Among Us, In Our Midst

P1010022.JPGI find myself returning again to the promise of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We heard these touching words again this past Sunday as we celebrated the Ascension.

Yesterday, at the Bible study I lead for our residents, after discussing the past Sunday’s readings, we made an acrostic poem of the words “W I T H  M E  A L W A Y S.”  Together, we came up with words or phrases to correspond to each letter.  This spelled out more specifically the reality of Christ’s presence in our daily lives, at our waking, sleeping, and facing of everyday challenges.

This morning, as we mark the feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the readings remind us of this wonderful promise.  The responsorial psalm concludes with the phrase: “great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!”  The refrain is actually a paraphrase of this.

I feel so blessed that this promise of our Lord of His presence among us continues in my life; it is not just relevant to the ancient Israelites.

He is with me every day…I need to remember that!  I am also reminded here of the beautiful words of Psalm 139, reminding us of God’s presence whether we sit or stand.

He is with me when my alarm goes off and I force my feet to the floor.  He is with me when I struggle to be patient with a challenging individual.  He is with me when I clean house or cut up rhubarb.

He is with us, among us!  After all, He’s the one who enables us to do all these things.  We do all we do because He is in our midst.

On occasion, I can feel this presence in a special way, but I should not forget the reality of it at all the other times.

I need to say thank you for the great gift of His presence in ordinary life!

A Few Little Mix Ups

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

I just got back early this morning from a week’s home visit.  It was a very nice time with my parents during which I also got to visit with some other family and friends.

IMG_0353.JPGThe trip wouldn’t be complete without some Scrabble-playing with my dad, who has the tendency of beating me (about 68% of the time).

During this visit, however, I actually had the “upper hand.”

During our games of Scrabble, the importance of “stir[ring] up the tiles” is stressed.  We try to thoroughly mix the letters before drawing to see who goes first and finally proceeding to draw our remaining letter tiles.

Another recent “mix up” was more of an interior one.  Whether this is normal or not, I’m not sure, but, for me, a week of visiting old friends/family into normal life can leave me feeling a bit befuddled.  (It’s really weird to see a cousin you last saw when he was a high school freshman now in his late twenties, with darker hair and a beard!)

Taking a night train doesn’t contribute in a positive way to alleviating this dishevelment, either!  Thankfully, I was able to sleep pretty well, only waking up occasionally.

I got back to Grand Forks and tried to take a little nap.  My alarm went off, and I hit the ground running.  I had a lot of work to get done before taking over at the front desk at noon!

After getting my prayers and work finished in Chapel, assisting at Mass, and filling in a little at the reception desk, I headed out to our garden, where further mix ups would occur.

I like to put in a little garden with our residents on our west patio.  While I was home visiting, we picked up seeds for beets, peas, cucumbers, peppers, and dill.

pa290024.jpgI used plastic stakes that had been saved from floral arrangements and neatly marked off divisions for planting the different vegetables.  When all was planted, it was time for “pest control.”

Unfortunately, being well-fed by our residents who go out to smoke, the St. Anne’s Squirrels are very tame and uninhibited.

Last year, the messed around with my neatly planted seeds, wreaking havoc until I fenced the raised garden off with chicken wire.  This, however, made tending to the garden very difficult.

This year, I decided to lay the chicken wire on top of the beds, just until the seeds are up. and less in danger of interference from squirrels.  Now, let the little squirrels try to mix up our seeds!

Unfortunately my work with chicken wire required a bit of rearranging, as the stakes that were in place were an obstacle to the protective material.

Despite my attempts at supervision and reminders, there was a “mix up”; the stakes got rearranged and my neat, purposeful grid was unintentionally eliminated.

Other complications, including trying to figure out a watering system, dealing with a mysteriously sore hip, and less than cooperative chicken wire made the experience a little less than pleasurable for me.

In the end, the hose was used, and returned to its place, the chicken wire was cut to fit in place, and the hip got a little ice (more to come later).

I wonder what other “mix ups” I’ll be dealing with as I get back into the groove of work at St. Anne’s.

It’s good for me to remind myself, amidst the mix ups, to keep my eyes on Jesus.  No matter how disheveled this world can be, He’s got it all together and sees through it.

Blossoms, and Breezes, and Lilacs, Oh My!

I love this time of year!!!

cherryblossomsThe trees with their white or pink blossoms, the gentle breezes that tease at one’s hair and skin, and – my favorite – the lilacs!

Yesterday afternoon, I biked over to the grocery store to pick up stamps for Sr. Rebecca, potatoes for our main kitchen, and bananas for Sr. Elaine.  I don’t think much more would have safely fit in my bike basket.  As it was, my steering was affected by the weight of the purchases.

I was more than happy for the outing, however.  Along with the good of being able to help others, I appreciated the pleasures of the outdoors on a gorgeous May afternoon.  There were so many natural beauties which I passed as I rode along.

It surely is great to be alive on such a day!  Few other things in life direct my heart upward in gratitude as effectively as the gift of a beautiful spring day!

lilacs20against20white20apples20and20fence20top20horTo top it all off, when I walked home after a tiring day, my nose was greeted with another gift.  The scent of lilacs (my favorite flowers with sentimental memory value) greeted my nostrils.  It was too dark to see the source of the smell, but it was unmistakably lilacs, a sweet little gift to me as I hastened toward the convent for a much-anticipated appointment with my pillow.

Knots

200px-22johann_georg_schmidtner222c_by_johann_georg_schmidtnerThe other evening I was visiting with one of our Sisters about a difficult situation that continues to plague me.  Sometimes interpersonal relationships can be a challenge!

The particular situation we were discussing has been an ongoing trial and I seem not to be making any headway.

During our conversation, she mentioned that she had been learning more about “Mary, Undoer of Knots” lately.  I remembered that, when I was in Germany last Spring for our Congregation’s special celebration, a Church we had visited had a special connection with this devotion.

To me, this image (of Mary, Undoer of Knots) is a poignant one.  How often we have circumstances that seem like a tangle with which we are powerless!

I actually have a few “knots” I’m facing right now.  Actually, unlike those that just “pop up” in my floss when I’m embroidering, these have been lurking for some time.  Personal knots, I find, can be troubles I face with others or myself.  I just can’t get them out on my own.

I’ve been praying for grace to deal with these issues, but this morning, this prayer took a new angle.

I came across a novena to “Mary, Undoer of Knots” which I’ve now started, seeking Our Lady’s powerful intercession to help me with these troublesome tangles.

Two Simple Words

thankyouLast evening, I worked our reception desk at St. Anne’s until ten.  About a quarter-to, one of the night aides came in, fifteen minutes early for his shift.

I hadn’t had much (if any) interaction with him since this past weekend.  He had been sick and unable to come to work.  No one else was available so I had worked for him Saturday night.

As is customary, I gave a little report of pertinent information for the next shift.  In the course of our little conversation, he said “Thank you for working for me the other night.”

Simple as it may be, this really meant a lot to me.  It was nice to have this acknowledgement.

I am happy to fill in where needed, but I appreciated his kind expression of gratitude.

I reflected a bit upon this; how important gratitude is, how much these two simple words, thank you, can mean.  They are so important.

I think about the preface dialog before the Eucharistic prayer at Mass: “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God…It is right and just”

How much God has done for us; (Immeasurably more than me working one trivial little night shift)!  It is only right, and just, that we should say our thank you to Him.

I think of all the people (including myself) who neglect to say thank you to God, to express our gratitude for all His wonderful gifts.

The way my co-worker’s words so touched my heart last night served as a reminder to me of how I should express my gratitude to God each day.

It is wonderful that we have the opportunity for daily Mass, the Eucharist, which is the great “thanksgiving.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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“Drag Your Fingers.”

PA270021.JPGI still remember my first and only organ lesson.  It was given by Sister Dianna, who herself had been playing organ since her early childhood.

Several years back, I had asked her to give me a little instruction so as to transfer what I knew on the piano and use the organ as well.

We went up to the large, beautiful sounding organ in our chapel and she instructed me on organ technique, telling me to drag my fingers.  With her helpful instruction, I envisioned having weights attached to each of these small extremities.

I also learned a little about the manuals on the decks there.

I am still certainly not an expert on the use of this beautiful instrument, but her instructions were very helpful.

Picture1Sister Dianna certainly helped countless others during her many years of service.  Until the last couple of years, she was still serving at the Community Hospital in Oakes, ND.

Another special connection I have with Sister Dianna, of whose death I just learned, is that her name day is celebrated the day before my birthday.

May she now “make music to your Name, most high” in the courts of heaven.

As we mark the Day of Prayer for Vocations this Good Shepherd Sunday, may she also join us in interceding for more vocations to our Community.

Manna for the Wilderness Journey

Exodus 16 tells the story of the people of Israel being fed in the wilderness.  This event is alluded to in John’s gospel and serves as the backdrop for the Bread of Life discourse which we hear read during this third week of Easter.

This story of Manna, and Jesus’ subsequent teaching is truly fitting for us every day.

Although we don’t live in a middle eastern wilderness, our life can seem like a wandering some time.

As we face struggles, uncertainties, and whatever else may come, we are provided for.  We have our Manna, our daily bread, in the Eucharist.

In writing this post, the hymn, “Shepherd of Souls, Refresh and Bless” comes to mind, in which we are reminded that Christ is our provident shepherd and we are a pilgrim flock in the wilderness of life.

Please join me in giving thanks for the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, in which our Lord provides for our needs with His very self!