Yes, Mother!

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In case you’re new to this blog, I’m Sr. Christina.  I work at St. Anne’s Guest Home, a senior living facility in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Here, I serve in a variety of capacities, including as a receptionist, sacristan, aide, and communications assistant.

That being said…

Recently, I was helping one of our residents who is needing some extra care lately after a bout with the flu.  Helping her dress and looking over her needs, she commented to me that I reminded her of a mother.

At St. Anne’s, we love to tease with each other.  Humor is the spice of life, they say.  Somehow, this lady’s comment  led to her jokingly  using the phrase: “Yes, mother” in a sassy voice.  It has become a joke between us, and I have come to call her “daughter.”

This use of the word ‘mother’ could not fail to remind me of my studies when I was first entering religious life.  I had learned that religious sisters are really to be spiritual mothers.  Surrounded by people who are double my age, I do not usually think of myself as a mother, though.

I had actually recently explained this concept of spiritual motherhood briefly to one of my co-workers who wondered if the sacrifice of not having one’s own children was difficult.

Sr. Elaine, who also works here, has been known to comment on this as well.  She has joked that when she retires she’ll have some prestigious titles relating to her work here, not least among which is simply “MOM.”  Our residents love to come to her with their needs and problems.

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“Take Delight in the LORD”

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St. Angela, from catholic.org

This morning, I arrived in chapel, and after having done a few duties in preparation for Mass, I settled in a pew for my time of prayer.  Conveniently, there are missalettes in each of the pews and I grabbed one to aid my morning meditation.  I like to use the readings of the day, and sometimes will start with the responsorial psalm as its full text is printed in the missalette.  I usually move on from there to the gospel of the day.

This morning, however, I lingered on the psalm for longer than usual.  There was so much there to ponder.  The passage, Psalm 37, exhorts us to “take delight in the Lord.”

This word, delight, caught my interest at this time.  I had just heard it the previous evening.  It had been used in a slightly unusual way. Now, here it was again in the psalm.

I decided to look it up.  Delight, used as a noun here, can be defined as”a high degree of pleasure.”  Inserting this definition into the psalm, we find that we are to take a high degree of pleasure in the Lord, and he will give us our heart’s request.

We are also encouraged:”Commit to the LORD your way; trust in him, and he will act.”  I find this psalm so beautiful, so inspiring.  You might find it a rich source for meditation as well.

I wonder what today’s saint, St. Angela Merici, might have thought of this psalm.  She had her focus on the Lord as she served Him in the young girls who needed her.

I was first introduced to St. Angela many years ago, looking through a saints book.  My sister is named Angela, and I was trying to find information about her.  I saw the illustrated biographical page: “St. Angela, friend of little girls.”  I thought it was perfect for my sister, who was a little girl at the time.

I learned that St. Angela’s feast day is January 27.  Ever since then, I’ve always remembered my sister in a special way this day and prayed especially for her.

May St. Angela pray for us all, that we may delight in and trust our Lord more each day, striving to serve Him as she did.

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“…I Fell to the Ground”

conversion-of-st-paulHave you ever found that God often moves in your life while you’re “falling to the ground”?

“…a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice…”

These words of St. Paul’s, which we’ll hear in the first reading at Mass for the feast of his Conversion, reminded me of one time when I found this opening statement to be very true.

It was July of the summer after my sophomore year of college.  I was taking a geology class to get my lab science requirement out of the way.

I had perceived a vocation to religious life the summer before, but was very hush hush about it.  The only one I had told was my mother, whom I had sworn to silence about the whole matter.  (Keeping an excited mother quiet was definitely a challenge!)

It took an ambulance trip and stay at the hospital to open me up to discussing the matter with anyone else; I was made open and vulnerable by this experience.

Isn’t it too bad that sometimes it takes extenuating circumstances to knock us into shape?  Maybe St. Paul’s experience could inspire us to try to be open to God’s desires for us on a daily basis.  This could actually be a daily prayer intention: for an open heart.  (I do try to open my prayer time with that intention.)

Nature’s Best Mop Cleaner: a lesson learned as a postulant

One afternoon recently, I finished my cleaning duties at our convent and took the dust mop I’d been using outside.

“Outside,” you may ask, “why do that?”  The reason is that I was putting into practice a lesson I learned some years back when I was a postulant in Hankinson, North Dakota.

Although I grew up in Minnesota, surrounded by snow four months out of the year, I had never learned one of the important uses of this white, powdery substance: it serves as an excellent mop cleaner.

Early in my formation in Hankinson, this little trick of cleaning a dust mop in the snow was revealed to me.  (One simply beats the mop out in the snow and shakes the snow out.)

Ever since that time, I have utilized nature’s best mop cleaner when finishing my dust mopping in the winter months.

When spring finally comes and there is no more snow to be found, I’ve been known to lament that “I’ve lost my mop cleaner, now.”

Oh well, that will be a sacrifice I’ll readily make to enjoy some spring weather when it finally comes here to the upper Midwest.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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No Excuses!

Have you ever noticed how certain people just “rub you the wrong way”?  They have a tendency of doing things that get on your nerves.

You even come to expect it of them.

Unfortunately, I’ve gotten into that groove recently myself.  There’s an individual with whom I’ve become accustomed to being annoyed (shame on me, I know!)

This morning, I caught myself.  The individual had done something and I was about to be critical of it.  Then, I asked myself “What should have they done differently?”

I realized that there was nothing different that they should have done.  I had just become accustomed to being annoyed with them.  This comes from many months that helped form a negative mindset.

I might ask myself where the person is question’s responsibility ended and mine began, but that would be a topic for a different discussion.

Recently, I realized that I cannot be making excuses.  Whether or not I like this person and their behaviors, I still am asked to love them.  There are no excuses that exempt me from this call.

On reflection, I’ve also realized that I should not be allowing excuses to keep me from loving in other situations, either.

img_0895Whether I am working at the reception desk or upstairs as an aide, I need to love and respect each person I meet, not letting any excuse stand in the way.

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At the End of the Day, I Lost the Rubber

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Coming home to our convent about 9 o’clock last night, I greeted Sr. Rebecca with the words: “Well, I lost the rubber.”

In case you’re not familiar with the expression, ‘the rubber’ refers to the tie-breaking game.

I had gone upstairs to get someone down for the nurse and had happened to stop in to say good night to one of our other residents.

Haphazardly, not expecting an affirmative response, I had asked him if he wanted to play cards.  He took me up on my offer, and we met in our atrium for some Crazy Eights.   I won the first game and he the second.  The third game, the rubber, distinguished him as as the winner.

This final episode came after quite a full day, one full of strange twists and turns.

In the morning, I got up and dressed for the day.  Stopping by the kitchen, I picked up the bowl with pumpkin which I was thawing to do some baking.

I went over to St. Anne’s, the facility at which I work.  After bringing the bowl to the kitchenette, I headed into chapel.  I started my duties there and had to deal with a mishap which necessitated laundering the top altar cloth.

However, the morning went on.

By mid-morning, another twist came on my day’s path.  Along with the previously assigned shift of p.m. aide work, I would need to do laundry for our residents as well today, a task with which I am not terribly experienced.

By 10 o’clock, I was upstairs collecting laundry.  I had it sorted and the first loads in the washers by the time I needed to be at the reception desk to give a lunch break to a co-worker.

In the back of my mind, I still had that pumpkin which I had thawed and another prepared ingredient waiting for me.  I would rather get the cookies made this afternoon than have to store the ingredients and put it off for the following day.  My time would be limited then as well.

Along with provided much-relished snacks, I do this baking to provide an enjoyable activity for one of our residents.  She thoroughly enjoys baking, helping with laundry, cleaning, and keeping busy in general.

So it was that yesterday, we were able to get four loads of laundry done and 53 cookies baked.

But the day was not over yet!  I still had all the aide work to do.  Due to complications which will not be discussed here, the aide work took quite a bit longer than usual last night, and I was kept busy until nearly 8 o’clock with that.

After this, I did a little work in the office and headed to chapel.  After finishing night prayer, I found that the nurse was still missing one resident.  I went upstairs to do the recruiting, which brings me back to the beginning of my story with the unexpected card games.

Thus it was that I “lost the rubber.”

“Praise Eternal as His Love”

img_0552I got to chapel fairly early this morning to allow time to change the altar cloth and ambo covering back to green.  It has been about six weeks since we last had Ordinary Time!

Before I could remove the white cloths, I had to unpin the decorative gold trim from them.  I left my collection of pins in the sacristy to return to their box in the main office later in the day.  After making the changes, including replacing the white tabernacle veil with a green one, and putting things away in the drawers, I took a seat in a chapel pew.

During my time of prayer, I happened to look up and see the sanctuary light still burning near the tabernacle.  I had lit it the other evening but had done nothing with it since then.  Yet, the flame was still burning, reminding me of Christ’s continuous presence there.

The little flame continued to burn, praising His Eucharistic presence.

For some reason, this reminded me of some words from a familiar hymn: “praise eternal as His love.”

The little flame, you might say, was constant in its praise.  I thought about this and was reminded: His love, too, is constant.  He does not leave us.

Near the end of Mass, the priest puts any remaining hosts in the tabernacle and turns the key.  He need do nothing more.  Jesus remains there.

His love is constant; it is  eternal.

 

 

With the Best of Wheat He Fills You

1d68be7We got to pray one of my favorite psalms twice today!

Our third psalm for morning prayer was Psalm 147, at Mass, we echoed the words “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.”

I think this psalm is so beautiful; its poetic language and images touch my heart every time I come across it.

The excitement and happiness of the psalmist shine through the ancient words.

My favorite one, with its beautiful prefiguring of the Eucharist, is “with the best of wheat he fills you.”

Truly, each day, we are able to receive the best, Jesus Himself, when we go to Communion.

This daily gift fulfills to overflowing all that this psalm could ever hope for.

Read the words for yourself in this light, and see if they don’t touch your heart as well.

PS 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

“Follow[ing] the Lamb” Day by Day

ws_Beach_and_Palm_1920x1200.jpgIt seems a repeated question or point of interest people have regarding religious life is about what a typical day is life for us.

In today’s gospel, we hear about Andrew and Peter spending the day with Jesus.  Actually, this would be the first of many.  This passage, in which John the Baptist points out “the Lamb of God” to these Apostles reminds me, too, of a verse which is often alluded to in regard to religious life: Revelation 14:4 refers to those who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”

Like the early Apostles, we as Christians, and especially as religious Sisters, are to follow Jesus on a daily basis.

So, back to a typical day, right?

For me, there is no real ‘typical’ day.  Each day is different.  I work different shifts and different things come up.  Nonetheless, I’ll try to illustrate what one typical day might look like.  I hope you don’t get bored with details…

Regardless of the work schedule, I usually start the day in chapel.  It is important for me to spend that time beholding the Lamb, as the Baptist instructs.

The Constitutions for our Congregation direct us to daily spend one half hour in meditation and another half hour in other private prayer.  I try to start off my day with this, although sometimes I run out of time and have to finish up later.  Such was the case this morning.  We take turns leading prayer and picking songs for Mass, so this week I had to get a breviary ready for a visitor who would be praying with us.  After morning prayer, I needed to make preparations in chapel for Mass before grabbing breakfast and coming to work at the front desk.

Today, my reception desk shift lasts until noon.  During this time, I’ve done some more office work and also worked on embroidering a dish towel for sale.

After lunch, I will have a chance to finish up on my curtailed prayers from this morning before “Reading Hour.”  Twice a week, I read a story book aloud to our residents.  At present, we are enjoying Christmas stories.

I’m not quite sure what the rest of the afternoon will hold.  I hope to take some residents around on an “indoor walk” later.  Then, at 5 p.m., I will give the receptionist her supper break.

We eat supper at 5:30 p.m., followed by evening prayer together in chapel. This will be my first night off since last Thursday from doing aide work.

Hopefully, this evening, we’ll be able to get together for our semi-weekly spiritual book discussion.

Usually, there are some complications that work their way in too, as I spend my day striving to “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”

I can only pray that I follow Him a little more closely and faithfully with each passing day…be it typical or not.