Imitating Christ in Poverty

pasted_imageEach month, as we have our day of recollection, I try to devote a few moments to “considering how I live poverty,” as our directives suggest we do frequently.

Spending most of my day at St. Anne’s, a home for the elderly and disabled, the scope of this poverty is a bit more limited; we eat what our residents eat, we share their living space.  We reap many of the benefits of the nice home we provide for them.

Nonetheless, I have vowed poverty, in loving imitation of Christ, who for our sake became poor.  I have to ask myself, how can I live poverty?  How do I live it?

Our Rule, in fact, exhorts us that we should “never want anything else under heaven.”

So, how do I, as a twenty-first century Franciscan woman religious, live poverty?

This is a question for me every day, but the answers are not always easy.  Clarity is sometimes hard to come by.

Nonetheless, I might ask myself in this “frequent evaluation” of my life of poverty: Do I use resources unnecessarily?  Do I get by with what I really need or do I make it a point to have every thing I really want?  Do I have all the modern conveniences, to make life easy for myself?

Do I tell myself: “This is normal; everyone else in our society does/has this,” or do I hold myself to the poverty to which I am called by my vocation?

Do I keep my eyes on Jesus, and live poverty in loving imitation of Him, or do I lose my focus?

These are all important questions as I strive to follow Jesus faithfully.

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You Are My All in All

Since I’m suffering from a bad case of “writer’s block,” I thought I’d share this Valentine’s post from a couple of years ago.

Our Franciscan Fiat

stannesI planned a special lesson for our Bible Study this morning since this Tuesday’s gathering with our residents landed on the very morning of Valentine’s Day itself.

I used readings from 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John, and other love-related passages, including the greatest commandment as outlined in Mark’s gospel.  I thought it would be nice to point out to our residents, amidst all the superficial hearts and flowers, the true meaning and call of love.

We talked about Jesus’ call to “love one another as I have loved you,” about how and to what extent He loved us.  In light of this selfless, life-giving love “even to death on a cross,” we reminded ourselves that our love cannot know selfish limits.

As is often the case, this morning’s resident Bible Study included singing.  I had picked a couple of songs that seemed apropos for Valentine’s Day, including “Down in My…

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Our Lady’s Bugs

pasted_image.pngIf you take a good look around St. Anne’s at any time of year, you might notice a ladybug or two.  At certain times, a collection of various ladybug-themed objects is even displayed in our activity room’s glass case.

You may wonder how so many ladybugs were acquired.

Sr. Elaine, who works in our business office, somehow took a liking to these colorful little insects (or more properly, we might say, to representations thereof).  She has commented to this effect.

Since this became known, people have enjoyed giving her various ladybug objects, from salt and pepper shakers to lawn ornaments to dust pans to even a pail (to name just a few).

Little did she (or the givers) know that the name given to ladybugs has a very interesting history.

Although the facts are not all clear, legend has it that a scourge of small insects (probably aphids) was threatening to devastate the crops somewhere in medieval Europe.  The people prayed, asking Mary’s help against the pests.  After this, a lot of beetle-like insects came, saving the crops from the invaders.  These insects, which came to be known as ladybugs, had a red shell with seven black spots.

In art of the time, Mary was often depicted wearing a red cloak.  Also, the faithful remember her seven sorrows and seven joys.  The red color and seven spots of the ladybug also serve to tie it to Our Lady.

The insect became known as “Our Lady’s Beetle,” and eventually, in the United States, as “ladybug.”  It was recognized as being sent by Our Lady to save the crops, and, thus, save the people from starvation.

All over Europe, this little, helpful insect, is tied with the faith of the people, and often to Our Lady: in Germany, the insect is called Marienkäfer (Mary’s Beetle), in France, la bete a bon Dieu (God’s animal”), in Russia, Bozhya korovka , in Spain Vaquilla de Dios, and in Lithiuania Dievo Karvute (God’s little cow-remember the spots).

It seems that people back in medieval Europe may have been more quick to recognize heavenly involvement in the practical details of their lives.  Perhaps the ladybug can teach us a lesson to be more aware of and grateful for the help we get from above.


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“And He Stooped Toward Me”

p1010012Yesterday, a short phrase from the responsorial psalm really struck a chord with me.  The beautiful passage, a song of a trusting, obedient heart, began: “I have waited, waited for the LORD, and he stooped toward me” (Ps. 40).

This image of Our Lord stooping toward us is, in itself, something to gratefully ponder.

It resonates especially with me at this time in my life.  The past year, for various reasons, has not been an easy one.

However, during my moments of difficulty, I have sensed the truth of these wondrous words.

When I am in need, crying out in prayer and raising my heart toward Jesus, He has truly stooped toward me.  He has held me in my need.

When I go to bed at night, especially after a hard day, it is such a consolation to know that Jesus is physically there, just down the hall in our chapel.

It is consoling to realize that He not only stoops toward us (once), but He stays with us always.

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“Wine to Gladden Their Hearts”

P7070008.JPGThis morning, the Bible study I hold for our residents was an interesting one!

First of all, I had to rush to get there on time, having sacristy duties after Mass and also needing to watch the front desk for a short time.  In addition to that, I had not gotten around to setting up the projector and screen ahead of time, and still needed to do that.

There was quite a big group in attendance this morning: more than a dozen residents.

We used the readings from this past Sunday, which had a theme of joy, of great blessings from God.  They concluded with the gospel reading of the wedding at Cana, where gladness was given in abundance; 120-180 gallons worth, if you do the math!

We had our own experience experience of gladness in acting out this striking scene.  We actually filled six cups (each symbolizing a stone water jar) with water, and acted out the gospel account.  It was quite enjoyable, and we had a lot of fun (no irreverence meant.)

Being thirsty, I assigned myself the role of the “head-waiter,” who got to taste the water-turned-wine.”

When Bible study was over, one of our ladies was trying to be helpful by pouring the water back into the pitcher.  Before she could get them all dumped back, I drank three of them.  (I really WAS thirsty, I guess!)

After this, in fun, I swaggered several steps through the room.  I acted a bit tipsy from too much “wine that gladdens the heart.”

I know I can be silly, but it is good for all of us from time to time.

Laughter is the best medicine (Some might say, followed closely by a little wine)!

“Be Still…”

24313272_1712662598773621_9162342790506600177_oBe Still and Know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

What a wonderful invitation!  To be still, yes, to acknowledge Him, and Him only as God!  To be still in His presence: to be calm, quiet, peaceful, hushed, motionless and rest in mind and soul.  To bask in His Love, to adore Him in expressive silence and muse in His praise.  Be still in celebrating calm and quiet submission of soul to the sovereign presence of God.

The divinity of God is sufficient reason to be still before Him, calmly and humbly submitting to Him.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  He is God, an absolute, infinite, perfect being.  He is so great, infinitely above all comprehension, as God all things are His work so He is sovereign over all things.

To be still is to be silent in order to listen to what God has to say to us.  We need to be silent and listen in order to hear God speak to us.

In 1 Kings 19:11-13, the Lord did not come in a powerful wind, nor in an earthquake, nor in a fire, but in a gentle whisper.

Yes, the Lord has invited us: “be still and know that I am God.”

~ Sister M. Leonida Schmidt, OSF

Reverting to Old Habits

shirt2Recently, I have been working on a few different projects outside of my normal daily routines.  (Next week will hold more extras since I’ll be filling in again as an aide on the men’s floor.)

For one of these (first-mentioned) endeavors, I had to first discuss the matter with a few different people to get authorization.

Around noon, I had left the front desk to stretch my legs and wake up a bit; I was getting sleepy from just sitting  and embroidering while watching the phone.

While taking this needed break, I decided to seek the needed approval.  When my explanation got a unhesitating and affirming “OK,” I was excited, tickled, you might say.

As I headed back to the front desk, without thinking, I started to excitedly rub my hands together, slipping back into a childish habit I had years ago.

I’m glad nobody was around to see me in my almost girlish excitement!

Maybe this mirth is okay, though; the Bible encourages us to delight in the Lord (e.g., Psalm 37).

And, this project  seems like it could be His work. 🙂


Warning: Don’t Kick a “Space Heater” or St. Peter

part0This morning, finally having some time off, I decided I had better get my laundry done.  Thankfully my room is on the same floor as our washer and dryer.

After Mass, I sorted my cloths, made necessary preparations, and loaded the machine.  I had plenty of room so I even through in a few towels left from guest rooms.

In the course of getting things washed, dried, folded, and put away, I made a number of trips up and down the long hallway on the lower level of our convent.

One of these proved to be more monumental than I’d bargained for.  There was a space heater out in the hallway, left over from bitterly cold nights of recent memory.  It had not been put away because we are painfully aware of the fact that winter is far from over.

The little mobile heater had been strategically placed against the wall, out of anyone’s way, so we thought.

The only way I can explain what happened is this: I must have been carrying my laundry basket back to my room and had my vision obstructed by it.  Not seeing the space heater, I walked full-force into the durable object and hit my foot in just the right spot!

As the day went on, the foot began to bother me more and more.  I iced it intermittently, but that didn’t do a ton to lessen the throbbing that came and went.

When my mom called to say hello at some point in the afternoon, I explained what had happened, that I had kicked a space heater.  However, she mistook the words space heater for St. Peter, and asked “Where was St. Peter that you kicked him?”  I soon realized the misunderstanding and clarified that I had not, in fact, mistreated any representation of this wonderful apostle.  I had accidentally punted a small appliance, not a statue!

By late afternoon, I got our nurse to wrap my foot for me.  I had fulfilled the prescribed care for an injury: Rest, Ice, and Elevate, but still lacked the C needed to complete the acronym (RICE).  I had not yet applied any Compress[ion].

When I took my stockings off to get my foot wrapped, I could see that my middle toe was very black and blue.

I have to say a prayer of thanks that this incident happened today rather than earlier in the week, since I didn’t have any aide duties to worry about.  (I had been filling in a fair amount earlier in the week.)

I guess maybe St. Peter was looking out for me.  🙂

Note to Readers: Kindly retrain yourselves from ordering me to seek immediate medical attention.  Ibuprofen does wonders and I will be re-evaluating the situation in the morning.

Leaning on His Heart

Image2This morning was interesting, to say the least…

After filling in briefly for a co-worker who wasn’t able to make it in, I trudged through the snow, myself, on foot.  (My winter boots were better at deep snow travel than some car tires.)  I walked in tire tracks of larger vehicles that had braved the snowy side roads ahead of me, and made my way to St. Michael’s Church for Mass.

Since my wrist watch was covered by the sleeve of my heavy winter coat, I couldn’t tell what time it was.  In case I’d be late, I prepared by praying an act of contrition silently.  (I hadn’t left too early because I was helping a resident dress for the day.)

I got into Church just as the reader was leading the entrance antiphon on this feast of St. John the Apostle.

I don’t remember a lot about the readings, but something in Father’s homily deeply resonated with me at this time in my life.

He spoke of St. John (at the Last Supper) leaning on Jesus’ heart…even hearing its beating.

All through my life, but especially at difficult times, I, too want to be close to that heart.  This was a touching meditation for me to take to prayer.

When I am going through a time of grief and difficulty, I cling staunchly to Jesus, asking Him to keep me close to His heart.

The beautiful thing is that He holds onto me, too.

A Royal Send-Off

PC300182.JPGI got into St. Paul on the train yesterday morning shortly before 8 a.m. The travel all went smoothly (except for getting stuck in the depot parking garage by an uncooperative garage door) I spoke briefly to my dad, who by that time was not very responsive, and went with my sister to Mass and Adoration. (I hadn’t planned on having the opportunity to visit Jesus, so that was a surprise blessing.)

Since I did not get a full night sleep, I decided to lie down for a nap after returning to my parents house. I got up on time to see a priest friend of my parents just on his way out. My dad had received the anointing of the sick yet again. Father had also prayed the stations of the cross and the litany of the saints with those family member present.
In the days and weeks before this, my dad had also been able to receive the apostolic pardon (twice actually), had been anointed multiple times, and had numerous other opportunities to prepare him well for the end of his life here on earth.

After Father was out the door, my mom and two siblings were working on some financial matters, in which I had no desire to witness. Instead, I took my embroidery and sat on the couch near my dad’s hospital bed. He was breathing quite loudly and almost comatose. I greeted him but soon fell to silence; extra words had no place at this monumental time.

Before too long (just a few minutes), I realized that Dad was no longer breathing audibly. In fact, I was not sure if he was breathing at all. I ran and got my mom, youngest brother, and sister. We all made it back into the family room where my dad was in time for his last breaths.

It was so beautiful…I felt so privileged to have sat, one on one, with my dad during those last minutes of his earthly life. It is such a consolation to know that he was so ready.
I said, he had a royal send off!

The one argument mentioned against that is that we had tried singing a hymn during his last breaths… (I personally was unable to get any syllables out.) The feeble attempt was far from sounding like a regal angelic choir.

“Jell-O Pusher”

20180719_205234.jpgI’ve debated if I should try writing here again, or give it a rest for a while, due to the present situation (facing my dad’s terminal cancer).

I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to try…It might even be good for me.  So here goes!

When I was home for a week and a half, spending time with my family (especially my dad who seemed to be getting weaker all the time), I tried to encourage him to eat.

He has stage four pancreatic cancer and very little appetite.  Fruited gelatin, however, was one of the few things he expressed interest in.  (Along with not being hungry, he is also afraid of having discomfort after eating things that are “hard to digest.”)  Having caught on that he might eat Jell-O, I offered it to him on more than one occasion.

Although his voice is now raspy and weak, my dad hasn’t lost his linguistic ability or willingness to tease.  He gave me a new nick-name, chiding me as a “Jell-O pusher.”  Later, however, he acknowledged that there are worse things to be called.

Now that I am back in Grand Forks and not presently able to push Jell-O, I am still definitely pushing the prayers, not only for my dad as he nears the end of his life, but also for myself.  In this difficult time, I keep asking for a lot of grace, which I so need, each day.

I would appreciate it if you, too, would push some prayers up toward heaven for all of us.  Although it is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that my dad, once so strong and capable, is now weak and dying, I hope that our prayers will help him on his way there (to heaven).

“Are the Grand-kids Coming?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinter has come early this year here in “the north Country,” as we sometimes call our area.  Snow covers the ground and the temperatures, too, have been below average.

Thus it was that when Sr. Elaine went out shopping last night she was dressed warmly with coat and gloves, and yes, even a winter cap over her veil.

She was off to get some grocery items the night before Thanksgiving.  This special trip was inspired largely by the fact that our Sisters from Rugby, ND were on their way to spend the holiday weekend with us.  She wanted to make sure she was ready for the joyous occasion.  Certainly, no one would go hungry.

At the checkout counter, she explained to the clerk, “We’re getting company,” as a reason for the significant amount of commodities she was purchasing.

To this, the clerk (not noticing her religious garb which was mostly covered by winter wear), responded by inquiring, “Are the grand-kids coming?”

In the salesclerks’ defense, the question was in keeping with the Thanksgiving lyrics of “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.”

A Joyful Duty

henryMaking it to daily Mass has been a bit more challenging, of late, with the current lack of priests serving our home for the elderly and disabled.  We go to the parish church now several times a week.

During the summer and early Autumn months, before the mornings got to dark and the sidewalks too icy, I used to walk.  I valued the time to myself.  I was able to multi-task: getting exercise, praying the rosary, and finding my way to and from Church, at the same time.

With icy sidewalks and schedule conflicts, the difficulty in getting to Mass was even more pronounced today.

Nonetheless, as a religious I know that I am to “make every effort to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice daily,” according to Canon Law.  Even our constitutions as Dillingen Franciscans remind us that “insofar as possible, we participate each day in the celebration of Holy Mass.”

In sum, as a Franciscan Sister, I have an obligation, a duty to attend Mass daily.  I am one who tries to take duties and obligations seriously.  I have vowed obedience, and want to be faithful.

With that being said, I’d like to reflect a bit more upon this “duty,” if it can be called such.  Attending Mass and thus receiving Jesus sacramentally, is really a privilege.  By following the above directives, as difficult as it may prove to be, I am greatly blessed.

I am able to unite my sufferings, my day, my self with Jesus and His sacrifice.  I am able to receive Him!  He has infinite grace to offer, and I can certainly use some of it.

I consider it a “joyful duty,” to borrow a phrase from a now-popular hymn, to “make every effort” “insofar as possible” to come to Mass.

I am thankful that, thus far in my religious life, it has been rare for me to have to miss this grace-filled encounter, this joyful duty.

Hooded Minion?

IMG_20180923_131357586Having never seen the movie, Despicable Me, I know very little about the now-famous “minions.”  I know the term now usually refers to little fanciful creatures, but that’s about it.  This didn’t stop me, however, from being referred to as a “hooded minion.” I think this use of the word utilized the definition more common in former times (namely: “a follower or underling of a powerful person”).

In helping train in a new aide/universal worker this evening, I had encouraged one of our residents to see the nurse, despite his assertion that he was not supposed to do so yet.  I assured him that, in fact, he could see her right away and need not wait until later.  The encounter soon ended, and I went about my business, giving the matter no further thought.

A little while later, when my partner and I had completed our tasks of caring for our residents and collecting garbage, we returned to the main floor.  Before I went to work at the reception desk to finish off the evening (filling in for an absent co-worker), the nurse shared a comical anecdote with me.

She recounted how the above-mentioned individual had mildly scolded her for “sending her hooded minions” out after him.  I guess, in his mind, a veil could be aptly described as a hood, and personal care aides would be better known as the nurse’s minions.

I’d like to see them make a cartoon out of that one!

“For All the Saints”

This morning at the end of Mass, when I saw the “5” up on the number board next to the hymn number for “For All the Saints,” I wondered to myself how many verses there were in this beautiful, inspiring hymn.

The answer, according to Wikipedia, is eleven!  Needless to say, we didn’t sing all the verses (I doubt they are even all printed in our missalettes.

Likewise, we don’t come close to naming all the saints (hopefully), either.

I have been reading the inspiring history of our congregation: “History of the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen from 1241 to 1900.”  Thankfully, it was recently released in English and I got a copy from Sr. Donna, who had received quite a few.

It is so neat to read a book on the history of our very own congregation!  It is beautiful to hear of all that our predecessors went through, from coping with the “Secularization” in Germany, when they lost so much, to surviving invasion by their ability to supply a lemon to soothe the invader’s sore throat; our history is not dull!

As I read this book and as we celebrate “All Saints” and “All Souls” at the beginning of this eleventh month, I think of our dear Sisters from the past 777 years.  Although I don’t know of any of them having been canonized, the pages I am reading speak to the sanctity, the perseverance, and the courage of many of them.

20934842_10155156601386725_921093126794630310_o.jpgAlthough they lived far away in Germany (our American province only had its beginnings in 1913) and their culture and circumstances were different, I can still be inspired by the beautiful history of the Dillingen Franciscans who have gone before me.

I close with an invocation used in our Litany of All Saints of the Order: “Pray for us, all ye saints of the three orders of Blessed Francis, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

O Salutaris

Picture1This morning before and after Mass, we were privileged to take part in the beautiful hymns for Reposition and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

This beautiful rite, including Benediction and The Divine Praises, often brings back memories for me of attending First Friday devotions back home during my college years.

I especially love singing and playing the Tantum Ergo.  (As one who considers her nameday to be the feast of Corpus Christi, such Eucharistic devotions have an particularly special place in my heart.)

Along with precious memories from my late teens, this traditional hymnody also reminds me of my days in housekeeping at our provincial house in Hankinson.  One of my weekly duties was cleaning in the Music Room of our Sister Salutaris.  I still remember the old-fashioned tiling, and other furnishings.  Whenever I cleaned there, I could not help but think of this Latin hymn used at Exposition.

Past ponderings aside, I am so grateful to have Christ’s presence with us each day, in our convent and in our workplace.  I am so spoiled and would hate to think of life without this priceless gift.


Cool Brains!

part0Recently, I’ve been “brainstorming” and starting to work on a letter to go out from St. Anne’s.  I have become heavily involved in this annual project over my time here.

However, when I write or design something important, I like to gather feedback and “constructive criticism” from a few outside sources before finalizing it;  I don’t just do it on my own without much input.

I had sought some feedback on the above-mentioned letter, and now, at supper, was discussing it with the other Sisters at table…all this over a plate of ‘folded eggs” (my name for commercially-made omelets) and coleslaw.

Between the three of us, we came up with a resolution to the criticism the piece had received that suited us well.  It should resolve the complaint while not compromising our message.

I was quite happy!

Earlier in the day, in reference to this project, I had mentioned that a few brains work together better than just one.  Now, after this principle was verified by our successful suppertime discussion, I even resorted to my childhood word choice and referred to our cerebral collaboration as “cool.”

To this, Sr. Elaine (born before this late 20th century phrase), responded “Cool brains!”

All humor aside, this kind of united effort is one of the wonderful aspects of community life.

“Just Don’t Lose Your Sole!”

P5200015Last night, I went into my closet, brought there by the falling snow flakes outside (in early October, no less).

I had received a pair of heavy-duty shoes, donated some months back, and had stowed them away for just such an occasion as the coming morning would prove to be.

There was sure to be plenty of snow on the pavement between the convent and my workplace, and I would be heading out before anyone would have gotten around to shoveling.

When morning came, I got up, dressed, and remembered to put the ‘new’ shoes on before going outside.

I traipsed through the snow, grateful for hearty foot apparel, and arrived at St. Anne’s, where I headed immediately to chapel for prayer before starting a busy work day.

I remembered, though, that I needed to head back to the office to grab the money pouch to collect the vigil light money; I do this every week so as to deposit the money people contribute when lighting little candles in chapel.

I headed back to chapel and got the money out before we began our morning prayer in common.

Afterwords, I hurriedly went about my sacristy preparations; we were planning to have Mass at 9 a.m.  After this, as I was leaving chapel, I noticed blackish debris in the aisle.  I thought someone had tracked in some leaves or mud.

My shoes felt a little sticky, and so I suspected that I, myself, might actually be the culprit.  I soon realized that my wonderful ‘new’ shoes were actually shedding chunks of rubber wherever I went.

There were clumps up and down the aisle, clumps out in the hallway, clumps, clumps, and more clumps; if only I had noticed my shedding problem earlier!  I was grateful, though, that I had not made it any further in my morning activities.

Sr. Elaine and Sr. Rebecca helped me sweep up the blackish remnants, and Sr. Elaine, thoughtfully, went home to retrieve another pair of shoes for me.   I was stocking-footed!

I was happy to have my ‘old ones’ back; at least they did not shed rubber.

Sr. Elaine kindly told me, after all was said and done, “It’s okay, just don’t lose your sole.”

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Hymning a Hum

Picture1On special Franciscan feasts (like today’s), we use a little reddish supplement to Christian Prayer for our Liturgy of the Hours.  However, the hymns in this book are not accompanied by musical notation.  Sometimes, this poses a challenge for us.

At the end of supper last night, prior to Evening Prayer I (vespers the evening before), the person who was to lead Office inquired as to the melody for the hymn.  After pairing up the words with a couple possible melodies, humming them aloud, we decided to use the melody of “Creator of the Stars of Night” as we began our celebration of St. Francis.

In the course of discussing this, my tongue got twisted up; I accidentally referred to “hymning the hum” instead of what I meant to say: “humming the hymn.”

Oh well, it was worth a good laugh, anyway.

With the busy craziness which has been surrounding me of late (working a night shift and continued hours on the men’s floor), I’m lucky if that’s the extent of my mishaps.

Thankfully, the dessert I made (pumpkin spice cake) for St. Francis’ Day / Sr. Rebecca’s birthday, didn’t turn out to be an “upside-down cake.”