Nothing in this world….Can keep His love from me

003This week, it’s ‘my turn for liturgy,’ as we say.  The three of us Sisters at St. Anne’s take turns choosing the hymns and reading for Mass as well as leading the Liturgy of the Hours for the week.

Consequently, I was the one to read St. Paul’s beautiful words to the Romans (Rom. 8:31b-39) at Mass this morning.  It is such a beautiful, rich passage that I will quote it in full for your reflection.

Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.
Who will condemn?
It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised,
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
As it is written:For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I have always found this reading to be so beautiful, so powerful.  Others must have also; it has inspired more than one song.  After having meditated upon the reading (in preparation for reading at Mass), one of these song keeps coming to my mind.  It’s kind of catchy: “Neither life nor death…Nor any other power…Can keep me from the love of Christ my Lord…Nothing in this world….Can keep His love from me…There is no rock like our God.”

I am grateful for the beauty of the words of scripture as well as for the gift of Christian / Catholic music.  It can be helpful when cleaning, too, raising the mind to prayer and speeding up one’s work tempo.  (Have you ever found you work faster if you’ve got peppy music?  I have!)

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Sign of Peace…Gift of Peace

P1010003This morning at Mass, I was touched as I watched others exchange a sign of peace before Communion.  I had time to watch other members of the congregation interact since I was not sitting very too near anyone.  (I do not believe in running all over during Mass to shake hands with people.)

I was struck with the beauty of our little community here at St. Anne’s where residents and visitors exchanged sincere goodwill to each other during this holy moment.  It was heartwarming.

Peace, I think, is meant to touch many moments of our day.  Our Franciscan rule, in fact, exhorts us: “As they announce peace with their lips, let them be careful to have it even more within their own hearts.”  The Rule also supplies us with a little greeting, which I wish was more utilized: “The Lord give you peace.”

In reflecting on this, might I ask: Do we truly find the peace in our hearts which we are meant to experience as a gift from God?  Or do anxieties, comings and goings, steal this treasure which Jesus gave before His Ascension.

How can we find these moments of peace?  Taking time for prayer may be one answer.  Sometimes, these moments just come, unexpectedly.  This morning’s experience of seeing peoples’ interaction at Mass. and being touched by it, is an example of how this gift of peace can come to us when we’re not even looking for it.

We have so many things to be grateful for; let’s not forget to say ‘thank you’ to Jesus for His gift of peace, given when we least expect it.

Sauerkraut Days…in North Dakota or Dillingen, Germany

P1010003Last week, Msgr. Vetter had to miss having Mass for us one of his regularly scheduled days because he was off to Wishek for their “Sauerkraut Days.”  He told me in advance so I was able to find a sub.

I have been involved in sauerkraut-making on a couple occasions.  One was when I served in Rugby and the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) had a lot of leftover cabbage, which ended up at the convent after their fish fry one March.

Another Sister and myself had a fun time chopping up and processing the kraut.  She visited with one of the ladies of the parish as to how to properly jar it, and was told to seal the jars with potatoes.  As the kraut aged, it pushed up a bit on the potatoes.  Oops!  My memory is a bit foggy on all the details, though.

As we worked, we had fun joking about our Sisters back in Germany in 1241, when our Community was founded.  At that time, Count Hartmann IV of Dillingen (the town in Germany) and his son, Hartmann V, Bishop of Augsburg, donated to the Community of Ladies in Dillingen a house near the parish church and with it one lot of land, a cabbage patch and a meadow” where they could live a life of work and prayer.  We joked that they must have made sauerkraut, too, to preserve the cabbage they grew.

A beautiful statement, which I believe sums up our mission, follows in our historical record: “According to the intention of the founders, the Ladies should serve God, their Creator, peacefully, devoutly, and zealously for the benefit of all the faithful, giving praise and honor to the Blessed Trinity.”

The “Community of Ladies” in Dillingen became affiliated with the Franciscan Order about sixty years later.

P1010003The history of the community of Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen is a very interesting one, complete with fire, plague and war.  One of the readers of Our Franciscan Fiat expressed interest in learning more about our history on this blog.  Anyone with similar wishes is encouraged to read an account available online at: dillingenfranciscansusa.org.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

OktoberFest in 3D! (or should I say 4?)

003Friday afternoon was a lot of fun here at St. Anne’s!  We had our monthly dance with an ‘OktoberFest’ theme, complete with accordion music, dancing,
sauerkraut, brauts, and a Tirolerhüte (Bavarian hat) for each participant to wear.

I didn’t have other duties that had to be done that second, and I was curious about this event which I had helped a little to promote, so I decided to take some work with me, sit at a table and listen.  That way, too, I could be available to dance with anyone who looked like the would like a partner; I would also be ready to help serve the German goodies when the time came.

The work I had that needed attending to happened to be darning: not my favorite task, but it had been setting in my mending bag for long enough.  To my great disappointment, I ran out of black thread and was unable to finish all the items; my “Friday penance” came to a premature end.  I could have exclaimed: “Ach du liebe Zeit!” (“Oh dear!,” For Pete’s sake!,” or “Dear me!”) as I recall one of our German sisters sometimes doing at table when I lived in Hankinson.

Soon, anyway, it was time to help serve.  I was giving the job of distributing beverages to the residents and visitors gathered there.

~ ~ ~

The final major project of my day was dusting.  We are anticipating our October Sale and Luncheon, which will be next Saturday.  A shipment of items came in and one of my co-workers was about to “attack” the needed preparations the next day.  She had made a comment of how dusty the gift case had become.

Late that afternoon, I decided to do some “attacking” of my own, with our gift case as my target.  I had to stop the job of carefully removing items and wiping down the glass before returning them to their places (or as close thereto as possible) to give the evening receptionist a supper break.

After that, when I went for my own supper and was visiting with our residents, we discussed the dancing, darning, and dusting I had been involved in that afternoon.  I caught the alliteration involved here and realized it had potential for some fun.  However, I was not able to come up with anything clever.  One of our ladies, though, was very quick to come up with something for me; she referred to this as 3-D.  I thought it was quite witty of her.

I could mention a fourth D, at the risk of losing part of the ring this phrase once had. That would be delight.  When I had finally finished all that cleaning, including wiping the windows of the case, I experienced delight (believe it or not) in seeing how the glass shown, so fresh and clean.  I should also mention the delightful time we all had at the OktoberFest Dance earlier in the day.

Hopefully, these moments of delight can remind us to be grateful to the One who is the source of our true and lasting delight.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Life-long Learning…in or out of the Classroom

001This past Tuesday, I made my first classroom visit with the fourth graders at St. Michael’s School here in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  It was a very positive experience for me.  I enjoyed visiting with the children and was able to share with them a bit about our life and work.

The children had prepared questions for me, which I did my best to answer.  A few kind of stumped me, asking what my favorite book or Catholic song was.  I told them there are so many good ones that it is hard to name one.   I tried my best, though, to think of some ‘favorites.’

These nine-year-olds were not the only ones learning that afternoon; the day’s events brought me to reflect upon the fact that we are blessed with life-long learning.  The specific event leading to this, along with my classroom visit, was the recent donation of unfamiliar produce: tomatillos.  We set them out by the employee time-clock for over a day, but very few were taken. Having studied Spanish, I knew how to pronounce the word and could safely guess the meaning (‘little tomatoes’) but I had to do some research to find out more about them and how to use them.

Although I had never worked with these before, I hated to just throw perfectly good food.  As Sr. Rebecca agreed: it’s a shame to waste all that food when so many go hungry, I thought I’d try and see what I could do with these donations from parts south.

Tomatillos, I learned, are small green balls which are in the same family as tomatoes.  They have an outer peeling (which thankfully had been removed by the donor). Tomatillos are used in sauces, green salsa, and chili.  Someone offered the idea of jam, but I was quick to eliminate that possibility.

Can you imagine?  Yuck!!!

I was not ambitious enough to make salsa as it would necessitate acquiring and cutting up peppers and such.  So I took what I thought to be the practical, easier route, making a pasta/spaghetti sauce.  Anyway, that’s a whole other story.

In the course of events, I learned some interesting things, including ways for cutting the acidic taste in sauce.  I also learned facts about some of the chemistry behind cooking.  I had to interrupt my sauce-making for a trek to the prearranged visit to the school.

Riding back from St. Michael’s School, I realized with gratitude, that we, as humans, are really privileged with the gift of life-long learning.  Although school children, like the ones I had just visited with, have a more intensive learning experience, I am grateful for the gift of learning that I am blessed with in some unexpected ways.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Short-Sheeting Shenanigans

short sheeting~ Written during a visit in North Dakota ~

My name is Rick Neumann.  My daughter, Sr. Christina Marie Neumann, asked me to write my experience with short sheeting a bed.

Several years ago when Sr. Christina was first professed as a sister she and a novice decided to play a prank on my wife and me.  They had been at the Hankinson convent but later that day they were going to the Rugby convent.  They knew we would be coming to Hankinson to spend the night and to later go to Rugby to visit them.

So the joke was on.  We were going to be given the best guest room in the house.  We refer to it as the “Hankinson Hilton.”  It’s actually a suite of rooms.  Anyhow, they short-sheeted our bed.  If your bed has ever been short-sheeted, you know it can be an unpleasant experience.  After traveling four hours to get to Hankinson and several hours of visiting and playing cards with the sisters, we were tired and went to go to bed.  We pulled back the blankets and put our tired bones into the bed.  But we didn’t get very far.  Our feet could only extend 18 inches!  “Oh no, this isn’t good.  I just want to get to sleep!”  It took several seconds for me to figure out what had happened.  Our bed was booby trapped.  So we got up and fixed the bed and had a pleasant night’s sleep.

The next morning after breakfast, we were on our way to Rugby to see the two perps of the crime.  Along the way, we tried to come up with a way to get even.  It came to us…We would weave a story that would cause them a great deal of worry.

When we got to Rugby, they asked about our visit to Hankinson.  We talked as if nothing had happened to us but expressed to them that there was an investigation going on at the motherhouse. They asked about it, and we explained that the Fargo Bishop had come for a surprise visit, and since he was far more honored than us, he was given the “Hankinson Hilton” for the night.  When he went to bed he had a bad experience and was pretty steamed.

The look on the two young sisters’ faces was priceless.  It only lasted a few seconds until they realized we were teasing but it was worth it.

Publisher’s Note: Anyone wanting instructions for the proper methodology of short-sheeting may email me at: sr.christinaosf@gmail.com.  

Circumstances (escapades, really) Calling for a ‘Modified Habit’

001Sr. Christina M. Neumann

What I night I had!…Sr. Elaine and Sr. Rebecca were out of town for a board meeting in Baudette, MN, so I got the honors of dog-sitting “the little guy,” that is, Dodge, the poodle at St. Anne’s Guest Home.  I always work Monday evenings until ten and take him home with me when I get off.

I have done this many times before without too much trouble.  However, last night was different!  I let him out to the bathroom at some point after nine, as I am accustomed to doing when “dog-sitting.”  When the night staff arrived, I assured them that I would be taking him home with me; they would not have to worry about him.  “He would be fine.  He’s usually pretty good and doesn’t give me much trouble.”  Well, was I in for a surprise!

P1010003The little rascal just wouldn’t settle down.  I put his little bed in the corner of my bedroom, against the wall, set him there, and covered him up.  He wanted none of it!  He got up and walked around.  I tried it again; no luck.  After a few more attempts to get him settled, including taking him into the living room to offer him a drink of water, I gave up.

A week ago, Sr. Rebecca had been home but not able to take care of him, so I had offered.  At that time, I learned the futility of trying to sleep with an anxious poodle in one’s bedroom.  He had started panting in his restless pacing and I feared I might send him into cardiac arrest.  I had finally called over to the night staff, explained the problem, and been graciously assured that they would take care of him; I could send him over.

Recalling this episode, I didn’t waste too much time trying to futilely settle ‘the little guy’ down.  I picked him up and proceeded to grab my house coat and veil.  He was very anxious, and before I could get myself all together for the ten-thirty trek back over to St. Anne’s, the little rugrat (as I have recently taken to calling him),  moistened the top of my feet with an unsavory liquid.  After that, I didn’t want to put my shoes on and get urine on them – yuck!  With Dodge to deal with, I didn’t want to get involved in the effort right then of washing my feet, so I walked over, with him in arm, to St. Anne’s, not even bothering to call ahead to alert the night staff of their coming companion.

I walked (or almost ran) carefully over to the building (which is right accross a courtyard from our convent) with the rugrat in my arms.  However, they had already locked that door.  I knocked a few times, but was not heard.  I went around, then to the kitchen entrance, which I could access by pushing in a code.  Dressed in my pajamas, house coat, and veil (a modified habit, you might say) I let myself into the building, walked through the kitchen, and set “the little guy down on the floor.  I went back into the kitchen, then, where there was a phone, which I used to call the front desk and tell the night staff that they would have Dodge there with them after all.

I headed back home by the shortest route, forgetting that I didn’t have my key and that I had left the door on the other side of the garage open to let myself back in.  I went around the building, walking carefully with my bare feet, and went in the way I had originally come out.

After washing my contaminated feet off in the bathtub, I went to bed.  However, morning would not come without further escapades; around 1:30 a.m. I got a call to come over.  The fire alarm was going off and they needed help getting the residents down to safety.

This time, I quickly dressed in my skirt, vest, blouse and veil and headed over to St. Anne’s, my keys conveniently in my pocket.  I helped escort residents to the stairwell, but before we could get much further, one of the night aides came with some good news: the source of the alarm was found.  Dust may have triggered a detector.  We let the residents return to their rooms.

I, too, was happy to be able to return home without too much commotion. I undressed and went back to bed, this time sleeping until morning.

What a night!

Making Time and Effort for Recollection and Renewal

By: Sr. Christina M. Neumann

In our community, we have a “day of monthly renewal,” during which we try to observe silence and also take a little extra time for prayer and reflection.  In the convents that I’ve lived in, usually, this is the first Sunday of the month.

As a novice, I was instructed to look over the past month and make goals for the one to come.  However, I’ve noticed that when I’ve done this, I’ve pretty much forgotten what my resolutions were before many days had elapsed.  Maybe that’s something I could work more on, but I’ve never had much success with “recollection day goals.”

001One thing I do try to do comes directly from our Dillingen Franciscan Constitutions, which state: “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.”

Along with evaluating my living of poverty, I think I also (would) do well to evaluate my living of charity towards my fellow Sisters and all those I serve.  A good time for this is during my evening examen and when preparing for confession.  Our Constitutions do further instruct us that “Poverty is worthless unless we are devoted to one another in heartfelt love.”

I recalled today, during “recollection,” that it is good to periodically look at and evaluate ourselves, how things are going. (Actually, doing so every evening on a lesser scale is very good.)  I’d like to apply this principal also to this blog.  Also, I’d like to ask you, our readers, about it.  Please, would you take a moment to give me some input.  Rather than just continuing as I am, without evaluating it, I would like to make a “day of renewal” for Our Franciscan Fiat as well.

Connections with St. Therese

Although she’s not a Franciscan saint, St. Therese, the Little Flower, has a kind of special place in my life and in our community.  Let me explain…

When I was confirmed in eighth grade, at the Cathedral of St. Paul, I chose her as my Confirmation Saint.  Sr. Rebecca and Sr. Elaine Marie, my fellow Sisters here at St. Anne’s, did likewise in their youth.

Another connection I have with today’s saint of “the Little Way” is having served at Little Flower School and parish after finishing my novitiate there at Little Flower Convent in Rugby, ND.  This was an especially fitting place for a novitiate experience in that St. Therese is the patroness of novice mistresses. (She actually served in this role herself.)  Novitiate can be a very memorable and important time in the life of a Sister.

BUSHNELL PICTURES

Taken during my time in Little Flower Convent Chapel

I must confess I am facing a bit of that good old “writer’s block” today, so I will fall back on my earlier creativity.  Below, I will share a poem I wrote as a novice about my experiences.  I apologize that some references made therein may not be clear to outsiders.  However, I hope you enjoy reading it nonetheless.  Please note, this was written in increments over several months, not all at once.   Continue reading