Friday, December 27, 2013

Wedding During Wartime -- Lack of Rubber Forces Honeymoon Travel by Train

Today I had an email message from one of my many cousins, Marlyn Camp. Besides wishing me well during the Christmas Season, she was reminiscing about our family. Today is the wedding anniversary of her parents, Jim & Rita Daly, in 1945.

She mentioned that her parents took their honeymoon in Wyoming, but had to travel by train because there was no rubber for cars.

I told this story at lunch and Abbot Theodore knew exactly what I was talking about. He said that he had trouble with his bike because of the lack of good rubber. The tires were always going flat, but  his family had a connection with someone in Lincoln, Ne., who could get good rubber-- sorta underground.

Maryln, thanks for the memories and stories.

I don't think my Dad made it home from the military for your parents' wedding, but there Mom is in the famous blue dress that your Mom wore at Mom's wedding.

Remember, my Mom and Dad were married in January -- on the 3rd-- the same year your Mom and Dad were married.

                           Many people tell me that I look like my Dad. Do I?

Christmas' Roots in the Paschal Mystery

During the Advent Season and now the Christmas Season at the Divine Office for Morning Prayers, we at Mount Michael are enjoying reflections by Msgr. John J. McIlhon. His Advent series is entitled: GOD IS WITH US and his Christmas and Epiphany series is entitled: O MARVELOUS EXCHANGE.

I must say that, personally, I really enjoy what McIlhon has to say. For me he hits the nail squarely on the head.

For example, yesterday was the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. The title of McIlhon's reflection for this day is: The Christmas That Isn't What Christmas Was.

Below is a paragraph in the middle of the reflection.
"In her Christmas liturgy, the Church begs us not to lose sight of Christmas' roots in the soil of Christ's paschal mystery. Stephen's martyrdom invites us to peer into the very depths of the love that pierces this world's boundaries.Stephen was a witness of the love that Christ personified by his birth, death and resurrection. Because of love, he emptied himself of God's heavenly companionship so that he might be born into companionship with our humanity (see Phil 2: 6-7) After thirty-three years of earthly existence, Jesus died on the cross so that his resurreciton from the dead might be the witness of God's indescribable love ready to be born in humankind."

As I was sitting in chapel hearing this reading and thinking about the martyrdom of Stephen just upon the glorious and jubilant celebration of the birth of Jesus, I connected with the environment that Br. Jerome creates in our chapel and also with all the many deaths that Mount Michael has experienced this past year, especially recently. Funerals as recent as Monday of this week-- Abbot Raphael's sister and Br. Jerome's mother.

The photo above says it all -- Christmas decorations reaching towards the cross. It is how it is and despite what we might want to feel or think, the cross is also part of Christmas.

Below are some more photos of the environment in our chapel for this Christmas Season.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 25th, Christmas Day, 2013

Many people who know me, know that one of may favorite spiritual writers is Ronald Rolheiser, OMI.
I can NOT pretend, nor will I try to do better than he did on a meditation for Christmas Day. It is below.
It is taken from a little meditation booklet entitled: DAYBREAKS-- Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all!!!!!!!!!! Fr. John Hagemann OSB

Born into the Ordinary

After the birth of Christ, we need not look to the extraordinary, the spectacular or the miraculoous to find God. God is now found where we live--- in our kitchens, at our tables, in our wounds, and in each other's faces.

That is hard to believe and always has been. When Jesus was on earth, virtually no one believed he was the Messiah, precisely because he wa so ordinary, so unlike what they imagined God to be. They had expected a superstar, a king, someone who would turn the world rightfully upside down. Preaching meekness and gentleness, Jesus didn't live up to those expectations.

It is curious that Scripture refuses to describe what Jesus looked like. It never tells us whether he was short or tall, with beard or without, had light or dark hair, had blue or brown eyes. Neither does it ever assign to him anything extraordinary in terms of psychological countenacne. For example, it never tells us that when Jesus entered a room his eyes were so penetrating and his gaze so awesome that peoople knew they were in the presence of someone extraordinary. No. In terms of his appearance, Jesus apparently wasn't worth describing. He looked like everyone else. Even after the resurrection, he is mistaken for a gardener, a cook, a traveler.

Things haven't changed much in two thousand years. Seldom does Christ meet expectations. We, like his contemporaries, are constantly looking beyond the ordinary, beyond the gardener, the cook, and the traveling stranger, to try to find a miraculous Christ. It is for this reason that we fly off to Fatima or Lourdes to see a spot where the Blessed Virgin might have cried, but fail to see the significance of the tears shed at our own breakfast table. We are intrigued by a Padre Pio who had the wounds of Christ on his hands, but fail to see the wounds of Christ in those suffering around us or in our own emotional and moral wounds.

We pray for visions, but seldom watch a sunset. We marvel at the gift of tongues, but are bored listening to babies. We look for Christ everywhere, except in the place where the incarnation took place: our flesh.

Love is a thing that happens in ordinary places --- in kitchens, at tables, in bedrooms, in workplaces, in families, in the flesh. God abides in us when we abide there. Through the Incarnation, God crawls into ordinary life and invites us to meet him there.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Root of Jesse -- Christmas Cactus

In these Great Days of Advent and the O Antiphons, I cannot help but to be reminded of these wonderful images that surround us in chapel and in the abbey and in our liturgy

Below is one of our Christmas Cacti. It is really doing well this year. It is a joy just to see and look at during Midday Prayer and Night Prayer these last days of Advent.

Come, O Flow'r of Love,
Holy Branch of Jesse's tree.
Come, Bough of Blessing,
Bloom for all the world to see.

Christ, circle round us.
Christ, may your light surround us,
Shine in our living.
Fill our hearts with great thanksgiving.

(text based on Advent O Antiphons -- this text is Daniel L. Schutte

Below is a photo of the north niche behind the altar in our chapel. The bitter sweet was particularly adundant this year. Often times people will ask me where I find the bitter sweet, especially Br. Luke. I am must admit that I am a bit reluctant to tell anyone about the places where I find the bitter sweet. I feel it is alittle like telling people where I find morel mushrooms!

Along with the bitter sweet is Edward Hicks' painting, THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM. Notice how the orange bitter sweet compliments the organish tree in the left side of the painting. O, Come Prince of PEACE!

Below is a closer view of the painting. It is a photo from last year's arrangement.