Friday, March 14, 2008

Vocation Retreat Weekend...

I am late today - VERY late, actually. But, Sister has an excuse. We are expecting six women to join us for a weekend of retreat. The program is vocation-based, but really grounded in the liturgical milieu of Passion Sunday and Holy Week. One of our guests arrived on the first flight into Richmond International Airport this morning. From there we headed north to the monastery. So, after attending to some important errands for the program, Midday Prayer and lunch with the community, I am finally settled in the other Vocation Office.

The theme of our retreat is "Monastic Life - Embracing the Paschal Mystery." I'm excited... These weekends are one of my very favorite things about vocation ministry. The women who visit us bless us with their presence. We are all changed in someway by one another in the short span of 48 hours. And, I always have the sense that GOD is very active when we allow ourselves the time to listen. I ask you to keep our retreatants and the Vocation TEAM in prayer this weekend. Gotta go...things to's all in the details!

Blessings and love...
- Sister Vicki

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I see crosses everywhere. I know this sounds like the line in “The Sixth Sense”, but it’s crosses – or THE cross – that I see. Sometimes, it’s in the cracks of floor tile. Sometimes, telephone poles or window panes – even markings on the street that indicate a parking space – reveal the symbol on which we base our hope. In his chapter on “The Tools for Good Works” Saint Benedict urges us to think about eternal life. “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die. (RB 4:47). It might sound a bit grim eviscerated from the rest of the text, but Benedict wanted monastics to focus on the prize – the life that never ends won for us by the cross of Christ. He wants us to live every day as if it were our last – loving fearlessly and freely, attuned to the compassion and mercy of GOD.

In this morning’s gospel, JESUS spoke the truth and the pharisees were NOT happy. His claim that “whoever keeps my word will never taste death (John 8:51),” really rattled their theological cages! They could not listen with their hearts and accept the profound truth being revealed to them. You and I know the rest of the story – how the passion of Christ becomes our gateway to glory. You and I know that the cross – a sign of shame and terror in the ancient world – is now a symbol of the love stronger than death.

It is the hope of every monastic to live the Paschal Mystery in miniature – accepting whatever sufferings come, letting go here and there and embracing the little deaths, so that at the moment of our own, we are ready to surrender all that we are to the Mystery. I’m glad I see crosses everywhere. If you look around in your everyday world, you will probably start seeing them, too. It is a gracious lens through which to view all that happens in a given day – all the joy and pain of simply being human. It is a wonderful way to keep our eyes on the prize of heaven and our hearts focused on loving here and now. Good luck...let the search begin!

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Things I love about the monastery...(cont.)

I have to leave this morning for a regional meeting of vocation directors in Catonsville, MD. There is always a part of me that wants to stay put - the mysterious force of stability that draws each monastic heart to a particular home. Today, it's a bit worse given that my meeting will be difficult. It will be the first gathering since Sister Mary Paul's death one week ago. Many of my colleagues will be expressing their loss and grief for the first time in a communal setting. I am bringing a photograph of my friend to help focus our thoughts on the beauty of her life as opposed to the violence of her death. Today, I wish I could just stay home.

So, I've decided to focus again on the beauty here - for the good of my own soul. That walk yesterday morning was a bigger blessing than usual. I have new images to take with me of the little things that touch my heart so deeply.

Sister Mary Patricia walks our Dossy in the very early morning. They traverse the plantation together - Sister often bring sacred reading and Dossy just sniffs the world joyfully until she finds several perfect spots. :) The sight of the them makes my heart glad. Many things change; many remain constant. You could set your watch by Sister Mary Patrica. And, if you're lucky enough to meet them on your walk, you're sure to get a loving smile and wagging tail.

I saw something else yesterday that made my heart sing. I spied one our our beautiful postulants practicing the piano in our Living Room. It was still early. Only one soft light to brighten her music, but she was playing as if the notes were written on her heart. It was a lovely sound. I'm still moved when I look at Kathy and Karen - overwhlemed by how much GOD must love us to send two faithful and loving women to share our journey.

There is one other thing I just love about the monastery - my room. That 8'x10' bedroom really feels like home to me. While I can't really put photos of our cloistered areas on the internet, I can share one of my favorite decorations. Most sisters would consider me a minimalist in terms of what's actually in my room and on my walls. Actually, there is a cross from St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN (alma mater) and a wall full of my niece's artwork. Molly is our first-born grandchild and, as such, has had the honor of an entire cinderblock wall. Her very first letter to me is there - written verbatim by her mother. It cracks me up everytime I read it. There are other works of art as well. I can remember Molly's journey this way and mark a place where our journeys meet.

I have to hit Rt. 66 and I 95 now. The quiet in the car will undoubtedly do me good. GOD never fails me when I'm wise enough to ask for help. I will ask for the grace to bear sadness and do the work that needs to be done. And, I'll ask Sister Mary Paul to give strength to her sisters and friends who face the hard work of grief in the days and months ahead. I learned last week that Sister Mary Paul had a favorite hymn written by the Brothers of Weston Priory. The refrain soothes my soul and bring her close in my heart.

"Let it be, yes, let it be!
As you will so let it be done.
Though I do not understand,
GOD will be with me
this I do know!"
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Things I love about the monastery...

I’m at the monastery until Wednesday morning. I expected to be in a planning meeting all day today, but our work went so well yesterday that we finished our agenda. So, I am left with this day – a gift from GOD, to be sure.

Morning Prayer here just feels so right. I closed my eyes to really listen to my sisters’ sing. In LENT we keep silence through breakfast. The prioress is reading to us from Michael Casey’s book, Strangers to the City. After breakfast I decided to take a walk in the chilly morning air and watch the sunrise. My heart is filled with gratitude this morning for all the things I love about Bristow and graciousness of the GOD who gave me a “snow day” in springtime.

Blessings and love to you all…

- Sister Vicki
PS - I'll be "blogging" Monday - Friday, unless I am without internet access.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"And Jesus wept."

I love this gospel. Even though it's Monday and the Church offers a new gospel for our prayer this morning, I am still lost in the bounty of Sunday's scripture - still pondering the many graces of His late return to Bethany.

First, GOD allowed Lazarus to die. If Jesus has returned sooner and healed him of his illness, we would not have seen the power of GOD at work through the Son. Second, Jesus wept. The Son of the living GOD cried for his friend forever sanctifying our tears of sorrow and grief. Three simple words - the shortest of scriptures - but what a gift! And last, Martha's expression of faith in the midst of her terrible grief. Our Jewish brothers and sisters have a beautiful liturgical practice. A person who is mourning prays a special prayer in synagogue for one year after the death of a loved one. If there are many grieving, they all stand together. The prayer is an act of praise. Even in the suffering of loss GOD is to be praised and glorified. The mystery of death and resurrection is beyond our understanding. But it is our faith in that mystery that makes the human journey possible - gives meaning even in the face of overwhelming sorrow.

When people we love are taken from us in death, may we trust that GOD has a plan for their blessing - and for ours. May we weep with abandon for ourselves and know that Christ the Lord knows our sorrow. And may we, like Martha, stand firm in our faith even as we struggle to embrace the ultimate mystery of the human condition. Even in our grief may we praise the GOD who raised Lazarus from the dead and promises the very same to each of us through Christ.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki