A morning light

"My God turns my darkness into light." ~ The early morning light is beautiful this morning!

Winter Wonderland

This winter has been particularly long and harsh, but we've found some beauty in it. Enjoy these shots around the monastery during the snowy season. (Photos taken by Sister Kim Mandelkow.)

Advent Calendar, December 25

Isaiah 62:11-12 (15ABC); Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20

Reflection by Sister Corda Trouy
Religious education; HHC activities volunteer; switchboard; hair care; monastery service

In Isaiah, it tells us: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, 'Your God is King!'”

In the New Testament, the angel tells the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”

What a gift the Good News is! “A savior has been born to us who is Christ the Lord!” What an incredible gift we have been given from 1 AD, throughout all ages, and into eternity!

In thanksgiving for this great gift of Christ the King, within and around us, we can PROCLAIM the good news of gratitude for the many gifts God has bestowed upon us. This can be done on the mountain top, in the quiet of our own hearts, or, wherever we happen to be. For example, the Blessed Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Our Faith given to us at Baptism, the Eucharistic Celebration in which we encounter the Body and Blood of Christ, in addition to the other sacraments, I emphasize the sacrament of Reconciliation in which we are given the privilege to make peace with God, ourselves and others. (For those of other faiths, you will be blessed by your God-connectedness.)

As we follow the journey of Jesus, his mother, Mary, Joseph, the Apostles and countless others through the Old and New Testament our lives are daily enriched. The Good News, or Gospel, comes alive in us when we savor God’s Word. In quiet and gentle ways, we can proclaim:


Advent Calendar, December 24

Isaiah 9:1-6 (14ABC); Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

Reflection by Sister Mary Carmel Spayd
Flower gardens and arrangements, monastery service

Advent has been a time of waiting and longing, and the longing for Jesus has become more intense as the weeks of advent have moved along. Today, on the eve of Christmas, the liturgy says: “Today you will know that the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see God’s glory.” Yes, tomorrow we will join millions throughout the world in song and adoration to celebrate Christ’s birth.

Our finite minds will never be able to comprehend the mystery of God’s assuming our humanity, making us little less than the angels — what wondrous dignity. Can we live up to that dignity in the coming year? And can we honor that dignity in others — family members, co-workers, the unkempt homeless, the cantankerous neighbor, the exasperating student? If we allow ourselves time periodically to ponder on who we and others truly are and act accordingly, we will help make the world a happier one.

On somewhat of a sad note, yesterday’s liturgy stated: “When the Lord comes, shall faith be found on the earth?” Unfortunately, we know that countless individuals have no faith at all. What is the status of our faith? Is it alive and well, or do we need to pray for a deeper and more genuine one as Pope Francis exhorts us to do? A genuine, lively faith will prompt us to live Gospel values, reach out in charity to others, and make the Kingdom a reality here and now.

Advent Calendar, December 23

Luke 1:57-66

Reflection by Sister Anna Corrine O'Connor
Theology Teacher at Presentation Academy (Louisville, Kentucky)

This section of Luke’s gospel is familiar to many of us. We know why Zachariah is silent and the story of Zachariah’s silence ending at the moment he is challenged to name the child according to Jewish tradition. I have missed the following until I read this to write a reflection. Please note that Zachariah actually supported Elizabeth and what she was saying about the baby being named John. This brings a message to us we seldom see in the Scriptures. Here is Elizabeth, the mother of the baby, saying what his name should be. Yet because of the traditions of the Israelites, no one listens to her. Her voice is discounted as “just a woman’s response” and not valid. However, Zachariah gives her support—says the baby’s name is to be John just as his wife has said. We often “skip” to the phrase “he spoke blessing God.” Yet, Elizabeth is the one who called him John; and she was as aware of the Jewish traditions as the people around her. She had the courage to name the child John, after all she was the first to step forward and speak the truth.

How many times have we discounted someone’s words to us because the person wasn’t old enough, mature enough, or was too old to really know what she or he is saying? Yet, at other times, we are in awe of the insight of our children or the wisdom of the old. How many of us have a friend that doesn’t talk much, but when she or he does speak, we really listen. This reading calls us to listen, to hear God speaking through “unlikely” persons. Perhaps it’s time we listen to God speaking with open ears and hearts. Perhaps we are the “unlikely person” speaking God’s word to others today.

Advent Calendar, December 22

Matthew 1:18-24

Reflection by Sister Kathryn Huber
Spirituality Ministry

Dreams can be powerful things. Our gospel reading today is about God’s dream for Joseph and Mary, and how Joseph brought that dream to fulfillment.

Joseph knew that Mary was pregnant and that the child in her womb was not his. Strictly speaking, according to Mosaic Law, she could be stoned for this seeming infidelity. Joseph was in a real and agonizing bind. He, “a righteous man,” wanted to follow the law, but in his sensitivity and concern for Mary, he could not bring himself to do her any harm. What a time of inner turmoil and outer confusion and chaos it must have been for both Joseph and Mary…and then God communicated to them through Joseph’s dream.

In the dream Joseph finds his identity and calling. Joseph dares to believe that God can and has revealed to him a new and awesome wonder. Rather than dwell in dreamland and leave the action to someone else, Joseph himself acts. Mercy and righteousness meet in Joseph. He takes Mary as his wife. And it is God’s dream that Joseph lived out.

Yes, dreams can be powerful things. We too are called to live God’s dreams for ourselves and loved ones, for our community and our world. The story of Joseph illustrates that dreams can change the course of history, but only, only if we invest ourselves in their worth. It will be the same love and trust as St. Joseph’s that compels us toward risk, fearlessness, and good works. As we celebrate this Fourth Sunday of Advent may we follow Joseph’s example and the example of Mary and Jesus in doing what God asks of us. Like them may we listen, ponder, and act.

Advent Calendar, December 21

Song of Songs 2:8-14; Luke 1:39-45

Reflection by Sister Jolinda Naas
Switchboard, Chauffeur, Monastery Service

…Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among woman, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Luke:41-42

How many times have we repeated the phrase “blessed is the fruit of your womb” in our life time? Every time we pray the rosary we repeat that mantra again and again. It becomes such a natural part of the prayer that we say it at times without thinking about the meaning.

Have you ever stopped to think why Elizabeth used the word “fruit” rather than “baby” or “child”? In Webster’s dictionary we find this definition: fruit – the effect, result or consequence of something. Jesus was the result of Mary’s trust and faith in the message of the Angel Gabriel who had been sent from God.

Every fruit has a seed of some type. If that seed is planted, watered, and tended, it will then produce fruit. The child Jesus held the seed of God. Through the teachings and life of Jesus we receive that seed. We in turn must nurture that seed and bear fruit. As we pass that seed on to others by our example and teaching, we will bear fruit.

During these final days of Advent let us pray the “Hail Mary” very thoughtfully and reflect on the words, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Advent Calendar, December 20

Luke 1:26-38

Reflection by Sister Anna Corrine O'Connor
Theology Teacher at Presentation Academy (Louisville, Kentucky)

Today’s Gospel is a poignant and familiar one to all Christians.

The angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.”

And then the angel adds: “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end."

I don’t know what you think, but I thought the first phrase was difficult enough, but to add that her baby was to take David’s throne and rule the house of Jacob? That is really scary. How have the leaders of Israel been treated, by the Israelites themselves, and by their enemies? Would any mother wish that for her child? Mary is both afraid and filled with confusion: "How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (NRSV Catholic edition) Mary felt all alone at this point of her life and yet she discovered that she wasn’t.

If you haven’t seen the movie The Nativity filmed in 2006, I recommend you do yourself a favor and watch it. It is the most human and “divine” portrait of Mary as the mother of Jesus. She is genuinely afraid at hearing this message given her. Earlier, she had been disappointed about being betrothed to Joseph, the action that ended her childhood. She was no longer free to play with her friends and enjoy the carefree experiences of children. Now she, without knowing Joseph, was carrying a child no one knew about. She was carrying this message from “God” alone! But she said yes to God and began a journey of listening to God to know how this was to happen—this birth of her child. The film shows how her relationship with God and with Joseph and her parents grew through her willingness to say yes to God. We are all asked to say yes to God.

We’ve had times when we wondered what would happen to us as we continued our lives of saying yes to God. We wondered if we would have the strength and/or the wisdom to respond as God wanted; or perhaps even questioned if we really knew God’s presence in the call. Yet, when we let go of trying to control how we’d live God’s call to us, we no longer lived in the fear and confusion but in the wonder of God’s presence within us and leading us. Let us be like Mary and say yes to God this day and everyday of our lives and see how that yes unfolds into a deeper loving relationship with God and our families and friends.