. 

Today, listen with the ear of your heart for God's voice calling to you through the scriptures.  What is it that He desires to share with you today?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Painting the Church

There was a Scottish painter named Smokey MacGregor who was very interested in making a penny where he could, so he often thinned down his paint to make it go a wee bit further.
 As it happened, he got away with this for some time, but eventually the local church decided to do a big restoration job on the outside of one of their biggest buildings.  Smokey put in a bid, and, because his price was so low, he got the job.

So he  set about erecting the scaffolding and setting up the planks, and buying the paint and, yes, I am sorry to say, thinning it down with  turpentine...

Well,  Smokey was up on the scaffolding, painting away, the job nearly completed, when suddenly there was a horrendous clap of thunder, the sky opened, and the rain poured down washing the thinned paint from all over the church and knocking Smokey clear off the scaffold to land on the lawn among the gravestones, surrounded by telltale puddles of the thinned and useless  paint.

Smokey was no fool.  He knew this was a judgment from the Almighty, so he got down on his knees and cried:

"Oh, God, Oh, God, forgive me; what should I do?"

And from the thunder, a mighty voice spoke…  "Repaint!  Repaint!  And thin no more!"

Monday, January 9, 2012

Baptism of the Lord

And a voice came from the heavens,
"You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
(from Mark 1:7-11)

In smaller and bigger ways, this is something we all long to hear:  with you I am well pleased.  Yet, desiring to hear it from a human voice is not what our soul is listening for. 

Spend some time today marveling in the fact that you are a child of God and that He indeed is well pleased with you.  Who knows?  The Spirit may surprise you and whisper those words to you while you sit and ponder this tremendous gift.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Star Is This

This Epiphany hymn whose text was composed by Charles Coffin (1736) and translated from the Latin into English by John Chandler (1837) provides a wonderful text for us to meditate on today, the Epiphany of the Lord. 

What star is this, with beams so bright,
More lovely than the noonday light?
'Tis sent to announce a newborn King,
Glad tidings of our God to bring.

'Tis now fulfilled what God decreed,
"From Jacob shall a star proceed";
And lo! the Eastern sages stand
To read in heaven the Lord's command.

The guiding star above is bright;
Within them shines a purer light,
Which leads them on with power benign
To seek the Giver of the sign.

True love can brook no dull delay;
Nor toil nor dangers stop their way
Home, kindred, father land and all
They leave at their Creator's call.

O Jesus, while the star of grace
Impels us on to seek Your face,
Let not our slothful hearts refuse
The guidance of Your light to use.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
May every tongue and nation raise
An endless song of thankful praise.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Gifts

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King for ever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I:
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, gladly raising,
worship him, God Most High.

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

These verses from the traditional hymn We Three Kings  help give an explanation of the gifts the Christ Child received from these visitors from the East.  We have heard often gold, frankincense and myrrh -- but what's the meaning?  Kingship.  Divinity.  Death.  Three very distinct things that marked who He was and what He would accomplish. 

Christ's kingship was not a power struggle that was used to suppress the people He ruled.  His kingship is rather as Lord of our hearts -- a good, kind, merciful king who is concerned and loving. 

Christ is the Son of God and Son of Man.  He left the heights of heaven and assumed the flesh of man yet lost nothing of his divinity. 

Christ's death was his triumph on the Cross.  His death, bitter, painful and bloody, was willing embraced so that we -- sinners that we are -- could be re-united with Him once again. 

What gifts are we being asked to present this Epiphany?  Probably not gold, frankincense and myrrh -- but erhaps there something more we could do each day?  A kind word or smile?  Refraining from a harsh word?  Giving that extra hand when we don't think we can give any more?  Take some time today to think what gift you can give...

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Gift

In silence and wonder,
They followed the Star,
Three Wise Men of old,
Who travelled so far,
To worship the Babe,
Born on that night,
Bringing His hope,
To a world filled with plight.
In reverence and awe,
They knelt where He lay,
Filled with god's spirit,
As they did pray,
Giving their thanks,
To the Father above,
Who blessed the world,
With this gift of His love.
They carried His message,
Back to their home,
And all through the world,
Where they did roam.
Three lives that were changed,
On that memorable night,
By following the Star,
That brought the world Light.

~ by Collette Fedor

Thursday, January 5, 2012

From Crib to Cross...

The way we came to know love
was that he laid down his life for us;
so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers...
(from 1 John 3:11-21)

One with the Father, yet not clinging to His divinity.  Sharing our lowly human state, yet God.  These paradoxes are as striking as realizing that the wood of the manger would be exchanged for the wood of the cross.  Both bore Him, yet so vastly different.

By becoming man, Christ put on our humanity and laid down His life so that we might become regain what we had lost through the sin of Adam and Eve. 

The question now becomes, how do we lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters so that we may become sharers in His Love and in His Kingdom? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Concert Nunning

Once again this Christmas season, we enjoyed the musical talent of the Igou Family String Ensemble.  This family of talented young people traveled with their parents from the Somerset area last evening to provide an outstanding evening of string music for our community as well as for those who were able to join us.

It's been a tremendous joy for us to get to know their family, see how the younger ones grow from "concert to concert" both physically as well as musically, and be part of their faith journey.

Our prayers go out to Abby, who is now an aspirant with the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

May God bless you all, and our thanks!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Celebrating the Advent of a Life

The universal joy of Christmas is certainly wonderful.
We ring the bells when princes are born,
or toll a mournful dirge when great men pass away.
Nations have their red-letter days,
their carnivals and fesitivals,
but once in the year and only once,
the whole world stands still to celebrate
the advent of a life.
Only Jesus of Nazareth claims this world-wide,
undying remembrance.
You cannot cut Christmas out of the calendar,
nor out of the heart of the world.

~ Anonymous

Monday, January 2, 2012

Evermore be led to thee...

As with gladness me of old
Did the guiding star behold,
As with joy they hailed its light,
Leading onward, beaming bright,
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to thee.

These words of a more popular Ephiphany hymn struck a different cord today, especially the last part...So, most gracious Lord, may we evermore be led to thee. 

At the beginning of this new year of grace 2012, I had to ask how am I being led to thee?  Shouldn't I be asking how am I being led by thee?  Am I -- are you -- allowing ourselves to be led along new and different paths by the Lord?  Ones that we might not pick on our own, yet called to follow nevertheless?

As we begin this new year, let's ask the Lord which path He wants us to follow, and then trust Him to lead us. 

Yes, sometimes it may be a wild ride with the Holy Spirit at the helm, but He always knows what's best for us, and what brings forth gifts and talents we never knew we possessed.  So, hang on and let's go!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January Prayer Intentions of Pope Benedict XVI

Victims of Natural Disasters:  That the victims of natural disasters may receive the spiritual and material comfort they need to rebuild their lives.
Dedication to Peace:  That the dedication of Christians to peace may bear witness to the name of Christ before all men and women of good will.

For more information about the Apostleship of Prayer, visit:  http://www.apostleshipofprayer.org/.