Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Colors of Lent

Ever since we have renovated our chapel, I have been much more aware of how artists and architects work with colors.

A type of purple -- more maroon-- was chosen for the ceilings under the balcony on the 2nd floor and likewise for the ceiling under the balcony on the 1st floor. In addition to that, all the upholstering on the chairs in our chapel is this maroon purple.

When we arrive at the season of Lent, our chapel is pretty much set for the season. All it needs is a little fine tunning. Br. Jerome always surprises me with what he does with the environment of our chapel.
And this year, the environment touches me even more since some of the dried flowers and branches used come from the garden and the grounds of Mt. Michael.

To enhance the already present maroon color, Br. Jerome uses a bit of celosia from our garden that I have dried. He also cleverly uses branches that are barren but do have some color--red dogwood branches. And then this year, I collected some milkweed pods for him to use. It all provides for a very interesting conglomeration. Below is the arrangement that has been before the altar for most of our Lenten season, with the exception of Solemnities and Feast Days. From my point of view in the monastic choir, I can examine this arrangement very closely, for I am directly in front of it. For me it is a very interesting detail about color. Since I grow celosia, I know how vivid it really is while it is still growing. However, when it is dried the colors are very much subdued. It occurred to me that perhaps that is a bit of what the Season of Lent is about-- a period of subduedness, awaiting the burst of spring and vivid colors.

Below is a photo of celeosia while it was still growing in the garden. This photo was taken on the Fall Festival Day a few years ago. Celosia is really at it best in the Fall of the year. It is a very showy flower.

And still a few more photos are examples of celosia drying in the barn.

Friday, March 23, 2012

High Feast -- High Meal

In Benedictine communities, one can determine a feast day by the meal that is prepared and served. The higher the feast, the more elaborate the meal.

Below are a few photos of the ambience and steak meal the students enjoyed for the Solemnity of the Passing of St. Benedict on March 21, 2012. This was the noon meal -- served for the whole community of Mount Michael. The monks celebrated later that day with an appropriate meal after Second Vespers of the Solemnity!

Providing a meal like this is practicing hospitality and for Benedictines the dining room and meals are really extensions of the Chapel and the Eucharistic meal.

I would imagine -- if most students were asked-- they would say they enjoyed this meal. I, personally, know that that is what Kenny Batenhorst said.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Solemnity of the Passing of St. Benedict

From "the Life and Miracles of St. Benedict:Book II of The Dialogues" by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Chapter 37

In the year that was to be his last, the man of God foretold the day of his holy death to a number of his disciples. In mentioning it to some who were with him in the monastery, he bound them to strict secrecy. Some others, however, who were stationed elsewhere he only informed of the special sign they would receive at the time of his death.

Six days before he died, he gave orders for his tomb to be opened. Almost immediately he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his remaining energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally, on the sixth day, he had his disciples carry him into the chapel where he received the Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his approaching end. Then, supporting his weakened body on the arms of his brethren, he stood with his hands rasied to heaven and, as he prayed, breathed his last.

That day two monks, one of them at the moastery, the other some distance away, received the very same revelation. They both saw a magnificent road covered with rich carpeting and glittering with thousands of lights. From his monastery it stretched eastward in a straight line until it reached up into heaven. And there in the brightness stood a man of majestic appearance, who asked them, "Do you know who passed this way?"

"No," they replied.

"This, he told them is the road taken by blessed Benedict, the Lord's beloved, when he went to heaven."

Thus, while the brethern who were with Benedict witnessed his death, those who were absent knew about it through the sign he had promised them. His body was laid to rest in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, which he had built to replace the altar of Apollo.

When  I came to Mount Michael's chapel for first vespers of this solemnity, I read this passage and saw the following. It really was pretty awesome.

Our forsythia is in full bloom for this solemnity!

The painting below of St. Benedict was done by Br. Nicolas Oramas, a Mexican Benedictine from Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lift High the Cross

This Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent already. I promised myself that I would do at least one blog dealing with the season of Lent. Perhaps now is the time.

This Sunday the gospel is from the evangelist John and deals with the notion that Jesus will be lifted up on the cross for the redemption of the whole world, for all of humankind throughout all times-- past and furture.

Indeed, it is an awesome image-- the cross. I have thought about this and meditated about this notion this past weekend. I have particularly looked around the chapel when I do very early morning reading and lectio. I looked about chapel to notice what Br. Jerome did in our chapel in regard to this notion of lifting up the cross.

Br. Jerome ususally uses the crucifix with a black corpse. I believe that this was a gift from the Benedictine monks of Christ the King in Schuyler, Ne. But Br. Jerome mounts the cross on a pole or sometimes even a tree. He often times places it in a large basket with gnarly vines that twist all over and mesh in with the weave of the basket. I must admit that this physical image makes me think. Perhaps placing it here make cause others to think and maybe even to meditate and pray.

The other thought that I had this weekend is another idea that is expressed in the Scripture readings for this 4th Sunday of Lent. The readings do speak of the evils in the world -- the first reading uses the world abominations. Sometimes one wonders about our world -- are we really getting any better than times of the Old Testament? I am sure we know people who are always going on about how bad the world is.

But... if we believe in Jesus and redemption -- the cross is the answer. We all are already saved-- we need to BELIEVE it. And thus we should LIFT HIGH THE CROSS. It is the ultimate sign of redemption.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Attraction/Sacredness of Place

This past weekend, March 10-11, my parish assignment was St. Ludger's, Creighton, Ne and St. Ignatius, Brunswick, Ne. When I am that far out and within distance of my homeland, I find myself being drawn to those places that are part of my life, especially the "growing up" years. So after my parish responsibilities were accomplished, I made my way to highway 14 and headed south to my homeland. Neligh, Elgin, Raeville, Petersburg and then Albion -- although I did not stop in all of those places, I recalled relatives, friends, alums and families of MM monks from those places. And of course, what really stands out in all of those places is each church of each community.

The place where I stopped and spent some time was Raeville. This place has many, many memories for me, especially in the area of spirituality and family celebrations--literally, a cathedral in the middle of corn and soybean fields. Now the whole area is definitely demarked by wind turbines and it has become the largest wind farm in the state of Nebraska. The rectory of St. Bonaventure is nothing less than a mansion. This is where my Mom's side of the family has celebrations-- now, mostly family reunions. We have never been able to come up with a better place for family gatherings.

My Mom's side of the family is large and we need a place like this. My Mom is one of 11 children-- 10 survived to adulthood and each has a large family as well. See the video of the Joseph Borer family.

Then I took the back roads from Raeville to connect with my Dad's side of the family. I could remember it well, as I drove through the wind farm of the area.
Dad grew up on the original Ketteler farm. It was very famous for its brick house and wrap-around porch. I spent lots of time here as well. It evetually came to my uncle, Louis Hagemann. And although it is no longer in the family and not really kept up, it still has lots of memories for me. It is quite a place.

In the video of my Dad's side of the family, it shows up often. My father's mother was the oldest of the Heinrich Ketteler family.