Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Commentary for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Sr. Jennifer Mechtild Horner, OSB

"Which of the two did the will of the father?"  They said, "The first."  In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we are to be faithful to our word by translating it into action.  The first son, after been told to go and work in the vineyard, says that he will not.  I imagine that the father must have been disappointed in his response.  And yet, the son repents and realized that faults of his response and goes to the vineyard to do his work.  The second son responds favorably to his father's request.  One can imagine that the father must have been happy with his response and even proud of him.  And yet, his actions did not match his yes and he never goes to the field.  This Gospel passage is about the importance of commitment, of faithfulness.  Our word means nothing if it is not translated into action.  It is about living with integrity, about obedience to the will of God.

Through our monastic life we, too, are asked to go into the vineyard of our daily lives.  When we say yes to this call, do we show up or do we find other distractions pulling us away? St. Benedict knew the importance of living a committed Gospel life.  It is through monastic obedience that our yes to God becomes a reality.  What does this obedience look like?  One can gain this understanding throughout the  Rule but especially in Chapter 5, on Monastic Obedience.  Let us listen to Benedict's words for a moment:

  • The first step on the way to humility is to obey an order without delaying for a moment.  that is a response which comes easily to those who hold nothing dearer than Christ.
  • The obedience of such people leads them to leave aside their own concerns and forsake their own will.  They abandon what they have in hand and leave it unfinished.  With a ready step inspired by obedience they respond by their action to the voice that summons them.
  • We should remember, however, that such obedience will be acceptable to God, and rewarding to us, if we carry out the orders given us in a way that is not fearful, nor slow, nor half-hearted, nor marred by murmuring or the sort of compliance that betrays resentment.
Benedict reminds us that as monastics we are not only called to be obedient to doing God's will, but we are called to go a step further:  we are to respond in a way that is joyful and not half-hearted.  It is not only important that we go to the vineyard.  Showing up is not enough.  The attitude we take with us is equally important.

Let us take some time to reflect on our lives and note the places where we might need to assess our attitude and make some changes.  In doing so, may we continue to put Christ at the center of our life as we strive to live a life obedient to the One who first called us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Favorite Quotes from Volume One Part Four

I often wonder when I'm writing  my favorite quotes from Volume One if others are as moved by Jesus and Mary's words as I am.  I know I'm not so unique that I could be the only person who is touched to the heart by these beautiful words.  I just can't seem to get enough!  Imagine what heaven will be like when we have Jesus and Mary in person loving us and sharing all the heavenly mysteries with us face to face.  In the meantime, I'll continue to share my favorite quotes and encourage you to go to Direction for Our Times and learn more about the
 Volumes Anne has written.  

The following quotes are from Jesus taken from Volume One.

I want to speak directly to souls at this time.  Many souls are crying out for Me.  They think I do not hear. It is they who do not hear.  They are not listening for My voice, which must be heard in the silence of their heart.  A soul who does not put their self in a quiet state will not hear Me.  You, My child, have just blocked off your ears and closed your eyes for ten minutes in order to focus wholly on Me.  And we are communicating in a supernatural way.  But you understand that in order to hear Me, and it has always been this way for you, you must block out the noisy distractions of this world, which grow louder by the day.  (p. 77)

I would encourage souls to remove noise from their lives.  Turn off the televisions.  Turn off the radios.  Many conversations are better avoided.  In this new silence they will find their heart recollected.  In their recollected heart they will find Me, who has been waiting for them.  (p. 77)

I am here, dear soul.  You need only look into your heart.  I ache for you,  for your pain, for your loneliness, for your isolation. Each soul feels alone at times and understands that human consolation is empty.  They seek spiritual or heavenly consolation.  If you feel a stirring inside, it is your soul, seeking Me.  Answer your soul, My dear lost one,  for you will find Me waiting and I will solve all of your problems.  I can work in you in miraculous ways if only you will allow Me.  You have sought other consolations, which have disappointed you. Now, try Me, I am here.  I love you.  I await you.  (p. 78)

I want to address holy souls.  So often you become discouraged. You do not bear with yourself at all.  I, your Jesus, have endless patience with your flaws and weaknesses.  You  must trust Me to forgive you and overlook these human frailties.  (p. 78)

A true follower of mine is joyful and serene.  When you see Christians who claim to be following Me, but they are sad and morose, you should be alert.  Despair and depression do not come from Me.  My followers are given hope and a lightness of spirit, despite difficulties.  If you, yourself, notice you are feeling sad more often, it is because you are not connected to Me through prayer and the sacraments.  Be vigilant about your faith and you will not falter.  I am with you. I will never leave you.  Ask me for courage and courage will be yours.  (p. 81)

Work for Me first.  Always see to My interests first.  I will then bless your other endeavors.  (p. 82)

Unite your sufferings with Me, child, that I may benefit souls. should stop questioning My plan, method, or goals.  All you need do is be at peace and do the work I ask you to do.  I will NEVER leave you.  Be an example of peace to your brothers and sisters so that they, too, may desire union with Me.  You must strive for confidence in your God.  I will be with you, even until the end of time.  (p. 83)

May God bless you with all that is good.  Together we will continue to build the Kingdom of God.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sr. Cathy Anne's Gardening Retreat Continues...


For everything there is a season, 
And a time for everything under heaven;
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant,
 and a time to pluck up what is planted.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

The activities of the fall season tell me that my life is changing. That nothing stays the same. This is a time when we are all called to change, to let go, to move on, but also to celebrate the gifts/fruits that we have in such abundance in our lives and in our spiritual practices. I like to step back and make a “gratitude list.” I look at my gifts, at how I share them to build the kingdom of God, and how I can “go with the flow.”
In the garden the produce continues to ripen and needs to be harvested. The tomatoes, green bean, green peppers, and the squash are still going strong, and as long as I keep watering, the produce keeps coming. The fall flowers are vibrant with color, the asters, mums, and coleus display their dynamic hues and textures. Daily I am in awe of the power of our Creator God. In quiet reflection I see that as in the garden my life is full and rich. Gal. 5:22 sites for us the Fruits of the Spirit, (love, peace joy, patience, faithfulness, kindness, generosity, gentleness and self-control), and I am daily challenged to continue to share those spiritual fruits that, like my vegetables, keep coming. So, with great joy I spend time praying, thinking, and dwelling in the fact that it is my relationship with God that really fills my heart and my being with the peace.
I have heard many people use the phrase “the autumn of our life,” in a negative context. The reference to the time of retirement, of the loss of a spouse, and of the change in living conditions can stop some people in their tracks. True, this can be a very difficult time for many people. But our lives, like nature, must follow the design of the Creator. Around us we see the leaves changing, the wind’s direction shifting, and the days getting shorter. As the fall season progresses I find myself cutting back flowers, and pulling out plants. But on the positive side I find myself redefining the “bones” of the garden (In gardening terms the “bones” are the elements that give the garden structure). I plant bulbs, and put in new perennials; I’m tilling up sod to make a new plot, and turning the compost to improve the soil. In my own life, I have changed the way I exercise, I need more sleep, and my hobbies and interests have shifted.

Spiritually, I’m still reading the Gospels, praying the Psalms, and Journaling. Through all of this I can see the hand of God working. As too, in a Benedictine community, the bones of the community include our vows. The vow of stability says that I will live my life in this particular community, (my home is here in Beech Grove), this specific group of Sisters is my chosen family, and eventually one day I will be buried on these hallowed grounds. These are the things that give my life meaning, that define who I am.

In conclusion I must acknowledge that life is God’s gift to me, and that death, too, is a part of the normal human experience. We all will die. Because of our faith we know the gift of the resurrection. Life goes on. Yet there is a time of mourning

In prayer I say, Lord, help me to prepare for the barren seasons of my life. I may be active now but who knows what may lie ahead? Let me remember what this feels like, to be in my prime, to be doing all I want to do and to be happy with the world around me. Guide me in what ways are best to be ready for times less beautiful, and remind me always of your presence.

“It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;Yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can rest in its shade.”
Mark 4: 31-32

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Commentary for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Sr. Mildred Wannemuehler, OSB

In reading today’s Gospel we immediately think of today’s situation of the rich and the poor, the unemployed, people being laid off, the poor economy and all the effects of the above. The landowner is portrayed as a just man and also one who offered to help the less fortunate ones. Yet we are a bit surprised at the end, when all received the same wage. It doesn’t sound too fair to us.

In interpreting this parable we need to remember that this parable is really about God’s ways and God’s justice: what God offers is, not wages but salvation that is the same for everyone. The surprise of the parable is that salvation is not earned at all, but it is God’s gift to us and God gives it generously. We can never deserve salvation but are given salvation because of God’s holiness and God’s ways which are above our ways.

How often do we think of God’s gift to us? Does it lead me to imitate His greatness and generosity? Do I ever tend to think that some people don’t deserve God’s gift of salvation? Remember that Matthew was writing during the time that the Jews really resented the Gentiles joining the Christian community. Matthew shows how Jesus received criticism from the scribes and Pharisees. They could not accept the Gentiles who were latecomers to the vineyard at the “eleventh hour.”

A parable is meant to teach me a lesson. First of all, I think that my first response should be one of GRATITUDE for the gift of salvation.  How often do I take it for granted? Many people today have never even heard of the vineyard. Then, how many times do I help the landowner bring people to the vineyard? What has Baptism meant for me? This is a very basic teaching and one that we may sometimes forget. God, my landowner, help me become a good worker.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Favorite Quotes from Volume One Part Three

Anne is a Lay Apostle who writes messages she receives from Jesus and the Blessed Mother. To read more about Anne's work you can go to: Direction For Our Times

The following quotes are taken from Anne's book, Volume One, Thoughts on Spirituality.

We are protecting you more than you realize, my child.  What little suffering we are allowing is for the good of your humility.  Do not fear.  I am with you.  (p. 59)

You must trust your judgement.  You made the right decision.  In the future, do so calmly, and never be afraid when you are challenged if the issue has to do with the welfare of your children.  But remain calm.  Your peaceful firmness will say much more than becoming upset because you are questioned.  (p. 62)

You must look for the road to heaven in the small, lowly  things.  Your service to unloved or forsaken people, who cannot repay you, either with esteem, money, or even admiration, is what melts the heart of your Jesus and impresses your heavenly friends.  The unseen service is to be desired.  (p. 72)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Commentary for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross by Sr. Kathleen Yeadon, OSB

Only in dying is there life. Only in suffering is the possibility of wholeness brought to reality. John’s Gospel speaks: the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.(3:15)

With the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we are invited into one of the most powerful mysteries of life –unselfish love given freely--- transforms our world more than any other force. When we connect our sufferings to the saving power of God, we become part of the redemptive act of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection that washes over our world to renew it.

Because of the example of Jesus generously offering himself in the Incarnation and crucifixion, everything about our lives has the opportunity to be lifted up as a sign to God.

Freely embracing the crosses in our lives gives us a freedom which John Paul concurs in his Splendor of Truth: The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom: we live it in the total gift of self. (#85) Jesus pours himself freely out on the cross and asks of us no less of a gift back. It is our self giving that unites us with the Trinity that totally is self-giving.

We can translate every action of suffering into an altar of love that creates a resurrection garden where we encounter the Risen Lord.

This feast invites us to be willing to see suffering as the greatest gift of love offered to God. It asks us not to be afraid of suffering but to allow suffering to be a source of redemptive love not only for ourselves but for one another.

We are called to let our lives be signs in the desert-- lifted up ---to direct others to the healing love of God.

For many of us, one major act of suffering is patience and the Prologue gives us the words we need to remember: we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom. (

Lift high the cross!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Favorite Quotes from Volume One Part Two

If this is your first visit to my blog, WELCOME.  If you are an avid reader of my blog, THANK YOU.  Today's post continues with more of my favorite quotes from Anne's book, Volume One. By the way, today I started reading Volume Two.  I can't even begin to tell you what a delight this book is.  If you are looking for new reading material check out this website and place your order today.  You will not be confounded in your expectations! 

How could I be upset by such love?  I am with you My child, and your desire to be united to Me comes from Me.  You don't always do exactly what I want but I turn things so they benefit both your soul and My plan.  (p. 41)

I will protect you from souls such as these.  (P. 44)

Look at Me in My weakness, in the dirt.  How your heart is moved to pity for your poor Jesus.  Imagine how I feel when you fall, sometimes three times in one day.  Yes, your enemies gloat, and say she is not as holy as she likes to think she is. But I, I who am all light, what do I say?  I say, she is a humble soul.  Truly this soul who looks up to heaven and pleads for My help is a servant of Mine.  (p. 45)

I want to make this family a model Christian family.  This does not mean its members are perfect.  It means that each is helping the others to grow closer to God.  There must be love, yes, but also acceptance.  (p. 46)

Parents are far too concerned with their own entertainment.  The formation of their children suffers.  (p. 50)

Today you will be given the opportunity to pick someone up who has fallen.  I will tell you when it is happening.  It will be the same as if you are picking Me up after My fall.  (p. 53)

Yes.  Exactly.  An abundance of graces awaits any soul wanting them.  My mother offers them to her children with such hope and tenderness.  You must make this known to souls, particularly those souls who are in pain and feel unloved and forgotten.  Such souls often accept My graces willingly.  Go out and speak the name of Jesus Christ.  Go out and preach the gospel.  Make My name known to all, that all may be loved and be saved.  I am asking this of you today, and if you look for the answer, the answer will come to you.  Look closely into your daily life.  Where can you evangelize?  Where am I asking you to evangelize?  You will be given the answer in your heart, dear one.  I will put it there.  Truly, you will overflow with these answers, if only you will heed the sound of my voice.  (p. 58)

Enjoy loving God and serving God's people today.  Let's continue to pray for each other.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A commentary for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time by Sr. Pamela Kay Doyle, OSB

Reflecting on today’s Gospel from Matthew, once again the verbs held my attention – tell, listen, bind, agree, pray, and gather. And then another word entered my heart – relationship. Nothing in this scriptural passage can be done in isolation, and everything in this Gospel passage relates to our relationships with one another, our relationship with Christ.

We know that St. Benedict took to heart these words from Matthew’s Gospel, as he chose to create an entire chapter based on these words – Excommunication of Faults – RB 23. And although the chapter title includes the word excommunication, again the chapter is about relationships. How do we handle things when someone wrongs us? How do we treat the person who wrongs us? Do we act from our heart or from our urgent feelings?

I will admit that on any level I am one of the world’s worst at maintaining good, solid relationships. I can become selfish, lazy, and demanding. While those may not be the best traits to bring to monastic community life, they are some of the very reasons why I am in a monastic community and why I stay in a monastic community. It is through my daily commitment to our vow of conversion, to the fidelity to the monastic way of life, that I can continue to build and maintain good, solid relationships with you, my sisters, and to those beyond our monastery walls.

We’ve all been wronged by another; and we’ve all wronged another. Some wrongs we are able to let go quickly, and some wrongs stay with us a long while. Some wrongs cut us to the core, and some wrongs can simply be waved off. And, why is this so? I can’t say that I have the exact answer, but I do believe that again it directly relates to our relationships with one another. We maintain a variety of relationships with varying degrees of mutuality.

When a connection or a relationship with another person has been established, that leaves the door open for both sides to come together, to come together with Christ in their midst; and when we prayerfully and mindfully have Christ in our midst, forgiveness and peace flourish.

In his book, Monastic Practices, Charles Cummings, OCSO, references explorer and anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl. In 1969 and 1970, Thor and his crew sailed from Africa to South America in a papyrus boat. It is said that this explorer’s greatest worry was not sailing on the tumultuous ocean waves or in the primitive vessel; he hoped that his crew of seven would get along during those four months at sea in their tiny boat, as they were from different countries with different religions, languages, and skill sets. Because they were all committed to the same goal, not only did they arrive safely but they arrived immersed in fellowship.

Cummings goes on to write, “A monastic community may be compared to Heyerdahl’s papyrus boat. In the monastery we are all in the same boat, fellow travelers in an enclosed structure that we cannot freely leave. The voyage can be a joyful one or it can become a hell of loneliness, bickering and suspicion that ends in shipwreck for all. The quality of our interpersonal relationships in the monastery is critical. If I freely choose to enter a cenobitic monastic community, I cannot seek God as if I were the only person ‘on board’. My way to holiness and to personal wholeness lies through and with my fellow travelers. I will be faithful to my vocation and will experience the living God because of them, not in spite of them. Shipmates help one another reach their destination by being attentive to common needs, and by affirming the contribution each makes to the general effort.” (Monastic Practices, Charles Cummings, OSCO: page 142)

As Christians, we journey together to Christ. As Sisters of St. Benedict, we are strengthened in that journey through our monastic practices that we might grow in relationship with one another and with Christ.

May Christ bless those times of telling another of faults; for it is Jesus who tells us, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Be Careful What You Pray For!

I promised in a previous post that I would tell you the story of how my parents made the decision to get married. Well, here it is.

When my mom, Kay, was in high school...back in the early 1950's, her brother, Fr. Bernie Voges wanted to take her to Europe. In order for her to go her mother, my grandmother, told her she had to break up with the guy she was dating. Then while in Europe she was to go to the Grotto in Lourdes, France and pray for her religious vocation. My mom must have not been too much in love with the guy because she had no problem breaking up with him and taking off for Europe. She did indeed find the Holy Grotto in Lourdes, France. As she knelt at the foot of the statue of The Blessed Virgin Mary she didn't quite pray the prayer her mother told her to pray. No, this is what she told our beautiful Blessed Mary, "I do not want to be a nun. However, if I'm blessed with children they can become nuns and priests."

My parents both grew up in Tell City, Indiana. My dad was a year ahead of my mom in school. He was a classmate of my mom's brother, Uncle Junie. They often spent time together at my mom's house. In fact, the three of them used to triple date, each with a different date. In other words, my parents did not date each other in high school, but they did hang out together with their friends. Dad enjoyed going to my mom's house because there was never a dull moment there. My mom is one of nine kids. My dad is the youngest of two kids. His sister, Aunt Gloria, is six years his elder. My dad enjoyed all the activities and fun that took place in the Voges home.

As time went on Mom and Dad ended up at the same college in Terre Haute, IN. They were friends but they didn't date. Dad had a girlfriend and mom had a boyfriend. Mom ended up leaving college to go home to take care of her mother who was often sick. Dad ended up leaving college to go to the army. When dad got out of the army he went to barber school and became a barber. He decided it was time for him to get married. When he thought about who would be a good mate for him for some reason my mom came to his mind. He called her up
and said, "I'm getting married and I'm giving you first cracks!" (I kid you not!)

My mom was dumbfounded. She called her brother, Fr. Bernie and asked him what she should do. He told her to go on retreat and pray about it. He also told my mom she could do worse than Paul Etienne! Luckily for me, and my siblings, God told her to marry Paul Etienne.Six months later my parents were married. That was 51 years ago. My parents are still healthy and loving and serving God in Tell City, IN.

Now remember when I told you about what my mom prayed for when she was at Lourdes...that her children could have the religious vocations? Well, her prayer was answered. Mom and Dad have six children, three sons are priests and I am a Benedictine Sister. I also have a handsome brother who has a beautiful wife with three terrific children and a lovely sister who also has three wonderful children.

My parents have always been role models of prayer for their children. Loving and serving God was our number one priority growing up. God has always been the center of my parents' marriage. I thank God often for the faith and trust my parents had in the dreams God had for them.

Paul and Kay Etienne

Monday, September 1, 2008

Jesus' September Message

Each month, Anne, a lay apostle, receives a message from Jesus.  This is the message for September.  To read more about the locutions Anne receives from Jesus and His Blessed Mother click on this link:

Direction For Our Times

Dear apostles, 
I want you to know joy. Eternal joy will be yours in heaven, of course, but I want you to know joy now, during your time of service. If you do as I say, as I am asking you, this heavenly joy will become more and more available to you and you will share this joy more and more freely. You will be a true representative of heaven in your joy and others will be attracted to the heaven that you represent. I want you to believe Me when I tell you that you can trust Me. If you could not trust Me, dear apostles, why would you continue to follow Me? The answer is that you can trust Me, of course, or you would fall away as others have fallen away. You do trust Me. You rely on Me and you are safe with Me. You have made a wise decision by putting yourself into My care. It is always the best decision to rely on the One who loves you perfectly and holds, in His heart, the perfect plan for your time on earth. Why would you let fear diminish your joy? Why would you let anxiety for yourself or others eradicate the joy that is available to you in the present moment? My dearest apostles, you live in the present, not the future. If the present is difficult, I am there. If the future becomes difficult, I will be there, too. You will not be abandoned and your loved ones will not be abandoned. Ultimately, the greater the trust in Me, the greater the joy in each moment. I want you to abandon fear. I want you to cast yourself into the providence that surrounds you. Fear is a snare for you or I would not treat it so seriously. Ask Me now for greater trust and I will give it to you. Ask Me now for greater joy and I will give that to you, also. It is important that others see in you an accurate reflection of the graces heaven makes available to apostles. Do not hide these graces away. Let these graces flow out from you to those around you. Share what is good, dear apostles, not what is bad. Share what comes from Me and you will help to draw others back into our family. I am telling you that I have greater graces available to you so make your Jesus happy and ask for these graces. You will be blessed with all that you need and joy will be yours. Be at peace. I will never abandon you.