This Sunday we welcomed Postulant Alex to our community. It was so beautiful to gather as a community, to celebrate with her, and to rejoice in new life for all of us. New members bring a new perspective to the monastery. They tend to ask questions about why we do what we do, and that's good for everyone. They also are a good reminder as to why each of us came, and why we stay. The obvious reasons that bring you to the monastery door aren't necessarily the ones that keep you committed after a few years. Of course, if it's God who called you in the first place, it's God who will keep you living the life for the long haul!
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Taking Things Literally
Children really do take things literally. When I was in kindergarten I told my teacher that my mom and dad had buried my brother Joe. I stuck to my story, so my teacher called my parents to find out what had happened. It turned out he was grounded.
Another time toward the end of my kindergarten year, I remember being so excited and exclaimed, "Grandma, Grandma, I'm gonna be a cupcake!" My grandma, of course, had no idea what I was talking about, so she looked at the paper I had brought home from school. I was actually going to be a Brownie - the first step in being a Girl Scout.
Grounded. Buried. Brownie. Cupcake. To a little kid, it all sounded the same.
Entering the Unknown
School started for us on August 19. In the mornings, the students come to the cafeteria to read quietly until they are dismissed and the school day starts.
The first day was filled with both digital and video cameras. Some embarrassed students pushed their moms away when they tried to hug and kiss them good-bye. Others held on to their hands for dear life. Some students were so excited wanting to show off their backpacks, shoes, and other new items. Lots of the little ones couldn't remember their teacher's name, weren't sure where their rooms were, and left their backpacks or lunch boxes in the cafeteria instead of taking the items with them to their classrooms. Needless to say, the first week of morning duty wasn't filled with quiet reading, but rather sleepy kids who were returning, confused new ones who were trying to learn the routine, and scared kindergartners who were crying.
One little kindergartner was so cute. He stood outside his room, clutching his backpack close to his body and determinedly stated, "I'm not going in there." His older sister was there, telling him how much fun he was going to have. He remained against the wall, shaking his head, trying to hide behind his backpack. His teacher then came out, took him by the hand, and helped him enter the room. The same little boy came to my music class on Friday, so I know he survived the first week of school. He just needed a familiar face and a helping hand to make those first steps into the room.
Life is about risks, isn't it? Trying new things even when they're scary for us. It's nice to have familiar faces and helping hands so that we can make those first steps into the unknown, just like that poor kindergartner.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Today is a very special day for our Ferdinand Benedictine community. On this day 142 years ago four young sisters arrived here after traveling from Covington, Kentucky and founded our monastery.
Today, now 164 members larger, we celebrate that day two ways. One way is to plant a tree. As you can see in the pictures, many of the sisters, employees, and guests gathered around for the prayer and planting. This new little tree replaces one that was stuck by lightening a couple months ago. The second way we are celebrating is to unveil our "new look!" We now have a new logo, mark and new colors for all our publications, letters, signs, and more. Part of our "new look" is a new tag line. While "Discover God in the Everyday. With Us." is good and says a lot about who we are, our new tag line is even more succinct and says it all -- "Seek. Pray. Share." It is taken directly from our mission statement. So, you will notice the new name for our blog is now set to match our new tag line.
Yesterday's Gospel was about the rich young man. "Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
I know when I entered the monastery, I certainly didn't have many possessions. All the furniture I owned came from yard sales. I had a really comfortable $10.00 couch that when you sat in it, you just about touched the floor. I had a $5.00 coffee table and a couple $5.00 chairs that were covered with sheets to make them more attractive.
I always had 1 or 2 roommates except one year when I had an internship in campus ministry. The church had given me a place to stay that consisted of a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Pretty small, but it also had air conditioning and cable, which meant my brother visited quite often. (His apartment lacked these 2 luxuries.) The TV I had won at a high school graduation party.
When it came time to enter the monastery, all my yard sale items once again became yard sale items or Goodwill donations. I was planning on selling my French horn since I hadn't played it in 6 years. However, someone told me to bring it, and it has been used at prayer and liturgies and also in my music classroom. (I never thought I'd be a music teacher. Community has a way of helping you discover hidden talents.)
I was a college student who was always looking for ways to get free t-shirts. If the sign said, "Come to this event and get a free t-shirt," I was there. Blood drives were great. You save lives, get some snacks, and walk away with a free t-shirt. What more could a poor college student ask for?
As far as material possessions, I didn't have much to begin with, so I had no trouble getting rid of things. Some women, however, enter and have a much harder time. Some give up a house, car, pets, and personal belongings worth more than my $10.00 couch.
Because it takes a few years to become a sister and it's hard to know from the beginning what you're getting into and whether or not religious life is truly your life's calling, getting rid of possessions is a gradual process that comes as stronger commitments to the community are made.
Before I entered the monastery, I thought of all the things I would have to give up. What I didn't realize until after I entered was how much I would gain.
Jesus says, "Come, follow me." By following Jesus, our needs are provided, and we discover inner happiness and peace.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
New School Year
I have officially started back at school. We have had 3 days of school. I am excited. I just love teaching. I love working with my students and watching them grow with each new thing we learn. I work at St. Bernard Catholic School in Rockport, Indiana. We have 107 students in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. The theme this school year is "We Are Called." My students and I have been talking about different ways of being called and being kind.
I came home to the monastery this weekend after going out on mission (what we call the little "monastery" houses we have away from our motherhouse in Ferdinand). There is something about coming home every once and a while and being here at the monastery. It rejuvenates my call to this way of life.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
End of Retreat
I took a few days for retreat this past week. I begin a new job on Monday morning and thought some intensive prayer time might be appropriate. There were no earth-shattering discoveries, but there was God's presence.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
You may have heard about the 6 inches of rain that fell on Louisville in an hour. Massive destruction. I was in Missouri when it occured, so can't tell any personal stories. I only saw pictures and can't believe the reports and damage that was done. Here's a link to some pictures of the flood.
It's amazing how drastically things change in an instant. Our prayers are with all those affected.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I don't know if this would be classified as "living in the present moment" or "being downright clueless." Probably a mixture of both. During the summer before my 4th grade year, I was outside playing with my brother. My mom yelled from the back door, "Catherine, where are your scissors? What about your crayons from last year? Are they still good? Do you still have glue?" I answered my mom's questions, but found them very strange, so I asked my brother, "Why is Mom getting our school stuff together." His answer, "School starts tomorrow." I had no idea. Somewhere I had missed out on that information. I went in the house and helped my mom gather up all my school supplies.
Starting back to school can be an exciting time, but it is also difficult for parents as they gather up all the "school stuff." The supply list seems to get longer every year and, of course, it goes without saying, times are tough. No one needs to be told these words, but the words when spoken do connect us. Struggling is part of the human experience. This is definitely a time of great financial struggle.
My heart goes out to all parents who are struggling to make ends meet and who now have schools supplies to buy on top of that. There are also teachers who buy many things out of their own pocket and who wish they could supply all their students' needs - physically, academically, and emotionally.
May God bless you and give you strength.
End of Summer Thoughts
I can't believe that this summer is just about over and in a week 430 students will be brightening my school's doorways! It went so quickly. This summer was a summer of unexpected joys and adventures, including an unexpected surgery, but God was in every single moment and I felt that presence very strongly and surely. I feel refreshed and reenergized and ready to begin a new year. Even though it went very quickly, this summer was probably one of the most blessed of my life! I can't wait to see all the wonderful faces of children ready to learn and grow!
Friday, August 7, 2009
The Spirituality of a Tree
I must admit I am fascinated with trees. My dream vacation would be to go out west and see the Sequoias and the great Redwoods. I find them absolutely fascinating!
About 8 years ago when I first entered the monastery, I read a book on the spirituality of trees. Trees are so resilient. They're deeply grounded, but have to be flexible enough to endure storms and strong winds. In the harsh cold days of winter, they shed their leaves becoming vulnerable. Despite the weather or growing conditions, trees are strong and persevere because of their groundedness and flexibility.
Being a true tomboy growing up, I did my share of tree climbing and always had scraped up knees and elbows. Once when I was in college, a friend of mine yelled to me in the grocery store, "Hey, tree hugger." Although I haven't visited it in a while, the tree near our monastery garden used to be a nice getaway. I'd take a journal, sit in its branches, and soak up its wisdom.
Go out. Look up. Check out the trees around you. They've been through a lot. Let us learn from them. They simply honor God by being trees - by being what they were created to be.
Do I do the same? Am I grounded, yet flexible? Am I vulnerable during hard times and trust that God is present? Do I trust that the seasons, the cycle of life, are God's plan? Do I reach toward God, the source of life and light? Do I honor God by simply being me?
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I'm home now at the monastery for a few weeks of "summer break." I spent the summer taking classes at the University of Southern Indiana and enjoying every minute of my experiences.
It was wonderful to come home and see everyone over our "community days" that Sister Michelle described in an earlier post. We had a great week full of discussions as well as some good prayer and reflection time.
Last week I made retreat and had the most life-changing prayer experiences that I have ever encountered! What a beautiful and sacred time in my life! My retreat was filled with much resting in God and heartfelt gratitude for all that I encounter each and every day in our monastic life.....
Now I'm busy working a retreat being given here at Kordes by Megan McKenna, theologian and a phenomenal story teller of the Sacred Scriptures! I'm also happy to help fill in duties on the hill for our sisters who are making the retreat this week.
Next week I head north for a vactation on the beaches of Lake Michigan..... Can't wait to sit on the beach with my coffee and watch the beautiful sunrises and magnificent sunsets!
Many Prayers and Blessings to you, all of our readers!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Living Group Celebration
I currently live with six other sisters, one of whom just celebrated her 25th jubilee (anniversary of her profession). This past Friday evening and Saturday our group went to Evansville for an extension of her celebration. We ate, watched movies, prayed, walked; we just had a good, relaxing time together.