Monday, September 28, 2015

Suffer Willingly, Love Fully

Reflection on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

It's a blessing to celebrate the Triumph of the Cross because it immerses us, once again, in the holiest days of the year – the Triduum.  In our daily lives, it is easy to get caught up in what needs to be done; this feast is a reminder to sit with the message of the Triduum. 

Saint John Paul the Great knew suffering intimately.  In his apostolic letter on human suffering, he says,
“The Cross of Christ throws salvific light in a most penetrating way on man’s life and, in particular, on his suffering.  For through faith, the Cross reaches man together with the Resurrection.  The mystery of the Passion is contained in the Paschal Mystery.  The witnesses of Christ’s Passion are, at the same time, witnesses of His Resurrection.  St. Paul writes, ‘That I may know Him, Christ, and the power of His Resurrection and may share His sufferings becoming like Him in His death that if possible I may obtain resurrection from the dead.’”
In our own lives, we can learn to value suffering because it strengthens us.  The conviction we need to have in order to suffer gracefully is a conviction of love:  you only suffer willingly when you love fully.  Christ loved fully and He suffered willingly out of that love.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Power of a Blessing

A reflection on Genesis 32: 23-33 by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

In this passage from Genesis we see Jacob battling, wrestling with an Angel.  We read in Genesis, “After he had taken them across the stream and had brought over all his possessions, Jacob was left there alone.”   

There he was - alone.  Everything he had was on the other side.  The full story is that Jacob was returning home and was afraid of his brother, Esau.  He wasn’t sure if he was going to be killed!  He had sent thousands of gifts to Esau just to appease him.  So we don’t know everything that was happening or all that was said or felt, but Jacob understood that “the man” was something divine. 

After they had been wrestling for some time, the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”  But what does Jacob say?  “I will not let you go until you bless me.”  He knew the power of a blessing.  He wasn’t going to let it go until he got it.  He suffered for it, too.  He was knocked in the hip and had to walk with a limp; but he was willing to fight that hard to get it.

I don’t know if, today, we take seriously the blessing that we get from God.  Or that we understand how powerful it is when we get the priest’s blessing.  When we get our parents blessing.  When we bless one another.  To know what that means!  To believe in the power of a blessing – do we take it in strongly enough that it can bear fruit?  Do we ask God to bless us?  Jacob knew the power and he wasn’t going to let it go.  He tangled with Heaven and won.  “I will not let you go until you bless me."  

Ask God for His blessing.  Take seriously the blessings we get.  Let them bear fruit within and give blessings!  Bless one another with a prayer, ask for a blessing and see how it bears fruit.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Willing to be Stretched

A reflection on the Feast of St. Laurence by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

On the Feast of St. Laurence, we should take a good look at the liturgy and reflect how we are all called – especially in the life of a monk – to be prepared for martyrdom.  For some, martyrdom comes as a final blow while for others it is a lifetime of suffering.  Every monk is a white martyr, because the Rule itself requires a dying - a constant dying to oneself.
In the chapter of the Rule on humility, the steps of the martyrdom of a monk are apparent: how we are to die to ourselves.  It is in the great role of service to others, putting aside our own needs and wants, to accept the humanity of one another that we die to ourselves.  We are not angels!  We may try but we are still human.  We cannot help but to fail here and there; and others will fail us here and there.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t holiness.  The holiness comes in the response.  What is the response we have in those situations?
They say that when Christ was put onto the Cross He didn’t quite fit.  So they had to pull His arms and legs, dislocate his shoulders, to nail Him so that He would stay in place.  Sometimes we think that we don’t quite fit; that doesn’t mean we don’t have the vocation.  It means we have to be willing to be stretched.  We have to be willing to be conformed to Christ in His most beautiful moments: the Agony in the Garden, changing His family to His disciples.  It must have hurt Him to pull away from His Mother – it must have cost Him.  So, too, it will cost us.
St. Benedict says,
“Accordingly brothers and sisters, if we want to reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily the exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob, in a dream, saw angels descending and ascending.  Without doubt, this descent and ascent can only signify that we descend by exaltation and ascent by humility.”
What is most humbling in our own lives?  Sometimes it is simply to be the servant of others.  No matter where we stand in life, not counting our rank or position, but preferring to be the servant of others.  You want to be holy?  Simply have a mind of being a servant.

The Cellarer, it says in the Rule, when goods are not available, is to offer a kind word because “a kind word is better than the best of gifts”.  Do you know how true this is?  Do you know what it costs not to give a word that hurts when you've been hurt?  Not to be snide but to be loving at all times?  To be encouraging when someone gets what you want?  That takes martyrdom.  It takes martyrdom to be a servant even when others think and treat you as such.  Be glad and rejoice that your reward may be great in heaven, for Christ did it before all of us and He lived it to the full.  That is how we obtain holiness – the holiness that God has chosen for us.  It is in the life of Christ - Who died the servant of man.   He let Himself be stretched beyond what He could physically do.  We are not asked to do that, but we can come close if we simply become a servant to all, if we can keep silence when something hurts, if we can love those who don’t seem to love us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Persuade the Heart of Christ

A reflection on Matthew 15: 21-28 by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB
Through the scriptures we see that the power of women is their persuasion.  Think of all the instances throughout scripture that tell us of the persuasion – both good and bad – of women.  Eve did not persuade Adam to be good!
Why are women religious so valuable to the Church?  It is the prayer of persuasion.  Intercessory prayer is truly the prayer of persuasion.  We see it in the Gospel with the Canaanite woman; she persuades Christ himself to do what he did not intend to do.  It was her words of confidence – nothing was going to put her off – because she was praying for her daughter, whom she loved.  When we pray with that same tenacity, and God hears our conversation, what could not be granted us?  We have the power to pray with Mary, that the world be converted and returned to the hands of God.  Why do you think evil fights the contemplative life?  It has the power to persuade God to save His people. 
We have the power of prayer that is mighty.  When we go to prayer, when we pray together, we have the power to persuade God.  Speak that way!  Let our conversations reflect this.  When we speak confidently to God, we walk in the trail of Mary and honor our vocation as persuaders of God.  That is true intercessory prayer; and no prayer is small.  The greater the trust, the greater the answer.  Believe it in your heart and you will see your own persuasion over the Heart of Christ.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

No Greater Service

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

It seems to me that people who pursue God faithfully have their priorities straight.  Consider St. Paul: his priorities are quite straight.  For him, it is always Christ.  He does everything to serve the people.  

Now being wayward people we are always fluctuating.  We will have some days when we are more fervent than others.  We will have times during which we may not be as Christian as we want to be.  But God always sends someone our way to encourage us; He believes in us.  There is nothing God wants more than to encourage us in the ways that we will fulfill, most perfectly, the image of Christ within us.  We should strive for that at all times, but don’t be surprised when things don’t go perfectly.  That is the lot of man.

In our constant pursuit of this image of Christ within, we will always be rearranging our priorities to keep God in the first place.   Prayer, too, must have its priority in our life.  All the rest will settle like the dust.  

We carry responsibilities in community in the name of God.  That means when we pursue our responsibilities we also pursue God.  When we embrace what has been given to us to serve the community, whatever it may be – sweeping the hall, doing the dishes, serving the guests, feeding the cattle, pulling weeds – we do it in the name of God.  Only God knows the value of each one.  It has nothing to do with the work itself but everything to do with the intention.  Everything done well and for the glory of God has the highest value.  Our responsibilities may change over time but we must always be growing in the way in which we do them:  from the heart.  When we fulfill our responsibilities for the love of God we will be filled with peace and joy.

At the end of his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul says, “Because I do not love you?  God knows, I do.”  What a wonderful way to end everything!  “God knows, I do.”  Carry this with you in whatever you do.  Do it for love.  There is no greater service.   If we do everything out of love, we will shine with the glory of God and our priorities will be straight.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Console the Heart of Christ

A reflection for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB.

The Collect for the Feast of the Sacred Heart reads:
O God, who in the Heart of Your Son wounded by our sins, bestow on us in mercy the boundless treasure of Your Love.  Grant, we pray, that in paying Him the homage of our devotion, we may also offer worthy reparation.
You do not hear that word very often – reparation.  Yet it is a necessary word.  We do have to make reparation for sin.  The best reparation we can possibly do, in life, is simply to be truly sorry for our sins, to decide I am not going to do that anymore, then to do some small means of penance.  It doesn’t have to be grand.  The real secret to reparation is love.  To do a small thing with great love is huge.  To do a great thing without love means absolutely nothing. 
The most we can possibly do is to do all things with love.  To prefer nothing to the love of Christ (RB 4:21).  To respond with love.  If our thoughts are of love, then our actions will be of love.  It is no small thing to be devoted to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  We as brides of Christ have an even greater duty to love Him more.  To be willing to do more, to suffer more, to be willing to give the very best of ourselves with love, and not to count the cost.  That’s heroic.
Christ deserves our love.  We should do all that we can to console the Heart of Christ.  He mourns today for His Church and yet He rejoices in His Church.  There is a victory already begun and it begins with each one of us.  It begins with love, it ends with love, and it goes into eternity with love.  Love one another; that He may be one in us and we in Him.  To talk about it is really nothing; to live it is everything.  Live it... and we shall do it together.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wisdom: Seeing Through the Eyes of God

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe.

The gift of Wisdom is the highest of all gifts.  We hear in the first reading from the Second letter to the Corinthians, “If what was going to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious?”  What endures.  Wisdom is the aspect of seeing all things through the eyes of God, through the eyes of eternity.  It gives value to those things that endure.  All things are seen through the eyes of eternity.  What are the ramifications that will last?  I found in the dictionary of Biblical Theology the definition of True Wisdom: 

The revelation of true wisdom is made in a paradoxical manner.  It is not to the wise and prudent that it is accorded but to the little ones.  In order to confound the proud sages, God chose what was foolish in the eyes of the world.

It goes further to say:

In order to make it wise according to God.  For Christian wisdom is not acquired by human effort at all, but through the Father’s revelation.  In itself, it is a Divine thing, mysterious and hidden, impossible for human intelligence to fathom.  Though made manifest by the historical accomplishments of salvation, it cannot be communicated except by the Spirit of God, to those who are docile to him.

The one way to acquire wisdom is to have a listening heart.  If we want wisdom, we have to simply take time to ask God.  “Father, what should I do with this?  What will make it good for the whole?  What are the things I need in order to acquire the blessings of eternity?  What are the ramifications of these actions and will they resound with a blessing?  Will it go further than myself?”

Wisdom is, truly, seeing things through the eyes of God.  That is the only way Christ could have faced the Cross.  Seeing the ramification for eternity and the salvation necessary for all.  Otherwise you couldn’t do it.  That’s true even for our life here at the Abbey.  If we don’t see it in the eyes of eternity, how could we live it?  If we only saw it in the value for the world – it would mean nothing.  But through the eyes of God and through the eyes of what will happen for eternity, makes it perfectly sound.  And perfectly desirable.  It puts a turn on everything and children get it!  It is only when we get older and we start grasping the things of the world that we lose our childlike wisdom.  It is through the eyes of innocence and docility that we can best grasp wisdom.  So take a hold of it, pray for it, and live it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Praying as the Bride of Christ

A reflection by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB.

As Benedictines, our lives are hidden with Christ in God and, truly, we take on the heart of Christ in prayer.  And that is our life - we are called to pray with the heart of Christ.  We hear in the Rule of St. Benedict how we should pray the Divine Office: 
We believe that the Divine Presence is everywhere and that the eyes of the Lord behold the good and the evil in every place.  Especially, however, do we without any doubt believe this to be true when we are assisting at the work of God.
It says “assisting at the work of God”.  We are not alone when we pray.
Therefore, let us always be mindful of what the prophet says, ‘Serve the Lord with fear’ and again, ‘sing wisely’ and ‘in the sight of the Angels I will sing praise to you’.
So who are we assisting at praise?  In the sight of the Angels, I will sing praise to you.
Therefore, let us consider how we ought to conduct ourselves in the presence of God and his angels and to assist at the Divine Office that our mind may be in harmony with our voice.

What we sing we must believe.  What we believe we must live out.  We must live out the prayers we pray. 

We are the bride of Christ.  We have been born from his side.  It is said that, at the end of time, hearts will grow cold.  Let it not be said of us.  We are not called just to pray with the mind.   If Christ found no consolers, let he at least find consolers among us.   And thank him for what he’s done. 

Let us be guardians of the heart of Christ.  Let us bear his heart within.  That we may be truly one with him in mind and heart so that when we die, we have died with the heart of Christ.  So too shall we rise with his heart.