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


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

A Blessed Epiphany and a Happy New Year to All!

DSCN1673“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” May the Light of the Word made flesh illumine our hearts and minds, both now and throughout the coming year.

Our December heat wave made the news as far away as in France, with the thermometer climbing to a toasty 72° F. on Christmas Eve. A French friend emailed that she’d seen pictures of people walking around in shorts in Boston and New York. Although shorts aren’t part of our attire, we did dispense with sweaters and jackets and opened wide our new windows, which, unlike the old ones, open and close with ease. The squirrels got fat, the bears didn’t hibernate and the geese and robins began flying north. As of this writing, there is a light dusting of snow, and the pond is just beginning to freeze. The personal comfort has been nice, but we cringe at what this may portend in terms of rising sea levels.

We usually avoid scheduling workshops and days of recollection during the winter months, but given the mild weather, we decided to host an Advent day of recollection for oblates on December 12. As usual, Sr. Donald gave the talks, Sr. Miriam cooked a delicious dinner, and Kathy and Sr. Sheila worked “backstage” to make sure everything was set up and happened smoothly and on time. We had also planned a day of introduction to mindfulness with Nancy Billias, but she was obliged to cancel because of a death in her family. We hope to be able to reschedule her workshop sometime this spring. We tend to discourage guests during the winter months, especially those unsteady on their feet, but as the warm days continued, the guest house was in use most of the time, with just sufficient time between guests to enable us to do the laundry and clean up.

Throughout Advent, Kathy and our friend John from down the road continued their study of the Book of Ruth with Sr. Sheila. The emphasis was on the passage from death to life, as revealed in the literary structure of the book, based on the analysis of André Chouraqui.

The commercial Christmas frenzy seems to start earlier each year, with Advent being eclipsed by “the Christmas season” that in the popular mind-set culminates and ends on December 25. In the face of this trend, we remain stalwartly counter-cultural, in concert with our chaplain, who keeps reminding parishioners that “This is the Advent season. The Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve.” To the surprise of our neighbors and guests, we wait until the final days of Advent to put up our tree and install crèches in the chapel and refectory. On the other hand, as a concession to good neighborly relations, we do feel obliged to emerge occasionally from our “waiting in silence”, even though it’s a bit of a strain for this community of introverts.


Our Christmas Eve liturgy begins with Vespers at 4:00. Matins follows at 6:00, which we sing from beginning to end, with the exception of the final collect. To hold our attention, and so that no one feels nervous about singing a solo, we all chant the readings together (in Latin), including the hauntingly beautiful Gospel tone of the genealogy, so reminiscent of the Hebrew chant for the genealogy at the end of the Book of Ruth. After a two hour break, we have “mass in the night” at 9:00, followed by a little party in the refectory to which Father Dwyer and guests are invited. On Christmas morning, we go to the parish for mass, after which we host friends for Christmas dinner who would otherwise be spending the holiday alone.

We’ve barely caught our breath and it’s already Epiphany, moved to the nearest Sunday in these parts. Ash Wednesday will be here before we know it – on February 10, no less! What to do about St. Scholastica? Combine her solemnity with Mardi Gras on the 9th, or with Our Lady of Lourdes on the 11th?DSCN1678

For the moment, we send you all our best wishes for a blessed Epiphany season and a very happy and grace-filled New Year!

Venite, adoremus!

DSCN1295A joyful and blessed Christmas to all!

If you live in this area, we’d love to welcome you at one (or more) of our Christmas Eve services:

4:00: Vespers, with the chanting of the Martyology

6:00: Christmas Matins, sung from start to finish in Gregorian Chant

9:00: Mass in the Night, followed by a modest party in our refectory.

(The snowflakes added by WordPress do not reflect the reality “on the ground”, where it is an unbelievable 60° at 5:00 a.m.)

Oblate Day

Those traveling to our Oblate Day yesterday were grateful for the balmy temperatures, quite unlike the snowy scene above. Two of the computer-savvy attendees are planning to set up an oblates’ chat room on Yahoo. They recommend the following resources to their fellow oblates:

BOOKS (Many available as used on Amazon or for Kindle Readers, etc.)

How to Be a Monastic and Keep Your Day Job

Tools of Good Works

Chittister, Joan: Wisdom Distilled from the Daily

Funk, Margaret Mary: Thoughts Matter

Funk, Margaret Mary: Tools Matter

Funk, Margaret Mary: Humility Matters

http://www.idahomonks.org/sect110.htm Extensive bibliography of reading for Benedictine Oblates

Stranger in the City. Michael Casey

The Good Wine. Bruno Barnhardt

Born From the Gaze of God


Bruno Barnhardt+Wisdom Teachings of Bruno Barnhardt

The Monastic Institute (talks by Laurence Freeman OSB)

Sr Donald Corcoran (2013 Symposium talk)

Friends of St Benedict – a You Tube Channel with 15 videos. Log in with your Google Account Password) Sr Donald’s talk from the 2013 Symposium is also here


http://divineoffice.org/ : An online complete Liturgy of the Hours. Can be read or listened to. Available also for Smart Phones as an App

http://www.universalis.com The Divine Office online

http://www.osb.org/rb/: Rule of St Benedict. You can also have a daily reading of the Rule sent to your email from this site.

http://www.naadob.org Website of National Board of Directors of Benedictine Oblate Directors. Ref. the Handbook

http://www.saintmeinrad.org/oblates/. This site has a lot of information about Oblate Oblation, Resources, suggested reading, etc.

http://www.oblatespring.com/ National Oblate Website

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/MonasticLife/info An ecumenical Yahoo Group for Oblates. Has 646 members

APPS (For Smart Phones, Tablets


Divine Office


Monastic List: A chat room on the web for Benedictine Oblates

Transfiguration Oblates@Yahoo .com (our own list serve for Oblates of Transfiguration Monastery) email Kevin Carrier to be added to this group.


Retreats: Recent and Upcoming

Last Saturday, November 14, 20 people filled our guest house living room for a day of recollection on our mortality. Nancy Billias, who is a Benedictine oblate, experienced psychotherapist and professor of philosophy at St. Joseph’s University in West Hartford, CT, led us in discussions of our feelings about end-of-life care, how we would like our transition to take place, recommended conversations with our loved ones and doctor, and funeral plans. The materials she photocopied for us are available at http://www.theconversationproject.org. The afternoon session included a Skype conversation with a hospice nurse, who talked to us about physiological and psychological changes that occur as the moment of death approaches.

The workshop was very well-received, and many expressed interest in coming back on Saturday, December 5, when Nancy will lead us in an Advent day of mindfulness. Nancy teaches mindfulness to undergraduates at St. Joseph’s and has given her students the (to them outrageously impossible) task of spending four consecutive hours away from their phones, tablets and computers. With us, the emphasis will be on living Advent mindfully, in a spirit of prayerful anticipation of the Incarnation, in spite of the frenzied commercialization of this holy season. If you’d like to join us on December 5, please call the monastery at 607-655-2366, or email us at transfigurationmonastery@gmail.com.

The photos below were taken last Saturday by one of the participants.
Workshop on end of life planningworkshop on end of life planning 2workshop on end of life planning 4

Poem for All Soul’s Day

When We Close Our Eyes

When we close our eyes,
we knock gently on the door of dream
and forget what we have struggled to secure.
Eyes closed, our soul rises,
as if called forth by our searching words.
Our dream takes us to that single star
which has come so far
and now waits for us.

For we much choose
the moment for our great journey,
when we want to throw off old life
and take on a new spirit,
forgetful of the glory we looked for here.
Wonders live all around our dream,
but our home is not here now.

A single spark
is all we will carry,
all we will need
for others to remember us
and follow our progress
to the radiant star
we have searched for all these years
throughout the troubled skies.

Any moment now,
the weather will change here.
All will change for us.
All will be new.
The waves will begin to roll,
the leaves to trickle from the trees
and from around our shoulders
all the weight will fall away.
© Michael Tarabilda

This poem was read on October 12 at the funeral of Martha Lou Stohlman, an old friend from Princeton, NJ, who died just three weeks before her 102nd birthday, having stated that she did not want to be 102.