Tuesday, March 31, 2015

REPROACHES of THE PASSION Set 4: You Handed me over to the Chief Priests and Pilate

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.

  1. I led you out of Egypt, overwhelming Pharaoh in the Red Sea; you have delivered me to your high priests. (Reproach #5)
  2. I went before you in a pillar of cloud; you have led me to the judgment hall of Pilate. (Reproach #7)

What was the Sin of the chief priests? It is not that they were priests - that was a special calling to minister in the temple of the Lord. In a way, they were to mediate between God and the people. That was not a sin. The problem with the chief priests of Jesus’ time was that they were liars; they gave lip service to God, but did not really seek His will; they dictated the law to others without actually living it themselves; they were, as Jesus pointed out, “Hypocrites and Unmarked Tombs.” They replaced the Pillar of cloud with their own judgment. Like Pilate, they were after self preservation and self righteousness instead of seeking to listen to God’s voice and follow in his ways.
Before we start pointing fingers at the “ordained priests” of our time, let me just remind all of us that by virtue of our baptism, we have been incorporated into the Royal Priesthood of Jesus. We are priests too, so maybe we are guilty of the sin of the Chief Priests in our day: we sit in judgment over others, yet we are guilty of the same charges we bring against them; we look so pious, yet we are very poor Christians; we appear very devout, but we are divorced from Christ; we keep the commandments, but we are cold and unsympathetic towards others.

Therefore, from the Cross, the Savior says to us: I went before you because I wanted to be your leader. I want you to follow Me, not the other way round. I want to light up your way with the radiance of My cross. I want to teach you the truth which will set you free. I want you to live your life for Me. I want you to be true to your calling to share in My Royal Priesthood. I want you to lead others to Me, to be a light for those in darkness, a guide for the blind, encouragement to the faint-hearted. I am the Crucified Savior because I chose the Cross. I want you to accept me as such, and help others find Me.

Monday, March 30, 2015

REPROACHES of THE PASSION Set 3: You handed Me over to be scourged

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me. 

For your sake, I scourged your captors, and you have brought your scourges down upon Me.

The 10 plagues inflicted on the Egyptians before the Exodus was God's way of saying to Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and the Israelites: I AM THE LORD! Thanks to their hardness of heart, none of them really got the message. The Jewish people forgot the significance of those plagues. Hence the Crucified Savior complains about that:

The freed people became the persecutors; they held the Son of God in bondage and would not let Him go, even when Pilate (a pagan) tried to set Him free. They delivered their Savior to the scourges of the Romans (pagan people); like Pharaoh, they had hardened their hearts to the Voice of God in their midst. In Egypt, on the first Passover, God spared His people from the scourges he inflicted on the Egyptians; on this Passover, God did not spare His only Son from the Scourges. Jesus is the lamb without blemish, whose sacrificial blood saves us from captivity to sin.

From the Cross, the Savior says to us: See My broken flesh. I received these scourges for you; I didn't have to endure them, but I chose to for your sake. I did not lay aside My mission in order to appease the leaders and the elite of My time, and neither should you; I did not hide My identity just so I could get along with others and have a long life, and neither should you; I did not take the easy way out, and neither should you. I did not compromise my values and principles just so I don't offend others, and neither should you. Every time you fail to stand up for Me, you deal a fresh round of scourges on My already torn flesh.

Abby in the Abbey: Holy Week

Hi everyone!  It looks like it is time for me to write again!  The Sisters told me that this week is a very special week for everyone because it is called “Holy Week”.  I don’t really know what that means except that the Sisters get more serious and they pray even more than usual.  
Sr. K said that I have to be alone more during this week because they will be in the chapel pretty often and since I am not allowed there I have to be patient and wait for them.  
I was thinking…maybe that is what Holy Week is about…something called “patient waiting”.  Sr. K says that Jesus tried so hard to tell His message about forgiveness and being patient with each other but most people didn’t understand Him and didn’t want to understand either!  
Just like us dogs we want what we want and we want it now!  Us dogs have to wait until someone gets around to giving us what we want, but with people, they can kind of make their own decisions about being patient with things in their lives.  
So, the Sisters are patiently waiting for the Resurrection this coming Easter Sunday.  I only understand that I have to wait with them for all the good things that come with the Resurrection and lend a supporting paw when someone needs it.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

REPROACHES of THE PASSION Set 2: You Gave Me Vinegar to Drink

O my People, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me. 

I planted you as my most fair vine, but you yielded only bitterness; when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink, and you pierced your Savior’s side with a lance. 
I gave you the water of salvation to drink from the rock; you have given me gall and vinegar to drink. (Reproach #9)

The Prophet Isaiah vividly describes Israel as the vineyard of the Lord. God has done so much; he has done all he could for his vineyard. His complaint? He did not get the expected fruits: instead of choice wine, he got bitter vines. (See Isaiah 5:1-6). The people became complacent lovers, too sure of God’s love; they took so much for granted; they did not produce the expected fruits. What has this to do with the Passion of Christ?

We are the new Israel, the Lord’s vineyard. With the Passion of Christ, there is nothing that God could do for us that He hasn’t done. He practically gave his own life! “What more could I have done for my vineyard that I haven’t done?” is a very legitimate question. On the lips of the dying Savior the Church places this complaint against us who are lukewarm, indifferent and fickle: what more could I have done for you that I didn’t do? 

Love is meant to be reciprocated; love is only love when it is shared; a loving relationship is a give and take relationship. The Lord has lavished his unconditional love on us, his vineyard, but he comes looking for fruit. When he is thirsty, he hopes we will quench his longing; It is not enough for us to be branches on the Vine; we must do our part and bring forth good fruit. It is not easy to be a Christian, for like the Vine stretched out on the wood of the Cross, we must be willing to stretch ourselves out on the Vine; we must give of ourselves. 

There is no Christian without the Cross of Christ. And thus from the cross Christ says to us: You are my choicest vine; I have planted you, watered you, fenced you, nourished you; provided for all your needs. I come to you thirsty and hungry; would you quench my thirst with the best of your wine? will you feed me with the best of your fruit? You are not alone; you are part of me, and if you let me, I will make of you the best wine and the best fruit. I thirst, not for cheap wine or vinegar, but for you my best wine.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

REPROACHES #1 & #2: You Prepared a Cross for your Savior

My People, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!

  1. I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Savior to the Cross.

  1. Forty years I led you safely through the desert; I fed you manna from heaven, and led you into a land of plenty, but you led your Savior to the Cross.

The memory of the Exodus was never to be forgotten by the Chosen People; they were to pass it on to future generations; At the last supper, Jesus asks his apostles to preserve the memory of this particular Passover. As the new chosen people, we are to eternally remember the Paschal Mystery. From the cross, Jesus says to us:

Will you forget this moment? will you forget what I freely chose to do in order to redeem you for God; You prepared the cross for me, but I chose to accept it. I did it all for love. I did it for you, that generations to come might hear and remember. I freed you from slavery in Egypt, I provided for all your needs during the forty years in the desert; you did not lack anything, because I was your Savior. Yet you bound My hands and feet in shackles and led Me to be crucified.

In the desert, I kept you safe; I fed you and nourished you; I brought you into a bountiful land; I gave all this to you because you are my people. I had chosen you in love to be mine among all the peoples of the earth. How did you repay me?

You led Me to the cross, I your Savior who stood by you even when you turned away from Me. You rejected Me; you gave Me the cross, a symbol of slavery and shame. But I turned it into a symbol of victory and power, so that you will not forget. In your wanderings, remember to seek me. When you seek me you will find me where you put me - on the Cross.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Holy Week Reflections

The Mother Church places a lot of drama in the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday. You get all those symbols that remind us of the significance of the events of that first Good Friday: the bare altar, the empty tabernacle, covered crucifix and statues, silent entrance, absence of lights or incense, the clergy prostrating themselves before the altar, the veneration of the cross, and if you are lucky and if your church does this, you get to listen to the PLAINTS OF THE PASSION or the REPROACHES during the veneration of the Cross.

What are the REPROACHES? I love these versicles as they wrap up the connection between what happened to Christ during his passion and what the Lord did for his people in delivering them from Egypt and leading them into the Promised Land. These are the rebukes against mankind which the liturgy of Good Friday places on the lips of the Savior. Sung in plain chant, these reproaches call us to mind the deeper meaning of this "second" liberation.

Over the next 7 days we will be reflecting on these reproaches as one way of responding to Christ's plea: Watch and Pray With Me. 

The Text:

My People, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer Me

  1. Because I led thee from Egypt, you have prepared a Cross for your Savior
  2. Because I led thee for forty years through the desert, fed thee with manna, and brought thee into a land of plenty, you have prepared a Cross for your Savior. 
  3. I planted you as my most fair vine, but you yielded only bitterness; when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink and you pierced your Savior's side with a lance. 
  4. For your sake I scourged Egypt and their firstborn sons; you gave me over to be scourged
  5. I led you out of Egypt, overwhelming Pharaoh in the Red Sea; you have delivered me to the chief priests.
  6. I opened the sea before you; you opened my side with a lance.
  7. I went before you in a pillar of cloud; you have led me to the judgment hall of Pilate.
  8. I fed you with manna in the desert; you have struck me with blows and scourges.
  9. I gave you the water of salvation to drink from the rock; you have given me gall and vinegar to drink. 
  10. For you I struck down the kings of Canaan; you have struck my head with a reed.
  11. I gave you a royal scepter; you have given me a crown of thorns.
  12. with great power I lifted you up; you have hung me on the Cross. 
My People, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meet Our Sisters: Sr. Josephine Ewertz, OSB

(Meet Our Sisters will be a Blog Series to get to know our Sisters from the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Norfolk, NE. Each month we will feature a new Sister and her journey to become a Missionary Benedictine Sister.)
Place of Birth: Kansas, USA
Date of First Profession: November 17, 1947
Date of Final Profession: December 12, 1950
Feast Day: March 19 (Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary)
I was born and raised in Central Kansas on a wheat and animal farm rented by my Dad. We were a family of 7 – 2 boys and 3 girls. Our lives centered around farm work and fun, the parish school and church activities and our relatives who all lived nearby (9 Aunties and 9 Uncles and their families).
I always said from first grade on that I would be a nun like our school teachers and 3 aunts who were Precious Blood nuns. As a teenager I became more interested in nuns who were foreign missionaries but reluctant to leave the farm and family I put off entering till 3 years after High School by getting a job in the city. When I finally found the small ad in the Sunday Visitor of the Missionary Benedictines who said they can use all the different talents in the missions. A couple letters settles everything and in less than a month I was on the train to Norfolk. In those days there were many years to shift to a new level in the strict convent discipline. After the homesickness finally wore off religious life of a missionary became very challenging, interesting and enjoyable.
When hardships came, I recalled what one novitiate teacher told us: you will never out-do God in generosity. I am very thankful for all the challenges the convent life required of me and the support I always received in good and trying times. I agree with Luke 6:38 – God gives back what we give, pressed down, shaken together, running over.
I am very grateful for my experience in the hospital kitchen, 7 years in teaching primary children, 33 years for garden and grounds work in my retirement years. That in all things God may be glorified.

Monday, March 9, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Ndanda Priory

In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.

February 2, 1895 Fr. Maurus Hartmenn together with two brothers and Sr. Birgitta Korff, Sr. Klara Essmann, Sr. Afra Gillot, Sr. Bernardine Hefele opened the first mission station in Lukuledi, Tanganyika Inland. Sr Birgitta was elected first Prioress General of the Sisters’ Congregation in the same year and had to leave soon.

In 1898 the community of Sisters was transferred to Nyangao due to shortage of water: Sr. Walburga Diepolder, Sr Hiltrudies Herz and Sr Viola Albrecht. Their house of sun burned bricks survived the destruction of the mission during the Maji Maji Uprising. Our Sisters are still living in the oldest house of the Congregation.

August 29, 1905 the warriors of the Maji Maji war stormed the Nyangao mission and burned down all buildings. All missionaries took flight into the bush in order to reach Lindi at the coast. Sr. Bernardine Hefele, Sr. Walburga Diepolder, Sr. Avia Marschner and Sr. Helena Lettner were together with some orphan children. Sr Walburga prayed loud: “Beloved Jesus, take my life, save the others!” as Sr. Bernhardine reports. Sr. Walburga was wounded in the waist and could not follow. She was killed together with some orphans. Only part of her red belt and her Rule of Benedict were found at the site of her death, not her body. These relics are now in the archives in Rome.

September 14, 1908 The Ndanda Sisters Convent was opened with Sr. Bernardine Hefele,; Sr. Helena Lettner; Sr. Hieronyma Holtkamp, Sr. Hedwig Hirschberg, Sr. Evangelista Engelns  and Sr. Candida Eisele. The Sisters were engaged in caring for the sick, giving education to girls, managing all the domestic chores for the monks.

In 1912 the leper colony was started in nearby Mwena. The management was given to the Sisters by the monks. Later on Sr Lia Schwarzmueller became famous with her care for the lepers for 55 years.

In 1926 Sr. Dr. Tekla Stinnesbeck arrived, the first medical doctor in our Congregation. She founded the St. Benedict Hospital in Ndanda in 1927 and started soon a network of health stations in a wide area and training of African nurses and midwives. Her last foundation was Nyangao St. Walburg’s Hospital, where she died in 1962.

In April 1935 Ndanda was raised to a Priory. The first Prioress was Sr. Bernardine Hefele.

1928-1944 the Hospital in Ndanda was built and expanded, run by Missionary Benedictine Sisters, working as doctors and nurses. A Nursing School was added. In 1939 the Opening of the Girls’ Middle School was a big step forward for women to take responsibility as educated persons. 1941 Nyangao was reopened again.

1942 – 46 Missionaries were deported during World War II. The Sister Nurses, a cook and the old sisters were allowed to stay to care for the soldiers. After the war new Sisters came and opened new stations closer to the coastal Islamic area: in Mtua, Kilimarondo, Mnero, Nkowe, Lindi.: They served the sick, in Schools, Kindergarten and did pastoral work.

Tanzanian young women wanted to enter religious life and our Sisters were asked to help with the foundation of a diocesan congregation. The Congregation of African Benedictine Sisters of our Lady Help of Christians was approved in 1946 and has now more than 300 sisters.

In spite of being a very small priory the Sisters have trusted in the Lord to make bold steps for new apostolates, new stations and towards more self-reliance. Much emphasis was given again to the education of young women.

As of January 2015 Ndanda has 27 professed sisters, 13 junior sisters, 9 novices, 11 postulants. Today we are serving the Lord and the people in the following places:

Ndanda Priory House
Novitiate, care for our old sisters
In St Benedict Hospital as nurses
Pastoral and social work, care for lepers
Agriculture, Family Life Apostolate
St. Agnes Convent Nyangao
St. Walburg’s Hospital
Pastoral work
Care for the poor and lepers

St.  Scholastica Convent Mtwara
Health Centre with Maternity, X-ray and in-patients
Stella Maris Hostel for 200 female students
St Michael Education Centre with kindergarten established and a primary school in planning
St. Tekla Convent Mtwara
Aquinas School with secondary and high school for girls and boys
Hostels for girls and boys

Sacred Heart Convent in Kabuhima, Kahama Diocese
Area of fervent first evangelization
Pastoral work, primary school and 4 kindergarten
School apostolate, agriculture

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Here I am again checking in with everyone now that Lent has started. I’m trying very hard to be a better dog by not bothering the guests and by not barking so much.  I try and try, but then something comes up and distracts me and I do the stuff I said I would not be doing!  Sr. K said that St. Paul talks about that too in one of his letters….”why do I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I should do?” or something like that.  Sounds kind of complicated to me, but at any rate I am doing my best. 
I think that is the best thing anyway.  Give it your best in everything you do.  Try hard not to make mistakes even if you know it will happen.  Us dogs know that already, but since we are able to give unconditional love even when people hurt us that may be an example that people could take from us?  Just a thought. 
Did you know that there are people out there trying to help dogs and cats from being hurt?  Sr. K says that there will soon be a place where they can go to get help and she and some other nice people are working hard to make that happen.  I think she calls it a “shelter”.  If you all would please pray that they can finish this “shelter” that would be awesome.  They are a little short of money (whatever that is) but they have something called “faith” and I have a feeling that “faith” is a very, very good thing to have!
Till next time...