St. Augustine with Fr. Allan Fitzgerald, OSA

When you want to delve deeper into the Rule of St. Augustine (which is the rule Dominicans follow), who better to ask than an Augustinian? For the past three days Fr. Allan Fitzgerald, OSA has been sharing his insights into Augustine's Rule. Father used four 'M's to guide his lectures: movement, mirror, music, and mystery.

On Tuesday we contemplated the movement in Augustine's vision, the essential movement towards God. On Wednesday morning we looked at the Rule as a mirror of imperfection. "And that you may see yourselves in this little book, as in a mirror..."(Rule VIII, 2). In the evening we looked at "the music that God asks us to sing," how music plays a part in the spiritual life. Thursday morning Father wrapped up the lectures with "the mystery that attracts us" and the fundamental importance of forgiveness and humility in community life. His lectures were quite engaging and he made plentiful time for feedback, questions, and comments. We were also excited to receive a gift bag of books from Fr. Fitzgerald, all different books on Augustine and his Rule. Thank you, Father!

Professed Feast Day

Yesterday, St. Mary Magdalene, was the Professed Feast Day. (The novitiate has their own feast day on St. Louis Bertrand.) As is our tradition, the novitiate was in charge of the kitchen for the day, planning the menu and cooking up some delicious food. This year's theme was English Tea Party. We had all three meals as talking meals in the community room and recreated in between meals and prayers.

For breakfast the sisters made a sour cream & pecan coffeecake and a blueberry coffeecake which we thoroughly enjoyed with coffee. After breakfast the professed recreated while the novitiate got busy in the kitchen. This year was Sr. Mary Catharine's seventeenth St Mary Magdalene "in" the novitiate, combining her years as a novice herself with those as novice mistress. She might just hold the record! 

In the afternoon we had High Tea. The novitiate had tried in vain to find the proper ingredients to make clotted cream, our valiant volunteers searching high and low at the grocery stores. How can you have an English Tea Party without clotted cream? In the end they had to order the finished product through Amazon. Served along with jam and lemon curd, the Tea was a creative twist on the typical 4 o'clock ice cream we have on big celebrations. For supper they made a variety of finger sandwiches: cucumber, egg salad, and ham/apple/brie/dijon. 

For evening recreation we played bingo, with Sr. Mary Catharine wining twice in a row! Her prize was a journal with a kitty cat on the front, perfect for our feline loving sister. What a surprise when she opened the journal to find a penned poem by our late Sr. Virgina Mary. As she flipped through the pages to see if there were any other forgotten writings, out drifted a rainbow maple leaf! Sr. Virginia Mary was known for pressing lovely leaves in the pages of books. Our prizes are 'recycled'...you never know what you will win! Our aspirant celebrated her birthday the previous day and was surprised with one of the prizes as a birthday present...a lovely notepad and gel pen. 

Congratulations to Sr. Mary Catharine and our novitiate for putting together a lovely feast day for the professed sisters!

Fourth of July Fun

We continued our tradition this Independence Day of a relaxing day of food and fun. Thanks to generous benefactors and some talented cooks & bakers we had an extra special feast this year. Sr. Mary Ana manned (nunned?) the grill while Sr. Denise Marie took the role of "kitchen helper", putting together a refreshing melon salad among other things. Sr. Maureen and Sr. Denise Marie made delicious cherry pies which looked almost too good to eat! 

Some of the younger sisters spent the morning playing "monastery baseball."  How do you play monastery baseball? Well first of all, there are no bases and no base running. There is also no score or innings and no teams. We use a milk crate full of tennis balls and two pitchers pitching to the batter. It is your turn at bat until you have 5 hits or the milk crate has been emptied. Sabina used to play outfield, but now she prefers to catch the first ball or two and take them under the cool shade of a tree to enjoy watching the rest of the game. 

Other sisters relaxed on the cloister with games of pinochle and hearts. 

For dinner we picnic'd on the cloister but by supper time the sky looked ominous so we had our 'picnic' in the community room. Evening recreation ended with the National Anthem as Sr. Mary Jacinta and Sr. Mary Martin held the American Flag aloft. Unfortunately Summit's firework show was cancelled this year due to the rain. We hear that Summit is promised an extra spectacular performance next year... if the weather will cooperate.

The groundhog herself finds a home and the swallow a home for her brood....?

That's not quite how Psalm 84:3 was written, but it certainly seems appropriate reflecting on this morning's adventure. Right around 11am our turn sister answered a call from the office. Our office volunteer exclaimed that a groundhog was on the altar! Rushing (with appropriate monastic decorum, of course) to the choir to peek through the grille the sisters discovered that the groundhog wasn't quite on the altar, but had made its way up into the sanctuary and was snuggled cozily under one of the prie-dieux.

Thus began the great Groundhog Removal of 2016. How many people does it take to evict a young groundhog? 

First you need your one sister wielding the pole used to close the Monstrance Throne. A second sister for moral support and back up with a pole used to close windows. (All of our official "groundhog removal tools" must have been missing...) Then of course you have the Adorers, the people who were peacefully praying in the chapel before the groundhog was discovered and went on praying, a little more excitedly, for its successful removal...and possibly a little farther away from it. Next you have a brave Adorer wielding a broom and dust bin and our handy man with another broom and bucket. Finally one of the construction workers working on the bridge next door to the monastery heard of our plight and offered his assistance if we had a cage (we do, though groundhogs are usually unwanted visitors in the garden not the chapel). With a little encouragement and much prodding the little groundhog scampered its way from one hiding spot to the next until it was trapped in the vestibule, head in the corner. Brave broom-wielding adorer channeled his inner Franciscan, petting and soothing the creature until it calmed down and scurried out the chapel doors. 

We are left wondering: Just what induced this critter to climb up our front chapel stairs and come inside?

The sparrow herself finds a home
and the swallow a nest for her brood;
she lays her young by your altars,
Lord of hosts, my king and my God.
~Psalm 84:3