So You Mean I Can’t Run?

IMG_0896.JPGLast evening, I was working again at the front desk here at St. Anne’s.  One of our residents went outside for one final cigarette for the night.  When he came back in, I asked how the weather was out there.

As the conversation progressed, he ended up warning me to be careful coming over in the morning as the sidewalks might become slippery if the moisture continued and froze.  I asked him, in fun, “So you mean I can’t run?”  (I have been known around here for the rapidity of my foot and leg movements.)

Even though late November can be a bit perilous for fast footwork, we hear various references to running during the days leading up to Christmas.

To start with, there’s the story of the gingerbread man which our mothers read to us as children: “Run, run, as fast as you can; you can’t catch me: I’m the gingerbread man.”

On a more serious note, during Advent, we are not only exhorted to be prepared, but to carry out an active role.  Aren’t we supposed to “run out to meet” the Bridegroom when He comes to us?  (I believe there are seasonal hymns/antiphons which allude to this.)

And, when does He come to us?  When should we run out to Him?  Every day!

There are so many moments in our daily lives when we can “run out to meet Him.”  In approaching every person we have the opportunity to serve, in carrying out our daily duties, we can run out to Him.

There is a certain enthusiasm appropriate to living the Gospel.  In whatever I am called to do at a given moment, I pray for the grace to “run to Jesus,” to live His love enthusiastically.

For some reason, a prayer by my confirmation saint, St. Therese, comes to mind: “My God ‘I choose all!’ I don’t want to be a saint by halves, I’m not afraid to suffer for You, I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for ‘I choose all’ that You will!”


Seasonal Struggles…Observing Advent

Advent is just around the corner!
img_0896This morning, I had to go to the basement to help unload boxes of donated items we’ll be putting on our rummage sale.  Then, I remembered: “I have to get the stand up for the advent wreath!”

I did this and returned to first floor in time to set up in chapel for our 9 a.m. Mass.

Afterword, when giving the receptionist her morning break, I could hear, of all things, Christmas music!

You might call me a bit of a ‘scrooge,’ I guess, but one thing that gets on my nerves every year is our society’s inability to WAIT!

We have Christmas movies, Christmas music, Christmas sales well over a month before the REAL Christmas season actually begins.

To me, it is so difficult to truly observe Advent, to wait and prepare for the joy of Christ’s coming.  I so wish our culture would practice a little patience so I could more easily and peacefully practice the time of Advent waiting.

Last year, I published a little poem in our newsletter here at St. Anne’s, articulating some of these sentiments.  I hope you enjoy it:

Carolers come and carolers go;
visitors track in ice and snow.
They’re trying to bring us all good cheer
during this special time of year.

We have activities like ‘Santa Races,’
see Christmas décor in various spaces;
There’s parties and plentiful goodies to spare
as ‘Season’s Greetings’ many do share.

Amidst these busy, bustling scenes,
many forget what Advent means:
that it is, in fact, a time to wait
and prepare to celebrate.

While some have Christmas in mid-November,
Let us all, ourselves, remember
To make our hearts ready during this season
For our Lord’s coming, which is its real reason.

Let us make room for Him to come in,
and as our Advent does begin,
let’s share His love with each person we see
and prepare for His nativity.

A Neumann Family Thanksgiving

img_0896“Come on, girl-squeaks —it’s time to get up for Church!”  My dad’s voice brought my sister Angie and me from dreamland to the reality of a Thanksgiving morning.  This morning summons was just the beginning of a whole day of set traditions which made my family’s Thanksgiving observance what it was.  These special traditions helped make it a day with a special place in our hearts.

Although it was not Sunday and strictly required, my parents invited us to join them for Mass on this special morning; it was considered a fitting gesture of “thanksgiving” on this so-named holiday.  A five-minute drive down residential streets and past now-barren trees would bring us to St. Joseph’s Church.  Mass would include the singing of well-known songs like “Now Thank We All Our God” and “America the Beautiful.”   On the way home, or at some point in the morning, my dad would be sure to stop by our neighboring ponds to “check the ice.”  By this time of year, the water would be at least partially frozen, and Dad would see if it was ready to bear full body weight yet.

IMG_0896.JPGFor Angie and me, the day just wouldn’t be complete without a skirmish over the newspaper.  Someone, likely my dad, would retrieve the paper from the small green bin where it had been placed by the deliverer earlier that morning.  Each Thanksgiving, the Minneapolis Star Tribune prints a full-page coloring page entitled: “Oh, You Turkey,” the subject of a contest with winners in different age brackets.  Even after I exceeded the maximum contestant age, I still enjoyed coloring “Tom” as did my sister although I don’t think either of us ever entered the contest.  Angie usually won the battle for this rather-complex outline drawing.  Thankfully, my grandpa would supply me with his copy later in the day.

I don’t remember details about breakfast, but I don’t think it was a high priority in light of the coming feast.  The “Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade” was on TV, but we could take it or leave it: it wasn’t a necessity for our Turkey Day.  One necessity before leaving was preparing the buns.  My mom was in charge of supplying these homemade favorites for gatherings with the Neumann family.

It was to be a perennial assumption that my uncle Randy and aunt Jane (my dad’s brother and sister-in-law) would host the meal.  We weren’t supposed to even ask; it was taken for granted.  My aunt Jane, a Wisconsinite and Green Bay Packer fan, was the excellent hostess year after year.  She made her pies in advance and froze them.  She didn’t have to peel potatoes that day, either, since she was allergic to them.  Consequently, Thanksgiving morning, my uncle and cousins Andrea and Nick were responsible for peeling the spuds for the Neumann crew.  This was all done and the turkey long ago in the oven by the time we arrived around midday.

The group gathered would include my paternal grandparents, their four sons, and their families.  While waiting for the meal, some family members helped themselves to beverages from the counter island, including various pop and the ingredients for “screwdrivers” (orange juice and vodka).  Besides turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing, and corn, we Neumann cousins especially enjoyed the relish trays which garnished the tables on that feast day.  Pickles and black olives were the sure way to win a kid’s heart.  One year, my aunt Nancy impressed us greatly by bringing along a very large can of black olives.

At the time designated by our hostess, grace was prayed and we enjoyed a delicious meal and time of visiting together.  Jane prudently did not serve pie until a while after the main meal.  She had a number of options to choose from, like pumpkin, apple, and blueberry.  After the dining area was cleared from the many dishes, another table was greatly utilized: the poker table in the basement.  For the men, much of the afternoon was spent playing poker for small change and watching football games.  Since our aunt Jane was a “Packer backer,” the football discussions could be rather controversial.  (The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are archenemies.)

While some watched sporting events, others of us would go out for a long walk.  When the weather was nice we had another thing to be thankful for on this day of gratitude.  On returning to Randy and Jane’s, our mind’s would turn to the upcoming Christmas season.  We were always supposed to bring our Christmas wish lists to share with the aunts and uncles.  The ladies in the family enjoyed looking over the numerous ads in the paper for upcoming sales.

By early evening, the poker players / football watchers had developed a little appetite.  They would offer their younger relatives tips in exchange for delivering turkey sandwiches (made from leftover poultry on my mom’s homemade buns).  By five o’clock, or so, we would load up and head home in our Dodge Caravan.  Actually, to be accurate, an exchange was made; my sister Angie would stay behind at Randy and Jane’s and our cousin Nick would come with us to West St. Paul.  Angie and Andrea were about the same age and Nick was a little younger.  The next morning, Angie and Andrea would enjoy leftover pie for breakfast before the family came to Menard’s in West St. Paul.  In conjunction with this Christmas tree-buying expedition, Randy would return the children to their proper families.

One year, Thanksgiving took a little different twist.  We cousins had a mock-court case.  We accused my cousin Bill of stealing twenty turkeys.  My mom was the defense attorney and Angie was the prosecutor.  Nick, who was seven at the time, was called to testify and his honesty was questioned.  My grandpa, the epitome of wisdom and integrity served as judge and swore witnesses in using a handy dictionary.  In preparation for the case, some of us cousins spend a lot of time combing over details of the prosecution.  We thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, so much so that we had a second case at Christmas that year.  Poor Bill received sympathy, though, from the jurors, and was acquitted.

It has been some years since I have spent Thanksgiving in Minneapolis, so the details are not all as clear as they once were.  However, I am still very grateful for the wonderful times and special memories I have from these traditions.  I hope that, throughout the year, not just at Thanksgiving, I can remember often to be grateful, mindful of the exhortation in our Franciscan Rule: “Let them always give thanks to Him from whom we receive all good.”  (Third Order Rule, #32)

Remembering My First Thanksgiving

I come from a family with very distinct Thanksgiving traditions:

We always went to a certain aunt and uncle’s house in South Minneapolis and carried out several other heartwarming, yet predictable traditions.  The customs were so predictable that I actually wrote a “process analysis essay” about my family’s Thanksgiving Day’s activities my freshman year in college.  From my dad waking us for Mass to ‘give thanks’ to racing my sister for the newspaper for a chance to color the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Tom Turkey, the day was full of joy and excitement!

That being said, let’s jump ahead to my first fall with the Sisters…

img_0552Sr. Sara Marie, who would become my postulant directress, heard from me that one of our customs was checking the ice on nearby ponds.  To make my first Thanksgiving experience “in the convent” more home-like, and to have a little fun, she had me pose for a picture, broom in hand, “checking the ice” on the little fishpond, to see if it was completely frozen.

Later in the day, we decided to do some baking.  About a month earlier we had carved jack-o-lanterns together to decorate the convent.  Now we were going to make a pumpkin dessert, complete with homemade graham cracker crust.

We were working in the convent bakery.  I had dutifully crushed up some graham crackers and had them in a bowl.  When I set the bowl down on the table (which, to my credit, was quite slippery), the bowl slid onto the floor.

What a mess!!!  To make matters worse, there was a black rubber mat with circular holes on the floor nearby.  Crumbs littered the bakery floor, including between these holes.

Kindly, Sr. Sara Marie got out the Shop-Vac for me.  I proceeded to hook up the hose to the mechanism and turn it on.  I, however, was not used to using that machine and put the hose in the “blow” instead of the “suck” end.  Consequently, as you may imagine, the graham cracker crumbs were blown even more in all directions.

Poor Sr. Sara Marie!  What a clumsy Affiliate she had to deal with!!!  (This wasn’t the first of my humiliating adventures in Hankinson.)

As the years have gone by, different traditions have materialized for me.  Spending the school years during my novitiate and first year in profession in Rugby, I joined my Sisters in travelling “to Grandmother’s House” ever year.

You’ll remember that St. Anne was Jesus’ grandmother.  Thus, we referred to St. Anne’s Guest Home, where we spent the Thanksgiving Holiday with our Sisters, as “Grandmother’s House.”

Now, I have been serving at St. Anne’s, myself, for quite some time, and our Sisters from Rugby continue to grace us with their presence at Thanksgiving, according to Tradition.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF


Congratulations, Sister Mary Ruth!

What a blessed couple of days we’ve had!

On Sunday morning, we traveled to Hankinson, ND, for Sr. M. Ruth’s perpetual profession!  It was wonderful to witness our Sister (my former classmate as she is three+ years behind me)’s special moment!

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(Pictures may also be viewed here.)

We spent the night there and had a semi-annual community meeting yesterday morning.

The funeral Mass for Sr. Genevieve (my former novice mistress) was today.  Having work duties back at St. Anne’s, we came back here in the meantime and returned to Hankinson this morning.

Please join me in congratulating Sr. Mary Ruth on this wonderful occasion!

Praying with the Scriptures

LFS-motto-300x225.jpgI help out with the local Secular Franciscan fraternity that meets here at St. Anne’s.

Recently, someone from their regional leadership emailed some materials to us about praying with scriptures in the Franciscan tradition, wanting us to encourage our local members to utilize this type of prayer.

Consequently, I made up a little handout, adapting material from something I have given out previously at our residents’ Bible study.  It is a simple way of prayer which I learned during my college years and which I still use.

To me, it is so important just to sit and take time to listen to Jesus speaking to us in the gospels.

I thought I would take this opportunity to encourage readers to do so and to offer some helpful, simple steps (please see below).

~ ~ ~


Pick out a Scripture passage (the gospel of the day is a good choice.)

Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance.  It is difficult to launch into prayer from the midst of a flurry of distracting occupations so take a minute – call to mind that Jesus is with you (in the Blessed Sacrament/in your heart).


Read a small section of scripture that you’ve chosen slowly and prayerfully.


Who is pictured here? What are they doing? What does it mean to me? How do they feel/what would it be like?

Imagine what it would be like to be there.  What would you do?  How would you feel?

Conversation:  Begin to talk slowly to Christ, telling Him of your love for Him, your desire to serve Him, your willingness to do anything for Him. Adore Christ in the scene of the day’s meditation; express your love for Him; thank Him for past gifts; ask Him for new favors in the future;   When the conversation begins to falter, return briefly to the reading to get new thoughts for additional conversation with Christ.


This is entirely optional; but it may be of great value in making progress in prayer.  Thank God for the graces received during the time of prayer now coming to a conclusion.  Then, very briefly, one might examine his failings during the period, and promise to get rid of these in the future.  This determination to hold better conversation with Christ gives a strong determination to make further strides along the road of prayer.

Three Hail Marys

p1010009Little did I know when I was in high school and began praying three Hail Marys daily the significance it would have.

For starters, I had no idea that this practice which I heard of had Franciscan roots, dating back to St. Anthony of Padua, and that I would later be a member of a Franciscan congregation in which I would continue this practice.

Interestingly enough, it is noted that the Franciscans practiced this and it developed into the Angelus.

The “three Hail Marys,” encouraged by this finder of lost items and other saints (like St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. John Bosco and St. Leonard of Port Maurice, St. Mechtilde, St. Gertrude,  and St. Bonaventure), has been offered to honor Our Lady’s purity and to petition her for aid in “preserv[ing] a perfect purity of mind, heart and body in the midst of the dangers of the world.”

Different variations in intentions have been offered, including the grace to avoid mortal sin and the grace to know and follow one’s vocation.   (I think these are very fitting: Mary was free from sin and is a powerful intercessor.  She, after all, was instrumental in the first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana.)

My practice of “the three Hail Marys,” too, has evolved over time.  For several years now, I have been praying three Hail Marys for quite different intentions as well: one for each of my formation directresses.

IMG_0931In fact, the reason I thought of covering this devotional practices is that my novice mistress, Sr. Genevieve, for whom I have been praying one of these daily Hail Marys, died this past Sunday.

Despite the separation of death, I see no reason that I should not continue my daily prayer for her; if she doesn’t need it anymore, someone else can surely use it!

National Vocation Awareness Week…to make You known and loved

As we are about to begin National Vocations Awareness Week, I thought I would “re-blog” this post from last year.

Our Franciscan Fiat

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

3rd gradeWhen I was still in grade school and attended Mass at St. Joe’s in West St. Paul, MN, we started using the “Archdiocesan Prayer for Vocations” at Mass.

This week’s National Vocation Awareness Week reminded me of this custom.  The prayer goes as follows:

O God, we earnestly ask You to bless this archdiocese with many priests, Brothers, and Sisters who will love You with their whole strength and gladly spend their entire lives to serve your Church and to make You known and loved.  Bless our families, bless our children. Choose from our homes those needed for your work.  Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us, pray for our priests, Religious, and deacons. Obtain for us many more.

It is interesting for me to look back on this.  I can remember standing in church, next to my dad, and reading the words to…

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Inspired Again by Music

listen 014.JPGMaybe I’m biased (as an organist), but I have been noticing lately how very valuable and inspiring sacred music can be.  In fact, last evening, I was again touched and lifted up by a Holy Hour at the Newman Center during which music led us deeper in to prayer and quiet recollection.

I know I just wrote about another piece of music, but please bear with me – I’m going to do it again.

This morning at Mass, we sang a familiar hymn, The Church’s One Foundation.  It was the second verse that struck me (especially the phrases I’ve bolded):

Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth;
her charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.

It is beautiful to think of us all “blessing” the holy name of Jesus.  We also pray for Christian unity, that we could all partake together of the “one holy food” of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Although we as Christians have our differences and divisions, it is wonderful to think of the “one Lord, one faith, one birth” we hold in common.  Even this song reminds us of our unity, as it is shared across lines of denominations.

If you’re interested you can read my reflection on music published this past September on The Catholic Stand.

What a Friend We Have…


This evening, at table, as we were praying the Angelus before supper, I felt some worries weighing upon me.  I had (and still do for that matter) A LOT of pumpkin to process.  There just don’t seem to be enough days in the week to get everything done this time of year.I didn’t know if and when we’d be able to have Mass tomorrow.  (the Mass schedule has become my responsibility.)

Before I let my worries carry me off too far, words from a song we had used at Bible study this morning came back to admonish me:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

In this ecumenical Bible study, which I lead for our residents, we use a variety of hymns from both Catholic and protestant faith traditions.  I have printed several on overhead transparencies.  It is neat to sing along with our residents.  I’ve even shared a few I knew from our youth group back home.  They have caught on quite nicely

The above-mentioned hymn, which I was not familiar with growing up, really has a lot to tell us.  It spoke to me tonight.

Rather than worrying about how I was going to get all the pumpkin cut and cooked up and what was going to happen regarding tomorrow’s Mass, I should be simply bringing it to Jesus.

~ ~ ~

As it turns out, I found a priest for tomorrow’s Mass and one of our cooks is interested in taking some of the pumpkin off my hands.