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Being Benedictine

A Listening Heart

Benedictine Mission House: A Birthday Gift to Celebrate St. Benedict, July 11

My birthday, July 11, coincides with the Feast of St. Benedict. I cannot think of a better cause to support than the Missionary Benedictines in Schuyler, Nebraska, where I am a Benedictine oblate.

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For my birthday this year, I’m asking for donations to Benedictine Mission House. I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me. 100% of donations go to their missions reaching out to underprivileged in developing countries, enabling them to help themselves and thus better their life through education on all levels, healthcare, farming, and animal husbandry.

Who are the Missionary Benedictines?

The Missionary Benedictines are a worldwide congregation of 19 abbeys and priories. 1100 monks live and work in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe according to the Benedictine tradition in self-supporting monastic communities. Their work focuses on four primary areas: healthcare, education, hunger relief/environment, and evangelization.

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As a teacher, education of young people is a cause close to my heart. Missionaries realized early on that education is a critical issue to help developing nations in their struggle towards independence and economic stability. The gathering place for children or adults, willing to learn the basics of the three “R’s” — reading, writing, and arithmetic by a missionary monk or sister was under a tree; later on the one classroom buildings with crude furnishings and often without doors or windows could be found on the parish property. Today, the standard of a school building is advanced compared to those of years ago. More info about education HERE.

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You can donate on Benedictine Mission House website or Jodi’s Birthday Fundraiser for Benedictine Mission House.

What is a Benedictine Oblate?

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Benedictine Oblates are ordinary people: men and women, married and single, lay and ordained; Catholic and non-Catholic Christians; retired, working in the home and the community. Members of the Oblate community at Christ the King Priory are from Schuyler, Omaha, Lincoln, Missouri, South Dakota — even as far away as New York and Louisiana. What they have in common is a deep desire to live as members of the Body of Christ in a special way — according to the principles of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The promises Oblates (and monks) is to the conversion of life, stability, and obedience. For more information, click HERE.

As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. — 1 Peter 4:10

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Blessings and Challenges: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, The Last One

Our Benedictine Pilgrimage to Germany, Austria and Switzerland was both an outer and inner experience of hospitality, history, humor, humility, and heat, and always present in our hearts, home.  The H thing was a total coincidence that emerged when I started reflecting on the pilgrimage (Part 4), but I add blessings, opportunities, and challenges to this final reflection as well.

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There are too many blessings to count: time with dear friends from home, renewing friendships with those who had gone on pilgrimage five years ago, forming new and deepening relationships with oblates and others, so much laughter, the ritual of daily and morning prayers, a shared experience of faith, the joy and peace of monks and sisters, beautiful art, architecture, history, culture, delicious food, the leadership and positive attitude of Fr. Volker, a true gentleman with a heart for the one who needs compassion and comfort the most—the epitome of hospitality and the most active, energetic man that I have ever met and Fritz Minhard, a gracious, patient, well-informed, problem-solving, loving pilgrimage guide.

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The pilgrimage was an opportunity to be attentive to the divine—the beauty of the mountain views, the flowers blooming, the streams flowing through the valleys, the centuries-old buildings and winding pebble stoned streets, the cathedrals and small chapels, the candles and statues, the stained glass and candlelight, the inspiration and resilience to build great and simple buildings to honor the divine. Photo: Abbey of Banz

Continue reading “Blessings and Challenges: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, The Last One”

Our Own Sister Act: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 17

Sunday, June 30Cologne, Dusseldorf, Neuss 

We had our last visit to a Benedictine monastery today. Greeted by oblates and sisters, we were welcomed with Mass, a true “unity in diversity” experience singing together in Latin, German and English, and an unexpected lunch and ice cream social afterward.

The Benedictine Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament Convent in Cologne extended us warm hospitality (and by warm, I mean so unbelievably HOT inside the church that the sweat was rolling….and yet, it was one of the most sacred experiences. I think I speak for all pilgrims, that we would not have missed this visit for anything.) The sisters are joy-filled, love to have fun and they love their ice cream, made from their own dairy cows out back.  See videos of Mass and music HEREContinue reading “Our Own Sister Act: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 17”

Abbey of St. Hildegard: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 16

Saturday, June 29St. Hildegard Abbey, Rhine River cruise

Our pilgrimage has been delightful, but make no mistake, there were still the occasional discomfort and irritation. Our hotel in Rüdesheim had a beautiful view of the Rhine River… and highly traveled train tracks. Yes, we could hear them all night long. But perhaps it was the stifling heat of a European heat wave that was more unbearable. International headlines read “Germany Records All-Time Hottest June Temperature.”

Germany set its all-time highest June temperature on Sunday, with 38.9 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The country has been baking in an early summer heat wave; however, Germany’s all-time high of 40.3 degrees Celsius still stands.

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It is very, very hot. But what most Americans do not realize is that there are few homes or establishments that have air-conditioning in Germany. It just does not get this hot. Fortunately, I packed a portable fan that I blew into my face all night long. Alright, enough complaining….

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We start our day with a drive to Hildegard von Bingen’s Abbey, high over the Rhine valley. The Church and grounds captured the spirit of the great mystic, theologian, composer, herbalist, pharmacist, negotiator, peacekeeper, and one of the first female doctors of the Church, Hildegard of Bingen. We hear from one of the sisters, celebrated Mass, and had time to wander the grounds and the gift shop. There was a peaceful, feminine, authentic sacredness about this Abbey. Continue reading “Abbey of St. Hildegard: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 16”

Heidelberg Stole My Heart: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 15

Friday, June 28—Heidelberg and Rudesheim

The previous evening, we had arrived in Heidelberg in time to walk the Old Town and to have dinner, but today we get to fully experience the ancient university town, known for stealing hearts. Heidelberg far exceeded my expectations; visiting the Heidelberg Palace, The Holy Spirit Church, and the Old Bridge were highlights of these last days on pilgrimage.

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IMG_6607Heidelberg is situated on the Necker River below the world-famous ruins of Heidelberg Palace, one of the finest examples of German Renaissance architecture constructed in 14th century Palatine. It was later destroyed in the 17th century but is considered the most magnificent ruin in Germany.

IMG_6623 Continue reading “Heidelberg Stole My Heart: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 15”

Freiburg and Speyer: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 14

Thursday, June 27—Freiburg and Speyer

Leaving the beautiful area of Lake Constance, we drive through Germany’s Black Forest with Freiburg im Breisgau in the region of Baden-Württemberg, Germany as our destination with morning Mass at St. Martin’s.  We have morning prayers on the bus—again, so relevant to our time of uncertainty. “Ten thousand fears cluster at my door…”

There is much comfort in Church tradition and the liturgy, which we take part in with daily Mass on pilgrimage. It is the beautiful cathedrals, their history, art, and architecture that remind us that through the centuries that people have struggled, feared, and fought and it is in sacred spaces we find hope and sustenance for the journey.

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Continue reading “Freiburg and Speyer: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 14”

Reichenau Island at Lake Constance: Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 13

Wednesday, June 26—Reichenau Island, Meersburg, Constance

Today we visit the beautiful and historic monastery island of Reichenau in Lake Constance, a quick stop in Meersburg, and a chance in the evening to do some exploring in Constance where we stay again for another night.

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Reichenau Island is one of 31 important sites in Germany that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, a testimony to the religious and cultural role of this large Benedictine monastery of the Middle Ages. The Benedictine monastery was founded in 724, by Bishop Pirmin, considered to be the first abbot of Reichenau Monastery. The Monastery served as an imperial abbey during the Carolingian Empire, with special allegiance to the king, serving as Europe’s premier educational and training center. Continue reading “Reichenau Island at Lake Constance: Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 13”

A Pharmacy in Einsiedeln; A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 12

Tuesday, June 25: Einsiedeln, Switzerland

We are in real-time now—no more procrastinating writing our pilgrimage memories!  It has been ONE YEAR to the day since the Benedictine Pilgrimage.

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Church bells wakened us in Einsiedeln, Switzerland at 5:30 am, plenty of time to get breakfast, pack for the day, and wait for the pharmacy, conveniently located across the street from our hotel, to open at 8 a.m.  Half the bus had contracted a vicious cold in the previous few days and was anxiously waiting for the pharmacy doors to open. Pharmacists in the store, and a few from our pilgrimage, listened to our symptoms and found us the best cold medicine and treatments to improve our health for the remainder of our pilgrimage.

13 Einseldein, Switzerland and Mt Pilate

We celebrated Mass at the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln, well-known as a place of pilgrimage to see the “Black Virgin”, a carved wooden statue of the Madonna, darkened by candles burning cow fat from the 15th century. We celebrated Mass in the Chapel of Grace with the Black Madonna as a focal point.

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IMG_5497 Continue reading “A Pharmacy in Einsiedeln; A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 12”

What a Wonderful World!

Taking stock of our blessings is a gratitude practice that can sustain us through many challenges. This morning I met with a group of ambassadors who help promote the good work of St. Benedict Center. Each of us shared a blessing and challenge from this time of pandemic.

Most of us have not struggled with sheltering in place and could easily identify many blessings, but of course, there are challenges—missing the physical presence of friends and family, not hugging, having fear and anxiety about the re-entry to a world with Covid-19 especially with health concerns, wanting to DO but needing to do in different ways, not being able to visit the elderly, delaying bereavement, uncertainty about the future, and letting go of plans. Continue reading “What a Wonderful World!”

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