Delighting in the Lord who Delights in us…Responding to Christ’s choice in Consecrated Chastity

Today’s responsorial psalm and alleluia verse can easily be tied into the next evangelical counsel in our series, that is chastity.  In the psalm, we say: “The Lord takes delight in his people.” Shortly thereafter, Christ’s words: “I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last,” continue the theme.

Our Dillingen Franciscan constitutions continue this strain when they say: “…we respond to Christ’s love for us with our undivided personal love for Him.”

He delights in, chooses, and loves us first.  In living consecrated chastity, we find our delight in Him, love Him, and respond to His love.  There are several other beautiful points that our Constitutions offer regarding chastity that I would like to share.

May I pause here to share a little story?…

When I was a postulant, I was asked to type our Rule and Constitutions so we would have it on file electronically.  I had typed the entire Rule and was part way into the Constitutions when the computer gave me trouble.  I had backed it up on a CD but the CD was scratched.  Consequently, I had to re-type all I had already done.  Needless to say, I was quite familiar with our beautiful directives by the time I entered novitiate.

Anyway, back to the references to chastity found therein:

From our Rule:

“Professing chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, they are to care for the things of the Lord and they have nothing else to do except to follow the will of the Lord and to please Him.  In all of their works the love of God and all people should shine forth.”

Constitutions:

“This love for Christ does not decrease our love of others, but rather, strengthens it.”

“Only a constant turning to God enables us to live in purity of heart and body.”

“We obligate ourselves by virtue of the vow to consecrated chastity in a celibate life for the sake of the Kingdom of God.”

“Our celibate life in consecrated chastity is a sign of the loving union between Christ and the Church.  It gives witness for the absolute priority of God in this life and for the new order of salvation in the coming Kingdom of God.”

A final quote that I find especially inspiring and encouraging is: “Trusting in the faithfulness of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we have the courage to accept this life in consecrated chastity and celibacy for the sake of God’s Kingdom, in Poverty and in obedience.”

Final Profession

Final Profession

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“…so that by his poverty you might become rich” ~ Reflections on Evangelical Poverty

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

For some time, I’ve been thinking of doing a series of posts on our three vows, the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Today’s liturgy, for the eighth Monday of Ordinary Time, with its beautiful references to poverty, inspired me to put to get started.  It is also fitting to reflect on voluntary poverty as we just celebrated Pentecost, calling on the Holy Spirit as the “Father of the Poor.”

I was touched by reading the gospel antiphon in my preparations for Mass, which so beautifully states: “Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”  I was struck by how kind and generous He was to us in taking on our human poverty.  At Mass today, we went on to hear about the rich young man.

Rich Young Man

As Sisters vowed to poverty, we seek to imitate this generous poverty of Christ in our daily lives.  I’d like to share with you some passages from our Franciscan Rule and our constitutions that inspire and instruct us in our living of this poverty.

From the Rule: 

“The truly poor in spirit, following the example of the Lord, live in this world as pilgrims and strangers.  They neither appropriate nor defend anything as their own. So excellent is this most high Poverty that it makes us heirs and rulers of the kingdom of heaven. It makes us materially poor, but rich in virtue.  Let this Poverty alone be our portion because it leads to the land of the living.  Clinging completely to it let us, for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ never want anything else under heaven.”

“All the sisters and brothers zealously follow the Poverty and humility of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Though rich beyond measure (2 Cor. 8:9), he emptied himself for our sake (Phil. 2:7)”

“So excellent is this most high Poverty that it makes us heirs and rulers of the kingdom of heaven.  It makes us materially poor, but rich in virtue (Jn. 2:5).  Let this Poverty alone be our portion because it leads to the land of the living”

In our Constitutions, we read:

“Because Jesus Christ, although He was rich, became poor for us, we, as pilgrims and strangers in this world, will follow Him in Poverty and humility.”

“Only when Poverty makes us interiorly free and available can it witness to an unconditional trust in God, understandable to the people of our time.”

“In our Vow of Poverty, we obligate ourselves to a simple, unpretentious life.”

“For each of us individually, our freely chosen Poverty must find expression in spirit and in fact”

“Our personal efforts to acquire the spirit of Poverty will be perfected in our loving acceptance of the Will of God in sickness, aging, and death.”

“We have our goods in common. What we earn by our labor or what we receive as a gift belongs to the community.”

“As individuals and as members of a community, we frequently evaluate how well we are living our Poverty in the light of the Gospel and of St. Francis’ charismatic love of Poverty, so that our love for Poverty will grow in spirit and in fact.”

“In our concern for the right practice of Poverty, we keep in mind that Poverty is worthless unless we are devoted to one another in heartfelt love.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Everyone, regardless of his or her state in life, can strive to practice the counsels Christ gives us in the gospels.

Remembering our Deceased Sisters…in particular, Sister Konradine

Sister Konradine Every year, on their anniversary of death, we remember our deceased sisters in prayer.  At our provincial house in Hankinson, we have our book of obituaries set open to the page for the Sister being remembered.  In our local convents, we pray for the Sister by name in the intercessions during the Liturgy of the Hours.

On Saturday, May 23rd, we will be remembering our dear Sister Konradine, as she died on that date in 2006. About a year before she died, I had the opportunity to interview Sister about her life in our community.  I found that she had been received as a novice in Germany in 1928 and made her final vows in 1932 (the same year as she crossed the Atlantic). In Germany, Sr. Konradine did housework also, serving boys who were students and/or workers.

Sr. Konradine spent fourteen years at Niagara Falls serving the Carmelite fathers; she worked in the dining room, kitchen, and sometimes laundry, although she was not so familiar with the language at first. Of Niagara Falls, Sister remembered that they would put the food for the priests in an elevator as they were not allowed to go in the dining room when the priests and clerics were in there.  They also washed all the dishes.

After the years in Niagara Falls, Canada, Sister was asked to go to Hankinson where she helped again in the kitchen/dining room. The work in Hankinson was not easy; she had to take over a good part of the work for a sister in the kitchen who was sickly.

Sr. Konradine remembered: “we had to do a lot of canning and freezing because we had a big garden.”  Of those early years, she also recalled: “…we got up early. Then you go the regular way. Say your prayers first as good as possible. And then you go to your work in the dining room or kitchen and then you have to be there at Mass. So you have arrange everything [all your work]. Because you want to go to Mass. Then breakfast…”  She also served in Grand Forks for a time.  She is well-remembered here at St. Anne’s for the many years she spent here.

Sister actually had triple citizenship: German, American and Canadian! In the interview, Sr. Konradine was very matter-of-fact, stating: “There was nothing special….if they said, do it, you did it.”  Her attitude reminds me of Mary’s response to the Angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to your word.”  We are most grateful for Sister Konradine’s Fiat

Pope Francis’ words to Religious in Rome spoke to my heart as well

On Sundays, I often like to check out the latest words from Pope Francis for spiritual reading.  This week, our Holy Father offered some particularly inspiring words for men and women religious in his address to them in Rome on Saturday.  I studied Spanish, which is similar to Italian, but still I am not capable enough to rely on my knowledge of the Romance languages and don’t have a personal interpreter so I sometimes resort to my friend “Google Translate.”  Although it’s not perfect, I’m able to get the gist of what the pope is saying and find it to be a benefical for spiritual reading sometimes.

This week, I was so touched by the beauty of the pope’s words for consecrated persons that I wished to share some highlights.  The full text (Italian) can be found at:  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/speeches/2015/may/documents/papa-francesco_20150516_religiosi-roma.html

I encourage you to check this out; I cannot do justice to it.  If you know Italian, you’re ahead of me, and won’t need to rely upon a computerized translation, which can be dangerous.

Pope Francis spoke about the balance, or even tension, between “concealment” and silence and visibility in the world.  We need both solitude and involvement.  The pope said that we “live” in tension between this attitude of seeking the Lord and hiding in the Lord, and this call to give a sign.

We need to be concerned for and involved with people, living love.  This can even be just the service of a smile.

He also spoke of the corruption that can come in if we “lose our memory” of our vocation, of our first encounter with God and of the founding charism of our community.  We must not lose our zeal for intercessory prayer for our people; the Pope mentioned the example of Moses so long ago, who interceded for the sinful Israelites.   (Ex 32.9-14).

The pope drew from the example of St. Therese of Lisieux, who showed love even to a Sister who was not loving to her.  He stressed that we are never to speak badly of our fellow sisters.  We are an image of the Church, bride and mother.  The Pope said a true mother does not speak badly of her children.

These are just some of the beautiful insights the Pope offered.  It touched my heart and I hope it inspires you as well.

“May the All-powerful Lord grant us a restful night…”

By Sister Christina M. Neumann, OSF

This past Sunday evening, we again received a phone call at our convent from one of our night aides; these aren’t calls we look forward to, necessarily.  She was vomiting, and contrary to her hopes, she would not be able to make it in to work that night.  Unable to get anyone to replace her, I was again called upon to work the overnight shift (starting at 10 p.m.)  During the night, aides make rounds to check on our residents, as well as doing laundry and cleaning here at St. Anne’s.

As Sisters in our congregation (as in many others), we pray night prayer at the conclusion of the day; we refer to it most often as Compline (derived from Latin).  Although I pray this “hour” of the Office (which really only takes a matter of minutes) when I work “nites,” the liturgical texts seem a bit ironic when I am really just starting a new shift.

The texts of this beautiful part of the Liturgy of the Hours are ones that seem to say.  “Thank you for this day; now as I go to sleep, I commend myself to You.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I pray “May the All-powerful Lord grant us a restful night…,” I almost want to change the word “restful” to something like “blessed” or “uneventful,” hoping none of our residents have an accident or start roaming the halls.  I shared some of these thoughts with our Sister Rebecca (who has in the past worked some nights) and she had experienced similar sentiments.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~

When the nurse comes on at five and I am free to go and get my beauty rest, I feel more in the mood for Compine, my work being completed.  I remember settling down for a nap this past Monday morning, after the night, with a feeling of peaceful gratitude that the night had passed smoothly and everything had gone well.  I could now truly say the words of the canticle for night prayer: “Now, Lord, you may let your servant go in peace.”

If I could be a sculptor for just one day…

If I could be a sculptor for just one day...

If I could be a sculptor for just one day…

During the Easter season, one favorite image we find is that of the Good Shepherd.  Although she was not able to find the original image that inspired her, our Sister Sara Marie shared a reflection she had written fifteen years ago on an image of the Good Shepherd on a striking Holy Card.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Simultaneously you notice Jesus and the lamb. At first glance your Christian mind registers “Good Shepherd,” somewhat routinely. Then you see that the lamb is caught in a bush, then that the bush has long sturdy thorns. The lamb has been stabbed several times. There is blood, some dried, some fresh, on its side and legs—signs of its own ongoing struggle to free itself. The bush is jutting from the side of a cliff several steep feet below the top, just above a narrow precipice on which the lamb struggles. Fresh, tender grass sprouts from the side of the cliff. It is early spring. The lamb, its face turned back and upwards over its left shoulder, is looking at Jesus. In its eyes you see at once relief and fear. Hope.

Statue at St. Philip's Church in Hankinson

Statue at St. Philip’s Church in Hankinson

Jesus has laid His cloak on the ground near the top of the cliff. He has pulled the hem of His tunic up and tucked it into His belt to free his legs for the dangerous stretch. With His right hand, arm muscles taut, He locks onto another bush. It bends under its duty but, well rooted, holds Him. His left hand has found the lamb and carefully compresses the wool and flesh from the first thorn. When the thorn is freed, it will be broken off. This thorn will not wound again.

Torso bent forward, legs bracing against the pull of the precipice, His eyes are on the lamb’s…concentration on His face…

If I could be a sculptor for just one day, that is what I would sculpt.

Written by Sister Sara Marie Belisle, OSF

Let’s be interactive!

Now, Our Franciscan Fiat has been in progress for over three months and I thought this would be a good chance to get input from you, our readers.  What do you think?  Are there topics you would like to see us cover on this blog?  You can leave a reply on this post or send me an email (sr.christinaosf@gmail.com)- I’d appreciate your feedback and suggestions!

profile

Thanks,

Sister Christina

As Mother’s Day Approaches, the Mother of a Sister Reflects

Guest Post by Kathy Neumann (Sr. Christina’s Mom)

Kathy holding her baby daughter, Christina

Kathy holding her baby daughter, Christina

When Sr. Christina asked me “what was/is it like for you to be the mother of a sister,” I didn’t ponder too long before I began thinking about the good times, and the trying times, of Sr. Christina’s growing-up years; now looking back, I see how our Lord used it all in preparation for her vocation.

I asked all of our children three or four times in their junior and senior high years if they had ever thought of being a religious sister or priest.  I wanted them to be at least open and aware that God may call them to another vocation besides the most common vocation of marriage.  Sr. Christina always answered, “No!” But one summer when she was home from college we went to Adoration and as we drove home, she said, “something happened in adoration, I think I might be called to be a sister.”  I was delighted!  You see, Sr. Christina’s optic nerves were not developed when she was born and through the years of fighting for her special needs to be met, the teasing, and the various trials I often wondered: Lord, what do you have in store for “this one”?.  I could see how her trials taught her compassion and care for people.  So the thought of her being a bride of Christ thrilled me!

However, the day her dad and I dropped her off at the convent in Hankinson, ND, I clearly remember both of us walking down the long tile hallway of the convent as we were leaving, with tears in our eyes and with the overwhelming feeling that life will never be the same – she will not be celebrating Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, or other family events with us anymore, but at the same time it was okay because Jesus would be with her in a special way.  In a sense, it was like the day when she was only four months old and we heard she would be blind or, at best, legally blind.*  It was like a death, a death of the life parents unconsciously dream of for their child.  At that time (when she was four months old), we didn’t know if she would ever see colored leaves, Christmas lights, or the beauty of nature.  Yet here at the convent it was yet a different ending to life for our daughter as we knew it – here at least she’d have Jesus and He would protect and love her – she would be okay.  She would have a new and enlarged family, the sisters, the Church, and Jesus!

Now ten years later, after final vows, I rejoice like never before, because clearly she is more joyful and peaceful than ever before.  What more could I possibly want for my daughter but for her to be doing God’s will and to be happy?  I knew here she would fulfill the purpose she was created for.  I see God’s hand so clearly in her life and I see her “soul magnifies the Lord,  And [her] spirit rejoices in God [her] Savior; for He has looked upon the lowliness of His handmaid…”

Her life here on earth is not meant to be easy, but yet, we rejoice in it for we are truly blessed – blessed by our Father, who created us for a purpose: to glorify the Lord forever!

How blessed am I a mother of not just a beautiful sister but three other beautiful children as well.  And my soul too “magnifies the Lord.”

Rick and Kathy Neumann just celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary this past February.

*Thankfully, the vision condition was not as severe as expected.

Reflections of a Franciscan Associate

Guest Post by Kathy Lieberg

franciscan associate 009

Sister Christina asked me if I would like to do an article for her Franciscan Fiat blog and it got me to thinking about my duties as an Associate at St. Anne’s.  As an associate of the Sisters of St. Francis there is one duty which is very close to my heart- sacristan duties.  The sacristan sets up for Mass and puts things away after.  I have this great opportunity almost daily.

As I go about the business of getting everything ready for Mass I feel a sense of peace and it humbles me to think that I am handling the objects which the priest will use to celebrate Mass and execute the Consecration!  As a priest consecrates the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus he is in “persona Christi”, the person of Christ.  Therefore, imagine what it would be like to handle the cruets, ciborium, and chalice for “Jesus” to use for our behalf!?

I also help distribute communion for most of our daily Masses.  This too, is an extremely humbling experience.  We are all called to treat each person we meet as if they are Jesus, but to actually ‘give’ them Jesus at communion time is an overwhelming thought and privilege.

Lately, I have taken on the washing and ironing of purificators.  This is another chance to ‘get with God’ in a special way!  As I iron and fold them I am reminded of how our Creator also ironed and folded us in a special way when he created us in our mother’s womb.  The purificator gets wrinkles through use at Mass but our souls get wrinkles through our sin.  As I iron I pray that our good God will iron out our sins with his love.

Editor’s Note: Our Associate program is for people, single or married, who want to work together with the Sisters and be connected with them (us).  For more information, contact Sr. Leonida (or Sr. Ann Marie) at 701-242-7195.