The Monastic Mirror


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, 2010

Most people are trying to keep the resolutions that they made last night.  I always found it frustrating to make these without first praying about what God may be asking me to do for the year ahead.  If I didn't pray about them, I almost always broke them.   I say this while I am driving to the airport for my flight to Rome, Italy.  Yes, my New Year is going to be spent traveling.  I am on my way to Rome to attend the Intensive Study on the Holy Rule of St. Benedict given by Sister Acquinata Bockman, O.S.B.

For the next two months, I along with 25 others will be immersed into this wonderful Rule.  It will be a journey of the mind, soul and heart.  What a gift!

You see, this Rule is what I follow, as a Benedictine Sister.  It is our instruction book of sorts,  from St. Benedict on how to live this monastic life.  It covers the simple arrangements of sleeping, to the praying of the psalms and the hour to pray them.  It tells me what to take on a journey, how to greet a stranger but most importantly to listen.  Not just to listen with my ears...but with the 'ear of my heart'.  So my New Year is starting with an adventure of sorts as I live the next two months with other Benedictines learning all I can about this wonderful Rule.

Please keep tuned in as I hope to update this blog on a regular basis as I immerse myself where our founder started...Italy.  I ask for your prayers as well, for I know this is a blessing and I so want to get the most of this opportunity.  Come Holy Spirit....give me wisdom, knowledge and courage.  Well for now I leave you as I make my way with the help of 'planes, trains and automobiles'.

To be continued.............Blessings
Sr. John Paul O.S.B.

P.S.  I am posting this early as I am going to Holy Hour for the New Year....Happy 2010 to all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In one tiny baby we see the unfathomable greatness of God's love

Unto us is born this day a Savior.  Let us rejoice and be glad.  It would be unlawful to be sad today, for today is Life's birthday, the birthday of Jesus who brings tha bright promise of the eternal life.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, has come into the world. (John 1:9)  This is such a joyous occasion...the birthday of Jesus Christ.  May all have a Blessed Christmas and remember to thank God for the best present of all......our salvation.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Its Beginning to look alot like Christmas

Around the monastery, we are beginning to decorate.  We had a beautiful  Advent day of reflection and Christmas is just around the bend.  Like most families, we have fun decorating the many trees that are in the common areas like our community room, dining room and halls.   The chapel will be the last to get a make over in preparation for Christmas day.

Sisters Mercedes and Dolores put some ornaments on the tree.

In addition to decorating, we are having 9 pounds of deer sausage made and smoked for Christmas morning.  This is a local tradition but my mouth waters just thinking about it.  The other 40 pounds will be smoked after Christmas when there is a little more time.

Another tradition, is homemade Raisin  Bread.  It is a sweet dough with lots of the raisins mixed through...toasted with lots of butter....

I wonder how I ever waited for all this good stuff when I was younger? 

God has graced us with the white stuff to make the traditional "White Christmas" picture almost complete.

Like all good children...we now must wait for the coming of our Savior...

Until Christmas...don't be nice.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Open House

Today our store, Trifle and Treasures, held an open house.  For many weeks there has been many volunteers preparing our halls, porches and rooms with the smells and sights of the holiday season.  This annual event was once again a time to visit with friends and shop around the store for a little item for Belsnickel this evening.

To the right, a menu for eating greeted those hungry for homemade soup and sandwiches.  There was cookies, pies, cakes and Sr. Margoretta's famous fudge.

These are just a few of the volunteers getting ready for the lunch being held in the music hall.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why is Advent Important?

Have you ever read a book before going to a movie so that you would understand, and not miss any important events that might be in the book but not in the movie?  I do.  Most of the time the book has more detail about the plot and often has important information that is left out of the movie.  The information left out is often subtle but important for you to get the whole picture..  Well this is why Advent is so important.  It is a time of preparation for Christmas.  It is a time to get the whole idea of what it means to prepare for the birth of Jesus.  I know some of you are saying I am prepared, I have the tree up, the Christmas gifts bought and wrapped, the Christmas cards are almost done.  But I ask:  How have you prepared yourself for the coming of Christ into your life once again this year?  What have you done to be more involved with the Church, or What do you need to reflect upon these next couple of weeks to get yourself personally ready for the coming of our Lord?  What areas of my life need polished or am I ready?  Is there a part of me that needs fixed, repaired or attention?  Have I read the Book...the Bible and prepared for the coming?  Have I read the plots, understood the prophets, do I see the signs?  Have I understood the details given in the Book that need to be a part of my preparation for the birth of Christ?
      If you haven't or answered NO to any of these questions...Advent is important to all of us.  It is the time to read the BOOK and prepare for the birth of our Savior.  It is a time to learn to read the signs; what the prophets foretold about the coming of the Christ child. Take this time,this wonderful time to get ready for the coming of the Savior...Prepare the way for the birth of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving tomorrow and I have so much to be thankful for.  I have been graced with a wonderful vocation that I am so grateful for.  I give thanks everyday for the opportunity to serve God and others through this wonderful way of life.  As we sit down tomorrow with our family, we will pray not only for all that God has graced us with, but for those who enrich our lives by their presence.  We will pause for those who do not have enough to eat and ask that our God will bestow on them the blessings that they need.                                                                                  

We thank our Service men and women who fought for the freedom to allow us to enjoy one another, and the freedom to celebrate this holiday.

In Thanksgiving:    
     For each new morning with its light,
     For rest and shelter of the night,
     For health and food,
     For love and friends,
     For everything Thy goodness sends.
       Ralph Waldo Emerson

I wish everyone a Blessed Thanksgiving.  Thank you for the blessing you are to my life.

  Your Sister in Christ,
    Sister John Paul    

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The AIM International Council and AIM USA Meeting

On October 17th and 18th the International Council of AIM (Alliance for International Monasticism) and the AIM USA Board of Trustees and guests met at Mount Saint Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania.  The Benedictine Sisters of Erie have sponsored the US Secretariat of AIM since 1990 but this is the first time the International Council has held its meeting here.  Sister Christine Vladimiroff, O.S.B., prioress of the Erie community is pictured introducing the board. 

Pictured to the left, is Sister Jacinta Conklin,O.S.B. and Sr.Dr. Aquinata Bockmann, O.S.B. both who were in attendance at this historic meeting. 

AIM USA provides assistance to monasteries in developing countries while in turn we are enriched by the cultural diversity and global vision in living the Rule of Benedict.

There is so much I could write about this wonderful, life giving organization.  I ask that you visit there web site and get involved...make a difference in the world.
  God Bless.   Sister John Paul, O.S.B.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween, All Saints and All Souls

Every October brings the carved pumpkins, goblins, ghosts, and children going "Trick or Treat".  It is a time when we mix secular and religious elements without many of us knowing what it is all about.  Halloween or All Hallows Eve is the night before or the vigil celebration of the Catholic Feast Day of All Saints Day.

In medieval times, one of the customs was for children to go begging for "soul cakes" while they promised to pray for the dead relatives of the person who gave them a cake.  Some would dress in scary outfits collecting firewood for a community bonfire. History says that they celebrated this night with a festival marking the colder temperatures, harvest, and the change in activity.  They believed this magical time opened up some sort of connection with the dead.  Whatever the history, we feel connected in some way to our deceased family and friends.

Tomorrow, we celebrate All Saints on November 1 with the entire church on earth to honor those in heaven.  On November 2, All Souls Day, we remember the faithful departed whose souls are in Purgatory making reparation for their sins, before proceeding to heaven.  Pope Benedict XVI in a homily for All Saints Day in 2006, explained that remembering all the saints helps  "reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God's friends.  Being a saint means living close to God, to live in his family and this is the vocation of us all."  It is a way to recognize those individuals who have served God well on earth and now enjoy the communion in heaven.

With all three of these wonderful and beautiful days there is a great opportunity for us to familiarize ourselves with the lives of these holy men and women.  They can show us how to be saints  by the way they lived.  We can look to them to learn, to model some aspect of our life so that some day we also can be with them.  For the young, or even young at heart there is Maximillian Kolbe, Kateri Tekakwitha, Maria Goretti and Martin de Porres to name just a few.  These saints have shown us how to live life with conviction and love of God.  They were passionate about their vocation in life whether single, married, or religious.  So I pray that during this wonderful time, that you remember those who have gone before us with the hope and promise of eternal life.

God Bless and Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall is almost over when we start filling our cellars with apples, grape juice and other fruits that soon will be difficult to obtain from the grocery store.  Yesterday, we made one of several trips to get Cortland, Jona-Gold, Macintosh, Red and Yellow Delicious Apples to name just a few.  There is a co-op we visit, and the variety of fruits and vegetables is so wonderful.  I always look forward to the drive up the mountain.  If we are lucky, we see some deer or turkey along the way.  We can plan on the scenic color of God's tapestry as we weave up and around the hills.  I love this time of year for the simple pleasures and smells that remind me of what I am so thankful for. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Musicians Retreat

A day of reflection for music ministers and guest was held in our chapel, from 9:30 to 2:30.  Father Stephen Concordia, O.S.B. from St. Vincents Archabbey was the retreat master.  The theme was: " How Can I Keep from Singing."  It was obvious to those of us in the house, that these people were passionate about what they do as the singing, music, and vibrant reflections echoed in the halls.  I pray that all who attended had a grace filled time.

"Those who sing...pray twice"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

East Coast Formation Conference

Sisters and Women in Formation from Ridgley, Maryland; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Elizabeth, New Jersey and St. Marys converged in Bristow, Virginia for the East Coast Formation Conference on October 16-18th.   The topic was Diciples of Hope by Brother Loughlan (Lock) Scofield, S.T.    There is so much I would like to share with you about this conference and the speaker but first just look at the picture.  If you have a wise will note that we are all smiling...and can assume that we are all hopeful.  Why you may ask is being a disciple of hope so important?  Many of these women are the future of each of our houses...they are the faces of the Sisters who will minister to those who are hungry, thristy and need clothing and shelter.  These are the communities, that witness to others what it means to live the gospel message everyday.  It is through hope, that each and everyone of us can be comfortable with God's call in our lives.  We can be a people of passion for our Monastic lives.  Hope allows us to face our fears, share our joy and grow with God.  It is not a life without conflict but a life that allows us to fail and be stronger and loved in that failure.    As Mother Theresa said, "we are not called to success, we are called to be faithful".  As Disciples of Hope, we have the freedom to fall, reflect, and learn what is being asked of each of us as we remain faithful to our Monastic way of life. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It started to snow this morning and we are expected to get anywhere from 2 to 12 inches of snow in "the higher elevations".  We are one of those elevations. a fellow Brother told me just recently....Sun and Moon bless the Lord.  Frost and Chill, bless the Lord.  Ice and Snow, Bless the Lord.  (Canticle of Daniel)  So I bless the lord for the beauty of the seasons. 

I will be out of the office this weekend while Linda, (our live-in) and I travel south of the Mason-Dixon line to the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia.  I will not be blogging during this time but when I return, I hope to continue.  Till then....May God Bless You......Sister John Paul

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God's Creatures Great and Small

I want to share with you some of the majestic animals that grace this beautiful area in which I live.  The three bull elk in the picture are located in the borough of Benezette, Pennsylvania.  During the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October, countless visitors decend upon this area to witness nature and "the rut".  It is during this time, that the male or bull elk, bugle for the women in the herd. It is their mating call. The bulls will often spar each other to exert their dominance on the herd.  As you can see from the pictures, these majestic creatures can weigh around 1100 pounds or more.  I enjoy going just before dusk to get a glimpse of these beautiful animals. 

This picture was taken by Blaine Wehler.  It was during one of the trips to view the Elk that I ran into Blaine and I am so grateful that he sent me this picture.  I hope you too enjoy it.

If by chance you come across one of these little animals, they are not the hugable ones in the store.  Yes, that is a black bear, watching as I walk through the woods.  They too, have a beauty all their own.

Every once and awhile, God blesses me with a glimpse of this little creature.  It is a fawn, hiding in the brush while it's mother is not too far away.

   Thank you for coming on this journey into the woods with me.  I hope you can enjoy them as much as I do.
            God Bless,
                   Sister John Paul

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Arrived home to St. Joseph Monastery after an all day affair with the airlines.  It used to be fun to fly, but now it is a chore...another thing to offer up for the Glory of God.  The beautiful thing, I got to see snow...yes the white stuff.  On our decent into the airport in Pennsylvania, I got to see the gorgeous colors of the leaves...imagine...all in one day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Benedictine Vocation Directors Conference

A picture of the 40 or so Benedictine Vocations Directors who participated in this wonderful experience. We spent a week together exchanging information and listening to wonderful speakers regarding Vocation Ministry. One outstanding speaker, who shared with us her prophetic vision of Monasticism as Radical Christianity, was Sr. Joan Chittister, O.S.B. Everyone was came away with a renewed appreciation and a challenge of how are lives can influence the world if we are true to our Monastic way of life.
Pictured with Sister Joan, is Sister Mary Katherine (St. Ben's), Brother Paul Vincent (St. John's) and Sr. Vicki (Bristow) who were gracious enough to host this awesome event. From the bottom of my heart, I thank this wonderful team.

This is Brother Martin de Porres from Marmion Abbey (left photo) who is also in Vocation Ministry. He was delightful and we enjoyed the wealth of information provided to us.

I was showing my Brothers the pictures of the beautiful Elk we have in our area. They were so kind to host a beautiful dinner for all the Benedictine Vocation Ministry Directors. Thank you so very much.
This is the bell tour at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota where we prayed with the Monks.