Wednesday, December 28, 2016

O Tannenbaum!

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, a week before Christmas, a group of Sisters bundled up, piled into the pickup truck, and slipped and slid over the snow to find a couple of trees for our Christmas festivities.

Across the snowy field and into the trees...

Heading up a north-facing slope in search of a Douglas Fir.

"Does anybody see a good one?"  "Look! Over there!"

"Are we sure this is the one we want?"

The descent from the mountain.

Wishing everyone a joyful, grace-filled, and merry Christmas Season!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Words for our Advent Journey

Since December 25th falls on Sunday this year, Advent is as long as it can be. We take advantage of that extra week to present some reflections on the Mass entrance antiphons for the four Sundays of Advent.

First Sunday of Advent
The season begins with the Ad te levavi ,  the first verses of Psalms 25: “ To you I have lifted up my soul; My God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame, nor let my enemies rejoice over me; let all those who trust in you not be confounded. O Lord, show me your ways, lead me in your paths.”
            This antiphon sends us on our Advent journey very realistically. Enemies, shame, and confusion are real, but our Lord does not leave us without his help and guidance. There is also a movement from and individual point of view to invoking God’s help for all who trust in him. The watchwords are trust and way.

Second Sunday of Advent
The prophet of the season, Isaiah, now makes his appearance in the Sunday antiphons, in a free combination of verses 19 and 30 from his chapter 30. “People of Zion, behold, the Lord will come to save the nations, and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart.”
            Although the prophetic voice addresses the people of Zion, it announces universal salvation, carrying on the communal theme of the first week. Just what is “the glory of his voice”? How can it be made audible in the joy of our hearts? Will it perhaps be made more audible, the more joyful our hearts become? Perhaps resting in deep joy at God’s coming can help more people to hear the Lord’s voice and its glory.

Third Sunday of Advent
This is Gaudete Sunday, taking its name from the opening words of the entrance antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all people; the Lord is near. Be worried over nothing, but let your prayers and petitions be known before God.” 
These beautiful words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians exhort us to trust in God’s nearness. If God is close by, there is no reason to worry, so rejoice! As in our antiphon for the Second Sunday, perhaps the more wholeheartedly we rejoice, the more clearly God’s voice will be heard, and his nearness recognized by others.

Fourth Sunday of Advent
            This Sunday’s antiphon has also made its opening words famous: Rorate caeli: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down justice; let the earth be opened, and let the salvation spring up.”

            Another way of translating this thought from Isaiah 45:8 is to personify the objects of the verbs. Thus we ask the clouds to rain down the Just One, that the earth may bring forth the Savior. In either case, the vivid agricultural imagery invites us to meditate on the collaboration of heaven and earth, for our spiritual well-being as well as for our physical survival. God’s grace invigorates our souls just as the rain brings growth to the arid soil. We continue to trust that God will supply grace, and we pray that we may be open and “porous” enough to receive it, that we may help salvation to germinate throughout the world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Give thanks to the Lord!

Sr. Fidelis amid the bounty of winter squash produced by the Abbey vegetable garden earlier this year. It is no longer shirtsleeve weather!

Despite the recent very dry weather in Colorado, we had a bountiful harvest from the garden this year. We even raised a unique vegetable, which seems to be the result of cross-pollination between last year's zucchini and pumpkin plants. What we thought were zucchini grew larger and larger in circumference, and eventually turned a lovely orange color. The sisters working in the garden dubbed them "pumpini", and we have been enjoying them in various recipes for several months now.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth shows off a pumpini on the vine late this summer.

Here a pumpini is enthroned as the focus of our Thanksgiving Day harvest display, surrounded by other fruits of our labors: besides garden potatoes and pumpkins, honey, cheese, and eggs from happy hens (and ducks). There are also some decorative item that we didn't raise here at the Abbey, such as the dried beans and the Indian corn.

Sacristan Sr. Maria Gabriel and Sr. Hillary with the artistic arrangement of the fruits of our labors with which they decorated our Abbey Church for Thanksgiving Day. The place of honor at the center is held by a "pumpini", the hybrid pumpkin/zucchini which grew in our garden this year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sr. Elizabeth makes solemn profession of vows

On Sunday, November 6, our Sister Elizabeth Baumgartner professed her solemn vows as a Benedictine nun of the Abbey of St. Walburga. The Most. Rev. Samuel Aquila, Archbishop of Denver, presided at the festive Mass for the occasion, and some 80 friends, oblates, and relatives joined us for the celebration. All of Sr. Elizabeth’s immediate family was able to attend; she is the eldest of seven, and this was the first time they had all been together since her brother’s wedding nine years ago. 

A providential sunbeam illuminates Sr. Elizabeth as she approaches the altar in our Abbey Church as the Rite of Solemn Profession begins at Mass after the proclamation of the Gospel.

A native of Denver, Sr. Elizabeth, 46,  was born Judith Baumgartner, the eldest of the seven children of Dennis and Joan Baumgartner. She graduated from St. Mary’s Academy High School in Englewood in 1988, and then entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. After completing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, she was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, and served for 15 years on ships stationed in Italy, Japan, Spain, and Maryland, first as a communication officer, than as a cryptologic officer.
 “At each overseas duty station,” she recalls, “I was able to travel throughout the various regions and experience the customs and cultures of the respective countries that I lived in, as well as during numerous port calls that the ships made.”
In 2007, Judith left active duty in order to more fully discern a vocation to religious life. “When I graduated from the Naval Academy, I never dreamed of entering a monastery,” she reflected. “However, as I became more involved in the life of the Catholic communities at the various duty stations, I felt a call to religious life.”
 After corresponding with our Abbey and visiting several times, she entered in 2008, and was received into the novitiate in May, 2009. She made her first profession of vows on the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, June 24, 2011, taking the religious name Elizabeth, for the wife of Zechariah and cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:5).
“I was drawn to the daily rhythm of prayer and work of Benedictine life,” Sr. Elizabeth recalled. “The joyful spirit of all of the Sisters, as well as their love of and fidelity to the monastic life, made a deep impression on me.”
Like most of our Sisters, Sr. Elizabeth helps out in many different work areas. She is a talented cook, and her worldwide experience of different cuisines has enriched our already varied kitchen.  She is an energetic and conscientious groundskeeper, keeping lawn machines and other equipment up and running. And while a Benedictine monastery is a different kind of community than either a big family or an aircraft carrier, sharing space with other people is nothing new to Sr. Elizabeth. Her willingness to adapt to different characters and situations makes her a treasured member of our community. 

.Abbess Mother Maria Michael and the newly professed Sr. Elizabeth after the Mass, with St. Benedict in the background. Besides the white double veil and pleated choir robe of the fully professed nun, Sr. Elizabeth wears a wreath for the celebration, symbolizing "the crown that is imperishable."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Advent Day Retreat for December 10, 2016

Day Retreat
for Advent

Saturday, December 10, 2016
Abbey of St. Walburga
Led by Sr. Maria-Walburga Schortemeyer, OSB

9:30 a.m. —3 p.m (lunch included)
Suggested offering: $25 per person

   Take a break from the “Christmas rush” and make time for Advent. Join us for a day of prayer and reflection on the themes of this beautiful season.

To register, please call 970-472-0612 or

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Abbey Calendar for 2017 is Now Available

Since we moved our Abbey from Boulder to Virginia Dale in 1997, 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of our monastic life in the far northern reaches of Colorado. Our Abbey Calendar for 2017 celebrates this anniversary with a review of our history, and photos celebrating the adventures of the past two decades, as well as some much older photographs from our pioneering days in Boulder.

The calendar is available from the Abbey Gift Shop for $12.50.Shipping for first calendar $2.75; $1.25 for each additional calendar ordered -- please call 970-472-0612 for more information or to place an order.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Profession of Monastic Vows

On October 7, 2016, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we celebrated the self-giving of our two senior novices, Sr. Ann and Sr. Catherine, as they made their first profession of monastic vows. Promising obedience, stability, and fidelity to the monastic way of life for three years, they were given new names to underscore their new identities as professed Benedictine nuns.

We are now practicing calling them Sr. Maria-Raphaelle and Sr. Fidelis, and rejoice with them in this major step in faith on their journey to God.

Sr. Maria-Raphaelle and Sr. Fidelis in the guest dining room on October 7, after the Mass in which they professed their first vows as Benedictine nuns.

Sr. Maria-Raphaelle, 25, is one of the six children of Davin and Janet Lee of Huntsvillte, Alabama. She was homeschooled in a lively and inventive family, and spent three years working with  Monrovia Volunteer Fire/Rescue, learning emergency response skills that have already come in handy around the Abbey. One of her four brothers is also a Benedictine, Br. Dominic of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. Besides helping in our infirmary, she paints Pascal candles and is learning to accompany our night office of Compline on the psaltery.

Sr. Fidelis, 29, is also one of six, and was also homeschooled; her parents are John and Marie- Emmanuelle Bartle of Victoria, British Columbia. She has a degree in history in art from the University of Victoria, and is another member of the Pascal candle staff. As an accomplished pianist and organist, she often accompanies our singing of the Liturgy of the Hours and Mass.

Besides being artistic and musical, both of the newly professed are always willing to find additional outlets for creativity in garden, kitchen, and elsewhere around the Abbey.

Monday, October 10, 2016

New Novices join our Abbey Community

Three new novices have joined our community  this year. On February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Sr. Catherine Marie Carlin of Lufkin, Texas, received her habit, followed on April 17, the 4th Sunday of Easter, by  Sr. Brandi Lynn McWhorter of St. Louis, Missouri. On September 8, the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  Sr. Hillary Kunz of Austin, Texas, joined the novitiate as well.
Sr. Catherine Marie got to know our Abbey several years ago when she was attending Wyoming Catholic College north of us in Lander, Wyoming. As the youngest of a family of ten, she is already well acquainted with community life, and we are all benefiting from her musical and culinary gifts, among many others.
Sr. Brandi Lynn became acquainted with Benedictine life through our brother monks of St. Louis Abbey in her hometown. A convert to the faith, she  worked for several years as an accountant, and is our house expert in Microsoft Excel.
Sr. Hillary Kunz  studied education at Baylor University and has worked as a camp counselor, and in outdoor recreation programs for disadvantaged youth in Austin, Texas. Her extensive travels include walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and visiting her cousin, Fr. Martin, a Benedictine monk at Norcia, Italy.
Life in the monastery makes use of any and all experience, and we pray for our three new Sisters as they run the course of this more intensive period of their Benedictine formation.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Altar Bread Department passes a milestone

Our altar bread department last month shipped an order with invoice # 10,000 -- meaning, yes, that 10,000 orders, some consisting of many thousands of individual breads, have passed through our packing and shipping operation since it began in 1997.

Sr. Pauline in our altar bread packing room, surrounded by bags of hosts to be shipped, boxes of more hosts to be bagged, and the trademark foam "peanuts" that ensure the breads' safe arrival at parishes and religious communities across the country.

We do not bake the hosts ourselves, but are happy to be able to support our fellow Benedictines, the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, who have been baking breads for more than 100 years, and have all the requisite equipment for large-scale baking. From them we buy hosts in bulk, then pack them into smaller bags and packages for shipment to our own customers, removing broken or flawed breads in the process. Sr. Augustine, our eldest nun at 91, still puts in a good day's work packing breads, something she has been doing since we started in late 1997.

Although one of our own Sisters had baked hosts back in the 1950s, we had shifted our energies to other work and ministries by 1963. The impetus to bring back altar bread work was our impending move from Boulder to Virginia Dale in 1997. Sr. Regina Krushen started our altar bread department during our early days in the "modulstery" of prefabricated buildings which was our home for the first two years in our new location. As she wrote for our newsletter at that time,

"This ministry serves two purposes for our Abbey. First of all, it is a means of support while our new retreat house and other facilities are under construction over the next couple of years. But more important is the spiritual dimension of this service. As contemplative Benedictine nuns committed to Christ and his Church through our lives of prayer, we endeavor by our altar bread work to share the spirit of our worship in a concrete way with all the faithful."

Sr. Regina died in 2003, but the altar bread department has continued under the guidance of Sr. Pauline, and with the help of other Sisters and many generous oblates and volunteers, who come regularly to spend a few prayerful hours at the contemplative task of sorting the breads.

For more information on our altar bread, please visit  or email us at

Saturday, September 17, 2016

More smoke

Preparing for a cookout in the Abbey courtyard earlier this summer -- something we don't do when conditions are very dry and fire danger correspondingly high.
In an earlier post we spoke of the occasional scent of wood smoke from wildfires -- often quite distant. But on September 4, our idyllic Sunday afternoon was disrupted by evidence of a fire much closer to our Abbey. A great plume of smoke was visible to the west, especially from the higher ground closer to the highway. We heard the reassuring sound of sirens as emergency vehicles rushed to the scene -- near the Starwood Trail on public land, as we later learned, so the blaze was dubbed the Starwood Fire.

As some Sisters telephoned around for news, others hustled the cattle down to the hayfields along the creek, where the grass is moist and green. The cattle were certainly happy about it, and looked beautiful against the green, in the evening light of late summer.

Providence -- and fast work by firefighters -- kept the fire  to a very modest 300 acres. Last we heard, it was quite contained, and had caused no injuries or damage to buildings. We even had some rain overnight a few days later -- not so great in quantity, but slow and gentle, so that it soaked in to the dry land and vegetation.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cannery Row

Our monastic refectory became a fruit processing center in late August as we cut and bagged many pounds of luscious peaches for freezing and canning.

August in Colorado means PEACHES! And we are the grateful beneficiaries of many kind donors of crates of these delicious orchard-fresh fruits. Even better, not all of the peaches came already ripe at the same time. Our stalwart kitchen staff certainly had a busy couple of weeks, but not absolute frenzy to try to get all of them canned or frozen before they were past any hope of use.

We also blanched, cut, and froze several crates of sweet corn -- after eating as much of is as we reasonably could. This is also turning out to be a good year for our native fruits, and some of the more agile and ambitious Sisters have been collecting chokecherries and currants before the bears get all of them. Chokecherries are said to be very nutritious, but need to be made into jelly to be palatable to most humans. They are also pretty heavy on the pit. Currants are sweeter and pitless, but pretty small. Now ripening are the wild plums, which are quite tasty, and large enough to seem worthwhile.

Black bears relish all of these, and are not constrained by worries about tearing their clothes on the branches, or about breaking the branches in the process of berry-picking. We've seen signs of bear feeding (you know what we mean) quite close to our buildings and on our entrance road, so they are definitely finding the food sources. Indeed, it is amazing that an animal as large as a black bear can subsist on such tiny fruits.

One can easily sympathize with Yogi and Boo-Boo and their interest in "pickanick baskets".

Friday, August 26, 2016

How many Nuns...

...does it take to feed a water buffalo calf?

"Maggie" was born earlier this summer, and is being trained to the  bottle so that  her mother becomes more accustomed to being milked by humans. Water buffalo milk is especially prized for making mozzarella cheese, so we will hope for success all the way around.

It's a bit hard to see in this picture, but that milk bottle is being aimed at the muzzle of Maggie, the new water buffalo calf. We're hoping she soon gets the concept and stops requiring two Sisters to restrain her while she's being fed.

We've been happy to enjoy the great outdoors quite a bit this summer. Our weather has not been as hot and dry as in many parts of the country. While the grass in the picture below does look pretty scraggly, that is fairly normal for our arid climate.

An evening recreation in our courtyard, Abbey friend Father Robert from Texas regales us with tales of his adventures in parish life and seminary administration.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Abbess Emerita Mother Maria-Thomas Beil celebrates Diamond Jubilee of Vows

On July 29th we had the great joy of celebrating the 60th anniversary of monastic profession with our retired Abbess, Mother Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB. Upwards of sixty guests -- old friends, oblates, and benefactors -- joined us for the beautiful Mass of the Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Friends of the Lord.
Mother Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB, Abbess Emerita, with her festively decorated profession candle and wreath of "diamonds" on her 60th anniversary of profession. Since we burn our profession candles every year on our anniversary, hers has become quite short by now!

Since this feast celebrates friendship and hospitality at Bethany, it is especially dear to us as Benedictines. In his homily on John 11:19-27, Abbey friend Father Frank Garcia underlined the growth of St. Martha's faith -- attested to in her declaration, "I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God". As is our custom, the  Sister celebrating a jubilee takes an additional name, and Mother Maria-Thomas chose "Fides", the Latin word for "faith", as her diamond anniversary name.

Clergy, jubilarian, and choir of nuns and postulants sing together at the Mass for Mother Maria-Thomas' 60th anniversary of monastic profession.

In the last several years, Mother Maria-Thomas has pursued her long-standing interest in art by trying her own hand at colorful paintings and poetic reflections on Scripture passages. She has shared these results of her creative lectio divina with friends and oblates. Some of them arranged a small exhibition of some of her watercolors and pastels in the Abbey lobby and conference room on the occasion of this 60th jubilee.

Some of the paintings and accompanying poems by Mother Maria-Thomas that were displayed at the reception following the celebration of the Eucharist.
A special joy was the presence of several family members of the Jubilarian, who had traveled from Germany and the Netherlands. Also attending were friends from her days as a 5th-grade teacher in Eichstaett, at the school run by our mother house, the Abtei St. Walburg.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When there's smoke, somewhere there's fire

Summertime on the Front Range in Colorado brings garden produce, colorful flowers, pleasant evening breezes -- and wildfires. While our Abbey is not itself in any danger from fire at the moment, we follow with concern the large fires raging in several places in our state, and throughout the arid West.

The one closest to us is the Beaver Creek fire on the border of Colorado and Wyoming, northwest of our location. It currently affects more that 20,000 acres of forest, and is being fueled by deadwood from trees killed by the pine bark beetle infestations of recent years. When the wind, temperature, and humidity are just right (or just wrong, perhaps), smoke drifts in our direction, a pervasive haze that hovers over the valley and makes for dramatic red sunsets.

Another fire, dubbed Cold Springs, is burning in the mountains 10 miles west of our old hometown of  Boulder, Colorado. Several residences have been destroyed by that blaze -- by God's grace, no one has been injured.

We join with all our neighbors in praying for the safety of the firefighters, and that rain may soon come to their aid in controlling these blazes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summertime, and the livin' is busy...

We've been busy celebrating Solemnities and getting the bumper crop of hay baled, so the Chronicler is a bit late with this post. Friday, June 24th was the celebration of the Birth of John the Baptist, and Wednesday, June 29th, was the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Next week we look forward to the Solemnity of St. Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism, on July 11.

We hope to be incorporating this Chronicler's Blog into the rest of the Abbey website soon, so stay tuned.
Some of the bountiful harvest of grass hay in the Abbey fields.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Making Hay

Wild roses bloom in profusion by the side of a partly-mown hayfield.

After all of our rain, the gardens and fields at the Abbey are green and lush. Now is the time to mow those fields whose grass is destined to become hay to keep the livestock over the winter.

Sr. Maria Walburga mowing hay.

Monday, June 13, 2016

New Director for the Oblate Program

Sunday's oblate meeting marked the official turnover of the oblate program to its new director, Sr. Lioba Headlee, OSB. Abbess Emerita Mother Maria-Thomas Beil, who is now "retiring" from being co-director (along with Sr. Genevieve), took the opportunity of this meeting to go over the meaning and significance of the Rite of Oblation, and the rights and duties of Benedictine Oblates.

Benedictine Oblates are men and women who feel drawn to the spirituality of the Rule of St. Benedict, but are not called to the vowed consecrated life of a nun or monk. Rather, Benedictine spirituality serves as their guiding principle as they fulfill their family and work obligations as lay persons living in the world. The oblate community associated with a particular abbey or monastery is a means of support to the oblates as they strive to bring Christian values to their homes and workplaces.

The first oblates at our monastery were organized in the early 1980s by Mother Maria-Thomas; we first celebrated the Rite of Oblation, whereby they dedicate themselves to God in the Benedictine path, in 1985. Over the years other oblate directors have included Sr. Simone Conlin, Sr. Ancilla Armijo, Sr. Hildegard Dubnick, and Sr. Genevieve Glen.

We are always awed by the dedication and commitment to prayer and service undertaken by our oblates, in the midst of busy lives raising families and pursuing careers and studies. They form an inner circle of the many friends and benefactors who help our monastic community through their prayers and material support.

For more information on the oblate program, visit our oblate blog at

Monday, June 6, 2016

Thirty Years Later -- Photographer Valari Jack returns to the Abbey

Back in 1987, photographer Valari Jack, then living in Boulder, spent a lot of time at our monastery (also then located near Boulder) taking photographs. LOTS of photographs. She documented at least a year of life at the monastery; by God's providence there were clothings, a funeral, and other major ceremonial events in the life of the community. But she also captured still life compositions of garden tools casting shadows, Sisters awaiting the beginning of the liturgy, Sisters kneading loaves for bread, and other prosaic everyday scenes.

Back in those days, real film was involved in photography. Valari shot black and white film (fitting enough for us in our Benedictine black), and was so kind as to teach Sr. Ancilla and Sr. Hildegard the rudiments of film developing and printing in a homemade darkroom in one of our guest buildings.

Valari now lives in Washington State, but she came by for a few days last week and, of course, brought her camera. Nowadays, she shoots digital pictures, in color -- we're excited to see what she will come up. She did say that our spirit is still the same -- maybe not so surprising to us, since our Spirit is definitely still the same.

Here are a couple of Valari's photos; for more on her work, please contact her at
The bell tower in front of the main entrance of the Abbey.

The community gathers at the back of the Abbey Church after Compline to sing the Salve Regina.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Corpus Christi Weekend -- Chant Workshop and Eucharistic Procession

 This past Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ -- still known popularly by its former Latin name, Corpus Chisti. We took advantage of the beautiful Latin Vespers and Mass propers of the day's liturgy to schedule our annual Gregorian Chant Workshop for the days preceding the feast.
Chant workshop participants sing with Sr. Hildegard as they practice the Latin Introit for Sunday's Mass of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
 We had fifteen chanters this year, ranging in age from 10 to 83 years old, and coming from New Mexico, Montana, and even Minnesota as well as from Colorado.

Nuns, retreatants, and visitors gather around an outdoor altar in the guest courtyard after Sunday Mass to pray at our first stop in our Eucharistic Procession on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
The weather smiled upon our Corpus Christi procession, with cool temperatures and fluffy white clouds scudding through the blue Colorado sky to give some relief from the sun, especially for those of us dressed in black. We sang our way around the Abbey building, pausing to pray at four altars which had been tastefully decorated by teams of Sisters with textiles, statues, and flower arrangements.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mosaic Art at the Abbey

Creativity flows in our Abbey Conference Room with twelve eager mosaicists at work.

This past weekend was our annual Mosaic Art Workshop, which we have been hosting with artist Kathy Thaden for five years now. The many windows in the conference room provide lost of air and light for the twelve participants that Kathy is able to take each year. Not surprisingly, the registration roster fills up very fast, and there is always a waiting list. (For more on Kathy beautiful mosaic art, please visit her own website:

On the morning of Trinity Sunday we all got an early start when the fire alarm went off just after midnight. The mosaicists had been working together since Thursday evening, so they had become a cohesive group of ladies, all very comfortable with each other. By the time Sr. Hildegard woke up enough to stumble over to the guest wing to make sure they were okay, the whole crowd was standing outside, enjoying the mild spring weather and looking at the stars.

Our supersensitive fire detection system sounds the clarion call at the slightest suspicion of smoke or heat -- this time it seems to have been set off by an electrical glitch of some kind. Not so good for getting uninterrupted sleep, but when it comes to fire detection, the more sensitive, the better.

A close-up of the artists at work on their colorful mosaic pieces.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Welcoming Wayfarers

Sunday evening we had a chance to exercise hospitality the way St. Benedict would have back before websites, or even postal services. Bill Marcell,  who is bicycling from Florida to Alaska (yes, that's right), had been hoping to make it to Laramie, 30 miles north of the Abbey, but the cold rainy weather had slowed him down. Stopping to eat at The Forks, the landmark restaurant and gas station in Livermore, 14 miles south of us, he inquired about finding a place to stay. Our Livermore neighbors recommended he call us, and he appeared just after Vespers. He departed this morning, during Mass, so we weren't able to schedule a photo opportunity with this modern pilgrim, For more on his journey, visit his website:

Bill is not the first two-wheeled wayfarer to stop by the Abbey. Several years ago a whole group of young men from Fort Collins stopped off at the beginning of a longer trip they were taking. And a few years after that, another lone cyclist had to call it a day sooner than planned because of rain. But 2015 has been the best year so far for cyclists. In the summertime a couple from France stopped by for a night. Not satisfied with one continent, they are cycling around the world -- with a few exceptions in the form of oceans.

Then in September last year, we met Cynthia, on her way from Washington State to Florida. She had already walked across the country a few years before, and was now doing it by bicycle. She ended up camping out on a couch in our parlor, since every single bed was occupied that particular night. Since she'd spent lots of nights in a tent, the parlor couch was comparatively palatial.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Springtime Solemnities

Sacristan Sr. Maria Gabriel arranges the bounty of beautiful cut flowers donated for our Abbey Church from our florist friends at Flower Corner in Fort Collins.

This is one of those years where, as some say, the June solemnities all come in May. The celebration of the 50 days of Eastertide ends with the Solemnity of Pentecost, preceded by the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord. (Along with the rest of the Archdiocese of Denver, we now celebrate Ascension Thursday on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Some of us are still adjusting to that, but it seems less odd every year.)

Following Pentecost this Sunday, we look forward to Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi on the next two Sundays. (Properly, this last is now known as "The Solemnity of the Most Holy Boy and Blood of Christ", but the old Latin name is much handier.)

Since all of these liturgical celebrations depend on the date of Easter, they frequently fall in June, but this year's early Easter brings them all into May. It remains to be seen whether we will have an outdoor procession this year for Corpus Christi, but many of us have vivid memories of past years, marching around the Abbey grounds in flowing black cucullas, singing and reciting litanies while roasting in the alpine sunshine under the bright blue Colorado sky. It's always a nice custom, but having the feast fall in May increases the likelihood of cooler weather.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Making Benedictine Connections Around the World

We were happy to welcome a fellow Benedictine Nun from Down Under for several weeks this spring. Sr. Hilda, OSB, from Jamberoo Abbey in New South Wales, Australia, made the long journey to little ol' Virginia Dale for a personal retreat. While here she got a glimpse of our picturesque landscape, and even had the opportunity to make a field trip to Laramie, Wyoming -- famous the world over from Westerns. On her departure, Sr. Hilda was so kind as to praise our liturgical life and hospitality, and started on her long journey home refreshed and renewed in body, soul, and spirit.

Since snow does not fall in the region of her home monastery, she was especially appreciative of our several April snowstorms, and took advantage of the opportunity to build a snowman and practice throwing snowballs -- at rocks, fortunately, not at us. Indeed, perhaps we had such a snowy April just because of her prayers!
Our Australian visitor loved standing out in the white stuff falling out of the sky.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

For Sunday dinner yesterday we were delighted to be able to welcome an old friend, J. Francis Cardinal Stafford. Back when he was Archbishop of Denver, Cardinal Stafford accompanied us through some of the more dramatic events of our Abbey's history, including our elevation to the status of Abbey and the visit of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, both of which took place in 1989.

During his visit, His Eminence reminisced about our 1995 decision to relocate the Abbey from Boulder to the far north of Colorado, and also expressed his gratitude for the postulants and novices with which the Lord has blessed our community. He said he had asked both our current Abbess, Mother Maria Michael, and our Abbess Emerita, Mother Maria-Thomas, to what they attribute this flow of new vocations. Both listed, as the first consideration, the beauty of our liturgy. This is, indeed, what strikes everyone who visits and is able to pray with us. It's good to be reminded of this treasure. Praising God every day in song, one might get spoiled and forget what an awesome privilege it is.

Monday, April 18, 2016

New Novices at the Abbey

On Good Shepherd Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, April 17, 2016, Postulant Brandi completed her year as a postulant and was given the habit of a Benedictine novice. For the period of her two-year novitiate she'll be known by her full baptismal name,  Sr. Brandi Lynn.

Sunday, April 17. Mother Maria Michael and Sr. Maria Columba (who celebrates the anniversary of her final commitment to our Abbey on this day) gather around the Good Shepherd with new novice Sr. Brandi Lynn.

The ceremony of clothing took place after Lauds on a very snowy morning. The weather had disrupted the travel plans of many, including our large weekend retreat group from Loveland, and the new novices parents, who had planned to fly in from St. Louis for the occasion. The result was a quiet and prayerful day, which has its own beauties.

Sr. Brandi Lynn joins Sr. Ann and Sr. Catherine, who have been novices since October, 2014, and also Sr. Catherine Marie, who was clothed on February 2, 2016. It is seldom that a relatively small community such as ours can boast of four novice Sisters; we are grateful for this unmerited blessing.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Auris Cordis enters the 21st Century

Welcome to the future home of news from the Abbey of St. Walburga!

To supplement our twice-yearly print newsletter, Auris Cordis, we are trying to get our blog together and take it on the web.

Thank you for visiting, and we hope you will enjoy future posts.