Hit the ground running!

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What an interesting day!

When it rains, it pours might be a little bit more appropriate title today.

Sr. Rebecca and I went down with Msgr. Vetter to the priests’ ordination in Fargo this morning.  It was a privilege to be able to attend.  I was grateful to those here who filled in a little to make it possible for me to go (e.g., Kathy doing sacristy work, Betty doing ‘reading hour’ for our residents, and Sr. Elaine giving our receptionist her morning breaks)

But, when I returned, I was informed that we had received two big bags of rhubarb.  I am the main person in charge of recruiting and coordinating residents for cutting up the donations of rhubarb (and other produce that come in).

I was scheduled to be at work at the reception desk in less than an hour and tomorrow is Sunday (not a good day for ‘rhubarb parties’).  So, I figured, “I might as well do it now because who knows when I’ll get another good chance.”

It got close to 3:30 (when my shift was to begin), and Sr. Rebecca offered to fill in at the desk so I could finish.  Just as we were finishing up, I sliced my finger and it began to bleed.  The rhubarb was nice and red already so I didn’t need any extra color. Oh well, I cleaned it out good, got a band aide and returned to the activity room where we hold our produce-processing endeavors.

I was very grateful that another resident (besides those who had already graciously helped cut) came down around then and lamented the fact that she hadn’t been here earlier to help.  I let her know that she was not too late and assigned her to wiping the tables and cleaning the floor, which she gladly did.  I was not looking forward to having to do this with my finger as it was.  (I don’t enjoy soggy band aides or water in open wounds.)

As if this was not enough adventure for one day, we were under a tornado watch and part of our county was actually in a tornado warning.  We had to stay tuned to weather reports on TV for a while.  Thankfully, the worst of it passed us by.

We did get some rain, though; on behalf our residents’ little garden and of the farmers, I am grateful for that.


What’s in a name? – the importance of the name in scripture and in our own lives

Naming of John the BaptistSr. Christina M. Neumann

As we read the Bible, at Mass or on our own, we might notice the importance of the “name.”  Often when an angel appears to someone to announce an important birth, he tells the mother/father-to-be what name should be given the child.  This is the case today when we read of the events leading to the birth of St. John the baptist.  (Actually, in today’s gospel we read of Zechariah naming his son, but it had been Gabriel who instructed him in this name choice.)  Also, when God called a person to special service, He sometimes changed their name (as in Jacob/Israel, Saul/Paul, and Simon/Peter).

This trend is often continued when one enters religious life.  In our community, when we enter the novitiate, we either maintain our baptismal name as our name in religious life or are given a new one.  Customarily, we are able to offer three suggestions. We always take Mary or Marie as part of our religious name.

When I was preparing for novitiate, the local pastor liked to threaten me that he wanted to give me a difficult, tongue-twisting German name like “Gertentrudis” or something.  I am grateful that I was able to keep my baptismal name of “Christina” rather than acquire a name after that fashion.

One of our Sisters, Sr. Sara Marie, celebrates her “Name day” today; I had hoped she might share the story of her religious name and the connection made between the Old Testament matriarch, Sarah and St. John the Baptist, whose feast we honor today.  However, since that was not possible, I will share a little history of my own name.  Growing up, each family member had a plaque on the wall with our name, its meaning/translation, and a scripture verse.  Mine, “Christina,” had the subtitle of “follower of Christ” denoting its meaning.  What a name to live up to!

We are all Christians, “followers of Christ.”  This is a call to each of us every day; we want to live up to this challenging, humbling call.  In order to do this, let us pray in the words of the psalm given on my name plaque: “Lead me, O Lord in thy righteousness; may my way straight before me.”

A family that prays together…

chapel at St. Francis Convent

Sisters in Chapel at our Provincial House in Hankinson, ND

If you’re like me, you probably heard the old adage as a child: “A family that prays together stays together.”  The point was that frequently making the effort to pray together as a family strengthens family ties and gives a solid foundation to relationships that cannot be easily broken.

For some time, I’ve thought about writing an article about the value of communal prayer in our religious community, and this old saying seemed an appropriate one to introduce the topic.  As a matter of fact, our Constitutions say, “We want to be sisters to each other.”  Who are “sisters” but members of the same “family”?

Praying together, and having everyone present, is very important to me and I am not alone.  Our Constitutions lay out that we pray lauds and vespers (morning and evening prayer) as a rule in common.  I do make every effort to facilitate our ability to pray office together.

Due to scheduling issues at our reception desk, at times we are not all able to be there for our evening office together.  (One of us has to answer the phone over the supper hour if a staff person is not scheduled.)  At St. Anne’s we are a very small convent community so the absence of one member is even more pronounced.  I am grateful that, in the last couple of years, this has been diminished with some schedule changes that occurred.

We also have Eucharistic Adoration in our chapel and so often times our praying “family” is extended by the presence of visitors who join us.  Praying the prayers of the church in common is truly a beautiful thing!

Day by Day…a prayer in weakness

By Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Once in a while I get “poetic” and feel drawn to express my thoughts in written verse. Tonight was such an occasion.  Most often it is in the form of prayer-poems, as in the case of the musings below:

Day by Day

Dear Jesus, you know I’m weak,
That I don’t reach the good I seek.
I often fail in what I do,
And am not always true to You.

I have ideals of what I should be,
But sometimes fail quite miserably
Please give me strength, and wisdom, too,
So I can do what I should do.

I cannot make it on my own
So please, never leave me alone.
Left to myself I’m sure to fail;
But, your grace in me can prevail.

What I ask, dear Lord, today
Is that you’re with me on the way
That in my weakness, you’ll give the power
For my need, at every hour.

I am reminded of St. Paul’s words*
When his own struggle had occurred,
How You had said “my grace suffices”
And were with him in his crisis.

With You near Jesus, I too can boast
Of my weaknesses, and make the most
Of my struggles day by day
Trusting you’ll carry me on the way.

konradine071204*See 2 Corinthians 12:9

“I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.”

This weekend, I was privileged to attend the jubilee celebration for five of our Sisters in Hankinson, North Dakota (Sr. Bernadette, Sr. Carmelita, Sr. Hildegard, Sr. Susan Marie and Sr. Sara Marie). It was a beautiful day in many respects, but especially in all the people who gathered for it and in the liturgy celebrated by Bishop Folda and a number of area priests. I was especially touched by the first reading, from Hosea (2:16, 21-22), which is given in the lectionary as an option for Masses for the consecration of virgins or religious profession (and also applied for this jubilee Mass).  It speaks very beautifully for itself (as quoted below)

Thus says the LORD: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.

I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.

Although this text was first applied to ancient Israel, I think each of the jubilarians, and all of us, can find it resonating in our own hearts, calling us to gratitude as we reflect on our own vocation. We might ask ourselves and reflect:

  • How has our Lord lead and even “allured” me on my life’s journey?
  • How has He spoken to my heart in the past?  What might He be saying to me at this time?
  • How has He “espoused [me] in love and in mercy”?
  • How has he taught me to “know the Lord”?

Such reflection should lead us to joyful, thankful praise similar to that of St Francis.

Franciscan Review Newsletter available online

Someone recently suggested that I share the link to our newsletter on Our Franciscan Fiat so here it is – I hope you enjoy reading it!  It is the newsletter published by our province and is usually released about twice a year.  We thank Sr. Susan Marie and our associate Mary Schmitz for their fine work.


Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you

Sacred Heart Statue in Sacred Heart Chapel at St. Francis Convent in Hankinson

Sacred Heart Chapel at St. Francis Convent

By Sister Jean Louise, OSF    ndfranciscan@yahoo.com

On one wall in every room of my childhood home there was a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  A lovely statue stood front & center (actually in front of the left aisle of pews) in our local parish, St. Lawrence Church.  I just took it for granted…  It was there! Always.

When I grew to be ‘at home’ at the convent I began to see similar pictures everywhere.  Although I may not have learned much about it in formal education, I knew it revealed God’s love for me.  Indeed that was the ticket!    Over the years, I have come to a deeper appreciation of this love and the mercy offered for sinners (me) through the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

When a college friend spoke about ‘cafeteria Catholics’ choosing what they want to believe about the faith, I knew that the love of Christ as visualized in the Sacred Heart of Jesus was not one of the choices; it was a given!!!

The Church celebrates this love with a special feast this Friday.  Many devotional prayers honor Jesus, our Universal King, our Fountain of every Blessing, and Worthy of All Praise!   One of the most beautiful prayers is the Litany of the Sacred Heart which the faithful traditionally pray every First Friday of the month.

In proclaiming a “Year of Mercy” (starting Dec. 8), Pope Francis is highlighting this deep, intimate, caring love of Jesus for each person created by God.  Isn’t the devotion known these days as the “Divine Mercy” another way of drawing attention to the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for his people?

~ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! ~

“You want dishes for the week?!”

washing dishes during retreat

I must confess, when Sister Ann Marie (our provincial superior) said I could help with dishes in the kitchen during our retreat, the image of my dad awarding his favorite mode of punishment came readily to my mind.  I can just hear him threatening me or an unruly sibling: “You want dishes for the week?…”   (On such occasions the rest of the siblings would secretly be like, “Yah, keep on arguing/misbehaving; then we get out of doing dishes!”)

I had spoken to Sr. Ann Marie some weeks ago, saying that I would appreciate a little work during retreat.  I often find our six-day silent retreat to be a bit of a challenge.  Although I value the gift of quiet times, or as our constitutions put it, “the opportunities for silence that retreat…offer,” I find that it stretches me as well.  I am not a strong introvert, and I need a little diversion.  Having all day to pray and reflect gets to be a bit much for me at times; I need a little work for my own mental well-being.  She said she would look into it and, thus, I was given “dishes.”

Our Rule exhorts us, “in all of their works the love of God and all people should shine forth.”  I hope this happened a little while I scoured those pots and pans and made them shine.

Living the Vow of Obedience

final professionAlthough there is no direct reference to it, today’s readings have undertones that lend themselves to a discussion on obedience.  For example, in the first reading, Tobit wants to ensure that they are not disobeying the law by partaking of stolen goods.  Also, Jesus discusses with some pharisees and herodians the payment of taxes, which was tied to obeying Roman law.  The responsorial psalm of today instructs us that the man who fears the Lord and greatly delights in his commands is blessed.

As religious Sisters, we, too are blessed in our practice of obedience.  There is a lot of material available in our Rule and Constitutions to inspire and admonish us in living out the evangelical counsel of obedience.  I actually found more abundant material in my search for the term “obedience” than I did for “poverty” or “chastity” in our directives.  Below I’ll share some of the references.

Before I go on to quote some passages, I’d like to make a few remarks of my own about this important topic.  Obedience, in religious life, is not mainly about upholding order and structure; it is imitating Christ who was obedient to the Father to the point of death, “even death on a cross.”  We are obedient for love of Him, in imitation of Him.  Our Mother Mary also gives us an example of loving obedience.

Statue of Mary in our St. Anne's Chapel

From St. Anne’s Chapel

We read in our Rule:

“The sisters and brothers promise obedience and reverence to the Pope and the Holy Catholic Church.  In this same spirit they are to obey those called to be ministers and servants of their own fraternity.”

“Following the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who made his own will one with the Father’s, the sisters and brothers are to remember that, for God, they should give up their own wills.”

“Let them neither dominate nor seek power over one another, but let them willingly serve and obey each other with that genuine love which comes from each one’s heart (cf. Gal. 5:15). This is the true and holy obedience of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

From our Constitutions:

“In our Obedience we will follow Jesus Christ Who lived the Will of the Father unreservedly and was obedient unto death.”

“The goal of His obedience was to perfect the whole of creation through the Redemption.  United with Him, our obedience will also share in Jesus’ complete giving of Himself to the Father, so that the Kingdom of God can be accomplished in us and through us.”

“Following the example of St. Francis, we will also serve and obey one another, do our work in the spirit of obedience, carry out the community schedule, and bear patiently our everyday burdens.”

“In our Vow of Obedience we obligate ourselves to obey the directives and decisions of our lawful Superiors according to the Rule and the Constitutions.”

“As Sisters of St. Francis, we obey in love and loyalty the Holy Father, whom we are bound to obey by reason of our Vow of Obedience. And we listen readily and willingly to the directives of the Church.”

“In the spirit of availability and in keeping with our Vow of Obedience, we are ready for a change in service, office, and place of work.

Obedience lived in this manner does not hinder the individual development of a Sister.  On the contrary, it leads to the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann