A prayer worth praying

I just finished with Jesus: Our Eucharistic Love, a book from the convent library in Hankinson, by Father Stefano Manelli.  Along with numerous quotes from saints to inspire the reader to greater devotion to Our Lord’s Eucharistic presence, I found this prayer by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.  I thought it was beautiful and wanted to share it:

My LORD Jesus Christ, Who because of Your love for men remain night and day in the Blessed Sacrament, full of pity and of love, awaiting, calling and welcoming all who come to visit You, I believe that You are present here on the altar. I adore You, and I thank You for all the graces You have bestowed on me, especially for having given me Yourself in this Sacrament, for having given me Your most holy Mother Mary to plead for me, and for having called me to visit You in this church. Continue reading

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Watch out…Company’s coming!

sister with silverwareMaybe it’s a regional thing, but for years I’ve heard it said, “Watch out, company’s coming!” (or something similar) when someone dropped silverware.  Of course, no one believes that there’s any real connection between these two things, but we say it anyway.

I’ve even heard that this superstition can be extended to saying that if it’s a fork you drop, your visitor will be a woman and if it’s a knife, you’ll receive a gentleman caller.

In that case, someone must have dropped four forks last night at suppertime because we were blessed with a visit from four of our Sisters from Hankinson this morning.  They had a meeting here, and in conjunction with this, they were able to join us for Mass and dinner.  Their voices added nicely to the singing for this memorial of St. Augustine.  Later, at dinner, their mouths aided us again, enabling us to polish off the remainder of my ice cream cake.

Hospitality is a beautiful thing.  The author to the Hebrews exhorts his hearers: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” (13:2)  I am not saying that our sisters are angels, though I do appreciate their company.  However, Jesus Himself said in Matthew’s gospel that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him (25:40).  Hospitality, therefore, may be a way of going beyond simply entertaining angels (or ordinary visitors); it may be looked at as an opportunity to serve Christ.

In my experience, hospitality, that is, having “company coming,” can also be of service to those doing the hosting.  It is something different to look forward to, different people to visit with, and a chance to catch up.  It can add a little spice to everyday life.  I am grateful for our visitors.

Next time I discover that someone’s dropped some silverware again, and company is on the way, I hope I remember to say a prayer of thanksgiving and also pray for blessings on those who will be blessing us with their presence.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Looking back on a Journey

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Sr. Christina M. Neumann

As I look up August 25 in the little name booklet kept in my “Office book,” I note that it is Sr. Gisholda’s anniversary of death.  I keep this listing readily available; in our community, we remember our Sisters in prayer on their death anniversary as well as praying for them on their special days of celebration (name day and birthday).

Sr. Gisholda’s name and date of death will always stand out to me because, although I never knew her, her memory has its place in my vocation story.

It was on the day of her funeral that I arrived back in Hankinson for an extended stay.  I had visited the month before for a few days in July of 2004.  This time, however, I would stay a number of weeks.

After my initial visit, I returned home to attend a friend’s wedding and serve my time of jury duty.  I remember still the words of the Sister who was hosting me when she showed me to the room I would occupy on my first stay there: “Don’t be scandalized,” she said, “our rooms aren’t all like this.”  This is because the room they had available at the time was a rather spacious and well-furnished one, normally used for special guests.  The one(s) they normally would have offered a visitor such as myself were probably unavailable for some reason; I don’t remember the details.

Another peculiar memory I have of my first visit with Franciscans in Hankinson was from a vacation school we visited when I was there.  I went with Sr. Jean Louise as she was giving a “vocation talk” at a summer camp in nearby Foreman, North Dakota.  In the course of events, she showed the children her ring and asked them if they knew what “IHS” (which is inscribed here) meant or stood for.  One little boy ventured to guess to stand for “I hate Satan.”  Some things, you just don’t forget!  (In case you don’t know, in reality the letters in this monogram are actually an abbreviation for the Holy Name of Jesus in Greek.)

So why did I come back, and how did I eventually come to bear this beautiful ring myself as a Franciscan Sister in our community?   I guess what I must say is: God has been good to me and has led me graciously along this journey.  I do remember, from that first visit at St. Francis Convent in July of 2004, the sense of relief which engulfed me after much searching.  I had felt called to religious life since the summer of 2000 but until then I didn’t know where I would be privileged to begin this journey.

In closing, may I use the words St. Francis’ did to close his own Canticle of the Creatures?: “Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.”

“One Way or Another, it will probably go to Waste/Waist.”

IMG_1114[1]A few evenings ago, I was discussing things of a culinary nature with one of our apartment residents, who also volunteers here.  Jokingly, he chided me: “One way or another, it will probably go to waste/waist.” (I cannot decide which spelling to use here.)

This little quip seemed quite apropos for this little piece I decided to write about my latest baking endeavor.  We had quite a bit of ice cream left over from an event several weeks ago, and I noticed that it was “going no where fast,” as I like to say.  With no immediate or definite plans or ideas for the use of this diary delight, I talked with our activity director and we decided that I might as well make ice cream cakes for “Birthday Bingo.”

Once each month, our activity department recognizes those with birthdays, we sing to them, and they get an extra bingo card.  After the games, birthday cake is served.

I don’t like to waste, and was up to the challenge of finding tasty ways of transforming the remaining ice cream.  Part of the challenge is always the dietary restrictions some of our residents face; some cannot have chocolate and others cannot have nuts.  Consequently, I made one large caramel fudge brownie ice cream cake and a couple Reese’s peanut butter ones.

What is really fun and rewarding, along with making use of supplies that might other wise end up getting tossed, is to see the enjoyment others get from it.  It made my day to hear people say how much they enjoyed the cakes and how much they liked them.  Unfortunately, it will probably go to their waist, though.

…As people rejoice at harvest ~ a fruit of the Spirit is Joy

garden fresh potatoesThis morning at Bible Study, we reflected on the second-listed fruit of the Spirit, that is joy.  As we continued our series of lessons on these Fruits, one of our residents put a little picture on our tree to represent the fruit of joy.  Ironically, it was a piece of watermelon (which does not really grow on trees).  This morning, we talked about how joy comes from the Holy Spirit, even amidst the challenging times of life.

As I walked out into the hall, after concluding the session and helping put things in order, I was met by one of our apartment residents.  She proudly showed me a small collection of potatoes she had harvested from our little bathtub garden.

I was elated, and went around the building, showing off this “fruit” of our labors.  The potatoes’ harvester saw me and said, “You’d better be careful; you’re beaming too much!”  What an appropriate postlude to a scripture study on joy!

Scripture, itself, alludes to this connection between harvest and joy.  Isaiah 9:2 says “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing; They rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest…”  We pray Psalm 4 at night prayer, saying “You have given me greater joy than they have from an abundance of corn…”  Furthermore, Psalm 126 (which we also pray from time to time) says “Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, Will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves.”  Today, especially, I can relate.

bathtub gardenAlthough the potatoes were fairly dirty from their former place of residence, they produced joy.  So, in our lives, amidst the “dirt” of struggle and challenges, we can reap a joyful harvest in our labors in our Lord’s vineyard.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary…A beautiful day with some beautiful customs

our Fatima grotto

our Fatima grotto

Recently, we were discussing the (then upcoming) feast of the Assumption at table.  Sr. Elaine, who had been a teacher for a time, shared that this was the day on which they would travel to their school assignments for the new year.  She did not remember all the details, but recalled that they used to recite an antiphon a number of times: “Mary has been assumed into heaven: the angels rejoice. They sing for joy and praise the Lord.

I, personally, never took part in this, but have my own valuable memory connected to this feastday.  Fourteen years ago, I made the St. Louis de Montfort Marian consecration on this day.  The last couple of years, I have forgotten to do the prayers and readings in preparation for renewing it, but I still remember the feast in conjunction with this.

I also remember my mother, who grew up on a farm near Karlsruhe, ND, sharing her memories of this special day for our Lady.  They would pick chokecherries, rather than take part in the normal farm labor.  Even though one normally might take a break on a holy day (the phrase from which holiday is derived), she remembers that they didn’t get a break from the chokecherries even after finishing for the day.  She would close her eyes in the evening and still “see” chokecherries before her.

Carmel of Mary Pilgrimage site

One beautiful custom held around the feast of the Assumption is the annual diocesan pilgrimage at the Carmelite monastery outside Wahpeton, ND.  I was privileged to take part in this beautiful gathering in honor of our Blessed Mother once when I was in formation in Hankinson.

One hundred and One…Trees


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In honor of the 775th anniversary of our Congregation’s beginning back in 1241, our sisters throughout the world have embarked on a Tree project, hoping to have planted 775 trees by the time of next year’s celebration.

Our province here in North Dakota is taking its part…In our past Franciscan Review Newsletter, we advertised that if people would like to plant a tree in honor of the occasion, they are encouraged to let us know.  Somehow I, Sr. Christina, was given the task of collecting the data and making sure information is gathered, etc.  I’m not exactly a “tree-hugger” but hope to do my assigned job well.

I created a spreadsheet and recently reached the 100-tree mark.  I informed Sr. Ann Marie, our provincial superior, of the milestone.

This past week, for my weekly Bible study I hold for our residents at St. Anne’s, I started a unit on the fruits of the Spirit.  Along with reading pertinent scripture passages and discussing them, we also have a tree.  I found clip art of a tree online and printed it on an 11X17 sheet of paper, along with various pictures of fruit, so each week we will be adding one “fruit” to our tree as we study one more fruit of the Spirit. We started with love this past week.

If I include this “tree” as part of our Dillingen Franciscan tree project, we now have 101 trees!  More important than any tree planting, however, I hope we can grow daily in the fruits of this last tree: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.  I guess a daily prayer to the Holy Spirit would be a good place to start.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Topsy Turvey Days

facebook_532865860Have you ever wondered whether you were coming or going and which way was up?  This past week, the course of events at St. Anne’s has been such that produces this kind of feeling.

Between catching a little bug (complete with a bit of a queasy stomach) and schedule modifications, its amazing that I still know which way is up!

After not feeling well already Tuesday morning, Wednesday was an interesting day.  I had know a couple weeks before that the day’s schedule would be different.  I was supposed to work until ten that night, training in a new employee (I normally don’t work the front desk Wednesday evenings.).  Then, there was a funeral one of our other receptionists needed to attend, so I ended up working a fifteen hour shift.  It went fine, however, with a couple of breaks in between.

In order to accommodate schedules yesterday, the week’s “topsy turvey” theme continued.  The receptionist who normally works the mornings worked the “flip side” instead, beginning at noon and staying until ten.  This was so that I would be free to fill in as p.m. aide in the evening.  Actually, three of us split the p.m. aide shift, due to scheduling issues.  (If nothing else, this is a great way to liven things up and confuse the residents.)

When doing the aide work, my stomach was still a bit queasy. I enjoyed teasing our residents that they better not have any messes for me to clean up.  I did not think my stomach could handle it.  I joked that if they had a mess for me to clean up, I would probably end up having a mess myself, due to the limitations of my temporarily weak and queasy stomach.  Here at St. Anne’s, we enjoy incorporating humor into the little details of the day.

I am so grateful that, as today’s Mass readings clarify, we can depend on God’s nourishment and provision for our daily needs.  In the daily reception of our Eucharistic Lord, we can receive the strength and assistance to keep us straight amid the sometimes topsy-turveyness of life.

Sr. Christina M.. Neumann

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

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I put together our resident newsletter here at St. Anne’s, and in our recent August issue, we featured St. Clare as our “Saint of the Month.”  Thinking of her upcoming feast day reminds me of my reception into novitiate and profession of first vows, which both took place on her feast, August 11.

Next Tuesday, it will be seven years since the beautiful, touching, and amazing day of my first profession.  Today at Mass, as Msgr. Vetter held up the Host after the recitation of the Lamb of God, the words of Psalm 34, which we used as the responsory at both my first and final profession, came to my mind: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”  I remember Sr. Sara Marie (who had been my postulant directress) so beautifully cantoring the refrain from the ambo in the chapel at our provincial house in Hankinson.

The inspired words of this psalm were a reminder to me today to be grateful to Our Lord for His goodness, regardless of the occasion.  I may be having a hard time, dealing with challenging issues, or whatever, but I need to remember to “bless the Lord at all times,” as we promise when praying this psalm.

This psalm is such a beautiful scripture passage, and so good to remember, that I will quote part of it here.  You may wish to join me in praying it, with a heart stirred to gratitude.

Sister Christina M. Neumann

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be always in my mouth.
My soul will glory in the LORD;
let the poor hear and be glad.

Magnify the LORD with me;
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him and be radiant,
and your faces may not blush for shame.

This poor one cried out and the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and he saves them.

The rich grow poor and go hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who delights in life,
who loves to see the good days?

The righteous cry out, the LORD hears
and he rescues them from all their afflictions.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,
saves those whose spirit is crushed.

Potential pen pal project (Don’t you love alliteration?)

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Last evening, I happened upon a post on the Fargo Diocese Vocations page on Facebook which inspired me with an idea for our Fiat.  A mother wrote in search of a religious sister to correspond with her young daughter as a “pen pal.”

When I was just a novice, helping out with Mother-Daughter Days in Hankinson, I was similarly approached by a mother and twelve year old daughter, asking if we could be pen pals.  Eight years later, we are still in contact!

I was thinking last night, while getting ready for bed, about the possibility of doing something on this blog, matching up interested girls and young women with sisters from our community to be pen pals.

If you would be interested in taking part (either as a young person or as a corresponding Sister), please fill out this form. I think this could be a fun and beneficial program!