Light through Stained Glass Windows by Susan Doubet

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Getting picky about books

Wed, 2020-01-22 21:32
I'm going through a "picky" stage regarding what I read. I only want to read very, very good writers' works.
To that end I just read my first book by the celebrated, internationally acclaimed Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho. I didn't start with his most popular and award-winning book, The Alchemist, but instead a more humble one, The Devil and Miss Prym. A stranger arrives in a small, out of the way village and entices the villagers to choose between good and evil. Young, lovely Miss Prym is his main adversary. It was a great read. Now I will have a go at The Alchemist.
But first, it's Elizabeth Strout's new one, Olive, Again a followup to her very interesting and well-received Olive Kitteridge,--a curmudgeon of a retired school teacher who speaks her mind way too much, yet who somehow effects the lives of her ordinary acquaintances in a special and life-changing ways.
This is one of my survival techniques for the months of January and February!

Finally--lake effect snow--and more.

Sun, 2020-01-19 19:01

A male and female cardinal poking around near the feedersjust as the snow started. We've kept the feeders well-stockedall day. Apples out for the deer, too.


Eleven inches + in about 18 hours. Beautiful.Luckily it's a Sunday, with a holiday tomorrow.

And, an indoors sight. One of our sisters has very small feet, can hardly fitinto the smallest women's size shoes. She came home this week withmuch-needed new sneakers--AND then they lit up when she walked!She is thrilled!

Finally--lake effect snow--and more

Sun, 2020-01-19 18:52
A male and female cardinal poking around near the feeders
 just as the snow started. We've kept the feeders well-stocked
all day. Apples out for the deer, too.Eleven inches + in about 18 hours. Beautiful.
Luckily it's a Sunday, with a holiday tomorrow.And, an indoors sight. One of our sisters has very small feet, can hardly fit
into the smallest women's size shoes. She came home this week with
much-needed new sneakers--AND then they lit up when she walked!
She is thrilled!

Mid-January

Wed, 2020-01-15 21:25
Today is mid-January. It is also mid-winter, for those in our city (2.5 months down, 2.5 months to go). A friend told me today that on her daily afternoon walk, around 5:00 p.m., she's noticing the increase in light--as we are nearly a month past the winter solstice. I've noticed it in the mornings, too: our 7:30 a.m. drive to work is definitely lighter. When we were watching the Jeopardy GOAT tournament this past week, they had a category on Canadians. Each clue showed the photo of the Canadian and a short description was read. As soon as the photo popped up I shouted, "Margaret Atwood"! I recognized her instantly because that same photo is on her book Testaments which I just finished. If you read The Handmaid's Tale years ago, or saw the movie recently, you'll love this 15-years-later follow up. Spoiler: Gilead is imploding!

Mid-January

Wed, 2020-01-15 21:09
Today is mid-January. It is also mid-winter, for those in our city (2.5 months down, 2.5 months to go). A friend told me today that on her daily afternoon walk, around 5:00 p.m., she's noticing the increase in light--as we are nearly a month past the winter solstice. I've noticed it in the mornings, too: our 7:30 a.m. drive to work is definitely lighter.

When we were watching the Jeopardy GOAT tournament this past week, they had a category on Canadians. Each clue showed the photo of the Canadian and a short description was read. As soon as the photo popped up I shouted, "Margaret Atwood"! I recognized her instantly because that same photo is on her book Testaments which I just finished. If you read The Handmaid's Tale years ago, or saw the movie recently, you'll love this 15-years-later follow up. Spoiler: Gilead is imploding!


In praise of Ordinary Time

Wed, 2020-01-15 20:54
As (blessed) Ordinary Time returns and remembering my Dad whose birthday was this past weekend, here's a short reflection that seems to fit right now:

When I would visit my parents in the early years of my religious life I would tell them of events and stories of my days. My mother would look bewildered and bemused as she always did, claiming to not understand convent life in any aspect. (This was particularly amusing to me as my aunt, her sister-in-law, had entered religious life soon after my parents were married, so she’d had a “nun in the family” forever.) My Dad, too, answered the same way, though not befuddled or confused at all. “It’s just like the army,” was his response. He didn’t mean it in any derogatory or militaristic way–he was referring to going through the day as part of a large group: whether it was with young guys brought together by WWII or with other young women beginning religious life.

Decades have come and gone since those first stories, but even now some of his analogy persists. One of them that is particularly striking to me is the morning wake up call—reveille at 5:45 a.m.! At least that’s the time I usually respond to my alarm; some Sisters start a little earlier and some roll out at 6:20 and still make it for 6:30 a.m. Morning Prayer.

Praying first thing in the morning is not unique to my community nor to Sisters in general. Spiritual people of all traditions and no tradition, value their daily meditation, quiet time and prayer—whether they carve out time for it in the morning or in the evening or in between.

As Benedictines we follow a ritual based on the psalmody. We chant or recite three psalms or canticles, the Benedictus (Zachary’s Canticle), responses, the Prayer of Jesus and a closing blessing from the prioress. This continues morning after morning after morning. There are variations here and there, for feasts or special events, but the basic structure is the same.


I don’t know why we post the page numbers or why we all follow the phrasing meticulously by reading our books. We all know them by heart. We even know the five weekly chant modes from memory. If the electricity goes out some morning I know we’d be just fine. Once the leader started the first line we’d be off—whether it would be reciting or singing a cappella.

Faithfulness to such a daily commitment is strengthened by its purpose. There is so much to pray for, remember, recount, express thankfulness, and even sit with in silence. However one calls to one’s God, that relationship is fostered here. Even the climate of the seasons contributes to our morning invocations. In my hometown we are greeted with the sharp rising sunlight in summer and dark cold mornings in winter.

I read a wonderfully creative poem by a monk of St. John’s Abbey in which he reflected on various members of his community as they entered chapel in the morning. I laughed and laughed at the images and descriptions, probably because I could pair each monk of his with one of our sisters: the prayer leader already in her place, the one with the perky step at 6:00 a.m., one still putting on her sweater as she walks in, one dragging a bit after a late night listening session with a suffering friend, the octogenarian pushing a walker to stay upright, a musician double checking the music chart, one whose shoes squeak (still), the new postulant still wide-eyed and trying to get all the parts down correctly, three visitors looking tired but eager, and the straggler who’s never on time, but never misses.

We are the praying church, at least our little part of it–the praying congregations and individuals that bring praise, gratitude, petition to the Creator each and every day, around the world.

So, why continue to rise to this daily commitment? I admit that there are many, many days when my first conscious thought is, “Oh, maybe I’ll sleep in today.” But, I hardly ever do. This is our proverbial anchor for the next 12 hours, one of, if not the primary, raison d’etre for my life.

It’s why we exist, it’s why I join 50 other women in answering this morning bugle–just as my Dad did years ago.

In praise of Ordinary Time

Sun, 2020-01-12 17:20
As (blessed) Ordinary Time returns and remembering my Dad whose birthday was this past weekend, here's a short reflection that seems to fit right now:

When I would visit my parents in the early years of my religious life I would tell them of events and stories of my days. My mother would look bewildered and bemused as she always did, claiming to not understand convent life in any aspect. (This was particularly amusing to me as my aunt, her sister-in-law, had entered religious life soon after my parents were married, so she’d had a “nun in the family” forever.) My Dad, too, answered the same way, though not befuddled or confused at all. “It’s just like the army,” was his response. He didn’t mean it in any derogatory or militaristic way–he was referring to going through the day as part of a large group: whether it was with young guys brought together by WWII or with other young women beginning religious life.

Decades have come and gone since those first stories, but even now some of his analogy persists. One of them that is particularly striking to me is the morning wake up call—reveille at 5:45 a.m.! At least that’s the time I usually respond to my alarm; some Sisters start a little earlier and some roll out at 6:20 and still make it for 6:30 a.m. Morning Prayer.

Praying first thing in the morning is not unique to my community nor to Sisters in general. Spiritual people of all traditions and no tradition, value their daily meditation, quiet time and prayer—whether they carve out time for it in the morning or in the evening or in between.

As Benedictines we follow a ritual based on the psalmody. We chant or recite three psalms or canticles, the Benedictus (Zachary’s Canticle), responses, the Prayer of Jesus and a closing blessing from the prioress. This continues morning after morning after morning. There are variations here and there, for feasts or special events, but the basic structure is the same.


I don’t know why we post the page numbers or why we all follow the phrasing meticulously by reading our books. We all know them by heart. We even know the five weekly chant modes from memory. If the electricity goes out some morning I know we’d be just fine. Once the leader started the first line we’d be off—whether it would be reciting or singing a cappella.

Faithfulness to such a daily commitment is strengthened by its purpose. There is so much to pray for, remember, recount, express thankfulness, and even sit with in silence. However one calls to one’s God, that relationship is fostered here. Even the climate of the seasons contributes to our morning invocations. In my hometown we are greeted with the sharp rising sunlight in summer and dark cold mornings in winter.

I read a wonderfully creative poem by a monk of St. John’s Abbey in which he reflected on various members of his community as they entered chapel in the morning. I laughed and laughed at the images and descriptions, probably because I could pair each monk of his with one of our sisters: the prayer leader already in her place, the one with the perky step at 6:00 a.m., one still putting on her sweater as she walks in, one dragging a bit after a late night listening session with a suffering friend, the octogenarian pushing a walker to stay upright, a musician double checking the music chart, one whose shoes squeak (still), the new postulant still wide-eyed and trying to get all the parts down correctly, three visitors looking tired but eager, and the straggler who’s never on time, but never misses.

We are the praying church, at least our little part of it–the praying congregations and individuals that bring praise, gratitude, petition to the Creator each and every day, around the world.

So, why continue to rise to this daily commitment? I admit that there are many, many days when my first conscious thought is, “Oh, maybe I’ll sleep in today.” But, I hardly ever do. This is our proverbial anchor for the next 12 hours, one of, if not the primary, raison d’etre for my life.

It’s why we exist, it’s why I join 50 other women in answering this morning bugle–just as my Dad did years ago.

What month is it anyway?

Wed, 2020-01-08 21:17
This is a visual to show how mild our winter has been so far--the squirrels are coming out!


I pulled into our driveway at noon recently and saw this bushy-tailed one scooting across the drive. He headed up a nearby tree and I took the chance to drive my car right up across from it. Lo and behold, he settled and went about eating, I guess. The thing is, I took 5-6 shots and the little caps of the acorns only showed up in this one picture!! Where were they...in the tree or in his cheeks?

Hope your winter days are as pleasant as ours have been. And, an aside, we're so looking forward to the liturgical "Ordinary Time" which begins next Monday. Christmas and Advent's special-ness was wonderful, but, ordinary time is calm and, well, ordinary----at least for a few weeks.

Third time

Sun, 2020-01-05 20:46
This past weekend we held a double funeral and memory service for our Sisters Dorothy and Mary Bernard, both of whom died on December 21, one in the morning and one in the evening. They were truly very touching and special experiences, in as much as the memories and stories and liturgies surrounding the events were uplifting, prayerful and consoling. One of the most asked questions, however, was: Have you ever had two deaths on the same day before? The answer is, yes. Five years ago in January 2015, Sr. Audrey B. and Sr. Claire H. both died on the 26th. Claire had been on a long, long cancer journey but Audrey's death was a sudden, total system shut down, so to speak, the source of which and the suddenness of which was shocking. Other big differences were that they both died in a hospital, St. V's and Hamot, and that they were in their early 70s, very active and involved. Mary B. and Dorothy were 90 and 88 respectively.

This answer is not over yet.

Back in 1971 two blood sisters died in a car accident in California, along with their parents. I believe one was in her late 30s, the other in her 40s. The sisters who were here for this, recalled it this weekend with great sadness in their memories as they told us that they had all four caskets here for viewing, which then continued at their home parish here in Erie.

So, unusual as it was, it was not a first.

Personally, in my experiences I now value the deaths and following funeral and burial rituals of our sisters to be in the category of great privilege. To be part not only of daily life with these women, but then to be a part of the ending of that earthly life and the "beginning" of the next, is truly special, very humbling and always quite miraculous.

1-1-2020

Wed, 2020-01-01 21:46
The last four or five days have had a kind of liminal feel to them: It's not been fully 2019, but as of yet not really 2020; Morning Prayer is later these days, and yet the ministry hours continue, although shorter; the sisters are not all here, yet they came drifting in from home visits, throughout the mild Monday and rainy/snowy Tuesday; every Evening Prayer we remember Sisters Mary B. and Dorothy, yet their services are still to come; the reality of "celebrating" their lives and yet mourning their loss. An in between time indeed.


I wrote a haiku for our youngest postulant whose birthday is January 1. Here it is--in the traditional 5-7-5 format.
Nine are ninety plus,The rest come decades behind.One: twenty-seven.

Dec. 26-29

Sun, 2019-12-29 20:54
The four days Dec. 26-29 are really wonderful times for people that pray, formally, a couple of times a day such as we do! Four feasts make them really very, very nice: special prayers, hymns and blessings. St. Stephen, first martyr; St. John; the Holy Innocents, slain baby boys when Herod went on a rampage to get rid of the "newborn king of the Jews," and the Feast of the Holy Family....which was highlighted by a great homily on the evolving and growing definition of "family" and how the Church is slowly getting its head together about that reality.

Additionally, during these days we had seven sisters from a missionary order in Toronto, here for some retreat days. We saw them at every prayer period and at meals. They were lovely and, I think, had a very nice 3-4 days in our guest quarters.



Christmas 2019

Wed, 2019-12-25 21:25
Seven-mile creek, open and flowing strongly
in our 50 degree weather!
Our beach (about 10' of sand) and lakefront.
Water was very, very calm.


At sunset Christmas evening.

Very special days

Sun, 2019-12-22 17:17
Saturday the 21st was a special day on its own--made more special within our community.

On its own it was the date of the Winter Solstice for 2019--the shortest day of the year, but also the beginning of the return of light that will grow throughout the next three months until Spring arrives. For those of us who celebrate the O Antiphons, it was the fifth day: "O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death." Fitting for the solstice.

In our community it became a very special, a very blessed day for all of us as we accompanied two of our sisters into Eternal Life. Sister Mary Bernard, 90, entered new life at 9:30 a.m. and Sister Dorothy Szczypinski, 88, entered her new life at 9:30 p.m. In both cases the sisters had been experiencing failing health and were at peace with the next phase of their journey. The community was present with them throughout the last three days and recited and sang our ritual prayers at the time of death. You can read their beautiful obituaries and prayer cards here.



Our Christmas decorations "erupted" this weekend. As we've converted to LED lighting for our large tree in the inner courtyard this year, I wanted to use the old lights for something as long as they still worked. Here you see them drizzled over our azalea bushes along the windows of the cloister walk between the chapel and dining room. Sister Veronica would be so thrilled to have them on either side of her beloved Mary statue!

Schizophrenia? Coming along well.

Wed, 2019-12-18 20:49

Neighbors celebrating Advent and Christmas simultaneously!

Pink, patience and pizzelles

Sun, 2019-12-15 19:57
If you were visiting us this weekend....which from the size of the crowd at Sunday's liturgy included a lot of people...you would have seen lots of pink (for Gaudete Sunday--the third Sunday of Advent), been challenged to work on your patience during this holiday season (as the second Reading in the Mass was on this virtue..not exactly one that is heard too much about in our society these days) and you would smell the Christmas holiday scents of both vanilla and anise pizzelles (as one of our part-Italian Sisters got out her mother's pizzelle irons and recipes and organized her annual pizzelle extravaganza). Many of our newest members came out to see yet another of our holiday  community "traditions": pizzelle night.

Having been faithful to the celebration of Advent while minimizing Christmas decorations, this week we both continue the Advent days but the decorations will slowly, slowly seep out. I saw a Christmas elf on a door handle this morning and a jingle bell wreathe in an office. This week we are schizophrenic.

photographer-postulant Jen Frazer

Our Lady of the Snows!?

Wed, 2019-12-11 21:06
Today, December 12, we celebrate the beautiful feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Right outside of Mexico City. Never to be confused with Our Lady of the Snows...which is located right outside of Erie, PA.

Our new feeding station this year. The inner courtyard
where everyone can see the winter birds feeding.
Seed is safely inside. No critters, allowed.
Notice that it doubles as a snow measurer.
My so far unsuccessful attempt to offer water in the winter.
It keeps freezing over!

The prophet Isaiah.

Sun, 2019-12-08 19:20
The Isaiah readings that fill our Advent days speak so eloquently of God's loving care for us, God's ever presence with us and a multitude of imageries of God's relationship with the people.

It has brought to mind one of my favorite sayings--which, by the way, is on a plaque placed among the trees in our woods by a guest in our hermitages. Here it is. It is written in English, but I kind of like the Latin: "Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit.

I read that Carl Jung had it carved in Latin over the front door of his house. And he was a psychoanalyst-----nice!

No snow--this time!

Wed, 2019-12-04 19:41
Day after day last week we watched the evening news start off with reports on the early, yet major, snow storms that were battering the West, Midwest and finally, this past weekend, New England and the east coast. For an area that averages nearly 100" of snow a season, the awareness that we were having no snow at all during this time was shocking. Oh, we'll certainly get ours--there's no doubt about it, but if it's not coming from Canada, sweeping over the three Great Lakes that are west of us---it really isn't that unusual that the storms that travel up the east coast, don't reach us, here on the other side of the Allegheny Mountains.

Here's what we found on a quick trip around Presque Isle State park, while others were shoveling out or waiting endlessly in airports.

I think some of these ducks, and certainly many Canada geese,
winter here and seem to be able to find enough open water.
Duck hunting and deer hunting are going on at this time.
I just couldn't resist a follow up from Monday's blog--the wonders of YouTube. Here's the 1950s cartoon of "Here Comes Susie Snowflake." It really wasn't a Christmas show at all. It was more like a PSA interlude between shows, as it was only 2 minutes long.

Or if you prefer, here's Rosemary Clooney's version. She's the one who really made it a Christmas song. Trivia: Rosemary was married to the actor/director Jose Ferrer and the mother of the late actor Miguel Ferrar who played Owen Granger on NCIS Los Angeles.





Frosty the Snowman turns 50

Sun, 2019-12-01 21:03
I should be writing about our chapel, which is beautiful in its Advent environment or about the hymns in our special Advent booklet that we started today: 57 in total, or about the special prayers and poetic, prophetic readings we had both at the vigil Saturday night and all day Sunday. You'll read plenty enough about them during the next 3+ weeks, both here, on other blogs and on our community website.

Instead, here's what really caught my eye in our Sunday paper: "Find when Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, others airs," a December 1-31 schedule of the traditional holiday shows that run only in December. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is this Thursday...that would be my #1. How can we ever forget Linus's recitation of the Christmas story. (Even honored on a USPS stamp.)


Others I'd love to catch: "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Happy New Year, Charlie Brown," and "Dick Clark's Primetime New Year's Rockin' Eve." (Really? you're kidding! Is Dick Clark still on?! No, he can't be...but maybe he's channeled through Ryan Seacrest.)

I'm going to post this list for all the sisters to enjoy...if I can tear them away from the month-long Hallmark Channel Christmas movies they all love! But I have just one question, if after 50 years they are still showing "Frosty the Snowman" why not also show "Here Comes Susie Snowflake"...my all-time favorite---of course!

Music, music

Wed, 2019-11-27 21:14


We are blessed with wonderful musicians and music here at the Mount--and it's about to get much better!

Both the Sisters Schola (34 singers strong) and handbell choir (10 of us) have new pieces that we've been faithfully practicing for over three months now, getting ready for the Advent and Christmas seasons. It's great fun to get new songs, yet they come with just a little "appropriate nervousness" when performing them for the first time!

Then, if those weren't exciting enough, we arrived at the first of two special all-community choir practices last week, again for Advent and Christmas, and what do we find? a new Mass (with five sung parts) for our Sunday liturgies and 6 new Benedictus tones and 6 new Magnificate tones for our everyday Morning and Evening Prayer! A bonanza of music has erupted.

I know many of you don't live near enough to come and hear all of these, but check out our homepage now and then. We do record them and upload them there occasionally.

Wish you could be here!

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