Monday, December 5, 2011

Wonder and Thanks

     Autumn has passed too swiftly. It is my favorite season, though I enjoy them all. Marie commented on the fall colors, that even after the trees have shed their vibrant leaves and the sky has become paler, the shades of gold, brown and grey are tranquil and beautiful.

     Thanksgiving was celebrated for the first time without our oldest daughter. Emily and Jason made their first turkey together in Alabama, sweet newlyweds. Bobby, having experienced American Thanksgiving last year, looked forward to the feast. Alberto, our newest foreign exchange student from Mexico, learned anew our traditions. We have much for which to be thankful.

     The migratory flocks of geese have settled on our pond, honking and flapping, splash-running to take-off at the sight of our dogs, then circling and pitching in to land once again in spectacular fashion. It doesn't get old watching them.

     It seems that winter has already begun. Frost on the ground and ice patches on the road. Tonight the children will put out their shoes in the centuries-old tradition of St. Nicholas' Feast Day. My Austro-Hungarian grandparents also kept this tradition when my mother was a child. St. Nicholas' Feast Day is December 6th. The children will awaken to some chocolate gold coins and a few little gifts, and we'll celebrate the generosity of St. Nicholas of Myra.

     St. Nicholas was born in the third century to a wealthy family in what was then Greece, now Turkey. He was orphaned in childhood and dedicated his life and inheritance to helping the unfortunate. Upon hearing about the daughters of  a local poor man who were to be seized and sold into prostitution to pay a debt, St. Nicholas tossed three bags of gold down the man's chimney in the dark of night. The man was able to pay his debt and his daughters were saved. St. Nicholas was said to be present at the Council of Nicea in 325 and fought against the Arian Heresy. He is remembered for his love of children and those in need.

     As a child I grew up with the more modern tradition of Santa Claus. We watched "Miracle on 34th Street," and "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and loved them. We also went to church and celebrated the birth of God Incarnate, the baby Jesus.  My Dad dressed up as Santa when I was five and I steadfastly clung to the belief until almost ten years old. I was upset when I learned that Santa Claus was not real, that he did not visit the whole world overnight, slide down our chimney and leave presents. I remember the disillusionment.

     As an adult, I determined that there must be a way to incorporate both traditions, focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.  So we see Santa at the mall, we read stories about the North Pole and Rudolf, and we watch Charlie Brown's friends surprise him each year with his transformed Christmas tree. We go to church throughout the season. We talk about Santa as a legend borne from the real St. Nicholas, the great man of God who devoted his life to Jesus Christ. Who strove to follow Jesus' example of love and self-sacrifice.

God bless us all this Christmas, especially those who are suffering and in need. Let us remember all that we can be truly thankful for, and all that we can do to make a difference in our world.


The Abbey Farm

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reconciling Arnie

Arnie on our John Deere "B"

     The film “The Straight Story” tells the true story of Alvin Straight, an elderly man who travels 240 miles to visit his estranged, dying brother. He has neither seen nor spoken with him in years.  Unable to obtain a driver’s license because of his age and health, he makes the journey across Iowa and Wisconsin--on his John Deere 110 lawn mower. We follow him on this six week journey through the picturesque countryside and the relationships he forms with people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Straight Story
     Alvin was a World War II Veteran. One might pay him little attention if passed on the street.  But we see that he offers much more than meets the eye. He impacts the life of every person he encounters. Without giving more away there is a scene in which he talks about coming to terms with what he suffered in the war. “A lot of us drank after that…” he remarks. That scene made me cry.
     My father, Arnie, had it tough as a kid. His father died when he was only four. In the same year his mother met and fell in love with a man who did not want children. Dad was left on the doorstep of his paternal grandmother on a cold winter day in 1934. Clara had been out shopping and when she saw him she scooped him up in loving arms, took him inside and raised him with his aunts and uncles. She had grievously lost her youngest son that year and saw in her grandson an amazing gift. Dad loved her dearly.

     After her sad passing ten years later he went to live with his maternal grandmother. At that time he met and began dating my mother.  He fought in the Korean War at eighteen.  When it was over he was drafted again--this time into his lifelong dream--by the Cincinnati Reds Ballclub. Dad was a hard hitter and a great fielder. One night in a pre-season game he threw his body into second base with an athletic hook-slide. Realizing he would severely spike the second baseman he switched slides--something players are coached not to do. He shattered his left ankle, his career over before the regular season even started. The doctors said he could never play professionally again.

     Once more he picked himself up, dusted off and moved on. He married Lizzie and went to work as a banker. They had four children.  Well, more, really. Mom had three miscarriages, and my baby brother was stillborn. Mom was saintly and heroic. Dad stoic.

     Very few knew what Dad had lived through. He was outgoing and sociable. Extroverted and energized by people, he could talk with anyone. Everyone loved him.  I think even my teenage friends hung out at our house not so much for my brothers and me as for Dad. He was engaging and fun. It was not out of the ordinary for Dad to bring home dinner guests and Mom was always game. Once he met the crew of the Zerstorer Rommel in the Baltimore Harbor and brought the German sailors home. For the whole weekend. We played soccer and swam in the river and cooked out.  Classic Dad.

     But he carried much sadness deep within him, and by the time I was in junior high, I was aware that he struggled with alcohol.  It was difficult to deal with as a teen. I sensed unhappiness somewhere and I couldn't fix it, try as I might. His sanguine moments kept it bearable.  And his love for God.  Deep down Dad was humble, repentant, aware of his mistakes and, like a lot of us, much harder on himself than anyone else.  

Dad rode at Ft. Belvoir and thereafter held an affection for horses

     In the 1980's my grandmother's health was such that she could not live on her own. Dad helped her move out of the farmhouse she'd shared for decades with my late step-grandfather. Dad had reconciled with them years before. He took my grandmother into his home and cared for her well into her eighties. It was a great witness of forgiveness and love.      
      Dad passed away in October of 1995, a year before his mother. I was comforted with certain knowledge of his love for us. The teen years held some scars, but none too deep for healing. Not long after I lost Dad one of my students lost her father. I was remarking to a co-worker about how fascinating, successful and loved her father--a pretty famous man--had been, and how she could be very proud of him. My co-worker, a recovering alcoholic, leaned over the table intuitively and said, “Suzy, your Dad could very well have been more successful with what he was given in life, than that other man.” The truth of his statement struck solidly in my heart.
     I thought back through Dad’s life. In the Korean War he was a forward scout. He and his radio man, Jimmy, were well into enemy territory when they were closed off on the side of a steep hill. They took fire and Jimmy was gruesomely killed in front of Dad, who pulled the radio off his friend’s body and called in artillery on his own position.  He scrambled up the hill believing he would not make it. The ordnance hit just as Dad got clear.  He was chased for days, many times hearing the enemy shouting taunts at him while he hid in the cover of brush and snow. He finally escaped and made it back to his unit. For his performance and valor he received the Bronze Star.

     As a child I would see him staring at the medal, thinking he must be very proud. But nothing could have been further from the truth. I understood years later when he was dying. He wept one night on a hospital bed as I held his hand. He paused suddenly, looked at me with moist eyes and said softly,  “I’ll finally see Jimmy again.” He slept deeply then. I realized that he had carried the responsibility and weight of Jimmy’s death with him all of his life. He had carried many losses.
     Dad lived two more years and he seemed a changed man. Sweet and happy, he was the father I loved so dearly. Reconciling death and the past was healing for him. Peritoneal dialysis, scores of medications and injections were taken without complaint. He was happily playing cards one evening with my mother, brother, aunt and uncle when his heart suddenly stopped. He slipped away in my brother's arms, my mother's name on his lips. At the funeral I remembered his words from the hospital bed and I smiled thinking of his reunion with Jimmy, with his beloved Clara, with the father he had barely known.

     I will always miss my father. He gave me so much, taught me so much. He helped me see that there are Arnies and Alvins all around us. That each person's life, regardless of age or condition, is important and complex. That through reconciliation we are given grace and peace--and we begin again, anew. Scars may remain, but they are reminders of our capacity to love, to be loved, to hurt and to heal. Life holds pain but it holds so many more blessings. We have only to begin again each day, to be thankful in all, to seek to forgive and to be forgiven. To be reconciled to our one true Father, through His dearly loved Son, who took on all the pain of humanity, and is the key to peace that passes all understanding--and to Joy.
The Abbey Farm

Friday, October 14, 2011


     I was quoted in an article written about Mary Pat as saying that her guardian angel “must be St. Michael the Archangel himself.”  Do you believe in angels? I suppose I always have. A young man came to live with my family when I was nine or ten. His family situation was difficult and my parents took him in. He was a gifted musician and directed our church choir. He read the Bible to us every night, and I came to know Jesus that year. I am eternally grateful.

     I learned about angels and the whole order of God’s creation.  Sometime in high school I read a book by Billy Graham about angels. It was very good. I think most of you are familiar with the story. God created the angels with free will. Perhaps they caught wind of God’s plan to make man in His image, or that God would come to the Earth as a man, or that one day man would be higher than the angels. Lucifer rebelled and took a third of the angels with him. They were cast to Earth and became demons. I am sure that it sounds ridiculous to some, but then, a friend recently commented that it takes more faith to be an atheist…

     Imagine, even if you don’t believe in them, that they are real. That they really do care about us, that one is assigned to each of us and cares about us. I think mine would be pretty sad when I choose to do some of the dumb things I do. There is a joke about God sending lots of help to a man caught in a flood, in the way of a boat and a helicopter, but he drowned because he did not recognize God’s form of aid. Perhaps we don’t recognize the help we can receive from God’s angels.
     There are a lot of stories in our town about haunted houses. We’ve had people drive up our lane and ask if our house is haunted. One ghost hunter stayed for an extended chat. I gave her my copy of St. Faustina Kowalska’s diary. Faustina saw visions of men and women suffering who were in need of mercy, both in this life and in the next. She had a beautiful relationship with Jesus and had the image of Him from her visions painted. He taught her “The Divine Mercy Chaplet,” a beautiful prayer of mercy for all man.

     I am not fascinated like the ghost hunters. I believe it’s quite possible that the fallen angels who have been here for a longer time than all of us--can imitate pretty much anyone. Confusion and fear are from Satan. Not God. 

     I think if there were spirits hanging around our house, they’re some pretty good ones. Many good men devoted to God and his creation spent a lot of time on this farm. They'd make up a pretty sweet cloud of witnesses. I don’t claim to have it all figured out. Maybe I just like to see things from a more positive perspective.

The Priests and Brothers at The Abbey Farm in the early 1900's

     We do celebrate Halloween--”All Hallow’s Eve.” And “All Saints Day.” And “All Soul’s Day.” We avoid focusing on the too-scary or creepy. We may have a token Princess or Winnie the Pooh costume, maybe even a superhero, but we try to gear the rest after angels and saints. Their examples and lives offer so much more history and inspiration.

The boys with our living saint: Renata

     We like to pray the “St. Michael Prayer” after each Mass. The boys pray the Guardian Angel prayer at night. A few months ago Gus said that he would call his angel ”Joseph.” It made me think of  ”Clarence” and his head angel “Joseph” in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  In “The Bishop’s Wife” I love the angel “Dudley,” played by Carrie Grant. Another movie about angels that comes to mind is” Der Himmel Uber Berlin” (English title, “Wings of Desire”), 1987. Perhaps not theologically or angelically accurate, but inspiring nonetheless.

Wings of Desire

The Bishop's Wife

Clarence: It's a Wonderful Life

It's A Wonderful Life

     If we are to emulate someone, be intrigued, shocked,  fascinated and delighted , then it might as well be someone who can inspire us to do more for God’s creation—our world and all people. And how wonderful that God protects us and blesses us with His Angels.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

         Angel of God, My Guardian Dear
            to whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side
            to light and guard and rule and guide.

God bless you,


The Abbey Farm

Link to Mary Pat’s article:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Peace In The Abbey

     September is a tough month for my late husband’s family. Bob died in early September. A year later, on the heels of 9/11, our two nieces were killed by a tornado at the University of Maryland. Bob’s birthday was in September, and his Mom died on the last day in September.
     Each year September rolls around with heavy certainty and each year we comment about its arrival and feel the crushing weight of grief. Perhaps the weight lessens over time, but there are moments. Those of us who have lost loved ones know that it is not easy. But we also know that we must go on, and we must find a way to take one day at a time, sometimes one breath at a time.
     Tonight the girls and I went to Mass at Benedictine College. It was a quiet, dark night, the students coming from all directions of the campus. The President smiled to each as he walked up to the door, calling many by their first names. There were smiles as we entered. The peace of the sanctuary was comforting, almost on a physical level. Mass was beautiful.
     The readings from the Bible were from Ezekiel, Philippians and Matthew. Father Justin talked about two kinds of lives, one that hears the Word and doesn’t live it, and one that both hears it and lives it, despite the difficulty, despite the cost. Life is not always fair, nor is it always easy. We have choices presented to us every day to do what is right. Each time we do we are given grace. Bruce and I tell our little ones that this is the stuff of the Real Superheroes. The more we do the right thing, the more grace we receive and the more natural it becomes. We become stronger.
     It is not easy with death and suffering.  I think of the Apostles, confused and shaken after Jesus’ crucifixion. How could twelve men have catalyzed the faith for millennia? What if they had gone into hiding and never emerged. No one would have blamed them. With the power of the Holy Spirit, breath by breath, day by day, they did what Jesus told them to do. And that is what we must--even in the dark times, the confusing times. We may not always succeed, but we must try. As Mother Teresa taught, success is not necessarily in “succeeding,” but it is in the diligent attempts filled with love.
     At the front of the Abbey is a mural. At the very top is an image of a Godly face—the Holy Spirit—breathing on Jesus and depictions of the life of St. Benedict. Tonight I realized that the breath was directed at the whole congregation. And I felt it.
     After Mass we quietly prayed and left the Abbey Church. Smiles and hugs and glazed donuts were exchanged outside. The energy and faith of the young college students was inspiring. Out on a dark Sunday night to worship and fellowship, and to do what Christ called us to do: to take his Word and to go and live it.
     God bless them. God bless us all, especially in difficult times. Help us to hold on, to trust Him. There are blessings to come. New life, love, births, weddings, peace and joy. We may feel momentarily unable, that we don’t have the power. But He does.


The Abbey Farm

Friday, September 9, 2011


     I was recently in touch with one of my childhood friends (thanks to Facebook), and found myself explaining why I would miss yet another High School Reunion. Once upon a time I was Vice President of the Senior Class at Hereford High School. After graduation I helped organize our five and ten year reunions but after that, life got really busy.  It seems the best I can do these days is to try to find old friends and classmates on Facebook and spread the word.
     It’s our thirtieth now. I remember my High School as though it were yesterday. Mine was not a perfect experience, but it was a good one. Good teachers, good friends, good fun; a lot of learning, and not just of the academic sort. Sometimes I was just plain lucky--or had a great Guardian Angel!
     Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time with all we’ve learned in our adult years? I now give such amazing advice to my High Schoolers! They may not think so, but they’ll see someday. A thought ran through my head the other day while talking to Bobby about his religion class on the drive to school (he is back for a second year!).  The thought was how much I enjoy the teen years. Perhaps it is because of my own experience, or that my job for the first decade and a half out of college was working with teens.  Whichever reason, the teen years are a unique time of experiencing life in a new way, an exciting and potentially confusing way.
     I’ve known teens who had little adult support. Though my teenagers might feel it would be a luxury to have the latest iPhone, computer, Wii, X-Box 360 (all in their bedrooms), and no curfew or dating rules, I’ve seen the downfalls of affluence abuse and neglect, and the absence of parental support and structure.
     “No,” I tell mine, "you can’t meet at the local donut joint at 2am because everyone else is,"  "you can’t date until you’re sixteen, "you can’t be out past 10pm on a non-school night" (a formal might be an exception but then there’s a list of rules there, too).  I need to be asked first if they get a ride home, and need to know that person’s number and home address. I’ve said no to certain events. But we talk it out, and though they may not like a particular decision they understand our rationale, and they know it is out of love.
     "Rules without Relationship=Rebellion." The relationship, the love, has got to be there.

     Multiply all that by the number of teens we’ve raised/are raising and it can be challenging, but rewarding. There are six more coming along in our household. I'd better like it, I guess, because Bruce and I will be doing it until we're nearly 70. Crazy? Maybe. Paradoxically awesome? I think so.

     Hence, there is little time for my reunion. I will miss catching up, but like a wedding, I’d probably still come away wishing for more time with each person. To my old classmates and friends who read this: "I am sad, and I will really miss you, but perhaps I’ll get there for the Grey-Hair-and-Cane Reunion.” I sure hope so. Life is precious. Teen years are no exception.

God bless,


The Abbey Farm

PS: Thanks, Shari!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Making Hay...

     The farmers have been working so hard. The rain stopped, the sun has been shining. And shining! It was over 100 degrees a few times in the last couple of weeks. We got our hay baled--round bales again, though our stores of "square bales" are depleted. The big round ones last about a week each, requiring less work, but there is a bit more flexibility in feeding with the smaller. Children love hay bales. When I was a little girl we spent many hours making "hay forts" in the barn. The bales were heavy to move at the time, but it was a load of fun constructing networks of tunnels. 

     George and Bill, the farmer's sons, worked harder than anyone. Bill had hayfever and I can remember him working behind the bandana tied around his haydust-covered face. At that time there weren't all the big round bales you see dotting fields now. We were thankful for the fifty pound square bales and mechanized hay elevators. Gone were the days of hand raking and putting up loose hay in the barn with a giant hay fork. But there was still the hard work of walking behind the hay wagon after the bales had been formed, throwing them up to someone on the wagon who deftly positioned and stacked them. Thousands of them. For weeks. And then a reverse procedure to unload them all into the barn.

     We are blessed at The Abbey Farm; the farmer who leases the adjacent land from the monks bales our hay when he does his. He makes the large round bales and lines them up for us near each pasture.  He says it's "no trouble." We have a fraction of the land he does, and he says it's easy to open the gate and come through. His sons do the work and it takes a few hours over a period of a couple of days. Such goodwill!

     These are hardworking young men. Brad and Andy are big and strong and have smiles about the size of Kansas. Looking down from their huge tractors, backlit by the blazing sun, they're like superheroes to our boys. They give the boys rides as they move the bales. The chatter that ensues in our house goes on late into the evening. Gus and Andy made plans for riding the giant combine when it comes time to harvest corn.

     We made sourdough bread and homemade doughnuts to give as thanks. Hopefully, they like sauerkraut--we made that this summer in a big Polish crock. And Goat milk. Marie's goats are in full swing and she milks a couple hours a day. The bread, doughnuts, a can of sauerkraut, some fresh eggs, and a cold Mason jar of goat milk were placed in a basket lined with a floursack cloth. Brad smiled and graciously accepted the gift. Good lad! He said, "This is worth more than anything!" I'm not sure about that. But his smile and gratitude, and Superhero Haymaking sure were to us! Thank you, Brad and Andy! God bless you.

God bless all of you,


The Abbey Farm

Friday, July 22, 2011

Saint Who?

     I never used to pay attention to why cities like St. Paul, San Francisco, St. Augustine and St. Joseph were named after saints.  I was raised Episcopalian and was used to the surname; I guess I realized these people were remembered for something. People of all Christian faiths acknowlege certain early Church Fathers such as Augustine of Hippo and early martyrs like Stephen. When Marie and Susanna were homeschooled we used a great history text that detailed the European settling of the New World, and the different styles of the Spanish and French and others. I had not studied in such detail in public school.

     We can all acknowledge documented historical events. Of course we may interpret them somewhat differently, but it is fascinating study. Sometimes I've felt that my own geneological research, while interesting, is moderately futile. Twenty generations back and we all have close to a million ancestors--so why would one thin line of them mean anything more than another? I lost my drive for geneology, but not for history in general. As I studied them, I realized what incredible, spiritually inspiring people the saints were.

      Each city named after a saint has a good reason for it. I do not understand how people deny the Christian foundations of our country. There was tragedy involved in some cases of "religious" settling. There was horror in the case of many Native American Tribes. Man is fallible. Good intentions may not always produce the results that I think God would have wanted. Man, throughout history,  is sadly inhumane to man. So instead of focusing on the evil, I find it better to focus on what was learned and most especially what was good. The lives of saints are such stuff. Recently up for sainthood is Mother Teresa. No one would deny that hers was a heroic life. Try Googling some lesser names like these: Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein, both of whom died in concentration camps in the Holocaust. Just incredible people.

     Four years ago on July 20th,  an obscure saint became known to me. Mary Pat was prep'd in the OR, ready to have a gastrostomy tube, or "GT" inserted at five months old. A GT enters directly into the stomach through a stoma created in the abdomen, and is used for feeding. Mary Pat could not nurse. She could not suck from a bottle. All those months since she was out of the NICU we'd been managing a Nasogastric tube or "NG". That's the feeding tube that goes up into the nose and curves down the back of the pharynx, through the throat and espophagus and into the stomach. The mucous membranes are very sensitive and tender, especially in the pharynx. Insertion is at best uncomfortable to a cognizant adult. Most people describe it as intensely irritating or painful. During insertion there is a good chance of putting the tube into the lungs, rather than the stomach. As a nurse I'd inserted NG tubes so I felt at an advantage. But those were adults. And this was my tiny baby struggling for life. I prayed so hard to God to let her suck from a bottle. I pumped for six months to provide her with the best nutrition possible. I ached to nurse her, but the chance of her taking a bottle would be a miracle to me. It wasn't to be. Every time she needed the NG reinserted she screamed and cried and turned blue. I prayed and tried to be so cool and clinical. Being an RN did not make it any easier.

      Mary Pat additionally needed a procedure to tighten the top of her stomach.  She had such bad gastric reflux that one day she stopped breathing and had to be life-flighted back to the hospital. She had an apnea monitor at night which I needed to attach to leads on her chest. False alarms in the middle of the night were not uncommon.  I prayed that Mary Pat would not need any of this, but the answer I wanted did not come. We checked into the hospital and dressed Mary Pat in her tiny gown. The nurse took her and I cried as I had before her other surgeries. Mary Pat had additional difficulty with each of her surgeries when intubated, because of her cleft palate, jaw surgery and anatomy.         Dr. St. Peter was her surgeon. He was very kind and comforting. He spoke with us before the surgery and was just the confident, calming presence that I needed. Bruce and I settled in for the wait. My reading led me to the "Saint of the Day." A Feast Day is usually celebrated on the date of death of the saint...the day they entered the hereafter with Christ. This day was the feast day of St. Apollinaris.

     St. Apollinaris was the first bishop of Ravenna in the first to second century. He was a great preacher and many came to know Christ because of him. He was brutally beaten and tortured more than once by the Roman officials but he kept evangelizing and was eventually martyred. St. Apollinaris had been ordained and sent to Ravenna by St. Peter himself. St. Peter! This fact may seem in no way to be connected to Mary Pat, but I knew that in God's great love, He knew about what would happen to Mary Pat, and when St. Peter did ordain St. Apollinaris He knew that centuries later it would give comfort to a frightened mother. Mary Pat was indeed in His hands.

     Dr. St. Peter came out after the surgery to tell us that it had gone well. As we began to breathe a sigh of relief, he informed us that he encountered something serious. Because of the need for that surgery, Dr. St. Peter found a life threatening condition called a diaphragmatic hernia and expertly fixed it. He also found that her large intestine was not where it should be. Part of it was basically unattached and could have led, undetected, to a fatal condition of twisting and strangulation of the bowel. He fixed it. If God had answered my prayer and allowed her to nurse, or even to be fed from the bottle--to be spared of the NG tube and later the G-tube--these conditions could very well have killed her. I learned the beauty in unanswered prayer.

     I have a thirst for wisdom, knowledge and history that will never be quenched in this lifetime. Though eternity may be incomprehensible, thinking about getting to know all those who have gone before us--is a taste of paradise to me... is Mary Pat.

God bless you,


The Abbey Farm

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ora et Labora

     Marie attended an Agribusiness/Entrepreneurship course at a local community college. She was worried about the days away from her Nubian milk goats but Susanna jumped right in to take-over farm chores and Marie was able to make the break. About a dozen students from three or four counties participated. Marie said the course was quite informative and inspiring. Each student had an idea for his or her own business and was required to present a business plan at the end of the week to a panel of judges.

     Marie’s business plan was entitled “The Abbey Girl Goat Farm” and detailed the first few years of a small-scale dairy farm. To our surprise and pride, she won first place. She’s been buzzing ever since. Marie is aware of her time constraints and the difficulty involved with starting and running a small business. She knows that college has to be factored into the plan in two years. Nonetheless, she has a realistic, yet hopeful excitement. She has been working like a horse and praying a lot about her plans.

     “Ora et Labora.” Pray and Work. Today is the Feast Day of St. Benedict of Nursia.  He is considered the Father of Western Monasticism. As a young man in the fifth century he was educated in Rome and became offended by the worldliness he witnessed. He retreated to a remote place. For a few years he lived a hermit’s life in which he prayed and fasted and grew closer to God. Later, he founded the Order of St. Benedict and a code or “Rule” to live by. That “Rule of St. Benedict” is followed to this day by thousands of men living a Monastic life.

     In the mid-1800’s, Benedictine Monks came to the United States from Germany. By the late-1800’a a group of them made their way to Kansas. They built a Monastery and founded a college. The Abbey Farm was started by these same Monks and Brothers. Farm Managers were later hired and lived here with their families. Our children are certainly not the first to be raised here, to pick dandelions, to turn over rocks in search of night crawlers, to wade in the pond, to raise livestock.

     Whether or not we know it, we are all called to a life of prayer and work. In an age where the created is celebrated in absence of its Creator, many are offended by the worldliness and self-centeredness of our culture--where people are treated like things and things are valued more than people. We don’t have to become hermits, or to move to a farm to reverse the trend. Wherever we are, in whatever occupation we can make a difference. There is dignity in the most menial of work. There is sanctity in the weakest of lives.

Seek God. Love His creation as He does. Ora et Labora.


The Abbey Farm