Monday, February 28, 2011

Wisdom from St. Francis de Sales

A small volume by the name of Athirst for God, Daily Readings with St. Francis de Sales found its way into my hands nearly 20 years ago.  Today, this little treasure still provides words of wisdom and food for thought.  I hope you appreciate some of these jewels as much as I do.

On the Need for a Guide

The young Tobias, being commanded to go to Rages, said, 'I do not know the way', and his father answered, 'Seek a man who may guide you.'  If you desire to follow the devout life, seek out a holy man to guide and conduct you.

St. Teresa was forbidden by her confessor to practice great penances, and was tempted to disobey him.  But God said to her, 'Daughter, you are on a safe and good path.  I value your obedience more than penance.'  Teresa's love of obedience was so great that, apart from obedience to her superiors, she took a vow of special obedience to a holy man, obliging herself to follow his guidance, which was a great blessing to her.

Scripture say, 'A faithful friend is a strong defense, and to have found such a friend is a treasure.  A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immorality, and they that fear the Lord shall find him' (Ecclus. 6:14-16). 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wisdom from the Desert Fathers

Books abound with sayings by the Desert Fathers.  From time to time we will share some of these gems with you for your spiritual growth and perhaps they will also be an aid in your discernment process.

A brother asked a hermit to tell him the proper thing to do with his life.  Ther hermit replied that only God knows what is good, but that the great Nesteros, a friend of Antony, made a strong point when he said, "God is equally pleased by all good works.  Scripture tells us that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him.  Elijah sought quiet and God was with him.  David had humility and God was with him.  Therefore, whatever attracts you in the service of God is good.  Do it, and let your heart be at peace."
From:  By Way of the Desert, 365 Daily Readings
compiled and modernized by Bernard Bangley

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hastening to Christ...

A small book, Latin Sayings for Spiritual Growth by Archabbot Lambert Reilly, OSB found its way into our hands recently and we found some of what Archabbot Lambert wrote to be something well worth sharing with you.  We hope you enjoy his wisdom (and wit) as much as we do...


Festinamus ad Christu, non currendo
sed credendo

("We hasten to Christ not by running
but by believing")

St. Augustine
Movement toward Christ involves belief in Him before actual steps are ever taken.  In the same way that an infant will take his first steps toward someone he trusts, so too in the life of faith.
Why do we believe anyone about anything?  For two reasons:  What's told us is possible and the witness is reliable.
Isn't it true, though, that some ofwhat Jesus tells us doesn't always seem possible or even reasonable?  "Whoever would save his life will lose it" (Matthew 16:25); "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44); "Sell all that you have and give to the poor" (Mark 10:21).
These words are hard to believe at first, but an honest heart sees their truth, and for two reasons:  First, living has taught us that letting go, loving, and generosity always bring more peace than grasping, hating, and selfishness.  Second, there is the Witness Himself, One whose resurrections from the dead makes Him the most reliable of all.
Faith in the words starts with faith in the Speaker.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Feast of St. Walburga, February 25

St. Walburga – Benedictine Nun & Missionary 710 – 779A.D.

St. Walburga was born in 710 A.D, the daughter of Richard, an under-king of the West Saxons of Britain.  She went to school at Wimborne Monastery, Dorset, England, and later became a nun there.  At the request of her uncle, Saint Boniface, the “Apostle of Germany”’ the Wimborne Monastery sent St. Walburga and other nuns to form monasteries in Germany as examples of Catholic devotional life.

In Germany, St. Walburga spent four years in the monastery of Bischofsheim and later became abbess of the monastery of Heidenheim.  Under her direction the most important work of the monastery was praying the Diving Office, the prayer of the Church.  Additionally, children were educated in the spirit of Saint Benedict and the poor and sick were helped and comforted.

St. Walburga was a holy and able woman leader during the early Christian years of the Germanic peoples.  She is the patron saint of the diocese of Plymouth, England.  The feast of St. Walburga is celebrated on the date of her death, February 25th.

Beginning in 893A.D. a liquid to which many cures are attributed began to flow from St. Walburga’s tomb yearly between October 12th and February 25th.  The flow of liquid has stopped during times of disorder and upheaval.  In 1835 the oil suddenly started to flow in June when King Ludwig of Bavaria reopened the monastery of St. Walburga after it had been condemned to extinction by the 1806 civil secularization.

St. Walburga was a great Benedictine saint whose remarkable life reminds all of us how one person, carefully listening with the “ear of her heart” can continue to build the Kingdom throughout the centuries.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part XII

The Miraculous Flow of Oil

In the 870s Walburga’s remains were solemnly brought to Eichstätt. In 893 as some of her relics were being moved elsewhere it was discovered that her bones were covered with drops of a dew-like liquid. Touching the holy reliquary, a cripple was healed and devotion spread rapidly. Abtei St. Walburg, which established St. Emma Monastery in 1931, was founded in 1035 and the present tomb was soon built.  Below the sarcophagus is a shaft where the ‘holy oil’ flowing from the reliquary is collected.  Over the centuries countless pilgrims, distressed in mind and body, have visited her shrine, and still today some of those who pray with deep faith are cured or receive a deep sense of peace in their hearts to bear their cross more easily. Devotion to her has extended throughout the world.

Let us pray for the devout, the distressed and the dying who are making both intercession and thanksgiving to our beloved and generous St. Walburga.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part XI

St. Walburga’s Death (February 25, 779)
Walburga died peacefully after many years of courageously carrying her cross, the burden of being an abbess; it was indeed the cross which inspired so many Anglo-Saxons to do such great things for God. However, her life is not limited to her earthly biography, but includes her being and working in God after death (cf. Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 42).

Let us pray that we may do Our Father’s will with loving and loyal hearts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part X

St Walburga as the Abbess of Heidenheim

Abbot Wunibald, who evangelized successfully in the area, died in 761 after decades of illness and work.  She came with some nuns, including Huneberc, to face the difficult task of ruling both monks and nuns.

Let us pray that wisdom may be bestowed on all holding  positions of authority in the Church.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part IX

Teaching at Bischofsheim on the River Tauber (before 761)
Perhaps Walburga’s ablest pupil was Huneberc, a younger kinswoman, whom she later chose to write biographies on Willibald and Wunibald, the invaluable sources of most of our information. Both were probably at Bischofsheim where the Wimborne-educated abbess, St. Lioba, was another of Boniface’s kin.

Let us pray for parents and all educating the young.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part VIII

Healing and Caring for the Sick
One dark night, according to a legend significantly derived from a living tradition, Walburga, then abbess of Heidenheim, went alone to a noble’s home. She prayed all night at his dying child’s bedside and by dawn the girl was healed!

Let us pray for the sick and their caregivers may receive God’s Divine Providence.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part VII

Kinsfolk Welcoming Her Arrival in the Mission Area (740s?)
Her brothers, Willibald and Wunibald, welcomed Walburga and the nuns with her to Germany. Willibald became the first bishop of Eichstätt, a diocese created in 741 by Boniface. In 752 Wunibald founded a monastery at nearby Heidenheim and became its abbot.

Let us pray we too may respond humbly and lovingly to God’s Divine Providence.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part VI

Crossing the North Sea

Although it is through legend that we hear Walburga’s prayer calmed a storm, it has spiritual significance. At times she and her Sisters faced mighty waves of trials and tribulations, but, by persevering in prayer, she gained ever greater tranquility and the gift of bringing the peace of Christ to others.

Let us pray that we may develop greater spiritual maturity through our ways of trials and tribulations.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part V

St. Walburga Departs from Her Native Land (740s)

Walburga’s great kinsman is St. Boniface (c.675-754), a missionary to Germany.  He was a Benedictine monk, an archbishop and a martyr.  Filled with good zeal she left England to help him to proclaim Christ’s inexhaustible riches. Inevitably saying goodbye to loved ones was painful and she was never to see her native land again.

Let us pray for all those suffering from the loss of loved ones.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part IV

St. Walburga Makes Her Profession at Wimborne

Certainly Walburga took vows; probably she did so at Wimborne. She promised solemnly to obey her abbess and to be deeply rooted in a life of singing God’s praises seven times a day and of showing in her conduct that she preferred nothing to the love of Christ.

Let us pray that the Lord may call many to the priesthood and religious life in today’s Church.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part III

St. Walburga Enters the Convent School at Wimborne, England

As many devout nobles wanted a monastic education for a daughter, it is highly possible that Walburga went to this famous and strictly disciplined Wessex monastery. Girls studied the Bible, Latin and music. They also learned arithmetic, geometry and manuscript writing (i.e. a scribe’s most basic skills).

Let us pray that the young may grow up to know and love the faith.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Life of St. Walburga - Part II

Her Father and Brothers Set Off as Pilgrims (720)

The departure of her father and two elder brothers as pilgrims to Rome made a deep impression on Walburga. Richard died at Lucca, Italy. The youths reached Rome where St. Wunibald (c.701-761) became a monk. The more robust St.Willibald (c.700-787) continued on to the Holy Land.

Let us pray that we may deepen our own commitment to Christ, our Holy Redeemer.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Life of St. Walburga - Part I

On our grounds we have a beautiful shrine dedicated to St. Walburga, the patroness of our motherhouse, Abtei St. Walburg (Eichstaett, Germany).  The shrine is constructed of 12 stained-glass windows that depict her life.  With her feast day approaching on February 25, we thought it would be a good opportunity introduce you to this powerful intercessor and share something of her life.  This series of reflections is based of text written by Sr. Beda Brooks, OSB, Abtei St. Walburg.

In Her Parents’ Home (after c.710)

Walburga was born in the kingdom of Wessex in southern England.  Her noble parents, St. Richard and the “Blessed Wuna”, had at least six children.  They and their parents gathered daily for prayer at the cross on their estate.

Let us pray for our families and all those dear to us.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Playing the "Blame Game"

The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me,
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Today's first reading at Mass is one familiar to all.  Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent.  They were playing the "Blame Game" as Father Chad, our chaplain, put it in today's homily.  Yet, don't we all do that from time to time.  Unfortunately, I know I do.

After Mass, Mother Mary Anne told another somewhat similar story.  "A monk was being reproved by his abbot for something he had done wrong.  The monk replied to his abbot, "It's not my fault, the devil made me do it."  A poof of smoke arose and the devil appeared who said, "No, I didn't!  It was your own idea!"

Definitely something to ponder today.  It goes back to Adam and Eve, yet even today we don't like to own up to our mistakes and shortcomings. 

Lord, give us greater vision so that in humility, we can admit when we've done wrong, seek your forgiveness, and amend our lives for the future.  Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

St. Scholastica Celebration

Celebrating the Feast of St. Scholastica (a solemnity for us Benedictine Nuns), brought the added joy of having Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, OSB, from our neighboring Benedictine brothers at St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA.  Archabbot Douglas was the principal celebrant and homilist for the celebration of the Eucharist and then joined us for a festive meal.

This is just another example of the wonderful relationship we have with our Benedictine brothers.  One of the monks now serves as our chaplain, others are spiritual directors and/or confessors, and others come out to offer conferences to the community to further enhance our spiritual life.

God's blessings to you, Archabbot Douglas, and your community for all the ways you help us to grow in our love for and union with God.

Teach Me to Pray

We came across the following prayer and thought it was something worthwhile sharing.

My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee.
Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.
Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.
O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask.
For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation;
I dare only to stand in Thy presence.
My heart is open to Thee.
Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware.
Behold and lift me up!
In Thy presence I stand,
awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments,
into which my mind cannot penetrate.
To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice.
No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will.
Teach me how to pray.
Do Thyself pray within me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Morning Praise...

At first light, before dawn, nature proclaims the majesty of the Creator's artistry while in the Cor Jesu Monastic Chapel our community chants Lauds, joining the angelic choir in praising God and pray, with Christ, for the world.

St. Scholastica

            St. Scholastica, the twin sister of St. Benedict, is said to have been consecrated to God from her childhood.  She was a nun, and possibly the leader of her community.[1]

            In his Dialogs, St. Gregory relates the last visit between St. Benedict and St. Scholastica.  It seems that every year they would meet at a house belonging to Benedict’s monastery, not far from the monastery gate.  Benedict would meet her there with a few of his monks, and they would spend the day in the praise of God, in holy conversation and share a meal together.

            As the day was coming to a close and Scholastica knew that Benedict would soon leave her to return to his monastery for the night, she beseeched him to stay with her.  St. Gregory relates the event, “When darkness was setting in, they took their meal together and continued their conversation at table until it was quite late.  Then the holy nun said to him, ‘Please do not leave me tonight, brother.  Let us keep on talking about the joys of heaven till morning.’  ‘What are you saying, sister?’ he replied.  ‘You know I cannot stay away from the monastery.’

            “The sky was so clear at the time, there was not a cloud in sight.  At her brother’s refusal Scholastica folded her hands on the table and rested her head upon them in earnest prayer.  When she looked u again, there was a sudden burst of lightning and thunder accompanied by such a downpour that Benedict and his companions were unable to set foot outside the door.[2]

            Indeed in this case, Scholasctica’s love triumphed over Benedict’s sense of duty.  Yes, Benedict was indignant and was not at all happy which he clearly expressed to his sister.  Scholastica’s reply, as recorded by Gregory, is priceless:  “When I appealed to you, you would not listen to me.  So I turned to my God and He heard my prayer.  Leave now if you can.  Leave me here and go back to your monastery.”[3]

            What he would not do of his own account, he did by the hand of God, and so they spent that last night together talking of the spiritual life.

            Three days later, Benedict would see the soul of Scholastica ascend to heaven in the form of a dove.  He had her body brought and buried in the tomb that he had prepared for himself.

            Her feast day is February 10.

   To read the section about St. Scholastica in Book II of the Dialogs of St. Gregory the Great; follow this link:

[1] Life and Miracles of St. Benedict (Book Two of the Dialogues) by Pope St. Gregory the Great, translated by Odo J. Zimmermann, OSB and Benedict R. Avery OSB, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, pg. 69.
[2] Ibid, pg. 68.
[3] Ibid, pg. 68.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spring Just Around the Corner?

The famous (or is it imfamous?) prognosticating groundhog, Punxsatawney Phil, predicted spring was just around the corner. 

Perhaps the jury is still out on this one -- as is evidenced on the snowfall we had over Monday night.  One of our good friends and volunteers captured this shot about the time we began Lauds yesterday.  As you can see, we had more than a "dusting" overnight!

The Tradition of the Twins - A Tale of Solitude and Unity

Our Benedictine brother from St. Vincent was out again yesterday to give a conference to the community.  His theme is the title above.  The twins he is referring to are Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, a timely reflection as February 10 is the Feast of Saint Scholastica.  We hope you enjoy the following extracts as much as we enjoyed his conference.

Again and again the saints of old have witnessed to the intimacy necessary for a spiritual life.  Without spousal spirituality, monastic life is impossible.  We nun and monks cannot be people near to the Lord God unless we respond to the call to loneliness, the summons to intimacy.  Indeed, loneliness is the cost we pay for love...
The beautiful tradition of the twins speaks to the need man has for companionship.  We cannot know ourselves without the recognition of another human being.  From the closeness of the twins, Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, in the womb of their mother, we have an icon of the mystery of deep prayer.  In the womb of our Blessed Mother, in the garden of the New Eve the Holy Spirit encircles our bodies and dances with our souls.  In this holy shrine of tenderness, we recognize the presence of another who is made in the same image and likeness, who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.  Such a companion is not wooed, is not sought, is not pursued.  Indeed, from before birth we have the awareness of companionship and of self.  We know that Someone is near and we are not alone.  This earliest awareness of the self and the other makes a permanent impression and a life long memory.  We cannot know who we are without reference to the other who is so close.  The gift of companionship within the womb creates in our heart the confidence upon which we can build a life and the goal toward which our life tends.  Such is the holy teaching at the origins of the monastic movement and our personal appropriation of solitude and communion...
Loneliness is most often the result of selfishness, however there is another experience of loneliness that comes from love.  When we fall in love it's unbearable not to be near the beloved.  We are constantly preoccupied with the memories of the beloved.  It is difficult to pay attention to anything or anyone else.  The beloved becomes a seal on our hearts.  We keep the beloved close to the center of our being, to the place deep within whence come our commitment and our dreams.  Indeed, we cannot think about anything whatever without including a thought of the beloved.  The beloved is a seal on our hearts.  The beloved is also a seal on our arms.  It is with all our strength that we love; we can move mountains for the beloved.  Indeed, nothing will get in the way of our reunion with the beloved.  Such devotion is as stern as death, as relentless as the nether world; a blazing fir is its flames.  Nothing is more intense than love -- not dying, not hell, not even hellfire...  The last thing Saint Scholastica or her brother can imagine is for someone to try and purchase love.  No one could buy tenderness and affection, and anyone who tries is severely ridiculed.  Such is the love that binds the hearts and arms of those who have given themselves completely to "The One who first loved them."  Beyond all words, this love.  It cannot ever be sung, such love.  That which binds the lover and the beloved is stronger than the connection between twins from the womb to the tomb...
Only if the suffering of loneliness touches our hearts do we find our union with Christ, the friend of sinners, the lover of the lonely.  Intimacy is forged out of our deepest longing, our long lasting emptiness, our painful purifying darkness.  Here and only here do we come to know how loved we are, how cherished we are by the God who is love.  Indeed, God cannot love us more than He does at this very moment; God will not love us less no matter how we respond or fail to respond to his love; God loves us without regret; God loves us without hesitation; God loves us eternally.  Such love summons us out of our loneliness and to intimacy.  Indeed, we are loved in our darkest moments by the one who suffered abandonment as he abandoned himself upon the altar of the cross...
Saint Scholastica was attentive to her approaching death, and she wanted to give her brother this opportunity to share the good things of heaven before she died.  Brother and sister both are looking forward to the eternal banquet, but before they arrive at their heavenly home they share in the food that wisdom supplies us on the journey.  Both of the twins needed to learn that the Lord's ways are not our ways.  In the Eucharist we too need to taste and see that the Lord is good, good beyond our wildest expectations all along the journey and even at our destination...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Every so often, I come across a quote that causes me to pause and ponder, and to jot it down to come back to.  From time to time, you'll find such thoughts popping up in our blog.  I hope you find it as thought provoking.
In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.
- author unknown                           

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Super" Sunday

While most folks in southwestern Pennsylvania were glued to their television screens for the Steelers chance at win #7 in the Super Bowl, we had a celebration of a different kind. 

We did deck out tables in black and gold, but instead of watching the game, we spent the time enjoying one another's company, good food, and some entertaining games.

What do we consider the ultimate "Super" Sunday you may ask?  Easter -- the Feast of the Lord's Resurrection.

A View from the Roof

During our "roof-top" experience, we took "advantage" of the "vantage" point and took some nice photos.  The one above shows some of the outdoor Stations of the Cross and the life-size crucifixion scene overlooking our monastic cemetery. 

We were grateful that this trip onto the roof was during a sunny morning, with temperatures that were not bitter cold -- it made lingering to take the photos enjoyable!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Real "Roof-Top" Experience

In life some things are given.  If there's water running down a wall from the ceiling, you can say with fair accuracy that there's a roof problem.  Well, that was reality one day this week, so two of us were afforded a "window of opportunity." 
Translation:  we climbed out the window onto a flat roof below the flat roof that was having the issue, climbed a ladder and then created a trench through the snow and ice (and rocks that are part of the roof) to allow the pooling water from melting snow to flow to the roof drain. 
We are happy to report that our efforts worked:  the water wasn't dripping from the ceiling areas when we came back inside! 
Just one more way of doing everything for the honor and glory of God.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Blessing of St. Blase

At Mass yesterday, we had the traditional blessing of throats associated with the Feast of St. Blase. 

Let us pray for each other, the prayer said during the blessing:
Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you free from every disease of the throat, and from every other disease. In the name of the Father and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ave Regina Caelorum

As we move through the liturgical year, our Marian hymn at Compline changes.  The Ave Regina Caelorum is sung from now through Wednesday of Holy Week.  We invite you to join us in our hymn each evening that concludes our day:

Queen of the heavens, we greet you,
mistress of the angels we greet you.
Hail to the root, to the portal,
where the light of the world appeared.
Now rejoice, O glorious Virgin,
fairest of the daughters of Eve;
beauty unequaled we greet you,
and implore  you,
pray to Christ for us.

(During the days during the Triduum, the Marian hymn at the end of Compline is omitted, to be taken up again on Easter Sunday with the Regina Coeli.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Presentation of the Lord

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord...

Today we celebrate the Presentation of Our Lord.  Our Mass began with our gathering in the atrium for the Blessing of Candles followed by a procession into Chapel.  Today's feast has also been referred to as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Candlemas Day, referring to the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Chirst who is the light of the world.

Today is also the World Day for Consecrated Life.  Instituted in 1997 by Pope John Paul II, it was day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life.  In parishes throughout the United States this day will be transferred to Sunday in order to highlight the gift of consecrated person for the whole Church.

Please remember in prayer all men and women who have consecrated their lives to Christ and serve Him and His Church.

Heavenly Father,
we thank you for the gift of consecrated life in the Church.
May all those who dedicate themselves in service to You
experience an ever deepening awareness
of Your presence in their lives.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


The other day in reading the opening verse of the First Letter of St. John, I was struck at the similarity between it and the opening verse of John's Gospel.  What struck me particularly was the word, "Word."  John was referring to Jesus, but I began to ask myself what do I/we do with words?

We can do much good, or much evil.  We can praise, pray, greet, encourage, upbuild, share information, offer assistance -- well, you get the idea.  On the other hand, we can complain, grumble, tear down, offend, hurt, distort -- and the list goes on and on.

I remember a priest once saying to me, "We don't want to react, but rather to act freely in love."  Isn't that what we do when we speak the kind word instead of sending a zinger back at someone who has annoyed us? 

May the fruit of this thought from my lectio bear fruit for you as well.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Holy Father's Intentions for February

Photo:  Pressestelle Erzbischöfliches Ordinariat München

February's Intentions:

Family:  Thatall may respect the family and recognize its unmatched contribution to the advancement of society.
Those Suffering from Disease:  That the Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ in serving those who suffer from disease in those mission territories where the fight against disease is most urgent.

For more information about the Apostleship of Prayer, visit their website at: