Walking in the Holy Presence by Valerie Luckey

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Updated: 1 hour 12 min ago

Listen With the Ear of Your Heart

Mon, 2019-11-11 12:46
I was happy to come across a nice article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about some work being done in Philadelphia by some people I know. Can radical listening transform prison culture? The project is called Just Listening and works to bring listening hearts to places where those ears and hearts are greatly needed. Very good stuff.

This weekend I enjoyed a little getaway with a friend in State College—a welcome change of pace: lingering mornings, quiet evenings, quality conversation. A gift.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Glass work, Firebird by Etsuko Nishi in the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State
Glass work, Elegance by Danny Perkins
The Harp by Augusta Savage (replica)
our own masterpiece, a fall feast!
a quirky pumpkin in the front yard

Preparing to Hibernate

Mon, 2019-11-04 16:39
Yes, even though we can still feel the warmth of our sun in the afternoon, we are definitely preparing for winter. The clocks have turned, and this weekend we put out the bird feederswith even more locations this yearin the inner courtyard, too! We are hoping the birds will come to greet our sisters and bring some much needed winter cheer and light.

This year we’ve also “enhanced” our feeder collection! One cathedral-like home given us by another sister, as well as another caged feeder that advertises as “squirrel-proof!” Fingers crossed!


And even though it isn't officially winter, this poem always helps me as I linger in many layers through the cold months.

The Winter Wood Arrives
Mary Oliver

I think
     I could have
          built a little house
               to live in

with the single cord—
     half seasoned, half not—
          trucked into the
               driveway and

tumbled down. But, instead,
     friends came
          and together we stacked it
               for the long, cold days

that are—
     maybe the only sure thing in the world—
          coming soon.
               How to keep warm

is always a problem,
     isn’t it?
          Of course, there’s love.
               And there’s prayer.

I don’t belittle them,
     and they have warmed me,
          but differently,
               from the heart outwards.

Imagine
     what swirls of frost will cling
          to the windows, what white lawns
               I will look out on

as I rise from morning prayers,
     as I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves,
          as I go out into the yard
               and bring the wood in

with struggling steps,
     with struggling thoughts,
          bundle by bundle,
               to be burned.


Let us walk in the holy presence.

what I believe to be fothergilla

Fall and Falls

Mon, 2019-10-21 13:15
It was one of those autumn days that makes you wonder if it really is the "last day" of summer. Cool in the morning, but warm and wonderfully sunny by the afternoon.

How fortuitous that my parents had come up for a visit and that we had already decided to make a trip up to Niagara Falls after a very, very cold attempt last year.

A small glimpse of the appropriately-named Rainbow Bridge...


And a ride on Maid of the Mist...







And yes, there still have been two more "last days" of summer that followed Saturday. Glory be to these splendid days!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Searching for God

Mon, 2019-10-14 20:54
Psalm 84 begins this way (from the translation we pray in our office book):

How lovely is your dwelling place,
God of Life.

I am longing and yearning,
Yearning for your presence.
My whole being cries out to you,
To you, the living God.

Even the sparrows find a home,
And the swallows a nest for their young.
As for me, I search for you,
God of Life, Eternal One.

We prayed this psalm on Sunday at morning praise, and it was those last two lines that got me.
“I search for you, God of Life.”

It’s all I really want to do—search for God, the One who gives me life. Maybe it resonated more this past Sunday because it’s been almost two years since I made my first vows to God—to search for the Divine Presence in and with this community.

What have I found? Mostly just the reality of being human—challenge, sadness, confusion, clarity, abundant joy, and plenty of love.

I shouldn’t have expected much more, I guess!

Let us journey on, sister sparrows!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

passion flower

Life and Death

Mon, 2019-10-07 19:38
I enjoyed some quiet time this weekend, taking the opportunity to reflect on a few different parts of my life.

As I looked out the window, I couldn’t help but notice how the autumn season was displaying herself.



The fullness of life and death all in one view. It reminded me of the liturgical environment created two years ago in chapel when one of our sisters made her perpetual profession—another display of life and death exhibited through nature.

That is what the vows that we, as monastics, profess are all about—embracing the inevitable death of some parts of ourselves that must happen in order to experience the fullness of life.
The self-centeredness, the desire to accumulate, the close-mindedness—all of this and more must go.

What parts of yourself do you need to embrace to live and to celebrate life? What parts must slowly fade, like what we witness in nature during these autumn days?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond 
Mary Oliver

As for life,
I’m humbled,
I’m without words
sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
still unhatched

though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen —
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective. 

It suffices, it is all comfort —
along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever, 


and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can’t wait to be the hummingbird,
can you?

Announcing Your Place

Sun, 2019-09-22 15:47
The other night we walked over to the lake for sunset. A perfectly gorgeous end-of-summer evening, all was in harmony.


A friend had also reminded me that we are nearing that moment of beautiful natural synchronicity when the temperature of the evening air matches the temperature of the lake. Into the water I stepped.

And then I saw this right over my head...


And how can I resist?
Wild GeeseMary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Closer and Closer

Sun, 2019-09-15 14:54
We attended another formation weekend in Villa Maria, PA. These are formation weekends where we hear a speaker while interacting with others in initial formation from different communities as well as those journeying with us. Nancy Schreck, a Franciscan sister, spoke to us on the vow of poverty, in a conversation titled, “The Terrible Grace of Poverty.” She gave us great food for mental fodder.

What makes me chuckle about these weekends is that we call them “Total Formation weekends.” Yes, I know it takes a different meaning than the one that brings me a laugh, but “total formation”...ha. When will that happen?
I thought about the phrase while I walked on Saturday morning. I decided I would keep my eyes open for photos that I could post here. Enjoy some of them below. But towards the end of the walk, I saw young ivy crawling up a wall; the contrast between the green ivy and cement brick caught my eye. I tried to find the right framing for the photo, and I found myself moving in—closer and closer.





As I moved closer and closer, I kept becoming aware of more and more complexity and detail in the ivy’s growth. See that newest growth right at the top? Look closely. As we move closer and closer to God’s “total” embrace, may we continue recognizing more and more that Love is the only true thing calling us to grow.
Let us walk in the holy presence.





A-sailin' we will go!

Mon, 2019-09-09 13:30
Last week we enjoyed our once-a-year treat...a sailboat ride offered by a friend and supporter of the community. One cannot complain too much about that. It was a beautiful evening, just enough wind to tip the boat just enough to frighten some, and a colorful evening sky to boot. Again, one cannot complain too much about that. We here in Erie savor, soak up, and relish in these moments, storing them up in our spiritual muscle memory for winter hibernation.

(For a few more photos from another sister's blog, click here.)

Let us walk in the holy presence.






Catholic Day of Action for Immigration

Tue, 2019-09-03 13:36
Tomorrow, in Newark, NJ, there will be a Catholic Day of Action for Immigration. Let us send prayerful support to all those who will be there calling for just immigration legislation and practices. A few people from our own Erie Benedictines for Peace are going to support this demonstration, and there will be a vigil here in Erie as well:

Vigil for Immigrant Children
Wednesday, September 4th
12:15 to 12:45 pm
Governor's Northwest Regional Office, 100 State Street

Another way to support is to call your Senators (202-224-3121) or call the White House (202-456-1111). Use your democratic voice to say that you respect all life and desire justice for all people.

We are grateful to Benedictines for Peace for also sharing/providing a suggested text for calling:
I am a person of faith and I am calling to demand that [Senator ____ ] [President Trump] immediately end the unjust and immoral practice of detaining children and families. Family is sacred. It is the cornerstone of our church and our communities and it must be protected. Guided by our Catholic faith and our national values, we affirm the dignity of all people and our call to love our neighbors. We can and must remain a country that provides refuge for children and families fleeing violence and persecution. Thank You!

And a suggestion for spreading the word through social media:
#Catholics have a sacred duty to defend the rights and dignity of all immigrants. On 9/4 Catholic leaders from all over the country are demanding an end to child and family detention. #CatholicDayofAction.
We're joining #CatholicDayofAction in Newark to urge #Trump and #Congress to end child and family detention. We must end the injustice. #Catholics4Migrants.
Prayers + statements are not enough when immigrant childrenand families are in cages and the powerful refuse to act. Catholics will risk arrest 9/4 in a demonstration of sacred resistance @Newark. Stop the Inhumanity #EndChildDetention.


*Watch/share the Facebook Live-Stream of the Newark action: https://facebook.com/ignatianSolidarity

Let us walk in the holy presence.

All the Way to Heaven is Heaven

Mon, 2019-08-26 18:58
This time of year in Erie, I call it "perfect." Every farm stand is full of color and bounty. We are blessed.

As I bought some fresh corn and plums from a neighbor down the road on Friday, I thought to myself, "This is heaven." We are eating so many fresh and rich flavors right now. There’s fresh corn served on the regular for dinner; we have had peaches and tomatoes and beans, too. Everything is right “off the vine” and into our bodies for nourishment. These days make the winter worth it for me. Wouldn’t you say?

And remember that corn we planted in June?

Look at it now! (Yes, it's delicious.)




It doesn’t get much better than this.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Photo Lectio

Mon, 2019-08-19 16:39
It’s not very often that I am attentive enough or quick enough to capture moments like these.


The praying mantis is eating a yellow jacket (wasp? hornet?). It was mesmerizing to watch close up, to have the praying mantis turn and make direct eye contact with me, and to be able to take a photo, but yet, the compassion for the victim. And as I looked at the photo more closely, there was more and more to notice.
“We do not live in a simple world.” (Mary Oliver)
Let us walk in the holy presence.

Vines, Vines, & More Vines!

Sun, 2019-08-11 15:22
Thanks to the corporate commitment project that we complete as novices in our community, we now compost. One sister, who has since made first profession, decided to research and plan a composting system that would work for us. People have signed up to help with taking out food waste to our bins during their “dish week” and another sister turns the piles. It’s working wonderfully so far, and I am grateful for that. Very exciting!


Even more exciting is what we have found while taking out the buckets!



An accidental, but most welcome melon! ‘Tis the gift of stray seeds and sunshine, indeed!
In other vine-related news, the grapes, living in their natural habitats, are looking lovely on the vines during these perfect summer Sunday bike rides! I can taste them already! So sweet and juicy!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Culinary Luxuries

Sun, 2019-08-04 18:56
“Luxury is best appreciated in small portions. When it becomes routine it loses its allure."

I recently finished reading Ruth Reichl's new memoir, Save Me the Plums. It details the food writer's time as editor-in-chief of the magazine, Gourmet. I love her writing, and this was an easy and enjoyable summer read—as all summer reads should be!

The above quote about luxury stopped me in my tracks. Isn't it the truth? I had my own luxurious experience last week when I got to spend four uninterrupted hours in the kitchen, trying out something new: homemade ravioli.

I had decided I want to try and make sweet potato ravioli a while ago and had left this recipe open in a tab in Chrome for months. With the visit of a dear friend following the next evening, it was the right time. Even though it's an autumnal recipe, it worked quite well, swapping out the walnuts and basil for caramelized onions.

I don't often have the opportunity to spend such time in the kitchen, playing around with something like this. I am usually doing something a bit more practical like throwing together some veggies and some grain for a week's worth of lunch. The process of figuring out the best way to make the circles for the pasta, getting the filling right, taking the time to roll out piece after piece as prayerfully as possibly, and best of all, sharing it with others as the delicate pieces finished cooking, was such delight, a true luxury, for me.

Just before I had entered the kitchen for the afternoon, we had been talking at table about how to keep a novitiate-like quality in our busy lives. My time spent making sweet potato ravioli was just that!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Rolling out the pasta dough 
Making the sweet potato filling
The first attempt needing some re-working—looks like a pierogi!
Getting the circles right after playing around a bit
Aerial view
More and more ravioli—a delicious treat!

Happy Jubilee!

Sun, 2019-07-28 19:38
We celebrated the commitment of four of our sisters this weekend here at the monastery. Three sisters celebrated their Golden Jubilee, or 50 years of religious life. Another celebrated her Silver Jubilee, or 25 years.

It is a rather tender and moving ceremony: the statio, or monastic procession into chapel of the community preceded by the litany of deceased sisters; the praying of psalms specially selected for the day by the sisters celebrating; the renewal of vows; and my personal favorite—the singing of the Suscipe, a back and forth between the sisters and the community as we repeat:

Uphold me, O God, according to Your word
And I shall live,
And do not fail me in my hope.

It made me teary-eyed, yes. To think of living these vows of stability, obedience, and conversatio with steadfastness, for better or worse, through whatever life brought—wow, wow, wow!

It gives me such hope as I grapple with what my commitment to these vows looks like, with what it means for me to say “yes” to the monastic life here in a community of ninety women, with my own discernment journey. To know that I have said yes to a tradition so much grander than simply my own yes, to feel the love of so many women—some that I know here and now, some that I have never met...days like these are sure treasures along the way.

Congratulations and blessings to you all, Rosanne, Sue, Jacinta, and Ann. I am grateful—so grateful.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

A quiet start to the morning—so peaceful, and such luxury—summer
The melons waiting to be filled with sweet ripeness
The tables decorated with photography by Ann and Sue
Jubilee candle holders ready to go
I went in for a sneak preview of chapel.