Triduum Traditions

300px-grace_cathedral_-_votive_rackThese upcoming days of the Paschal Tridium are a very special time.  For me, they are not an easy time, but they are a wondrous time.  They are full of traditions…traditions common to the Church throughout the world, traditions I brought from home, and traditions I have developed personally during my time here at St. Anne’s.

Before entering into this time of silence (a tradition within our community), I thought I’d share these traditions with you.  Many of them relate to my work in chapel.  Sr. Rebecca and I have developed a ‘cheat sheet’ with detailed instructions on preparations needed for the liturgies.

One tradition that has come about for me, personally, is ironing the ‘curtains’ for the Altar of Repose (where the Blessed Sacrament is kept Holy Thursday evening.  They are made of delicate gold fabric and take special attention to iron.  I ironed them Monday morning because I had more time then than I would later in the week.  They are now in their own place of repose (in an empty room upstairs) until I bring them out tomorrow morning.

Another tradition I have developed is making Hot Cross Buns for our residents.  This afternoon, one of our apartment ladies helped me make them.  Actually, she is a more experienced baker than I am.  We will serve them tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow morning, I will, according to tradition, remove the vigil light candle stand from the chapel for cleaning.  (The Altar of Repose is placed where it usually stands.)

Sometime in the next couple of days, I will clean the stand, bake the candle holders and clean out the wax.  It’s tradition.

Another practice I have come to associate with these Holy Days is polishing the wood in the chapel and sanctuary.  Without exposition during the Tridium, we have less visitors.  There are long periods of time available to me to do this and other cleaning which cannot be done as easily other times.

Another tradition, which I knew as a child, has come into use again for me recently, after several years of not being involved in it.  That is, dyeing Easter eggs.  I plan on doing this with a few of our residents Holy Saturday afternoon.

That same day, the Easter lilies will go into chapel; I have traditionally been helping prepare them for this.

As you can gather from reading the above, this is a busy time for me.  Not to mention all the liturgical preparations and planning involved.

Please pray for me.

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On a Busy Palm Saturday, Why Bother?

P3090035After a busy day, working at the front desk, reading to our residents, serving snacks, and setting up in Chapel for tomorrow’s Palm Sunday, I trudged the ten blocks to St. Michael’s Church.  The roads weren’t exactly clean and easy to traverse; last night’s snow fall had not helped.

I had left behind one of our residents who was busy taking the extra strings off the palms to clean them up for the morning.  She thrives on keeping busy, and this was a good job for her.

I arrived in the Church two minutes ahead of the scheduled time for Saturday afternoon confessions, only to find a long line ahead of me.

Pressed for time and a bit anxious about circumstances back home, I almost turned around and headed out of the Church.  Why bother going to Confession again?  It hadn’t been that long.

These temptations to be a runaway sinner, however, did not last long; I knew better!

I knew I wanted to say I was sorry for the things I had done again that were not in keeping with my call as a Christian.  I knew I wanted to ask for and receive God’s forgiveness.  I knew I wanted added grace, a new start.

Furthermore, I had trudged TOO far in less-than-ideal walking conditions to turn around and go back without getting what I had come for.

Although I had to wait a good half an hour, with greater or lesser patience, I’m glad I did.

I returned to St. Anne’s, and all was well.  I was on time for my other duties…The palms had all been cleaned, and I had gotten cleaned, too!

Exept for a few minor details, it seems that all is ready for the beginning of Holy Week.

Stored in His Flask

heartLittle did I know, when I sat down to do ‘Reading Hour’ for our residents, that I would need my hankie!

I had pulled a book out, at random, from my supply which Sr. Jean Louise had lent me from their school library.

It happened to be a story about a girl in Hiroshima suffering from after-effects of the atomic bomb.  The little book, based on a true story, followed a young girl’s journey as she lost the battle with leukemia.  How sad!!!

I might need to have a word with Sr. Jean Louise about the kind of books she lends me.

I had to stop reading twice as I was reading to our residents, fighting back tears.  It was a bit humiliating, but good for cleaning out the sinuses and tear ducts.  I don’t know when the latter were last used so much!

It was interesting to see how often tears are referenced in the Bible.  Actually, we are told that our tears are stored in God’s flask and recorded in His book (Psalm 56).

It is beautiful to note that our sorrows are not unnoticed by our Lord.  I recall another verse which has been used in connection with the Passion: “Surely, he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” (Isa. 53)

Although the tears shed today were not borne of deep personal loss, I am most grateful that I have a Friend who supports me in all my griefs, big or small.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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My First Chapter!

2017-08-16-08-06-09-1000x662Although I’ve been around our community of Franciscan Sisters for quite a while now, today was my first ever “Chapter of Affairs.”  That is because we only have these pre-election meetings once every six years.

Sisters only begin attending these official meetings after professing their final vows.  At the time of the last such chapter, I was still in temporary vows.

Today, like days of other community meetings, was a beautiful opportunity to meet and mingle with our sisters, to be together ‘as a family.’  Serving about 140 miles north, we don’t get that chance every day.

I am always grateful for these opportunities.

Today, being at this meeting for the first time, I was finally ‘one of the group.’  I got to hear reports on the past six years and take part in other decision-making prior to our election in early April.

Please join me in continuing prayers to the Holy Spirit for guidance during this exciting time.

Doubling Up

Have you ever noticed that, at times, a certain scriptural passage or theme seems to keep coming back to you?

This happened to me today at vespers.

This morning, our Bible study was based off last Sunday’s readings  This included Psalm 137: “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept…”  This evening, we prayed it again as one of the psalms.

Also, in discussing the reading from Ephesians, this morning we had gotten around to talking about “faith and works.”  This evening, the reading from St. James was on that very topic.

I find it so neat when that happens, and wonder if there’s a lesson I am supposed to be learning.

This whole day has been one of doubling up, I guess.  You might say I was making up for lost time; I missed out on over an hour of my day because my alarm clock was set on p.m. instead of a.m. 🙂

I ended up ‘doubling up’ in another way, too.  I set out to make brownies with one of our residents this afternoon and ended up making cookies as well, in order to use up the little bit of applesauce I had left in the fridge.

The cookies were not one of my most successful baking projects, unfortunately.  The result of a make-shift and hurried recipe, they will soon be making their way into a cookie salad.

“May Your Help Always Renew Us”

melting_snowLast evening, having completed the office work I had undertaken, I headed to chapel to catch up on my spiritual reading and pray Compline (Night Prayer).

As I finished the Liturgy of the Hours, the words of the concluding prayer struck me by their appropriateness:

 

Lord God,
send peaceful sleep
to refresh our tired bodies.
May your help always renew us
and keep us strong in your service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

I needed God’s help to renew me…I was tired, not only toward the end of the day, but also toward the end (hopefully) of a long winter.

The extended periods of darkness and cold, along with the ‘routineness’ of life and other challenges can wear on a person.

This prayer reminds us that we all need God to renew our tired bodies and souls.

Whether it be in a good night sleep or the sight of melting snow washing down the street drains, we can be grateful for the strength and encouragement He sends us.

Spring will come; the sun will shine 🙂

Plus, I realized yesterday, that we’ve reached the half-way mark of Lent!  Yipee!

Miles to Go!

20171220_165454.jpgThis afternoon, I did not start my aide work around 4:30 as I usually do; I was detained by an important meeting until past our normal suppertime.

After a quick meal and KP duty, we hustled off to chapel to pray Evening prayer (minus the normal supplemental invocations we normally include).  We needed to make up lost time.

We got out of chapel a few minutes early, but none too soon – I had miles to go!

Since I had missed my first rounds, bathrooms needed checking, beds had yet to be opened, and a tea cup for one resident had not been prepared for the evening…

…And that was just to be caught up to where I should be by 6:30!

Thankfully, my co-worker at the front desk was gracious enough to take care of the tea as I headed to the kitchen to get snacks.

Needless to say, by the time I got upstairs with my snack tray, it was too late to open beds; the residents had doubtless ‘crawled in’ already.

As I type this at the front desk, I realize I neglected to take one ladies special new shoes off for her – Oops!

As I made my way around the floors, attending to the needs of our residents, the phrase ‘miles to go,’ which so amply described my situation, provoked the memory for me of a song we had sung in grade school music class: Road Less Traveled.

A few of the lyrics that I still remember are: “On that long and winding road…there are miles to go.”  This song had referred to the road of life.

As I worked, the prayer surfaced in my heart that I may travel life’s journey in a way pleasing to God and in accord with His desires for me.

An important scripture to me (a psalm verse printed on my name plaque back home) comes to mind as well: “Lead my, O Lord in your righteousness…make my way straight before me.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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Praise to the Holiest

I just concluded my days of leading Office this evening with vespers.  You might call me lazy, avoiding having to re-mark the books for our visitors, but I used the same hymn for both morning and evening prayer today.

However, there were other motives at work here; I was not just looking for the easy way out.  Praise to the Holiest in the Heights is a beautiful hymn and, at least in our breviary, it has seven verses.  This is plenty to spread out over two liturgical prayer sessions!

There is something sweet, touching, and almost tender about this anthem, written by John Henry Newman around the time that our Civil War was ending.  The words are poignant and touching.

In my own personal history, there is something “sweet, touching, and almost tender” about this hymn, too.  The first time I ever remember hearing it was when I was exploring different religious communities before finding my way to North Dakota.  It was during Lent and the song was used liturgically by the Sisters I was visiting.

Thus, whenever I hear it, I am reminded of my own journey.  Hearing of Christ’s journey of love in this hymn touches me with an awareness of His presence in my own.  Reflecting upon it breathes a tender gratitude into my soul.

It calls me to praise.