Friday, December 28, 2012

Letter to God

Dear God,

This is a great risk. Some will think that I am being very presumptuous, perhaps even arrogant. I do not intend it to be like that. I do this because of an inspirtation of Morris West and his novel, The Clowns of God. Jean Marie wrote letters to you, God. And so I thought about doing the same. I must admit that years ago some of my students used to do the same. The readers of this letter will not exactly understand everything until those readers really read West's novel, but maybe they will do that.

There was a time when I was called Johnny. It was when I was quite young. Now many do call me Padre Juanito or Pradrecito. But this last time that I read C of G, I have come to like the name Jeannot alot.

What I want to say to you is something that some of MM's former students do not totally understand. We call those former students -- alums. Many of them want to see their alma mater stay just the same as it was when they were students here. Those alums even want their sons to have the very same teachers that they had when they were here. They want their sons to have at least, similar experiences as they did.

But, you God, know all. And one thing you know very well is that no human can go on forever. There is a limit of time. And you God have created every individual differently and so another teacher perhaps cannot teach exactly the way the one before did. So dear, God, you taught Jean Marie a good lesson at the end of C of G. In the character of Mr. Atha, after Jean Marie has accepted him (Mr. Atha) as the Anointed One, Jean Marie begs Mr. Atha to teach others as he (Jean Marie) has been taught by Mr. Atha. But these are Mr. Atha's words: "No!... tomorrow I shall be gone about my Father's other business. You must teach them."

So dear, God, help me to make the alums understand that in many ways it is their task to pass on and in many ways they must TEACH them!!

And one more point that I would like to make is this. I tried to re-read this novel, God, during Advent to prepare for your coming among us at Christmas. I must admit that it was great preparation. But what was even greater was a request that I received from a man who helps me with the Farmers Market, especially at the time of the Fall Festival. His hame is Paul Wenninghoff. Many years he comes through with pumpkins which I do not grow. I try to return payment, sometimes monetarily as well as with prayers. This year Paul asked if I could celebrate the Eucharist at a special school for the intention of his child who is in heaven with you and for his family. The school is called: Madonna School. The children at this school are much like the little buffons that are in the C of G. So on Friday, December 21, I celebrated the Eucharist at this school for all there. Wow! It was awesome. There was a student by the name of Louis. (The name Louis is very  much in my family.) He was relestless until I started my homily. I did alittle singing and he became very calm. In fact, there was total silence among them all when I sang for them. Those children are so very innocent. And then there was one student who is autistic. He did an unusal thing that day. He walked up for a blessing. It was a very neat experience for me. It was so humbling. Dear God, I felt your presence ever so much there. Thank you, God for TEACHING us with these innocent creatures you have given us.

So this is about all I want to say to you right now, God. I know that I will come back again, but for right now this is enough.

Thank you for everything,

Johnny, Juanito, Jeannot

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holy Navtivity -- The Incarnation

The Christmas story never gets old and it is told so very many ways by every people of every nation.
Find some photos below of some Nativity scenes throughout Mount Michael of the year of 2012.



The following photos are outside, near the front entrance of the school building.







Night time scenes -- really cold this year! Wonder what the temperature was on the night of the actual birth of Jesus.





The photo below is the scene within the chapel.

Below are some photos of arrangements in the chapel. Br. Jerome has cleverly used alot of natural grasses, greenery, and vines that grow here at Mount Michael-- red dogwood, switch grass and bittersweet are a few of them. Mulhalls have donated poinsettias to us for many years now. We are grateful for their generosity.











The photos below are of the nativity in the front entrance of the school. All figures are black and the kings are very ornately dressed. It is a very beautiful nativity set.












The photos from below are scenes from the school library. They are Br. Luke's nativity sets. The two photos below are from a set this is Eskimo with a polar bear and seals!


Here is another scene in the school library.


The photos below are in the abbey recreation room.



The water color below was done by Helen Gloeb some years ago. It was our Christmas card that year. Note Mount Michael in the background.


The photos below are on the bottom floor in the abbey -- the dining room.





Joseph, Mary and child are woven of some type of reed or grass-- top floor of abbey building.



The following photos are of a nativity set made by Paul Dohmen.



The photos below are of Prior Richard's nativity sets. Note the little tractor in the first one and also the sheep in the last one. Prior Richard's family rasied sheep in South Omaha years ago.






This last one is in the abbey oratory where we pray night prayer.


A Blessed Christmas to all. Our Chritmas cactus is still blooming!!




Friday, December 14, 2012

Rolheiser - Revisited

I must admit that there have been thoughts rolling around in my head these days about possible blog topics. The Season of Advent is something that stirs up lots of things in me and the season is too short to get it all accomplished. However something that comes back to me time and time and time again is Rolheiser's, The Holy Longing. Part of it has to do with the word longing. Longing -- longing -- longing. Doesn't most of life, in all of its stages, have alot to do with longing?

Again this book has done wonders for me, as I have expressed in past blog entries. But I just want to put forth two other witnesses to this matter. They would Laurie Killeen and Yuan Zhou. Laurie is the mother of two of our alums -- Martin in 1998 and Addison in 2004. Yuan is a graduate of 2011.

When Addison was a senior, I was then teaching Social Justice and Peace, first semester and Christian Lifestyles the second semester. I had all the seniors every day in those days. Anyway, during Curriculum Night, when most of the parents where there in class, I suggested that they too read what the students were reading and The Holy Longing was on that list. Laurie Killeen was one of them who picked up The Holy Longing and really digested it. That Christmas, after the Eucharist, she told me how she had a much better understanding of the INCARNATION after reading Rolheiser's book.

She is so absolutely correct. So if anyone really wants something to help with the Advent Season and then get a handle on what is really important about Christmas, do what Laurie Killeen did. Pick up The Holy Longing!

The second witness I need to describe a bit is: Yuan Zhou. Yuan graduated in 2011. Presently, he is a student at Georgetown University. Being Non-Catholic does not excuse Mount Michael students from theology classes. And I must admit it was a great pleasure to have Yuan in my class. I would imagine his classmates would say the same. Yuan was one of those students who devours books. He is a great thinker. I knew that if I gave him something to read that would be called outside reading, he would do it. And so I suggested several books to him. One of those books was, of course, The Holy Longing.

The following is an exact quote from Yuan: "I used to be unfriendly and simply reject Christianity on the basis that it is just a different faith. But in this class, after reading the book (The Holy Longing) you gave me, I realized that I had fallen prey to my own close minded-ness. I had become the enemy I once hated. After realizing my own stupidity, I became even more thankful of this opportunity you offered me to understand something that is so different and foreign. For that, I shall forever be thankful."

I encourage my readers to read Ronald Rolheiser's spiritual books, especially The Holy Longing.  All life has to do with longing!

Christmas Cactus Blooming in the Abbey Entrance

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Immaculate Conception -- Another Painting

A few weeks ago I posted a blog dealing with Edward Hick's painting-- The Peaceable Kingdom. The past few days we have had another painting that has graced our chapel-- a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although this painting does not have a title or name, it has always intrigued me.

It was painted by a monk, orginally from Conception Abbey, Fr. Severin Foley. He is now deceased.  This painting was in our library for many years. Perhaps Fr. Severin painted it and and gave it to Fr. Robert Halter, our librarian here at Mount Michael for many, many years.

Here are several photos of the painting!

A close up of the painting below.





What I find so intriguing about this painting is the flow and movement of it. Obviously the painter intended the movement of the garments to be somewhat in sync to the movement of the background shapes-- those shapes are very serpent like. However, it seems that the background serpent has no affect upon Mary. I must say that the movement of this painting is the aspect of it that really attracts me to it.

Years ago when we were still a seminary, we used to go to our motherhouse, Conception Abbey, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The year that was memorable for me would have been my sophomore year in high school, 1964-65. And I would have to say that the most wonderful thing about the day spent at the motherhouse was the liturgy there at Conception. Of course, with the student body there and community and our student body and community we had nearly 500 male voices. The singing was nothing but awesome.

I also have a fond memory of the Concpetion monks that I met that day. All were incredibly friendly and hospitable.