Odyssey of an Oblate

The following was submitted by our good friend, Rosalie Krajci:

Odyssey of an Oblate

It didn’t take much to persuade me.

A couple of years ago I made a short retreat at Transfiguration Monastery. One of my purposes was to learn more about monasticism. Not that I was thinking of entering the monastery, but rather, drawn to the spirituality of monasticism, I wanted to learn about the “monastery of the heart.”

The very concept of monasticism – the totality of its dedication to the interior life, to a growing intimacy with God – had appealed to me long ago, even in my teens. But life takes us on different paths and here I was, close to where I had wanted to be so long ago.

After a short but substantive conversation with Sister Mary Donald, she gave me copies of some of her articles, along with the Esther de Waal book, Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. That sounded like just the thing, as indeed it was!

I resumed going to Mount Saviour Monastery which is less than a ten-minute ride from my home and had some conversations with then-prior Father Joseph Gabriel. He told me I needed to write him a letter requesting acceptance as an Oblate of Mt. Saviour. I composed and sent the letter that very day. He later described the simple process: I would attend a brief rite to publicly express my desire and choose a name. This part was easy too, and just seemed to pop out of my mouth. My patroness? Mary Magdalene whose feast just “happened” to be within the next 10 days!

Father Joseph steered me to the writings of Michael Casey, OCSO, who explores in depth every word of the Rule. I was formally received last year, shortly before Father Joseph left.

While the whole process of my becoming an Oblate seems very short and maybe even inordinately swift, I must emphasize that this had been in my mind and heart for many years. The decision was relatively quick only because it had been gestating in my spirit for literally decades, even if at times it had been submerged beneath other activities.

How did I decide so spontaneously on Mary Magdalene? Certainly, Thérèse of Lisieux has long been a favorite of mine since girlhood. But Mary Magdalene seemed closer to the adult me. She was one of the few to endure watching the lengthy dying of Jesus crucified. How much love and strength did that require! She was then the first to see and speak to the risen Christ. In her great love and joy, she threw herself at his feet, clinging to him, not wanting to be separated from him. Christ commissioned her to give the good news to the brother apostles. He had total trust that she would do this, even though this was a very bold action for a woman.

There is much we do not know about Mary’s apostolate after that. Pope Francis has just “upgraded” her feast day, July 22, to the same level of celebration that is accorded to the other apostles. After so many centuries when she was associated with practically every fallen woman in the Gospels, it is a true grace to have her honored in this way.

Yes, she had needed serious help from our Lord. Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus had expelled seven demons from her. Like any other Christian, she undoubtedly was flawed. And with us, all of us flawed, she received forgiveness with great joy and gratitude. I’m in good company.

Rosalie P. Krajci

 

Ora et Labora

Rosalie Krajci, an oblate of Mount Saviour Benedictine Monastery in Elmira, NY, sent us the following poem. It is reproduced here with her permission.

By way of explanation to those whose Latin may be rusty: Ora et Labora is a Benedictine motto meaning “Pray and Work”. Rosalie plays with the Latin in her title: Orare est Laborare: “To Pray Is to Work”.

Orare est Laborare

I Will Go to the Altar . . .

I will go to the altar of God,

To God who gives joy to my youth!

I will go to the altar of my laptop

As I compose this prayer.

I will go to the altar of my phone,

As I call or respond to a friend.

I will go to the altar of my piano

Where I touch the soul of Beethoven.

I will go to the altar of the sidewalk

That leads me to my neighbor.

I will go to the altar in my kitchen,

As I prepare what God provides.

I will go to the altar of my appliances

That make light work of many chores.

I will go to the altar of my books

That bring food to my spirit.

I will go to the altar in my prayer corner

Where I find the grace to surrender and

To love.

Rosalie Krajci

Psalm 23 – Meditation by a Benedictine Oblate

Water lilies

Psalm:
The Lord is my Shepherd . . .
What more could I want?
He takes me by the hand
to a quiet place of rest.
He stops by a river of living water,
letting me drink deep
from the faithfilled
stream.
He lifts me up, lest I dash my foot
against the stony path.
He raises me up high, so I can look
far down onto the heads of my foes.
They scurry before him in confusion,
like dry ashes in the wind.
He enfolds me in his arms,
My holy Pelican,
Embracing me, and I him, as he nourishes me
with his Body and blood.
He anoints me with the holy chrism of Mercy,
Healing the wounds of my forgotten sins.
Yes, let any darkness come!
I travel forever in the dazzling light
of his Love!
© Rosalie P. Krajci
May 31, 2016
Feast of the Visitation

A Retreat Gone Awry

This post was written by a recent guest, who gave us permission to reproduce it here.

A Retreat Gone Awry

I had scheduled a three-night retreat at the monastery. I needed this retreat. It was to be a really good silent retreat. I would take no book except for a Bible. I would have no plans, instead letting the Holy Spirit lead me however it would. (Somehow, I failed to see the contradiction in planning to have no plans.)

When I walked into the guest house and was greeted by Jim, an elderly stranger using a walker, I returned his greeting with only enough warmth to avoid rudeness and withdrew unto myself to maintain my promised silence.

“Do you suppose,” I asked Sister Sheila when she arrived to show me my room, “that Jim would mind if I had my lunch alone?”

“I’m sure he realizes you’re here for a retreat.” And so she casually explained to Jim that I’d be taking my lunch in the upstairs sitting room.

Shortly after, I brought my plates downstairs. I had eaten rather quickly and unmeditatively. Sister was chatting with Jim at the kitchen table. (She normally would have been having a silent lunch with the other sisters.) I had the good sense to feel somewhat abashed and, frankly, ready to atone for my coldness.

I made a point to be more available for friendly conversation. I learned that Jim had a doctorate in the classical languages, including two years studying at Oxford, and had taught at Cornell University. He even recited for me the opening lines of the Aeneid—in Latin, of course. Though retired and afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, Jim was nonetheless engaged in activities to stimulate his mind. He had a little keyboard and was plunking out a tune he composed. At home, he also ran his own press for block printing.

On the last evening, I prepared and served him a light supper consisting of soup and two perfectly timed soft-boiled eggs. I stuck around to help Jim prepare for bed, or I should say for sleep, since he slept upright in a chair. It was difficult enough for him to get out of a chair, let alone a bed. Throughout minimal preparations, Jim maintained a gentle smile and spoke in a soft voice. I quietly watched him as he would pause in his movement, looking straight ahead. He explained that he had to concentrate on moving his legs, focusing on keeping his balance before he lifted one foot and left the other on the ground.  I made sure that the necessary lights stayed on so he could see his way to the restroom during the night.

Today there was a note from Jim in my mail. I opened the envelope and burst into tears. It was a thank-you letter from him, written in letters so tiny that I needed a magnifying glass to read it.

“This,” I said to myself, “is what the Kingdom of God is like: the tiny mustard seed, the bit of yeast in a vat of flour.” Truly the Kingdom is in these small attentions to one another. This was Ignatius “seeing God in all things.” This was Thérèse of Lisieux’s Little Way.” Our God does not ask for, or expect, spectacular deeds from us. No, God wants us to show a bit of kindness toward one another, sincerely bestowed and graciously received.

My retreat taught me that there is a time to speak and a time for silence. I learned that silence is not simply the absence of speech or sound, nor is it for our own personal edification as we, in attempted holiness, clutch the Lord God to our solitary bosom. Silence can be an attentive listening to another person so as to anticipate his needs, saving him the need of asking for help.

Retreat gone awry? No. In spite of myself and my high-flown plans, I had let God have his way, and that made all the difference.

Rosalie Krajci

Rosalie P. Krajci, Ph.D., a Benedictine Oblate, is retired from two careers: language teacher and consultant in human resources management. Her third and most rewarding career is as a spiritual director and freelance writer. Rosalie and her husband raised seven children. Now widowed, she lives in the Finger Lakes area in upstate New York.

A Fisherman’s Prayer

At our community meeting this morning, Sister Donald offered the following poem in honor of today’s Gospel reading celebrating the haul of 153 fish:

A Fisherman’s Prayer

God grant that I may live to fish

Until my dying day,

And when it comes to my last cast,

I then most humbly pray,

When in the Lord’s safe landing net

I’m peacefully asleep,

That in His mercy I be judged as

“Big Enough to Keep.”

fishing

A Tribute to Grandmothers

A young friend of the monastery, Daniel Crocker, posted the following on Facebook the other day, after visiting us for his weekly Latin lesson, followed by Vespers:

Where would we be without our grandmothers? Where would we be without these women who gave life to the mothers and fathers who gave life to us? And where would we be without their relationships with us: this motherly intimacy that extended into our childhood and young adulthood?

As I turned from the serpentine road onto the long dirt drive that leads up to the monastery, I remembered that my Step-Grandma brought me to this place many years ago. I realized that had she not done so, I might never have known of its existence. This little nook in the valley, set against the rolling hills of Windsor, glistened under the sun. The pond to my left shimmered. As I approached the place where I usually park, I guessed that Kathleen Houck, my step-grandmother and godmother, did not know what a blessing Transfiguration Monastery and three Benedictine nuns would become for me nearly twenty years since my first visit here with her.

I owe to “Him who brings all things together for the good” my everything! What a perfect situation for me: studying Latin has delighted my linguistic brain by increasing my knowledge of language in general; it has helped my devotion so that I may understand better the Latin scripture verses, antiphons, prayers and anthems that I encounter in worship. I have come to love Sister Sheila (my Latin teacher), Sister Donald, and Sister Miriam. I very much look forward to praying with them every week, after a busy work day at the school.

As the Paschal candle flickered, as we bowed at the name of the Trinity, as our voices ascended and descended antiphonal mountains, the sense of joy that had been swelling in me all day surged against my heart, like a flood against a dam at the breaking point! We began the intercessions. I named Erna, a grandmother with cancer: as the breath slipped out past my lips into the center of the chapel, I thought of Erna who will be slipping past suffering, past years of life, into the eternal days of her journey. I pleaded that her pain would be met with comfort. I prayed that her tears would be met with peace.

During the Magnificat, I glanced at the giant, colorful icon of the Madonna seated on a throne, with her holy Child and Savior in her lap. Yes, I know what mothers mean. Yes, I know what grandmothers mean. They are full of blessings. They are poured out richly upon us. They are life.

Once prayers had ended and greetings and blessings were exchanged, I was out the door and headed away from the main building of the Monastery. At the foot of the steps that make a crescent around the chapel side of the building, I stopped and closed my eyes. The breeze blew across my face, and in the silence of my heart, my Step-Grandma and I greeted each other: “It truly has been a long time since we have seen each other face to face, I agree. It is so nice that you come to me and make yourself known to me here. I miss you.”

Where would we be without our grandmothers, without these blessed ladies who passed on to us their flame of love for life? In the light from this flame, I see all the blessings and graces I receive. I see that all good things are reflections of Your inestimable glory. I see all as signs that You walk with me. My heart burns greatly in desire to be ever closer to You. I yearn to be received by You, who hold in Your hands our treasured grandmothers. Receive me! For in your sight, today joy slays me and for it I die a thousand deaths.

In Memoriam

MarshaIt is with deep sadness that we report the death of our dear friend, Marsha Eger. On February 20, she was riding in a golf cart with a friend whom she was visiting in The Villages in Florida, when the driver of an SUV had a medical emergency, lost consciousness and control of his car, and hit Marsha and her friend. Both died the following day.

Just a week before her death Marsha had given a workshop here on Heart Wisdom. Her passing is a huge loss.

Below are two poems from her collection, Voice of My Soul, Wisdom from the Stillness.

What is Life?

           It is the breath, the Force that animates.

           It is the holy, sacred expression of the Divine.

           It is precious Awareness.

          It culminates in Spirit’s manifestation

         of all that seems to be.

        It is a great, lovely illusion,

        magically cast upon a cosmic screen.

       When the breath is withdrawn

       what remains is what is always there,

       the great loving Awareness, I AM.

 

Oh Joy, Oh Bliss

      Oh the joy of it All, One.

      The joy of the breath of life

      filling the lungs

      and passing beneath the palate,

      exhaling as Love.

      Oh the bliss,

      the sweetness,

      the contentment of just being,

      arising from the Stillness,

      the place of all existence.

      From my joy place arises peace

      and oh such love that has no boundaries,

      no beginning, no end, no destination.

      An infinite supply of ever-expanding love,

      a pure state-of-being.

      Oh the joy of presence

      and engagement in the realization that

      what matters in the breath arising through the clearing,

      creating an opening of self to Love’s flow,

      to G-d.

Recent news

Sister Placid, foundress of Transfiguration Monastery, along with Sister Donald and Sister Jeanne-Marie, was remembered on her birthday, January 24, at a Mass requested by an old friend of the monastery. Sr. Placid died in 2008, but she is alive and well in the memories of those who knew her.

After two weeks’ “Christmas vacation,” our Scripture study class with postulant Kathy and neighbor John started off on a new tack: the Gospel of John, with two books as our guides: The Genius of John, by Peter Ellis, and The Good Wine, by Fr. Bruno Barnhart, a Camaldolese Benedictine monk who died last Advent. Ellis’s book is very structured and analytical, whereas Fr. Bruno is intuitive, making leaps that are sometimes hard to follow. Together with the Gospel, we are finding much food for thought, prayer and meditation.

Sister Donald spent the last few months researching a different subject: “Benedictine Wisdom and Sacred Humanitas,” in preparation for three talks that she presented to 35 Benedictine abbots, including the Abbot Primate, in Covington, Louisiana, at the end of January. We were privileged to hear the first two before she left and are looking forward to the third. We are making DVDs of her presentations here at the monastery, and we’ll be happy to send you copies if you are interested. We’re going to redo the first one, because our dog was too disruptive.

Sister Sheila has acquired a new Latin student: a young man who is working as a teacher’s aide in a class of autistic children, and who loves learning languages. His French is good enough to allow him to use the liturgical Latin book/workbook that Sr. Sheila made for the novices at Maumont. After studying the first chapter, he posted the declension of gloria on Facebook!

It’s hard to believe, but Ash Wednesday is tomorrow! Kathy is making us crêpes for supper tonight, in honor of Shrove Tuesday. St. Scholastica, whose feast day falls on February 10, has been bumped up to the 11th this year. We’re planning to celebrate with a festive lunch.

On Saturday the 13th, Marsha Eger will be leading us in a Heart Wisdom workshop. Should you feel inspired to attend, please contact the monastery before Friday.

A Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all!.Mindful Heart Image

 

Heart Wisdom Workshop: Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mindful Heart Image

A chanting meditation workshop with

Marsha Eger, MA Ritual Chant,

International Teacher of Chanting Meditation.

Life is demanding in ways that often keep us engaged in our heads and disconnected from our hearts. In this workshop we will take some time out from our busy lives to reconnect with our hearts in a powerful way.

During our time together we will explore the qualities of the heart through the wisdom of many of the world’s traditions. Through chant, meditation, poetry and discussion we will experience a deeper connection with our hearts and see how the heart’s wisdom can inform and enrich our personal journeys.

DATE: Saturday, February 13, 2016

TIME: We will begin at 10:00 am and break for Noon prayer followed by lunch.

PLACE: Transfiguration Monastery, Windsor, New York

http://www.transfigurationmonastery.org/pages/Contact.php

COST: The suggested donation of $30-$45 includes a delicious, home-cooked, hot lunch, prepared by one of the sisters, and coffee, tea and snacks.

REGISTRATION: If you would like to join us please respond to this post or call the monastery at (607) 655-2366. Advanced sign up is necessary so we know how much food to buy and prepare.

Sister Jeanne-Marie turns 90

Last Wednesday, January 14, all four of us drove to Scranton to help Sister Jeanne-Marie celebrate her 90th birthday. The birthday card celebrating her attainment of this venerable decade caused her much consternation, since she didn’t “feel 90”, but rather more like 75. Nevertheless, she enjoyed our visit, as well as the chocolate cake with whipped cream icing from Wegman’s. DSCN1696DSCN1691DSCN1697 DSCN1704