Monday, January 31, 2011

Saint Emma, Our Patroness

Saint Emma, the patroness of our monastery, was the daughter of a Bavarian count and born around 808.  Growing up, she received a good, deeply Christian education. 

She married Ludwig “the German”, grandson of Charlemagne, to whom she had seven children.   One daughter died quite young and the remaining three daughters became Benedictines. 

The three sons succeeded each other in ruling in their father’s stead.  All her children died before the age of 30. 

Emma herself suffered a stroke in 874 from which she never recovered.  She died January 31, 876 and was buried in the Basilica of St. Emmeran in Regensburg, Germany. 

Her feast day is January 31.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Let My Heart Expand in Your Love

Our closing thoughts from our reflection from The Imitation of Christ...
Let my heart expand in Your love.  Let me learn to know how sweet it is to serve You, how joyful it is to praise You, and to be dissolved in Your love.  Oh, I am possessed by love and rise above myself because of the great ferver I feel through Your infinite goodness. 
I will sing the canticle of love to You and will follow You, my Beloved, wherever You go, and may my soul never weary of praising You, rejoicing in Your love.  I will love You more than myself and myself only for Your sake; I will love others in You and for You, as Your law of love commands.
The Imitation of Christ
Book 3:  Interior Conversation
Chapter 5, Section 6 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Love Knows No Limits

Continuing our thoughts from The Imitation of Christ...
Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice.  Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all.  For they rest in One Supreme Goodness above all things, from Whom all other good flows and proceeds.  They look not only at the gifts, but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.
Love knows no limits, but is fervent above all measure.  It feels no burden, makes light of labor, desiring to do more than it is able.  Nothing is impossible to love, for it thinks that it can and may do all thing for the Beloved.
Therefore it does and effects many things, while those who do not love falter and fail.
The Imitation of Christ
Book 3:  Interior Conversation
Chapter 5, Section 4

Friday, January 28, 2011

Christ Knocking at Heart's Door

The other evening while sitting in chapel, I was pondering what to share with you.  There was a little time before Compline began, and so I picked up The Imitation of Christ that I keep in my choir stall.  The text is so rich that I thought it would be worth sharing with you over the next few days...
Love is a strong force -- a great good in every way; it alone can make our burdens light, and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing.  It carries a burden and does not feel it; it make all that is bitter taste sweet.
The noble love of Jesus urges us to do great things and spurs us on to desire perfection.  Love tends upward to God and is not occupied with the things of earth.  Love also will be free from all worldly affections, so that its inner vision dows not become dimmed, nor does it let itself be trapped by any temporal interest or downcast by misfortune.
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth; for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.
The Imitation of Christ
Book 3:  Interior Conversation
Chapter 5, Section 3

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Conversion of St. Paul and Monastic Conversion

On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, one of our Benedictine brothers from St. Vincent Archabbey came out and gave us a wonderful conference on the Conversion of St. Paul and Monastic Conversion.  We thought you might enjoy part of his talk to us...
Saul was trying to destroy this new Way; soon he poured himself out to proclaim Christ, the Way, Truth and Life.  Certainly he was not a convert in the sense that he ceased being a Jew to become a Christian.  Rather, Saint Paul always saw himself as a Jew.  After his encounter with the Risen Christ, he saw himself as a truly faith filled and obedient Jew.  Saint Paul knew in his heart of hearts that the Lord is faithful and kind toward his people.  He also knew that the People of God are a people of purpose, God's purpose.  From the beginning the Lord called a people to himself so that all peoples could hear the Good News and come to praise and glorify his Name.  The Lord did not destroy his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in order to establish a new covenant with the Church.  The Lord fulfills his covenant with our ancestors in the faith by offering us a new covenant in the Blood of the Lamb.  This is the truth that Saint Paul suffered to preach to the ends of the earth.  In the first reading we hear of a disciple named Ananias who approached Saint Paul while he was still blind and gave him new sight.  Then, he began to proclaim Jesus the Lord of every person and all the nations.  As Saint Paul had been commanded, so too, all the apostles were commanded in today's gospel to preach the Gospel and baptize all the nations.  This, too, is our heritage and our mission.  We cannot sit back on our laurels and ignore the fact that most people have not heard the good news.  What will it take to awaken us?  Do we have to fall on the ground or see a blinding light?
...Grace is also defined as God's self donation.  He more than acts upon our personality; He unites himself to us by giving us his own nature.  Christ is divine by nature; we are divine by gift, by grace, by favor.  Living in faith we live in obedience and live a life for others.
...we need a life of devotion or piety which means good worship or honor.  This is the proper kind of life that honors God, that works with God's will to accomplish what God created us for...  If we remember that the nature of God is creation and love, we know that our true happiness and fulfillment come from this way of being like God, not in some other way that is not doing God's will.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Life of St. Benedict - Part V

At Monte Cassino Benedict founded his new monastery, but not without difficulties.  There at Monte Cassino, was a temple to Apollo at which some people still worshiped as did their ancestors.  Benedict destroyed the temple and cut down their sacred groves.  In place of this, he erected a chapel that he dedicated to St. Martin and at the spot where the altar of Apollo stood, he constructed a chapel in honor of St. John the Baptist.  Gradually he won over the people of that area over to the worship of the true God.

Miracles attributed to Benedict at Monte Cassino include:  the restoring of life and health to a young monk who had been crushed by a falling wall, knowledge of things that happened when individuals were not in his presence, driving out of an evil spirit, the ability to foresee the future, and restoring life to a man’s son.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Roe vs. Wade - A Day of Remembrance, A Day of Prayer

Today we joined Catholics across the country in a day of fasting and prayer as asked by the U.S. Bishops.  As Mother Mary Anne reminded us this morning, fasting is not only from food, it's also fasting from unnecessary talking, distractions, thoughts, etc., that keep us from praying better and being in union with God. 

Let us keep this intention in our prayers in a special way these last few days before the Pro-Life March on Monday. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Praying for Life

On Wednesday, January 19 we held our annual Pro-Life Prayer Vigil.  We began it more than a dozen years ago as something we could do to be part of the Annual March for Life activities. 

This year, Father Richard Tomkosky, a priest of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, led the reflections for us along with the Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Father Tomkosky used the Holy Family as the model of family life and in openness to God's will and the gift of life.  He also reflected on Mary's seven sorrows in conjunction to her saying yes to God and the gift of life. 

Join us in prayer as we continue to hold this intention in our prayer during these days remaining before the March for Life on Monday, January 24:

help us to be open to life
from the first moments of its conception
to the last breath drawn.
Help us to be aware that life is a precious gift
not to be thown away, but cherished.
Help us to stand up for life
and never to shrink back in fear
of what others think or say about our beliefs.
Above all, Lord,
help us to be open to your will
in all things.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reflecting on Christian Unity...

This week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  In reflecting on this the hymn familiar to many of us, Christians Let us Love One Another, came to mind, especially the refrain - Everyone who loves is born of God.  Jesus is our life.  God is love. 

St. Paul had a similiar thought in 1st Corinthians (13:1-7) 
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body ove so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. 
Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, itis not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it dows not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  (Translation:  New American Bible).
St. Clement, also writing to the Corinthians, made this observation:
Let the man truly possessed by the love of Christ keep his commandments.  Who can express the binding power of diving love?  Who can find words for the splendor of its beauty?  Beyond all description are the heights to which it lifts us.  Love unites us to God...  (The Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. III, Tuesday, 2nd Week in Ordinary Time - 2nd reading for Office of Readings)
Let us uphold this intention of Christian Unity in our prayer this week, so that the love that binds us together in Christ Jesus will some day unite around the Eucharistic table.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Prayer for Christian Unity

lover of mankind,
fill us with the love your Spirit gives.
May we live in a manner worthy of our calling
make us witnesses of your truth to all men
and help us work to bring all believers together
in the unity of faith and the fellowship of peace.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 

Source:  The Sacramentary, copyright 1985

Life of St. Benedict, Part IV

Envy and jealousy was just as rampant in Benedict’s day as in our own.  Due to this, a priest in a neighboring church set out to undermine Benedict’s work.  However, Benedict’s reputation for holiness continued to grow as did the number of those gathering around him to lead the monastic life.  The priest himself longed to enjoy a same reputation but was not of the mind to live a similar way of life. 

Unable to thwart Benedict, he decided to give Benedict a poisoned loaf of bread under the guise of friendship.  Benedict, however, was instantly aware of the poison it contained and gave it to a raven to dispose of where it would bring harm to no one.  About three hours later the raven returned to Benedict who fed it as he normally did each day.

Unable to destroy Benedict, the priest tried instead to destroy the community by sending “seven depraved women into the garden of Benedict’s monastery.  There they joined hands and danced together for some time within the sight of his followers, in an attempt to lead them into sin.”  (Life and Miracles of St. Benedict, page 24.)

Realizing that the priest’s hatred for him was at the root of this last action, Benedict made up his mind to leave with a few monks to begin afresh.  Before leaving he took care to reorganize the monasteries he had founded.

Hardly had Benedict quit that district when the priest was crushed to death while standing on the balcony of his house when it collapsed.  Maurus, who had remained behind, quickly sent a messenger with the news and the suggestion that Benedict return since the priest was dead.  Benedict was saddened at the news, even more so that one of his disciples should rejoice at it. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Life of St. Benedict, Part III

As Benedict’s holiness of life became more and more know, men gathered around him to imitate his was of life and dedicate themselves to God.  At Subiaco, Benedict would eventually establish twelve monasteries, with an abbot and twelve monks in each, with himself overseeing them all. 

It was at Subiaco that two pious noblemen brought him their sons to be schooled in the service of God.  The names of the boys were Maurus and Placid.  It is related that once while Benedict was in his cell,  he was instantly aware that young Placid, who had gone to get water at the lake, had fallen in and was carried by the current out about a stone’s throw.  He called quickly to Maurus who ran out to carry out Benedict’s command.  When he reached the water’s edge he did not stop running, but continued to run over the surface of the water just as if it were dry ground until he reached Placid and grasping him by the hair, rushed back with him to shore.  It was only when he was once again on dry land that he realized he had run over the surface of the water.

As St. Gregory relates, “Overcome with fear and amazement at a deed he (Maurus) would never have thought possible, he returned to his abbot and told him what had taken place.  The holy man would not take any personal credit for the deed but attributed it to the obedience of his disciple.  Maurus on the contrary claimed that it was due entirely to his abbot’s command… While they were carrying on this friendly contest of humility, the question was settled by the boy who had been rescued.  ‘When I was being drawn out of the water,’ he told them, ‘I saw the abbot’s cloak over my head; he is the one I thought was bringing me to shore.’”  (Life and Miracles of St. Benedict, pages 21-22.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Seeking and Loving God above all else...

Today's reflection is taken from Perfectae Caritatis (Chapter 6), The Decree on the Up-to-Date Renewal of Religious Life by the Second Vatican Council:

Let those who make profession of the evangelical counsels seek and love above all else God who has first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:10) and let them strive to foster in all circumstances a life hidden with Christ in God (cf. Col. 3:3). This love of God both excites and energizes that love of one's neighbor which contributes to the salvation of the world and the building up of the Church. This love, in addition, quickens and directs the actual practice of the evangelical counsels.
Drawing therefore upon the authentic sources of Christian spirituality, members of religious communities should resolutely cultivate both the spirit and practice of prayer. In the first place they should have recourse daily to the Holy Scriptures in order that, by reading and meditating on Holy Writ, they may learn "the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:8). They should celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the holy sacrifice of the Mass, with both lips and heart as the Church desires and so nourish their spiritual life from this richest of sources.
So refreshed at the table of divine law and the sacred altar of God, they will love Christ's members as brothers, honor and love their pastors as sons should do, and living and thinking ever more in union with the Church, dedicate themselves wholly to its mission.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Faith In The Divine Initiative - The Human Response

The following is an excerpt of the Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, May 3, 2009, Fourth Sunday of Easter:

The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful and especially in priests, cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us. To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is “called” voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love, hearing the words of Jesus echoing in his soul, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16).
This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. The Second Vatican Council recalls, “The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift, which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of His grace” (Lumen Gentium, 43).
Once more, Jesus is the model of complete and trusting adherence to the will of the Father, to whom every consecrated person must look. Attracted by him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness. Today too, many undertake this same demanding journey of evangelical perfection and realise their vocation in the profession of the evangelical counsels. The witness of these our brothers and sisters, in contemplative monasteries, religious institutes and congregations of apostolic life, reminds the people of God of “that mystery of the Kingdom of God is already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven” (Vita Consecrata, 1).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Life as a Vocation

The following text is taken from Pope John Paul II's words on September 14, 2000 reflecting on the upcoming World Day of Prayer for Vocations on May 6, 2001.
My thoughts now go to the many young people who thirst for values and yet who are often unable to find the way that leads to them. Truly, only Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And so we need to lead them to meet the Lord and help them to establish a deep relationship with Him. Jesus must enter their world, take on their history and open their hearts, so that they learn to know him ever more, as they follow the footprints of his love.

...I think of consecrated persons, men and women, called to witness to the truth that our only hope is in Christ; that only from Him is it possible to draw the energy required to live out their life-choices; that only with Him can people meet the deep needs of the salvation of humanity. May the presence and the service of consecrated persons open the hearts and the minds of young people to horizons of hope filled with God, and may this presence and service teach them humility, and liberality in loving and in serving. May the meaningfulness they bring to the Church and to culture through their consecrated lives, be ever better translated into specific pastoral contributions, suitable for educating and forming young people to hear the call of the Lord and to have the freedom of spirit to be able to respond to it with generosity and enthusiasm.

...We read in the book of the Acts of the Apostles that the first Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (2, 42). Every encounter with the Word of God is a propitious moment for mentioning vocation. Frequent contact with Sacred Scripture helps us to grasp the manner and the actions that God uses when choosing, teaching, and making us sharers in his love.

The celebration of the Eucharist and prayer make us understand better the words of Jesus: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9, 37-38; cf. Lk 10, 2). When one prays for vocations, one learns to look with the wisdom of the Gospel at the world and at the needs of life and the salvation of every human being. Moreover, one lives the charity and compassion of Christ towards humanity, and one has the grace to be able to say, following the example of Our Lady: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1, 38).

I invite everyone to join me in imploring the Lord, so that there will never be a lack of labourers in his harvest:

Holy Father, eternal source of existence and love,
who, in living man, show the splendour of your glory,
and who put in his heart the seed of your call,
let no one, by reason of our negligence, ignore or lose this gift,
but may everyone walk, with wholehearted generosity,
towards the realization of your Love.

Lord Jesus, who in your pilgrimage along the roads of Palestine,
chose and called the apostles and entrusted to them their task
of preaching the Gospel, feeding the faithful and celebrating divine worship,
ensure that today, too, your Church may not lack
numerous holy priests, who can bring to all
the fruits of your death and resurrection.

Holy Spirit, who sanctify the Church
with the constant pouring out of your gifts,
place into the hearts of those called to the consecrated life
a deep-rooted and resolute passion for the Kingdom,
so that with a generous and unconditioned "yes",
they may place their entire existences at the service of the Gospel.

Most holy Virgin, who without hesitation
offered yourself to the Almighty
for the carrying out of his plan of salvation,
pour trust into the hearts of young people
so that there may always be zealous pastors
who are able to guide the Christian people on the way of life,
and consecrated souls who may know how to witness,
in chastity, poverty, and obedience,
to the freeing presence of your risen Son.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Prayer to Know One's Vocation

Heavenly Father,
we thank you for all Your gifts.
We know You call us all to serve You. 
Help us to hear Your voice
and to discern how we may best serve You and Your Church. 
Help us to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit
and to follow where those promptings lead.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ,
Your Son, our Lord.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Baptism of the Lord

It's always amazing what one "hears for the first time" -- especially when it's something that heard many times before.  That is the way it was the other morning at Vigils during the second reading from a commentary on the Gospel of John by St. Cyril of Alexandria, bishop.

Until I "heard" this portion of the reading, I guess I never really thought about why Jesus was baptized by John.  It said it in the scripture and so therefore it was important.  The following portion of the text is worth pondering -- and giving God praise for His manifold mercy.
Christ "received the Spirit" in so far as he was man, and in so far as man could receive the Spirit.  He do so in such a way that, thought he is the Son of God the Father, begotten of his substance, even before the incarnation, indeed before all ages, yet he was not offended at hearing the Father say to him after he had become man:  You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
The Father says of Christ, who was God, begotten of him before the ages, that he has been "begotten today," for the Father is to accept us in Christ as his adopted children.  The whole of our nature is present in Christ, in so far as he is man.  So the Father can be said to give the Spirit again to the Son, though the Son possesses the Spirit as his own, in order that we might receive the Spirit in Christ.  The Son therefore took to himself the seed of Abraham,  as Scripture says, and became like his brothers in all things. 
 (Source:  The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume I  - Advent Season, Christmas Season; Thursday after Epiphany to Baptism)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Praying for the Holy Father's Intentions

Photo:  Pressestelle Erzbischöfliches Ordinariat MĂĽnchen

The Apostleship of Prayer joins millions world-wide offering themsleves to God each day for the good of the world, the Church, one another, and the Holy Father's intentions. 

January's Intentions:

Care of Creation:  That the riches of the created world may be preserved, valued, and made available as God's precious gift to all.

Unity of Christians:  That Christians may attain full unity, witnessing to all the universal fatherhood of God.

For more information, visit their website at:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

But we only have five loaves and two fish...

The reading for Mass on January 4 was one of those classic ones that from Mark's Gospel (6:34-44) that really makes you to feel sorry for the disciples.  Here they were in a deserted place, 5000 mouths to feed, and all they had were five loaves and two fish. 

I don't know about you, but I think I would be in the same boat as the disciples:  incredulous that Jesus was even thinking such thoughts.  But we know how the story ends:  after everyone finished eating, there were twelve baskets of fragments of bread left over and some fish!

This was sent aroung a while back on an email (author unknown), but seems to fit in very well to how the disciples may have been feeling:

The next time you feel like God can’t use you, just remember…
Noah was a drunk.
Abraham was too old.
Isaac was a daydreamer.
Jacob was a liar.
Leah was ugly.
Joseph was abused.
Moses had a stuttering problem.
Gideon was afraid.
Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer.
Rahab was a prostitute.
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young.
David had an affair and was a murderer.
Elijah was suicidal.
Isaiah preached naked.
Jonah ran from God.
Naomi was a widow.
Job went bankrupt.
John the Baptist ate locusts.
Peter denied Christ.
The Disciples fell asleep while praying.
Martha worried about everything.
Mary Magdalene was, well you know.
Zaccheus was too small.

Paul was too religious.
Timothy had an ulcer.
Lazarus was dead!

And God isn’t finished with you yet.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christus mansionem benedicat

One of the customs that is part of our Christmas celebrations is the traditional blessing of the monastery in conjunction with the Feast of Epiphany.  Our chaplain, Father Chad, went through monastery blessing the cells of the Sisters as well as the various workrooms and common rooms.

Using chalk, Father inscribed the doors with 20 + C + M + B + 11 symbolizing both the traditional names given to the Magi (Casper, Melchior and Balthasar) as well as the abbreviation of the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, which means "May Christ bless the house."

May Christ bless our home -- and yours -- in a special way during 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gifts Presented

We all know the line well from St. Matthew's gospel:  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matt 2:11).  But what did these gifts symbolize?

Gold was a gift reserved for royalty; through it they recognized he was born of the house and line of King David.  When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, they asked Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage (Matt 2:2).

Frankencense recognized his divinity.  The Jewish people used it in connection with the worship of God at the altar of incense.  The rising smoke represented the peoples' prayers rising to God.

Myrrh most commonly was used as perfume, but its major use was with burials.  It was placed on the cloths used to wrap bodies for burial to help prevent the smell of decay following death.  More simply put, it recognized that Jesus was born to die.

Yet, the most important -- and first -- gift that the Magi gave to Jesus is often overlooked:  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Let us join the Magi in these days giving Jesus special praise and worship.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What Gift to Bring?

Today's feast of the Epiphany brings to mind the question used as the title for this post.  What gift do we bring to Jesus today?  Or perhaps as Mother Mary Anne asked us this morning to think and pray about, "What gift is Jesus perhaps asking us to give Him?" 

What could that be?  Perhaps it is something that will cost us personally as we work on giving it up because it hinders us in growing even deeper in our relationship with Him.  Perhaps it is spending more time in silent prayer allowing His heart to speak to our heart.  Perhaps it is spending more time studying the Scriptures or doing spiritual reading. 

Whatever it is, the Receiver of our gift(s) is never outdone in His generous gifts to us.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Blessings for the New Year

As we begin a New Year and celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of God,
we wish all of you a blessed, healthy, happy and joy-filled New Year.

May the peace of Christ fill your hearts with joy.