Reflections From Norbertine Associates

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent 2016

By Diann Wimmer

Norbertine Associate

Diann Wimmer

Diann Wimmer

Prepare the Way of the Lord:
Imagine profound PEACE.
Live in HARMONY and HOPE.
Be filled with FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT.

The Scripture readings of the second Sunday of Advent again prove that the Bible prefers to “talk in images.” Today we hear the stories of animals, trees, deserts, mountains, sandals, locusts, wild honey, water, and fire. Each story with its images holds the secret of a deep spiritual reality.

For example, imagine a shoot that sprouts from a stump. With surprise, we see new life—an awakening from what seemed dead. Like the shoot, God’s action comes forth when least expected and when the world is troubled with violent death. But God brings life, love, and light to a dark world.

Could this shoot, this promise of new life, be the story of Christmas?

Also imagine animals that, by instinct, are hostile and aggressive, but now exist in harmony and peace: the lion and the lamb or the leopard and the kid. This reading reminds one of the peaceable kingdom of the Garden of Eden. But our world suffers disorder and war and needs to hear of the proclamation of Psalm 72: “Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more.”

Could the coming of this impossible peace be the promise of Christmas?

Then imagine the Glory of Sion, the Holy Mountain, a center for a new world where people of all nations come together. A new exodus where people from north, south, east, and west move as ONE, singing with one accord and with one voice.

Could this harmony among all nations be the invitation of Christmas?

Imagine living in the desert, eating locusts and wild honey. With such discipline and solitude comes the encounter with the true self and with a merciful God. From this desert air, a voice cries out, “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” Indeed the prophet emerges filled with the presence of God and the courage to preach conversion of heart.

Could this desert-solitude help to prepare our hearts for Christmas?

Finally, imagine reaching down and loosening the sandals of a great and gracious person, one who is prophet and Messiah. John the Baptist declares his unworthiness and steps aside to announce “the one who is coming after me.” This one will baptize with FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT.

Could humility be the path to acceptance of FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT this Christmas?

Therefore, the readings of this second Sunday of Advent engage our imagination. The images of stumps, animals, mountains, deserts, locusts, wild honey, water, and sandals all hold a deep meaning for our preparation of Christmas. If we listen with open hearts, we may hear the invitation to the awakening of new life, to unbelievable peace, to harmony among nations, and to solitude and humility that show the way to FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT. May God bless us with these spiritual gifts.

Closing Prayer

We come, dear God, to prepare our minds, hearts, and lives
for the celebration of Christmas.
Let us imagine profound PEACE.
Let us live in HARMONY and HOPE.
And, in your mercy, fill us with FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT.

More opportunities to celebrate the season of Advent at St. Norbert Abbey »

Darkness & Light

Reflections on St. Norbert Abbey from Dianne Wagner

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Abbey Magazine

By Katrina Marshall

On November 12, 2016, Dianne made her commitment as a Norbertine Associate of St. Norbert Abbey.

Dianne Wagner

Dianne Wagner

Throughout her lifetime Dianne Wagner has always felt the Norbertine influence. In 1936 her parents worked at WTAQ, one of the Norbertine radio stations located in downtown Green Bay’s Bellin building, assisting her uncle, Fr. James Wagner, O. Praem., who was manager at the time. Dianne was born into St. Willebrord Parish and studied at St. Norbert College, where she later served as alumni director.

“From my youth I always had a yearning for something I didn’t even have a word for: spirituality. As I grew older I became active as much as I was allowed in the various parishes I attended. It still wasn’t enough.”

Eventually, due to personal crises, Dianne admitted that she felt abandoned by God. “I was in a very dark place and questioned all that I had believed in and accomplished.”

After leaving the Catholic Church and being away from De Pere on and off for 30 years, Dianne decided to move back permanently.

“I came home confused spiritually—a bit wounded and at times wondering if God even existed. I needed a refuge. St. Norbert Abbey became a safe place to ask questions without judgment or condemnation. By sharing these feelings with priests I had grown close to, I realized that all of this was a normal part of growing spiritually and that I wasn’t the first to have these questions. I think it was the ‘restlessness’ that St. Augustine shared with his followers.”

Dianne explained that the liturgies at the abbey have connected her with the Church of her childhood, and yet also provide a place for her as an adult to continue to grow spiritually.

“Music has always been an important part of my spiritual life. I was able to cantor at the abbey years ago. For me, it’s the most fulfilling way to pray. Here I feel blessed to be able to join the Norbertines in their daily prayers. The Magnificat brings back my childhood devotion to Mary. She becomes real to me again. And at Sunday Eucharist the Abbey Singers of St. Norbert College perform not only Latin hymns of the past, but also newly composed hymns of today: ‘ever ancient, ever new.’ ”

Easter Vigil in the Holy Night at St. Norbert Abbey

Easter Vigil in the Holy Night at St. Norbert Abbey

Dianne’s favorite liturgy at the abbey is the Easter Vigil.

“Sitting quietly in the darkness, meditating on the crucifixion, when suddenly the darkness is lit up by a fiery torch, accompanied by the pealing of the abbey bells and the joyful singing of the choir is an incredible spiritual experience.”

For Dianne, the abbey is a place of healing and inclusiveness where all are welcome to share in the blessed life of the Church.

“The abbey—the church, the liturgy, the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, and most of all the priests who have given me loving compassion and support—all became a haven for my heart and spiritual growth, which continues today.”

International Meeting Fosters Associate Ties

In July 2015, four Norbertine Associates from St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin, joined nearly fifty other Norbertine Associates at the third Norbertine Associate international meeting held at Tepla Abbey in the Czech Republic. The focus of the conference was to learn about Norbertine history and present-day efforts to follow St. Norbert’s work to share Christ’s message with the world.

In a setting filled with rich Norbertine history, they covered topics that included Conversion (Fr. Ambrose Samal, O. Praem., Strahov Abbey, Prague), the Year of Consecrated Life (Abbot General Thomas Handgraetinger, O. Praem.), and Evangelization – Pope Francis’ letter, “The Joy of the Gospel” (Fr. Joseph Serano, O. Praem., Daylesford Abbey, Pennsylvania).

There was plenty of time to contemplate the messages of these presentations. Many insights were gained, as well as the opportunity to pray with and learn from fellow associates from across North America and Europe. While their goals may be the same, the needs of different areas of the world demand different approaches. St. Norbert Abbey’s Norbertine Associates returned home with new ideas and new enthusiasm for assisting their own Norbertine community.

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