Reflections during COVID19
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Reflections During the COVID 19 Crisis

We offer you these reflections during the COVID 19 pandemic, hoping that it will unite us in faith and hope and strengthen our love for all God’s people.  The staff of the Benedictine Peace Center will add reflections occasionally to this page through the duration of the COVID 19 pandemic.

At the still point of the turning world. . .  T. S. Eliot


Benedictine Peace Center

Have mercy on me, God, have mercy

for in you my soul has taken refuge.

In the shadow of your wings I take refuge

till the storms of destruction pass by.  Ps. 57:1


Lord, you are my still point
in this churning, surging world.
You are my calm,
the peaceful center of the swirling storm.
You are the strong, sheltering wings
shielding me from the destructive storm.

Gracious God,
gather us together in your protecting love.
Shelter us from the raging turmoil.
Calm our fears in your stillness.
Encourage us with your faithful care.
Empower us as you send us forth
to join the flow of life once more.
Through us bathe the world with your peace.

 Penny Bingham, OSB, July 10, 2020

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Reasons to Hope

Blessed be the LORD, marvelously he showed to me
his mercy in a fortified city.
Though I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your eyes.”
Yet you heard my voice, my cry for mercy,
when I pleaded with you for help.
Love the LORD, all you who are faithful to him.
The LORD protects the loyal,
but repays the arrogant in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all who hope in the LORD.
Psalm 31:22-25

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul –
and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.
Emily Dickinson

Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too,
can be given to one only by other human beings.
Elie Wiesel

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you
for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear . . .
1 Peter 3:15-16

S. Mary Jo Polak OSB

Let Nothing Disturb You?


The Faithfulness of the Cottonwood 


Winter’s sleeping barren branches

stretch across the May-blue sky.

Slowly, traces of green tatting appear amid the brown.

Each day more spring-green lace emerges,

uniting the once-bare branches

into a dancing chorus of new life.

With its fresh, rustling leaves

the cottonwood sings in praise

of resurrection hope

and God’s faithful love.  


Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the LORD.  Ps. 31:25

S. Penny Bingham OSB 


Click on the + icons below to toggle open these earlier reflections. 



Wisdom from an Earlier Plague, by S. Mary Jo Polak, OSB

Many of us are familiar with the quote from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well . . .” used here with a photo taken from the fourth floor balcony of the monastery.

It is easy to think of her in a safe anchor hold saying those words.  However, besides her own sickness at the age of 30, she lived at a time when the Black Death ravaged Norwich with outbreaks in 1348-9, in 1361 and again in 1369.  It is estimated that half of the city may have died; it is likely that she lost family members. 

She also lived in an era of violence.  Because of Norwich’s proximity to the coast of England, the townspeople lived in fear of invasion by France during the course of the Hundred Year’s War (1337- 1453).  The Peasant’s Revolt occurred in 1381.   Those adhering to the Lollard heresy were publicly executed by burning in Norwich, close enough that Julian could have smelled the burning bodies. The Church was plagued too, with schism — there were anti-popes 1378-1414. 

It is no wonder that her advice, needed by the people of Norwich, are so comforting for us today.  We can meditate with this consoling passage from Chapter iv of Showings, short text.

 . . .  our Lord showed me a spiritual sight of his familiar love.   I saw that he is to us everything which is good and comforting for our help.  He is our clothing, for he is that love which wraps and enfolds us, embraces us and guides us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us.  And so in this sight I saw truly that he is everything which is good, as I understand.

In the middle of a conundrum, this suffering, let us do spiritual self-care and remember God’s love.  God enfolds us in the midst of this reality. 

We experience a tension between that love of God and our human situation.  Both are real, very real.  How do we hold the tension?  How do I entrust myself to God in the midst of this suffering?  How do I get in touch with God’s love to sustain me in this struggle? 

The suffering of life surrounds us; let us also soak ourselves in the compassion of God.

S. Mary Jo Polak OSB

Energizing Quotes & Invitation, by S. Jeanne Ranek, OSB

 Energizing Quotes & Invitation, by S. Jeanne Ranek, OSB


Benedictine Peace Center online group

There will be something, anguish or elation,
that is peculiar to this day alone.  I rise from
sleep and say: Hail to the morning! Come
down to me, my beautiful unknown.

Jessica Powers

 “It may be that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Wendell Berry, Collected Poems

 “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Joseph Campbell  

S. Jeanne Ranek OSB

Sabbath Wondering, by S. Penny Bingham OSB


“…during the seventh year the land shall have a complete rest, a sabbath for the Lord…The fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you, when every one of you shall return to his own property…”   Lv 25: 4, 10

I walk our grounds these days of social distancing,
   aware of the decreased whirring of traffic nearby,Benedictine Peace Center online group
   missing the energy of students on campus.

Our monastery home
   feels more like a cloistered community these days,
   without the presence of guests and those who join us for prayer.

I wonder…
Could this time of sheltering-in-place
    become for us a time of sabbath, of jubilee, of release?

Perhaps it calls us to live more essentially –
    –foregoing our regular schedule of work and study,
         to create and learn differently;
    –offering up the many casual interactions,
         to savor fewer, more meaningful conversations;
   –observing times of quiet reflection,
         praying for the desperate needs of our world;
   –sharing from our pantry with neighbors in need
         and receiving the kindness of others;
   –letting go of petty quarrels and hurts,
         amid this global experience of threatened health and life;
   –extending an open heart of forgiveness,
         aware of our need of the same;
   –giving our Mother Earth a sabbath rest,
        as we ease pollution and lighten our carbon footprint;
   –expressing gratitude for the courage and compassion of so many,
        while ever thankful for God’s loving presence among us.


An Easter Reflection, by S. Doris Oberembt OSB

Benedictine Peace Center Easter reflection

Mary Magdalene sat at the tomb of Jesus filled with deep sorrow, loss and even impending despair,  but she refused to let go of hope, if she could just see him once more!

Where have they laid him?

Spend some time being present with the image.  As you reflect on the image:

  • What feelings surface for you?
  • When have you known such grief and sorrow in your life?
  • What “angels” brought you hope?
  • How have you too experienced new life from that experience?


A Prayer for our Journey, by S. Mary Jo Polak OSB

Benedictine Peace Center prayer

Creator God,

you are always calling us into more abundant life,
during our earthly pilgrimage,
and finally into the fullness of joy in your presence

Although we don’t understand your ways,
we trust that in your loving kindness, you can draw good out of evil.
You will teach us how to be more loving, compassionate, and trusting
as we walk our own way of the cross, in whatever form it befalls us.
When circumstances challenge and disorient us,
remind us that You alone are our the goal of our journey,
the true north of our spiritual compass.

Give us courage and strength for our life journey;
may we walk forward in faith knowing that you are walking with us.
Help us treat our companions on the journey with compassion;
help us to forgive those who have caused us suffering.

Remembering the example of heroes of past crises
and those who are giving themselves for others today,
we ask for the prayerful help of all the Saints
and our family saints who have walked this way before us.
We pray all these things in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

God is With Us, by S. Penny Bingham OSB


benedictine peace retreat center

These are new, challenging days for all of us as our global community is threatened by the coronavirus.  We each face disruption of our normal ways of being with others and of our routine of work, family life, and worship.  In varying degrees we may be feeling isolated, lonely, fearful, despairing.  In this chaotic, bewildering time echoes a word, the Word — Emmanuel.  God is with us.  (Isa 7:14, Mt. 1:23)

Emmanuel:  God is with us.  This Word offers us reassurance that, yes, our Creator God knows what we are experiencing – and lives it with us.  God is among us, caring for our needs through others’ kindness.  God is with us in our loneliness and isolation, as a concerned family member connects by phone or e-mail.  God is among us, caring for those who are ill through the exhausted hands of nurses, aides, and doctors.  God is with us tending our grief for those who have died through our neighbors and family who comfort us, even from a distance.  God is with us in our efforts to learn at home, as teachers adapt to new ways to engage us.  God is with us in our need, as strangers deliver meals and groceries and prescriptions to our door.   God is among us when we long to gather in prayer and worship with others, as pastors and spiritual guides offer us prayerful support and ways to connect virtually.

Emmanuel:  God is with us.  This Word reassures us, yes.  It also challenges us.  It challenges us to be the channel of God’s presence to another person today.  It calls us to be the way that God accompanies our family and neighbors, even if physically separated from them.  It summons us to extend God’s loving care by reaching out to someone in need of kindness.  It empowers us to be the visible reminder of God’s love and compassion for every person.

Friends, Emmanuel:  God is with us.  So let us be for others.  So let us be with others.

In Communion — We Are One, by S. Jeanne Ranek OSB

Thomas Merton once wrote, “We are one, but we don’t know it.”   Perhaps the pandemic crisis can serve to heighten our awareness of the profound reality that we are one, the Body of Christ, bonded by our care for all we are suffering, endangered, or frightened today.

retreat center reflectionsWe speak of “social distancing.”   Might we actually be called to deeper bonding socially and spiritually as we conscientiously practice “physical distancing”?   Our new bishop in the Diocese of Sioux Falls speaks of “spiritual communion.”   Friends, it is real.  Let’s be mindful of a spiritual communion that cannot be severed by a virus.

Most Christians are unable to worship together, to celebrate Eucharist gathered in churches  The Holy Spirit is not bound by space, and in the Spirit we can know that we are one– one in love and compassion and spiritual communion.

May you and all your loved ones be well and come to a greater awareness of God’s undaunted love for us in good times and in times like ours.

We at the Benedictine Peace Center hold all of you in prayer and invite you to join us spiritually in a powerful, prayerful intervention as we bond with all the suffering and all caregivers worldwide today..


Benedictine Sisters
Sacred Heart Monastery
1005 W. 8th St.
Yankton, SD 57078

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