Great Love, Great Suffering

mary-seven-sorrowsIn preparation for reading at this morning’s Mass, I used the texts from the lectionary for my meditation.  In reflecting on the “alleluia verse,” I was struck by the relationship between love and sorrow.

I realized that Mary, who is now invoked as “Our Lady of Sorrows,” probably loved more than any other human person ever had, more than any of us.  Her great love for her Son must have been a cause of great, corresponding sorrow.

She had to see Him be treated cruelly and put to death.  If you see someone you love suffering, it causes you suffering and sorrow as well.  Since Mary, whose love was so great, saw her Son suffering so terribly, her sorrow must have been tremendous as well.

I know that I have sufferings and sorrows in my own life, but I doubt I’ll ever have any that compare to what Mary went through.

If we ever get tempted to fall into self-pity, we have only to look to our sorrowful, suffering Mother to see that we don’t have it so bad after all.

As Franciscan Sisters, we are encouraged by our directives to keep the example of Mary “ever before [our] eyes.”  An integral part of this example was her willingness to cooperate in God’s plan, even when it meant intense suffering.

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“Plum Full”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis morning, when I woke up, I surely did not anticipate all that this day would hold!

We had been out to the farm of Sr. Rebecca’s niece yesterday, and she had given us potatoes, tomatoes, onions, tomato sauces (salsa and pasta), and plums – lots of them!

It was nice to get out of town, despite the fact that we had trouble finding the farm.

I figured that today would be a nice Monday, with a few little projects before coming to the front desk for my 3:30-10 p.m. receptionist shift, but, boy, had I underestimated how long plum processing takes!

We had about four grocery bags of sweet, JUICY, plums.  Since we now have a Ninja blender for taking care of such things, I thought we would just take the pits out and puree the plums before cooking them into jam or desserts.  I had a few helpers to aid me in the process, but could certainly have used more.

The night shift, who clean in the activity room, should feel that their efforts are worthwhile tonight.  Often, when cutting into the little plums, juice would squirt out in any direction.  In fact, one of the nearby vinyl-covered chairs had definite evidence of the “plum pitting party.”

I did clean up as best I could with the time I had, but, there are only so many hours in a day (a fact which I acutely felt this afternoon).

With my work at the front desk, efforts to finalize a new brochure, posting a job opening, and changing the altar cloth, this day was PLUM FULL!

At some point this afternoon, I remembered that I also had tomorrow morning’s Bible study to prepare for as well.  After saying a quick prayer for guidance in this, it dawned on me that I could play our Biblical Pursuit board game with the residents, saving myself the effort of another task of preparing a lesson.  I am grateful for the “inspiration.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

“They Left Everything and Followed Him”

calling_of_apostlesThis morning, we again heard the beautiful story of the beginnings of St. Peter’s discipleship in the gospel reading.

To be accurate, this probably wasn’t the very beginning; he obviously had some familiarity with Jesus before he let him use his boat.

There is so much in this passage; so much for reflection and meditation.

I was glad to have had the chance to pray with this text this morning before Mass during my mediation.  One phrase that stuck out to me as I “heard” this text for the second time today was: “they left everything and followed him.”

I realized, upon further reflection at Mass, that each of us is called (in a sense) to leave everything and follow him each day of our lives.

Different days, this can mean different things.  I have different things I cling to at different times.

My desire to do things my way, to say what  want, to have a relationship go according to my plans; I should be willing to “leave” all this behind at Jesus’ call.  He may be asking me to go beyond my selfishness, to step beyond my own ideas.  Like Peter in another gospel account, maybe I need to “get out of the boat” and walk toward Jesus on the water.

What I am doing may not be gravely wrong (I hope and pray not), but I may be called to leave it behind for something better.

When I made my vows, I gave myself to Jesus, following Him in a special way.  This gospel passage reminded me of the need, on a daily basis, to be like Peter and Andrew.

I have to be open to what Jesus may be asking me to leave today, be it my impatience with others, my curiosity, or another pettiness.

Unlike Peter, I do not say: “”Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful [wo]man” for I desperately need and want his companionship.

Crown Him with Many Crowns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis morning, my fingers delighted in playing the chords and melody of a hymn which had been chosen by Sr. Rebecca, whose week it is to lead Office, lector at Mass, and select the music.  In other words, it’s “her week for liturgy.”

She had picked “Crown Him With Many Crowns” for Friday’s Mass, and it is my turn to provide accompaniment on the keyboard in our chapel.  The arrangement I use is in the key of D, which is probably my favorite anyway.

Along with the ease for playing and the beautiful sound, this hymn also has lovely words of praise to our King.  They were, I discovered with a little research, written by an Anglican convert to Catholicism.  Not too long after becoming Catholic in his forties, Mathew Bridges (1800-1894) wrote this magnificent hymn.

Crown him with many crowns,
the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns
all music but its own.
Awake my soul, and sing
of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless King
through all eternity. 

This is one of those songs which, for me, lifts the heart.  Its words do inspire my soul to praise and hail our “matchless King” who died for us.

Reflecting on this also inspires me again to live my life in a way that will please Him, rather than myself.  I pray I may do so as a faithful subject of so great a King.

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“For With the Lord there is Mercy…”

s31790-masterimage-r8056-lectionary-onlineThis evening after Vespers, I prayed the “Prayer for our Deceased Sister” with the other Sisters and visitors in our Chapel for the first time in quite a while.  We will be doing this for the rest of the week since one of our German Sisters died recently.

This prayer is offered in conjunction with Psalm 130: “Out of the Depths.”  One phrase of this psalm was particularly striking to me this evening: “For with the Lord there is mercy…”

It is consoling to think that in the midst of our troubled world, facing natural disasters, murders, political unrest and other issues, “with the Lord there is mercy.”

We really cannot grasp how this mercy works and how far it extends.  Without our even thinking about it, God’s mercy can work through us.

Corny Connections

corn.JPGAs I work to process about 1,440 ears of corn (half of which we have been cutting the kernels from and blanching), this morning’s reading about Ruth seemed appropriate.

She is known for gleaning leftover grain from the field of her future husband, Boaz.  We have in common this agricultural connection.

For me, like Ruth, working with the produce of the land, has been a part of life for a long time.  Not only do we get a lot of produce donated here at St. Anne’s which we have to process, but I was introduced to “corn-cutting parties” when I growing up.

We spent a lot of time on our friends’ farm during my childhood and adolescence.  So, while I grew up “in town,” I still had a lot of farm experience as well.

I remember one occasion when we had the kitchen table heaped high with corn which we cut off the cobs for my mom to blanch.  The kettles were then set in the bathtub to cool before the corn was put into bags and frozen.

Although I still ended up calling her to ask advice for blanching this year’s corn donation, this earlier experience provided a good background for me.

It is different actually running the operation yourself.  Now I am the one doing the blanching while others helped with the cutting.  We have eight bags now in the freezer.  This afternoon, when I get off work at the reception desk, I will work to blanch that which I was unable to finish yesterday.

It is nice that we have modern conveniences available which had not yet been invented at the time of Ruth.  An electric stove and freezers certainly make life easier!  A less sophisticated invention that I really appreciate in the large colander which I am borrowing from our main kitchen.  I works beautifully to be able to pour the contents from my hot corn kettle into it, preserving the water below and keeping the corn on top.

I remember what fun I used to have doing dishes when the time came to wash the colander, putting it through the water and creating a fountain with water coming through its holes.  This also had a way of revitalizing my soap suds if they had diminished.  (I wonder if they had any similar device in biblical times on the plain of Moab or near Bethlehem.)

In chapel this morning, as I moved from reflection on Ruth to the Gospel reading, I also felt a connection with the latter scripture passage.  Jesus reminded us of the command to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor.

When I am busy processing all this corn, I remind myself of the reason for doing it.  It is to be an act of love for God and neighbor.  It truly does occupy all the effort and attentiveness I can muster.

The psalm, too, ties in.  The exhortation to “praise the Lord, my soul” is appropriate in thanksgiving for those who shared their bounty.  I am also grateful to all those who are working together in this project, husking, “de-hairing,” and cutting the corn before it makes it into our kettles.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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Thoughts from Mother Daughter Days Participants

21013783_10155156601786725_2405091968820712625_oAs a Grandmother, I was thrilled to be able to spend time with my granddaughter at the convent.  I had attended the very first Mother/Daughter days with my own daughter in 2004 as a last “hurrah” before she left for college.  Now it has come full circle and attending with her daughter was like coming home.  The sisters are so welcoming and do a wonderful job of making sure each girl feels special.  We’ve got it on our calendar for next year already…

Thanks for a fun 3 days!
Rita

Christina would like you to know that it was “super, super fun!” and “I liked meeting the Sisters and seeing how they lived.  It makes me want to be a Sister.”

 

From Ellen (mom of Tina):  It was a wonderful opportunity to share in the daily lives of the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen.  I enjoyed meeting the Sisters and hearing about their life.  They have and do so much good in the area and the world.  The catholic church is blessed to have these great women of faith to help us pass the Faith onto our children and the world.  See you all next year!

 

God bless!

Ellen and Tina

 

Hats Off to Tuesday Evenings!

I know I’m a bit of a tease; maybe I should learn to act my age!PB260002.JPG

I do enjoy giving people a little grief, at times.  One example is hat-stealing.

We have a married couple that prays with us Tuesday evenings; they join in vespers during their 6-7 adoration hour.

On these occasions, the gentleman brings his hat with him and sets it on the pew beside him.

I am not opposed to swiping the hat and hiding it elsewhere.

We enjoy teasing each other; he brings out the little kid in me, I guess.

The experience of praying with this fine pair and the other Sisters here is part of what makes Tuesday p.m.s a high point in my week.

On Tuesdays, I have some free time in the afternoon, followed by supper and prayer together.  After this, promptly at 6:30 p.m., I work the reception desk here until 10.

I like this schedule as I enjoy the quiet evening half-shift at the desk.  I am also glad to be free to have supper and prayer together before this.

The peace and quiet of Tuesday evenings stands in sharp contrast to Tuesday mornings, when I have multiple commitments almost simultaneously, with 9 a.m. Mass followed by sacristy and receptionist duties right before leading Bible study.

Mother Daughter Days

Thanksgiving service
I just got back from a few days at our provincial house in Hankinson, ND.

This past Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon, We had a group of over twenty mothers and daughters join us for activities, prayers and Mass, games, and “mother-daughter time.”

There was a nice mixture of prayer and fun and also the chance to learn more about our faith and vocation.

The girls even learned actions to the song “Canticle of the Sun,” which is based from St. Francis’ own composition.

I was happy to have two opportunities that I don’t often have when I was there:  I got to play a rousing game of “Spoons” with some of the girls and I also was able to play the beautiful sounding organ in our large chapel there.  (An electric keyboard is nice, but the sound of the organ in Hankinson is really lovely!)

It was a nice chance, too, to visit with our Sisters in Hankinson since I don’t get to do that too often.

Thank you, Sr. Jean Louise for organizing this nice event again!

(More pictures will be forthcoming on this site.)