“Else the Journey Will Be Too Long for You”

IMG_0895This morning, I came to Chapel to have some quiet time before starting the busyness of the day.

Since I am beginning my turn at planning and reading for liturgies this week, I thought I’d better cover the first and second readings in my meditation.  (One is supposed to meditate on the scripture passages before reading them at Mass.)

As I was reading about Elijah’s experience in the first book of Kings, one line really struck me.

Having practiced the psalm and heard the gospel, I already knew that this Sunday’s readings had a Eucharistic theme.  I had not realized, though, until this moment, the beautiful Eucharistic foreshadowing that existed in this morning’s first reading as well.

Here, Elijah is being feed to strengthen him for the journey that lies ahead.  Although his hope is faltering, the prophet is commanded: “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” 

In light of the gift of the Eucharist, foretold by Christ in the subsequent gospel, the beauty of these words and their significance in my life was powerful.

I need the strength, given by Christ in the Eucharist, for my journey.

This past year has not been an easy one.  A number of stress factors have made my journey a bit more rocky of late.  However, I am given the wondrous food for the journey each day: Jesus Himself.  I need to keep turning to His strength, given to me in this marvelous way, to sustain me on my journey as Elijah was sustained with food from above so long ago.

I realize, too, that once a day may not be enough.  I would do well to re-kindle may efforts at making a “spiritual communion” throughout the day.

If I stay close to Jesus, especially by turning to Him in the Eucharist, the journey will not be too long.  He will sustain me.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

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“Behold, the Handmaid…”

employ appI recently returned from parts south.  Having accompanied high-schoolers from my home parish on their ten day summer pilgrimage and enjoying a brief visit with my family, it’s about time I return to normal life (whatever that is).

I still need to finish my laundry and a few other loose ends from the trip; hopefully tomorrow will allow some more time to attend to personal needs.

I did get some done today, but with a large batch of corn to help husk, I didn’t have time to accomplish all that I would have liked to.  (Thankfully, we packed away over 800 ears.)

This evening, still fatigued from lack of sleep and travel, plus the corn commotion of the afternoon, I had to force myself to plan a lesson for tomorrow’s Bible study.  Surprisingly, I am happy with the results and feel prepared for the morrow, despite the struggle I had mustering strength and ideas needed to get it together.

This experience correlates nicely with a phrase which, for some reason, was on my heart at times during the recent youth pilgrimage: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1).

Despite the uncertainties that may lie ahead, and even when faced with circumstances contrary to my desires, this is a wonderful, powerful phrase to use.

It reminds me, too, to strive to imitate Mary, who first gave this “fiat” so many years ago in response to the angel’s message.

I know I don’t come close to living up to this example, but I ask for her prayers and try.  Echoing her “fiat” in the prayer of my heart and choosing to serve is a start.

Every attempt, I realize, is best when accompanied with a prayer for help, as we use daily in our Liturgy of the Hours and heard in the entrance antiphon this past Sunday: “O God, come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me.”

Checking in from Orlando

Surfing at Universal Studios/Island of Adventure

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to write this past week.  I am busy accompanying the youth group from my home parish (St. Joseph’s in West St. Paul, MN) on their summer pilgrimage.

This has included a long bus trip, an afternoon and evening at Universal Studios & Island of Adventure, and a weekend high school youth conference.

Today the conference finishes up and we head to the beach.

I will write more after I return.

Your prayers for me and for the group would be appreciated.

“…[I’m] Just Well-Trained!”

20180719_205946.jpgYesterday was, indeed, a full day for me at St. Anne’s!  Working a full shift at the front desk, while training someone in during part of the day was just the beginning!

Toward the end of my shift, less than a half an hour before my relief was to come, two LARGE boxes came, filled with items we had ordered for our gift case.

Realizing that there was ‘not time like the present,’ I set to work unpacking pricing the items and exhibiting many of them in our gift case or on the table.

After staying after my shift to finish that project, I quickly took care of something over at the convent.

Next, it was off to fill pitchers with ice for the secular Franciscan group that would be having their indoor picnic that evening in our activity room.  Then, off to Mass at the local parish since we’d been unable to get a priest over to St. Anne’s.

After enjoying a wonderful gathering with the secular Franciscans, I helped clean up from the festivities.

Before finally heading home, I met one of our male residents in the hallway.  He and I have a special ‘thing’ going, where I give him home-baked goodies on the occasions that I have them available.  This is substituted for the usual pack of graham crackers he gets at the front desk.

This evening, don’t ask me why, but I opened my mouth.  I told him that I had made cup cakes, asking if he’d already received his graham crackers.  He indicated that he’d gotten the crackers but that he’d still take a cupcake.

I went to the freezer, where my efforts from earlier in the week were awaiting a topping of cream cheese frosting for their use in this coming Sunday’s cake walk.

The mix had made two dozen cupcakes, far more than I would need for the event.

There fore, I got out a cupcake for this resident, and offered it to him, warning him not to choke or break his teeth on the morsel; it may still be frozen.

In this little encounter, taking extra time after a tiring day to bring joy to someone, I recalled a little phrase sometimes used around St. Anne’s; actually, it is in reference to the dogs here.

With so many doting people around, it has been said of them: “Our dogs are not spoiled; we’re just well trained.”

An appropriate adaptation of this phrase popped into my mind: “Our residents are not spoiled; I’m just well-trained.”

Sister Rhubarb?

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I just sat down after a busy afternoon, a busy day.  Sometimes, I think, I ‘bite off more than I can chew,” to borrow an old expression from a book my dad read to me as a kid.

I had cleaned house and done laundry in the morning, preparing for company coming and an upcoming trip.  (I must admit, the laundry-washing came about because I reached in my drawer for a certain item this morning and realized I was OUT.)

Late yesterday, a small bag of rhubarb had come in and was waiting patiently for me to attend to it.  I’ve become the chief orchestrator of rhubarb-cutting parties over my years at St. Anne’s.  It was a small bag, though, and I thought it not worth bothering the residents with; I would simply cut it up by myself.

It’s not for no reason that one of our residents has dubbed me “Sister Rhubarb” – what a prestigious title!

After lunch, I was on my way to the activity room kitchen to do just that when, low and behold, I met a couple bringing in MORE rhubarb.  They had called earlier in the week, promising to bring some in.  I had mistakenly thought yesterday’s small bag was the promised allotment, but I had another thing coming.

I graciously thanked them and headed to the activity room with this additional quantity of “the North Dakota State Weed,” as I dubbed this plentiful plant a few years ago.  Actually, my co-worker who was working the front desk helped me carry the (roughly) 3o pounds in.

Realizing that day hours are best for our residents and that I would be tied up working the reception desk on the morrow, I decided that there was “no time like the present” for one of my famous “rhubarb-cutting parties.”

I made a few unfruitful visits, inviting a few residents to help cut and finding others not home.  Eventually, after pre-washing dirty rhubarb, I settled down for a party of just TWO.  One of our blind residents was my only helper. 😦

Eventually, though, a few more people came.  After taking a break for a game, we finally finished up the endeavor before supper time.  I even got a 36 cup batch of sauce cooked up.

Thankfully, an appointment I was supposed to have a 3:30 p.m. got cancelled and I was not needed, as I had feared, at the reception desk until later.

I am thankful, too, for our kind residents and staff who helped Sister Rhubarb make it through a somewhat overwhelming afternoon.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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“Only a Setting on a Clothes Dryer”

Things are finally settling back into some sense of normalcy, whatever that is :).

After months of frequently filling in for one co-worker or another, I am enjoying a new sense of calm and sanity.  (I’d better not hold my breath; someone might call in sick tonight, yet.)

Thanksgiving serviceOne of my co-workers at the reception desk likes to say, “Normal is only a setting on a clothes dryer.”  I think this funny little saying actually holds more than a grain of truth.

Despite my relishing of life’s return to “normalcy,” yesterday, again, really was far from it.

On holidays, we work with a minimal staff, allowing many people a day off to be with their families.  The rest of us, then, have to compensate a bit.

In the morning, I was working my normal shift at the reception desk, but wanted to offer a fun activity for our residents.  I was able to hook up our laptop to the large screen TV and broadcast a patriotic sing along for them.

In the afternoon, I served patriotic Popsicles and pretzels, thanks to Sr. Elaine who had made a grocery run the night before and another staff member who had provided the pretzels (dipped in almond bark and accented with red and blue sprinkles).  This was after our “reading hour,” which drew from thematically chosen stories and poems.

Later that evening, I did not observe my normal bedtime.  Having obtained the needed permission to be out past 10, I facilitated firework watching for our residents from the top floor of the facility.

I guess, maybe we’ll never really have NORMAL…I guess I’d better just view every day as a blessing and try to appreciate the gifts that come every time our feet hit the floor in the morning, whether the day seem normal or not.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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Saints for Us – Sts. Peter and Paul

I’ve been praying the Liturgy of the Hours in common for quite a few years, now.  Over time, I’ve noticed the interesting two-toned (red and black) illustrations that accompany a few of the feast days in our breviaries.

The solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, which we began at vespers this evening, is one particularly thought-provoking example.

Above the antiphons and other texts, there is a picture of these two early followers of Christ, head to head with each other.

This illustration reminds us of the fact that these two pivotal leaders of our faith had their struggles.  They did not always take the same approach, but now they share a feast day together in Heaven.

This shared feast is a inspiration to me on my way.  There are people with whom I certainly struggle, people with whom I don’t see “eye to eye.”

However, as in the case of Saints Peter and Paul, these very people may be key players on my journey.  I might need them, and the tension and turmoil they cause, to shape me into the person God wants me to be.

I remind myself that some day, when this life is over, I may look back and say a prayer of thanksgiving for such and such a person who was instrumental in my life, despite what I would have hoped for.

People who challenge us (if we cooperate with God’s grace and live up to the challenge), may just help bring us to holiness, to sainthood that He has in mind for us.

I surmise that Saints Peter and Paul are good men to turn to when feeling the weight of this challenge.

Help Me; Help Me!!!

employ app.pngAmidst the busyness and long hours of work yesterday, doing my own regular work and then helping train in a new staff person, a little childish fun was one of the highlights.

I wanted let the new person know what the emergency call signal from our independent apartments sounded like and help her learn how to respond to it.

Thus it was that, while she was sitting with the receptionist at the front desk, I took the master key and walked down to a vacant apartment.

I went into the bathroom and pulled the emergency cord, which sets off a buzzer at the reception desk.

Going down on my knees on the floor, I waited for the responding party.  As I heard them draw near (the receptionist and trainee), I began to call out in an exaggeratedly mournful voice, “Help me; help me!”

I had fun, and it reminded me of when used to do little plays for fun as kids.  It was a great way to relieve a little stress and tension on a 16-hour work day.

The above-described dramatized, embellished cry for help, though, is not totally artificial.  I might try using it at prayer when I feel a special need.

It won’t bring my co-workers coming with a gait belt to lift me off the floor, but it would probably bring some help from Above.

First Thing in the Morning

IMG_20180428_212311415_LLLast night, I was not feeling well.  I know it’s June, but the sore throat with headache and low-grade fever seems to be going around.

When I say sore, I mean SORE.  My glands have been feeling inflamed, and simply put, awful.  With these symptoms, I had trouble sleeping last night.  I woke up around midnight and my aggravated throat would not me the refreshing slumber I so needed.

At some point, I realized the futility of laying there and trying to sleep.  I decided, instead of wasting time laying there, to get up and go to chapel.  I normally try to do do this “first thing in the morning,” and it was technically morning, by now.

I knew I would not be able to get back to sleep for at least a half hour so I figured that I might as well get my rosary in for the day.  Since it was after midnight, it would “count” for the coming day and would allow me to sleep later once I finally got back to sleep.

Our constitutions as Dillingen Franciscans instruct us to daily “devote a half hour to meditation before God, and a further half hour to other private prayer.”  So, having fulfilling the latter part of this statute, I returned to my bed.  After a little struggle, I was able to sleep until the real morning came.

Hopefully tonight, I can sleep soundly and restore the habit of praying “first thing in the morning” to its original meaning.

Stepping Back

After some reflection and discussion, I will be cutting back on posting here to once a week.   I think this is for the best.  I am hopeful that it will help me as I seek a healthy balance in my life.

Speaking of stepping back…I am leaving Sunday for our annual retreat.  Your prayers would be appreciated during this time away for reflection and renewal.

20171220_165248.jpgAs I step back for retreat and also modify my posting schedule, I pray you continue to step forward on your own personal journey with Christ.