This original painting of candles by artist and Oblate Matt Ambre, was used for the worship aid of the Taize Prayer Service held at St. Scholastica Monastery on March 6.
Benedictine Oblates organize Taize Prayer and many others share their talents and creations as they cope with coronavirus.
Oblates Maureen Kaucher and Paula Kowalkowski with the guidance of Sister Pat Coughlin, OSB hosted the very first Taize Prayer Service at St. Scholastica Monastery on March 6th, a week before the "shelter-in-place" was implemented in Illinois to slow the spread of COVID-19 (aka coronavirus). Read more about this prayer service and how many other talented Oblates of St. Scholastica Monastery have been creative as they cope with this global pandemic from their homes during Lent.
Sister Pat describes the evening like this:
"On March 6, in the bleakness of a late winter evening about 70 people gathered in the St. Scholastica Chapel to participate in a Taize prayer service. In the semi-darkness they listened to scripture and a reflection on the scripture. Accompanied by live musicians, they sang the beautiful chants composed by the monastic community of Taize in eastern France. The light from a single candle traveled through the congregation until the candles held by each person in the assembly were lit. Then the participants processed to the front of the chapel and placed the lighted candles in containers filled with sand. They then sat in meditative silence as their candles illuminated the darkness. A number of people remained after the closing chant to sit in the silence for a while longer."
When asked about the experience of planning and participating in the Taize Prayer Service, Oblate Paula Kowalkowski shared:
"It was a joy to work on this first Taize service for the Monastery! It was truly a collaborative and creative labor of love between oblates and the sisters. Our hope is to offer several services throughout the year. "
Oblate and SSA Chicago Alumna Maureen Kaucher reflects:
"There was a special prayerful and peaceful feeling in the air that night. The chapel holds a special place in my heart, and it was a joy to be able to bring the prayers, music, candlelighting, and the people together. Paula's reflection was touching and relatable. It was very exciting because there were a number of new people who came that evening, and I think they may have been initially introduced through Judith Valente's talk. And people stayed afterward...to continue the peaceful feeling in such a beautiful place."
Oblates who took part in the service and volunteered to give help and support were: Georgianne Ellis, Maureen Martin, Kathy Riordan, Kathlyn Meyers, Nancy Liabiak, Dan Raven and Mickey Smith. Benedictine Sisters Judith Murphy, Patricia Cielinski, Rita Nowak, Judith Zonsius, Johnette Sawyer, Benita Coffey and Mary Melady provided help in a variety of ways. Singers were Susanne Santos and Paula Kowalkowski. Instrumentalists were Linda Baggerly, cellist; Sandra Korelc flautist; and Maureen Kaucher, piano. Oblate Matthew Ambre created the program illustration. Siobhan O'Neill Meluso provided publicity.
The Benedictine Sisters would like to invite the public to future Taize prayer services. Look for notices of upcoming services on our website and social media channels.
Here We Are, Lord
By Oblate Abbey Algiene
Broken/chipped/shattered/pieces missing... My pot fell/pieces all over. I attempt to repair my pot... I do not know how/where to start. When it dawned upon me, O Lord... Here we are, Now, Your Universe... Broken/chipped/shattered/ripped to shreds... Much like my broken pottery. We have been this way long before... Covid-19, that's the real truth! We do not know how/where to start... Lies upon Lies...covering LIES! What selfish, sniveling Stench... Sanctimonious bunch of Stinks! We are sick, sad, and spongy Snails... Stealing/stopping/stooping so low! Skimming across the Earth's surface, Never caring/Never sharing! Always taking, Always making Messes! Major/malicious ones! We never cared to look too deep... It did not concern us at all. Who did What to Whom... Not to us, Lies upon Lies covering LIES! We left fragment chips/footprints... All over Earth's surface/its bones... All over its people/its heart! Trampling it/baring its soul...SIGH! Breaking its foundation...How? Why? We left You a long time ago, O Dear Precious Lord... Left You Out! Out of our lives/our decisions, We left you...OUT OF OUR FUTURE! Now, here we are, O Precious Lord... Praying that it is not too late! So many have been affected... So many are dying or dead... So many crying out for help... Asking for forgiveness/pleading... Praying that it's not too late, O Lord! Here we are, Lord, Your Universe... Please, save us from ourselves, O Lord! You are the Potter, Precious Lord... If it's your will, it WILL BE DONE.
Oblate Regina Wilson offers a reflection on the Fifth Sunday of Lent Today we are invited into one of the most provocative, challenging, and profoundly life-giving stories of our Christian faith. We are stuck and isolated in our homes which may seem now like tombs of boredom or despair. Yesterday, from a distance, I spoke with a young woman who is self-isolating in her apartment, alone because she is single, while she awaits the result of a coronavirus test. She wept in frustration and loneliness. Death enters our lives in many ways: loneliness, fear, isolation. Some have lost jobs. Some are experiencing the loss of friends and family in death. Some are dying alone. I am always very touched by Martha and Mary who approach Jesus, their friend with their raw honesty and grief: “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Their poured-out sorrow shared so openly with Jesus calls to mind my own pleas at times in my life: Lord, where are you, if only you were here things would be different! Jesus, their good friend, understands their grief but he also sees that they still have not come to understand what he has been sharing with them every step of the way; that the person in front of them is not just a miracle worker, but that he is the very presence of life, itself. So he invites them to the tomb and raises up Lazarus. Lazarus earthly life is restored. But he lives to die again. Jesus gives us this sign to remind us that he is not the one who merely raises up life from the dead but he is the one who gives life. And this life is of a different kind and quality and it permeates everything. He lives and everything lives. Because Jesus is one with the Father, Christ reveals God’s given life which not defined and overshadowed by death but it is a life that penetrates and shapes every moment, even death....and our smaller deaths. He lives and everything lives now and into the future. We have been given the spirit of God from the beginning of time; Christ is the eruption of his life fully into our own lives. And when we walk by the light of this truth, we do not stumble, even through the hardest of times. Even unto death. But there is one more point that can be made: Later in John’s gospel Jesus prays this to the Father: The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me, completely one....so that the world may know that you have loved them even as you have loved me.” We, too, are the signs and bringers of life to those around us because we are one with Christ and the Father. What Christ does we can do, what Christ is, we are for the life of the world. In union with our God, then, to whom shall we say, “Lazarus come out?” To whom shall we proclaim by our lives: God will open your graves and have you rise from them? Although God’s life and presence can be obscured by what we are experiencing, our belief gives us eyes to see what is deeply true. Do we have eyes to see, and lips to proclaim that in every death God lives, from every grave God pulls out, in every dark moment, destroyed plan, disappointment, turmoil and in every perceived end, God is, forever and ever. because he lives. None of what seems like the end, the ultimate challenge stops God’s life from enduring. The poet Christian Wimen wrote: “Christ’s life is not simply a model for how to live; but the living truth of my own existence. Christ is not alive now because he rose from the dead two thousand years ago. He rose from the dead two thousand years ago because he is alive right now.”(1) And it is all given to us to share with the world.
(1) Christian Wimen, My Bright Abyss (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), 155, quoted in Robert P Imbelli, Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations for the New Evangelization (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2014), 93.
Could God be calling me to become an Oblate?
Yes! God calls each of us to something special. Perhaps God is calling you to this particular way of life. If you are interested in learning more, contact Sister Benita Coffey, Director of Oblates, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773.764.2413 x327.
Learn more here: www.osbchicago.org/oblates