Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resurrection -- New Life -- Easter Bunny -- Baby Chicks and Ducks

Easter is a Great Feast in our Church. Death and sin are destoryed and Christ is Risen. New Life is all around us at this time of the year. The painting of the Risen Christ below was painted by Nicolas Oramas, the Mexican monk who was living with us here at Mount Michael for one year. I will never forget that day I visited Nicolas in his painting room when he was doing this painting. I had just come in from a long day of work in the garden and the face of Jesus was just completed. I felt as if Jesus was looking directly at me. It was really an awesome experience. We are so grateful to this young Mexican for the gifts he left us. Wherever he is, I hope one day he sees how much we love what he is and has done for us. But we need to be even more grateful to God for what happens to all of us because of the Resurrection-- forgiveness of sins and new life that is everlasting!!!


                              Below is the new Easter Candle -- Br. Jerome decorates it almost every year

                          Some photos of the environment in the chapel -- work of Br. Jerome

After the Easter Vigil on Saturday night and after the Eucharist on Easter Sunday there was an Easter Egg Hunt (of sorts) in the Armory (The Student Union). There were some baby chickens and ducks to pet as well. And the Easter Bunny made an appearance on Saturday evening.

             Alums -- Blake and Ben Suing -- Ben's twin son kissing a baby chick-- Ben looks like he is kissing
                                                                                                                               as well!!

Sullivan Blake Suing kisses a duckling-- Amy Suing is holding the ducking.

Suing family and their new babies-- new life!!!



Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Thursday -- Seder Lunch -- Remembering Great Events

Yesterday, March 28, 2013, Mount Michael students and staff observed and participated in a seder meal, albeit, a lunch. Since the students would be leaving for Easter break immediately after classes yesterday, we decided to observe a seder meal as well as possible. So to include all the students, it had to be at lunch time.

Devin Coyle, a Mount Michael student of the early 2000s was gracious enough to help us observe and paticipate in this meal. Having Jewish family, Devin has observed the seder meal many times. It was really nice to have him with us on this day. Below Devin is explaining the food, its significance and the ceremonial ritual of eating it.

Below is a large display plate of the food items of the seder meal -- each of these items were on a platter of each table for our students. The food items are: Romaince lettuce, parsley, egg-boiled, horseradish, humus, matzah and apples and walnuts--salt water is in the middle of the plate in the brown bowl.

Here they are ceremonially dripping 10 drops of wine on plate symbolizing the 10 plagues.

      The oldest member at the table breaking matzah and sharing it with all the younger members at table.

Mr. Jewell getting into the ritual of eating the parsley dipped in salt water -- tears.

    After sharing the seder food together, the main meal was served-- Lamb on flat bread and latkas potato pancakes. It seemed as they all really liked the food. Dessert was baklava -- an awesome choice!

       The Jewish Passover, of course, for us moves into the Passover of Jesus and the washing of the feet at our Eucharist of Holy Thursday in the evening. More photos of this ceremony at posted on the website by Br. Luke.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Class of 1963 -- 50 Years -- Congratulations

Making a fifty anniversary is not a small feat. Congratualtions to the class of 1963. Hopefully, we will see many of you this coming June.

We invite you to the

Mount Michael Benedictine

54th Annual Alumni Reunion Weekend!

Featuring Years: ’58, ’63, ’68, ’73, ’78, ’83, ’88, ’93, ’98, ’03, and ’08

Come enjoy a weekend of golf, delicious food, reuniting with classmates, and fellowship at The Mount. You will surely be surprised at the growth around The Mount, the renovations within the school and the always inspiring view of the Elkhorn River Valley.

Mark your 2013 calendars for these Alumni Reunion Celebrations!

The Golf Classic will be held on Friday, June 7th, 2013 at Tiburon Golf Course

The Alumni Reunion will be Saturday, June 8th ,2013 at Mount Michael

Your reunion features Mass, tours of Mount Michael, dinner and a social gathering.

We encourage you to contact your fellow classmates in advance and make plans to see each other at this reunion. Enclosed you will find a photo of your graduating class and a list of contact information for each of your classmates. Verify your contact information and email any updates to the Development Office at

We will be sending formal invites as the date gets closer to the reunion. If you have any questions, or need more information about classmates, please contact the Development Office Team.

We look forward to seeing you in June!

Thank You,

Dan Gard, ‘04

Alumni Association President

Monday, March 25, 2013

March --- The Annuciation -- Notre Dame in North Omaha

Ever since our Fr. Frederic Schindler died, nearly 15 years ago now, I was assigned to be the confessor for the Notre Dame Sisters in North Omaha. Fr. Frederic fulfilled that position for many years.This community of sisters is founded directly from Czechoslovakia.Some of the sisters there still speak the language. A good number of them hail from the areas of Nebraska of that descent.

I must admit that it has been a very good experience for me and I have benefited much from this assignment. Maybe I have benefited even more than the sisters have. These sisters do incredible work among people where humans with the greatest of needs are crying out to be heard.

While I have been there these years, the sisters have opened up a good portion of their buildings to the elderly-- this part of the their institution is named Seven Oaks. My own mother lived there for the last few months of her life. Actually, my mother died there on a Saturday -- Dec. 11, 2004. My mother's passing at this place makes it even more special.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I use the little monthly missal: Living With Christ. Besides this missal being the perfect way, for me at least, to keep up with the daily readings, its art work helps me enormously with lectio divina.

I was a bit taken back a few months ago when I saw a large print of the painting that was featured on the front cover of Living With Christ. It was on the front cover of the November issue of 2012. And on the wall just before entering the chapel there it was at Notre Dame. Here it is below. The painter is Afro-American -- Henry Ossawa Tanner.

I must admit that this is the first time that I have really seen this painting, but I was immediately attracted to it. Why? This a Mary who is very natural and ordinary. There is nothing unreal about her. The Angel Gabriel is presented as brilliant light. There is no human form here, except if one wants to say that the light is like a pillar about 6 feet tall. This I am attracted to, as well! It allows the viewer to give the Angel Gabriel form.

The other idea that really struck me was that I found this print of the Annuciation at Notre Dame. That is not insignificant. It is a painting of an ordinary Mary -- an ordinary woman -- accepting the message of the Lord. This painting placed in front of the chapel at Notre Dame needed no explanation. Here is a community of women doing what the painting represents. And furthermore the painter was created by an Afro-American. No more words are really necessary.

Below is a close up of Mary. Notice the detail in the blankets on the bed and the robe Mary is wearing. You will have to use the horizontal arrow to move the painting back and forth and the vertical arrow to move it up and down. But it is worth viewing and thinking about. Today is March 25. Had it not been Holy Week, we would have celebrated the feast of the Annuciation. And also today was Fr. Frederic's birthday!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Back to the Lonely Hunter -- Mick Kelly -- Music Within

A few months ago after I created a blog on Carson's McCullers novel, The Heart is the Lonely Hunter, I mentioned that I would come back to one of the main characters of that novel--Mick Kelly. It is time to do that before I get too far away from it.

Mick Kelly is a young girl who is growing into womanhood throughout this novel. Born into a large family in the southern part of the country, Mick is often frustrated. Frustrated because she has much within her that is of great talent, but the problem is how to bring the talent to fruition.

I would like to center on a scene that comes right after the party that Mick organizes. The party is really a type of coming of age for Mick, but all the formality and dressiness of it is quite a failure (at least, a failure  from Mick's point of view). But after Mick has told all of her friends to leave, she goes off by herself to a near by home to sit in a yard to listen to music. Mick has been at this place before to enjoy music from a radio that the owners of the home are enjoying.

In this particular scene, Mick is fortunate to hear some wonderful music which stirs up all sorts of things for her. Mick is able to hear Beethoven-- his Third Symphony. On this evening, even though Mick's party was a disaster, a whole new world is opened for her. Mick comes to realize she has an incredible capacity within her. Mick can hear music and then hold it within herself so as to be able to repeat it-- perhaps even to reproduce it.

Below is a clip from the film. It is a scene with Mick Kelly and John Singer-- the mute of the story. It does deal with music, although it is not exactly the same as in the novel.

Since Mick's family is large and rather poor, the family cannot afford to buy a piano so that Mick can study, play and reproduce music. She does use a piano at her school, but it is in the gym and Mick has to compete with sports and one day she is even hit on the head with a basketball while trying to play the piano.

The novel does not take Mick into adulthood, nor does it take her into any real success in the field of music. But for certain, the novel does convey that this young woman has music within her and she definitely can hear it.

I must admit that I can definitely identify with Mick in regard to certain aspects of music, mostly with the frustrating aspects of it. For most of my life I have had something to do with music. And also because of the largeness of my family and our financial situation, there were not funds available to spend on the luxury of music. Frustration in that regard is not foreign to me either.

When joining Mount Michael's monastic community, my superiors recognized that I did have some musical ability. And as so often happens in monastic communities, one is appointed to a position where he/she does have some talent, but perhaps needs much more training  in the field of the appointment. That was my case. Nonetheless, I have been involved with music all my monastic life-- for better or worse-- as we put it.

And while involved in music, I have met others who are involved in music as well. Most of these individuals are very talented and I must admit that at times I am intimidated. However, at the same time I must admit that I am so moved by these people that I want to mention them and give them some sort of tribute. They certainly merit a place on my blog. There was even a point in my life that I mustered up enough courage to audition for the Omaha Symphonic Choir. I actually made it! In a later blog, I will speak about that experience as well. It was pretty awesome.

For right now, I would like to talk about a special monk of Conception Abbey-- Abbot GregoryPolan.

Abbot Gregory I consider a friend. He and I were together in theology at St. John's, Collegeville, MN. Abbot Gregory played the organ here at Mount Michael for my ordination in 1975. Since that time, Abbot Gregory has done many wonderful things in the monastic world. One of his latest feats is his translation of the Psalms. I will do more on that later as well.  For now I want to speak of Abbot Gregory's wonderful musical talents.

Abbot Gregory is great at improvisation. I have seen him sit at the organ bench playing for long periods of time without any written music in front of him. There was one summer--  the summer of 1978-- I spent living at Conception Abbey. I commuted every day to Northwest Missouri State taking voice and music classes. And then while living at the abbey, I had time to spend long periods of time at the organ with Abbot Gregory. He would play music that he and other monks there at the abbey have composed. But there was never anything of those long periods of time at the organ  better than watching Abbot Gregory just play -- freely without any muisc. Truly it was awesome. Although I remember it raining almost every day that summer and lots of flooding, it was a wonderful time for me. The summer of 1978.

Abbot Gregory is usually very humble about his compositions. He tells me that most of them come from a need at the abbey. The need would be for a piece of music for the Divine Office or the Eucharist or a particular occasion. That has particularly  been the case with the recent changes in translation of the mass parts.

However, one of my all time favorites of his would be: You Are a Garden Fountain. It is based on the Canticle of Canticles. And I am told that he wrote it while he lived in Israel -- Ein Karem. It is really a wonderful, flowing piece of music. The music flows like a gentle fountain-- indeed-- it does.

My first impression was to wonder a bit why a monk would put so much into a "love" song. Really, that is what this piece of music is. But recently I have been reading alot on St. Francis of Assisi and more and more I am discovering his whole life could be considered a "love" song. Singing was essential for this man and saint. I know that most of his life was very troubled and he was sick alot and suffered much, but in many ways he kept singing a "love" song- all his life.

Just because one is in religious life does not mean that that one does not compose or sing "love" songs.

Abbot Gregory, thank you for sharing your gift of music that is within you. It is all very beautiful, especially:
You Are a Garden Fountain. I am sure you do not know this, but I sang your love song, Abbot Gregory, at my Dad's wake service. My Dad worked in my garden almost up to the day he died. He, too, had music within him.

Below is a promotion video of Conception Abbey. Abbot Gregory speaks in it. Although at this point, I am not able to get a version of You Are a Garden  Fountain in this blog, some day I will figure it out. At least, you can view Conception Abbey and its present abbot.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 21 -- Passing of St. Benedict -- MM International music students -- Chanters

It is very interesting how different our weather is this year. On this feast of Benedict last year, we had lots of flowers in bloom. Not so this year. We still need to used dried arrangements.

Below is a painting of St. Benedict done by Nicolas Oramas. Br. Jerome always uses this painting on this feast.

Here is another angle which also takes in the dried grass and dogwood arrangement.

On occasions like the feast of Benedict, the whole community joins together to celebrate the Eucharist. And it is fun to work with the students as chanters and musicians.

This morning some of our international students contributed a nice touch with their flutes. They are Chun Yang Xu (Peter), Ha-Seul Jeoung (Steve), and Yun Sik Oh. Together with the chanters, we sang -- Not In the Wind -- composed by one of the sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, SD.

Below are the singers for this Benedictine piece of music -- from left to right -- Will Sleddens, Eun Woo Jee, and Fr. John.

I must admit that the students sang very well this morning. Perhaps they knew that they would be treated to a very tasty lunch -- they had steak today!!!

Happy Feast Day to all Benedictines. There are more and better photos of the Eucharistic Celebration on the School website -- click on the NEWS button.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rural Nebraska -- Fr. Richard Reiser -- Brunswick, Ne. -- St. Ludger -- Creighton, Ne

One of the joys of taking parish weekend assignments is meeting people in different areas and seeing parishes and churches sometimes in rural areas. Although I have had the parish assignment of Creighton/Brunswick several times now in the past few years, Brunswick now can boast of a beautiful icon in its humble little church. The parish is named-- St. Ignatius of Loyola. Even when I was first assigned to this parish, its name was a type of oxymoron for me. Being a graduate of Creighton University, an institution under the patronage of St. Ignatius and knowing that many Jesuit institutions are located in a cities; if not, inner cities, finding a St. Ignatius in a rural area was very different for me. And then discovering that this beautiful icon was written by a priest of the archdiocese was even more delightful-- Fr. Richard Reiser (present pastor of St. James Parish in Omaha, Nebraska). The icon is striking for lots of reasons.

Below is the a photo of the humble, little church and parish of St. Ignatius in Brunswick, Ne.

                                     Here is the icon of St Ignatius inside on the right wall up front.

          Below is a close up of the lower right hand side of the icon. Note how the church of Brunswick is part of the icon.

             And now note in the photo below how Fr. Reiser makes sure this Ignatius is in a rural place -- the black cattle are placed in it as well. This was really striking for me, since I had just visited the Kalkowski ranch and seen many, many black cattle. The cattle are in the upper right hand portion of the photo below.

In this close up of the center of the icon, you can see that St. Ignatius is hold The Spiritual Exercises. The left page reads: ... things of the earth are created for human beings, to help them in working toward the end for which they are created... the right page reads: God is working in the heavens, elements, plants, fruit, cattle ... giving them their existence.

This last photo of this blog is the parish church in Creighton, Nebraska. The name of this parish is St. Ludger. One does not hear of this Saint very much. I had a bit of a surprise for the Saturday evening mass here on March 16, 2013. It was Prom Night for the highschool students and their tradition is that all the prom goers come to mass (Catholic or Non-Catholic) to receive a special blessing for the evening. And they take the very front pew in church. It was an awesome experience. The church was packed full!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ranch Country -- Logan Kalkowski-- Niobrara-- Black Cattle

For many years Mount Michael Benedictine has had students who hail from ranch country. One does not have to be around them too much to perceive that they really have the soil -- the country-- in them. Although I am not from ranch country, I would like to think that I have country in me as well. I must admit I really, really like ranch country. I am enamored by it. Being where I was this past weekend was not unlike seeing scenes in Dances With Wolves.

Our present sophomore, Logan Kalkowski's family has a ranch near Lynch, Nebraska. Although Logan's family does not live there, he goes there as often as he can. Obvious is his love of the land, the place and the cattle. It is an awesome place.

Since I was already as far north as Creighton, Nebraska, I just drove a little further north to visit Logan and see his family's ranch. It is a very romantic setting. Although we still have a taste of winter and the grass is not green yet, its beauty is overwhelming.

         Here is Logan with the Niobrara River behind him and the ranch just below, the little black things strewn along the the river are the family's cattle. There are lots and lots of black cattle down there.

                  Here are some to the cows with their babies. Just beyond the trees is the Niobrara River.

                                                       A cow with her new born calf!

                                 Official Sign of the Kalkowski Ranch and Brands!

                                                       Niobrara River

                               Terrain of the Pasture Land -- note cedar trees and yuca plants