Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gift of Christmas

The celebration of the Feast of Christmas was a time of great joy at Our Lady of Grace Monastery.  There is so much to prepare - music, chapel environment, food, dining room decorations.  And yet, that is so much a part of the celebration of Christmas.  I love the days before Christmas as each person in community uses her gifts to help prepare.  

Our Evening and Morning Prayer liturgies were beautiful.  I love the special verses from Scripture that remind us of the amazing gift that we are receiving and the mystery of it all astounds me.  Our Eucharistic liturgy was beautiful with the sounds of our Bell Choir and the beautiful voices of our Schola praising God together.  Christ coming to us in human form.  As I received Christ at the Eucharist, I was reminded once again that I am called to become that same gift for others.  What a challenge and gift this is!  God comes to us in human form so that we might come to know him intimately.  And, because of this intimate relationship with him, we are never the same.  Now we, too, must become for others a life-changing experience.  May our relationship with others help them see Christ so that their lives might be changed through this experience.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

It's hard to believe that Christmas Eve is just a couple of days away.  Christmas trees are appearing all over the monastery.  We will start putting the lights on the trees in the chapel this afternoon/evening.  Tomorrow and Friday the rest of the chapel decorations will be done.  I love this time of the year.  It is such a time of community.  Each person is involved in their little part of making the celebration of Christmas special.  Of course, it is our daily prayer and Eucharist that is preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.  Know that we pray for all of you in our daily prayer.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Whose In Your Family Tree?

The Gospel for today is the genealogy of Jesus.  For a long time I struggled with this Gospel passage. I guess I didn't know how to reflect on it.  However, in recent years, it has begun to hold deep meaning in my life.  As reflect on Jesus' genealogy, I realize that it is filled with the great ancestors and the not so great.    The Gospel writer includes them all.  Each ancestor is an important part of Jesus' history.  It helps me reflect on my family tree.  There are those in my family tree who were a gift and added so much to my family and then there are those who were a challenge and caused great struggle.  It is easy to focus on the "good" ones and forget about the ones that were a challenge.  Yet, each person in my family tree is a part of my story, a story that is part of the Story.  I encourage you to reflect on your family tree and give thanks for each person that has been a part of your story.  Many of them you never met and yet they helped shape your family.  I give gratitude for the family that God chose to give me.  The gifts and the struggles are all a part of my story, a story still being told by God.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Soul In Stillness Waits

 At Mass yesterday, we sang the song
"My Soul in Stillness Waits."  I love this song because it is a reminder of what Advent is all about.  The words of the chorus keep running through my heart, "For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits, truly my hope is in you."  I am always moved by this song.  However, yesterday as I 
looked out at the beauty of creation and the deep stillness of the fallen snow that covered the earth, I felt like I had been given a special gift by God.  God's grace covers me gently and leads me into the stillness of God's presence just like the snow that covers the earth.

 Sr. Mary Margaret took these pictures of our grounds covered with snow.  I hope you enjoy seeing them 

 much as we did.  We are blessed by beauty all around us but sometimes it takes a first snow to open our eyes to the beauty God provides each day.  

I want to take this gift with me into the rest of the Advent season so that each day I might touch into the beauty and stillness that God offers me.  Know of my prayers as you enjoy God's gifts this Advent.

Sr. Julie Sewell and Sr. Heather Jean enjoyed an Advent walk together.  All bundled up they stayed warm as they took in the beauty of God's gift.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Importance of Passion

As I have talked with people about their lives and what they desire, I have often heard them talk about the importance of passion for what you do.  I would totally agree and find it sad when I meet someone who does not seem to have passion for what they are doing.  However, passion can never be separated from the source of our lives: Jesus Christ!

A couple of Sundays ago, I was at Mass at Christ the King Parish and read Fr. Steve Jarrell's column in their bulletin.  In his column, he used this quote from Pastor Frederick Buechner.  I have been reflecting on it this Advent and invite you do do the same.

"Passion must be grounded, or, like lightning without a lightning rod, it can blow fuses and burn the house down.  Passion must be related not just to the world inside your skin but the world outside your skin . . . . Passion must be harnessed and put to work, and the power that first stirs the heart must become the power that also stirs your hand and feet, because it is the places your feet take you to and the work you find for your hands that finally proclaim who you are and who Christ is.  Passion without wisdom to give it shape and direction is as empty as wisdom without passion to give it shape and purpose."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A New Year Begins ... The Season of Advent

       I love the season of Advent!  It is such a gift to begin again.  Another liturgical year is before us and we can embrace it by entering deeply into this season of Advent.  Our culture seems to skip over Advent as it busily prepares for Christmas.  Advent invites us to reflect on what we are preparing for at this time of year.  It is a season of hope and anticipation as we await the birth of the Christ child into our hearts and our world.  

I find it helpful during Advent to take a little extra time each day for silence.  As I enter this time of silence, I find myself reflecting on the gift of Christ in my own life.  It also challenges me to look at the ways I share, or need to share, the gift of Christ with others.  These times of silence stretch my heart and make it a little bigger, a little more welcoming for Christ to dwell. I am so thankful for the gift of Advent.  I pray that it is a time of blessing for you as well.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving At Our Lady of Grace Monastery

 We had a wonderful Thankgiving at Our Lady of Grace.  We had a beautiful liturgy followed by an absolutely delicious meal.  We were joined by family and friends for both Mass and the meal.  It is always a gift to share our blessings with others.  It takes a lot of community participation to decorate the chapel, prepare the meal and decorate the dining room.  Of course, it is all worth it.  Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Thought I'd share a poem I received from my friend, John Hay, Jr.  It expresses the depth of what I understand Thanksgiving to be.  Blessings!
*** *** **** ****
Gratitude comes from some place deeper than mouthing the words “thank you”

I penned this poem thinking of gratitude, which is a grace that runs much deeper than the socially-expected etiquette that surrounds “giving thanks.”  As important as it is to celebrate thanksgiving and to take up the practice of saying “thank you,” finding gratitude reverberating authentically in one’s heart is the surpassing gift.  I pray that you experience and express it this season.

Thanksgiving doesn’t live in a vacuum;
We do not pluck it from thin air.
We cannot be grateful on command,
Genuflecting at the drop of hat.

Talk is cheap when it comes to thanking,
Yet beyond courteous etiquette
Lies a deeper reality that beckons,
Inviting us to reckon with grace.

Native American graciousness
And Pilgrim hospitality,
Turkey and all the trimmings point
Beyond finely folded, praying hands.

Through and beyond these images
We glimpse a sacred connection,
As generations across time
Hail some gracious provision.

It’s not so much a debt we owe
Or tribute for posterity
As it is a virtue we receive
And reflect into eternity.

We deep-down know we are held
By sustaining, life-giving hands.
Not our own or on our own,
We belong and are lovingly known.

We cannot utter such mystery--
Tradition and rite fall short;
But these, and we, can point and say
“Thanks” for life and grace today.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

St. Gertrude the Great and St. Mechtild of Hackeborn

This week we celebrate two great Benedictine saints of our church.  Yesterday, Tuesday November 16,  we celebrated St. Gertrude the Great.  She was the only mystic to be named "Great".  She went to the monastery of Helfta at the age of five to be taken care of by the nuns.  Later she chose to become a nun and grew in holiness in the midst of her community.   The Church celebrates St. Mechtild's feast on November 19.  St. Mechtild served as St. Gertrude's Formation Director and they grew close in spiritual friendship.

Both of them had a deep love of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.  It was through the liturgy that they grew closer to Christ and gained strength.  Both of them had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart.  Both of these saints had visions and deep experiences of contemplation that have been written down for others to share.

As we grow in our faith and commitment to Christ through the liturgy, let us ask Sts. Gertrude and Mechtild to pray for us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blessed Pope John XXIII's Feast Day

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, was born on November 25, 1881 in Bergamo, Itali.  As a young priest, he served as a hospital orderly during World War I, a military chaplain, a papal diplomat in Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, and in France during World War II.  He was the cardinal archbishop of Venice and finally the pope who convened Vatican Council II 48 years ago.  He died on June 3, 1963 and was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul.

At the homily given at Pope John’s beatification, Pope John Paul shared these words in his homily:

Today we contemplate in the glory of the Lord another Pontiff, John XXIII, the Pope who impressed the world with the friendliness of his manner which radiated the remarkable goodness of his soul. Everyone remembers the image of Pope John's smiling face and two outstretched arms embracing the whole world. How many people were won over by his simplicity of heart, combined with a broad experience of people and things! The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and to the powerful of the world. It was in this spirit that he called the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, thereby turning a new page in the Church's history: Christians heard themselves called to proclaim the Gospel with renewed courage and greater attentiveness to the "signs" of the times. The Council was a truly prophetic insight of this elderly Pontiff who, even amid many difficulties, opened a season of hope for Christians and for humanity.

Friday, October 8, 2010

8th Graders Visit Our Lady of Grace

On Thursday, October 7th, the Serra Club of Indianapolis planned a Vocation Exploration day for 8th Graders.  The young men went to the Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary and the young women came to Our Lady of Grace Monastery.

It was wonderful to have these young women with us.  They represented several schools in the Archdiocese and were accompanied by four chaperones.  They arrived at 10:00 a.m. and stayed until 2:00 p.m.  They joined us for prayer and a meal, a tour of the monastery and a talk on vocations.  I was so impressed with these young women.  It was fun to get to know them and learn more about the questions they have.  Each of them was so respectful and participated in the day fully.  It is a gift to know that these young women are a part of our faith and desire to take their faith seriously.

Please keep them in your prayers as they continue to discern God's call in their lives.  A big thanks to the Serra Club who continue to pray for vocations and offer opportunities for vocation exploration.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Saint in the making ...

Last weekend I had the opportunity and privilege of attending the baptism of my friend's little boy. The baptism took place during the 4:30 p.m. Mass at St. Monica-St. George parish in Ohio.  Pax Gabriel was wearing a baptismal garment that has been in his family for five generations.  It was amazing to think that Pax Gabriel's Great-Great Grandfather had been baptized in this same white garment.  What a powerful example of passing on the faith. Although Pax was fairly upset before the actual baptism began, he seemed to get very interested as he was being held over the baptismal font.  As Fr. Tom was pouring the water over his head, Pax tried to grab the water and pour it over himself.  It seemed as if he was very eager to be baptized.  It made me smile.   What a wonderful gift Pax was receiving and participating in.  Through his baptism Pax is called to live a life of holiness.  This is his vocation and it is our vocation. Each day we have the opportunity to grow in becoming a saint.  This is our calling.  I wonder how many times I miss the opportunities that God gives me to grow. I'm going to pay more attention and wake up to all the opportunities to grow, to be the saint I'm called to be.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Celebrating the Feast of St. Hildegard

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Hildegard of Bingen.  She was the Abbess of the Benedictine Abbey in Bingen, Germany.  A woman of great wisdom and understanding, St. Hildegard had a deep love for Christ and glorified him with her words and music.  She lived from 1098 - 1179.  Let us remember her today.  May we, like her, grow in our love of Christ and seek him with our whole lives.

Enjoy these words of hers:

“Be not lax in celebrating. Be not lazy in the festive service of God. Be ablaze with enthusiasm. Let us be an alive, burning offering before the altar of God.”

“There is the Music of Heaven in all things and we have forgotten how to hear it until we sing”.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

This past summer several of us had the opportunity to go the Monastic Institute held at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota. It is a wonderful conference that focuses on Benedictine life. The speakers were  very good and it was wonderful to meet Benedictines from all over the country.

Another highlight of our time there was enjoying the beautiful campus of St. John's.  They have a beautiful lake that is surrounded by woods.  On two of the days we were there, we had the chance to go canoeing.  The first day the water was calm but the next day was very choppy.  There were several times that Sr. Heather Jean and I almost tipped the boat.  When we were trying to head back to shore, we got stuck in the middle of lake because of the strong wind.  We just kept going in circles.  It took great team work to get back to shore.  Sr. Heather and I had to focus our eyes on the shore and work together to get back.  Figuring out how to use our oars in tandem we slowly headed back to shore.

I learned a lot that day.  How journeying with others makes all the difference.  How we need to focus our eyes on the goal and start toward it.  And, finally, how the oars we have make a big difference in how we proceed.  As I think of the oars of my life, I realize that the Gospel, the Rule of Benedict and the Benedictine values serve as oars that help me navigate the paths of life.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday, July 30th

Today is the last day of our annual chapter meetings. The week is a full one with business, input on various topics, reports and of course some fun time together as community.

Yesterday we had a morning session on vocations. Our speaker challenged us to think of our own call to this community and how unique it is to each person. She then went through a list of calls in the Old and New Testament - Moses-Jeremiah-Naomi-Mary, etc. Each was called, each felt that they were not worthy enough for this call from God.

But that is how we all feel from time to time - not worthy of what God is calling us to do.

I take from the meeting the saying - "Is anything too marvelous for God?"

God is the one who calls us - God knows the plan - we just need to listen and respond.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Wonderful Week

Today we begin the Monastic Live-In, an opportunity for others to experience the daily living of monastic life with us.  We have three women joining us.  They will pray, eat, work and play with us.  They will also have the opportunity to hear some input about the Benedictine way of life as well as some time for reflection.  It is going to be a GREAT week!  They will be with us until Sunday.

Sunday, July 11, the Feast of St. Benedict, is always a very special day for us as we celebrate our founder. This year it is made extra-special as we will celebrate the Final Monastic Profession of Sr. Mary Ann Koetter.  Please keep her and all of our community in your prayers as we prepare for this IMPORTANT DAY!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

98/27 . . . Beautiful Friendship!

On June 17, Postulant Heather celebrated her first birthday in the monastery.  It was a great day for her as she celebrated the gift of life and the gift of friendship in community.  One of the gifts Heather brings to our community is the gift of energy and enthusiasm.  

Heather's parents sent her a birthday gift that no other sister has received - ROLLERBLADES! They came with all the accessories needed to keep her safe.  I was sitting in my office when Heather came rolling in to show me her new gift.  She asked if we could find Sr. Mary Sylvester to show her the gift as well.  So off we went to find her.  As you can see from the picture, Sr. Mary Sylvester has her own wheels and won't be asking to use Heather's rollerblades anytime soon.  

It has been beautiful to witness the friendship that has developed between the two of them.   Sr. Mary Sylvester is ONLY 71 years older than Heather! They share deeply and delight in life together.   She laughs as Heather teases her and Heather listens intently as she shares stories from the history of our community.  Their beautiful friendship shares the gift of generational living.  As St. Benedict teaches us there is always something to be shared and learned by the young and the old.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Little Things In Life

A good number of the sisters in our monastery are retired from active ministry (although they contribute much to community in terms of both small jobs and prayer) We call them our "senior sisters", not because of their age as much as in recognition of the years of wisdom and life experience which they now share with us. I have the privilege of coordinating activities for them once or twice a month.

Today we had an ice cream party. Nothing fantastic, just a cone or a bowl of some 'fun' flavors, a class of lemonade and some casual conversation. There is something that seems almost decadent about taking an ice cream break at 2 pm in the afternoon. Several of the other sisters and even a guest or two joined us for a tasty treat.

I was overwhelmed by the gratitude the senior sisters expressed for what seemed like such a small thing for me. To have something different in their very scheduled day, to give themselves permission to relax in the midst of their work was something they saw as gift. Their genuinely happy response reminded me again that it is the small things we do each day, sometimes without even thinking, that often have the greatest impact. Imagine how much more our little deeds could mean if we did them mindfully! Who know there was so much wisdom in an ice cream cone?

Sr. Theresine's Jubilee

On Sunday, June 6, Sr. Theresine Will celebrated her 60th Jubilee.  It was a wonderful celebration with her monastic community and her family.  Enjoy the video!

Theresine's Jubilee

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Learning How to Feed Others

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi, the body and blood of Christ. I am always struck at the sequence of Sunday celebrations in spring: Easter, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi. It's as if, in a nutshell, I am being reminded of the core elements of my Catholic faith: the paschal mystery, the presence of the Spirit, the mystery of three persons in one God, and the Bread of Life which is intended to nourish me for Kingdom living and Kingdom building.
Being a disciple means imitating Jesus. Jesus fed the hungry, using what was at hand to nourish hungry people. In today's gospel (Lk 9:11-17), the apostles urge Jesus to send the crowds away to find food. Jesus says, "Give them some food yourselves." Aside from the fact that they had little, the apostles were used to going to Jesus to solve the problems that arose. I like to think that Jesus was helping His apostles realize that they had something to offer the crowd, both in terms of physical food and spiritual nourishment. In this monastic community we might call that "hospitality", the ability to respond to others' needs, to invite them to rest and relax, to sit and 'chew on' the Word, to taste the goodness of God. This week, I am going to pray that God will help me see the ways I am being called each day to feed my sister, my neighbor, the stranger. I invite you to do the same!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Celebrating Sr. Mary Henry's Life

On Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Sr. Mary Henry Schiff went to be with the God she sought her whole life.  I got close to Sr. Mary Henry in her later life.  When I would visit her at our nursing health care center, she would always give me a big smile.  When I would leave she would always thank me for coming.  She never took anyone's care for granted.  She was always very thankful.    

One of my greatest memories of her was how much she enjoyed her 75th Jubilee in 2007.  She radiated the joy she felt that day.  It was a gift to celebrate with her.  I have included pictures of this day for you to enjoy.  I have also included some words from her obituary so that you can get a sense of her ministry to the community, church and beyond.   May the witness of her life as a Benedictine sister continue to be a light to the world.  Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her.  May she and all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Words from her obituary:
Sr. Mary Henry Schiff (formerly Gertrude Madeline) died at St. Paul Hermitage on May 18, 2010.  She was 94 years old.  Sr. Mary Henry was one of seven daughters born to Fred and Theresa Schiff in Johnston City, Illinois in 1915.  She entered Monastery Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand, Indiana in 1930 and made her Perpetual Monastic Profession in 1937.  She was a founding member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.  She received a BS Degree in education from St. Benedict College, Ferdinand, Indiana and a MS Degree in education from St. Francis College, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Sr. Mary Henry began her illustrious teaching career in 1934 and taught at various Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Evansville and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.  In 1981, after 47 years in the classroom, she became the receptionist and secretary at St. Anthony Rectory, Clarksville, Indiana and then at St. Paul Hermitage from 1984 – 1993.  She retired to Our Lady of Grace in 1994 and also served as a receptionist for the monastery.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Race for Vocations

Each year the Archdiocese of Indianapolis sponsors the Race for Vocations as part of the Mini Marathon/5K that takes place the first full weekend of May. 
The Race for Vocations begins with Mass followed by a pasta dinner the night before the race.  This year Msgr. Schaedel was the celebrant for the Mass.  He gave a wonderful homily about the importance of running to God not from God.  He reminded us that when we follow God's call  we find great happiness. 

200 runners took part in the Race for Vocations.  Of course we were part of a sea of thousands of runners.  It was amazing to see so many people downtown.  As we walked the 5K we were aware that many people were praying for vocations.  Rather than sponsoring the Race for Vocations with money, people sponsored it with prayers. 

The day was cold and we had to move around to stay warm before the race began.  However, the excitement about the race and the realization that so many people were praying for vocations brought warmth to my heart.  Keep praying for vocations!  Remember that everyone has a vocation, what's yours?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Miracle of New Life

The Miracle of New Life

Each year we have a goose and gander who visit our monastery. The goose (we've named her Gladys) lays her eggs in the flowerbed right by the front door of the monastery, Yesterday the goslings hatched - all SEVEN of them. It was so much fun to watch them learn how to live in their new environment. Gladys is a very protective mother so we had to be careful.

Enjoy the video of the goslings!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Retreat - Quality Time With Jesus

Each sister in our monastery makes a week- long retreat once a year.  This retreat gives each of us the opportunity to reflect on our lives with the One who is the center of our lives, Jesus Christ.  Last week I was blessed to be able to go on retreat.  I got to go to a retreat center in Kentucky and spend time in a hermitage.  I was especially blessed to be able to go on retreat during the spring.  Creation was fully alive with trees and flowers blooming everywhere.  
 It was a great gift to spend the week in silence taking time for reading, prayer and reflection.  This quality time with Jesus helped me to reflect on my life and to grow deeper in my relationship with him.  I also took time to reflect on the areas of my life I need to celebrate and those I need to work on.  Spending time with Jesus helped me take a long and loving look at my life.  I am thankful for the time I to retreat, to step back and take a closer look at my life with Jesus.  It gives me hope and renewed energy as I engage daily life again.