Blessed with Little Reminders

This evening, again as I worked as a personal care aide, ‘it did my heart good’ when I saw a crucifix hanging on the room of one of our ladies.  Later, I noticed this also in another room.

It was neat to see the simple faith of these people (who don’t necessarily strike me as terribly religious) manifested in the simple gesture of having a crucifix.

It also served as a reminder to me as well.  Seeing a crucifix hanging in a bedroom or even in the resident dining room or employee lounge can be powerful, in my experience.  I can be going about my day, and may not be in the greatest of all moods.  Seeing this representation of Our Lord dying for us speaks to my soul, reminding me of why I am doing what I am doing, be it filling a picture with ice for a resident, or whatever.

Picture1It really serves to get me back on the right track, to rededicate myself to Our Lord’s service, as I said hours earlier when making the Morning Offering before our Office.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

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We Never Know…

Last evening, I was again working as personal care aide here at St. Anne’s Guest Home.  I often take the back stairs and pass hurriedly by some residents’ room on my way to tend to the needs of a few of their floor-mates.

IMG_1012If I know the person is there, I try to call out a friendly greeting to them.  If time allows, I stop and exchange a few words, asking how they are doing.  I think it is important.  It’s not that I’m so special and they should feel privileged to see me, or anything of that sort.  However, it is an opportunity to cheer a person up, or simply show them that someone genuinely cares about them and is interested in them.

Last night, as I went past a particular resident’s room, I was in a hurry.  I didn’t have lots of time to stop and visit.  I did, however, make the effort to give a friendly greeting, hopefully, showing that I cared…

I have found myself hurrying past a room with a quick ‘hello’ and then stopping, turning around, and giving them a few extra seconds.  It sometimes strikes me: “Nothing you have to do is that important that it can’t wait 30 seconds.  Go back there and show them they’re important.”

~ ~ ~

This morning, at about 3:45 a.m., I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing at our convent.  Sr. Rebecca got around to answering it before I did.  She carried on a bit of a conversation with the caller.  When they had hung up, I learned that one of our residents had just died, the one whose room I had passed on my evening rounds just hours before.

Although I hadn’t had much time to visit, at least I had made the effort to greet him.

We never know what will be our last opportunity to do good to another person, or even what effect a kind word or gesture can have.  I guess this is a lesson to me never to neglect any opportunity to serve Christ in another person.  We’re not guaranteed another chance.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Fragrance Prayer

trasfiguresmallIn preparing for our upcoming Bible Study, Cardinal Newman’s ‘Fragrance Prayer’ came to mind.  The lesson is on this Sunday’s readings, including the gospel about the Transfiguration.

We will be doing a little craft, taking a silhouette of Jesus cut from construction paper to make a sun catcher with tissue paper behind it.  I will have our residents tape or staple this beautiful, little prayer beneath it.

I wanted to share the prayer here as well:

Dear Jesus,

help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go;

Flood my soul with your spirit and life;

Penetrate and possess my whole being

so completely that all my life may be
only a radiance of yours;

Shine through me and be so in me
That everyone with whom I come into contact

May feel your presence within me.

Let them look up and see no longer me—
but only Jesus.

Stay with me and then I shall begin
to shine as You shine,

So to shine as to be a light to others;

The light, O Jesus, will be all from You;

none of it will be mine;
It will be you,

shining on others through me.

Amen.

Hoodie Hoo Day: A Lenten Observance?

LFS-motto-300x225Have you ever heard of Hoodie Hoo Day?  I certainly hadn’t until this past month.  We were reading over a list of monthly observances in preparation for our February resident newsletter.  One of my committee members/writers may have been familiar with it and wanted to do an article about this somewhat obscure topic.

I try to accommodate the wishes and interests of those involved and so gave her the ‘go-ahead.’  It turns out that ‘Hoodie Hoo Day (Feb. 20) is a day on which people go outside at noon, throw up their hands and shout ‘Hoodie Hoo,’ in hopes of chasing away winter.  It might even help bring in springtime, right?   So it is allegedly hoped, though I don’t know who would be foolish enough to put any stock in that.

With my new knowledge of the spring-spawning observance, I gathered a small group of residents after their lunchtime today.  We went outside and called out ‘Hoodie Hoo!’  I had forgotten the part about throwing up one’s hands, so that step was neglected.

I know it seems silly, and I really doubt it will bring spring any faster, but I thought it would be good to help alleviate a little bit of the February blahs.  We’re ready for spring.

In grade school we were taught that Lent meant Spring, coming from the Old English for “lengthening of days.”  In a way, I think, these two observances might be related (Hoodie Hoo Day and Lent).

‘Hoodie Hoo Day seeks to liven things, to shake things up a bit, and to hasten Spring, a time of new life.  Lent does likewise.  We try to liven up our spiritual lives and renew our acts of charity and penance.  We, with God’s help, strive to ‘shake’ ourselves out of complacency which so easily creeps into our lives.  We do this in preparation for the paschal celebration of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter.

Though you may not want to make a fool of yourself (like we did at noon), might there be few ways that you can liven up things in your own spiritual life this Lent and also renew your acts of love for those around you?

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

“In the Morning When I Rise…Give Me Jesus”

IMG_0815There is an old folk song: “In the morning when I rise…give me Jesus.”  Although it sounds a bit forward at first, it makes a point that really resonates with me, especially after my recent travels.

I was privileged to attend a weekend retreat for the High School Youth Group from my home parish of St. Joseph’s in West St. Paul, Minnesota.  After this, I had a day and a half to spend with my family back there.

It was so nice to be able to take part in these activities.  However, as the days went on, I did miss the proximity of our Lord’s Eucharistic presence to which I am accustomed here at St. Anne’s.  No longer was the a chapel right down the hall, and I had to try to sneak in private prayer where I could get it.  I really missed my time of quiet with Jesus first thing in the morning.

This time has become dear to me and provides me with needed support for my daily life.  I find that difficult times have made me appreciate and rely upon this time of prayer early in the morning more than ever before.

No Ham During Lent

P1010008Sr. Elaine Marie and I have fun teasing about ham.  We take turns providing organ accompaniment for Mass here in our chapel.

A recent discussion about the music for Ash Wednesday took a humorous turn when I reminded her that ‘we’re not supposed to have ham during Lent.’  When talking about her enjoyment in adding extra notes and musical ornamentation to songs, Sr. Elaine likes to say: “I love to ham it up!”

However, according to liturgical directives for this more solemn Lenten season, musical instruments are only to be used during Mass to provide necessary support for the singing (or something to that effect).

What makes this fun is that Lent is a time for more abstinence from meat.  Teasing about ham not being allowed (in reference to music) fits in with the dietary restrictions involved in this penitential time.

Directives do allow, however, for ‘ham’ on solemnities as well as the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Maybe we can have ham and eggs on that occasion.

Actually, I have learned that, in times past, eggs were also not allowed during Lent.  Here at St. Anne’s, we have the tradition of serving potato pancakes on Fat Tuesday.  Pancakes were commonly made on that day to help use up the eggs in one’s house before Lent started.

Thoughts before Lent

I look forward, somewhat, to this time of Lent
in which we are called to repent,
to mend our ways, where they are wrong
and not just, thoughtlessly, drift along.

It’s a time to renew our good resolutions,
rememb’ring that prayer is the solution,
that we cannot just, by determination
overcome our vices (like procrastination).

I find it is easier to do what I should
once I’ve made up my mind on what would be good.
Without commitments or some rules to follow
it’s easy to make excuses and be rather ‘hollow.’

Today, on this day of recollection
when sitting in chapel for prayer and reflection
I made my own list of things that I want
to follow when trav’ling life’s daily jaunt.

In doing this, though, I always recall,
that, really, I can’t do it at all
without grace and help from above
so instead of on me, I’ll rely on His love.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

Ave, Regina Caelorum…

006Today, I was privileged to attend a gathering for young women of our diocese, entitled Decora.  It celebrated the gift of femininity and was a wonderful opportunity!  I was invited last evening by our Sisters from Little Flower in Rugby, who spent the night at our convent before traveling to Fargo.

Since my scheduled duties here at St. Anne’s for this day were minimal, I made arrangements, obtained permissions, and hit the road with my fellow Sisters.  This morning’s gospel passage, which I meditated upon in our chapel here and then heard at Mass seemed fitting for me this day.

Jesus encouraged His disciples: “Come away by yourselves…and rest a while.”  Along with ‘being present’ (as they say) with my Sisters, this little day trip was a nice opportunity to get out, and was refreshing.  It was neat to celebrate our God-given dignity as women with a good-sized group of young ladies from around the area.

Before even attending, the title of the upcoming workshop again reminded me of the Marian antiphon traditionally used after night prayer at this time of year (from Feb. 2 through the end of Lent).  The Latin title is Ave, Regina Caelorum.  The word decora is found within the text of this antiphon, which is often sung.  I remember the first time I ever heard it when I was visiting a different Religious Community before finding the Franciscan congregation to which I now belong.

With a limited knowledge of Latin, I was uncertain as to the meaning of the word decora and was a bit curious, since that was the title given to today’s gathering.

Doing a little online research, I found the definition of the root word as follows:

  1. honor, distinction, glory
  2. pride, dignity
  3. grace, splendor, ornament, beauty

To me, this fits perfectly: these words are a beautiful reflection on our Blessed Mother Mary, to whom the ancient text is directed.  Also, the words fit well with the talks we heard today.  We, as women, were reminded of the glory, dignity, honor, and beauty of our femininity.

We are blessed to have to have Mary as a model to look to in living out God’s call for us as women.  It’s wonderful, too, that we can turn to her for motherly help and intercession.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Celebrating More Than Just a Groundhog

candles2What is February 2nd known for?  In secular society, it’s ‘Groundhog’s Day.’  While there’s nothing wrong with remembering this little rodent and speculating on whether or not he’ll see his silhouette created by the sun, I’d invite us to go a little deeper.

While the sun is a beautiful thing, and certainly necessary for life, February 2nd is an invitation for us to remember the true Light.  While our friend Punxsutawney Phil sneaks out of his hole to see what he can see, the Church celebrates a truly luminous event, the Presentation of Our Lord in the temple, according to Jewish custom, forty days after His birth.

On this day, the Church also observes the custom of blessing the candles to be used for the year.  In our small chapel at St. Anne’s, Fr. Greg Haman (from St. Michael’s Church) did this at our morning Mass.  Everyone attending was enabled to take part in a tangible way by holding tapers, which Father lit with his own at the beginning of Mass.

It was a beautiful, heartwarming thing, to see how, symbolically, the light of Christ was given to each of us.  We are to treasure this light, to protect it, and to spread it.

This feast of the Presentation, when we remember the dedication of Jesus in the temple, has a special significance to me.  It was on this day that I was received as a postulant in Hankinson, and fittingly so; it is the World Day for the Consecrated Life.

However, this year it’s a little bitter-sweet since it marks the end of the Year of Consecrated Life declared by Pope Francis.

Today, as you hear about the groundhog and his shadow, you might take the time to remember Our Lord’s presentation and re-dedicate yourself to Him.  May His light shine in your heart this day and always!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann