Why Pray? To Tend your Divine Relationship

queen annes lace

When St. Paul counsels us to “pray constantly,” or the Catholic Catechism calls prayer a “vital necessity,” even a good Christian might be forgiven for asking, “Why?”

Why is it necessary at all, if we believe that God knows our thoughts, loves us thoroughly and gives us all that we need?

That is, the sun will still rise, beauty will still overspread the land, suffering will still occur.

So why pray?

The poet Mary Oliver says, How to keep warm/is always a problem,/isn’t it?/Of course, there’s love./And there’s prayer.

And keeping warm – keeping our intentional relationship with God warm and alive, that is – may be the real point. Continue Reading

Where fear gives way to faith

heron for fb

By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB

For many Christians, Christmas and Easter are fairly simple to  understand.

We know the Bethlehem story. We love gift giving at Christmas. We work at understanding the crucifixion, burial and raising up of Jesus on Easter Sunday. We “get it.”

But a bird with wings settling on the heads of the Apostles while they hide from the Jews?


Yet, that’s what we are taught on Pentecost. How can we assimilate this unlikely scenario into our faith?

First, let’s recognize we ALL struggle with understanding and faith. (“Lord help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24)

This bird is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, pure gift of God.

The Spirit called the Apostles to a new beginning, where fear gives way to faith, and timidity to bold proclamation.

The bird was a visible sign, as the wind, fire and earthquake were visible signs on Mt. Sinai when God shared the 10 Commandments.

God’s visible signs indicated Presence, Gift and Expectations throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Now, they invited the Apostles to become new people; new creation.

Other signs included the fact that they had gathered on the “first day of the week,” the day of a new creation and that the Risen Lord breathed on them as God first breathed life into creation.

Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Twice. In Hebrew, peace means more than the absence of conflict.  It suggest the fullness of life and  blessings.  This was God’s intended plan for creation.

Jesus again commanded forgiveness, the cornerstone of peace.

It seems God intended the dawning of a new age, one predicated on peace, and one for which we would be amply prepared, by virtue of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate Pentecost, how are you using the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord?

What are you doing to practice – and promote – peace?

Who have you forgiven?

How are you bringing about your own new beginning, where fear gives way to faith, and timidity to bold proclamation?

Part 6: Recognize the Risen One

pink wildflowers loud thunder

There’s lots of talk about resurrection this time of year, from the good news of the Easter story to what we witness outdoors in every new flower. But what does it really mean to us, in a practical way? The Catholic Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery collaborated on this 10-part answer to the question of How to Practice Resurrection Every Day. We will publish it in installments over the next couple of weeks!

We can now live a new life. – Romans 6:4

Letting God in is not always a straightforward affair. We don’t always recognize divine guidance. We are, as scripture repeatedly warns us, often blind.

Fortunately, God has ways of communicating with us in spite of our spiritual myopia, as Jesus’ friends discover after the Resurrection. Continue Reading

Eating Cookies, Drinking Coffee with “The Stranger”: 12 Years of Women’s Dialogue

receiving award for web and fbSister Catherine Cleary and her collaborators – Lisa Killinger (Muslim, above center) and Linda Golden (Jewish, above left)) – recently received a Human Rights Award sponsored by Church Women United for their work with the annual Muslim-Christian-Jewish Women’s Dialogue. Sr. Catherine’s remarks from the event follow:

I am filled with gratitude and surprise for this honor.

Our Muslim, Jewish and Christian gatherings have been such a gift and joy to me for the last 12 years that it never occurred to me that anyone would recognize them as worthy of an honor. Continue Reading

5th Sunday: Roll the stone away and untie yourself!

burial cross

By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB

John 11 tells the story of Lazarus. It offers a deeper look into the ministry, heart and prayer of Jesus.

Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, first send word that Jesus’s friend, Lazarus, is ill. This, Jesus ignores, telling his disciples, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

He waits until Lazarus dies to go.  Continue Reading

Wisdom Story #6: Listening for Wisdom


A retreatant reads on the Benet House hermitage patio at St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois.

Ask a Catholic Benedictine Sister for her wisdom, and she’s likely to tell you a story. Why?  Because wisdom comes through listening and being. This is the 6th story in our Wisdom Series.

Making decisions about major life changes can be tough. What’s best? How can we recognize the wisest path?

“Well, if you are asking the question you are a seeker, so you already have some wisdom,” Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB muses. Continue Reading