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St. Benedict

Thanksgiving: A Ritual of Gratitude

Preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday can be a sacred ritual. Weeks in advance several family members begin planning the menu for our Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, there is little variation from year to year—turkey, dressing, dumplings, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pies, dinner rolls, and so on—but an afternoon of list-making, guest-counting, and recipe-searching ensues. Some years, even a second planning session is required—to count plates and chairs, to create a map of the food line, or to scour advertisements for butter sales. The planning sessions have become part of the practice of Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving planning sessions and meals that immediately followed the passing of each of Joe’s parents was bittersweet. We missed their presence. But the ritual itself, while grounding us in the present, was a reminder to be grateful even in our sadness and grief.

gratitude soul

History tells us that the first Thanksgiving, in 1621, commemorates the gratitude Pilgrims had for a bountiful harvest. This is a simplistic, and perhaps, mythical snapshot, but it is where the ritual begins for Americans.  Thanksgiving is celebrated in many other countries as well for a variety of historical, religious and secular reasons. Primarily Thanksgiving is about just that—giving thanks. Thanksgiving is a ritual of planning and remembering to be grateful—even in times of division and darkness.

Thanksgiving, as a legally observed holiday in the United States, was championed by Sarah Josepha Hale (October 24, 1788 – April 30, 1879), an American writer and author of the infamous nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb“. Sarah, fortunate that her parents believed in education for girls, was home-schooled and eventually became a teacher herself and, later, an advocate of higher education and workplace rights for women. When Sarah was 34 years old, her husband died of a stroke—her oldest child was 7 and the youngest was born two weeks after her husband’s death.

It’s hard to imagine the sadness, grief and dark days that Sarah Josepha Hale endured. And, yet, Sarah believed in Thanksgiving. She wrote: “There is a deep moral influence in these periodical seasons of rejoicing, in which a whole community participate. They bring out, and together, as it were, the best sympathies of our nature…because all are privileged to be happy in their own way.”

Sarah wrote many letters, working tirelessly over three decades, to convince American presidents, from Taylor to Lincoln, to acknowledge Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She was adamantly opposed to slavery, yet desperately desired a healing between the north and the south. She wrote, “We are already spread and mingled over the Union. Each year, by bringing us oftener together, releases us from the estrangement and coolness consequent on distance and political alienations; each year multiplies our ties of relationship and friendship. How can we hate our Mississippi brother-in-law?”

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Letter to Abraham Lincoln; Sarah Josepha Hale

Finally Abraham Lincoln, with the turmoil of the Civil War in mind, agreed to make Thanksgiving a holiday that both the north and south would celebrate, hoping to unify a deeply divided country. It was in the darkest days that gratitude was encouraged.

Thanksgiving isn’t just one day. Thanksgiving is a practice. It is a plan to be grateful. It is gratitude rather than grumbling. “Do not grumble or speak ill of others. Place your hope in God alone.”- Rule of St. Benedict, Ch. 4:39-41

Thanksgiving is a reminder that we can, and must, practice gratitude even in the darkest of days—in the midst of a deeply divided nation, in the woundedness of a broken heart, in the storms of a conflicted relationship.

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Our Thanksgiving table may not have the same faces around it that have always been there, but it is possible to hold those loved ones who have passed on, or moved on, in our hearts. May you have a Thanksgiving day of gratitude, a day to remember that there is room at the table, or in your heart, for everyone.

Carrie Newcomer, Room at the Table—

Let our hearts not be hardened to those living on the margin
There is room at the table for everyone
This is where it all begins, this is how we gather in
There is room at the table for everyone

Too long we have wandered, burdened and undone
But there is room at the table for everyone
Let us sing the new world in, this is how is all begins
There is room at the table for everyone

There is room for us all
And no gift is too small
There is room at the table for everyone
There’s enough if we share
Come on pull up a chair
There room at the table for everyone

Norwood, Arlisha. “Sarah Hale.” National Women’s History Museum. National Women’s History Museum, 2017. Date accessed.

Baker, Peggy M. “THE GODMOTHER OF THANKSGIVING: the story of Sarah Josepha Hale” Pilgrim Society & Pilgrim Hall Museum 2007.

Maranzani, Barbara. “Abraham Lincoln and the “Mother of Thanksgiving”, October 3, 2013.

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Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!

Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!

On March 21, Benedictines around the world celebrate the “transitus of St. Benedict, the day Benedict entered eternity. “Transitus” in Latin means passing from one state to the next—death is not the end of life, but the transition into eternity with God.  It is one of two days that St. Benedict is recognized on the Benedictine calendar. Since this feast day is always during Lent, another commemoration date was set when Pope Paul VI declared St. Benedict the Patron of Europe at the rededication of the Church at Monte Cassino on July 11, 1964. July 11 is the Feast of St. Benedict for the Universal Church. Only Mary, the mother of Jesus and John the Baptist are remembered with both their birthdays and their day of entry into heaven.

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Montecassino Abbey, Italy. St. Benedict penned the Rule in this Abbey.


Continue reading “Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!”

Guns and Schools, Prayer and Work

These past few days our social media feeds have been filled with messages of thoughts and prayers for the victims of yet another school shooting. And there are just as many posts that reject what may seem like Pollyanna, feel-good greetings:

thoughts and prayers 2thoughts and prayers

I understand both perspectives. I want to “LIKE” the thoughts and prayers posts and the posts that say prayers are not enough.

I send my thoughts and prayers to all the families who have lost loved ones because I believe in prayer. My heart goes out to the parents who have lost their beloved children, bursting with potential; for the teachers, inspired to share a passion for life-long learning; for the students who survived, the students who saw their friends die, and the students who will have nightmares for weeks, months and years to come from this trauma. Continue reading “Guns and Schools, Prayer and Work”

The Feast of St. Scholastica, Twin of St. Benedict

In celebration of St. Scholastica’s Feast Day, February 10, I share a 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:

What is a sacrament?  A sacrament is an outward sign made by Christ to give grace.
What is grace? Grace is any gift from God.
How many persons are there in God? There are three Persons in God. Continue reading “The Feast of St. Scholastica, Twin of St. Benedict”

Rome ~ Layers Like Lasagna

There are layers of history in Rome—“layers like lasagna”—one tour guide suggested. Literally, layers were built on top of layers, buildings that had been destroyed by war and natural disaster were covered with dirt and new buildings were erected over ruins. Symbolically, many Christian churches were built over ancient pagan sites.

The architecture, art, and religious history communicate something spiritual, a deeper story with layers of meaning, like lasagna. I’ll share some of my favorite places, and the journey, from my trip to Rome to attend the World Congress of Benedictine Oblates:

St. Peter’s Basilica and the Scavi tour Continue reading “Rome ~ Layers Like Lasagna”

Rome: Confessions, Truths and Carpe Diem!

Confession: I feel a little guilty for taking nine days off during the school year.

Truth: But not enough that I wouldn’t seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Rome.

It’s unheard of for a teacher to take off two weeks during the school year. First, we only get eleven days off for sick or vacations days per school year. Second and more importantly, it’s a lot of work to be gone, planning what students will do, securing a trusted substitute teacher to deliver curriculum, and “letting go” of controlling my classroom. (Perhaps this has something to do with being a bit of a perfectionist, control-freak, as I’m learning about Enneagram, Type One.)  Usually, teachers take time off for a wedding or funeral, a child starting college, an important doctor’s appointment, but a two-week long trip? Nope. Continue reading “Rome: Confessions, Truths and Carpe Diem!”

A Big Day for Benedictines: July 11, Feast Day of St. Benedict

Learn more about St. Benedict on July 11 in an original EWTN docu-drama presenting the life and spirituality of Saint Benedict of Nursia.  Fr. Prior Mauritius Wilde and Abbot Primate Gregory Polan contribute to this one-hour program taped at Sant’ Anselmo, the Benedictine monastery in Rome.  The program airs Tuesday, July 11 at  8:00 am and Wednesday, July 12 at 12:00 AM Central Time.  See EWTN schedule for your time zone.

Listen to The Life of St. Benedict –The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B.  Podcasts #28-33 reflect on the life of St. Benedict by using the biography penned by St. Gregory the Great. The first episode looks at the pivotal discernment he made as a young man to pursue the religious life. The aspect of detachment from our earthly family in favor of our Heavenly Father is explored by Fr. Mauritius. There are six reflections on the life of St. Benedict in this Discerning Heart series.

Read Benedict-inspired blog posts from Fr. Mauritius Wilde, OSB at WildeMonk.net

Learn more about living Benedictine spirituality as a monk or oblate at Christ the King Monastery’s website.  

And finally, St. Benedict is pretty special to me too.

“My parents gave me an illustrated book of the “Lives of the Saints” to commemorate the occasion and as any nine-year-old would do, the first thing I did was look up my birthday. I was immediately disappointed. The illustration seemed so dark –a man with a hood, a scary looking bird and a funny name that I had only associated with Benedict Arnold, a famous American traitor.  After gaining such a beautiful name like Christine, what kind of luck did I have to get a guy named Benedict on my birthday?!  July 11, St. Benedict, Abbot, it said.  I read the pages about St. Benedict often, thinking that I should have some connection with this man as my patron saint, but then I forgot about him until…

Read more of St. Benedict, St. Scholastica and Spiritual Friendship at SoulFully You.

Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!

Praying the Psalms ~ Psalm 22

April 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topic: Praying the Psalms

We can read the Psalms with three layers in mind: what the Psalm meant the first time it was prayed in history; how the Psalm hints at the life of Christ in the New Testament and how Jesus would have prayed it; and, finally, how it applies to our own lives and  how we can pray the Psalms now. We pray Psalms 22: 1-32.

my god why have you forsaken me

In practicing Lectio Divina, after reading the Scripture out loud, we contemplate, consider and reflect on what we have heard. The Scripture is read again. After some time of silence, we are welcomed to share a word or phrase that speaks to us.

All night long I call and cannot rest, my soul will live for you.      They never trusted you in vain.     Do not stand aside trouble is near.       They trusted and you rescued them.     If God is your friend let God rescue you.        Rescue my soul from the sword.           More worm than human.        My heart is like wax melting inside me.  

One participant said the images of wild beasts in the desert environment was overwhelming—she had no words.  We rest in silence, some speak, a few sniffles, a sigh. The verses and words in this Psalm touch each of us in a unique way.

What resonates with you from reading Psalms 22?  This is what resonated with us:

So many feelings are expressed in this Psalm—complaint, fear, desperation, anguish, hopelessness. We tend to think that we should feel in a certain way, that trust is the superior action or emotion, but it is human to feel all of the desperate feelings mentioned. We can accept all of our emotions because God lets us feel all of those things and desires that we express them. Continue reading “Praying the Psalms ~ Psalm 22”

Prayer during Lent (and other times too)

March 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topics: Lent for Benedictines; Ways to Pray

Source for discussion: Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict with Reflections for Oblates and All Who Seek God, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB
Readings in the Rule of Saint Benedict: RB 48:14-15 THE DAILY MANUAL LABOR, RB 49:1-10   THE OBSERVANCE OF LENT

St. Benedict states that the life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent  (RB:49). St. Benedict in his wisdom knew few would have the strength for this, so he has other suggestions. Fr. Volker Futter, Oblate Director, shared two important ideas:

  1. Lent is self-offering, not denial, it comes from the heart.
  2. We need to acknowledge  the presence of God then we can do sacrifice.  Sacrifice can be giving up something specific like food, TV or internet, or we can give a positive sacrifice.

Oblates shared that “giving of your time is priceless—you can’t get it back”.  So a short visit to the nursing home, or a visit to a neighbor or sending someone a long overdue card—that is your gift of time. “This may sound simple, but one of the hardest things for me to do is find that priceless gift of time for others.  It really is a sacrifice.”

A definition of compunction of heart was requested.  Compunction of heart is when we have an uneasiness or anxiety of the conscience because of something we may have done that may have caused worry, fear, etc. in someone’s heart.  When we give this up we receive more in return. Continue reading “Prayer during Lent (and other times too)”

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