Blossoms, and Breezes, and Lilacs, Oh My!

I love this time of year!!!

cherryblossomsThe trees with their white or pink blossoms, the gentle breezes that tease at one’s hair and skin, and – my favorite – the lilacs!

Yesterday afternoon, I biked over to the grocery store to pick up stamps for Sr. Rebecca, potatoes for our main kitchen, and bananas for Sr. Elaine. ¬†I don’t think much more would have safely fit in my bike basket. ¬†As it was, my steering was affected by the weight of the purchases.

I was more than happy for the outing, however.  Along with the good of being able to help others, I appreciated the pleasures of the outdoors on a gorgeous May afternoon.  There were so many natural beauties which I passed as I rode along.

It surely is great to be alive on such a day!  Few other things in life direct my heart upward in gratitude as effectively as the gift of a beautiful spring day!

lilacs20against20white20apples20and20fence20top20horTo top it all off, when I walked home after a tiring day, my nose was greeted with another gift.  The scent of lilacs (my favorite flowers with sentimental memory value) greeted my nostrils.  It was too dark to see the source of the smell, but it was unmistakably lilacs, a sweet little gift to me as I hastened toward the convent for a much-anticipated appointment with my pillow.

Knots

200px-22johann_georg_schmidtner222c_by_johann_georg_schmidtnerThe other evening I was visiting with one of our Sisters about a difficult situation that continues to plague me.  Sometimes interpersonal relationships can be a challenge!

The particular situation we were discussing has been an ongoing trial and I seem not to be making any headway.

During our conversation, she mentioned that she had been learning more about “Mary, Undoer of Knots” lately. ¬†I remembered that, when I was in Germany last Spring for our Congregation’s special celebration, a Church we had visited had a special connection with this devotion.

To me, this image (of Mary, Undoer of Knots) is a poignant one.  How often we have circumstances that seem like a tangle with which we are powerless!

I actually have a few “knots” I’m facing right now. ¬†Actually, unlike those that just “pop up” in my floss when I’m embroidering, these have been lurking for some time. ¬†Personal knots, I find, can be troubles I face with others or myself. ¬†I just can’t get them out on my own.

I’ve been praying for grace to deal with these issues, but this morning, this prayer took a new angle.

I came across a novena to “Mary, Undoer of Knots” which I’ve now started, seeking Our Lady’s powerful intercession to help me with these troublesome tangles.

Two Simple Words

thankyouLast evening, I worked our reception desk at St. Anne’s until ten. ¬†About a quarter-to, one of the night aides came in, fifteen minutes early for his shift.

I hadn’t had much (if any) interaction with him since this past weekend. ¬†He had been sick and unable to come to work. ¬†No one else was available so I had worked for him Saturday night.

As is customary, I gave a little report of pertinent information for the next shift. ¬†In the course of our little conversation, he said “Thank you for working for me the other night.”

Simple as it may be, this really meant a lot to me.  It was nice to have this acknowledgement.

I am happy to fill in where needed, but I appreciated his kind expression of gratitude.

I reflected a bit upon this; how important gratitude is, how much these two simple words, thank you, can mean.  They are so important.

I think about the preface dialog before the Eucharistic prayer at Mass: “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God…It is right and just”

How much God has done for us; (Immeasurably more than me working one trivial little night shift)!  It is only right, and just, that we should say our thank you to Him.

I think of all the people (including myself) who neglect to say thank you to God, to express our gratitude for all His wonderful gifts.

The way my co-worker’s words so touched my heart last night served as a reminder to me of how I should express my gratitude to God each day.

It is wonderful that¬†we have the opportunity for daily Mass, the Eucharist, which is the great “thanksgiving.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

If you enjoyed this post, please share it on your social networks using the buttons below.

“Drag Your Fingers.”

PA270021.JPGI still remember my first and only organ lesson.  It was given by Sister Dianna, who herself had been playing organ since her early childhood.

Several years back, I had asked her to give me a little instruction so as to transfer what I knew on the piano and use the organ as well.

We went up to the large, beautiful sounding organ in our chapel and she instructed me on organ technique, telling me to drag my fingers.  With her helpful instruction, I envisioned having weights attached to each of these small extremities.

I also learned a little about the manuals on the decks there.

I am still certainly not an expert on the use of this beautiful instrument, but her instructions were very helpful.

Picture1Sister Dianna certainly helped countless others during her many years of service.  Until the last couple of years, she was still serving at the Community Hospital in Oakes, ND.

Another special connection I have with Sister Dianna, of whose death I just learned, is that her name day is celebrated the day before my birthday.

May she now “make music to your Name, most high” in the courts of heaven.

As we mark the Day of Prayer for Vocations this Good Shepherd Sunday, may she also join us in interceding for more vocations to our Community.

Manna for the Wilderness Journey

Exodus 16 tells the story of the people of Israel being fed in the wilderness. ¬†This event is alluded to in John’s gospel and serves as the backdrop for the Bread of Life discourse which we hear read during this third week of Easter.

This story of Manna, and Jesus’ subsequent teaching is truly fitting for us every day.

Although we don’t live in a middle eastern wilderness, our life can seem like a wandering some time.

As we face struggles, uncertainties, and whatever else may come, we are provided for.  We have our Manna, our daily bread, in the Eucharist.

In writing this post, the hymn, “Shepherd of Souls, Refresh and Bless” comes to mind, in which we are reminded that Christ is our provident shepherd and we are a pilgrim flock in the wilderness of life.

Please join me in giving thanks for the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, in which our Lord provides for our needs with His very self!

“Behold, I am with you always…”

This morning’s Communion antiphon¬†contained a message which, to me, is crucial. ¬†Taken from Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:20, it reminds us of His promise to be “with [us] always, even to the end of the age.”

17505056_1452496018123615_9110413917490671142_oIn the characteristic Easter fashion, it closes with an “alleluia.”

When Easter comes, we tend to be a bit out of practice regarding the “A-word,” having abstained from it for 40 days. ¬†When we pray the introductory part¬†of¬†our evening office, which contains an Alleluia, there is occasionally a bit of a pause before we remember that we are not in Lent anymore; we should be saying “alleluia” again!

As a follow up on today’s consoling communion verse, the “alleluia” is very appropriate. It is fitting that Jesus’ promise to be with us be followed by this ancient ejaculation which means “God be praised.” ¬† His presence, indeed, is a great gift which merits our praise.

I might take Christ’s¬†words of promised presence as an answer to prayer. ¬†To me, it is so important that Christ be with me each day. ¬†As I face challenging situations of varying types, I turn to Him, seeking His presence, guidance, and support.

Recently, in fact, I’ve found myself praying for His presence, feeling that this is really all I need. ¬†As I do so, however, I realize that He is already with me.

Alleluia!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

Skeleton Man or “Faithful” Servant

If you’ve ever traveled in Europe, you may have noticed, as I did, the visibility and plenitude of bodies and crypts in the churches there.

franciscan associate 011Actually, last spring when we were visiting Germany for our Congregation’s anniversary celebration, a Church we frequented had a skeleton preserved up front. ¬†It was on the left-hand side as we faced the altar. ¬†This “Studientkirche” was actually the site of the special anniversary Mass.

To specify where, within the church, we were to be seated for the special day, we teasingly said “toward the front, by ‘Skeleton Man.” ¬†This nickname we had given to the remains held there for veneration. ¬†Little did I know that this was actually the Franciscan, Saint Fidelis!

Once I realized this, I dropped the nickname from my speech – it did not seem appropriate to refer to a canonized saint in such terms.

Now, as we mark his feast day (April 24), I am reminded of this, and think, too, of our Sr. Fidelis who would be celebrating her name day were she still living. ¬†The name they share fittingly means “faithful.”

franciscan associate 011This dear Sister of ours, who lived to be well over a hundred, actually immigrated from Germany herself, answering the call to serve in America.

She had to study the English language and then spent decades teaching young people in Minnesota and North Dakota.  She actually went back to school in her eighties to receive computer training so she could teach this specialty as well.

Like her namesake, who was himself a German native, Sr. Fidelis strove to love God throughout her life and to spread His love to the young people in her care.

Toward the end of her life, she is actually quoted as questioning herself: “Have I loved God enough?” ¬†I take this as a real challenge. ¬†As I live my daily life, am I doing my utmost to love God and serve Him faithfully?

An Easter Rosary?

17505056_1452496018123615_9110413917490671142_oSo, during Lent we focus on the Sorrowful Mysteries when praying the rosary, but what about during the Easter season?

While the traditional answer would probably be: “the Glorious, of course,” I take a different route.

Although it’s unconventional, I often use different “mysteries” altogether.

Rather than jumping right into the Ascension, Pentecost, and Our Lady’s Assumption and Coronation, I like to linger a bit on the resurrection during these forty days.

What I like to do is take a different resurrection appearance of Our Lord for each of the five decades of the Rosary.

These Easter gospels are so beautiful and fruitful for meditation. ¬†I’ll list them here in case you’d like to use them for your prayer as well.

Here is a list of resurrection appearance scriptures which you may find helpful.

I find this is a beautiful way of meeting our Risen Lord with Mary.

Barely Scratching the Surface

PA230022.JPGWhew….

We just finished the hustle and bustle of Holy Week!

I really love these beautiful commemorations, but as a sacristan who has to coordinate things, I am always relieved Easter Sunday morning when it’s all behind me for another year.

This time of “the last three days of Holy Week” is such a special one. ¬†Yesterday, as this time of silence and reflection was nearing its end, a realization settled upon me:

In this period, I had barely scratched the surface. ¬†I had tried to reflect upon all that Jesus did for us, but the mystery is so deep, so profound. ¬†In a year’s time, we hardly even get started in grasping it.

Even a lifetime of Holy Weeks won’t be enough.

Maybe each year, as we prepare throughout Lent and then delve deeply into the mystery during the Triduum, we can at least increase our love and appreciation for Christ’s passion.

Furthermore, I hope, that all my busyness during Holy Week doesn’t hinder my ability to go deeply into this mystery. ¬†I hope I don’t let these precious days pass by without growing in my appreciation for this mystery. ¬†I want to delve as deeply as possible into it, not hindering or ignoring the movement of God’s grace within me. Now, may the same be the same during the 50 days of Easter.

I pray that all of you who read this have a very blessed Easter season, that you may be enriched as you delve now into the mystery of Christ’s resurrection.

Would you please pray for me as well?

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF