Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas is still coming...

I thought Christmas came early in mid-December when Sister Connie Ruth came home. Having both sisters home again made any gift under the tree seem like overkill. Then, a few weeks later, I thought Christmas came when we were given the OK to decorate the monastery. (We live the fullness of Advent so greens, red ribbon and lights don’t go up until the 23rd!) And on Christmas Eve, as good friends and annual Mass-goers came together at midnight, I thought Christmas came in the candlelight and the bells and bows. Then, early in the darkness of Christmas morning, I sat alone by our Christmas tree with a blessed cup of coffee. Most of the house was still asleep as the Midnight Mass festivities ended around 2 AM. I felt Christmas come again in the silence of my heart.

Christmas comes whenever we think of GOD’s great leap into the human condition, whenever bells and bows remind us of the real gift we have in Jesus. Christmas comes whenever we allow the Word into our flesh, whenever we welcome the stranger as guest or make peace our quest and aim. The older I get the more I love this great feast. Every Christmas is an opportunity to receive Him in the heart, to adore Him with our humble gifts, to proclaim Him with our love. Today is liturgically the 3rd day of Christmas – it is a season. Christmas is still coming, friends. Welcome it…share it…give thanks for it. From our house to yours, a Merry Christmas!

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fire and water...

It’s still early yet. Sister Mary and Karen have headed north to our monastery ahead of a snow storm expected here in Richmond. I am working in front of the fireplace in our Community Room. OK, not really working. I think I am still praying. When I came downstairs at 5:15, I turned the fireplace on – even before I started the coffee! Praying in front of the fire is a winter gift in this house. It’s easy prayer – if there is such a thing. All I have to do is look at the beauty and feel the warmth and I know GOD is. Water has a similar effect on my soul. When we have our precious week at the beach each summer, watching the waves and listening to them crash becomes my prayer. The immensity of GOD – the sheer breadth and depth of Love – washes over me there. Later this morning when water turns to snow, the earth will feel GOD’s love – like a great white blanket. And beauty will speak of a Love that can often elude me in my everyday searching. Sometimes, my search for GOD is purely elemental – as simple as opening my eyes to the wonder for fire and water and accepting those gifts as GOD’s love.

Blessings and love to you all,
Sister Vicki

Monday, December 6, 2010

Carrying our friends to Jesus...

The first time I saw Sister Connie Ruth walk, I wept. It was nearly one month ago in the therapy gym at Sheltering Arms Rehabilitation Hospital. I watched quietly, as two physical therapists stood on either side to help Sister stand. Then, with the use of a walker, Sister Connie Ruth took a step…and then another…and then another. By the time she reached the middle of the gym, I was handed a box of Kleenex by another staff member. The tears were unexpected and unrelenting. There was a time, not so long ago, when I thought I’d never see Sister walk again. It was truly a miracle to behold.

In today’s gospel the friends of a paralyzed man bring him to Jesus for healing. The crowd around the Lord was so dense that they opened up the roof and lowered him down. By his word alone, Jesus healed the suffering man. All were astonished as the paralytic picked up his mat and walked on legs that were thought to be useless. I suspect there was some weeping in that crowd, too, though the evangelist only tells us of the outrage of the Pharisees. It’s obvious why this gospel grabbed my heart today. We have been carrying our sister to Jesus in prayer for four long months. We expect Sister Connie Ruth to be released from the hospital sometime this week and return home to the monastery. Soon, my sisters with know the joy of seeing what I saw. God’s power is shining through both of our injured sisters as they continue to return to health. May God bless all the doctors, nurses and therapists who have given their gifts to this effort.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Message received...

It was about 6:50 AM when I saw it through the kitchen window. I gasped and walked briskly to the oratory where Sister Mary was preparing her books. I decided to go "Trappist" and motioned for her to follow me. As we headed to the back of the house, Karen noticed the parade and followed with her coffee cup. I unlocked the back door which leads to a small deck. Out we went into the cold morning air to see the most breathtaking sunrise about to burst over the trees. It was cloudy blue and pink and orange - layers of pulsing color that heralded a the coming of a new day. I knew if we waited even 30 minutes, it would be long gone. Standing briefly with our arms wrapped around ourselves for warmth, we could no longer hold our morning silence. "Oh, my!" "Wow!" I smiled and then we quickly scooted back into our little oratory just in time for Morning Prayer. I was still thinking about that sunrise after the reading of the Holy Rule - so much so, that I forgot I was the prayer leader and we sat in silence a bit too long. It was so beautiful...surely Saint Benedict wouldn't mind a few "ooh's" and "ah's" before the liturgical release of our tongues. Maybe, I'm not giving my housemates good example. There are times, Benedict says, when even good words should be held in deference to silence. I don't know... We finally stood to worship the Trinity and sang the most perfect hymn for the feast of St. Andrew. We sat and opened our books to the proper page for the first psalm and there it was!

"The sky tells the glory of God,
tells the genius of God's work.
Day carries the the news to day,
night brings the message to night."

Psalm 19 goes on to extol the rhythm of night into day. It is really an ode to the wisdom of God's creation and a hint of the salvation to come in Christ, the Light. I couldn't believe it! I'm not an advocate of breaking morning silence. But I do know that Benedict's Rule is flexible is it is anything at all. God gave the world a gift in the pre-dawn light and we were blessed to receive it. All my second-guessing just pulls me from the simple joy of gratitude. The psalms are always a blessing to me. There are days, like this one, when I feel as if a message has been tucked inside a bottle - just for me. Thank you, God, for the message received.

Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Sunday, November 21, 2010

King of kings...

I love the royal family. Maybe, like most Americans, I am enamored of an ethos beyond my grasp. OK, a woman could pull a “Grace Kelly” and marry into the system. But there is something mythical and mysterious in a royal bloodline – a covenant of leadership and service passed on from generation to generation. I got up in the early hours of morning to watch the wedding of Charles and Dianna Spencer – along with a few million other folks. It’s hard to believe it was almost thirty years ago! But as Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton, it seemed like yesterday when the world stood still for a royal wedding.

Today the Church celebrates the last Sunday of the liturgical year with a special feast commonly referred to as, “Christ the King.” Like Trinity Sunday, it’s a tough one to preach. What does it mean that Christ is our “king?” Certainly, he is like no king we’ve ever heard of. Scripture tells a different story. There was no royal entourage – just eleven guys who peeled off and left him in his hour of need. He had no throne – just a tree reserved for criminals and enemies of the state. And the crown? Well, you see where this is going. This Son of David laid aside his power to show us another way. This visible image of the invisible God accepted suffering and death to show us that love will always be the last word. By his wounds we were healed. Now, truly free, truly forgiven…we can choose that love as our guiding star. We can choose to serve a King who knelt to wash feet, who touched the leper and ate with sinners.

I’ll probably watch the next royal wedding. (It will probably be a community event!) I wish William and Kate well. It is a bit of a fairy tale. Every girl wants to be a princess, they say, and most women might long to love a king. My heart wants more. My king is love. My king wants to rule hearts not nations. This king reigns wherever peace is preferred to power, where the least are loved and cared for, where the sinner is welcome at table and the stranger becomes the honored guest. His kingdom is within each of us who claim him as Lord. And that kingdom will come in its fullness when love is the only reason, the only answer, the only way.
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Share our joy...

It’s Saturday morning. The warm sun is shining through my “office” window on the second floor of the convent in Richmond. I am answering e-mails and working with my calendar. Karen is enjoying a free day which means extra sleep, lots of good coffee and connecting with her family. Sister Mary is working at the monastery this weekend – grant research for development. And, last but not least, Sister Charlotte Lange is resting and praying in the first floor “recovery room.”

Yes, our sister was discharged on Tuesday and has settled in to the new but very familiar rhythm of the mission house. Physically, she is improving daily beyond my initial expectations. Sister is walking independently with the help of a cane. Home Health nursing, PT and OT are coming here now. The rigorous therapies are paying off in increased independence and moments of sheer joy. She is all smiles and full of gratitude for every small help or kindness. Being back in community, I think, is making a huge difference. Sister Charlotte is even joining us for the Liturgy of the Hours! (She’s not ready for her prayer book yet, but she’s singing the hymn and the canticle with all her might.)

Although the physical achievements are huge, it is Sister Charlotte’s attitude that feels miraculous to me. From the moment she woke up – two weeks after the accident. Sister Charlotte has maintained the certainty that God has everything in hand. She has not searched for the “why.” She simply accepts the events of this summer in faith and trusts that God has a plan – a vision beyond our own that sees every joy and suffering in some sacred context of meaning. When asked if the accident has changed her, Sister Charlotte responds, “How could it not?” Some regular joys have returned – like watching “Law & Order” in the Community Room. But Sister Charlotte spent the first eight weeks of her recovery in contemplation – no TV, no ordinary distractions. Illness, I think, can be a hermitage – a sacred place in which we encounter God in a way that transforms us. We are changed by what has been and experience of being vulnerable and dependent. I believe every moment of the last 15 weeks (tomorrow) has been the ultimate gift of her life to God. Sister Charlotte’s acceptance of the accident – the loss of Sister Denise and the critical injuries sustained by her and Sister Connie Ruth – is evidence of the power of God’s grace to sustain and transform the heart of faith. I know the lessons are not over. Each day as I assist her, I am the one who is gifted. It is a mystery – an experience of being in the present moment with someone through whom Christ is shining. I am not the same, either.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Birthday blessings in Ohio...

1) a gift of time from the cosmos – an extra hour of sleep!
2) Facebook greeting from friends that span four decades!
3) a voice mail from my community singing and sending love
4) being serenaded by 400 vocation directors
5) thanking my Dad for falling in love with my Mom
6) a body healthy enough to walk 10 blocks to the red line train (saving us $33 in cab fare!)
7) listening to my nieces and nephews sing “happy birthday” Aunt Vicki
8) a bubble bath and fluffy hotel bathrobe
9) chatting with my sibs
10) wanting nothing more than to be a 47-year-old Benedictine Sister of Virginia

Thursday, November 4, 2010



I will be off-line for the next few days as I attend the National Religious Vocation Conference in Cleveland, OH. You can look for me again on November 9th.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Requiem eternum...

Tonight, in our Evening Prayer, we will read the names of every sister in our community who has gone to glory. It is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed also known as All Souls Day. It’s a day set aside by the Church to pray for all those who have gone before us. We pray for them because we believe in the infinite mercy of God.

All souls… That’s every created soul since the beginning of the world! Those who died before Jesus Christ walked the earth and those born after the salvific moment of his resurrection are held in the prayers of the universal Church. The implied theology is powerful. Our prayers for the dead are effective. How? In what way? We can’t quite say because the portal to eternal life is not yet open to us. But the mere fact that we have the capacity to intercede for one another – even after death – speaks of the power of love and the expansive heart of our God. In the gospel today the Lord Jesus makes us a promise. “I will not reject anyone who comes to me (John 6:37)…” We must take him at his word and trust that our loved ones are safe in his arms.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn Came While I Was Sleeping...

Autumn came while I was sleeping –
ochre and topaz blaze outside my window.
It was my mother’s favorite season,
and so it became mine.

Funny creatures, children –
so filled with love-longing
that we give up our native aesthetic
to wrap ourselves in the heart of the other.

It’s a confusing day here in the south.
The leaves, in their dying, a beauty beyond compare,
yet, the summer heat continues.
It will be eighty degrees again today.

The dissonance is palpable,
makes we wonder if the swelling colors are some cosmic illusion
or if God pushed the button too soon.

Autumn was autumn in New Jersey.
Corduroys and a plaid wool jacket
kept me warm
as I worked the tiny rake in our backyard.

She would watch us from the kitchen window
steamy with heat from the stove.
I can see her smile as we jumped into crunchy piles.

I bless God for the gift of memory.
Eyes closed, I am five again,
bundled up and swimming in a sea of color
beneath the gaze of love.

Vicki Ix, OSB
October 27, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Canonical Visitation...

We are being “visited.” Every six years each monastery in our Federation is visited by two Benedictine sisters charged with observing our common life. We are blessed to have Sister Lynne Marie McKenzie and Sister Patricia Crowley as our special guests this weekend. Sister Lynn Marie is from Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, AL. She is First Councilor of the Federation. Sister Patricia hails from St. Scholastica Monastery, Chicago, IL. She is serving her community as prioress.

Canonical Visitation is a blessing on a house because it requires the community to spend the better part of a year “looking in the mirror.” We prepare by self-evaluation and revisiting our core documents – philosophy, vision statement, monastery norms, etc. We produce a document – roughly 200 pages in length – that is sent to the Visitators one month in advance of their arrival. Then, when the sisters finally arrive, we greet them with a special Evening Prayer and a feast. (Last night was beautiful!)

Today, the official work begins for our guests. Tours – inside and out – come first. Then, for the next two days, they will meet with the entire community in small groups. By Saturday evening they will write their report which will be delivered first to the prioress and then to the community on Sunday afternoon. It’s a whirlwind four-days for our Visitators, but this intense immersion is necessary so that the Spirit can speak through their insights. They will commend us for certain strengths and make recommendations that will yield fruit in our future. It is a graced time for us.

In the first reading this morning, St. Paul speaks to the faithful in Ephesus, and, as grace would have it, summarizes the message of canonical visitation. “Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” I have no fears for us in this process only the expectation of blessing. But, as always, we are grateful for your prayers.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Monday, October 18, 2010

Being with Macrina...

God uses people. Not in the way people use people – manipulative efforts made to bend another to our will. God uses people in a good way – and on a regular business – for the building of the kingdom. This weekend we had the gift of being with Macrina Wiederkehr. God uses Macrina – often and with wonderful results. A day in her company means poetry, prayer and song. A day with Macrina means new vision and a graced perspective on the holiness of just being. Sister has written seven books, copious poems and prayers. She has even collaborated with a gifted composer who set her words to music. But being with Macrina is an experience. When God uses people, something of the Mystery shines through. Held together in the present moment, God is found there – ever-ready to bless us. We are richer for her having visited our tent.
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Faith and Solitaire...

I play “Spider Solitaire” backwards. When the game deals out the cards, I click on the spare pile until all eight decks are fanned out. Then I try to put them back together. I’ve won 14 games in two years. That’s 1% of the 826 games played. I don’t know why I play backwards except that it’s harder so the wins are just so satisfying! When I start the game it’s very relaxing. Sliding those cards into their proper places feels like an easy task. King, Queen, Jack, ten…it’s so simple and logical. Five on the six, ace on the two…this is so gratifying! Can’t put the seven anywhere, the games going to end any minute…even my failures make sense. Oh, this is working! Three decks, four decks…nope - just dealt a bad hand.

I’ve always played in between tasks to clear my brain, but I’ve been playing more in recent months. I’ve been struggling with all the things on my “To Do” list. Yet, I hear myself thinking, just one more game. I’ve been wondering why I want to play more just when I have so much more to accomplish. Stress relief? Sure. But I think there’s more to it. Life doesn’t make sense. The mystery of suffering has been very present to us since the accident. There are no logical reasons for tragedy. And asking “why” doesn’t really get me very far. It takes far too much energy and brings no return. I prefer to live beyond the question and focus on the One who will be with me no matter what happens. Our sisters were dealt a bad hand. No reason. No explanation. Bad things just happen in our earthly journey. But God has picked up the pieces – comforted us and held us in our grief. God has carried our sisters into a place of healing and peace. This God who suffers with us – this is the only thing that is beyond a doubt. And I am so grateful for the gift of faith – this lens through which even sorrow can be transformed. In today’s gospel Jesus says this very thing to one of the ten lepers – “Go on now. You faith has saved you.”

We are going on now. There are little signs of normal reappearing in our personal lives. Life after the accident is new, though. We know things now that we didn’t know before. Our priorities have shifted. We know the gift of the present moment and the healing power of prayer. Simple things bring greater joy and things on that “To Do” list will still be there tomorrow. I’m not sure why “Spider Solitaire” has been part of my recovery from all this. (I don’t think I’m headed for a 12-Step group, but I may have to give it up for Lent!) There is this sweet moment in the game when I know it’s going to work – when six or seven decks have been laid out nice and neat. That is the moment – not the end where the screen lights up with fireworks to celebrate my brilliance. That moment right before the victory when I’m certain things will all work out – I think that’s what I love so much. I think that is exactly where we are as a community. Our faith has saved us.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The "better part"...

Today we hear the gospel story of Martha and Mary - a moment of domestic reality lodged in the Good News. I usually focus on Martha because, truth be told, the woman is cooking. This morning at our shared lectio, I was struck by Mary's silent vigil at Jesus' feet. - by her wordless refusal to budge from His company. I came to the monastery to sit at His feet - to be in His presence all the time - to listen to Him speak in my heart. For me, monastic life is the "better part." Before I entered I felt Him in our house and heard Him in our times of silence. This morning I got a wonderful reminder. No matter how busy I must be or what's been asked of me by community, the "better part" will never be taken from me. It is who I am. It is a gift given at profession - a promise of contemplative joy. I am a woman who sits and listens at His feet -no matter where I am or what I'm doing in His service. Abbot Brendan Freeman, OCSO,writes: "The awareness of the mystery of our vocation unfolds slowly, and it is only after many years of monastic living that we realize communication with each other happens through silence." [Come and See: The Monastic Way for Today The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN] I want to be the kind of monastic who can be God's worker bee and, at the same time, hold fast to my place at the Lord's feet. Freeman continues, "Attentiveness of heart leads to mindfulness of God." I never want to forget whom I am really serving - whose voice is guiding my days. I am so grateful for the gift of monastic life. Slowly, over time, I am waking up. The Mystery is all around me and within me. I will not budge from His feet. It is too wonderful a place.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In this together...

In my new office on the second floor of the convent, I have seven photographs lined up on the desk. Each wood frame holds a woman who has entered the monastery in the last six years and who remains in Initial Formation. These 4x6 frames have an order. They are arranged according to monastic rank. Although “rank” sounds military, it is not about personal authority or pay grade. For Saint Benedict rank indicated only one thing – the moment an individual came to the monastery. For us that moment is marked by the entrance rite. In his world people were divided by social class, wealth or political power. Benedict wanted to remove all those distinctions and set God-seekers on equal footing. Today, as in his day, we reverence one who came to the life before we did – knowing that it is only time in the monastery that molds and shapes the soul.

These seven photos are lined up from the first – Sister Kathleen – to the most recent – Rosa Farrar, a new postulant. But, because they are so close together, when one photo gets nudged, several fall down at the same time. I am constantly moving a pile of “stuff” and knocking someone over. Then, the “domino” effect takes over and several women collapse. This has become a treasured moment for reflection. As I set them all back up in their proper order, I remember how close we are to one another on the journey. I think about their futures linked together in the monastery and of how much they will need each other as the years pass. I pray for our women in formation. I ask GOD to help them grow in love for one another. I pray that they will pick each other up when they fall down and forgive one another’s weaknesses. I pray that they will come to cherish the Christ who abides within and among them. Then, I pray for Sister Andrea and Sister Doris who walk with our women in formation. Last but not least, I pray for myself. I ask for the grace to love each woman “as is” and love them enough to encourage them to keep becoming. It is our way – an ancient way. May Benedict and Scholastica protect and strengthen their daughters along the narrow road that leads to salvation (RB Prologue, 48).

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Friday, September 17, 2010

Just a Bad Dream...

The cars had teeth – real teeth. It was pouring rain and I needed to go to the monastery. There were many cars to choose from, but they all had teeth. What made it worse was that they were alive. They weren’t just lined up in the driveway waiting the turn of a key. These cars were actually writhing and snapping like alligators. I had to wrestle them apart – watching for the jaws and the swinging back end. I heard a door close and I was awake – at least I thought I was. I was so deep in sleep when I went downstairs for coffee that I woke up on the stairs with my hairbrush in my hand. Karen turned the corner to ascend, coffee mug in hand. I broke morning silence – not good – to tell her I didn’t know what I was doing on the stairs with my hairbrush. All three of us – Sister Mary in the community room trying to pray – tried not to laugh. It was a very strange beginning to the day.

Today is the feast of Saint Hildegard of Bingen – an 12th century abbess, artist, musician, poet, liturgist, mystic and all-around friend of God. A woman of great courage in the face of a Church constricted by rules, Hildegard stood her ground to safeguard love. She and her whole community paid a price for that faithfulness, but in the end, the God who called her to lead gave her justice. Mystics, in general, have a hard road. I doubt that the visions she was given compare to any bad dream, but she must have been frightened at times as she struggled to make sense of them. Her art can appear a bit frightening without explanation. I find her choice of colors earthy and beautiful. The truths contained are often less accessible to me – not unlike my own bad dreams.

It’s been six weeks since the accident. Both of my sisters are still struggling with the aftermath - physically and emotionally. When they collide, cars do have teeth. In my waking life there is greater peace and sense that "all shall be well." But in my sleep I guess I am still working out the events of August 1st and the suffering of my sisters. Although we have no control of what happens in life, I feel very responsible for the safety of the sisters I’m living with now. We are funny creatures – fearfully, wonderfully made (Psalm 139). Fortunately, God gives us the grace to live our days in faith and a place to work out our fears during the night. May Saint Hildegard intercede for us all today and guard our hearts from every fear. Please keep our sisters in your prayers.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Triumph of the Cross...

The readings for this feast are absolutely brilliant! On days like this I just want to hug the theologians that placed them together for our blessing. Today the Old and New Testaments are like bookends that hold the mystery of our salvation. Moses, in the first reading, raises up a staff with a bronze serpent to cure those bitten by snakes in the desert. In the gospel Jesus draws the dotted line saying: "So, too, must the Son of man be lifted up." There it is - the simple truth - the power of the cross. For the Chosen People that snake on a stick was the source of their healing. For us who believe, the death and resurrection of Christ heals us of every sin.

This morning we did shared lectio at Morning Prayer. (I just love it!) Sister Mary and Karen were both wearing red - the color for this feast. (They are such nuns!) The sharing was rich and Spirit-led. When I heard the gospel proclaimed this morning, Jesus' words felt like a command: "So, too, Son of man must be lifted up." So many have not heard the Good News. "God so loved the world that God gave the only Son...(John 3:16)." So many feel trapped by failure and weakness. What can I do today to lift him up so others might see his love and mercy? A great challenge for all who believe.
Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Three bowls...

This morning I laid out three cereal bowls and spoons – one for Sister Mary, one for Karen and one for me. (You probably can guess which one us eats from the melamine "Spiderman" bowl. It was a gift, OK?) It was such a happy sad moment. I felt a rush of joy because this simple ritual means that our house in a home again – we are three. I felt a twinge of sadness, too, because that was always Sister Charlotte’s gift in the early morning. I remember how it made me feel loved when I first moved in three years ago. It really is the little things in community – or in a family – that touch the heart deeply. I missed her this morning - even as I thanked God for Sister Mary and Karen.

Today was their first day at Saint Gertrude High School. I can’t tell you how many teachers and students stopped to greet us! There is great joy around their arrival and the gift of their presence at Saint Gertrude this year. Miss Alexander, who did her undergrad in Mathematics, will intern with Campus Ministry and be a Math resource for students who need some one-on-one support. Sister Mary, a former research librarian – will do special projects in the Library & Media Center. They both have many gifts to share, though it is their joyful Benedictine selves that will be the real gift to our school. Both received homemade “welcome” cards from Miss Fusco’s theology class. Very sweet… And there were some real sweets in the mailbox marked, “Benedictine Sisters.” It was a lovely first day of school that began with a very good morning. Three bowls on the kitchen counter mean that my days of dining alone are over. More importantly, three bowls mean our Benedictine way of life is continuing in Richmond. That is something to celebrate!

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sister Mary makes First Profession...

At Evening Prayer last night Sister Mary Clark, OSB, made her First Profession. Surrounded by the monastic community and invited guests, Sister Mary made the three-fold promise of stability, obedience and fidelity to the monastic way of life. This ancient formula makes monastics distinct among religious. Benedictines predate the evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity and obedience. Our profession rite is over 1500 years old and reflects the direct instructions of our Holy Father, Saint Benedict.

In making this profession, Sister Mary has bound herself for a period of three years to the Holy Rule. Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB, our prioress, spoke to the assembly about monastic profession. Sister Cecilia explained that although this moment constitutes a three-year commitment, Sister Mary must believe that it is truly the beginning of a life-long covenant between her and the monastic community. The power of this rite comes from its focus on Christ. Sister Mary signed her profession formula on the Book of the Gospels - a symbolic act that represents a lifetime of love for the Word. It is a public act in the Church - before God, the saints and the prioress who holds the place of Christ in our house.
Sister Mary is the daughter of Mary Elizabeth Diebler of Mt. Carmel, IL. Sister's family was held in prayer as they are part of our extended community. On Labor Day Sister Mary leaves the monastery to help re-establish the Richmond mission. She will reside at St. Gertrude Convent and serve in the library of our high school. Please keep Sister Mary in your prayers as she continues to search for God as a Benedictine Sister of Virginia.
Some weekend!
Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Someone's Knockin' on the Door"...

As the bell rings Rosa Farrar walks, surrounded by her family, to the door of our Chapel.

The community waits inside the Gathering Space for the new postulant to knock.

Sister Cecilia opens the door and asks Rosa the question: "What do you seek?"

Rosa introduces her family to the community: three sons, one daughter and many beautiful grandchildren! After the entrance rite, her family joined us for Evening Prayer and supper on the patio. What a beautiful day God gave us for a celebration!

Our new "sister"...

Sister Pat Novak, OSB, entered the novitiate on Saturday morning. The private rite begins her year in the womb of community - a year of study, prayer and internal ministry.
Sister Doris Nolte, OSB, is our Novice Director. Sister Pat will be in her care for the next 12 months. Though Sister Pat will be limited in her ability to travel during the coming year, she will experience the true freedom of the monastic life. It is the most intense year of initial formation. Sister Pat is looking forward to the journey...and we are blessed to have a new sister among us!

Sister Pat received the blessing of the entire community. After hugs and kisses, we shared a WONDERFUL breakfast buffet with Sister Pat's family.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The mind of Christ...

In today’s first reading St. Paul differentiates believers from those “of the world.” People without faith cannot make sense of the the world. They have no spritual vocabulary – no lens though which to understand this human/divine enterprise. “But we,” St. Paul says, “we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).”

I have the mind of Christ? It must be so if Paul says so, I just can’t fathom it. My mind is filled with thoughts – random and conscious, fleeting and stubborn. The last few weeks especially have been taken up with very complex mental operations and very mundane realities. “What should our three scholastics be reading this year?” “What size filter goes in the A/C vent upstairs?” “Where does Sister Charlotte get her courage?” “Did I wheel the garbage to the street?” “Have to start that report for Chapter.” “God, I need ice cream!” “I miss you, Denise.” “Call Catholic Mutual to get insurance for the new car.”

My mind feels very much like my mind right now. I can’t imagine the Lord living with that torrent of information coursing through his grey matter. But he must have had worries…and a “To Do” list of his own. “So many to heal…I can’t bear their suffering.” “One hour ALONE would be so good.” “I need to visit my Mother.” “These fishermen just aren’t getting it.” “Father, I love you.” “Jerusalem means death.” “Five loaves will be plenty.” “Am I doing your will?” “I need a weekend at Bethany.” “Father, I love them so much it hurts.”

Maybe, having “the mind of Christ” doesn’t mean a life without worry or earthly concerns. Maybe, it means believing that whatever happens to me today will be part of God’s plan to bless my life. Maybe, it means doing just what I can do in a day and knowing that God will take care of the rest. There is more, though. If I have the mind of Christ it is by way of grace and I become him only as much as I desire it to be so. To really have his mind, I must see the most difficult person as a child of God. I must never give up on anyone or fail to forgive. I must, ultimately, empty myself, like he did and open my arms to suffering and death. It is the gift of “his mind” that will enable this to happen in the life of every Christian – a gift given at Baptism that unfolds as we engage the mystery of faith. For right now? It is a great comfort to know that my thoughts – as ordinary as they are – are known to Christ. He knows what this journey is like and can strengthen me for any bump in the road. Now, that’s a lovely thought.

Blessings and love to you…
- Sister Vicki

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Plan...

I am returning to our convent in Richmond for a year. Actually, I am already there. I am here because I want to help take care of things until Sister Charlotte and Sister Connie Ruth are recovered from their injuries. Two members of the community will join me after Labor Day - Sister Mary Clark, OSB and Karen Alexander, one of our postulants. Both will be of service in our high school. Sister Mary will be in the Library and Karen will intern in Campus Ministry. Me? I’m in a new bedroom and have set up a small office on the second floor in a window well overlooking the avenue. I will continue vocation ministry from here as well as some new duties in formation. The three of us will be community for one another and maintain our Benedictine presence in Richmond. Yes, I did just move home to the monastery on July 1st. I asked to return. Sister Cecilia and the council prayerfully affirmed this request.

I’ve been thinking that much of life just happens. Ours, especially, is a life of everyday things that focus our hearts on God. Every now and then something BIG happens – a moment of great joy or immense sorrow. These big things – happy or sad – bring the gift of clarity. For a short time we see what is truly important – what really matters. I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be. This year will be a time of grace – for me and for the women who will join me here. I ask your prayers for our mission house as well as continued prayers for our sisters’ recovery.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Raised in Kane...

Small towns are like people – no two are the same. Kane, PennsylvaniaSister Denise’s hometown – has been home to generations of faithful Catholics who treasure the land and one another. Yesterday, the good people of St. Callistus parish celebrated a memorial Eucharist for Sister Denise. The church was packed with friends and family who were gathered to pray with the Mosier family and extend their sympathy. It was a tender moment for all who loved Denise – a chance to thank God for the gift of her life and for the faith that assures us that she, too, is risen.

Kane is town with priorities. Family, faith, hard work…this is the stuff of life in a farm town. Each home is tended with care. Flower pots hang and gardens sprout with vegetables and berries. The church is the epicenter of the community. Corner taverns offer the local brew – Straub’s Beer from nearby St. Marys. Spending just 24 hours in Kane clarifies things. Though the complexities of life abound, some things are very simple. People come first. God is always God. And, work is holy. It is easy to see how such a place, such a people formed our sister, Denise. It was hard to leave Kane yesterday. Our goodbyes felt weighted with the knowledge that things will never be the same. When we lose a sister in death, it feels like we lose her family, too. The intensity of relationship formed for love of her will fade into a new future – for them and for us. The Mosier family will always have a place in the community heart – even if we never meet again. Today, I miss them already. In their company Denise was so present. Maybe, we brought her to them, as well. This love we have for Denise still binds our hearts – a mystery, a gift. May God bless them in the days and months to come.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Our "road to Emmaus"...

In the last few weeks I’ve found myself in a strange position. I have begun so many sentences with the words: “There was a car accident…” The disclosing of a tragedy to someone is a difficult thing. The look of a dawning realization or the sound of a gasp has become the expected response. Yet, in the telling, the story doesn’t get any easier. It reminds me of the disciples who run into Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They don’t recognize him at first and are shocked that he doesn’t seem to know about the “terrible things” that have happened in Jerusalem. (Given the media attention around our sisters’ accident, I guess I think the whole world knows.) Just this morning a man came to the convent in Richmond to repair our A/C. He asked me, “Are the sisters at church this morning?” Soon, he realized that our sisters were THE sisters in the newspaper and on television for the past few weeks.

One of the things I love about the Emmaus narrative is how Jesus doesn’t rush to identify himself. He meets his friends were they are - lets them tell their story of pain and disappointment. Telling the story – though painful – does help us to shape every suffering into the Paschal Mystery. It has been crystal clear, though, from the beginning that the risen One has been walking with us. Christ has been with us in the many Benedictines who have joined their prayer with ours. He has been with us in the friends who’ve brought food to the monastery or sent donations in Sister Denise’s memory. Christ has been with us in the hundreds who came to the funeral or wrote cards of sympathy. Most especially, the risen One has been with us in the Liturgy of the Hours. Here, we have been held and comforted, challenged and transformed. We have never been alone on this road – not for one moment. In our dying and rising God’s power and glory are made known.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"I Will Raise You Up"...

The Dogma of the Assumption is relatively new – 1950. Yet, the faithful embraced this notion long before it became an ecclesial reality. It is often the people of God who make known to the Church a new reality. Today, as we celebrate her final journey – body and soul – into heaven, it is helpful to glean our tradition for insights into the mystery of her being.

In Chapter 8 of LUMEN GENTIUM, (solemnly promulgated by his holiness, Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964,) the role of Mary is considered both in her relationship to our salvation and to the Church. Her “yes” to God’s plan of is a definitive moment – an unparalleled model of perfect discipleship. Prepared to mother the Savior from her own conception, Mary becomes a model for the Church as it shall be – perfect and without sin. Even in her dying, God uses her to reassure us – to give us a glimpse of the resurrection that awaits all who believe. “Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin, (12*) on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, (13*) and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (297) and the conqueror of sin and death. (l4*) (LG 8, II, 59.)” Mother and Son together at last…what joy there must have been!

It’s been just two weeks since we carried Sister Denise’s precious body to the grave. This solemn feast feels like a gift. It is a reminder that the human body is dear to the Lord who made our flesh His home. Death divides the body and soul. Like an eagle the soul soars home, but on the “last day,” the body will be raised with it. That is our faith. That is the promise made to us in this feast of Mary. We must follow Mary in her example of faith. We must strive for the depth of her love and fidelity. And for our striving and struggling we shall win the prize of perfect wholeness. May she who has gone before us watch over her children now, “and at the hour of our death.”

Happy Feast....

- Sister Vicki

Friday, August 13, 2010

Trauma ICU...

St. Paul writes, “There are different gifts but the same spirit (1 Cor. 12:4)." I have spent several of the last 13 days in the Trauma ICU at Fairfax Hospital. The women and men who work there were given a special gift by God – a gift most do not receive. It is their task – their burden – to care for our loved ones in critical circumstances, and often, to sustain life itself. 24/7 ICU nurses watch and tend our sisters. In spacious, glass-enclosed rooms, they monitor vital signs and administer medications. Everything in the room has a function. Everything has been placed there to support or to heal. It is the ICU nurse who is on the front lines of the battle for life. I have been in awe of these good women and men. They are doing for our sisters what we cannot do. They are ever-watchful, respectful of our presence and attuned to the needs and dignity of each patient. They never seem to forget that these “patients” are our sisters - that every person in ICU is loved by someone.

Yesterday, Sister Anne Marie took a huge tin of her chocolate chip cookies to the nurse’s station. Their delight in that small act of gratitude was so genuine. Today, I praise the God of many gifts who has blessed our nurses with the courage, skill and knowledge to walk the line between life and death – the tender place where God decides what is best for each one who suffers. May God bless them and all who use their gifts to comfort and heal.
Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our "good shepherd"...

On the day of the accident, some time after we learned of Sister Denise’s death, a familiar face walked into the Waiting Room at Fairfax Hospital. Bishop Loverde had received a phone call from the hospital chaplain, Fr. Charles Merkel. He came to be with us – to bless us in the hour of our anguish. Bishop stayed with us for nearly an hour. He listened patiently as we told the story. Then, with Sister Cecilia, Bishop entered the Trauma ICU to anoint and pray for our sisters.
Several days later Bishop came to be with us again as we buried our sister, Denise. Bishop came knowing that there would be a sea of mourners and media trucks camped out across the street. He came because we needed him and I will never forget that gift. At the end of the funeral Mass, Sister Veronica and I, as pall bearers, wheeled Sister Denise’s casket out of the Chapel. As we passed by him, Bishop Loverde blessed her body over and over again with the sign of the cross. In that moment Christ was truly present to me in our good shepherd. In his blessing I felt peace.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Words fail...

It’s been one week since the accident. I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. I have had no words to express what these days have been like for us. What I say now I say as one sister among many. First, I want to thank everyone who has offered prayers for our sisters and for our community. We feel them – they are holding us up. Never has the power of prayer been clearer to me. So many people have reached out to help us through these awful days: Benedictines from PA, MD, NJ, AL, MN, KS, Oblates, friends and family. In this pain we have discovered the depth of love around us. Words fail…both in sorrow and in gratitude.

We buried Sister Denise on Friday. Several hundred mourners gathered with us to sing God’s praise for the gift of her life. Our Gathering Space was transformed into Africa – tables laden with art, photos and fabric told the story of our sister’s life and ministry. Even in our grief there was real joy for the sister whom we love is forever in God’s embrace.

Sister Charlotte and Sister Connie Ruth remain in critical condition. We are waiting in hope by their beds for signs of improvement and healing. Your continued prayers are a gift to us.
I find myself wondering if we will ever get back to “normal.” It would seem that time itself has been divided – “before” the accident and “after.” The only “normal” is our prayer. When I am with my sisters praying those ancient words I feel peace. The psalms are so rich with feeling. They speak alternately of profound sorrow, deep joy, righteous anger and genuine thanksgiving. No matter which one we pray, it touches a feeling inside me for I have felt all these things in the past seven days.

There is so much we cannot know now. The days and months ahead will bring new challenges and new graces. I do know that I have never been prouder to be a Benedictine Sister of Virginia. We have been of one mind and heart throughout this tragedy. We have clung to each other and to our loving God. We have clearly articulated the Gospel mandate of forgiveness and given witness to the grace that comes when we walk in His footsteps. The love we have for one another in Christ is truly stronger than death. It is a love without limit or exceptions. It is ours to give to God’s people through the Church and to the young man behind the wheel of the car that killed our sister. Forgiveness, mercy and compassion…Sister Denise would have laid down her life for less.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"I'll meet you halfway"...

In today’s gospel we hear that after the death of Lazarus, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming “she went out to meet him.” That initiative in the midst of her grief was the foundation of a miracle. Martha left the comfort of her home – the privacy of her pain – and went to the One who would understand her loss. “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died.” Whoa! That’s either a profound expression of faith or a major guilt trip! Maybe, it was a little of both. Yet even in the grip of a powerful sorrow, Martha went out to meet him.

As a child in the 70’s, I remember a song on a "Partridge Family" album that I just loved: “I’ll Meet You Halfway.” Cheesy? Yes. But that refrain came to the surface this morning as Sister Anne Marie read the gospel at Morning Prayer. “I’ll meet you halfway. That’s better that no way.” Martha gives us good example. The Lord Jesus is always coming close – always walking in our direction. We can just stay where we are – stuck in the feeling of the day – or we can put one foot in front of the other and meet Him in the middle. He is certain to be there…smiling… as the gap between us closes.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"shine like the sun..."

Today’s gospel offers us the rich imagery of the sower. I can’t help but picture the illumination in the Saint John’s Bible of a Midwestern Jesus in blue jeans casting the good seed on the soil. Being the “good seed” is certainly a worthy goal for all Christians especially we who call ourselves “monastics.” This parable could encourage us to consider our importance in the building of the Kingdom or the ultimate concerns of the end time, but the verse that grabs my heart comes at the very end of the story. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun…” (Matthew 13:43)

This verse was the theme of the Diocesan Youth Conference this past weekend in Richmond. Imagine 500 rainbow tie-dye t-shirts proclaiming, “Shine like the Son.” Amazing! Many of you, who didn’t attend DYC, might be thinking of Thomas Merton’s mystical experience on the corner of 4th and Walnut. Merton, watching the people pass by at that intersection in downtown Louisville, realizes, in a moment of grace, that he loves all of them – these total strangers. He knows in that instant that any separation between us as human beings is an illusion. There are two accounts of this moment written by the monk himself. The first is an entry in a private journal in March of 1958. But it’s in the second recounting of this experience in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander that we get the full story. Thomas considers his vocation and the temptation to think that monastics are holier than everyone else. He meditates on the great mystery of the Incarnation and how that moment has forever sanctified our flesh. He writes:
“And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander

So, not only will the righteous “shine like the sun” at the end time, according to Thomas, we have already begun to shine. I believe this is true. I believe it because every now and then I see my sisters shine. Sometimes, it’s when we’re praying or singing. More often it happens in the everyday – a small act of kindness, a personal gift used freely and fearlessly for God’s glory or just a fleeting awareness that what we have together is more real than anything else I’ve ever had in my life. I’m fairly certain that most Christians have had many “Merton moments.” As we persevere in the monastery they become more frequent. We don’t need to look beyond one another for the GOD we seek. May our eyes be opened to the wonder of that holy presence among us. If we are faithful to The Rule and to community, we will surely "shine like the sun" - here-and-now.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Friday, July 23, 2010

"The Hours"

Sometimes, when we pray together,
the sound of us
resonates in my bones.
The psalter strikes my heart
like a tuning fork
and it rings and rings…

Sometimes, when we pray together,
we share one breath –
slow and deep,
like the rhythm of sleep.
In those moments I am the many –
and there is only “we.”

Sometimes, when we pray together,
the ancient texts tell me secrets –
of how to be
in relationship with all that is
and how to love the strangers
who have become my home.

Sometimes, when we pray together,
I remember the most important thing.
We are on our way
and God smiles when we pray.

Vicki Ix, OSB
July 3, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

In a Kansas cornfield...

"All guests are to be welcomed as Christ (RB 53)." Hospitality...it's just the heart of the monastic endeavor. I travel more than most so I am blessed to experience this Benedictine value in other monasteries from time to time. This past weekend I was working on a Federation project at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, Atchison, KS. Though the focus of the weekend was work - preparation for the next "55 & Under" meeting in 2011 - the sisters at Atchison were pleased to include us in their Saturday night plans. I just happened to be visiting during the "Amelia Earhart Festival" - a weekend celebration of Atchison's most famous native. After the BEST hamburger I've had in a long time, our small group joined several sisters who were "camping out" for the evening festivities. Perched on the bed of a pick-up truck, folding chairs were poised to see the trick flyers - bi-planes that swooped over the Missouri doing death-defying loops and white-knuckle dives! Then, as we waited for darkness to fall, Sister Judy made s'mores over a folding charcoal stove - messy but way worth it! Sister is also the monastery fireworks expert. I watched - from a safe distance - as Sister Judy set off Roman Candles and various other small explosives. As evening fell and the real fireworks show began, I couldn't help but marvel at the fact that I was sitting in the middle of a cornfield by the shore of the Missouri River. For a girl from New Jersey, it was a once-in-a-lifetime pleasure. The Benedictine sisters in Kansas live the mandate of hospitality with joy - and creativity!

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Grief Unfolding...

Today is the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death. I am feeling the grace of time – the promise of healing paid-in-full. When I remember those awful days, it still feels like a bad dream. (I thought I was so grown-up then…just 26. I think, in retrospect, her death was the end of my adolescence. It was a defining moment in the journey – for all of us, I think.) "Fresh" grief is the worst – an open-wound that just won’t stop bleeding. It requires every inner resource – every ounce of faith. Grief doesn’t seem to have an ending, but it does seem to recede - like big waves in the ocean that eventually turn to a tired, soft ripple. I have made friends with the grief that abides in my bones – the loss of her. So much has gone on without her and yet, over time, she has visited me in my thoughts and dreams. Perhaps, it is the certainty of faith – the knowledge that she IS – that has carried me to a safe shore. I can still hear her voice, see her smile and remember her touch. And, thanks to my siblings, I meet her anew as they each reveal a precious part of her to me. She comes close from time to time – as best they can in glory – and I tell her things. Twenty years in, grief is much easier to bear – almost a gift. Something inside me is the richer for having negotiated this sorrow. I am joined to her still through Christ and the love that never ends.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"No place like home"...

I had a normal day yesterday – a perfectly, normal day in the monastery – and it was so good! Just prayer, work and some dirty dishes – the uneventfulness of it was just stunning. It’s not that I object to "highs" and "lows." Those places are usually my best teachers. But an ordinary day in the monastery is like breathing – it just happens. Bells that direct me to Chapel, meals shared with good women who make me laugh and just enough work to make me feel I’ve been creative – that constitutes the perfect everyday day. I hope I never get used to this feeling – the gratitude that flows from a good, solid life centered in Christ. Sometimes, we have to leave a place to see exactly what makes is it our place. What a gift…what a blessing!

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Week 52"...

I've been home just two days and it's time to pack a bag again. Not a business trip - VACATION! Yes, even nuns get one week of sun and fun. I am off to our rental house in the Outer Banks of NC. We've been going down to Nags Head for over 25 years. I think it was Sister Ernestine who instituted the beach week. My group is week #4: Sister Cecilia, Sister Kathleen and Karen who, as a postulant, is experiencing "the beach" for the first time. When we arrive around midday, the sisters in week #3 will have lunch ready for us. We'll help them pack their cars and then settle in for some serious holy leisure. I wait for this week all year and then, magically, it almost sneaks up on me. Here's what I love: sleep when you're tired, eat when your hungry and pray when the Spirit moves you. For one week we will live our monastic lives without the bell. It is an opportunity to rest in God - unplug from the Internet, the phone, etc. We will follow, instead the rhythm of the sea - the pounding waves and the gentle breezes. We might be up for sunrise or not. (Probably not!) And there will be a gracious common meal in the evening - lots of laughter and good conversation. Oh, and did I mention cable TV? Yup. That means "The Food Network!" Oh, I can't wait... I'll be back, on-line and on Facebook, Monday, July 12th.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last Run in Richmond...

This morning I took my last run around our neighborhood here in Richmond. Tomorrow, the monastery pick-up truck will carry me and my belongings back to the Monastery. Three years of life and ministry in this city come to an end. I’ve been preparing for this departure for quite some time – on a practical level. The vocation office at SGHS has been deconstructed. I’ve packed most of my room at the convent. But the movement from one place to another happens mostly in the heart. So many good memories…so many relationships deepened by time and life shared. As I made my way around the big square that is my running route, I felt like blessings everything – the flowering trees, the Honeysuckle bushes, the fellow-joggers who usually pass me by. I prayed a goodbye to the Yeshiva on Patterson Avenue where daily I could see the rabbinic students praying Morning Prayer by the second floor window. I prayed a blessing on the “Boo Radley” house – an abandoned cottage that I’m certain inspires the creepy fantasies of the local children. I prayed for Sister Charlotte and all who work at St. Mary’s Hospital as I cut through Maple en route to Monument Avenue. I’ve never been strong enough to run to our high school, which feel like a blessing today. I can’t run and cry at the same time. SGHS is in my heart now and that’s a good thing. It’s been said that when we leave a place something of our spirit remains. I hope that’s true. I know Richmond will come with me – the memories, the friendships, and the good work done by the sisters here. It might be a long time before I run these roads again. Until then I remember Richmond with love.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A "Must Hear" CD...

A good friend introduced me to a Minnesota trio several years ago. The "Three Altos" have produced their second album (I still think in records!) and it's as rich and satisfying as their first. "One Voice" is an eclectic mix - some composed by the folk-singer in the group, Sara Thomsen, and the rest by others. What I love about the songs is how they seem to reflect the inner life of this trinity. Three women - all with "regular" jobs - come together and sing for their souls and for ours. A folk-singer, a psychologist and a rabbi share more than tight harmonies. It is their friendship grounded in GOD that produces these contemplative and challenging songs. My favorite track (today) is called, "Echoes." It suggests that every second of life we spend loving somehow changes things - ripples out into the unfinished creation, nudging God's plan forward. There is a wonderful rendition of Bobby McFerrin's "The 23rd Psalm." And another track, "We Are Women," was written by the trio for the students of The College of Saint Benedict, in St. Joseph, MN. VERY cool. Whether these women sing in English, Spanish, Swahili or Hebrew, my heart is moved. Like their first collection, "Camaradas," I will use these songs for private prayer and for retreat work. If you are interested in hearing a sample or placing an order, visit the "Three Altos" at http://www.threealtos.com/.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bristow Benedictine Elected Federation President...

Last night, Sister Glenna Smith, OSB, was installed as President of the Federation of Saint Scholastica. Her election, amid the work of the Federation Chapter, was clearly the work of the Spirit. Sister Glenna follows Sister Esther Fangman who gave our Federation twelve years of service – the maximum allowed by our constitution. Sister Glenna’s term will take her from monastery to monastery – 22 houses in all. She will officiate at elections, oversee canonical visitations, mediate difficult situations and be our liaison with the Holy See. Sister’s new duties will call upon every gift and the wisdom of all her experiences. We are certain God has prepared her for this ministry and will grant the grace of office all in leadership depend on.
Bristow is bursting with pride! The gift we know in Sister Glenna we will now share with the larger Benedictine world. What does this mean for the Benedictine Sisters of VA? Well…it means that Sister Glenna can no longer serve as subprioress. That is a huge sacrifice but one that Sister Cecilia makes willingly for the good of the Federation. In her wisdom, Sister Cecilia has appointed Sister Andrea Verchuck, OSB, our new subprioress. God prepares the way and provides for our every need. It is a new day full of hope and possibilities. Please join us in praying for Sister Glenna as she makes this important transition.
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Where in the world..."

It’s been two weeks since my last blog entry. That, in and of itself, indicates a level of busy-ness that is unusual – even for me. If you were to ask me what I’ve been doing or where I’ve been, I could look in my calendar book and paint you a picture: Richmond, Baltimore, Dallastown, PA, Bristow. Projects, talks, travel and meetings – these things constitute “business as usual” for me. But, May and June are particularly challenging. And then there’s “Wonder Week.”
Girls grades 5-8 spend five days with the monastic community. Parents drop them off at 8:15 and pick them up at 5 PM. Our day-program draws them into our daily routine – meals, prayers and even work. We have classes in pottery, arts & crafts and ASL. Our girls have schola practice and hit the pool every afternoon. And on Friday, the day doesn’t end. Our “Wonder girls” bunk in sleeping bags in our Subiaco Room. (Guess who gets to join the slumber party?) By the time Mom and Dad roll up on Saturday morning, these young people have made a place in the community heart. We say our goodbyes and begin the countdown to next year’s “WW.” So, 51 weeks from now, we’ll do it again. We’ll greet old friends and make new ones. There will be songs to sing and adventures to have. In spite of a typical “WW” fatigue, I confess to missing those six young faces. I hope they miss us, too. T-minus 363 days…and counting!

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Getting" grace...

Only the Blessed Mother is “full” of it. The saints, I suspect, enter eternal life with nearly a full tank. The rest of us – simple, struggling, hopeful sinners – go through life learning the difference between a life of grace and “running on empty.” The CCC – Catechism of the Catholic Church – defines grace in this way. “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons [and daughters], partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” [Part II, Chapter 3, Article 2, 1996] Advanced theological study might include such topics as “sanctifying" grace, prevenient" grace, “ created” vs. “uncreated” grace. All these things are important, but as I continue on the journey, I am more compelled by moments of realization that confirm the reality in question. Yes, God is taking the initiative in the relationship. God is busy loving us before we even get around to loving God. God is, simply put, always loving us first.

I guess I’m interested in how we "wake up" to grace – how, over time and through life experience – become more and more aware that God is with us. It’s so easy to know when the tank is low – when we are consumed with our own issues, concerned about “many things”, like Martha. When we’re there we are generally miserable. We see only what is lacking in us – we feel “grace-less.” But then there are days when we are available to God’s unrelenting invitation. We welcome the Love that wants to inhabit our flesh and God’s uses us – in a good way! God uses our words, our actions, our faces, our hands…our love. And we become a blessing. This kind of graced-living happens more than we realize. The more we cooperate – welcome grace – the more sweetly it flows through us. Over time we begin to recognize what’s happening – believe that God is with us and working through our frailties to make something good happen. This reality – this kind of grace – can change us and others. How God’s unrelenting love does this is beyond our grasp, but it is too good to resist. It just feels good to be used by God.

I am 46 years old and I feel as if I am just getting grace. Three years in seminary and several letters after my name, and it is only through God’s gift of self that I’m getting anything. God – our God – is always there first - waiting, inviting, gifting without limit or measure. Grace is all around us. Grace is unrelenting. Grace…is God being God.
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Peace..."on top"

I don’t wear much jewelry – not that I couldn’t. Many sisters wear lovely, simple earrings or rings that belonged to a family member. I tend to stick to the holy “bling” – the medal of Saint Benedict and the ring that was given to me by my community on the day of my perpetual profession. When I put the medal on a chain, it’s easy to put on. But when I choose to wear the super-cool lapel medal, I have difficulty getting things right-side up. One Sunday morning as we were gathering for Morning Prayer, my prioress saw me struggling and said, “Put peace on top and you’ll have it right.” Peace on top? Oh…the Latin word pax can be found on the border of the cross. If the word, pax, is on top, then my medal is on straight! That woman is so brilliant! Now, in addition to having fewer “issues” getting myself dressed and in chapel, I now have this wonderful piece of advice to chew on. “Put peace on top.” Good advice and very in keeping with the message of the risen Christ. "Peace be with you."

The month of May is psycho. Our schools are getting ready for graduation. Vocation programming is at its height. Extra jobs and projects are demanding my time and attention. And the travel just won’t let up until June. My “To Do” list is obscene – even for me – and deciding what must be done first is not an easy exercise. “Put peace on top…” Can I do that? Can I grab hold of that peace that only Christ can give and let everything else take a back seat? Can I move through the days ahead doing what must be done all the while holding tight to the One who wants to keep my heart calm and gentle? I certainly can’t do it on my own. But, if I ask for help? For the gift of peace? I know I will not be disappointed. What gift would you ask of Christ today? Don’t be afraid.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-7
Bessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"I have so much more to tell you..."

“...but you cannot bear it now.”

I love this sentence. As the days dwindle down to his return to the Father, the Lord Jesus tells his friends that there is "so much more" to share with them. Now, in his glorified body, the Lord Jesus can see beyond our flesh and bone. He can hear the songs of the angels and taste the sweetness of being wholly in God’s presence. Now, beyond death, he knows everything and longs to help us understand the Mystery. But, the Lord knows too well, that we “cannot bear it now.” Though there is so much we long to see and understand, from our human vantage point the veil can only be lifted so much. We are still flesh and bone – still straining to hear the morning birdsong and looking for God in the mess of being human. So, to satisfy his desire to give us “so much more,” he will send us his Spirit. The Spirit will reveal what is true and good and holy. The Spirit will give us strength to abide in these bodies – to mark the days in time and space – until the Lord comes to bring us home.

But something is fascinating me. What is it, do you suppose, that we “cannot bear” now? I suspect it has something to do with the unconditional love of God – the limitless compassion and mercy in which we dwell every minute of every day. I think the Spirit is working within us and among us to make this love known to us. Now, here, we cannot bear the weight of this love. We cannot believe it to be real. We find it hard to accept that no sin, no loss, no suffering in our journey will keep this love at bay. Nothing will keep this love from taking over our world – one soul at a time. The Spirit is preparing us for the day when days will end - working to draw every human heart into the light of God's love before Christ comes again in glory. Then, the eternal Word will speak to us one more time and all shall be revealed. Until then, only the Spirit can prepare us for this great movement into Mystery. Only the Spirit can teach us to trust that this Mystery will never let us go.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki
"Jesus Christ," by Pablo Renauld, 2007