“And These, Thy Gifts”

IMG_20171220_124851This morning, to open our weekly Bible study, I asked one of our residents to lead us in a prayer.

Accidentally, she began: “Bless us, O Lord…”

Mistakes, happen; I know all to well!

Rather than correct and stop her, I just “went with it,” and we all finished the prayer together.

I figured that a prayer asking for blessing and recalling God’s gifts was appropriate any time.  In fact, God’s word, the Scripture, which we were about to read and discuss, is a very great gift, indeed.

As we began Bible study, this prayer truly was fitting; we were about to receive the gift of God’s word, given to us from His bounty and goodness, “through Christ, our Lord.”

What a beautiful prayer it was to begin our Bible study.

When we had finished, as the residents were leaving, lunchtime was just around the corner.

So, I prayed this traditional meal prayer a second time with one or two who were remaining, this time gratefully asking a blessing upon our physical food which we were “about to receive.”


Cat Burglar?

20171220_165454Sr. Elaine went out shopping again this morning, as she often does on Saturdays (or when need arises around here).

As she was about to take the items out to the car, a man (store employee) who appeared to be in his mid to late 30s approached her, saying: “You look like someone who could use some help…Can I help you?”

She decided to be gracious and politely accept the kind offer.  The man helped her carry items out.  She opened the trunk with the remote control from the key ring she was carrying.  Sr. Elaine noted how shocked he was that “this old lady would have a modern car.”

When everything was successfully placed in the trunk, he offered: “Would you like some help getting into the car?”

By this time, though, enough was enough for poor Sr. Elaine.  She did not want to be taken for an invalid.  She graciously declined the offer, assuring him that she would be fine.

Sr. Elaine returned back to St. Anne’s and had to share a good laugh with our nurse on duty.  Before sharing this with her, however, she asked her: “What do I look like?”  After they shared the story and a good laugh, the nurse confessed that Sr. Elaine bore a resemblance to a ‘cat burglar.’

Not sure what connotations such a title might hold (not being too familiar with the phrase), a little research was done on Sister’s behalf here in the main office.

We found that a cat burglar is any of the following:

  • a burglar who is adept at entering and leaving the burglarized place without attracting notice
  • a burglar who breaks into buildings by climbing through upstairs windows, across roofs, etc., especially with great stealth and agility
  • a thief who steals from houses or other buildings by climbing up walls

20171220_165454.jpgThese activities, though not morally sound, are not so vulgar as to make such a reference inappropriate to share.  Therefore, we have printed the picture for Sr. Elaine, the cat buglar, to use in her annual greetings.

“I’m So Glad You’re Here!”

P2090003.JPGWe now have a little decorative snowman standing near the front desk here at St. Anne’s.  As cute as he may look at first glance, don’t let looks deceive you; he can get on your nerves very quickly.  (Sr. Rebecca recently put a lot of the Christmas decorations away and brought out snowmen.)

You see, not only does this little snowman stand there and look charming, he also has greetings which he offers at random; he is motion-sensitive but somewhat unpredictable: he does not always respond.

He has a few ‘canned’ greetings, which include: “It’s cold outside!,” “Be our guest and stay a while!,” “Come on in; it’s warm inside,” and “I’m so glad you’re here!”

To just hear the little guy once as a passerby is one thing; I may even concede to calling him cute on a one-time encounter.  But, after hearing him, as the receptionist, whenever anyone comes near, for several hours, even the most peaceful among us is ready to strangle the little fellow.

Unable to find any on/off switch, we had subjected him to solitary confinement upon the safe in our back office.  That way, the only time he’d speak up is if someone approached that back corner.

Unfortunately, Sr. Rebecca, unaware of the torture he had been putting us through, keeps bringing him back out to his prominent place next to the front desk.

Needless to say, I do not share his sentiments of: “I’m so glad you’re here!”

However, I found myself echoing this corny little phrase, unthinkingly this morning in the quiet of our chapel.

Remembering Christ’s presence in the tabernacle here, I had used these words in prayer: “I’m so glad you’re here!”

Oh, no!!!  Now I sound like that obnoxious snowman!


I Was Here This Morning!

20171220_165734This morning, Father approached the ambo, offered the customary greeting and announcement, and began to read the assigned gospel passage from Mark.

As I stood listening, it struck me: “I was here this morning.”

The passage chronicled Jesus’ call of Levi (Matthew) and subsequent dinner arrangements and proclamations, inferring that he is the physician sent to the sick of soul.

This was not the first time in recent memory that this account had been presented to me; I had used it less than four hours earlier for my morning meditation.  (I find it nice to read the scriptures before hearing them at Mass.)

I really appreciate passages with concrete images and encounters, into which I can easily place myself.  I find them much more conducive to meditation (for myself, personally) than lofty, philosophical discourses.  But, that could just be me; everyone’s different.

In this passage, we were told of Levi’s concrete, life-changing encounter with our Lord.

This morning, in my own time of quiet prayer, I, too, had encountered Jesus.  Like Levi so long ago, I had met Him, present with me in the tabernacle of our chapel.

Now I was meeting Him again as the scriptures were read aloud.  Soon, in the most extraordinary way, I would be meeting Him at Holy Communion!

It is beautiful to be able to meet Jesus several times a day, in the scriptures, in “the Breaking of the Bread,” and in the people I encounter.  I would do well to be more conscious of his holy presence with me throughout the day.

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Free Will!

soda-cans-gold-silverLast evening, we were talking about the trouble we have with some of our residents.  Oftentimes, they just don’t make good decisions.

For their own health, we wish some of our people would limit their intake of soda pop.  They just seem to drink excessive amounts with no concern for their kidneys or medication retention.  Others can be sick with a cold or suffering from symptoms of COPD and still go out for a smoke in sub-zero temperatures.

It is said and frustrating.  I am not saying that, by any means, all of our residents do this, but there are some.

We wish we could limit this, make them stop smoking, or drastically cut their pop intake.  However, they have their rights, “they are their own guardians.”

As I was thinking about this on my way to bed after putting in my time as aide and receptionist, it occurred to me that it boils down to free will;  it also struck me that I’m not all that different.

I do things that aren’t good for me, too.  I don’t always “behave” in my own best interest.  I give in to my own whims and desires rather than saying ‘no’ to myself, all too often.

We all have been given the gift of free will.  God has so respected and loved us, giving us the ‘right’ to make our own decisions.

If only we would all use this gift more appropriately!

¡Hace Mucho Frio!

24294078_1712662668773614_3566575335590337298_nThis morning, Sr. Elaine pulled in the garage at our convent and I jumped out of the car and literally ran back over to St. Anne’s.

We three sisters had gone over to Mass at the local parish church since we don’t have Mass here today.

I don’t like the cold, and I spend as little time out in it as possible.  I really dilike sitting town in a cold car with a skirt.  (The fact that I often only wear knee-high stockings doesn’t help much.)  For being a native “Minnesota girl,” Frosty and I don’t get along too well.

Thus it was that I hustled out of the garage and over to my workplace, which is only a couple hundred feet away from our convent.

I rushed in the door and hung up my heavy winter coat, catching a glimpse of one of our residents on her way to the nurse.

The two of us have something in common; she is Hispanic and I have studied Spanish.  I’d like to “keep it up” but have little opportunity to do so.  I do enjoy practicing my Spanish with others when the occasion presents itself, though it’s not as often as I’d like.

This morning, though, as I finished putting my jacket away for heading in for some breakfast, I spontaneously exclaimed to the above-mentioned lady: “¡Hace mucho frio!” (It is very cold!)  She responded amiably and I went on my way for a bowl of hot cereal.

Being able to connect with people is so important!  Finding a common ground and drawing them out is such a big part of our ministry here.  Our residents may come here, feeling lonely and isolated; if we can show interest in them and get them interested in something, it can really help them on their way to leading a happy, healthy life once again.

Who knew that cold (frio) could have health benefits?

Let’s Get Together (yeah yeah yeah)

Image result for happy new year border

Well, if you’ve seen the original Parent Trap, you will hopefully have caught my reference.

I’m way too young to have been around when the show first came out, but I certainly saw it as a child.

This post’s titular phrase, from a fun song in the above-mentioned film, came to mind after I got this picture sent to me from our little gathering last night.

Sometimes, my fellow Sister and superior, Sr. Elaine, asks: “What time should we get together?” as we make plans for our community book study/discussion.

Last evening, we did, indeed, get together, as Hayley Mills once sang, but it was not for any parent-related shenanigans.  Nor was it for a book study.

20171220_165454Rather, “[they] and I combine[d]” (that is, we gathered) for our annual Christmas/New Years prayer service and gift exchange party.

(We do this December 31st every year with our Sisters from Rugby, who stop through at our convent for a few days on their way back from spending Christmas at our provincial house.  Since they work in a school setting they have some time off now.  They traditionally go back to Hankinson, helping out and enjoying Christmas with our other Sisters there.)

After voicing prayers for several different intentions and singing a couple of carols, we exchanged gifts from near the tree downstairs, thus revealing our prayer partners for the year (see earlier post).

After all this was done, we headed upstairs to share some of the plentiful goodies we’ve received over the last couple of weeks.

At this New Years Party, we don’t make it until midnight; in fact, we had things tidied up on time for me to make it back to my room by the 10 o’clock curfew.

It was a good thing, too, because I was exhausted from the hubbub of the season and all we’ve been dealing with lately.

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Merry Christmas!  (And, yes, it is still Christmas!  We’re within the octave and the season goes until the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism in January.)

One of the special parts of this season is the carols.

Along with What Child is This? and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, a song which has more recently become one of my favorite Christmas carols is: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega;
He the source, the ending He,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see
evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed,
when a virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race;
and the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him,
angel hosts, His praises sing,
pow’ers, dominions, bow before Him,
and extol our God and King;
let no tongue on earth be silent,
ev’ery voice in concert ring
evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father
and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
and unwearied praises be:
honor, glory, and dominion,
and eternal victory
evermore and evermore!

The combination of a beautiful, almost haunting melody and profound, touching words is just about enough to give me chills.  I love to play it on the piano/organ.

This hymn originated as a poem, written by Spanish lawyer and statesman Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius shortly after the Council of Nicea.  It reinforces the truth of Christ’s divinity as the council had done.

The writer actually devoted the evening of his life to composing Christian poems.  (https://www.sermonwriter.com/hymn-stories/fathers-love-begotten)

There is a lot more to the history, but I won’t go into details here.

What I will say is that I hope it touches and inspires your heart to awe and praise as it has mine.

It’s Christmas, But Do I Need this Gift?

Picture4There can be a temptation to become lax about receiving gifts as Sisters, a inclination to automatically accept and store away item received.

I realize, though, that a more careful reading of our directives should push me away from this.  I have accepted a life of poverty in imitation of Christ, born in a poor stable.  I have chosen to leave behind cultural tendencies to accumulate goods.

Our provincial directives as Dillingen Franciscans in the U.S. guide us:

  • Gifts– money or otherwise– are reported (shown) to the Superior.  If the Sister needs the gift, she asks for it; otherwise, she turns it in to a common fund…

Receiving gifts can almost become a bit of a burden.  It takes prayerful thought to decide: Do I really need this?  What should I do with it in light of my vows and our directives?

Sometimes, I have received things that neither I nor the ‘common fund’ are in need of.  What to do then?…stash it away in the common cupboard, I guess, until we come up with a worthy cause.  (Some such items have become prizes for our residents or gifts for the annual employee party.)

I am happy when a gift received is practical and is something for which I truly have a need.  Last evening was such a time.  I was given a box which had been hidden away, left by my parents at their last visit in late October.

I opened it, wondering what it might hold, and hoping it would not cause dilemmas delineated above.  To my delight, the box contained ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar and baking chips, all which I can certainly use for baking cookies with our residents.

In preparing to write this post, I searched our directives for occurrences of the word “gift.”  It was interesting how often, in fact, it was found.  Most of these instances, however, were in reference to non-material gifts.

We are to share the gifts God has given us.  Whatever I have, whether material, spiritual, or otherwise, I am to be thankful for and willingly share with others.

Here’s Hoping…

20171220_165734Advent, properly observed, is a season of hope.  We have not yet reached what we are waiting for.  It is not already Christmas (contrary to what the world around us seems to say so prominently).

In thinking about this, St. Paul’s words to the Philippians came to mind:

  • It is not that I have already taken hold of [the resurrection] or have already attained perfect maturity,* but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.

Today, on an afternoon in late Advent, I finally got around to getting some things taken care of; they had been on hold since I got back Sunday evening from a weekend retreat; I was needed to help fill in some extra hours at work these last days.

20171220_165454One of these ‘loose ends’ was getting my cherry pits planted.  I had soaked, cleaned, and refrigerated them midsummer for just such a day as this (They needed to go through a stratification process* of several weeks before planting).

*a chilling period, either by refrigeration or burial in the ground before winter

I thought it would be a fun little project for our residents to watch them grow.

I had been thinking of planting them for a little while now but lacked the little bit of potting soil required.

When I was in Hankinson, helping with the above-mentioned retreat, I was able to get some soil from one of our Sisters who does garden work.

Now, my little cherry pits are snugly tucked in their bed in hopes that one day they will peek their heads out and say: “We’re alive; we’re growing!”

At Advent, Christmas, and throughout the year, we can be people of hope, realizing that, with God’s help, we, too, are alive and growing.