A New Jesse Tree

24993182_1720447627995118_8298437178454983058_nThis morning, I walked into the activity room here at St. Anne’s, only to find the branches from my inherited Jesse Tree sprawled out on one of the tables.

It was only about 8 in the morning but Shelly, our activity director was hard at work.

She was cutting out new branches to replace the old ones which she had noticed were faded.

Amidst teasing about the shade of green she was using, and whether or not to put on glitter, I found that she had bribery in mind.  She was “doing something nice for me,” knowing that she needed my help with a different project.

I assured her that I would have helped her with her task without any bribery (and I am sure she would have helped me without any ulterior motive either).

All that being said, the two of us worked together to get the new branches ready for the felt tree, where we would be putting them during our annual Jesse Tree service at Bible study.

This little service, commemorating many key parts of salvation history, is really quite nice.  In fact, we have decided to use it for our Wednesday evening community discussion night.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

PS: Thank you, Shelly, for your horticultural contributions to our Bible Study!


“Fast Before the Feast”

burger-bunsThis afternoon, I was offered a fresh homemade bun by one of my co-workers (in my mind, these are much better than candy!)  Periodically, she likes to bake and we reap the benefits.

I had to decline, however, or postpone the enjoyment until suppertime.  Today is prescribed as a fast day in our community.  (We fast and abstain on the Vigils of St. Francis and the Immaculate Conception.)

This made me wonder how the tradition of “fast[ing] before the feast originated.  I tried to do a bit of research, but didn’t find a whole lot.

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops’ website, however, offered a little insight: “[T]he devout will find greater Christian joy in the feasts of the liturgical calendar if they freely bind themselves, for their own motives and in their own spirit of piety, to prepare for each Church festival by a day of particular self-denial, penitential prayer and fasting.”

I had never seen this articulated so succinctly and clearly before.  It dawned on my, too, that we prepare to celebrate the Easter tridium and season by Lent, a time of fasting and penance.

I guess I could conclude, then, that denying myself the joy of a still-warm homemade bun, may help me find “greater Christian joy in the feast” of the Immaculate Conception tomorrow.  It is neat for me to see how our particular customs have roots in the heart of the Church’s piety.

Our society today is so prone to self-gratification, it seems.  It is good to have these prescriptions as reminders to us of the importance of self-denial (throughout the year).

Our Rule declares: “They should fast and always strive to be simple and humble especially before God.”  Could it be that there is a connection between the discipline of fasting and the interior disposition of simplicity and humility?

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Alma Redemptoris Mater: Loving Mother of the Redeemer


Statue in our chapel

From now (actually this past Saturday evening) until February 2nd, I’ll be praying a beautiful Marian antiphon after Night Prayer.  It’s called Alma Redemptoris Mater (Latin words that begin the prayer).

This antiphon is about 1,000 years old and is actually mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

It goes as follows:

Loving Mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before. You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners.”

There is a lot here to think about.  One can go verse by verse and use it as a rich source for meditation.

Actually, St. John Paul II’s 1987 encyclical also refers to Mary as the Mother of the Redeemer.  Since it too, starts with these words (The Mother of the Redeemer), it shares a very similar title to this beautiful antiphon that I pretty much have memorized.

May the Mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven and star of the sea, assist us in our weakness and bring us closer to our creator whom she bore.

Seasonal Struggles…Observing Advent

Our Franciscan Fiat

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…

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Anticipating Advent

20170912_170538This morning, we’ll have to change over the missalettes in chapel; a new book starts at the beginning of the new liturgical year.

Later this afternoon, after completing my shift at the front desk, I’ll have to get our stand up from the basement, climb around in the sacristy (to get the Advent wreath and candles down from the closet cupboard), put out the new lectionary, and change the altar cloths.

Along with getting our chapel ready physically for a new season, I have to get ready mentally and spiritually as well.

I “snuck a peak’ at tomorrow’s responsorial psalm in preparation for leading it, and it’s a beauty: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”  It’s a familiar one I’ve heard since childhood, so it won’t need much practice.

Later, too, I hope to take the opportunity to prepare my heart for this season of watchfulness and preparation by heading over to St. Michael’s Church where confessions are heard at 4 p.m.

It’s a beautiful, yet busy time, as we prepare to prepare for Christ’s coming.

As we prepare to begin this new season, I’d like to close with the prayer from tomorrow’s Alleluia verse: “Show us Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.”

We’ll need his love and salvation every day of the coming year.

Only a Few More Days to be Owly


Saturday evening, when we drew names for our “prayer partner,” we also drew a slip with our “Advent practice” for the coming weeks.  (We did all this a week early since our Sisters with whom we exchange were in town for Thanksgiving.)

The “Advent practices” start this coming weekend (I guess you could say, Saturday evening with first vespers).

We never know which character from the nativity scene we will be called to emulate by drawing a little slip of paper; this year I have the exalted role of “the donkey.”

Sr. Elaine drew a slip designating her as “the angel the brings joy.”  In our common discussion that evening, we came to the conclusion that, as such, she could not be owly.  Bringing joy and being grumpy don’t mesh well.  (She and I like to tease about her “being owly” if she makes remarks that are less than positive and friendly- it’s become an inside joke.)

Sr. Elaine informed us that evening that she still had a week left in which to get this ‘owliness’ out of her system; the Advent practice does not actually start until Advent (thus the above-mentioned first vespers time-frame).

If you happen to stop by St. Anne’s within the next few days, beware; Sr. Elaine may try to get the last of the owliness used up before it’s too late!

~ Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

PS: This is really just in fun – she’s not that terribly owly anyway!  In fact, she goes out of her way to bring happiness to others.

I’ve Got the “Little” Sister

Resized_20161019_090643As is customary for Thanksgiving weekend, last evening we held our annual prayer service/name drawing for the coming liturgical year.  (This often falls on the first Sunday of Advent, but this year, it was on the vigil of the wonderful feast of Christ the King.)

During this beautiful time of community sharing between our St. Anne’s convent and our visiting Sisters from Little Flower Convent in Rugby, we prayed, sang, and shared.  We also each drew a couple of items, one being an “Advent practice” for the coming season, in which we were given a role from the nativity scene to emulate (be the donkey, ox, shepherd, or angel, etc. )

We also drew the name of the person for whom we are to pray in the coming liturgical year.

During the visiting the followed, we shared some memories of those whose names we had drawn in the past.

I could not help call to mind my first Advent “in the convent” when I had drawn the name of our Sister Elizabeth Klein, now deceased.

We do not reveal the name of our prayer person until Christmas.  However, for fun, I had hinted with my postulant directress as to her identity.  I had told her that I had “the little sister.”  Sr. Elizabeth’s last name, Klein, is German for small or little.

(I’m not sure if that was ‘legal.’)

I remember that when I was first visiting Hankinson the pears were in season.  Sr. Elizabeth would go out and pick them, bringing them in to table with her.  Although she had once been a school teacher at our various missions, specializing in music, she was, by this time, retired to our provincial house.

Her life was a real gift to our community.  Along with her mere presence, prayer, and teaching, she also blessed us with some of her own original music which has been used throughout the years by our Sisters.  Among these is a song she wrote about our province.

As we conclude this Thanksgiving weekend, I offer a prayer of thanks for the life of this, our “little” Sister, and for having the opportunity to get to know her a little.

Cecilia, You’re Breaking my Heart

Today’s feast brings to mind Simon & Garfunkel’s hit song bearing this saint’s name.

img_studentlife_inpage_residencehalls_caecillian-03cc3546Having grown upon listening to “the oldies station” (thanks to my dad) and having lived in “Caecilian Hall” for most of my college years, I’ve heard this catchy tune countless times before.  (I had friends/floormates who were known to sing it for fun at times.)

The above-mentioned building has an interesting story behind its name, having formally been used as the music building on campus.  To this day, I continue to invoke St. Cecilia, the patron saint of (sacred) music when I need to help in this role, especially before leading the responorial psalm, a task for which I have no formal training).

Sr. Elaine and I take turns providing organ music for Mass (on the days when hymns are being used).  Today, in honor of St. Cecilia, I mad a special point of using music where I might otherwise have been tempted to let it go.

This early virgin martyr has a special place in my devotional life; a musician with limited abilities such as myself especially needs her intercession.

guercino_-_st-_cecilia_-_google_art_projectShe also is an example for me of purity and fidelity to Christ amidst whatever trials may come.

St. Cecilia, please pray for us!

“Called – Llamados”

23559920_1843270989317956_2425648659906597885_nThis afternoon, I got back from spending a long weekend with Sr. Jean Louise, Sr. Mary Ruth, fellow travelers, and about 25,000 others gathered in Indianapolis for the bi-annual National Catholic Youth Conference.

This year’s conference was entitled “Called – Llamados.”  (I enjoyed the bit of Spanish that was used during parts of the weekend – I only wished I could have read the lyrics better on the screen.)

This theme of being called came up during the sessions.  For example, we are called to listen and called to serve (My tired, overwhelmed brain cannot recall the other sub-themes at present.)

Especially on Saturday, a day which traditionally honors our Blessed Lady, we were reminded of her “yes.”  Throughout the weekend, we were encouraged to offer our own individual “yes.”  It was a good opportunity to interiorly offer my own “yes” again.

As I thought about this, I realized again that a yes is not a one time thing.  It is something we are called to give again and again.  In my reflection this weekend, I was also reminded that my efforts at living this are not enough.

To echo the words of a song we sang at the end of the evening, “Your grace is enough.”  I have to call upon God’s grace, and rely upon it, rather than my own efforts.  His grace is what will enable me to live my yes.

Please pray for me that I may be faithful in doing this.


Please Plan Your Emergencies Accordingly

img_0553Midway through a second consecutive day of helping fill in for a sick aide, I was having supper with Sr. Elaine (while Sr. Rebecca took her turn at the reception desk).

As I’ve been thinking ahead to my upcoming trip to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis next week, I mentioned that I’d been tempted to put a note at the employee time clock.

It would state something like: “Sr. Christina will be out of town for several days and will not be available November 15 through 19.  Please plan your emergencies accordingly.”

emergency-clipart-k21407704We both kind of laughed at the turn of phrase.  There’s a reason I don’t have a job title anymore on my name badge.  Like so many others here, I end up filling up in multiple departments.

I am so grateful to those who pitched in to help with needed tasks, especially with laundry.  (I don’t mind collecting, sorting colors, and running them through the machines, but reading name tags and sorting/delivering accordingly is challenging.)

As I look forward to my upcoming trip, I hope no other emergencies come up during that time.  I’m not saying people couldn’t live without me, but I like to be able to help in such cases.

While other job responsibilities are all good, there is something I find especially rewarding about providing direct care for our residents.