Search

Being Benedictine

Living the Rule of St. Benedict in Daily Life

From This Day Forward, To Have and To Hold

“We have gathered today to celebrate the union of Jessica Gehr and John Holland. Marriage is a sacred blessing and this morning we celebrate the love shared between two special individuals.”

–Joyce Schmeeckle, wedding officiant and dear friend

We gathered—John and Jessica’s community, their friends and family—to support and bless their marriage. A wedding day conjures images of hearts and flowers, vows and wedding rings, first kisses and champagne toasts. Marriage is a sacred commitment where two people commit to journey through life together, so it is appropriate that the focus of the day is on the bride and groom. It is their BIG DAY!!

My daughter, Jessica, had her fairytale, storybook, dream-come-true wedding on July 17, 2021, and yes, indeed, she married her Prince Charming—we absolutely love our new son-in-law, John, and are so grateful that he adores our daughter. I remember when my husband and I got married, there was very little choice in what the day would look like. Tradition said this, the parents said that, the Catholic Church said this…but what I loved about John and Jessica’s wedding is that they created their own ceremony and carefully planned what their first day as husband and wife would look like.

The wedding guests, John and Jessica’s community, were an integral part of their wedding day—from who the officiant was, to parts of the ceremony, to the events planned to celebrate after the wedding. As a Benedictine oblate, it reminds me that for St. Benedict, everything that is written in his Rule takes place within the context of community; whether giving instruction about prayer, relationships, or work, the monk is reminded he or she is a part of a community. It is through community, not just as monks or oblates but within families and our community of friends, that we grow in understanding of self and God and learn to love one another more deeply.

“Benedict’s genius was in recognizing the power of journeying together. There is power and empowerment, healing and strength in living together and recognizing our mutual interdependence.”

Engaging Benedict: What the Rule Can Teach Us Today, Laura Swan

Judith Valente writes, “My friend Sister Thomasita Homan of Mount St. Scholastica once described a monastic community as ‘a place where people agree to link arms, support one another, and help each other grow’ (How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community).” The guests of John and Jessica’s wedding are linking arms with them, will support them, and as community does, will challenge them and help them grow.

When creating their wedding ceremony, John and Jessica carefully chose who would be part of the ceremony and the words that would be spoken. When they talked about who they wanted to marry them, they knew they wanted someone who shared their own spirituality and values and would deliver a message filled with insight and wisdom. They asked my own “anam cara,” soul friend, Joyce, who also hired Jessica for her first job in high school, quickly becoming a spiritual mentor to Jess as well. This is a newer phenomenon, to choose your own officiant, but my heart is full that they chose so wisely. (See script throughout this post.)

The ceremony also included a family blessing shared by each mother. I was deeply touched to be able to contribute some words about what I hoped John and Jessica’s marriage might hold for them. I shared the following blessing:

Blessing for John and Jessica Holland Wedding

When Jessica was just a toddler, I created a bedtime prayer that I blessed her with each night. Some nights, in a hurry, it was shortened to “God bless Jessica’s mind, body and spirit. Amen.” But the lengthier version has remained my prayer for Jessica as she has grown up.

This special prayer I say now includes BOTH Jessica and John as they join their life together in marriage.

God bless Jessica, and John’s minds, so that they make good decisions and choices.

God bless Jessica and John’s bodies so that they grow strong and healthy and safe.

God bless Jessica and John’s spirit so that they know the love of God and others. Amen.

It is said that the only thing that prepares you for marriage, is marriage.  It will not always be easy, but more often it will be better than you could have imagined. Every day you will make choices about what kind of person you want to be and the kind of relationship you will continue to build with God and each other.

A marriage is made of moments. When you string them all together, you get a picture of a life built together. A marriage is not made, once and for all, when the I-dos are exchanged. A marriage is constantly being recreated; it is always in the process of becoming.

In your becoming, take time for solitude—pursuing your individual passions knowing you are always supported by the other. Listen with the ear of the heart, as St. Benedict writes, listening to each other’s words but also to what lies between the words, seeking to understand the silence too.

May you be patient with each other, keeping a sense of humor, apologizing, and forgetting quickly.

May you be a joyful giver and treat each hour as the rarest gift with gratitude for each other. May you build traditions and rituals that are uniquely yours as a couple.

May you have a marriage that embraces all seasons.

God Bless Jessica’s mind, body, and spirit.

God Bless John’s mind, body, and spirit.

God Bless the marriage of John and Jessica. Amen

Family was an important part of the wedding ceremony and weekend. Both dads and John’s brother shared toasts and the mothers shared a blessing.

A reading from Romans 12: 9-18, instruction for sharing love and hospitality both in marriage and in community, was followed by a message from Joyce.  Friends and family were asked to participate in a community vow, agreeing to love and support John and Jessica in their marriage, offering them love and friendship.

This community vow mirrors the importance of The Rule of St. Benedict, written 1500 years ago as a guide for those who desired a spiritual life of prayer and work, learning to love others as Christ. It was not a guide for individual pursuits, but for living in community. It is a given that the community is important, an integral part of growing in holiness and happiness. John and Jessica see clearly that they have the support of friends and family, that they are part of a community that they will also share their gifts and hospitality with. This was followed by a moment of silent prayer for their marriage.

“The words community and communicate share the same Latin root. They are related by root to another word, compassion, which means to “suffer with”, or more loosely, to “walk beside.”

Judith Valente, How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community.

John and Jessica have created a community that will walk beside them, people they have known all their life as well as those who they have met along the way. As a couple, they will continue to gather new friends as well. My husband gave a nod during his toast to all those in John and Jessica’s community who have helped them become who they are:

When you raise your kid, you hope to instill your hopes, dreams, and values in them and that when they go out into the world, they make all the right choices and remember the way they were raised. Lots of people have told Jodi and I what a great job we did in raising our daughter. That is partially true, but I think we learn and form who we are from those around us. Jessica and John have had many positive role models in their lives. They have taken a little bit of each one of those people to become who they are today. So, when people tell me, you did a great job in raising your daughter, it has as much to do with all the relationships she had with others. I want to thank everyone for helping me raise my daughter. Everyone here can take credit for the beautiful person she is today. Many can take credit for John being a kind, loving and caring person. They are who they are today because of all the people in their life.

“The Benedictine spirituality of community is based on life with other persons in the spirit of Christ: to support them, to empower them, and to learn from them.”

Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today

John and Jessica vow to journey through life together—to support and empower each other and to continue to learn and grow in their relationship. They are community to each other, first and foremost. I am so proud of and happy for them!

As part of their wedding gift, I created a SoulCollage® card called “John and Jessica Becoming.” A wedding photo will be added to the card soon.

We are grateful that Jessica’s friend, Tarah, videotaped the wedding ceremony! You can watch the video HERE.

Other blog posts on marriage and family:

What Makes a Happy Mother’s Day?

The Vow of Stability: A Marriage Made of Moments

Jessica Becoming

Top 20 Benedictine Blogs

In 2014, I started this blog/website to share my writing and reflections on Benedictine spirituality. I recently learned that Being Benedictine has been identified as one of the Top 20 Benedictine Blogs by Feedspot. THANK YOU for following, sharing, commenting and supporting Being Benedictine for these years!

You can follow new posts and see over 100 entries in the archives HERE.

Find Being Benedictine on Facebook HERE.

You can follow Christ the King Priory, where I am an oblate, HERE.

And for more blogs on Benedictine spirituality, click HERE.

St. Benedict Center, Schuyler, NE. My first visit was in 2002. In 2013, I became a Benedictine Oblate.

The Birds Are Still My Prayer

Our favorite pandemic pastime has been sitting on the deck in our backyard. We enjoy the sights and sounds of nature regardless of the weather. Nature has been healing for us, even if it means bundling up with coats, hats and mittens and plugging in a few outdoor heaters. We enjoy home-cooked meals, whiskey tastings, long conversations, and an occasional cigar (for one of us.) As Covid cases decrease and more people are vaccinated, we are encouraged to return to life as usual, but I find that given the option, my favorite entertainment is still in my own backyard.

May be an image of Teresa Kretz and Joe Gehr, people sitting and outerwear

Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is in all.

— Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude

One year ago, I wrote, “Birds chirping, frogs croaking, raindrops meeting their “splat” on the flowerpots and patio chairs, wind rustling in the trees—the simple sounds suggest that all is well with the world.” I feel the exactly the sameall is MOST well when I am attentive to the sights and sounds of nature, when I witness creation unfolding in my own backyard.

A few weeks ago (April 29, 2021), we noticed the resourcefulness of this mama robin who had built a nest on the downspout of our neighbor’s house. A bird’s home is its castle, as seen from our deck.

A few weeks later (May 14, 2021), we see the first feeding of the baby birds.

Continue reading “The Birds Are Still My Prayer”

What Makes a Happy Mother’s Day?

Being Jessica’s mother is the greatest gift and honor of a lifetime. I will never forget the moment she was born. “You got your girl,” my husband said. I had all but forgotten that the baby would have a gender while laboring. This excerpt from The Red Tent resonates about that moment:

“There should be a song for women to sing at this moment, or a prayer to recite. But perhaps there is none because there are no words strong enough to name that moment. Like every mother since the first mother, I was overcome and bereft, elated and ravaged. I had crossed over from girlhood. I beheld myself as an infant in my mother’s arms, and caught a glimpse of my own death. I wept without knowing whether I rejoiced or mourned.”

Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

It’s been a few years since Jess and I have spent an official Mothers’ Day together. For the past five years, she has done some serious adulting—graduating from college, moving from Lincoln to Washington, DC. to Madison, Wisconsin, working full-time, going to graduate school, getting her first apartment on her own, and finding love.

2020 was a big year. Besides enduring a pandemic that abruptly ended her graduate studies sans proper graduation ceremony, Jessica started a new job with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services as a Children’s Services Program and Policy Analyst. And on the third Sunday of Advent—called Gaudete Sunday, Latin for joy—John Holland asked Jessica to marry him on a hilltop in historic Galena, Illinois where more than 5,000 candlelit luminaries lined the streets, steps, sidewalks, and store windows. Jessica’s smile says it all — PURE JOY.

She is becoming… and it is beautiful to behold.  

Continue reading “What Makes a Happy Mother’s Day?”

He Appeared In Another Form

April 2021 Lectio Divina and Oblate Reflections

SourcesLectio Divina, Mark 16: 9-15, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Book Discussion, Always We Begin Again by John McQuiston II

It was the first time in over a year that many of our oblates met in person. All of those present were fully vaccinated, thank God!

We begin our Oblate Meeting with Lectio Divina practice reading Mark 16: 9-15:

9 When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.

10 She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.

11 When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country.

13 They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them either.

14 But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.

15 He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Words or phrases that resonated:

Continue reading “He Appeared In Another Form”

Mystery and History: Holy Days and Crane Calling

Between sunset on Holy Saturday evening and sunrise on Easter Sunday, the Easter Vigil is celebrated. I have spent the Holy Days, the three days leading up to Easter, with the Benedictine monks in Schuyler many times. The prayers and chants are the most beautiful of the liturgical year.

The Easter Vigil readings begin with the Book of Genesis—the story of creation when heaven and earth, darkness and light, water and sky, land, plants, animals, birds, fish, and humans were created—and continue through New Testament readings. Between each of the several readings is a Psalm that is sung by cantor and congregation.

This year I spent the Holy Days listening to a different kind of song, the call of the Sandhill Crane. I missed the familiar chants of the monks, participating virtually when possible, but the experience of observing the oldest living birds feasting in the fields and wetlands of Nebraska was likewise a sacred experience.

Continue reading “Mystery and History: Holy Days and Crane Calling”

The Holy Triduum: Celebrate with the Monks of Christ the King Priory

This year we will celebrate the Holy Days and Easter, virtually, with the monks of Christ the King Priory. I have spent the Holy Days with the monks in Schuyler many times and the prayers and chants are the most beautiful of the liturgical year.

May be an image of text that says 'Christ the King Priory The Sacred Paschal Triduum all services will be Live Streamed April Holy chursda Vigils Lauds 6:30 AM Mass of the Lord's Supper 7:00 PM April -Good Friday Vigils & Lauds 6:30 AM The Celebration of the Lord's Passion Compline 7:00 PM 3:00PM 3:00 April Holy Satuda Vigils Lauds 6:30 AM Vespers 5:30 PM Compline 7:15 PM April 4 Easter Sunday The Easter Vigil 5:00 AM Vespers 5:00P Easter Octave: April 5 through 10 Daily Eucharist 11:00 AM'

During the Holy Triduum, we remember the events leading up to Easter. Each Holy Day is significant to the fullness of Jesus’ story—his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ life was full of joy—learning, teaching, helping others, growing in his authentic identity, and embracing his essence—but, also, as the Gospel of John poignantly states, “Jesus wept.” Even Jesus could not escape his own suffering—the death of a friend, concern for political and religious corruption, the betrayal of his disciples, his own physical persecution, and, finally, his fear of abandonment, that he had been forgotten by God and everyone. No doubt about it, Jesus experienced both joy and suffering.

Consider joining the Benedictines for the Holy Triduum. Times and prayers listed below. All prayer are live-streamed HERE.

Continue reading “The Holy Triduum: Celebrate with the Monks of Christ the King Priory”

Love is Stronger, Human One

A Holy Week Gift from Alana Levandoski

Inspired to learn more about Mary Magdalene and especially by Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, Alana Levandoski puts words and music to what she imagined in a journey with Jesus. See Easter through Mary Magdalene’s eye in song. Links below.

“In thanks to the example of Mary Magdalene, we won’t be hiding out somewhere waiting to see what happens. Instead, we can walk with Mary, who never left Jesus, through it all, and go to the very heart of this planet, reconciling all things, and come Sunday, find out that we are more involved in the resurrected presence than we think.”

-Alana Levandoski

I would know those feet

Anywhere

Like you would know mine

Human one

And it breaks my heart

To see them so

Like it would break yours

Human one

I feel helpless

You feel forsaken

But love is stronger

Love is stronger

You said follow

And I will follow

Wherever you’re going

I will go

There go those feet

Descending

And so will my feet

Human one

Into the heart of the world

Reconciling all things

I will hold fast with you

Human one

And all the hell that ever was

Has nothing on us

‘cause love is stronger

Love is stronger

You said follow

And I will follow

Wherever you’re going

I will go

What’s this I see

Your feet again

Here in our garden

Human one

But I cannot cling

The ripple’s gone out

Beyond the stars and back

Human one

But neither death nor life

Can separate us

‘cause love is stronger

Love is stronger

You said follow

And we will follow

Wherever you’re going

We will go

Human One directed, filmed, and edited by Alana Levandoski song written, performed, and produced by Alana Levandoski

Follow Alana on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/alanalevandoski

Listening to the sweet and soulful songs of Alana Levandoski is prayer itself. I discovered Alana through the Center for Action and Contemplation and have used her contemplative songs and chants in retreats I have led and in my own prayer practice. Whether setting music to her own words, or lyrics drawn from poetry or scripture, her singing is elevated prayer.

Ring Out, Wild Bells, a poem sung by Alana, is a heartfelt, prayerful intention to ring out the old of 2020, a year of great challenges, and to ring in the new of 2021. The poem, In Memoriam, (Ring out, wild bells) was written during a time of grief, nearly 150 years ago by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). The lyrics ring true for both letting go and welcoming in—letting go of the false, feuding, dying, grief, pride, partisan divide, and civic slander WHILE welcoming in the new, true, noble, sweet, pure, love, truth, light, and peace. Read more HERE.

The Gift of Good Works

March 2021 Lectio Divina and Oblate Reflections

Sources: Luke 18: 9-14; Good Work; Teaching and Learning—Always We Begin Again by John McQuiston II

We begin our Oblate Meeting with Lectio Divina practice by reading Luke 18:9-14.

We began our discussion with the question: Can I find myself in both the Pharisee and the tax collector? There is no doubt that we have each of them within us, not just one or the other.

We can dig deeper by asking: How can I come into relationship with Jesus and others knowing I am a multi-faceted person, not all good or all bad. This parable is addressed to those who feel their righteousness (I’m a good guy), and may despise others for not being as good. We compare ourselves to others—our good works become a score card rather than a gift from our heart. We must avoid creating a tally of our good works or making comparisons with others about how good or bad I am (or how good or bad someone else is)—we  are ALL sinners and in need of God’s mercy; not one of us is more worthy than another.

Continue reading “The Gift of Good Works”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑