One Heart and One Soul: Stories from our Monastic Home"And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord...For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love." Rule of Benedict, Prologue 45-49
Every year we celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel. This year marks the 67th year of our prayer and worship in this chapel dedicated to the praise of God. The dedication candles are lit, the sisters have gathered for statio, and our prayer of thanksgiving begins. But first, it behooves me to share the story of how the chapel was built from our sisters hopes and prayers, lead by Mother Jerome Schmitt, and told by our historians from a time much closer to celebration…
“…By far the crowning point of Mother Jerome’s external accomplishments was the erection of the magnificent Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel which rose steadily, stone by stone, throughout the difficult war and post-war years of 1946 to 1950 and was solemnly consecrated in the spring of 1950. The Chapel stands not only as a monument to the saintly Bishop through whom God called the Benedictines to Dakota but also as a living symbol of the faith of a community” (Travelers on the Way of Peace, 1955).
“There is one thing I ask of the Lord, to live in the house of the Lord.” ~ Benedictus Antiphon
The chapel’s very completion was an act of faith. It was built in the years after World War II; when building materials were both scarce and precious, M. Jerome and the contractors found a way through their trust in God. Bishop Martin Marty Memorial Chapel was completed and consecrated in the year 1950. The chapel has been filled with the voices of our sisters giving God praise since that day.
“…The construction, begun after frustrating delays, was nearing completion. With justifiable pride, she had watched the raising of the Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel which
now crowned the cluster of building on the western elevation of the city of Yankton. It was something that…she had dreamed about at a time when realization seemed impossible. But, there was the stone steeple, rising to a height of 187 feet, directing heavenward the thoughts of motorists on Highway 50. This house of God was both artistic and functional: it was an imposing work of stone in modified Gothic design, which could take its place among thee architectural masterpieces of Europe.
“…The Most Reverend William O. Brady, assisted by five bishops, four abbots, and about 180 monsignori and priests from the Midwest carried out the colorful and symbolic ceremonies, which set apart forever this building for the sole purpose of giving glory to God…Bishop Brady in his closing remarks paid tribute to the pioneer members of the community and all members who had given reality to a dream of raising a fitting monument to the Provident of God, “under the shadow of Whose wings” the community had prospered” (Sr. Claudia Daratschek, Under the Shadow of His Wings, 1971).
“This is God’s holy temple, and we are the living stones. Let us bow down in prayer, singing God’s praises.”
~ Benedictus Antiphon, Anniversary of the Dedication of Bishop Marty Chapel
Father Thomas explained some of the Church teaching on how churches are dedicated through a special ceremony. Then he shared some reflections on the meaning of this dedication for those who worship in those churches.
“The feast of the Dedication of a church is celebrated annually only in those church buildings which have been consecrated by a bishop. The dedication sets the building aside as a sacred, holy place which cannot be used for other purposes. Among other things, the building must be debt-free when dedicated, so most church buildings are not consecrated. The ceremony is one of the most beautiful of all the ceremonies of the Church…
…Also part of the ceremony is the blessing of the walls. They too are anointed with the Chrism Oil at twelve locations throughout the church building. The twelve locations represent the twelve apostles on whose foundations the Christian faith rests and are marked with a cross and candle (called the consecration candles). Traditionally, those candles are only lit on the anniversary of the dedication of the church building.
The ceremony of dedication has similarities to the Sacrament of Baptism, especially regarding the anointing and candles. Those entering the church through Baptism are also anointed as a symbol of their being set aside (dedicated) to and for God. Those baptized receive a candle representing the Light of Christ. They are to receive and be the Light of Christ to the world” (Father Thomas on the anniversary of the Dedication of Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel, 2014).
This dedication of a place apart for prayer alone also appears in the Rule of Benedict. In Chapter 52, Benedict orders that the Monastery have an Oratory for the monks’ and nuns’ Work of God, their life of prayer…
Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there. When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any sister who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another’s misconduct. And at other times also, if anyone should want to pray by herself, let her go in simply and pray, not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart…
Blessings to you,
Pray for us during our time of retreat; we shall keep you in our prayers.
This week all the sisters of our community are gathering at the monastery for retreat. The sister who coordinates our on-going formation has set a week for conference retreat for our sisters. This calls us to pause and set aside time from our varying schedules due to their ministry and service in different works of the Church. This summer Father Jerome Kodell, OSB of Subiaco Abbey will be our retreat director. His conferences will focus on “Walking the Road of Faith”. He will be taking us into the Scriptures to see how God continually invites us into a journey of trust from the wilderness of Exodus to the Paschal Mystery of the Cross. For a little peek into his retreat conferences, Father Jerome wrote an article on a similar topic about listening for God and following His Call for Our Sunday Visitor.
Listen I (General Norms of our Federation) recognizes that “Benedictine formation is a lifelong process of daily conversion within a dynamic, monastic faith community. The entire community is responsible, under the direction of the prioress, for the ongoing formation of all sisters. The monastery fulfills this responsibility when it provides the environment for the sisters to share their life together in faith and to continue their own daily effort toward growth in Christ” (G111).
Listen II (Specific Norms of our Federation) reminds the prioress that “the Monastery Norms specifies the ways a monastery provides for the continuing spiritual development of its sisters, such as community renewal, annual retreats, days of recollection and other opportunities” (S129).
Our Listen III or Monastery Norms (specific to our monastic guidance) take all this into account and very simply states a list of items to support this continuing formation including “annual retreats” (M111.g). Simple…However, this yearly week of retreat is so important within our monastic life that it is even written into our contracts so we that may set at least a week aside for personal and private prayer, reflection, community, and Reconciliation.
Retreat allows for a deepening of relationship with God in the silence of our day (including meals). This silence is broken only by Father’s conferences and our celebrations of community prayer and Eucharist. However, the silence isn’t still, it is nurtured through our personal prayer and is active in our sisters’ personal reflection on the conferences. All this additional time in prayer reminds us to follow Saint Benedict’s injunction on the oratory:
“Let the oratory be what is is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there. When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any sister who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another’s misconduct. And that other times also, if anyone should want to pray by herself, let her go in simply and pray, not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart. She who does not say her prayers in this way, therefore, shall not be permitted to remain in the oratory when the Work of God is ended, lest another be hindered, as we have said” (Rule of Benedict 52).
Retreat Week Prayer & Eucharist (July 17-22):
(Saturday Lauds: 8:30AM)
(Tuesday Vespers & Communal Penance: 7:00PM )
Inspired to consider a retreat
to strengthen your relationship with Christ?
Blessings to you,
Each year we pause to tell the same two stories. It is an opportunity to share the Catholic heritage from our Swiss-Benedictine roots that traveled with us from the Alps to the Plains.
The earliest American Benedictine communities were mostly founded during the mid to late 1800’s from a handful of monasteries in Germany and Switzerland. Those monastic houses of Swiss descent honor their unique roots. While the universal Church celebrates Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we honor Our Lady of Einsiedeln.
Within Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel, we have a side or transept chapel dedicated to our Swiss Lady. For years, our Swiss and German sisters who worked in the embroidery dressed the Madonna and Child in elaborate gowns of the liturgical seasons. Only later did we discover, like the original, her beautifully carved gown of red and gentle arm embracing the Child Jesus.
The story of Our Lady of Einsiedeln begins with Saint Meinrad, as story goes…
In the 9th century, the monk St. Meinrad, of the family of the Counts of Hohenzollern, left one of the local monasteries to build a hermitage in the wilderness that would later become Einsiedeln.He took with him a miracle-working statue of the Virgin Mary given to him by the Abbess Hildegarde of Zurich. He soon became well-known in the local village for his kindness and holiness, and received many visitors and gifts.
On January 21, 861, two thieves murdered Meinrad for the treasure in his hermitage. According to legend, the murderers were apprehended after two ravens followed them into town and drew attention to them with loud squawking.
In 940, a small group of Benedictine monks transformed Meinrad’s little hermitage into the Lady Chapel. The chapel is said to have been consecrated by Christ himself on September 14, 948. The bishop who was to consecrate the new site had a vision in which the church was filled with a brilliant light as Christ approached the altar; the next day, when he went to perform the ceremony, he heard a voice saying the chapel had already been divinely consecrated. The miracle was confirmed by Pope Leo VIII 16 years later in a papal bull.
St. Meinrad had the Black Madonna statue (its dark color traditionally explained by years of candle smoke) as part of his altarpiece; after his death it was placed in the Lady Chapel for veneration. Many miracles were attributed to the intercession of “Our Lady of Einsiedeln,” and pilgrimages to Einsiedeln began shortly after 1000 AD (Sacred Destinations.com).
Our monastery’s foundresses came from Maria Rickenbach on a musenalp above the city of Niederbach. As a part of the Swiss-American foundations, we continue to honor Our Lady of Einsiedeln. However, our Swiss foundation house continues to welcome pilgrims seeking the intercession of Our Lady of Rickenbach who shares a similar story:
In 1528 as the Protestant Reformation swept across Switzerland, a great iconoclasm took place in which people seized and destroyed statues taken from Catholic churches. The reformers claimed that the statues were false idols, and that Catholics were worshiping the statues instead of God.
A shepherd boy saw a statue of Mary holding the child Jesus on her lap “lightly as if giving him to the world” rise undamaged from a bonfire. He rescued the statue and hid it high in the mountains in the hollow of a tree. The shepherd boy would pray the rosary before that statue inside the hollow of a tree as he tended his sheep.
Soon the townspeople learned of the boy’s devotion and came to retrieve the statue and save it. But it wouldn’t budge. Even the strongest men could not move it. So the people decided to build a shrine around it on that very spot.
People came from miles to walk up the mountain and to pray before the statue. The Benedictine monks from nearby Engelberg would care for the pilgrims, and soon an order of Benedictine sisters was established to care for both the site and the pilgrims who came to pray (Sr. Dawn Mills, BSPA).
On this day, we will remember you in our prayer.
May the faith-filled life and love of Our Lady guide and bless you.
Tonight, we begin our celebration of the Solemnity of the Passing of Saint Benedict. We gather as community to offer praise in the Liturgy of the Hours for the gift of Benedict’s life, to celebrate with festive meals, and to share Benedict’s joyful hospitality with those who serve with us at the monastery. Join the celebration or send us your requests and we shall keep you in prayer as we celebrate our founder’s feast!
Monday, July 10th: First Vespers ~ 5:15 PM
Tuesday, July 11th: Lauds ~ 8:30 AM
Celebration of the Eucharist ~ following prayer
Vespers ~ 5:15 PM
Saint Gregory the Great recorded the life and passing of this great saint in “Book Two” of his Dialogues.
In the year that was to be his last, the man of God foretold the day of his holy death to a number of his disciples. In mentioning it to some who were with him in the monastery, he bound them to strict secrecy. Some others, however, who were stationed elsewhere he only informed of the special sign they would receive at the time of his death.
Six days before he died, he gave orders for his tomb to be opened. Almost immediately he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his remaining energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally, on the sixth day, he had his disciples carry him into the chapel where he received the Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his approaching end. Then, supporting his weakend body on the arms of his brethren, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and, as he prayed, breathed his last.
That day two monks, one of them at the monastery, the other some distance away, received the very same revelation. They both saw a magnificent road covered with rich carpeting and glittering with thousands of lights. From his monastery it stretched eastward in a straight line until it reached up into heaven. And there in the brightness stood a man of majestic appearance, who asked them, “Do you know who passed this way?”
“No,” they replied.
“This, he told them, is the road taken by blessed Benedict, the Lord’s beloved, when he went to heaven.”
Thus, while the brethren who were with Benedict witnessed his death, those who were absent knew about it through the sign he had promised them. His body was laid to rest in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, which he had built to replace the altar of Apollo (chapter 37).
Blessings to you,
Whew! It has been a busy couple weeks here at the monastery. We hosted over fifty sisters from 14 different communities for the Chapter Meetings (official business meetings) of the Federation of Saint Gertrude. It took the help that was offered by all our sisters! They volunteered to prepare gift bags, bedrooms, and meeting spaces. Sisters woke up early and stayed up late to meet airplanes and guide our guests to their bedrooms. They worked behind-the-scenes and filled in as extra dish-washers, kitchen aids, and room cleaners. Sisters hosted socials each evening and gave up a day to offer tours of our Yankton area for the Sister Delegates’ on their free-day. They also prepared additional Liturgy of the Hours (prayer) books and readied the pews in Chapel so that the Sister Delegates could join us for daily Prayer and Eucharist. Most importantly, our sisters offered their prayer for the Sister Delegates and the success of their meetings. All in all, the Federation Chapter ran like the Swiss Trains on which our earliest sisters once traveled.
The Benedictine Federation of Saint Gertrude was established by the Apostolic See with tentative approval on April 14, 1937, and definitive approval received on April 4, 1950. The twelve member monasteries and two affiliated ecumenical communities trace their roots to Benedictine abbeys of women from Eichstätt in Bavaria, and Maria Rickenbach, Sarnen, and Melchtal in Switzerland. Arriving in the mid-19th to the early 20th century, these communities came to American and began to serve the needs of the Church and the People of God. While each member monastery remains autonomous, we share a common set of canonical documents, “Listen”, which guide our monastic life. The Federation of Saint Gertrude is a source of mutual support, service, collaboration, and dialogue to encourage the continuing growth and development of each member monastery.
The Sister Delegates gathered around the theme “Paschal Mystery: Journey to Transformation”. They began with guest speakers: Sr. Nancy Schreck, OSF, and Fr. Dan Ward, OSB, on the Paschal Mystery theme and about engaging transformation and change in our monastic communities. Then the work of the Chapter began: studying by-laws, reviewing canon law, establishing new direction statements for the next three years, and electing a new president and five councilors to the Federation. After much discussion, discernment, and prayer, the Federation Chapter elected our own Sister Jeanne Weber of Sacred Heart Monastery as President of the Federation and councilors from five other monasteries in the Federation: Sr. Barbara Lynn (Monastery Immaculate Conception), Sr. Mary (St. Benedict’s Monastery), Sr. Mary Luke (Our Lady of Grace Monastery), Sr. Shawn (Mount St. Benedict Monastery), and Sr. Teresa (Monastery of St. Gertrude).
The week of Federation Chapter concluded with Vespers and the installation of Sister Jeanne as Federation President and Sisters as Federation Councilors. Sister Joella’s last act as President of the Federation was to commission Sister Jeanne to carry out the duties of the Office of President which includes a commitment to preserve the monastic way and Benedictine Rule within the monasteries and a resolve to safeguard each monastery’s heritage and autonomy. Then she blessed her: “We now ask our loving God to bless Sister Jeanne as she begins her term as President of the Federation of Saint Gertrude. Let us ask our God to sustain and guide her as she serves our Federation. May the gifts of the Spirit be poured out upon her so that she may in turn inflame with good zeal the hearts of all those she serves. We ask this through Christ our Lord.” Sister Jeanne’s first act as Federation President was to call forth the five councilors elected by the delegates and to commission them to service to the Federation and ask God’s blessing through the Spirit.
Please pray for Sr. Jeanne as she begins this service to the sisters of our Federation.
Blessings to you,
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Pope Francis said, “The Eucharist affects the way we see others. In his life, Christ manifested his love by being with people, and by sharing their desires and problems. So, too, the Eucharist brings us together with others–young and old, poor and affluent, neighbors and visitors. The Eucharist calls us to see all of them as our brothers and sisters, and to see in them the face of Christ.” ~ February 14, 2014 General Audience.
God Bless You for Visiting!