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St. Benedict Center

Happy Birthday, St. Benedict!

St. Benedict is pretty special to me for a few reasons.

First, we share a birthday. I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed when I first discovered this. My parents had given me an illustrated book of the “Lives of the Saints” to commemorate my Confirmation. As any nine-year-old would do, I immediately looked to see who the saint was for July 11, my birthday. Perhaps Elizabeth or Mary, Theresa or Christine (my confirmation name) would be my special saint. A lovely woman saint with a beautiful name—I had hoped.

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Instead, I beheld an illustration of a man with a dark hood, a scary looking bird, some sort of walking cane and an unusual name that I had only associated with Benedict Arnold, a famous American traitor.

July 11, St. Benedict, Abbot, it said.

I had never heard of this saint and surely did not know what an Abbot was. Through the years, I returned to these pages about St. Benedict often, thinking that I should have some connection with this man, my patron saint.

Fast forward 26 years. I am married with a seven-year-old daughter, a high school teacher, and club sponsor. I live a full and busy life, but have a deep desire for silence and prayer. I respond to an advertisement in our local newspaper for a silent contemplative prayer retreat and discover an oasis of peace called the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska.

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St. Benedict Center

And then I remember St. Benedict. My saint. Continue reading “Happy Birthday, St. Benedict!”

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Happy 20th Anniversary, St. Benedict Center!! 

Happy 20th Anniversary, St. Benedict Center!! Tens of thousands of people have enjoyed the many gifts of St. Benedict Center since 1997. At our celebration and blessing of our new labyrinth on Sunday, July 16, I shared the following words:

IMG_4788Some things change the trajectory of your life forever—getting married, having a baby, getting a new job, for some becoming a monk or a sister. For me, I add to the list coming to St. Benedict Center for the first time in June 2002. It was the beginning of a relationship that has changed my life in many ways.

First, the retreats that I’ve attended at the Center have nurtured my love of learning. The first retreat I went to was a Contemplative Prayer retreat, a 4-day silent retreat. I wasn’t sure if I would come back for a silent retreat again (it was hard!) but I knew I would be coming back to this sacred getaway soon. It started out that I came two or three times a year….and it gradually increased over time to be once or twice a month. There was one summer that I came every week and it was suggested that I build a little cabin out back. I’ve particularly enjoyed attending retreats given by the monks of Christ the King and by authors like Macrina Weiderkehr, Anselm Gruen, Helen Prejean, and Michael Casey. I have even come back for more silent retreats too, and I eagerly look forward to them now.

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Second, I am grateful for the relationships I have made at St. Benedict Center. I have met some of my best friends here—the monks and oblates, people I have met on retreat and those that have come to retreats that I lead. It has become a spiritual home for me, and now it can be difficult to find silent time because I run into so many friends and interesting people that I want to connect with.  If I have a friend that I didn’t meet here, you can be sure I have invited them to come with me. Which brings me to the next gift that the Center has given me.

I have a passion for sharing what I love.  If you know me, you know that when I feel passionate about something I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. If I read a good book, I want to tell everyone about it and start a book discussion. If I take a photograph that moves me, I feel compelled to share it with others. Fr. Thomas has given me the opportunity to put purpose and passion together by helping with the St. Benedict Center Facebook page and other social media marketing. It’s something I love to do and it’s helped me think more like a monk too; with everything I post I say, “What would a monk do?” Continue reading “Happy 20th Anniversary, St. Benedict Center!! “

Many Ways to Pray: Walking a Labyrinth

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” –Rumi

There are many ways to pray—in song, spoken or written words, silence, creativity, nature and movement, just to mention a few. Paul recommends to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which is only possible if we are able to connect with our Creator in a variety of ways. We are meant to engage our senses, our whole bodies, in prayer.

I’ve come to appreciate this about the Catholic Mass, even if visitors might think there is a lot of up and down. We genuflect, sit, stand, kneel and bow. These gestures, postures or movement help to bring our whole being into prayerful expression—raising our hands when saying the “Our Father”, making the sign of the cross or receiving the Eucharist allows us to use our bodies in prayer.

lab signIn addition, walking the stations of the cross or a labyrinth, taking a nature hike, or practicing yoga or tai chi are prayerful forms of movement that engage our bodies while quieting our mind. Going away on retreat is an opportunity to explore and practice various forms of prayer.

St. Benedict Center is building a labyrinth modeled after the famous labyrinth in the Cathedral of Chartres, France.  “When the Holy Land was closed to pilgrims in the Middle Ages, labyrinths abounded in the churches of Europe.  They were used to symbolically represent the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Our life is a pilgrimage, a journey to our eternal home with God in heaven.” –Father Thomas Leitner The labyrinth will be completed in late summer or fall. 

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This summer I had the opportunity to pray in many ways while attending an eight-day Ignatian retreat at the Creighton University Retreat Center. Each day, for about an hour, I met with a spiritual director to receive guidance and to share my faith journey; the remainder of the day was spent reflecting on these discussions and praying. One of the ways that I prayed was by walking a labyrinth.

“A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is a symbol of life without meaning, it is an agent of confusion, deception with dead ends that lead you nowhere. But a labyrinth is a symbol of a life of deeper meaning, an on-going sacred journey leading us inward, outward and to greater wholeness.” –Carrie Newcomer Continue reading “Many Ways to Pray: Walking a Labyrinth”

St. Scholastica, St. Benedict and Spiritual Friendship

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.

 ….and so on. There were scores of prayers and creeds to memorize, months of CCD every Wednesday afternoon and hours of quizzing by my parents at night, but the pay-off for a nine-year-old girl was the opportunity to choose a saint’s name as my second middle name. All by myself. This was a big deal. It seemed like such a grown-up thing to do, to pick MY OWN name. I chose the name Christine, not because I knew anything about St. Christine, but because the name was so pretty to me. Jodi Marie Christine.

My grandma was so proud of my Confirmation that she called me Christine the whole day. 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…

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Continue reading “St. Scholastica, St. Benedict and Spiritual Friendship”

We Are Moons, Not Suns

 We are moons, not suns, except in our ability to pass on the light. ~Richard Rohr

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Just as the moon receives its light from the Sun, so we gather our light from a greater Source. Drawing from Divine Light through prayer, gratitude, and creativity, we can grow into the fullness of life that God desires for us. By spending time in silence and creative prayerwe can hear more clearly what God desires for us.

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It takes time and intention and an open heart, a willingness to set aside our own agendas for awhile to let the light of God flow into and through us. We live from our truest selves by surrendering to the process of becoming. Continue reading “We Are Moons, Not Suns”

Our Life is a Balance

January 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina
Balance: Our life is a balance between stability and openness to change

Invitation to Discussion by Fr. Volker Futter: The aim of Benedictine spirituality is the Fr. Volker Futter, OSB Subprior, Benedictine Retreat Center andconversion of the whole person. “Benedictine spirituality wants no sector of life to be isolated from God’s presence; work becomes a means through which we can know and love God more deeply…God is present and accessible in every moment and in every activity.”

Balance, proportion, harmony, moderation are central.  They so underpin everything else in the Rule, that without them the whole Benedictine approach to the individual and to the community loses its keystone. Continue reading “Our Life is a Balance”

Bridges Photo Exhibit: 150 years, 93 counties, and my favorite place!

It’s finally here…Nebraska’s 150th birthday! And I can finally share the photograph of Christ the King Priory that is in  The “Bridges” Sesquicentennial Traveling Photo Exhibit.

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I submitted five photos of Christ the King Priory to a photography contest called Bridges, sponsored by Hildegard Center for the Arts, to highlight historic treasures in all 93 counties to celebrate the Sesquicentennial, or 150th birthday of Nebraska. Photographs were to focus on how the subject serves as a bridge to connect Nebraskan’s with their culture and heritage—a bridge from the past to the present.

I entered the following photographs of Christ the King Priory, the Benedictine monastery where my favorite monks live, to represent Colfax County.

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Continue reading “Bridges Photo Exhibit: 150 years, 93 counties, and my favorite place!”

Benedictine Spirituality, Hospitality…and My Favorite Monks

I’m not sure how it really started, that I call the monks of Christ the King PriorymonksMy Favorite Monks”, but I’ve been calling them that for several years now. Once upon a time, I didn’t know ANY monks and now I have “favorite” monks. It was an advertisement in the Lincoln newspaper for a contemplative prayer retreat that brought me to St. Benedict Center (and the Monastery, across the street) in 2002. I am grateful to the monks who have shared their faith and wisdom through contemplative and guided retreats (dozens of them!), the Oblate program, Continue reading “Benedictine Spirituality, Hospitality…and My Favorite Monks”

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