Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Monastery Bell Tower

Summer is a busy season, and we've all been running ragged doing all sorts of different things. So this weekend, happy to have a break, we all had a cookout on the patio in back. Brother Gus is doing much better, the skin graft went well, and he is no longer afraid of losing his hand. And apparently he's not afraid of losing his head, either!

I'll explain.

It was a nice evening, and we were a bit drowsy from the good food and the couple beers we consumed during the cookout. Brother Brit was home visiting his family, Father had to leave to go to the hospital, and Mother Frangelico was visiting the Hawthorne Dominicans' Cancer Home.

Suddenly Brother Gus shot straight out of his chair and said, "Let's explore!"

We all looked at him like he was nuts (which he is a lot of the time...that's what makes him so much fun!) He looked around as if to be sure no one would hear, and then came over to where Sr. Caprice and I were sitting, motioning for Sr. Maxine to come over, too.

He and I had spoken before of our "previous lives" and urban exploration...that's where you go around the city and "explore" old buildings and stuff. Lots of times we had permission, but we did a lot of this without permission, too, and that's really where it gets dangerous. But..it was what it was. And we don't do it anymore. But still, once you're bitten by that particular bug, it never really goes away! So he and I were talking about the bell tower, because that ol' bell has been silent for quite awhile.

We'd asked Father about it, but he said that he was told the old rope had long rotted away, although the bell is still there. He would also like to restore it, but was told by the previous caretaker that the door into the tower was rusted shut or they lost the key or something. He didn't consider it a prime issue so hasn't pursued it, and wouldn't tell us where the entrance is.

Well, Brother Gus served Mass this week, and had to walk around a hallway behind the sanctuary on some errand for Father. There was a closet there and as he rustled around looking for whatever Father needed, he backed into an old ladder. When he found the light switch, he saw that the ladder went through a hatch to the roof, so he climbed it and pushed the hatch open...onto a landing on top of the chapel! And there he saw the entrance, about 20 feet away, to the bell tower.

Just then he heard Father coming so he quickly closed the hatch and found what was needed, didn't say a word to Father about it.

So, this is predictable, so I'll just say it...he wanted us to all go and explore the tower. We brought a can of WD-40 with us, because he could see that the door was rusty, and he had a crow-bar, too. Sister Maxine was all for it, had a couple jars for "specimens" of her favorite crawlie-things, but Sister Caprice tried to talk us out of it.

We got to the tower and actually didn't have a problem opening the door. In fact, as soon as we pulled on it, the hinges fell off! So...well, we KNEW we'd be in trouble but figured that we might as well hang for going as far as we could!

Brother Gus went in first, and as Sr. Maxine was about to follow, we heard a yell. We looked over and THERE WAS BROTHER BRIT! He'd just gotten back and saw us on the roof from the side driveway...and wanted to warn us. But as soon as he saw we were about to go up, he climbed up too, and wanted to go. We were all pretty blown away by that...he's as straight as an arrow, but I'll say this; he's a stand-up guy and has an adventurous side, too!

The tower is pretty big, but the old lighting still worked, so we had no problem seeing. Sister Maxine was a little disappointed; although there were cobwebs, there weren't a ton of spiders around althouh she hoped to find some further up. Sister Caprice was terrified and, as Mother Frangelico would say, "Her eyes were big as saucers!"

DANG that girl is WHITE! She was all eyes and pale!

Anyway, she hung around the bottom for awhile, but Brother Brit talked her into climbing to the next level, and I helped her step over to the floor. The tower was about 7 stories or so, each a little narrower, but we all made it up. You should SEE the view! And we did find the old rope...it was rotten, what was left, but the bell seemed fine.

Then Brother Gus, in true fashion, pushed the bell and it rang SO LOUD we all thought we were going to be blasted over the side! I think my ears are STILL ringing!

Well, it was starting to get dark out so we climbed down, and we KNOW that we're going to pay for this. Even if they DIDN'T discover we were up there, our neighbors now know and we are SO going to hear about this!

We tried to put the old rusty door back on, but it wouldn't even stay. So...we're just hoping that by the time Father and Mother Frangelico find out about our urban explorations, well, they'll be too busy to be angry.

What are the odds of that, d'ya think?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sorry, We're Closed!

An abortion clinic opened up across the street from the Monestary about a month ago. When they first opened, we thought it was a group doctor's office - private practice. They seemed so nice. It only took us about 3 days to figure out WHAT was actually happening in the offices.

Mother Frangelico and Father had an emergency group meeting. Although we are still small, people-wise, we HAD to do something. We all decided to pray...pray often...pray hard. We also created an Adoration Chapel open 24x7. We went out into the neighborhood churches and asked for volunteers to schedule a Holy Hour. The hours that were open, the Sisters and Brothers filled, which is why you haven't heard from us in awhile. We have been working during the day and fill the open hours in the Chapel in between. We have been working, eating, sleeping, and praying constantly. Sr. Caprice and Sr. Perpetua managed the days/times. Brother Gus put his entire heart and soul into praying in the Chapel. One day I went into the Chapel and Brother Gus had his eyes fixated on the Eucharist. He was silently praying the Rosary as tears streamed down his face. I have never seen him so worked up - his entire body was praying.

The response we had from the neighborhood was phenomenal! Churches even brought Cenacle meetings to pray in the Chapel rather than their own Churches. Youth Groups came to pray for an hour! We even had many Priests and Religious come and say a Novena. God does provide!

Satan was defeated here! Just yesterday, we noticed that a sign was placed on the door. From what neighbors had said, the doctors received an eviction notice on Monday to vacate the premises by Friday. Wednesday, they were gone!
We will continue to pray for the aborted babies. Those poor souls!
We are also continuing to pray for the doctors, nurses, parents, grandparents, and any others who helped in any way with the abortions. They need our prayers the most.
Keep praying. They all need your prayers. Pray that they will experience God's great and wonderful mercy while they have a chance. We will continue the Novena to Our Lady and ask that she hold these precious little ones in her arms since they were not able to experience that love here on earth.

Monday, July 14, 2008


It's been almost a week since we've updated, and this afternoon, Mother Frangelico said to me, "For goodness' sake, at least go write SOMETHING!"

I think the summer heat and humidity is getting to all of us. Although the monastery is still pretty cool, there is no air conditioning or central air so on hot nights, we suffer. Thank goodness it's been a cool summer for the most part so far! But it's only mid-July, and it can get bad in a hurry up here!

Yes, for you southerners...we get your heat. Although even though we also get your humidity, we're close enough to Canada that the northern air often pushes the stream back down your way!

Anyway, I'd meant to tell you what happened on the Fourth! We all actually had invites to different places, and some of the same, so Mother Frangelico and Father told us to go ahead and accept our invites, although if we were going to all go to separate places at separate times, we'd have to arrange for rides. That wasn't a problem for any of us.

I went to spend time with friends at the parish we go to for Sunday Mass most frequently. They always have a family gathering and invite other friends, cook out, and it's just a good time. I knew some of the kids as they'd been at VBS, and some of the women had new babies so I got to hold them, and was happy to! They were so sweet!

But it made me sad, sort of. Because I was thinking that I'd always wanted to be a mother, and there I was holding a baby that would never be mine. They even emailed me some pictures of me holding their babies, and I look so happy with them. In one, she's grabbing my hair, in another, I'm holding the pacifier and the little boy is reaching for it....

I know that in choosing religious life I'm giving something up, and I'm giving up motherhood. I wonder if maybe I made the wrong decision? But then again, I haven't made any decisions.

I still like guys! I do!

But maybe I'll write about that later. Something happened that's a LOT more important and explaines some of our silence.

That night, we all actually met back at the monastery because we could watch the fireworks in the town from our "backyard", and it was wonderful...but for the mosquitos! For the rest of the weekend and week we were busy, so I'm skipping ahead to the latest news.

This weekend:

On Saturday, we had work to do, but in the evening we cooked out, and I actually had Sister Maxine prepare the vegetables. Because then all she had to do was cut them up and I had set out measuring cups and spoons and stuff for the olive oil to be used, and the quantities of things like garlic and chopped onion. She did a really good job!

Brother Brit actually handled the grill, we ladies just did the prep work. Brother Gus "took orders" and helped Brother Brit at the grill. We all really had a good time, and it is clear we all feel like we are all really a family!

Anyway, when dark fell, we had some firecrackers, several boxes. Brother Gus was in charge of those. He did mess around with them a bit, and used the light of the campfire to read some of the labels. Father told him NOT to do that, but he said he'd be fine, he just wanted to read the label. But just after he said that, as he was walking towards the fire with a box in his hands, he tripped and fell, almost landing in the fire himself!

The ENTIRE BOX hit the campfire, and what we didn't know was that it was stuff his family in Wisconsin had given him...stuff you can't get in Minnesota! Brother Gus's head was almost in the fire, and actually, when he landed, he DID touch a hot log and burned his hand TERRIBLY!

But it was like Father anticipated the entire thing. No sooner had Brother fallen then Father was there, and then Brother Brit jumped up, and they both DRAGGED Brother Gus away from the fire JUST BEFORE THE BOX EXPLODED!

Stuff went everywhere, and some coals landed on the OTHER boxes about 20 feet away! We ran away from the fire, Brother Gus was screaming...I won't tell you what his hand and arm looked like!

The city ordinance demands that a hoseline be near a campfire, and Sister Perpetua had grabbed it and started trying to put the fire out while I was running to get the first aid kit and Sister Maxine went to get ice. Mother Frangelico had a bucket of water also nearby, but things were SO out of control that she feared the monastery was in danger...the roof COULD catch fire, the trees could catch, the grass..it's been dry lately. She and Sister Perpetua had to leave the area...a hose wasn't enough against exploding things!

Mother Frangelico called 911, then ran to make sure they could come through the gate. And she asked for an ambulance for Brother Gus.

You would NOT believe the racket! Things exploding EVERYWHERE!

I was inside, in the livingroom with Brother Gus. I've been trained as an EMT and when I saw his hand, I was TERRIFIED because I could barely remember anything I ever learned, but Mother Frangelico was very calm and helped me remember just because she was calm and logical. Sister Maxine was trying to be helpful and brought butter and was about to put it on the burn but I really fast slapped her hand away and shouted at her not to do it.

(I'm sorry Sister Maxine...I was just excited, not angry, and I overrreacted!)

Anyway, Brother Gus was in TERRIBLE pain, and he was really scared, so Father was trying to keep him calm while Mother Frangelico and I took care of the burn. We had some saline solution and some gauze, so we wrapped it up and poured the saline over it, using a foot pan (the kind made for soaking feet) to catch any runoff. I saw that Brother Gus's hair was singed a little, but he was OK.

Mother sent Sister Maxine to let the Medics in and Brother Brit brought the firefighters back to the fire, which he'd been watching with Sister Perpetua. By then it was actually out, but poor Brother Gus!

The medics were really nice (and REALLY cute!), and one of them was about my age. (I actually think he was in my class back then...I can't remember his name...)

But they took Brother Gus to a local burn unit, and Father left, too, following in the car. We all told Brother Gus we'd be praying for him, and went to the chapel once the Fire Department had gone.

We are near to another church, and Father had called his friend there, and he came to pick us up and take us to the hosital to be with Brother Gus.

He is terribly burned and needed a skin graft, but won't lose any fingers. We are so thankful! What's so ironic is that he wasn't being goofy, he was being really careful and just was clumsy! I feel so bad for him!

But he'll be fine and everyone is helping him. Father spent a long time with him, and was home late, but I couldn't sleep so I was in the chapel. He came in, too, and I got up and sat next to him because I needed to tell him what Brother Gus had said to me. I thought maybe he talked to Father, too, but I wasn't sure.

So I told Father that Brother Gus was afraid, if he lost his hand, that he wouldn't be able to be a priest. And when he said that, I didn't know what to say because I didn't know! And I'd never thought of that before...to a priest, his hands are REALLY IMPORTANT! And I was suddenly so terrified for Brother Gus, to be eliminated from the priesthood because he was clumsy.

Father said he'd talk to Brother Gus, and that it might not even be an issue, and he told me not to worry about it. But I do!

Brother Gus is home now, came home today, and they have him on a lot of drugs so he's mostly just hanging out in the livingroom. We are all trying to keep him company. He's so used to just running around and doing stuff and it's so hard for him to have everything done for him.

Brother Gus might be a joker, but he's not lazy and so he feels really bad.

I hope he gets better soon!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our Little Miracle

It's only Tuesday and already we have had our first little miracle at VBS! Let me tell you about the day...

It all started early this morning when I listened to the radio weather report. Rain! Ugh! With all of the flooding we have had lately, we really did not need any more water...our chitlins were all ready soaked! And my class wanted to go for a picnic lunch on the grounds by the cemetary. Our lesson plan was about God's mercy and love and I thought it would be a great idea to pray for those who had died. And since Sr. Caprice worked our little fingers off getting the cemetery cleaned up, we needed to visit. There was a beautiful spot, right underneath the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to place our blanket.

The children came to VBS all heavy hearted, especially since they helped make the picnic lunches. The children brought in sandwiches, chips, vegetables, fruit, and other delectables. They knew how bad I was in the kitchen (I tried to make peanutbutter cookies for the class but no one would eat them since they were burnt - I told them they were fit for a king - burnt offerings. They did not like that joke!). *sigh*

The children were looking forward to our picnic but the rain continued. Then one of the students asked a wonderful question that made everything turn around...'why can't we pray about it?' Wow! What faith this youngster has! I can learn a lot from these children. Jesus did say that our hearts & faith need to be like those of children.

So, we prayed. Mother Frangelico brought in a statue that someone donated last week - a statue of the Infant of Prague. The children prayed to the Child Jesus to turn the grey sky, blue. It reminded me of the song 'You are my sunshine' however, I was thinking more of 'You are my Sonshine!'

Wouldn't you know it, God heard their prayers. About 11:30am, the clouds disappered and the sky was a bright shade of blue, the bluest I have ever seen. The sun was shining brightly as if to becon us outside. We took a plastic tarp, laid it on the ground then laid our blanket of that. It made the talk about God's mercy even better! It even seemed as if Jesus' Sacred Heart was beating happily with our discussion.

You ARE my Sonshine!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Faith, Hope, Love...the Greatest of these is Love

I finally have a few moments to sit down during my second round of VBS. As I reflected upon Mother Frangelico's chiding of my last VBS teaching, I thought how would I improve my next session, keeping with the program yet adding some of my 'love of life', so not to confuse the children. I really enjoyed reading their stories, and I know everyone here laughed because of the simplicity of the children, however, I would really feel bad if Father asked them about Noah and they told him that Noah's wife was Joan of Ark. Granted, Joan of Ark is a fantastic Saint and showed us how to fight for God and God's Laws, and Noah showed us how to be obedient to God's will, they did not live at the same time.

So the next VBS teaching was on love - the greatest gift of God. How was I going to teach about love? Did the children really know what love was? I prayed about this for a week. I decided to go out on a limb again (this limb may be getting a bit thin) and decided to ask the children what they knew about love before I started the lesson. I thought this would be a great way for me to understand where they were coming from and help them understand God's love.

What happened was quite unexpected! Not only did my children participate, but also children from other classes. All the teachers compiled the answers for your review.

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love." `- Rebecca - age 8

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth." - Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." - Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs." - Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired." - Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK." - Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss" - Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen." - Bobby - age 7

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate." - Nikka - age 6

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday." - Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." - Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore." - Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night." - Clare - age 6

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken." - Elaine-age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford." - Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day." - Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones." - Lauren - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." (what an image) - Karen - age 7

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross." - Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." - Jessica - age 8

I think we can learn a lot from some of these children! Their wisdom is beyond their years! What would happen if we took this wisdom to our work places? I think it would be a much happier world. What are your thoughts?

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Bible and the 4th of July!

So, like I started to comment in the post below, I've been reading Sr. Maxine's post over and over again this week, and I don't really see what the kids did that was so wrong? I thought Sister Maxine did a wonderful job. I mean, the kids learned about Jesus and Mary and the Magna Carta...what's wrong with that? The Magna Carta was a REALLY important document, although I didn't realize that Blessed Mother Mary said it before it was signed in the Medieval Age.

(I wonder if she knew Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot? And King Arthur? I know Mary fled from the Dragon but I can't find the Knights in Revelation...is there another word for "knight" in biblical terms?)

But of course, anyway, we'll all be obedient to what you say, Mother Frangelico. I guess maybe I'll also do what Father told me and read over the scriptures again. Earlier this week I went to talk to him because I know he's taught scripture, so I asked him about where to find the knights in Revelation, thinking maybe the Magna Carta was there.

I STILL don't understand why, when I ask questions, people start coughing and wiping their eyes! When I asked Father about these things this week, he started coughing and turned REALLY REALLY red and I handed him a kleenex when he started wiping his eyes. I was really worried about him and almost went to get Mother Frangelico because I thought maybe he was dying or something. I don't think Father was ever a smoker, but he sure was coughing like my Grandma used to, and she had Tuberculosis. Except that Father wasn't spitting up blood.

And Father is SO polite when he coughs, he always turns away; Grandma never did that, so we always wore HEPA masks when we were in her hospital room. I asked Father if I should go get Mother Frangelico, and he managed to say he was fine and it wasn't necessary, and just asked me to wait a minute. So I did, and when he finished coughing, his eyes were still watering but he told me that I should go over the scriptures Sister Maxine covered during VBS and read them for myself, and then maybe I'd see where the kids were wrong. But I'm just not SEEING it!

But maybe it's just that we've been so busy and every time I've had the chance to read, we've been interrupted by different things. Everyone is fine, Brother Brit has been in contact with the Dominicans (I think he's going to be a Dominican, and I'm so relieved that he doesn't have to leave the country. I think that he's going to be a really good priest, and a really good Spiritual Director. He already has his degree in Theology, so I think he only has like 4 years before he'll be a priest. Or maybe 3 years? I don't know how the Dominicans do it. Maybe it's longer because they aren't diocesan. And he's so nice!

And Sister Maxine has been looking at another VBS program, is gonig to help the Missionaries of Charity because they're running a program this next week. I'm going to help decorate and I'm in charge of the skit team, am practicing with them tomorrow. I used to love theatre.

Anyway, although there are communities Sr. Maxine wanted to visit this summer, some of them are on retreat or unavailable, and there are different reason's she's here, but it's cool because we're all in contact with local Sisters and even Brothers. I really like the Missionaries of Charity, but I'm taller than most of them. Which is strange, because I'm not very tall.

Sister Perpetua has been busy, too, doing the same things. Her hair is starting to grow out, and we can start to see her natural color. Mother Frangelico is refusing to let her color it. As it turns out, she's a redhead! It's a beautiful color! But no wonder she's so pale...her complexion is really natural but looks so much better with her red hair than with black!

Today we've been relaxing, and we had a barbeque in our courtyard area. Later we're going to watch the fireworks from a nearby park. Right now I'm SO stuffed! It's been a great day, and everyone is "home" and we're hoping others join our little community. There's all sorts of retreats and things planned over the summer, and we're helping to plan them and staff them. Brother Brit is speaking at a few of them, and he's run a lot of TEC retreats and stuff, so he's taught us a lot.

So, anyway, hopefully we'll be more active in the coming days, it's just been so crazy lately! Summer is a really busy time of year. Even though everything else is shut down, the Church is still really active!