Book Review: “…And You Are Christ’s”

IMG_0898Have you ever found that you watch a movie two or three times and catch something different at each viewing?  You might say, “I never noticed that before.”  In a similar way, spiritual reading can “speak to us” differently at different stages in our lives.

I have read Fr. Thomas Dubay’s book, …And You Are Christ’s three times since I first found it in our convent library in Hankinson (probably as a postulant).  I just finished it again this past week.

I am still impressed at this beautiful discourse on consecrated chastity.

The book, to quote its chapter titles, covers:

  • Our Milieu (background/context),
  • Presuppositions,
  • What is Gospel Virginity?
  • Understanding the Vocation
  • Permanent Fidelity
  • Virginity and Frugality
  • Virginal Human Love
  • Who Is a Consecrated Woman?
  • An Integrated Lifestyle
  • Prayer/Love
  • Virginity and Totality
  • Signs of the Vocation
  • Witness ~ and ~
  • Charism

It is only 148 pages but contains a wealth of insight into this charism of consecrated chastity which religious and other consecrated people live in the Church.  It brings the reader beyond the shallow ideas our society has about celibacy to insight into the beauty of this gift of self. Although it was written in the 1980s, it provides rich insights just as pertinent today.

I would recommend …And You Are Christ’s to anyone discerning a vocation to the consecrated life or wishing to gain further insight into it.

Advertisements

Variety’s the spice of life, mix it in with ‘Spoons’

spoonsSaturday evening, I biked five blocks to a private home for a gathering of the St. Michael’s (Church) Young Adult Group.  I have participated in several of their events in the past, but this time it was for an ethnically themed, potluck-style dinner, “Mexican Night.”  The evening was complete with taco fixings, margaritas, enchilada bake, mariachi background music and a horse piñata.

We felt kind of sorry for the poor little caballo (Spanish for horse) as we swung a baseball bat at him, and watched our comrades do so. The borrowed suit tie only did a partial job in serving as a blindfold, so I found myself having to also close my eyes.  Even after our little amigo was “busted open,”  he remained somewhat intact.  (Check out a video of the escapade!)  There was some talk of adopting him as the mascot for our young adult group.

I so enjoy these gatherings.  They add variety and a time of relaxation with people from my peer group that is very refreshing.  It’s a time away from the daily ins and outs of my life, serving here at St. Anne’s.

We finished off the evening with a rousing tournament of “Spoons,” a game I’ve known and played for years.  Actually, one of the young ladies at this gathering remembered when we had taken part in this non-violent diversion years ago when she was visiting our convent in Hankinson.

It’s interesting how my potential for competitiveness can really come out as the spoons disappear from the middle of the table and I find myself grabbing wildly for the nearest spoon, before an opponent can get it and I am eliminated.

At first as we played, everyone stayed in the game, simply adding a letter in S – P – O – O – N – to their tally if they lost. After some time, however, the group decided to start single elimination.  It wasn’t too terribly long before I was eliminated from “Cucharas” (Spanish for spoons, in keeping with our Mexican theme).  Dusk was starting to fall so I took that as an opportunity to head for home.  It was already about 9:30 p.m. and I had to be at work early in the morning.

Sister Christina M. Neumann

Cross prayers…reflecting on a beautiful custom

Crucifix from the St. Anne's Convent Chapel

St. Anne’s Convent Chapel

Having come of age after the promulgation of the computer and during the expansion of the internet, I am prone to do my research online.  So, when I decided to write an article on the Cross Prayers, I went online to see what I could discover about the history of this beloved custom of ours.  Unfortunately, this “information highway” was sadly silent about this topic.

Our Provincial Directives (supplemental guidelines for Dillingen Franciscans in the United States) provide a little information: They encourage that “after Confession and before retiring in the evening, the Sisters say the Cross Prayer, which consists of one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be to the Father.”

The reason, it would seem to me, that these are called “cross prayers” is that, while praying them, we extend our arms as Christ did on the cross.  Praying in this posture can serve as a reminder to us of all our Lord did for us.  To me, it serves as a call to respond in love to the love He has shown me. When praying them shortly before bed, I can be reminded to say “Thank you” to Jesus for all He did for me on the Cross and for all His blessings throughout the day.  When praying Cross Prayers after confession, I can express my gratitude for the immense graces of that sacrament won by His cross.

On Friday, a day when we especially reflect on Christ’s suffering, I thought it appropriate to reflect on this beautiful custom.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

“We’re going shoplifting…I mean shopping.”

sisters shopping(Please note: We work at St. Anne’s, a home for elderly and vulnerable adults.)

This morning, I hurried after prayer to make chapel preparations for Mass before going with Sister Elaine on her bi-weekly expedition.  I normally do not do this, but I am getting ready to make special cheese cakes for our upcoming celebration of St. Anne’s Day and needed a few ingredients.

We left right away at 7 a.m. in one of the big vans to go shopping; we wanted to be back on time for our 9 a.m. Mass.  Sr. Elaine was to play the organ for the first hymn and I needed to be available to make finishing touches on the sacristy/altar preparations.

Along with many other duties, Sr. Elaine helps St. Anne’s by “shoplifting.”  Don’t worry; this does not refer to any illegal activity, but is just the term she jokingly uses to alert staff of her plans; they give her their lists of needed items and she graciously picks them up for them.

Rather than add to her burden (especially since I was a little uncertain as to what I was getting), I went with Sr. Elaine this morning and found my cream cheese and graham crackers.  I was “tickled pink” because I made a neat discovery.  I will be making some chocolate peanut butter cakes along with the raspberry ones and I wanted something for a tasty and decorative topping.  It made my morning when I saw bags of “Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chips”…how perfect; it was exactly what I needed and I didn’t even know that such a thing existed.  It seemed that Someone was looking out for me!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

“Laundry Ladies”…what an unexpected phone call and an unplanned afternoon have in common

Double L team

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Late last evening, I got a phone call from my former “junior directress,” who mentored me during my years between the end of novitiate and my final vows in 2013.  Sister Leonida has been of great assistance to me over the years, but this time, she wanted a favor from me!

Since moving back to our provincial house/St. Francis Convent (SFC) in Hankinson, she has befriended the two women who work in the main laundry room there.  She told me last night that she goes down from time to time and visits them, often bringing jokes to share.  Even though she has experienced many years of life, Sister still has a youthful sense of humor along with many other gifts.

Sister Leonida knows the propensity I have for making up names for things and people; after all, when I first came to our community, I dubbed her the “C.C.C.C.”  (consistent, careful, counter cleaner) for her diligent work cleaning up after meals.  So this time when she called, it was to ask me for name ideas.

This is because Sister Leonida had referred to the workers as ‘laundry ladies.’  They had expressed to her that they would prefer a different name.  After a brief discussion, we came up with “the Double L Team” (which stands for Laundry Laidies).  I offered to try and design a logo for them with the new name, and came up with the above image, just in time to save it and attach it in an email before turning in for the night.

Little did I know, as I did this little graphic design project, that I would be the “laundry lady” today, due to a family emergency on the part of our regularly scheduled worker.  It’s ironic that today I got the job of collecting, sorting,checking pockets and laundering our residents’ clothing, right after my naming endeavor with Sr. Leonida.

A visit with our Sister Mary (Bonaventure)

Sister MaryOn July 15, we celebrate an early Franciscan, St. Bonaventure.  On this occasion, I’d like to share the transcript of my 2005 interview with one of our Sisters who bore his name for many years.

Sr. Mary (Bonaventure) was born Veronica Sand on January 25, 1915 in rural Rosholt, SD. She attended St. Francis Academy, Hankinson, and was one of the three members of the first graduating class in 1934.

Like her namesake, St. Bonaventure, Sister also was a teacher, instructing students in our schools and elsewhere.  She also produced much of her own beautiful work, including the large painting of our Lady of Fatima which hangs presently in St. Francis Convent, Hankinson.  (see below)

When Sisters were able to change their names after Vatican II, she opted for a name that honored our Blessed Mother, who she so beautifully depicted in various artwork.  In her later years, she was simply known as “Sister Mary.”  Sr. Mary died last December at the age of 99.

As you read the transcript below, please note that the text in red is my questions and the black is her comments.

You studied in Dickinson?

Yeah, we were about 5 or 6 sisters and I went there two years to get my two-year certificate, and what I remember mostly is I had a very good art teacher. And she encouraged me to continue. Otherwise, I took all the other subjects that I needed for teaching so I got my certificate plus everything in art.

Then you went back to Hankinson and taught for like 9 years?

Yes

And you were prefect, too?

Yes. It was a couple of years while I was teaching.

Is there any thing you remember most about those first years?

I had some very nice children. I had first and second grade first of all. And I still correspond with some of them because we got to be real good friends. Then afterwards I had them in the seventh and eighth grade- so I had them for about four years. So it was very nice and I still correspond with some of them.   Continue reading

The bells of St. Anne’s…Ah, here they are calling

Last Sunday, St. Anne’s Chapel re-instated the practice of using a bell at Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer.

There were various reasons in church history which led to the ringing of bells.  Although all of them are not still in effect, the practice still can be advantageous and is even mentioned in the Church’s official General Instruction on the Roman Missal.

I read a comment that the ringing of bells in times past may have been related to the priest using a low voice; even today, hearing issues are a consideration for some of our residents.  Even for those of us with perfect hearing, the bell serves a purpose.  I know, for myself, I do not have perfect concentration, and my mind can wander even at Mass.  (I even forgot to ring the bell on Thursday; just call me a ding-a-ling!).

Now, I have to be ‘on my toes’ because the job of bell-ringer has kind of fallen to me.

The ringing of a bell can serve as a kind of ‘wake-up call” to get us back on track during this very special, very holy moment that we don’t want to miss due to distraction.

Along with the purpose of reining in wandering minds, the use of the bell, I think, also can add to the sense of reverence for the sacredness of what is happening right here.  Our Franciscan Rule exhorts us “to show the greatest possible reverence and honor for the…most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It is hoped that this little gesture in our liturgy can contribute to this.

I thought I would close this little article with my version of the song that inspired the title.  Though a different version was sung in the 1945 classic film The Bells of St. Mary’s, I am using a modification of the original lyrics.

Bell at St. Anne'sThe bells of St. Anne’s
Ah, here they are calling
The old loves, and the true loves
that come here to be.
And so my beloved…
to our knees we are falling
The love bells shall ring out, yes, ring out
For you, yes, you and me.

Whatever the case, don’t lick the microphone!!!

straw hat and tongueThis afternoon, I ended up calling bingo for our residents in the activity room here at St. Anne’s Guest Home.  I like to throw in a little humor and liven things up a little on the few occasions that I help out as a bingo caller.

I wear a straw hat and go by the name of “Edith” rather than “Sister Christina.”  This comes from the fact that the “church ladies” (from St. Michael’s and St. Mary’s) often call bingo on Tuesdays during the school year.  During the summer months, our activities staff and another volunteer hold bingo instead.  When I call, I’m a pretend “church lady.”  I wear a flowered straw hat and tell jokes in personification of the role.

I also like to have fun making puns with the numbers.  For example, I’ll call “B-4…Before, you shout ‘bingo’ be sure you have all the numbers.”

Besides this, and along with an occasional stray bingo ball, things were also ‘livened up’ today in a rather unsavory manner.  You see, we make it easier for our residents (some of whom are hearing-impaired) by amplifying our voice with a microphone during bingo.  This afternoon, I was speaking into the mic. and accidentally licked it – YUCK!!!

Thinking about this, as I prepared to write, reminded me of St. James’ warning about the tongue (ch. 3).  He had strong words to his readers about its use.  The tongue is, indeed, a powerful organ, for good or ill.

As I was slightly disgusted by the feel of my tongue touching the microphone at bingo today, all the more so should I be careful not to let any disgusting or harmful words pass by it.  I don’t want to say anything demeaning to the dignity of any person.

There’s a neat little quip I learned during my school years, growing up, which may be a helpful ‘tongue-guard.’  Before speaking about someone, we can ask ourselves: “Is it true?  Is it nice?  Is it necessary?  At least two out of these three questions should receive an affirmative answer before we proceed to say something.

“…More than watchmen count on daybreak”

IMG_0552

Last night (or rather, early this morning) after working an unexpected night shift, as I waited for the nurse to come in at 5 so I could go sleep, I called to mind these beautiful words from Psalm 130.  This psalm was fresh in mind since we have been praying it each evening lately for one of our deceased Sisters; we have the practice of doing this for a week whenever a Sister from our international congregation dies.

To quote more fully from the psalm: “My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on His word.  My soul is longing for the Lord, more than watchmen for daybreak.  Let the watchman count on daybreak and Israel on the Lord.”

Anyway, this morning, I had finished my work and was just standing in the hallway waiting for the nurse to come. I was quite tired since I hadn’t slept for nearly 24 hours.  I could really relate to this passage and thought: “So this is how the watchmen referred to in the psalm felt.”

What does this tell us, then, about how we are to “wait for the Lord” and “count on his word?”  We should do so with eagerness.  For the watchman (and for me last night), dawn could not come too soon!  We are to have our focus on Christ and count on Him, eagerly!  Just as I knew dawn would come, the nurse would arrive, and I could go rest, so we know that He will be there for us.

Let us count on Him; He is the dawn we hope for!

Sister Christina M. Neumann