You Are My All in All

stannesI planned a special lesson for our Bible Study this morning since this Tuesday’s gathering with our residents landed on the very morning of Valentine’s Day itself.

I used readings from 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John, and other love-related passages, including the greatest commandment as outlined in Mark’s gospel.  I thought it would be nice to point out to our residents, amidst all the superficial hearts and flowers, the true meaning and call of love.

We talked about Jesus’ call to “love one another as I have loved you,” about how and to what extent He loved us.  In light of this selfless, life-giving love “even to death on a cross,” we reminded ourselves that our love cannot know selfish limits.

As is often the case, this morning’s resident Bible Study included singing.  I had picked a couple of songs that seemed apropos for Valentine’s Day, including “Down in My Heart” and “Come into My Heart.”

However, we got done with the lesson a bit early and had time for a couple more songs.  We ended by singing a song appropriate to this special day in its own way: “You Are My All in All.”

On Valentine’s Day, lovers sometimes exchange messages with endearing phrases; even Sweetheart candies offer phrases such as “LOVE YOU,” “ONLY YOU,” and “BE MINE.”

For all of us as Christians, and especially for me as a Religious, it seemed appropriate to sing this song as a Valentine message to Jesus, my spouse.

I’m not in the candy-making business (although I do my share of cookie baking), but I could envision a little sweetheart inscribed with the words: “My All in All.”

While thousands of people around us are using this annual break in the winter blahs to express their love and devotion to their “sweetheart,” why shouldn’t we do the same to Ours?

Congratulations, St. Gerard’s!

Let’s take this opportunity to congratulate our Sisters and the staff at St. Gerard’s who worked so hard on the Giving Hearts Day project again this year!

It paid off!  St. Gerard’s got second place for their video and also raised over $90,000 to support their work of “serving all in Jesus’ name.”

St. Gerard’s Community of Care, in Hankinson, ND, offers multiple services to young and old: skilled care nursing, an independent living Unit, child care, and kinder kollege.

Congratulations, Sisters and Staff of St. Gerard’s; may God bless you in your ministry!

Blest Are They

il_340x270-1115753979_7217It was a busy morning…

Tuesday mornings are always busy: getting ready for Bible study, setting up for Mass, attending Mass, giving a break to the receptionist on duty, finalizing Bible study preparations and finally leading the group of residents in the weekly study.  It’s always a relief when I finally sit down and catch my breath at 11:15 when I give my co-worker her lunch break.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad to do it, but it is a bit like ‘crunch time’ trying to get it all done in a short time period.

The last few weeks, we’ve been studying the Gospel of Matthew.  We are now at the Sermon on the Mount, discussing the Beattitudes and the salt and light metaphors.

A few months ago, we were given a projector, and I now have the capacity to show lyrics and even YouTube videos on a screen for our residents.  They really seem to enjoy singing along to the spiritual songs.

We have some “old stand by” hymns and songs, but I also try to incorporate a song or two that really pertains to the lesson of the day.

It thought the song “Blest Are They” would be appropriate and was happy to hear the residents singing along heartily to it.

The words of the song also touched me personally as I sat listening and singing with the music video during this morning’s Bible Study.

It occurred to me how we are really, truly blessed.  What a privilege and an honor to be invited to live as disciples of Christ!  How blessed we are to be called to a life in imitation of Him.

Premonitions

p1010009I’ve worked a number of night shifts here at St. Anne’s over the past few years.  Usually, however, it is at last minute notice.

In fact, if I hear the phone ring between 9:45 and 10:15 p.m., I’ve come to instinctively cringe, fearing one of the two scheduled night aides would not be making it in; this would leave me to work the night shift.

Actually, I don’t mind it too much.  I kind of enjoy the work, and am happy to help where I can.

This being called upon to work nights does not happen terribly often, maybe a dozen times a year.

This week, we realized that we would need someone to fill in for a worker this weekend (Fri.-Sun.).  Thankfully, two other staff are able to pick up Saturday and Sunday.  However, we were unable to find someone for Friday night.

Thus it is that I’ve known since early this week that I would be working tonight.  For me, it is really strange to have this “premonition,” to be able to actually plan ahead for my sleep schedule.

There are a number of other things happening at this time.  When I woke up this morning, I didn’t know if I’d be helping with bingo, for example.  It should prove to be an interesting 24 hours.

This morning’s responsorial psalm (27) served as a good reminder to me, amidst my crazy schedule, that no matter what happens, “the LORD is my life’s refuge [and He will conceal me in the shelter of his tent.”  It further inspires me with reminders that He is my light and my salvation I should trust Him and not fear.  The first reading (Hebrews 3) also beautifully points out: “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?”

Even with premonitions of an interesting night to come, I have this consolation to fall back upon.

Yes, Mother!

yes-mother-with-love-hearts

In case you’re new to this blog, I’m Sr. Christina.  I work at St. Anne’s Guest Home, a senior living facility in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Here, I serve in a variety of capacities, including as a receptionist, sacristan, aide, and communications assistant.

That being said…

Recently, I was helping one of our residents who is needing some extra care lately after a bout with the flu.  Helping her dress and looking over her needs, she commented to me that I reminded her of a mother.

At St. Anne’s, we love to tease with each other.  Humor is the spice of life, they say.  Somehow, this lady’s comment  led to her jokingly  using the phrase: “Yes, mother” in a sassy voice.  It has become a joke between us, and I have come to call her “daughter.”

This use of the word ‘mother’ could not fail to remind me of my studies when I was first entering religious life.  I had learned that religious sisters are really to be spiritual mothers.  Surrounded by people who are double my age, I do not usually think of myself as a mother, though.

I had actually recently explained this concept of spiritual motherhood briefly to one of my co-workers who wondered if the sacrifice of not having one’s own children was difficult.

Sr. Elaine, who also works here, has been known to comment on this as well.  She has joked that when she retires she’ll have some prestigious titles relating to her work here, not least among which is simply “MOM.”  Our residents love to come to her with their needs and problems.

“Take Delight in the LORD”

angelam

St. Angela, from catholic.org

This morning, I arrived in chapel, and after having done a few duties in preparation for Mass, I settled in a pew for my time of prayer.  Conveniently, there are missalettes in each of the pews and I grabbed one to aid my morning meditation.  I like to use the readings of the day, and sometimes will start with the responsorial psalm as its full text is printed in the missalette.  I usually move on from there to the gospel of the day.

This morning, however, I lingered on the psalm for longer than usual.  There was so much there to ponder.  The passage, Psalm 37, exhorts us to “take delight in the Lord.”

This word, delight, caught my interest at this time.  I had just heard it the previous evening.  It had been used in a slightly unusual way. Now, here it was again in the psalm.

I decided to look it up.  Delight, used as a noun here, can be defined as”a high degree of pleasure.”  Inserting this definition into the psalm, we find that we are to take a high degree of pleasure in the Lord, and he will give us our heart’s request.

We are also encouraged:”Commit to the LORD your way; trust in him, and he will act.”  I find this psalm so beautiful, so inspiring.  You might find it a rich source for meditation as well.

I wonder what today’s saint, St. Angela Merici, might have thought of this psalm.  She had her focus on the Lord as she served Him in the young girls who needed her.

I was first introduced to St. Angela many years ago, looking through a saints book.  My sister is named Angela, and I was trying to find information about her.  I saw the illustrated biographical page: “St. Angela, friend of little girls.”  I thought it was perfect for my sister, who was a little girl at the time.

I learned that St. Angela’s feast day is January 27.  Ever since then, I’ve always remembered my sister in a special way this day and prayed especially for her.

May St. Angela pray for us all, that we may delight in and trust our Lord more each day, striving to serve Him as she did.

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“…I Fell to the Ground”

conversion-of-st-paulHave you ever found that God often moves in your life while you’re “falling to the ground”?

“…a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice…”

These words of St. Paul’s, which we’ll hear in the first reading at Mass for the feast of his Conversion, reminded me of one time when I found this opening statement to be very true.

It was July of the summer after my sophomore year of college.  I was taking a geology class to get my lab science requirement out of the way.

I had perceived a vocation to religious life the summer before, but was very hush hush about it.  The only one I had told was my mother, whom I had sworn to silence about the whole matter.  (Keeping an excited mother quiet was definitely a challenge!)

It took an ambulance trip and stay at the hospital to open me up to discussing the matter with anyone else; I was made open and vulnerable by this experience.

Isn’t it too bad that sometimes it takes extenuating circumstances to knock us into shape?  Maybe St. Paul’s experience could inspire us to try to be open to God’s desires for us on a daily basis.  This could actually be a daily prayer intention: for an open heart.  (I do try to open my prayer time with that intention.)

Nature’s Best Mop Cleaner: a lesson learned as a postulant

One afternoon recently, I finished my cleaning duties at our convent and took the dust mop I’d been using outside.

“Outside,” you may ask, “why do that?”  The reason is that I was putting into practice a lesson I learned some years back when I was a postulant in Hankinson, North Dakota.

Although I grew up in Minnesota, surrounded by snow four months out of the year, I had never learned one of the important uses of this white, powdery substance: it serves as an excellent mop cleaner.

Early in my formation in Hankinson, this little trick of cleaning a dust mop in the snow was revealed to me.  (One simply beats the mop out in the snow and shakes the snow out.)

Ever since that time, I have utilized nature’s best mop cleaner when finishing my dust mopping in the winter months.

When spring finally comes and there is no more snow to be found, I’ve been known to lament that “I’ve lost my mop cleaner, now.”

Oh well, that will be a sacrifice I’ll readily make to enjoy some spring weather when it finally comes here to the upper Midwest.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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No Excuses!

Have you ever noticed how certain people just “rub you the wrong way”?  They have a tendency of doing things that get on your nerves.

You even come to expect it of them.

Unfortunately, I’ve gotten into that groove recently myself.  There’s an individual with whom I’ve become accustomed to being annoyed (shame on me, I know!)

This morning, I caught myself.  The individual had done something and I was about to be critical of it.  Then, I asked myself “What should have they done differently?”

I realized that there was nothing different that they should have done.  I had just become accustomed to being annoyed with them.  This comes from many months that helped form a negative mindset.

I might ask myself where the person is question’s responsibility ended and mine began, but that would be a topic for a different discussion.

Recently, I realized that I cannot be making excuses.  Whether or not I like this person and their behaviors, I still am asked to love them.  There are no excuses that exempt me from this call.

On reflection, I’ve also realized that I should not be allowing excuses to keep me from loving in other situations, either.

img_0895Whether I am working at the reception desk or upstairs as an aide, I need to love and respect each person I meet, not letting any excuse stand in the way.

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