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Thoughts from a Franciscan Sister

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sr.christinaosf

Stairs for Lent?

PA100002.JPGLast evening, I went to bed at 6:45, anticipating working a night shift.  One of our aides had called earlier in the day, home with sick children.  By early evening, neither she nor I had been able to find another staff person to fill in.

The decision was made that, unless we heard anything, I would just plan on working ‘nights’; I did not have a heavy work schedule on the morrow and could easily catch up on sleep.  Plus, knowing in advance, I’d have a chance for a “long [spring] nap” before hand.

Although I went to bed, I had a tough time getting to sleep.  What sleep I did get was fitful.  Then, at 9:15 p.m., I heard the phone rang.  One of the night staff had got his message and had called that he would come in to work; I would not need to fill in after all.  Read more

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A Heart for Holy Week

Holy Week has always been special to me.  Back home, growing up, it was made special with beautiful customs, from attending Holy Thursday Mass to dyeing eggs on Holy Saturday afternoon.  (I am not trying to put these on the same plane.)

Now, since I’ve come to St. Anne’s, this annual commemoration has only grown in significance for me.  I’ve even developed traditions of my own, including making hot cross buns, ironing curtains for the Altar of Repose, and several others.

Many of these are linked to my assignment as sacristan here, which I was asked to take up several years back when our Sister Annella retired to our provincial house.

A week before Palm Sunday, the famous brown suitcase comes down from the cupboard above a closet in the sacristy.  It contains cloth covers for the crosses and other items used at this time of the liturgical year.  It will sit on a chair in our conference room until Easter.

Along with the special baking, ironing, and liturgical planning

 which take place during these holy days, extra cleaning has also become customary for me during the latter part of Holy Week.

We have Eucharistic Adoration (Exposition) in our chapel during the week, normally.  However, during the Paschal Triduum, this does not take place.  I use this time to do some thorough cleaning which I do not like to undertake when people are there, including polishing the woodwork, cleaning the vigil light stand, and cleaning candle holders.  (In typing this, I just reminded myself of some of the work that’s ahead.)

palm trimming

We trimmed the palms I and wrapped them in damp towels overnight.

All these tasks and considerations can be a little overwhelming.  However, they are good exterior elements to correlate with interior dispositions at this time.

As I prepare the chapel for these important commemorations, as I bake hot cross buns for our residents, as I clean and iron, I think of the Holy Women who accompanied Jesus on His way and I pray that my own heart (and not just our chapel) my be cleansed more and more.  I pray that it may be close to His.

(Please Note: Due to the solemn nature of these holy days I will not be posting during the Triduum.  We have a custom of observing silence from Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil, which my oft-typing fingers will strive to maintain as well.)

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Barely Scratching the Surface

PA230022.JPGWhew….

We just finished the hustle and bustle of Holy Week!

I really love these beautiful commemorations, but as a sacristan who has to coordinate things, I am always relieved Easter Sunday morning when it’s all behind me for another year.

This time of “the last three days of Holy Week” is such a special one.  Yesterday, as this time of silence and reflection was nearing its end, a realization settled upon me:

In this period, I had barely scratched the surface.  I had tried to reflect upon all that Jesus did for us, but the mystery is so deep, so profound.  In a year’s time, we hardly even get started in grasping it.

Even a lifetime of Holy Weeks won’t be enough.

Maybe each year, as we prepare throughout Lent and then delve deeply into the mystery during the Triduum, we can at least increase our love and appreciation for Christ’s passion.

Furthermore, I hope, that all my busyness during Holy Week doesn’t hinder my ability to go deeply into this mystery.  I hope I don’t let these precious days pass by without growing in my appreciation for this mystery.  I want to delve as deeply as possible into it, not hindering or ignoring the movement of God’s grace within me. Now, may the same be the same during the 50 days of Easter.

I pray that all of you who read this have a very blessed Easter season, that you may be enriched as you delve now into the mystery of Christ’s resurrection.

Would you please pray for me as well?

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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An Easter Rosary?

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So, during Lent we focus on the Sorrowful Mysteries when praying the rosary, but what about during the Easter season?

While the traditional answer would probably be: “the Glorious, of course,” I take a different route.

Although it’s unconventional, I often use different “mysteries” altogether.

Rather than jumping right into the Ascension, Pentecost, and Our Lady’s Assumption and Coronation, I like to linger a bit on the resurrection during these forty days.

What I like to do is take a different resurrection appearance of Our Lord for each of the five decades of the Rosary.

These Easter gospels are so beautiful and fruitful for meditation.  I’ll list them here in case you’d like to use them for your prayer as well.

Here is a list of resurrection appearance scriptures which you may find helpful.

I find this is a beautiful way of meeting our Risen Lord with Mary.

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Skeleton Man or “Faithful” Servant

If you’ve ever traveled in Europe, you may have noticed, as I did, the visibility and plenitude of bodies and crypts in the churches there.

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Actually, last spring when we were visiting Germany for our Congregation’s anniversary celebration, a Church we frequented had a skeleton preserved up front.  It was on the left-hand side as we faced the altar.  This “Studientkirche” was actually the site of the special anniversary Mass.

To specify where, within the church, we were to be seated for the special day, we teasingly said “toward the front, by ‘Skeleton Man.”  This nickname we had given to the remains held there for veneration.  Little did I know that this was actually the Franciscan, Saint Fidelis!

Once I realized this, I dropped the nickname from my speech – it did not seem appropriate to refer to a canonized saint in such terms.

Now, as we mark his feast day (April 24), I am reminded of this, and think, too, of our Sr. Fidelis who would be celebrating her name day were she still living.  The name they share fittingly means “faithful.”

franciscan associate 011

This dear Sister of ours, who lived to be well over a hundred, actually immigrated from Germany herself, answering the call to serve in America.

She had to study the English language and then spent decades teaching young people in Minnesota and North Dakota.  She actually went back to school in her eighties to receive computer training so she could teach this specialty as well.

Like her namesake, who was himself a German native, Sr. Fidelis strove to love God throughout her life and to spread His love to the young people in her care.

Toward the end of her life, she is actually quoted as questioning herself: “Have I loved God enough?”  I take this as a real challenge.  As I live my daily life, am I doing my utmost to love God and serve Him faithfully?

 

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From Our Franciscan Fiat

This morning’s Communion antiphon contained a message which, to me, is crucial.  Taken from Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:20, it reminds us of His promise to be “with [us] always, even to the end of the age.”

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In the characteristic Easter fashion, it closes with an “alleluia.”

When Easter comes, we tend to be a bit out of practice regarding the “A-word,” having abstained from it for 40 days.  When we pray the introductory part of our evening office, which contains an Alleluia, there is occasionally a bit of a pause before we remember that we are not in Lent anymore; we should be saying “alleluia” again!

As a follow up on today’s consoling communion verse, the “alleluia” is very appropriate. It is fitting that Jesus’ promise to be with us be followed by this ancient ejaculation which means “God be praised.”   His presence, indeed, is a great gift which merits our praise.

I might take Christ’s words of promised presence as an answer to prayer.  To me, it is so important that Christ be with me each day.  As I face challenging situations of varying types, I turn to Him, seeking His presence, guidance, and support.

Recently, in fact, I’ve found myself praying for His presence, feeling that this is really all I need.  As I do so, however, I realize that He is already with me.

Alleluia!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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Manna for the Wilderness Journey

Exodus 16 tells the story of the people of Israel being fed in the wilderness.  This event is alluded to in John’s gospel and serves as the backdrop for the Bread of Life discourse which we hear read during this third week of Easter.

This story of Manna, and Jesus’ subsequent teaching is truly fitting for us every day.

Although we don’t live in a middle eastern wilderness, our life can seem like a wandering some time.

As we face struggles, uncertainties, and whatever else may come, we are provided for.  We have our Manna, our daily bread, in the Eucharist.

In writing this post, the hymn, “Shepherd of Souls, Refresh and Bless” comes to mind, in which we are reminded that Christ is our provident shepherd and we are a pilgrim flock in the wilderness of life.

Please join me in giving thanks for the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, in which our Lord provides for our needs with His very self!

 

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