April 2019 Oblate Lectio Divina and Discussion Topic: The Desert, Life In Solitude Luke 4:1-13 Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert and was tempted.
To be led by the Spirit requires listening and obedience to God, one of the three promises of a Benedictine monk, sister or oblate. Jesus was a listener. After his baptism in the Jordan, which prepared him for his journey ahead, Jesus was called into desert time.
Desert time is often associated with time for solitude. “Seeking solitude means searching for a time to be alone.” (Beil) Time alone can be renewing and recharging, a dedicated opportunity for reflection and prayer, a time for us to see more clearly and to put our struggles into proper perspective. It is important to go to the desert to come closer to God. “The desert journey was a time of learning to know and to trust God, but also an increase in self-knowledge.” (Beil) The desert time gives us a deepening awareness of our thoughts. We can never fully escape our struggles and temptations—time alone reminds us often it is our own thoughts and behaviors that are our biggest obstacles. Continue reading “The Desert Experience”→
You are invited to “Being Benedictine in the 21st Century: Spiritual Seekers in Conversation,” planned for June 26-28, 2020 at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS. This opportunity marks the first-ever gathering of professed Benedictines, Oblates, staff, volunteers, friends and benefactors of Benedictine ministries and monasteries, and any seeker who has read The Rule of St. Benedict and experienced a conversion of heart.
The Rule of St. Benedict, a text written in the sixth century for monks living in community, contains wisdom that can be applied to the questions and pressing needs of the 21st century for those seeking purpose, inclusivity and connection—Catholic and Protestant, professed monks, religious leaders, Benedictine Oblates and spiritual seekers, young and old, married and single. Many have found the Rule, relevant 1500 years later, to be a guidebook for growing a deeper relationship to God and others. Benedictine values, including listening, community and consensus building, hospitality, humility, prayer and good work, provide an antidote for troubled times.
We will hear from speakers including Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, one of our visionary spiritual voices, and Oblate authors Kathleen Norris and Judith Valente and engage in facilitated conversation and idea generation. We will put special emphasis on inviting the participation of Millennials, people in their twenties and thirties who often eschew formal religion but still seek an authentic experience of faith in action.
This conference will not dwell so much on exploring what is but rather it will focus on, “What are the important questions we haven’t yet asked?” Through listening and dialogue informed by Benedictine values, the teachings of Vatican II and inclusive theologies—inclusive of women, the environment, the oppressed, the refugee—our goal is to come away from this conference with a new roadmap for spreading the light of Benedictine spirituality well into the 21st century.
Being Benedictine is the foundation of my life. Being Benedictine is a commitment to lifelong learning and prayer. Being Benedictine is experienced by following the promises of obedience, stability, and conversion of life.
All are welcome to Being Benedictine. I look forward to meeting other spiritual seekers in Atchison, Kansas in June 2020!
Six years ago today, my father-in-law Marv passed away—so today, more than usual, I am thinking of him and missing our kitchen table conversations. We would talk about politics and religion, the economy and education, and the best brands of Cabernet for the cheapest prices. After sharing his wisdom, attempting to solve world problems, and philosophizing over a glass of wine, Marv would throw up his hands in disbelief and exclaim, “What do I know? I don’t know nothin’.”
He had thoughts, opinions and plenty of experience, but, self-admittedly, he felt he still didn’t know much. Marv said it often enough that it was the opening line in the eulogy my husband gave for his dad’s funeral. This phrase, “I don’t know nothin’” holds so much meaning, far beyond a simple or flippant segue into another subject, rather I believe he was saying “I have ideas, but I will stay open to other possibilities.”
I’m sure there was a time or two when he knew exactly how things should be, but they didn’t turn out the way he expected, as so often happens. Perhaps he meant—I surrender needing to know. Perhaps he meant—I don’t know it all. I don’t know the big picture. I don’t have all the answers. I thought I knew a lot, but now, I wonder if I know much at all. I am humbled by what I do not know.
I’m not sure if Marv meant all those things when he said “I don’t know nothin’,” but it does show that he left room for not knowing, for mystery. He knew he wasn’t in charge of all things true… and he admitted it many, many times. Marvin’s expression of humility is the bedrock of being Benedictine. According to St. Benedict, “Divine Scripture calls to us saying, ‘Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.’” (RB 7:1) Marv was willing to share his wisdom, but he also knew he didn’t know everything. We could stand a little more of Marv’s humility in this country.
My husband, Joe, also shared this about his father: “My dad was one of the most caring men I knew… Even with seven kids in a small house…he opened our home up to pregnant teenage girls at a time when it was not socially acceptable to do so. He didn’t care what other people thought.
He helped Vietnamese refugees acclimate themselves to American culture. He would take them around and show them how things are done in the United States. He would spend his time volunteering in prison ministries.
He was always concerned about those less fortunate than him. I think his main concern is whether people in this world would get enough to eat. There isn’t one kid, grandchild or even a friend or two that he hasn’t helped or offered to help at one time and he never expected anything in return…He truly had a passion for helping others, a giving heart… When we were kids, it didn’t matter what friend we brought home, my dad would say “there is room for one more at the table, come and join us…welcome!”
St. Benedict instructed his monks, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me(Matt 25:35)” (RB 53:1) Marv, although he didn’t call it that, was being Benedictine. He lived and breathed hospitality.
Marv was almost 80 years old when he died, but age doesn’t really matter when we are on a journey to knowing (and unknowing) ourselves. Marv was a humble man who gave of himself in so many ways. If this is what knowing nothin’ is like, sign me up. We could all stand to be a bit more like Marvin.
Joe closed the eulogy for his dad with this beautiful image—“Now that he is in Heaven with Pappy, Grandma Alice, Grandpa Ambrose, Grandmother Margaret, brothers Gerald and Don, sister Doris and all those who went before him….they are all seated at the Father’s table and they are saying, “Marvin, there is room for one more at the Father’s table, come and join us….welcome home!”
“God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) Joe’s mother was also a compassionate, cheerful giver. Read more about Mary Gehr here. In honor of their generosity and hospitality, we dedicated a park bench at the front doors of St. Benedict Center, an ecumenical retreat center with a mission of hospitality, to Marvin and Mary Gehr.
Luke 5:27-32— Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
Jesus saw something in Levi—that he was both a tax collector and open to an invitation to follow him. Levi worked with the oppressive Roman Empire, likely judged as greedy and affluent at the expense of others, but Jesus saw his potential.
So often we see people or situations as either/or, not both/and. We see the tax collector, or a politician, or social media as either good or bad, quickly making blanket statements or judgments to categorize into one or the other. But Jesus does not see Levi as one or the other, he sees Levi, and us, as both/and—as who we are and who we might become. Continue reading “From who we are to who we might become”→
“From the little known of Scholastica, it is clear that she was a strong woman who was deeply devoted to her religious life. She is celebrated by Benedictine women’s religious communities around the world as a woman who could “do more because she loved more” (Gregory the Great). She was a witness to the truth that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:7-8).”-Benedictine Sisters of Erie
In celebration of St. Scholastica’s Feast Day, February 10, I share an edited previous post about St. Scholastica, St. Benedict and the value of spiritual friendships.
I received the gift of the Holy Spirit when I was nine years old. It took many months of catechism class to prepare to receive the sacrament of Holy Confirmation in the Catholic Church. There were dozens of questions about doctrine and faith to study, like:
Sometimes I just don’t know when to shut up. Words, words, and more words.
I love words—to write them and to read them. I have been considering how I use words after reading The Power of Words by Joe Kay at Living Gracefully. It shined a light on the word wars often waged in my head, in conversation, in writing—either on social media or my personal journaling.
In some ways, I give words too much power. I think if I keep talking I might find just the right words to communicate my point better. Maybe my words weren’t effective, or they weren’t heard the way I intended, or my words were rejected—so I try again with more words, thinking “this time” I will be understood or be able to help another understand. Maybe “this time” we will come to an agreement or reach a hoped-for reconciliation.
But words do have power, Kay writes— “Martin Luther King, Jr., understood the power of words. He spoke so beautifully and prophetically about his dream of a world in which everyone is treated as an equally beloved child of God.
Words have the power to inspire us, touch us, and transform us for better or worse, depending upon which words we choose to allow inside of us. They can bring us more peace, love and justice, or they can increase our levels of division, fear and hatred. In the last few months, we’ve been reminded how easy it is to get sucked into the pool of hateful words.Continue reading “In Praise of Words and Less Words”→
The most used words in marketing campaigns and on product packaging are new and improved. This expression taps into our deepest desires to improve our lives and our circumstances. Marketers know this—that most of us want better and that we want to BE better, to be more of this or less of that—and so come the advertisements for weight loss, exercise facilities, home improvement, travel and more. Of course, the superficial and material never satisfy and leave us still wanting more, or less.
The essence of making New Year’s resolutions—everything from setting financial, career and relationship goals to considering new ways of being and doing—is that we desperately seek the chance to “do over.” It might sound elementary, and even impossible, but we long for it anyway.
Celebrating the beginning of a new year is a reminder of our opportunity to “always begin again”—the embodiment of Being Benedictine. It’s not as simple as a “do over” but January 1, merely just one day that follows December 31, gives us a definitive time and space to honor our deepest longing to begin again.
I’ve long since quit making resolutions. Well, not really—I make them and break them so quickly and consistently, that I’ve chosen to look at them more gently, as beginning again. Each year I select a word that will help guide me in the New Year.Continue reading “Begin Again: New and Improved!”→
The Benedictine path calls us to solitude, prayer, balance and listening with the ear of our heart. In the spirit of Benedictine hospitality, I share a guest post from Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha. Michelle moved to Nebraska (where our paths have crossed) in 2001, is the wife of an English professor and mom to two teenage boys.
Michelle’s newest book, True You, releasing January 1, guides readers on a journey toward letting go in order to uncover their true God-created selves. True Youcaptures Michelle’s experience of becoming her truest self by honoring time and space for authentic reflection.
I am delighted to be reading an advanced copy of True You from Michelle’s publisher to share my impressions with you. I am doing much reflection and writing over my Christmas break and will share more in upcoming blog posts. For now, I share an excerpt of the book here:Continue reading “True You: Becoming Your Truest Self”→
Fr. Mauritius Wilde, Prior of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, has a new podcast series on the Benedictine understanding of sobriety.
Can you get caught up in the swirl and chaos of fear, violence, and anger assaulting our world today? Practicing soberness means being detached from emotions, both overly negative or positive feelings. It is not good to be “drunk” on either extreme.
Soberness is taking just what we need. What do I take with me? What do I take in? What do I consume? How much wine, money, noise, whatever? Is it too much? The journey of soberness is to become more aware of whether there was too much.
But soberness is more than an absence of something—there is its own positive quality. The absence of the noise of tv is more than just turning off the tv. We begin to discover how beautiful silence is. Once you taste it, you want to have more of it.