Easter triumph, Easter Joy…

Happy Easter everyone!!!  And please, don’t forget we can say that for 48 more days!  (People seem to do a double-take if you greet them with this joyful expression any time after Easter Monday morning.  I think that is too bad.)

We’ve waited and prepared for so long to celebrate the joy of our Lord’s glorious resurrection, but so many people are so quick to act like the season is over when we’re barely into the octave.

I prefer to take advantage of it.  This morning, in Bible study, we really got into the joy of Easter, singing Easter hymns and reading the gospel accounts from that first Easter Sunday morning.  (We only got about half way through the accounts, so we have plenty more material for next week. 🙂  )   That activity room was really buzzing with the Alleluia’s.

After Bible study, I had to take a moment to recover from laughter.  To prevent boredom from too much sitting and listening, I decided to have a few people act out one of the resurrection appearance accounts: that of the road to Emmaus.

When one of the residents (who was filling the role of one of the two disciples traveling from Jerusalem) used the phrase “passed away” when trying to say what they ‘spoke of on the way,” I couldn’t resist a chuckle – what a turn of phrase!

LFS-motto-300x225I plan on returning to these beautiful accounts of people encountering our Risen Lord multiple times during these seven weeks of Easter.   I like to place myself in the scenes as I pray.  I even use them for meditation while reciting the rosary, taking a different Easter encounter for each decade.

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Lift High the Cross, the Love of Christ Proclaim …

IMG_2542With these words we call to mind the centrality of the Cross in our lives these Lenten days and now especially in Holy Week.   This morning in religious education one of my third grade students asked, “Sister, what is the difference between the cross and the crucifix?”  Answering him reminded me of the numerous depictions of the cross we see in our world today.  One of the special crosses we reflect on in our Franciscan world is the San Damiano Cross from which our Lord, Jesus, spoke to Saint Francis asking him to “rebuild the Church, which as you can see, is falling into ruin.”

Another unique cross we Franciscans ponder, at least in the Hankinson Province of the Dillingen Franciscans, is the ceramic display in the hallway of the provincial house in Hankinson.  This has relief sculpture details the life of Saint Francis of Assisi in six panels arranged in the shape of the cross.  Often when touring visitors at the convent I have the privilege of telling highlights of the inspiring story of the life of our founder, one of the most beloved saints of Christianity.

The biographical panels depict Francis, who before his conversion, abhorred the sight of lepers and would ride several miles out of his way to avoid them, when one day he met a leper, was moved to get off his horse and embrace the man, realizing Jesus had disguised himself as a leper to meet Francis.  He later wrote that from then on what he had despised now became sweet and he was overjoyed at the mercy of God! Francis went on to live with the lepers for some time in the early days of his conversion, before the Lord gave him brothers.

Another panel depicts Francis sending his brothers out, two-by two, to preach the Gospel as our Lord commanded.

Various other scenes from the life of Francis are memorialized in this piece of art designed by our German born Sister Edelwida, whose father had a ceramic factory near Dillingen.  The sculpture, made in 1935, was shipped to the U.S. in blocks and placed/cut into the wall of the hallway leading to chapel.  The reminder when I walk by: “who are the lepers in my life? Have I embraced them?  Have I had a conversion, a turning point in my life, to see Christ in each person I encounter?”

One of my favorite panels is on the left crossbar.  It shows Francis lying on the ground, with his hand raised in blessing.  He had asked his brothers to take him to the hill outside the city of Assisi so he could bless the people once more before he died. In recent Franciscan history, in the 1950’s, the Siena Testament was discovered in which Francis dictated: “Write that I bless all my brothers, those who are in the Order and those who will enter it until the end of the world …” I take this blessing personally!

Would that more of us would embrace the cross, the lepers and the whole world in our prayer as Saint Francis of Assisi did.  May the holy days this week and the time of the Tridum be filled with a realization of God’s deep, abiding mercy, for you and those whom you encounter!

~ Sister M. Jean Louise Schafer, OSF

“Look Down to Us, Saint Joseph”

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Statue of St. Joseph in our Chapel

This morning, I peeked ahead in our Office Book and noticed that already this evening we begin celebrating the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary.

This was good news to me, for a practical reason:

Often, on Friday evenings, we have a whole family come and pray with us.  It is difficult with visitors if there is “a lot of flipping around,” that is to say, a turning from one page to another to find the appropriate antiphons, psalms, and other components of the Liturgy of the Hours.

I was afraid that it might be a little challenging for all these people (including some small children) to make their way through Evening Prayer for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, whose commemoration we observed this morning; there is a special antiphon and prayer for his feast, while the psalms were for the weekday, and the reading and what follows were for the fifth Friday and Lent.

To my relief, I saw on the page next to that for St. Cyril: “Evening Prayer I“.  Happily, I realized, “This will be much easier!”  I happily marked the pages in seven books, with “Look Down to Us, St. Joseph” as the hymn.

We are grateful to St. Joseph for more than just simplifying our efforts to pray with visitors.  He played a wonderful part in the story of salvation, and continues to do so as the patron of the Universal Church.

Here at St. Anne’s, we have a special prayer that we say to him every night after our Office.  All the Sisters in our Province (in North Dakota) prepare for his feast with a novena, as requested by our provincial directives.  His is a feast we celebrate in a special way.  Some flowers were donated here, and we might just bring them into chapel for the occasion!

Grasping the Cross Today

Monday morning, I was asked to be the cross-bearer for Sr. Magdalen’s funeral; Sr. Ann Marie had called me last week and asked me to do it.

I wanted to do a good job, to hold it properly and at the right height, etc.  I also wanted to have a good hold on the processional cross so it would not slip down on me.  Later, at Sister’s burial, I was also responsible to hold up a smaller, wooden crucifix, a duty I had not known was mine previously.

Holding, even grasping, the cross was touching to me.  It inspired me, especially during Lent, that this is what, ideally, I should be doing in my daily life.

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Sebastiano del Piombo ~ Christ Carrying the Cross

Like anyone else, I have my cross to bear.  Jesus says in the gospel, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Many saints have made comments on the cross and the value of suffering, including St. Paul in his writings.

There is no getting away from the cross in our Christian life.

How often, though, do we really recognize our cross and take it up conscientiously out of love for Christ?

Do I ever ‘grasp’ my cross, like I did the processional cross yesterday? Do I recall that this is my way of saying “I really do love you” to the One who grasped His cross for us?

He Comes…

broom-clipart-as6099I was doing some spring cleaning at our convent today, since I have a break from my receptionist and aide duties.  The time was a wonderful reprieve after the chaos of the residents’ shopping day, a meeting, aide duties, and more yesterday.

Who’d have thought that cleaning house could be called a break?  🙂

Anyway..

In the coarse of my cleaning, I noticed a little poem that I  copied out years ago, probably when I was still in Rugby.  The author is unknown, but it is a beautiful, touching reflection that I would like to share with you.   It still hangs on the door to my bedroom.

I hope it touches your heart as it did mine.

He comes as a companion of the lonely;
a faithful friend who cares and understands.
He comes as a physician to the hurting,
with tenderness and healing in His hands.

He comes as a protector to the helpless,
a shepherd who calls all His lambs by name,
a father who sees every child as special,
whose gentle heart loves each, both well and lame.

He comes, the consolation of the suffering,
the light that breaks through darkness and despair.
He comes and we discover that His presence
is the loving answer to our every prayer.

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Isn’t it great that “He comes” to us in our neediness?

Some days we long for a companion, a friend.  At other dimes, it’s a physician, a protector, a shepherd, and a father that we need.  Sometimes, we feel the need of His consolation in suffering and His light against despair.

~ Always, we need His presence…and He comes. ~

.Sr. Christina M. Neumann

What’s Zwetschgendatsche?

006.JPGWe received word today that our Sister Magdalen Schaan died. I am well-acquainted with her from my days as a postulant in Hankinson.  I created the title C.S.T.S. for the help that I provided to Sr. Magdalen: Christina’s Secretarial & Transportational Services.  (I guess spell-check doesn’t like my word ‘transportational,’ but I’ll get over it – Sr. Magdalen didn’t object :).

I helped her with some letter writing and pushed her around in her wheelchair, which gave rise to this title.  Another involvement I had with Sr. Magdalen was interviewing her to get her memories of serving on the different missions recorded.

That’s when I learned about Zwetschgendatsche

Sr. Magdalen was a baker and a cook.  One of the missions she served at was in Chicago, working for the Carmelite Fathers there.  Actually, that was her first assignment (1939-47). In this interview, she remembered that Chicago was smoky and had high humidity.  She went on to share a memory which brought her to chuckle in recalling it.

Sr. Magdalen shared: “When Sr. Salutaris graduated…got her master’s degree…we had a play for her. And we played everything back what happened to her when she was in Chicago.  It was a lot of fun.  And she enjoyed it…and I asked her what she wanted for her graduation and she said Zwetschgendatsche.  So I made five Zwetschgendatsche and put it on her bed, and she laughed and laughed and laughed.  I thought she’d never stop laughing.”  After Sr. Magdalen had recounted all this, I asked her: “What’s Zwetschgendatsche?”  She told me that “Zwetschgendatsche is something like a kuchen and then you put zwerschge* on top.  And sugar and cinnamon.”   (*zwerschge = plum)

Sr. Magdalen had baked these plum desserts and put them (still in the pans) on the bed of her fellow Sister as a joke.

Now, that’s a Sister after my own heart.  (I have begun my research on harmless April Fools’ tricks for next month.)

Sr. Magdalen and I made a food-related memory of our own during my days of C.S.T.S.  One day, we had breaded chicken and it was a bit tough.  For weeks afterward, we kidded about ‘crunchy chicken’ with each other.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Are You Ready for Me?…Yes, I’m Ready for You!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have way too much fun sometimes when I work as a personal care aide!

A prime example lies in a little ritual dialog I hold every night I work with one of our female residents.  It is my responsibility to dry her support stockings after she has washed them; she does not have the needed hand strength to wring them out properly.  Without assistance, they remain wet even into the morning.

By herself, she does remove and wash the socks.  When I come to her door, before entering, I call out her name, rolling it off my tongue with a little twang we have developed.  She replies, “Yeeeeeessssss.”

Next, I inquire: “Are you ready for me?,” to which she responds, “Yes, I’m ready for you.”  We have way too much fun with our little conversation in an accent resembling I don’t know what.  We love to tease each other.

I come in, dry her stockings, visit briefly, and go on my way, glad that she was ready for me and had her stockings washed (one less thing I have to do).  [There have been a few times that she didn’t get them washed, but I can deal with that]

Although we’re in the middle of the Lenten season, this little reflection on the words “Are you ready for me” reminds me of Advent and our spiritual reflections at that time.

This routine question could, in a way, be posed to each of us on a daily basis.  In our daily life, our interactions, is Jesus perhaps asking each of us: “Are you ready for me?”

Is the way I live, the way I treat others, reflective of one who is ready to meet Him?  Or better yet, is it reflective of a soul aware of meeting Him daily in each person encountered?

I want to be aware, especially when called upon to serve someone I may not care to help, that Jesus is asking me to be ready for Him and to serve Him in each person.

 

 

 

Imitating Christ in Love: a task well-done by our Sister Carolyn

IMG_0896This afternoon, we received word that our Sister Carolyn, who had served here as receptionist for sixteen years (1992-2008), had died at the age of ninety-eight.

During her long life, she filled several different roles, from teacher to principal to office worker.  She even handled the library work at St. Anne’s Convent during her time here.

In recent years, with failing health, she had moved to our provincial house in Hankinson, where she continued to serve others: writing correspondence, sorting and delivering mail, and assisting in other ways as she was needed.

In my experience of her, she could be counted on to offer a kind smile and affectionate gestures and words in greeting.

Without access to her CV or obituary (which probably has not even been written yet), I am unable to outline the details of her many works in the apostolate over the decades.  However, I can share, from personal experience,  that to me, her smile and kind affection were truly a way in which she “imitate[d] Christ in love” as the prelude to our Constitutions suggests “is the way and goal of our vocation.”

She is a dear Sister, whose smile and affectionate hand squeeze we will miss.