Just Some Random Questions…

questionsI recently came across a few questions someone was posing online for others to answer.  I thought it might be good to try to respond to them here.  (While I am not an expert, I would like to remind people that I would welcome the opportunity to try to answer any of your own questions about our life.)

The questions posed included: 

  • Since sisters either live in or near the church, how do they get the money for food, water, insurance, bills, and other stuff, since they don’t have jobs?
  • Do sisters have free time to do other stuff they want, or is their life exclusively focused on the church?
  • How much time for sleep do sisters get?
  • Are sisters allowed to use technology? I go to a high school focused on computer and arts education, and it’d be tough living without computers to put apart and put back together.
  • Do sisters ever get to visit family? Half my family I’ve never met, but for the family I do have, like my mom, dad, older half-brother, and younger brother, I’d hate to never see them again.

My response would be:

Sisters do not necessarily live near the church (and not in it).  We often receive a salary from our workplace, which goes to our community.  The community then provides money to cover our living expenses.

Everybody needs some free time, but we do tend to work fairly long hours.  In our community, the amount of sleep we get is up to the individual.  Some communities are more strict and have a more set horarium (daily schedule).

Sisters are allowed to use technology, but we need to keep a watch that it does not suck too much of our time and energy.  I actually use a computer a lot for my work.
Yes, a sister’s families can visit (in my community) and we do visit them.  Cloistered communities and some others may have more restrictions on this.  Actually, my parents recently stopped by on their way home from a school reunion and joined us for lunch and a visit.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

 

Grateful for a Strange Sort of Blessing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Four dozen cookies in all

After my last post about not being so busy as to lose the spirit of prayer and devotion, I mentally chided myself about what I was getting myself into yesterday morning.

Last fall, we froze a bunch of pumpkin that we had received, cleaned, baked, peeled, mashed and bagged.  I’ve noticed that we are still amply supplied with frozen blocks of this mashed vegetable enclosed in plastic.

I also know that our residents really love the homemade goodies.  Sr. Rebecca, our administrator, kind of encouraged the matter.  So, Thursday evening, I had made my way to the freezer in our garage where much of my store of pumpkin from last fall still awaited use.  I pulled out a sack of pumpkin to thaw.

The next morning, I got up extra early, and after time in chapel, praying and doing my sacristy duties, I set to work on the cookies.

The night before, I had also found that we had some chocolate in the cupboard that was ‘going no where.’  We also had a canister of cashews that were not getting eaten.

Furthermore, I had noticed another item when I was cleaning out the kitchen cupboard in the activity room earlier in the week: ice cream cones!  They must have been purchased for a special occasion with quite a few left over.  We really have no use for them at present and they “weren’t getting any younger.”  Rather than toss them, or let them set around in the cupboard for weeks or months to come, I let the adventurous spirit get the better of me; I crushed the cones.  (I didn’t have anymore oatmeal on hand, so crushed ice cream cones seemed a fine alternative.)

I also was going to try out some of the new spices I had received from my parents for my birthday, including allspice (which I am not accustomed to using.)

As if that weren’t enough of a complicated baking experience, I was also dealing with an oven problem.  The top heating element in the oven I normally used seems to have gone out.  Consequently (until we get it fixed) I’ve had to bring items to bake over to our convent kitchen.  So when it was time to bake, back and forth, back and forth I went…

Early in the morning, I had microwaved the part of the pumpkin that had not thawed overnight.  I strained and measured it – four cups.  After choosing a recipe and deciding to double it, I figured I would use half of the pumpkin, that is, two cups.

Also having Mass and office duties, it was quite a bit to get all the baking done in between.  And, I thought, I still have two more cups of thawed pumpkin to deal with.  I was encouraged to just make up more cookies.  Oh boy, I thought, I’ve got some more work to do!  With the complication of hauling prepared cookie sheets over to the convent to bake, this day could be full.  Residents and visitors would really like the cookies, though, so okay…

I went back into the activity room to put together a second double batch.  By this time, I had procured a canister of oatmeal from our main kitchen, but I had used up all the chocolate.  Maybe some raisins would be a good idea?

I went to the sink where I had strained out the pumpkin (I find this is important for making cookies), but there was no pumpkin.  I scanned the kitchen area, but it was no where to be found!

The only  conclusion I could reasonably make (No person in their right mind would steal pumpkin!) is that I must have unconsciously used ALL the pumpkin in my first double-batch of cookies.  This would make sense, too, because the cookies had been a little difficult to bake, taking quite a long time to get thoroughly done; extra pumpkin could easy account for this.

What a relief – if all the thawed pumpkin was already used up, I didn’t need to do any more baking!  I could clean up my dishes and get on with other matters in the afternoon!  I considered my little mistake a blessing in disguise!  I was grateful for the missing pumpkin!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

“But They Should Not Be So Busy…”

IMG_2542The “Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis,” which we promise to observe when professing our vows, has many statements that call us to follow Christ more closely.

I can remember feeling a little overwhelmed, at one point in my formation, at the number of exhortations included in our fundamental document which include words like always, everywhere, ever, and remember that.

Some of the words contained here are very beautiful, but we do have a lot to live up to!  I think it is good to re-read our Rule from time to time, to help remind ourselves of St. Francis’ inspiring exhortations.

One of the these came to mind this afternoon: “But they should not be so busy that the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, which all earthly goods should foster, is extinguished.”

I think this can be a point for examination of conscience for me tonight, since I was busy.  I’m not saying being busy is bad, but I want to evaluate: did my busyness extinguish “the spirit of holy prayer and devotion”?

Between communal liturgical commitments, receptionist duties, and leading our residents’ weekly Bible study, my morning was filled.  Then, this afternoon, I hosted another “rhubarb party,” where we cut up a comparably small donation of rhubarb.

After this, I ended up making strawberry-rhubarb scones with some of what we had cut.  This project ended up being a little more “busy” than normal, since I had to haul three cookie sheets of unbaked scones over to the convent to use the oven there.  The one in our Activities Kitchen which I normally use is not working very well, and I didn’t want to risk failure in my culinary endeavor.  (I already depend on St. Martha and our Blessed Mother for their intercession in my domestic undertakings; I didn’t need to throw in any additional risk factors.)

We are also exhorted to: “keep the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary…ever before [our] eyes.”  I wonder what kind of experiences she might have had baking!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

“Please Carry Me”

Picture1.pngWe just returned late last evening from our annual six-day retreat.  It was a good experience, though by Day Six, as usual, I was getting a little antsy from all the silence and lack of regular work routine.

One great thing about it was that this year’s retreat was that the priest retreat master gave us a scripture passage or two to use for prayer and reflection during the time after the conferences.

The retreat’s theme centered around mercy during this special jubilee year.  The meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words used in scripture referring to God’s mercy was conveyed as well.

An image that struck me at some point in the retreat, and which I am carrying with me, is that of the Good Shepherd with the little lamb on His shoulders.  During his conferences, Father referred to the official image for this year of mercy, which draws from this scriptural image but puts a unique spin on it.  (The image shows a person being carried rather than a sheep.)

In my own weakness, this image of the shepherd and small lamb speaks powerfully to me.  During the retreat, I prayerfully came to some resolutions for my personal life, areas in which I need to do better.

However, I realize all too well how weak I am and how easily I can fall back into old habits. This is one major area that this image of the shepherd carrying the little lamb is helpful to me.  My prayer has become through the course of this retreat: “Lord, pleas carry me…I know from experience I can’t do it alone, and I’ll fail.  But, with you carrying me, day by day, I hope to make some progress.”

~ ~ ~

I was blessed to have my sister with us for part of the retreat.  She mentioned that she had seen my poem in the elevator; I had composed it as a postulant during the weekly chore of cleaning the stainless-steel elevator in the Hankinson convent.  It was entitled: “A Message from the elevatory” and it playfully encouraged those riding to remove their smear marks if they left them inside by touching the surface.

I only mention this because my confirmation saint, Therese of Lisieux, shared spiritual thoughts about the elevator.  Her reflections came to mind during the retreat since they tie in with (and confirm) my own on the shepherd carrying the helpless little lamb.

She wrote: “I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched then in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: ‘Whoever is a little one let him come to me.’ The elevator which must raise me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus, and for this I have no need to grow up, but rather I have to remain little and become this more and more.”

Weeping…Wiping…Anointing

Td9401248c50418cb7a1b2d1150ade47dhis past Sunday’s gospel from Luke 7 (and similar accounts) has long been a special one for me, one which deeply resonates with me.  It is the story of the sinful woman weeping, bathing Jesus’ feet with her tears and drying them with her hair, before she concludes by anointing them with costly perfume.

I readily see myself here, doing the same for Him.  It’s a story that I can so easily visualize and take part in spiritually; it’s a favorite of mine for meditation because of this.

This Sunday, hearing the Gospel read, I again got right into the account.  I spontaneously thought: “Too bad I don’t have long hair anymore.  I can’t do that.”  It may seem silly, but I share it because it lead to another insight that I think might profit all of us.

Although I cannot physically, tangibly show my affection for Jesus, as this gospel so often impels me to do, I can do this in a very real way by the way I treat others.

Instead of giving the bare minimum to those who come, asking my assistance, I am called to “go the extra mile.”  I can turn away from my other work and listen to them patiently.

As I was writing this post, someone came to the desk where I am working and chatted with me at length.  I had to heed the message I received at Mass and put it into practice, attentively listening to and conversing with her, even though I really didn’t feel like it.

It is my way of attending to Our Lord tangibly today.  I don’t need the hair I gave up when I was received as a novice ten years ago.  Without it, I have multiple opportunities every day.

Grateful for the Friendship of Saint Anthony

20160423_150233.jpgNote: As we approach the feast of a great Franciscan saint, Anthony of Padua, I asked my sister Angie if she could write a post since she has a special devotion to him.  Below is her reflection

~ ~ ~

As a teen, I attended a summer trip with my youth group.  We went from St. Paul to Denver for a Steubenville Conference.

My dad had been having some health troubles and had tests done.  My mom, my three siblings and I went on the trip and he was the only one left at home.  Then, a day or two into the trip, we got the call that tests had turned out positive.  He had cancer and was all alone.

I remember when I heard the news, the color faded from view, my vision went black and white, and the world seemed to go in slow motion.  I went straight to the chapel, knelt down before the Blessed Sacrament and tried to comprehend what it meant.

Would he die?  What would happen to our family?  What would happen to him?  To me?  I also questioned the ‘why’ of it.

As I knelt there, I knew I couldn’t make it through this alone.  I felt distanced from God.  I needed a saint to walk with me.  I had recently been confirmed and chose St. Anthony as my patron saint.  I told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to be my right-hand man throughout all this.  And for good measure, I asked St. Therese to be on my left.

As the pilgrimage progressed, we visited many different churches; our group slept on church floors along the way, celebrated Mass, and toured many different churches.  Each and every one had a statue or stained glass window of St. Anthony and St. Therese right next to each other.  I knew this was a personal sign that they were looking after me and that everything would be okay.

As I reflect on St. Anthony as the saint known for finding things, I realize that sometimes I just need him to find me.  My dad turned out to be okay; my family survived and even grew through the experience.  I’m humbled by the witness and just the company the saints can provide.  I can’t wait to meet St. Anthony face to face someday and thank him for taking the time to walk with that young teenage kid.

angela_neumannAngela Neumann earned her bachelor of arts from the University of St. Thomas in St.Paul, MN in Philosophy and Catholic Studies.  She holds a Masters of Theological Studies from the John Paul II Institute in Washington DC with a Specialization in Marriage and Family.  She is currently work towards a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She has worked extensively for the Church in the Dioceses of St. Paul/Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Bismarck and Fargo, ND, for the USCCB and in Rome.  She is a retreat leader, speaker, youth minister, spiritual director and leader in women’s ministry.  Angela enjoys the great outdoors, and coaching volleyball.

Keeping God on the Streets

Picture1

Veil, crucifix, ring, and written formula of Profession at my first vows (August 11, 2008)

Please don’t take me wrong – I’m not thinking I’m better than anybody else…I am simply reflecting on something that’s been on my heart a little bit after a recent experience.

I was a bit disturbed by something I saw recently, although it is not new to me: I encountered some religious Sisters not wearing their veils.  I have asked myself, “Why should this disturb me?  Why do I react to it interiorly?  Why does it bother me and even weigh on my heart when I see this?”  (In fact, there was a time during my discernment of religious life, in which I did not have my same convictions about this.)

In reflecting and then sharing my thoughts on the matter, I want to clarify that I do not see the religious habit or the veil as a way of saying “I’m better than you.”  I don’t think that at all.  Far from being used to insinuate superiority, if anything, it can be seen as a sign of a servant.  In fact, among the functions of the religious garb, Vita Consecata names its being “a sign…of poverty.”  More importantly, it is a sign of consecration, as this same ecclesial document reminds us.

Wearing a veil tells people something; we don’t have to say a word.   When people see a Sister in her veil, they see a servant, one dedicated entirely to God.  Actually, they are reminded of Christ and see Him.  Wearing our religious garb is a way of “keeping God on the streets.” St. John Paul II shared these sentiments, as is seen in one of his addresses to religious.  He encouraged them (and us):

“Do not hesitate to be recognizable, identifiable, in the streets as men and women who have consecrated their lives to God and who have given up everything worldly to follow Christ. Believe in the value for contemporary men and women of the visible signs of your consecrated lives. People need signs and reminders of God in the modern secular city, which has few reminders of God left. Do not help the trend towards ‘taking God off the streets’ by adopting secular modes of dress and behavior yourselves !”

In researching this issue, I found that Canon Law really has some beautiful reflections to offer for us Religious.  Along with exhorting us that “Religious are to wear the habit of the Institute…as a sign of their consecration and as a testimony of poverty” (Can. 669 section §1), the preceding section offers some beautiful and profound thoughts on this life to which we have been called.

Although I do not want to criticize anyone, I feel that when Sisters do not wear the veil, they are missing out (or rather causing others to miss out).  They are not bearing the witness to Christ which they are called to give.  They are missing an opportunity to remind others of the love of God for all the people they meet “on the streets.”

So, far from being a separating feature or a way of trying to show superiority or anything of that sort, I see the veil very differently.  I see it as a way of helping bring our Lord to all those we encounter.  It also says: “I am a poor servant and am available to you, to pray for you and journey with you.”

As sisters, we have a unique opportunity to bring a reminder of Christ to anyone and everyone we meet.  I pray that more Sisters will realize this and consider wearing the veil, seeing it not as a barrier but as a bridge bringing people closer to God.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Roses for June

Picture1.png

Needwork done by Betty Canavan

June is a beautiful month.  You might call me prejudiced, though, since it’s my birth month.  I have so many fond memories of this time of year, late spring: fragrant lilacs blooming on the bush in our back yard and then making their way to a vase on the kitchen table, the end of the school year, and breezes coming through the house with force enough to slam doors are some of these memories.

June, however, is also known for roses.  In the June issue of our St. Anne’s Newsletter, The Broadcaster, one of our writers shared about the symbolism of the rose.  I’d like to include her findings here.

“In Catholic symbolism, the rose appears many times.  The red rose is a symbol of martyrdom.  The white rose is a symbol of purity (since the earliest years of the church).

St. Ambrose told how the rose came to have thorns.  He related that the rose grew in Paradise without thorns, long before it was ever seen on earth.  It was after the fall of man that the rose grew thorns to remind people of their sinfulness and fall from grace.  God allowed its beauty and aroma to remain in order to remind people of a splendid Paradise.

The Virgin Mary is called ‘A Rose without Thorns’ because she was exempt from original sin.  In Renaissance art works, the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin is represented by a garland of roses.  St. Elizabeth of Hungary is indicated by an apron full of roses, while St. Dorothea of Cappadocia is identified by a basket full of roses and apples.  Wreaths of roses worn by angels and saints indicate heavenly joy.  When the Pope sent a golden rose to people of importance, it represented a special Papal blessing.  This ancient custom dates back as far as Pope Gregory I.

The Glastonbury Rose, or Christmas Rose, is said to have sprouted when Joseph of Arimathea arrived in Briton during the first century and stuck his staff into the ground and it miraculously bloomed.  This rose has become the symbol for the Mother of God and the Infant King, who came to earth to be crowned with thorns as part of His Passion and Death.  The Glastonbury rose has an exquisite flower but it also has the sharpest thorns, like those braided into the Passion crown.  And, since there are no coincidences with God, this special rose blooms just before dawn on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.

Before Joseph of Arimathea sprouted the Glastonbury rose, Christians drew roses that looked like a five-pointed star and made beautiful roses in stained glass windows.  Today, the Glastonbury rose is still replicated in church windows and there is a mystical rose template so that entire quilts can carry on this pattern.” (Betty Canavan)

In thinking of this Christian symbolism of the rose, I was reminded of a poem we read in a college literature class.

I see His Blood upon the Rose
By Joseph Mary Plunkett (1887–1916)

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

An Invitation to Mother-Daughter Days 2016

Picture1.png Looking ahead to the Summer? Think about Mother-Daughter Days at our Convent in Hankinson if you’re looking for some quality mother-daughter time.

We invite mothers with their daughters to spend this time with us to pray, to recreate, to share our meals and to have some spiritual reflection time as well as time for just being together with your daughter(s).

We have had mothers and grandmothers accompany their young girls, from as young as babes- at-the-breast to college age. It is a holy time, as well as a time to meet other mothers and daughters. We have daily Mass, of course, we pray the Divine Office together and we share all our meals in common. We reflect on the beauty of our vocation as religious women and encourage the daughters to pray and be open to whatever vocation God is calling them to serve Him in the Church.

We have overnight accommodations in our retreat center where mothers stay in the same room with their daughters. This year we plan to make a pilgrimage to the Carmelite Monastery nearby where there is a designated Holy Door for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is just 27 miles from Hankinson.

The theme will be “Gracious & Merciful”. The days will focus on the Jubilee Year of Mercy, of course, but also the joys of being a woman!

We do not charge a set fee for this retreat, but rather ask for a free-will donation from participants.

For more information, or to register, please email Sr. Jean Louise: ndfranciscan@yahoo.com.