Thursday, December 23, 2010

Emmanuel, God-with-us

~~Last day to sing the O'Antiphons~~

December 23, 2010 O Emmanuel, Come

By now perhaps we are beginning to realize that we are among those people who are dwelling in partial darkness. We also need to remember that we are waiting for someone we already possess. The partial darkeness suggests a hiddeness. Sometimes what is hidden from us is our own goodness, our own light, our Inner Christ.

O Emmanuel, Beautiful Savior, Come into the partial darkness of our lives and reveal your face. You are Emmanuel: God-With-Us. Liberator of all who are in bondage. You are our hope. Come and save us. Make of us your own intimate face of "Joy for the World," O Emmanuel, Desire of the Nations, Come and set us free. O Come.

Go now and become God's personal JOY TO THE WORLD!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

O Light Eternal, O Ruler of Nations

The joy of "O!" continues in our daily prayer
as we hear the mystical poet, Rumi, proclaim:
"Keep knocking and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who is there."
December 21 (winter solstice) ~~
Today is our rising-sun day. Our eagness for the Dawn of God
to break into our lives grows stronger. And so we pray...
O Rising Sun bursting out of the darkness,
O Sacred Sun of Justice,
Come with your luminous face of Glory.
Shine on all who wait in darkness
for the radiance of your healing.
O You who are the splendor of Eternal Light,
enlighten us in our waiting.
O Come and shine on the embers of our hope.
O Come! O Come! O Come!

O Dear Desire of Every Nation! Our God is not a tribal God but a God whose heart includes all. In the eye of this Divine Lover we are one tribe. We are all in this Eternal Lover's tribe! Yes, All of us! Oh that we might live this truth...
December 22, 2011~~ We pray to One who is all inclusive:
O Servant King of the Nations~~ O deep, dear desire of every longing heart, you are the Messiah, the Anointed One for whom we have waited with eagerness. You are the foundation of our lives. Come to all the nations. Lay your hands upon the earthen vessels of our lives. Unite us as One People. Break into our hearts and reveal to us our own love. This is the hidden love we never knew we possessed! This is the inclusive love that leaves no one out. ...and we never knew we possessed such love until you broke into our lives. O, joy of every longing heart!
O Servant King, O Come.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

O Root of Jessie--O Key of David

As Christmas draws near we continue to invoke our God
to come and save us as we sing the hauntingly beautiful o'antiphons.

December 19, 2011 ~~ We honor our roots today. We are a part of our ancestors whether we like it or not. I tend to look at that truth in joy even though we can be fairly certain that not everything in our blood line is or was as we would have desired it to be. It's really ok! Into our lives with all its faithfulness and sinfulness God comes. Jessie is a metaphor for someone in our orginal history who was faithful.
O ROOT OF JESSIE~~Tree of Life, You are a sign for all peoples. Let the mighty ones fall silent before you. You have flowered forth from the royal line of King David. You are our servant king. Let the nations bow before you. Come, take root in us. Help us to blossom forth from your Servant-Heart. Deliver us quickly, O Come!

December 20, 2011~~Just as it was from David's line that the Christ was to be born; it is from our line that "the-Christ-life" is to continue. Where is the key that will reach the hearts of the nations? Christ is that key! And we, also, must become the key that unlocks closed doors and closed hearts.

O Key of David, Shepherd King and Holder of life, you unlocked the door to God's heart. Come, free all that is captive within us. Pry open our self-made prisons. Break the chains of those who use their power to keep others imprisoned. Lead all captives into freedom. Set free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. O Come!

Break the chains

of those who use their power

to keep others imprisoned!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

O Wisdom, Come

Someone just informed me
that I've been dancing a little too fast
and a bit too long
so I will try to come back.
Advent seems like a good time to return.

The O Antiphons begin today~~for Christians, these ancient voices speak of our longing for the coming of the One who will save us from all those lost and exiled parts of ourselves. Indeed, the one who is coming is the One we call our Savior. And so we clear a space inside our hearts for the names of God to live.

We begin by focusing on the word, O! In this case it is more than a letter in the alphabet. It is the wonder, surprise, joy, exuberance that we experience when something "goes wide in our hearts" and causes us to exclaim, "O!" It is the miracle of the Christ we are waiting for and sometimes we find that Christ in unexpected places.

December 17, 2011: Today we cry out,

O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High reaching to the ends of the earth. O Sapientia, O Holy Word of God, you rule all of creation with your firm, yet tender care, Come, Open up the highway of our hearts to receive your salvation. O Come!

December 18: O Lord and Loaf-Giver for the House of Israel (and now for our own households) You appeared to Moses in a burning bush. You gave him the Holy Law on Mt. Sinai. Teach us to look at the law as little lights along the way. You pass out loaves and rekindle weary hearts. O Come with your all-embracing arms to set us free. O Come!

~~Prayers somewhat adapted by Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

Thursday, December 9, 2010

See You Shortly

I'll be back real soon!
I'm dancing just as fast as I can!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Feast of Mechtild of Magdeburg

Let me begin by apologizing for those animated butterflies leaping around at the beginning of my last post. I didn't know they were animated or they would probably not have been chosen to adorn my site. I am not ordinarily into things jumping around on my screen. It reminds me too much of my own somewhat disordered life. I run too much, move too much. I am longing for quiet places and caves these days.

On the other hand we sang a song to honor Mechtild of Magdeburg (1207-1294) this morning at mass and I was so moved by the images of her passion, love and exuberance. She was a medieval mystic and in her book, The Flowing Light of Divinity she describes her visions of God. Ofcourse the leaping comes out of the stillness. That exuberance for God flows out of time spent BEING with God. The words we sang this morning were written by Marietta Crahan, OSB and in singing them I decided that perhaps the dancing butterflies from my last post were not so harmful after all.
I cannot dance unless you lead,
With eager heart, for you I long.

With holy abandon I would leap,

But Lord you must intone the song.
Then I shall leap into your love,

from love to knowledge, if you will,

From knowledge into pure delight

Then, Lord, to circle higher still.

To be your partner in this dance,

Is this too much, Lord, to be true

for one who has no love in her

Unless she first is moved by you?

A fish in water does not drown,

No bird will plummet from the air.

In God my nature is at home,

My dance of praise is everywhere.

O Jesus, joy of loving hearts,

Be now our song for endless days.

We honor Mechtild's mystic dream,

And long to share her dance of praise.

I am grateful for these words that made my heart leap this morning at dawn. From all this leaping the stillness will arrive. I honor everything in you, dear reader, that is exuberant and passionate and wise, even if it is still sleeping.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Kingdom of God is Within You

--from the MEDITATIONS
of Jacob Trapp
Above all
may we keep our wonder
at great and noble things,
like sunlight and thunder
the rain and the stars,
the wind and the sea,
the growth of trees
and the return of harvests,
and the greatness of heroes.
May we come to learn
in our own experience,
in the ineffable mystery
and wonder of our souls,
who he was
and what he meant,
who said,
"The Kingdom of God
is within you."

I have been away from this blog longer than I wished yet we do what we must do and for me, that has been a lot of travel these past months. Yet there in the midst of my travels I reveled in sunlight and shadows, rain and snow and stars, the return of spring and summer, the wind and falling autumn leaves and Pikes Peak, and other mountains and gardens and gardens of flowers. And above all the hearts and faces of people who held both joy and sorrow. Strong, courageous, seeking people! Individual faces I cannot always remember but the memory of the mosaic of faces is very stirring and poignant within me. In my prayer this morning I saw them again,
faces from:
  • Ringwood, New Jersey
  • Ashville, North Carolina
  • Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
  • Fort Smith, Arkansas
  • Atchison, Kansas
  • Bristow, Virginia
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado

Beautiful people who do not always remember that the Reign of God is within them.

So that is why I am reminding you...

The Reign of God
is Within You!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Today I Will Be A Poet

Although September was a wonderful ly creative month, it appears not to have been a very productive month for my blog. I am just fine with that though. My promise to myself is not to make unnecessary rules and demands. It seems important to enjoy what I do, thus I must practice giving myself positive messages. I am getting a little better with this though it is still a practice. ~~~~This summer I took an online creative class from the Abbey of the Arts. If you don't know about this wonderful site just google it and it will appear. Some day I will take the time to learn how to put those wonderful links into my blog where you can just click and BEHOLD! What you click you will see. That day has not yet arrived. I would like to gift you with a poem written during my monk/artist class. Enjoy it as you honor the monk and artist in your own deep soul.

Today I Will Be a Poet

Today I will be a poet
"like a feather on the breath of God,"
I will yield to the untraceable wind
sensing myself being breathed into the mystery.
Today I will gather beauty
I will see with the eye of the Beloved
I will practice adoring every little thing
I will listen to the voice of the moon flower
and kneel at the roots of the Sycamore.
Today I will be obedient
to water, wind, earth and fire,
as they allow the Divine to speak through them
I, too, will allow myself to be spoken through.
Today I will be a poet, a monk and an artist.
When light climbs out of the sweet darkness,
falling down in golden streams
upon my mystic heart,
I will stand in the light fall
and become a vessel of light and darkness.
My Heart Will Overflow
With Eternal Questions!
Poet, monk, artist, mystic:
siblings on our beautiful earth
answers to eternal questions
containers of light and dark
keepers of a 'power' that saves.
~~Macrina Wiederkehr
[written on the altar of daily life]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The angel of creativity

It hasn't been easy- --finding time to return to this blog. I keep breaking my own rules about taking time to pause each day. A few days ago I found a marvelous piece of advice in the book, Leading from Within. It came in the form of a question asked by Ted Falcom: How can I learn to say "No" so that my "Yes" has real meaning? I need to write this question on my forehead.

Of course, if I do say YES when, perhaps, I ought to have said NO, I am then in the position of trying to be faithful to my YES. This has been my stance these days---practicing being faithful to the YES. Yesterday some unknown angel (perhaps the angel of creativity) came to my assistance. In straightening up some piles of "stuff to be filed" an old greeting card slipped out of a magazine. It was a photo of dragonfly resting on some long green stems in a pond. Below the photo was an inspiring quote from the poet, Rabindranath Tagore:

The same stream of life
that runs through the world,
runs through my veins night and day
and dances in rhythmic measure.
It is the same life that shoots in joy
through the dust of the Earth
into the numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of flowers.

Upon reading these words I experienced a piercing of the heart. Immediately I became aware that it was time for me, once again, to lean into creativity. I need to discern how to facilitate the stream of life pulsing through my veins. Pausing is not an option; it is essential for your health. If you keep the door of your heart unlocked, the angel of creativity will soon or later catch up with you. She will teach you to pause.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Finding Treasures in Old Journals

I am reading my old journals: smiling, weeping, pondering, wondering--tearing them up and throwing them away, saving certain pieces. After all, when you are a writer who lives in community you must be careful. No one lives forever; I could die and some fool might come along and try to publish my journals. I guess I like to be in charge. This morning I came across a quote I had written in my journal from one of my shining lights who died a few years ago, Sister Jose Hobday. This quote is worth sharing. I'm kind of glad she didn't tear it up and throw it away: Here is what she says:

Today only one thing must be accomplished.
I must move through the hours with more quality
and meet people with more love
and diminish my own personal selfishness...
when I go to bed tonite let there be
more light in this world because
I have walked the earth
Let there be more people aware that they are
gift and blessing and goodness.
Let me understand that all there is to life
is what I'm really living with quality.
the rest passes me by unnoticed.
--Sister Jose Hobday
Amen to that dear sister who is now
helping to light up the heavens
with your own vibrant life!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Each road has a voice

The Road
Here is the road: the light
comes and goes then returns
Be gentle with your fellow travelers
as they move through
the world of stone and stars
whirling with you
yet everyone alone.
The road waits
Do not ask questions
but when it invites you
to dance at daybreak
say YES.
Each step is a journey;
a single note the song.
--Arlene Gay Levine
taken from Bless the Day
ed. by June Cotner

I don't know what your road looks like these days but never pass up an invitation to dance at dawn. Don't worry about what your neighbors think. If they are lucky enough to see you, they may even smile. Dawn is difficult for some people; that I know! But if you can give up a bit of your uncertainty about morning, maybe even the untruth that you don't like morning you may be in for a great awakening. And even if you don't like morning, think about the road. Each road has a voice and it's waiting for you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Light Can Do

The poet, Lucy Shaw, offers us a little gospel when she says: "Light can make even dirt blossom." I will hang on to her piece of truth as I embrace both the light and darkness of today.

I went outside chasing the light this morning and it was just the medicine I needed to bring me back to my writer's altar. Having been FOUND BY LIGHT I am now making a choice to have a good day. All day, even in my writer-block moments I will try to remember the light, suggesting that if you should get stuck in any sort of negativity today you might consider going out and standing in the light.

I am not the only creature who was found by light today. Pray with the sacramentality of the image below and rejoice in everything and everyone that will be FOUND BY LIGHT today.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Cave of Quiet

There is no doubt in my mind that I am not called to the life of a hermit but I am looking for a cave of quiet. The little collage above I created for an on-line class that I signed up for in a moment of holy insanity. It depicts my desire to return to the monk and the artist in me. I need only gaze upoon it, to experience a quieting within.

Why it is so difficult to get my deepest desires to hold hands with my distractions is somewhat of an enigma. I suffer from and am blessed with creative distraction, often known as ADHD.

People seem surprised to learn that even with my ADHD nature I am so drawn to the prayer of quiet. "Are you able to sit still when you meditate?" they ask me. My answer to that question is, "Yes, I am able to be very still.!" Once I arrive at my place of prayer I actually feel at home. But you see, my difficulty is not sitting still; my struggle is with what happens "on the way to the cushion." On the way to the cushion can be anguish. Still, I choose to call it creative distraction because in those moments of disruption some very exciting and beautiful things occur. Things that were not on my schedule or my "to do" list suddenly become little miracles of grace. New ideas arrive.

Truly, it is both a suffering and a blessing. For years I beat myself up because there were no stop signs on the way to the cushion and yet I stopped. Now I am trying to be more gentle with the stops along the way because you see my goal is not really getting to the cushion. My goal, if there is such a creature, is being present to all that IS. My desire is to rest in the Holy Mystery and sometimes that happens before I arrive at the cushion. What I want is to be utterly present to every moment. What I want is to be Christ!

It is true that on the days I actually arrive at the cushion I often weep. But I am not sad! When I look at the picture above I weep. But I am not sad. My tears know more than I do. That's why I listen .

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There is so much grace in waiting

If possible
open your eyes
without assistance
from an alarm clock.
If possible
smile softly
while getting out of bed.

You have survived the night.
Draw back the curtain
to the yet black night
outside your window.
Stand by the window
and wait for dawn,
then, morning.
There is so much grace
in waiting.
If your eyes are sleepy,
pretend they are two planets
in the galaxy of your being
and they are responsible
for keeping the day lit.
Go forth, kindler of the day
Fill the world with light.
Your mission is sacramental.
-Macrina Wiederkehr

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Canticle after Vespers

One evening, after Vespers, about two Augusts, ago I sat on the porch of my hermitage at Hesychia House of Prayer and beheld the evening moving slowly into night. It was a beautiful beholding! No journal or bible in sight, I did Lectio with the Twilight Hour. After I went into my hermitage I sat down and wrote what I remembered. I named it Canticle after Vespers: progressive view from a country porch swing.

Day is done
Three cows in the pond
One cow thinking about going into the pond
Fifteen cows grazing in the green shadowed grass
One cow mournfully mooing
as though our world will never be healed
Three calves joyfully frolicking
as though there is no need for mouning at all
four layers of blue green hills as a back drop
Three humming birds hovering over my head
Two mocking birds sitting on the fence
One glowing sun descending in the west
One August moon rising in the east
Three lazy purple clouds saying their night prayers
Only God knows how many locusts singing from the trees
A sweet summer breeze coming in from the east
One August moon growing larger
One lone firefly looking for a mate
One August moon growing bright as a harvest moon
Three stars coming out to look at the moon
One mooing cow (finally) lying down to rest
A great star family growing in number
The choir of locusts ending their song
Three more fireflies joining the loner
The canopy of night sky remembering the earth
A great silence falling upon me
A small joy spreading through me
A large wish for world peace washing over me
Fifty-five wordless prayers dwelling within me
Day is done.
_Macrina Wiederkehr, taken from The Circle of Life
[written at Hesychia House of Prayer,
founding site of St. Scholastica Monastery]
This is a wonderful exercise for the soul. Go outside or just sit by a window. Your homework is to spend time beholding. After about a half hour, go away from the sight you were beholding and in poetry form, record what you remember.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Feast of St. Benedict

Happy Feast of St. Benedict to all who love the Benedictine Way! I love feasts! Although there are special days and occasions when we celebrate in a more elaborate way, it is possible to turn very ordinary moments into feasts. That is my speciality in life. I've always had the ability to turn unexpected moments of beauty into a feast. This morning for awhile I feasted on the light coming through the trees. When we feast we often think of creative dinners and beautiful plates of food. This morning I feasted on the scriptures. While praying my Lectio Divina using the first reading from mass (for the feast of St. Benedict) I decided to read very slowly and just gather insights....The reading was Proverbs 2: 1-11. For this special feast I would like to share, with you, some of my gathered thoughts and prayers:
  • receive and treasure
  • turn ear, incline heart
  • ear to wisdom
  • heart to understanding
  • hidden treasures of wisdom
  • seek her like silver
  • soon you will understand
  • from the mouth of the Holy One
  • God is a shield
  • guarding the path
  • every good path
  • strewn with justice and honesty
  • your heart will be a guest for wisdom
  • discretion will watch over you
  • understanding will guard you
When you open the pages of your scripture, remember that these words can become a feast. All that is required is your presence with an open mind and an open heart. In honor of St. Benedict find a little cave today, a space to rest awhile and think about the things that truly matter.

When you eat your next meal, look at your plate and know that the feast does not consist solely in eating the food before you; but also in enjoying the precious gift of the ones who are around your table--and should you be eating alone, try to remember all who have sat at your table from your childhood to the present moment. Your table is crowded with guests.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Let the Light Fall

In my prayer this morning St. Benedict's words from the rule kept moving through my mind:

Keep death daily before your eyes.
I have lost a number of friends to cancer recently and so my meditation turned into a question, "How do I feel about the impermanence of life?" In a world that makes such a god of time, how do I feel about this fleeting god? As I continued to meditate on the reality of death I knew immediately that I would like for death to be as much of a friend as possible. And so I turned to thoughts on "daily dying." Every little death brings life. The image that came to me in my prayer is that of little bits of light falling on me at every moment, at every death. All death, even the daily dyings, involve some kind of surrender. If I live with my eyes wide open that surrender can be life giving.
Use the picture above for your own reflection. It was taken on the beautiful grounds of Mt St. Francis Spiritual Center in Ringwood, New Jersey where I just led a 5-day silent retreat. It is a sunset picture and notice how the light is falling so gently on the dying day. As I prayed in joyful and painful remembrance about the friends I have lost through death, especially death to cancer, a poem by Mary Bradish O'Connor came to my mind. I found it in my poetry archives marked, "favorites" and decided to share it here in my post on thoughts about dying.
Get over it. there's a tear in the fabric
of forever and it's just the way
it is. God didn't tap you on the back
because you were a bad girl and today
you pay for it. You did nothing wrong.
It wasn't all the walks you didn't take
or Irish luck that tossed you headlong
into cancer. Consider this a wake-up
call and live your gift of days with joy.
Walk the edge where air is thin and clear,
where fear can take you further.
It's just another country.
Chin up. Step through the door.
Each breath in, a miracle.
Each breath out, a letting go.
--Taken from "Say Yes Quickly"
by Mary Bradish
-Pot Shard Press 1997
When I first read this poem it was an ouch-poem. I didn't quite know what to do with it. I wasn't sure I could ever read it to a friend who had cancer; but then I thought that I would very much like for someone to read it to me if I had cancer. Knowing that the author wrote it after her diagnoses of ovarian cancer moves me deeply. The words, "It's just another country," have remained with me as have the words: "Each breath in, a miracle and each breath out, a letting go." That is something I can begin to practice right now. I, who, try daily to keep death before my eyes choose impermanence as my daily companion. The comforting part of my meditation today is a vision of the light falling around me at every moment. There is always something/someone dying. Let the light fall on all our daily dyings.
Oh! Let the Light fall!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Still Trying To Listen


Written June 23, 2010

This evening on the vigil of the feast of St. John the Baptist and the 51st anniversary of my monastic profession, I sat down at my little altar in my bedroom (which also might be considered my monk cell) and listened for a long spell. Or, I guess you might say: I kept vigil. I love Vigils. They call me to stand before those things that were and are sacred. To symbolically stand before the mystery of my 51 years as a monastic was a very special prayer.

I am not so sure I knew what I was doing 51 years ago. Today as I prepare to renew my promises/vows I have a much clearer picture of why I am here although I must say that I still lack full understanding.

On the Vigil of my 51st anniversary I prayed with one of my favorite passages from the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72: On the Good Zeal of Monks. I am quoting a bit of this passage for your own reflection because the message is very obviously one that could speak to you in whatever way of life you have chosen.

“…This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love; “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other." (Rom12:10) supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. …and let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ.”

June 24, 2010

My anniversary was made even more special this year by the fact that Sister Cecelia Marie made her final profession today. As I was praying with the word “final” in regard to my own monastic life I found myself smiling with a kind of new enlightenment. I know what final is supposed to mean.; I have pondered often on the promise of stability in the monastic way of life and am aware of the possibility of finding God wherever I am. I do not have to get on a jet plane to find Christ in some foreign place (although that could at times be a true call). In a world that finds stability difficult I choose stability.

But today I also was given the insight that nothing is final, not even monastic promises. Every morning I must renew my vows again. Every morning I discover new ways to say, “Yes.” Every morning I stand before the mystery of my “Suscipe” and renovate my way of being obedient to Christ in this community. Every day I renovate my heart.
I Am Still Trying to Listen With
the Ear of My Heart!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


When I visited the Sistine Chapel in summer of 2008 the guards were forever crying out, SILENCIO. People would become silent for awhile and then their voices would rise again. I appreciated the reminder to view all that awesome sacred art in silence.

Whenever I stand before beauty, I tend to be drawn into what I call a natural silence. There are many kinds of beauty: a loaf of bread--just out of the oven, a rotten log surrounded by buttercups, a tear, a smile, mist rising from the pond, flowers struggling in the summer heat, orchards and vineyards laden with fruit. It may not be the Sistine Chapel but in these moments also I often hear an unknown voice chanting, SILENCIO. What do you say when there's nothing to say? Say nothing!

I reflected on this last week while I was in silence during our community retreat. We didn’t have any sister-guards standing around calling out SILENCIO, and for the most part that wasn’t needed. In a monastic community, silence during a retreat is kind of taken for granted. We need to go beyond just taking it for granted though. Each time I attend a retreat, the value of silence is renewed for me. I find myself being encouraged and invited to build time for solitude and silence every day—not just while on retreat.

I will be leading a contemplative retreat in Colorado Springs in October of 2010 and was recently asked by one of the leaders if the retreat was a totally silent retreat. In my prayer I reflected on how to answer that question and these are the words I was given:

“Although the retreat is not totally silent we assume that if you come to a contemplative experience you will have some desire to be led to the deepening places which requires a faithful listening to the spaces between the words. We would also hope to find in you a willingness to help create the kind of atmosphere in which your companion seekers in the retreat will be led to live in the shade and the shadow of God’s wings.”

As I think over that answer I am reminded of a moment during our community retreat when I was drawn into gratitude because of the sensitivity of the people who work at our monastery. I was alone in the dining room having coffee after one of the conferences. Two of our workman came in and sat down at a table to have coffee. Aware of my presence, they were totally silent even though they ordinarily talk at their coffee break. Their choice of silence struck me as a gesture of loving support for my retreat. I received it as their gift to me.

As I walk through the garden these hot summer days it is as though all of nature is crying out without words: SILENCIO.

Where do you find moments for silence
and solitude in your daily life?
What calls you into the quiet?

At dawn, after struggling to be born;

The Moon Flower lifts up its face

and again I hear the invitation,


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Traveling Without a Camera

On my recent trip I decided to leave my camera at home. Sometimes when I travel with a camera I am not truly present to the beauty I see because I am trying to capture everything. My intention was to be more mindful and simply take it all in through the lens of my eye. It was a wonderful spiritual practice although I had my moments of longing for the camera. I was in western Pennsylvania surrounded by the Allegheny National Forest and there were certainly many photographic moments that I had to sacrifice. The Olmstead Manor Retreat Center was beautifully bathed in Spring Blossoms, little waterfalls coming from the forest hills was music for the heart. Mt. St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA also provided much meditation material. Even my sojourn in airports fed my soul because I made the intention to see as purely and contemplatively as possible. I practiced beholding all the beauty. I relied on my heart’s memory and brought it all home with me. This morning while praying I decided to take out my snapshot memories and pray with them. So although I don’t have any photos to share with you, here are some of my memories, I invited you to envision them like a slide show and let each one be as a beautiful icon in a picture frame. You might even hang them on the wall of your heart:

  • two red-tailed hawks playing in the clouds
  • the window in my bedroom framing pink and white blossoms supported by tree branches of lacy green leaves.
  • streams of water flowing through green moss and falling into small pools of water
  • the morning mist encircling a lone walker on the labyrinth
  • freshly anointed stones on a small altar, built in honor of the places where God has visited us.
  • retreatants sitting quietly in green places, meditating
  • the prelude to a sunset on Lake Erie
  • a little girl in the airport, dancing without reserve
  • moving slowly through the light filled tunnel in the Detroit airport even though I was aware that my plane was already boarding and I had a long hike to the gate
  • Belle flowers (which I had never seen before) pink, purple and white, making silent music
  • the night blooming cereus
  • stones loving placed in the memory garden on the grounds of Mt. St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA
  • a small flower growing out of a piece of bark

Yes, the lens of the eye is sacred. It, too, has its memory card. Sometimes I see things more clearly with the pure light of the soul. Constantly, life unfurls before our eyes--even when we aren't looking. Open your eyes this week. At the end of the week (or day) you, too, might want to share a few photograpic icons stored in your soul's memory card.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sun's Wordless Voice

Amazing how the sun
can speak through trees!
Telling thousands of stories
with one earthward glance!

Stand still today and see what must be seen
Let the shadows hold your heart
All this is the illuminating
face of God!
All this is prayer!
And you?
Whoever you are,
How are you spoken through?
This, too, is prayer!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Move into your House of Joy

Today is the feast of Pentecost and since the Spirit has most likely fallen upon us--oh, I hope that each of us will find some time to just sit quietly and take it all in: the awesome truth that we have been chosen to breathe the Holy Mystery into the world, that we have been called to let the fire of God burn into our fragile clay and teach us how to shine.

To say what I really want to say I will borrow some words from the mystical poet, Rumi:

If you knew yourself for even one moment
If you could just glimpse your beautiful soul,
maybe you wouldn’t slumber so deeply
in that house of clay.
Why not move into your house of joy
~~and shine into every crevice!
For you are a treasure and always have been.

--Rumi, slightly tampered with by Macrina

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Being Chosen

The cave pictured here is a shrine of St. Benedict on our monastery grounds. The season of spring gave the shrine a special charm this year as Benedict seemed to be walled in by Forsythia. If you are going to spend your life in a cave, that is a mighty nice door. I have been meditating on Benedict’s life in the cave of Subiaco, Italy for some time now, meaning that I am still trying to discern how to be who I say I am, a monastic, a Benedictine. My personal prayer, these days, has been almost entirely given over to praying the rule in light of my own faithfulness to it. Sometimes I find it helpful to remain with a specific theme for a long time.

The two themes that have chosen me recently are simplicity and silence. I had no intention of choosing either of these topics when I begin to listen to Benedict in the rule (and in the cave); but they chose me. Simplicity chose me first so I will dwell on that. Living a life of simplicity does not necessarily mean living a life of destitution. Recently simplicity has asked me to be obedient to the things, people, events that surround me rather than looking for my needs/wants in a thousand other places. And so I am trying to attend what is nearby. I am trying to be more aware. I am looking with the eyes of my soul; but it is still difficult especially when it comes to people: fellow monks, sister monks. Whatever! --meaning of course, my monastic community! A quote from a spiritual letter from the early 20th century nourished me today. I eat anything I can find these days, as long as it is nearby. I did not go out and buy this book. I didn’t even go to the city library. It just sort of fell on top of me. Ah, it chose me!

“I charge you to release yourselves from the last strain
of materialism for then only are you protected; I charge
you to be forgiving and patient with all persons whether
they be stupid, melancholy or evil and to keep your
face always uplifted to the highest intent, for this,
above all, releases your life from all violence;
I charge you to live in faith, for this will give you
a splendor, a light which will be manifest to all the
bewildered, the lonely, the harassed—a beacon in
the storm. Stand to your full stature, for I bear witness
that eternal love can be reached.”

-Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood

Well! For someone who lives in community that sounds like a sweet challenge. And so I will give it an honest try. I really do believe that we are found by grace each day. I intend to practice noticing being found. ...more later!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Benedictine Renewal

In the summer of 2008 I enjoyed the immense blessing of being able to attend a month-long Benedictine Renewal program in Rome. One of the highlights of my trip was the opportunity to visit the Benedictine shrines in the area.

While I was in the cave of St. Benedict in Subiaco I was drawn to write a prayer to Benedict and Scholastica. Because my last post addresses my desire to renew, in my life, all that it means to be a Benedictine I am drawn now to share with you the prayer I wrote in Benedict's cave in Italy.

Holy Father Benedict,
I, too, taste the emptiness
from which you turned aside.
I, too, feel drawn to deeper places.
Your ancient desire
to be anchored in God Alone
sings in the marrow of my bones.
Your holy discontent
led you to a sacred cave
where you could listen intensely
to the One who was listening to you.
Teach me the art of deep listening.
Lead me to my own sacred space.
Intensify my longing for silence.
Make me hungry for
the medicine of God’s Word.
Open the ears of my heart.
Transform me into a sacro speco.

Holy Mother Scholastica,
May the love that drew
tears from your eyes
prime the well of my own love.
Instill in me a great yearning
for frequent holy conversation
with members of my community.

Benedict and Scholastica,
twin lovers of Christ,
Enable us, your disciples,
to blossom with fidelity
to the monastic way of life.
Make our hearts overflow
with the unspeakable
sweetness of love
that we may prefer
nothing whatever to Christ.

—Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, June 12, 2008
Sacro Speco, Subiaco, Italy

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Boat I Travel in

Recently someone asked me why I was carrying the Holy Rule around so much and I said, "Well, you see, I'd really like to be a Benedictine." The one who had questioned me looked surprised and said, "But you are a Benedictine!" I just smiled and later when I was at prayer I thought a long time about that funny little conversation that ended so unfinished. Then I remembered a meditation I wrote for my Jubilee last summer. I borrowed the idea from Balbir Mathur from a reflection called Planting One Tree at a Time that I found in Heron Dance. I read my meditation once again with that same haunting longing to really become a Benedictine.


The boat I travel in is called Monastic Life. My two chief oars are named for what I most need to keep me faithful to the monastic way of life. One of my oars is called: Seeking God. The other is called, Giving up My Own Will. There are other oars that I keep ready at my side, close at hand, lest I have a sudden inner conversion that requires some quick changes in my course. These oars are Loving Determination (in monastic language—better known as Stability), Radical Simplicity, Prayer, Obedience, the Common Life (also known as Community), Peace, Christ, the Spirit of St. Benedict, Gospel Values and Flawed Love. I know that Flawed Love sounds like a strange oar to cherish, yet it is the only love I have known and I have discovered even love with flaws has amazing powers, and who knows? … as I travel on in my monastic boat with my little oar of Flawed Love some day it may miraculously be transformed into the unfeigned love that I am asked to strive for in Chapter 72 of the Rule.

There are a few other oars laying around in the back of my boat. The fact that they are in the back by no means implies they are unimportant. They, too, are in ready reach. They are very necessary tools for my monastic journey. Their names are Bright Joy, Wonder, Beauty, Mindfulness, Creativity, Passion, Deep Listening, and Extravagant Yearning.

I have been in this boat for fifty years and sometimes I ache at how far away I seem to be from the Shore of my Longing and from that wild, pure, passionate light that we call Everlasting Life (which could be a kind of heaven on earth) but for the most part I am good at forgiving myself and others—so I’ll row on with my spare oars of Courage and Patience seeking God and trying to give up my own will.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tiptoeing Around the Truth

This morning I heard myself saying,
“It’s time for me to stop tiptoeing around the truth
in my personal life, in my work relationships and beyond.”

Well, that’s easy to say
but what do I really mean when I speak those words?
And so, my morning meditation
was filled with thoughts about

how to be truthful without being haughty
how to be truthful without sounding self-righteous
how to be truthful without blaming
how to be truthful without false expectations
how to be truthful without being harsh
how to be truthful without being insensitive
how to be truthful with myself

Words from an old song or poem keep moving through my mind:
“And you bring me down with truth
when lies have filled my life.”

Thus as my meditation continued
I decided to begin with an attempt
to stop tiptoeing around the truth
in regard to my personal life.
Oh My! Lord, please don’t speak very loud.

Some wonderful words
from Dom Helder Camara come to my rescue.
After so many years, what joy
to find these words still in the archive of my heart:

"Do not fear the truth
hard as it may appear;
grievously as it may hurt
it is still right
and you were born for it.
If you go out to meet
and love it,
let it exercise your mind,
it is your best friend
and closest sister."

-Dom Helder Camara

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Labyrinth Liturgy

April 17, 2010 -- This was a wonderful day. We had a labyrinth clean up day and accomplished much. Actually it was a liturgical celebration even if our workers weren't aware of that. Although today the word LITURGY is commonly understood as a worship that happens in church. In ancient times it had a broader meaning. A liturgy is a work done by the people for the good of all the people of God. Yesterday was truly a liturgy. Everyone did their part even if they couldn't be working on the labyrinth.

Dee, Mike and Julie brought pine needles, Sister Hilary brought food. Sister Pat washed off the tables for our picnic. Others prayed for us. Some have promised to donate supplies for upkeep of the labyrinth, others promised assistance with watering. Our infirmary Sisters looked out of the window and cheered us on. In beautifying our labyrinth we were performing this liturgy for our retreatants and guests. Clara Jane, Lisa, Karin, and Linda who assist in taking care of the labyrinth gardens on a regular basis couldn't be there but we did see the fruits of their liturgical service and we added our own love to their flower beds which belong to us all. Oh, and lest I forget: Sr. Pat and our cat, Toby, spend a little time weeding many evenings.

The labyrinth is a wonderful prayer walk for our often over-stressed hearts. I especially like the fact that it slows us down. We walk into the center slowly releasing the obstacles in our lives asking questions like: What prevents me from forgiving? Where do I need to loosen my grip? What blocks my heart? What do I need to release? Our walk into the center is a walk of RELEASE.

When we arrive in the Center we open our hearts and stand with attention to RECEIVE. We accept the gift of the graces we need to be a living liturgy in the lives of others. We trust that all shall come to pass as is needed for the good of our souls. We see our lives unfolding as flowers opening. We yearn to be a part of the healing of the wounds of the world.

The walk out of the labyrinth is a RETURN to our daily tasks knowing that faith has touched us in the areas of our greatest needs. We return with faith. We own the beautiful truth of our lives unfolding as a daily liturgical service.

To those of you who helped
and to those who will help in the future,
we have tattoed THANK YOU
on our hearts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Common Life

My Bench
I am still mulling around with yesterday morning’s first reading for Eucharist: It was about the community of believers in the early church being of one heart and mind, no one claiming exclusive rights to possession but holding all in common. I stared at those words for a long time yesterday and I am still contemplating them today.

I suppose this is what we are to do in our monastic community but oh, my, the purity of the original concept is surely lost if it ever was a true reality. Perhaps it is just an ideal and there is nothing wrong with having ideals as long as we make some kind of progress in transforming them into reality. It occurs to me that I often show more faithfulness in caring for a possession when it is mine (whatever that means) When it belongs to everybody there is the temptation to think the next person who uses it will take care of it properly.

And how easy it is to claim ownership of things, even when you live in a monastery. I go for an evening walk and discover someone sitting on my bench. Imagine! I sit here at this time every evening and now there is someone else sitting in my space. After all, I’m the one who has been cleaning off the bird poop. I’m the one who has been offering hospitality to that particular bench and now someone else is there usurping the atmosphere that I have made sacred.

Well, you get the drift. It is so easy to claim things as my own. I could, instead, make a choice to gaze at the person on my bench and be glad that I blessed the space for them before they arrived--and now they are blessing it even more with their presence. I especially like the idea of offering hospitality to the things we share in common...and perhaps becoming aware of how all these things serve our needs.

The next time you find an empty bench, please consider sitting there for awhile, asking that we become enlightened as to how we might become "one mind and heart." And while you are there perhaps you will be overcome with gratitude that there are so many things we get to share in common. Then leave the place a little nicer than you found it even if the last person forgot to do that.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


We Are Pressured
From Within
To Evolve.

-Karl Rahner

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Lovely Risen Friends

Happy Easter dear colorful friends…

Here is a little color for your souls. This is what I do with my seldom worn scarves to help them feel fulfilled. I just throw them in a pile on my personal altar and ask them to look beautiful.

There are many who adorn themselves with scarves and look so lovely…but when I try to wear them I end up looking like a May Pole so this seems like a creative and even sacred alternative. As I beheld their splash of color this Easter morning they made me smile and something in me began to feel risen. I go into this day Risen and Lovely, like Jesus, hopefully bringing a little color into the lives of others.

And you, lovely risen friends, go into this world with your splash of color. Tell everyone it’s Easter without using words.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Beautiful Waste

Today (Monday of Holy Week)
the gospel reading is the story
of the anointing at Bethany. (Mt 26: 6-13)
Here is my reflection on the experience
taken from my book, Seasons of Your Heart.

On some days, my heart fills up with questions,
and the gift of my life makes no sense at all.
I can still see that woman, bent over Jesus,
pouring out her expensive flask of perfume
for seemingly no reason at all.
What a silly thing to do!
Do not the scoffers have a legitimate complaint?
What is the point of such extravagance?
And who would think that one would become
so extravagant and wasteful,
as to pour out, not only perfume, but life itself?
It is what we are all asked to do
in our ministry. It has never made sense.
It’s a little bit crazy, as is all love,
to pour out your life like that.
On some days, when my hope feels small,
I want to scream out with the scoffers,
“Why such waste?”
But on other days, when my eyes and heart are clear,
…I feel immensely lavish. I feel extravagant!
And with gentle conviction I proclaim:
“What a beautiful waste this is?”

A jar of perfume
poured out over Jesus
and a question is born:
What is the point of such extravagance?

Why this waste?
I don’t know.
I honestly don’t know.
But if this shocks you so,
prepare yourself
for you’ll see more
more than costly perfume poured out.

You’ll see lives poured out
given freely
used up
spilled out
for no reason at all!

Extravagance unlimited!
Lives poured out
handed over
thrown away
for Jesus!

What is the point of such extravagance?
Why such waste?
Beautiful questions with no answers

and how sad if no one
has ever asked us:
why this extravagance?

Aren’t you wasting your life on Jesus?

--Taken from Seasons of Your Heart, page 179-181
Macrina Wiederkehr--HarperOne Publishers

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Mirror of Light


by Rainer Maria Rilke

Any angel is frightening.
Yet, because I know of you,
I invoke you in spite of myself,
you lethal birds of the soul.

Fated to be happy from the beginning of time,
creation’s spoiled immortal darlings,
summits of the cosmic shining at dawn,
pollen from heavenly blossoms, limbs of light,
hallway, stairs, thrones carved from existence
shields of ecstasy, shrines of delight—

and suddenly,
each one, mirror:

where our own evanescent beauty
is gathered
into an enduring countenance.

-taken from a Year With Rilke (HarperOne)

On this Feast of the Annunciation is there anything you would like to enunciate? As for me, I have angels on my mind. Having read Rilke’s luminous poem I see mirrors everywhere and sense the lovely truth that each of us is a reflection of Divine Light. We, too, can be messenger angels bringing fresh heart to one another.

Stand before someone who is knee-deep in discouragement and tell them: “Something is ripening in you. Can’t you sense it about to burst forth in radiant blossoms? You, too, can be an angel of light for others. All that seems to be ephemeral in your life is in reality growing wings. Take heart! Lift your wings.” --- Feast of the Annunciation, March 25 , 2010