20171204_152200I just returned from a weekend away, attending the winter retreat for my home parish’s youth group before spending a day or two with my folks.

It was a wonderful time and I am so grateful for the opportunity to get away, take part in this nice event, and spend time with my family.

As I remarked to someone earlier today, February may be a short month, but it sure gets to be long!  Will spring ever come?  After so many weeks of winter drudgery, it was wonderful to have a break.  (I’ll admit to feeling a bit selfish in offering to come on the weekend since I had ulterior motives for my own mental health.)

On the weekend, the youth director kind of made fun of me for the unusual prayer request I made prior to the retreat;  I had asked her for prayers that the travel arrangements would go smoothly.

Not being able to drive (due to limited vision) tends to make travel interesting, I must say.

This evening, having returned to work and taking care of assigned tasks, I again prayed for “smoothness.”  I asked that things go smoothly and without any troubles as I once again took up my aide work.   I would be just fine with an easy night, without any plugged toilets, leaking catheters, or rowdy residents.

I was up for a smooth transition back into daily life after a wonderful, smooth trip.

My prayers were answered beautifully, again.

As I write this, a scriptural passage comes to mind, however, as a gentle reminder.  Especially during Lent, we hear that we must take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.

I guess this all serves as a reminder to be grateful for whatever comes, whether it be an opportunity to bear the cross with Him or a smooth stretch of road that I need to make it through a tough winter.



20171204_152200.jpgLast evening, after a day of receptionist duties and baking, it might have been nice to just “go home, sit down, and look pretty” (as Sr. Elaine sometimes says).

However, this was not to be. 😦  This ‘recreation night’ would be different from the normal connotations related to that name.  (Wednesdays and Sundays are designated as such in our convent.)

We were (are) expecting company Friday evening; our sisters from Rugby are coming through on their way to a conference in Fargo.

This is good; we are always glad to see them.  However, this time it necessitated a bit of work besides the customary dusting and vacuuming that precedes their visits.

This time, beds had to be rearranged.  The mattress that had been in one of the guest rooms was a bit short in length.   A longer one would be much more conducive to a good night’s sleep for a sister who is not vertically challenged.

So it was that Sr. Rebecca and I set about the work of moving bed frames and mattressess from one room to another.  We had to tilt one to make it through the narrow door frame.  Another was very heavy and difficult to maneuver.

By the time Sr. Elaine got home, we were almost done.  She was in time, though, to help with the last move.

Today, if someone were to ask “What did you do for recreation last night,” I would have to reply: “Well, we moved beds around, for starters!”

What an odd way to relax and build community after a day’s work! 🙂

“One Day at a Time” afternoon, I headed out of chapel.  I had finished up the prayer time missed by my inability to get out of bed promptly earlier this morning.  (Winter fatigue had gotten the better of me, I guess.)

I had also cleaned about 20 votive candle holders there.  (This had not been done yet today, some people had obviously been busy with matches over the past hours.)

As I walked down the hall, I remembered another item on my ‘to do’ list: figuring out a song on the organ for Chuck.

Our bookkeeper, who also plays accordion and organizes monthly dances for our residents, was preparing music for tomorrow’s event here at St. Anne’s.  Since it is Lent, he was trying to incorporate a bit of religious music into the mix.

He had picked “Just a Closer Walk” and “One Day at a Time.”  However, he was not happy with the musical arrangement he had for the latter piece.  I had offered to figure it out for him, in hopes that he would like what I came up with better.  (I am very familiar with it from hearing my mom’s Christy Lane tape over the years.)

So, I sat down at the library organ, used frequently by one of residents, and began picking out the melody.  With a little work, I got it worked out.

Although Chuck decided not to use the piece after all, the words of the song strike me as very appropriate for my Lenten journey this year.

I’ve come to a conclusion of a couple of practices I would do well to undertake especially at this time.  However, I know that I won’t be able to keep it up for 40 days (well, I guess it’s really 38 now with liturgical reforms 🙂 ).  I have been realizing, lately, that I need to heed the words of this song; I need to turn to Jesus each day, asking His strength to live and serve “one day at a time.”

I need to depend on His strength, not my own.  I pray I may remember this each day (and many times throughout) of this Lenten season.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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Veni Sancte Spiritus

I know it’s not a particularly Lenten prayer, but I have been trying to say the Veni Sancte Spiritus every day in preparation for our community’s upcoming “chapters.”

In case you’re not familiar with this use of the word, a “chapter” in the context of a religious community, is an assembly or meeting.  We will soon be electing (in early April) new Sisters to serve in administration (leadership).  They will serve a six-year term.

I think our Sisters in Rugby are one step ahead of me, as they have the established custom of praying the Veni Sancte Spiritus together on their way over to school in the morning.

Now is a very important time for us to be praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

I thought I would take this opportunity to share this beautiful, time-honored prayer with you, and to encourage you to make it part of your own prayer life.  It dpes, in fact, have a special place in the Church’s prayer, being sung on Pentecost as well as when the cardinals enter the chapel to elect a new pope.

I would also like to ask for your prayers for us as we enter into a special time of discernment and transition for the future of our community here in North Dakota.

Please pray with me:

Holy Spirit, Lord of Light,
From Thy clear celestial height,
Thy pure beaming radiance give:

Come, Thou Father of the poor!
Come, with treasures which endure!
Come, Thou Light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Visiting the troubled breast,
Dost refreshing peace bestow;

Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal! Light divine!
Visit Thou these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill;

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on those who ever more,
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gitfs descend:

Give them comfort when they die,
Give them life with Thee on high;
Give them joys that never end. 


20170912_170353.jpgLent is almost upon us!  It is a time of conversion, a time of sacrifice, a time for growth.  Might we even say: a time for transformation?

As a sacristan, the days leading up to Lent are a time of transformation on a physical, tangible level.  I have to prepare our chapel for this beautiful, grace-filled season in which our hearts are to be prepared for Easter.

One transformation which takes place is burning of last year’s palms to make ashes for tomorrow’s observance.  Suffice it to say that yesterday morning this process involved complications that I am not eager to repeat.  (The 1968 hit song “Ring of Fire” was sung in my honor by one of my co-workers.)  Lent is a good time to grow in humility, so I guess I got a jump start.

I also just got done taking the poinsettias out of chapel.  They are still there from Christmas.  (Maybe, we can save one or two white ones for St. Joseph’s Day.)

Another change inherent in the beginning of Lent here is the changing of missalettes.  New ones start tomorrow.  Before Mass I had to find and bring out the boxes of new missalettes to be distributed.

Furthermore, the altar cloths will have to be changed to violet.  As I put away the green chalice veil after Mass this morning, I commented to Father that we won’t be needing this until May or June.

Our large violet altar cloth is currently hanging over the table in the little private dining room (which is not used that much).  It is my hope the wrinkles will be diminished by this which will minimize the needed ironing.

Amidst these exteriors, I am praying for the grace to make a good Lent and for guidance to know what I should do to expedite the transformation process.  Like last year’s palms and our chapel, I pray that I may be transformed more and more into what God wants me to be.

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“…And Deserving of All My Love”

IMG_20171220_124731Last night before “crawling in,” when I knelt at my bedside to make an act of contrition (a custom I have observed for years), one phrase struck me: “deserving of all my love.”

Our society doesn’t like to recognize this fact that God deserves our love.  It is reluctant to even acknowledge His existence, much less the debt of gratitude and love we owe Him.

This attitude of “ingratitude” and indifference, unfortunately, creeps in to influence our own personal dispositions.

So it was that last night these words spoke to me and cast light into my own blindness and indifference.

Although I pray and try to do what is right, I don’t often give thought to the reality of God’s goodness and how He deserves ALL my love.

Living in modern society, I have come to take things for granted, forgetting that every breath I take is a gift from God to whom I owe each moment of my existence.  All the good things I experience each day should be occasions for me to say “thank you.”  If only I’d remember where they came from and not assume they are a part of life that is owed to me!

I would do well to think about this more throughout the day; I should be mindful of how good God is to me and remember His presence, seeking His help.  If I do so, I will surely be better off; I will be better prepared to resist temptation.

I pray for the grace to remember that He who is “all good and deserving of all my love” is with me, ready to help me.  This will bring me to more easily turn to Him and away from those actions and things not befitting of one of his disciples.

The short psalm in this morning’s Liturgy of the Hours reminded me that “strong is his love for us.”  St. John has pointed out, too, in one of his epistles, that “in this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us…”

As we approach February 14th (the holiday for lovers and the beginning of Lent), may I be more conscious of this love.  May I gratefully return it in my daily life.

Third One’s the Charm?

Recently, we received one and then another obituary for our Sisters from Germany.  We had not begun our week of prayers for the first one before receiving notice that a second Sister had died.  By that time, two of my Sisters here were already thinking about packing for their little trip to Baudette, MN for a board meeting there Monday evening.

Also, over the coming weekend, would would not all be together for evening prayer.

Thus, Tuesday evening was chosen as the day to start praying Psalm 130 (“Out of the Depths…”) for the two recently deceased Sisters, along with the little prayer we offer afterword.  It was the first night that we would all be together.

More than once, Sr. Rebecca has advocated that it doesn’t hurt to wait a day or two because we often have multiple deaths within a short time-frame.  This morbid mind-frame was fitting this time, I guess.

In fact, I’ve even heard it said that death’s often come in threes.

This morning, after coming to work at the front desk, dealing with a fire alarm, and counting the weekly donations for votive candles, I turned on the computer to check the email here.

Low and behold, yet ANOTHER Sister had died; we just started the week of prayer for the other two last night!

Meaning no disrespect for the dead, might I say I hope the “third one’s the charm.”

Never Too Old to Learn!

I can still remember my mom quoting her father as saying: “The day you stop learning is the day you die.”  Actually, I don’t think you even stop then.

The truth of these words hit me again today as I prepared to bake with our ladies.  (Therapeutic baking with our residents has become a bit of a hobby for me.)

This morning, I found a bag of chocolate truffles in the employee break room.  Delicious as they were, I noticed that they were also getting a bit soft.  By the end of the night, what was left might end up in the garbage.

I also remembered noticing recently that there was an unopened bag of marshmallows in the activity room kitchen cabinet.  These, too, could stand to get used before they had to be tossed.  (They were probably left over from some special activity.)

27655294_1774206615952552_4203884654745786480_nAlthough I hadn’t been planning on “baking with my ladies” this weekend, the above-mentioned ingredients compelled me to do so.

What could I make with chocolate and marshmallows?  Some sort of bar?  Well, how about marshmallow brownies?  There’s got to be such a thing out there.

Thanks to Google, I found multiple recipes for this desired dessert.  I also discussed the matter with one of my co-workers who shared her experiences.  After comparing a few recipes that best matched my needs, I jotted down a list of ingredients and instructions.

I have not often made brownies from scratch, not to mention marshmallow ones, but “you’re never too old to learn,” right?

I wasn’t sure how it would all “pan out,” but followed directions and had the help of three willing ladies who enjoyed mixing, pouring, and spreading our fudgey concoction.  (One lady cut up thee truffles and stirred them as I had them melting in a saucepan on the stove before the main baking event.)

We topped the pan off with a bag of Heath bits that I also had on hand.


Not much left of our brownies

I don’t know if I’ll ever have occasion again to make marshmallow truffle brownies, but it certainly was an interesting learning experience and one that made the day a brighter one for our residents.

I thank God for all the gifts he gives, sometimes evident even in leftovers.  He lets us share the joy of being creative and learning new things!

Celebrating More Than Just a Groundhog

This special day has come around again.

Our Franciscan Fiat

candles2What is February 2nd known for?  In secular society, it’s ‘Groundhog’s Day.’  While there’s nothing wrong with remembering this little rodent and speculating on whether or not he’ll see his silhouette created by the sun, I’d invite us to go a little deeper.

While the sun is a beautiful thing, and certainly necessary for life, February 2nd is an invitation for us to remember the true Light.  While our friend Punxsutawney Phil sneaks out of his hole to see what he can see, the Church celebrates a truly luminous event, the Presentation of Our Lord in the temple, according to Jewish custom, forty days after His birth.

On this day, the Church also observes the custom of blessing the candles to be used for the year.  In our small chapel at St. Anne’s, Fr. Greg Haman (from St. Michael’s Church) did this at our morning Mass.  Everyone attending was enabled to…

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