Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Praying as the Bride of Christ

A reflection by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB.

As Benedictines, our lives are hidden with Christ in God and, truly, we take on the heart of Christ in prayer.  And that is our life - we are called to pray with the heart of Christ.  We hear in the Rule of St. Benedict how we should pray the Divine Office: 
We believe that the Divine Presence is everywhere and that the eyes of the Lord behold the good and the evil in every place.  Especially, however, do we without any doubt believe this to be true when we are assisting at the work of God.
It says “assisting at the work of God”.  We are not alone when we pray.
Therefore, let us always be mindful of what the prophet says, ‘Serve the Lord with fear’ and again, ‘sing wisely’ and ‘in the sight of the Angels I will sing praise to you’.
So who are we assisting at praise?  In the sight of the Angels, I will sing praise to you.
Therefore, let us consider how we ought to conduct ourselves in the presence of God and his angels and to assist at the Divine Office that our mind may be in harmony with our voice.

What we sing we must believe.  What we believe we must live out.  We must live out the prayers we pray. 

We are the bride of Christ.  We have been born from his side.  It is said that, at the end of time, hearts will grow cold.  Let it not be said of us.  We are not called just to pray with the mind.   If Christ found no consolers, let he at least find consolers among us.   And thank him for what he’s done. 

Let us be guardians of the heart of Christ.  Let us bear his heart within.  That we may be truly one with him in mind and heart so that when we die, we have died with the heart of Christ.  So too shall we rise with his heart.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"You Are My Refuge O Lord"

On October 7, 2014, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we welcomed two new novices into our community.  Sr. Ann and Sr. Catherine, having completed their year of postulancy, were clothed in the Benedictine habit of the Abbey of St. Walburga as a sign of their next step in religious life.  The habit symbolizes putting away the ways of the world and putting on the "new Man" who is Christ.  Sr. Ann, 22, is from Alabama and Sr. Catherine, 27, is from Victoria Island in Canada.
During the ceremony of investiture (clothing of a novice), the postulants affirm their desire to seek God in our
Mother cuts Sr. Catherine's hair.
monastery.  Mother then officially receives the postulants as novices, cuts their hair, and presents them with the habit and veil.  The new novices, holding their habits sing, "You are my refuge O Lord, all I have in the land of the living," before they step into the sacristy to put on the habit and veil.  After returning clothed in the habit, they receive the belt and scapular.  The belt is a sign of obedience and purity of heart, while the scapular is a sign of the yoke of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sr. Ann and Sr. Catherine sing "You are my refuge O Lord."

Sr. Catherine receives the belt.
Mother puts the scapular on Sr. Ann.

Sr. Ann and Sr. Catherine will be canonical novices for one year and then have another year as novices before they can be admitted to temporary vows.  May the Blessed Mother keep them faithful to their vocation during these next two years!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

God Never Fails

A reflection by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB.

Earlier this week, be heard in Mass the reading from 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 on love.  If God is love, then you can replace the word “God” for the word “love” in that reading and then discover who God is:

If I speak in human and angelic tongues
but do not have God,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have God, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have God, I gain nothing.

God is patient, God is kind.
God is not jealous, God is not pompous,
God is not inflated, He is not rude,
God does not seek His own interests,
God is not quick-tempered, He does not brood over injury,
God does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
God bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

God never fails.

God never fails!  And that is His prayer for us as well, that we never fail Him.  The only way we can do that is by imitating Him.  Now I ask you:  Can you put your name in front of those sentences and be confident that it gives a good picture of who you are?  Strive to be able to put your name there so that passage can describe who you are.

Monday, May 12, 2014

In Memory of Sr. Luitgard

On May 2, 2014, our beloved Sr. Luitgard passed on into eternity at the age of 98.  Below are excerpts from the eulogy given at her funeral by Mother Maria Michael Newe.

Sr Luitgard would want us all to remember her today with great joy and to celebrate Christ’s victory in her.  Sr. Luitgard had a long span of life, though she always told me, “Oh, it’s going to be short!”  She was born August 12, 1915 in Germany, and given the name Elizabeth Kussman. 
She had the heart of a missionary.  She began her religious life with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, Germany.  Later, she found her way to our monastery and lived out her vows for 61 years.  Sr. Luitgard always had a heart that could say with St. Paul, “I accommodated myself to people in all kinds of different situations  so that by all possible means I might bring some to salvation.  All this I do for the sake of the Gospel that I might share its benefits with others.”  She cared immensely that souls know Christ, and she went about sharing the Gospel in any way she could.  I remember all the times she would see people and ask, “Have you had your First Communion?”; “Do you know your prayers?”; “Wait a minute I have a rosary in my room for you.”  She loved people and cared for them deeply.  Correspondence was also an integral part of her life.  It was a form of prayer for her as she expressed her love and concern for others.  We have boxes and boxes of her letters to prove it! 
Sr Luitgard as a postulant
For years, she served as a gracious and loving guest mistress.  She worked hard, cleaning, serving, welcoming, and calling people to ensure they had their yearly retreat.  Another of her greatest pleasures was gardening.  She had the greenest of green thumbs!  The greenhouse was overflowing with all kinds of containers that held plants.  She was also our seamstress and I remember going in to her to get my first habit made.  I remember how she looked when she began measuring up a person.  When she looked at you, she looked at every part of you because she wanted you to look nice in the habit.  I took that to heart.  She also loved the Divine Office and sang it with a beautiful voice.  I remember one time that she messed up in choir and she began to cry.  After the office was over I saw her go into her room and come out a short bit later beaming and happy and she said, “You know chocolate helps!”  That was a good lesson.
One of the dearest characteristics of our dear Sr. Luitgard, which encapsulated her whole life is that no one ever left Sr. Luitgard without a gift in their hands.  It was as if her dresser drawers mirrored her heart.  In them there was a secret hiding place holding something special for each person.  She never forgot anyone.  Whenever anyone would go into her room she would first direct them to the drawer that held a little gift for them.  She had a heart that ever gave.  She gave without measure.

When she died, I think she was in the most glorious garden.  I have an image of her looking all around when all of a sudden a great immense light came and she said, “Have you seen the One I’m looking for?”  Christ simply looked at her and said, “Maria Luitgard!”  And she said, “Rabboni!”  Christ didn’t tell her to let go, as He did to Magdalene, but, “Hang on, you’re mine!”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Love Christ This Lent

A reflection on Lent given to the community of nuns by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB.

During Lent, as our chaplain told us, we have a joyful sorrow and a sorrowful joy.  People who are truly immersed in Christ experience even their sorrows as joy because they’ve learned to share them with Christ.  Lent is truly a call to renewal, a call to renew our relationship with Christ.  The Church always needs to be renewed, and how much more do we personally.  We want to live fervent, good lives for Christ.  Regardless of anything else that happens in life, we must pursue Him in love.  We have to love Him sincerely, because love is the only thing that makes us go forward.  It’s the only thing that ties us in difficult situations.  It’s the only thing that burns clear in our heart.  It draws us to Him who is the source of all love.
In the Rule of St. Benedict, we find the reason for our following Christ, the reason for taking up the sweet yoke.  For us,  the yoke is the Rule.  In the prologue of the Rule it says, “Hearken O my child to the precepts of the master and incline the ear of your heart.  Willingly receive and faithfully comply to the admonitions of your loving father that thou mayest return by the labor of obedience to Him from whom thou hast departed by the sloth of disobedience.”  That word sloth reminds us of the times we haven’t followed faithfully, the times we slack off and say, “Do I really have to follow the rule that closely?  Do I really have to love my sister that much?  Do I really have to obey God?”  These questions are so similar to the question the serpent asked of Eve in paradise.  They twist our view just enough to give us an inch of our own will.  Lent is a particular time to turn back to God through the labor of obedience-- and that’s obedience on every level.  Obedience to the word of God is the main thing.  Our lectio divina is one of the most important points of our life.  It is part of the Work of God for it is when He gives His word to us and we our prayer back to Him is in the Divine Office.  We pray back to Him the words He’s given us that there may be a dialogue between Heaven and Earth at all times.

Finally, let’s not forget the spontaneity of the Spirit.  That should not lack in lent.  There’s a spontaneity which calls us forth to do what is present before us, to love spontaneously, to serve spontaneously, to give spontaneously.  We all know in Lent that we are called to look deeper into our lives.  St. Benedict has in the Rule the question that we are to continuously ask ourselves: “Why did you come?”  For what reason do you live this life?  For what reason are you here?  Renew that desire to be here.  When we do that, no one can take away the joy from our hearts.  Love impels us.  Love consumes us.  We should be consumed by love.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Conquerors With Christ

A reflection on the scripture reading, 1 John 5:3-4, by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB.

”For the love of God is this, that we keep His Commandments. And His Commandments are not burdensome…” (1 John 5:3-4) We cannot think of God’s commandments as burdensome. We have to think of them as light, in every way: they are light to carry, they are light in our hearts, they shine forth for us, they’re wonderful, they keep us on the His path. We should think of God’s ways as heavy, but must feel lifted up by them. That’s incredibly important for how we think is how we will act.

 And what does it say after that? “And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God, conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” Conquers! Not just pushed aside, but conquers! Live in that faith. Hold it powerfully. Conquer anything within you that is not of God . We are called, by our baptism, to be conquerors with Christ.  Take a hold of that faith that was given to us when we were confirmed by the Holy Spirit. That is not a small thing. We have been given the gift of faith and, in Christ Jesus, the right to conquer the spirit of the world.  Yes, God is asking something of us. But his Word is sweet and light, and He enables all of us carry it.  So let us act on the Word of God knowing we are conquerors just by our baptism. Isn’t that nice? The Vikings of God.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Lady's Advent Message

A reflection by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB.

It doesn’t hurt to repeat the words of Our Lady to Juan Diego when he needed comfort.  We’ve all been like Juan Diego trying to hurry and get our work done and in the meantime avoiding God so that we won’t get disturbed.  But God wants us to be disturbed, He wants to stop us and help us see through the eyes of heaven.  Sometimes we think things are in our control and we forget to look to the One who truly is in control.  Nothing happens without the consent of God, nothing.  It’s so important to learn that the things of heaven come first.  That’s what St Benedict say’s about the Abbot, “Let him first seek the Kingdom of God.”    We have to have our eyes on eternity.  That gaze has to become stronger in us.  And who is eternity but Christ?

So listen to the words of our Lady of Guadalupe:
Listen, put it into your heart my dearest son that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you is really nothing.  Do not let your heart be disturbed.  Am I not here, I who am your mother?  Are you not under my shadow and my protection?  Am I not the source of your joy?  Are you not in the hollow of my mantle in the crossing of my arms?  Do you need anything more?  Let nothing else worry or disturb you.

That’s an important question: do you need anything more?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Abbey's New Sign

Earlier in the spring of this year, we invested in buying a new sign for our Abbey.  The sign is located at the entrance of Benedictine Way, which leads down to our monastery buildings.  The design was created through a combination of ideas of the nuns and the sign creator.  We are pleased with our new sign as it is easier for travelers to see from the highway and it fits in more with our natural setting.
Come visit us and see our new sign!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Praying with the Blessed Mother

“All of these with their minds in full agreement devoted themselves steadfastly to prayer, waiting together with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus and His brothers.”  That’s the last thing we hear of the Blessed Mother's life in Scripture.  She is not even counted as the prominent one, but only, “with the women”.  She is left in prayer.  That is her life.  She is left under the authority of John.  So she lives in obedience for the rest of her life.
She is left to pray.  What did she most likely pray?  The Psalms.  What was her rule?  The words of Christ were her rule.  I imagine how she longed to hear the stories the apostles had of being with Christ.  She wasn’t present for all the events of His public life. She had to hear of some of them for the first time from the apostles.  I imagine the excitement she would have felt and perhaps also the loneliness at not having been part of it.

I reflect often on the loneliness of the life that Mary led, for, in a sense, every contemplative feels that loneliness.  We are alone in many ways. However the most precious thing for Mary during this time of being alone was that she was called to pray for the unity of the Church.  Mary’s life poured out for the unity of the Church because that was the last wish of Christ, “that they may be one.” (Jn 17) That was His dying wish.  That is also what God wishes for our Church today.  His wish is that we may be of one mind and one heart.  How does that happen?  When two are united in prayer.  When we pray together we are to be of one mind and one heart in our love of the Church, and our love of Christ.  Let us together remember that when we go to pray we are fulfilling the dying wish of Christ—to unite.  I think that is the glory of Mary's Assumption.  Her joy was to be united with Him.  Her desire was to be with her Son.  Her coronation was His gift to her.
To live independent is to fight unity.  When we fight unity, we tear apart the Body of Christ.  We once again crucify Him.  When we live grateful for one another, we unite the Body of Christ.  It begins in little ways.  I believe it is the contemplatives who come together who are to begin the last surge for the Church.  If you don’t believe evil will fight this you are living in a bubble.  Evil will fight it.  So I believe we truly need to do our best to live in gratitude for one another.  When we’re tempted not to, simply be grateful for the gift of another person.  So let us begin that great stretch of unity.  Let us strive to see Christ crowned once and for all as King.  Let us together long for Him so that that longing for Him may be what unites us all.

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Called to be a Benedictine

Excerpts from a reflection given by Mother Maria- Michael Newe to the community for the feast of St. Benedict.

What do I think that the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church and to us as Benedictines?  We heard from the book of Genesis last week, “We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us but we paid no heed.”  I think we are being asked to see the anguish of the Heart of Christ crying out for unity.  Several times every day we pray, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”    That is essential to our lives, especially as Benedictines.
In the Rule of St. Benedict, it is clear that there are four kinds of monks, “The first are the cenobites, that is to say, those who belong to a monastery, where they serve under a rule and an abbot.  Second, there are the anchorites or hermits, who have come through the test of living in a monastery for a long time, and have passed beyond the first fervor of monastic life… They have built up their strength and go from the battle line in the ranks of their brothers to the single combat of the desert.  Self-reliant now, without the support and consolation of another, they are ready with God’s help to grapple single-handed with the vices of body and mind.” (RB 1:1-5)  It seems that ,here, Benedict is saying that the blessing of living in community is that we are to be a strength and consolation for one another.  The power of a cenobite comes from the fact that he is called not to think of himself but of others and doing that exhibits the power of God in our lives. 
The first cry of Jesus is a prayer for unity.  The celebration of the Eucharist brings unity.  Unity can only be found in God.  God is the source and energy of unity.  Our unity, in turn, causes others to believe.  That is why it is such a sin to break unity; that is why God is crying out at this time for unity.  He desires that all believers may be one in Christ. 

Each one of us is called to be a saint.  We are called to strive and struggle and love in community.  So in St. Benedict let us strive together, in love, for unity; let us pray deeply, in love, for one another so that we can see our own call to conversion.