August 15 - National Lemon Meringue Pie Day



A day for pie! Just our sort of day. We think pie is way better when shared with someone - so whether you decide to make a pie or take yourself out for pie, be sure to invite someone fun to join you. Call up a friend and share a cup of tea or coffee together along with some good conversation...and a slice (or two) of lemon meringue pie.

We found this article and recipe in the February 2019 Our State Magazine and thought you might enjoy the local take on lemon meringue pie. It was written by Emma Laperruque who works as a food writer and recipe developer at Food 52 in New York City.

NC Pie Series: What comes at the end is always remembered: the goodnight kiss, the famous last words, the three-point shot at the buzzer, the homemade pie following a fine meal. What’s a plate of flounder in Calabash or oysters on the Outer Banks without a slice of lemon meringue, served on a Styrofoam plate with a plastic fork? Can you imagine a rib eye at the Angus Barn in Raleigh without the grand finale — that famous chocolate chess, drizzled with syrup, dolloped with whipped cream? What of the perfectly fried chicken at Mama Dip’s in Chapel Hill, culminating with a slice of sweet potato or pecan? Sure, we love our cakes, cobblers, and banana puddings, but pie provides the sweetest memories.

Harkers Island locals call it “lemon milk pie.” Half an hour away, in Morehead City, they know it as “Down East lemon pie.” Others simply say “lemon meringue pie.” But any way you slice it, same pie. What everyone can agree on is why this recipe is so prevalent along the coast: a belief that you shouldn’t have dessert after eating seafood, unless it’s lemony. No one quite knows how or when this idea took hold. “I started waiting tables when I was 13, and I couldn’t believe that people ate dessert after seafood,” Karen Amspacher remembers. “That was a shock.”

These days, Amspacher makes lemon milk pies at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center in Harkers Island for various events and fund-raisers. Just like ladies from her church did, she lines a pie tin with Ritz crackers — some crushed, others whole — then pours in a lemony custard made with sweetened condensed milk. Top that with billowy meringue and toss it in the oven until tanned and bronzed, like tourists sunbathing on the beach. In Morehead, meanwhile, Southern Salt Seafood Company is carrying on the legacy of the iconic Captain Bill’s restaurant. There, Albert Cowan styles the pie to “look like the beach.” Crushed crackers resemble the sand, and swirls of whipped topping look like the waves as they curl, then crash onto the shore.

To try this pie, you’ll have to go straight to the source. But we’ve got home bakers covered, too. This recipe comes to us courtesy of Sheri Castle, an award-winning professional food writer, cook, and recipe developer.

Lemon Milk Pie

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

½ cup butter, melted

1½ sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed into coarse crumbs

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, such as Eaglebrand

4 egg yolks
6 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

4 large egg whites

6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350º.

Stir together the butter and crumbs until the mixture is evenly moistened. Press into a 9-inch pie pan.

Bake until golden and fragrant, about 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

For the filling: Whisk together the condensed milk and egg yolks in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Pour into the cooled pie crust.

For the meringue: Beat the egg whites until opaque and frothy with a mixer set to low speed. Add the vanilla, increase speed to high, and beat to very soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating to firm peaks.

Spread the meringue over the pie filling, making sure it touches the inner edge of the pie crust. Use the back of a spoon to make a few pretty swirls on top.

Bake until the meringue is golden brown with slightly darker peaks, about 10 minutes.

Cool to room temperature on a wire rack and then refrigerate until chilled.

August newsletter

from the Core Team

Summer Pavlova…my first ever (CF)

Summer Pavlova…my first ever (CF)

As our record-breaking summer winds down, the warmer (understatement) weather, longer days, and time spent outdoors all begin to fade. Thoughts around the start of school (or work), cooler temps, and shorter days begin to creep in before we even realize it.

So before we say goodbye to summer—and all the things that made this season so special—we thought it might be fun to hit the reset button and share with you some of our magnificent memories of the summer season. Take a look at the posts below - you might find something you would like to try or that you have been meaning to do before this splendid season slips away…


from Ann O’Hara

I am heading out to Zion National Park next month - and in googling around for information on Zion, I came across this headline: “The largest bird in North America was nearly wiped out.  Here’s how it fought its way back.” You can click here to read the article, see the pictures and watch a wonderful video.

This story of the condor has become my feel good story of the summer. I find myself telling everyone I meet about it. It gives me hope. Here’s why. In 1982, when there were only 22 condors left on earth, scientists captured all 22 of them to breed them…and then in May of 2019 – some 37 years later - the 1000th chick was hatched --- in Zion National Park!

I plan to keep my eyes opened for the condors while I am there – and if any of you have any recommendations or stories from your travels to Zion, I would love to hear from you in the comment section at the bottom of this post.


from Christine Miesowicz

This summer is our second in Florida so I am more heat-acclimated, if such a thing is possible. Even still, grilling, if I had a grill and a grill master, is a bit of a sauna-like experience that requires a change of clothes before sitting down to eat what one has grilled. Hence, my return to the practice of preparing dinner salads OR dinners that cook in under 30 minutes. I now also live close to my dad and his wife who have consented to be my “recipe testers” for our newly-instituted, healthier “dinners at lunch time”.

This one was a huge hit! (PS I left the skin on and baked skin side down.) Click here for a taste of this fabulous Sheet Pan Pecan Crusted Salmon.

As the fall approaches and the temperature and humidity moderate somewhat, maybe I’ll attempt the grill, but I sure will miss these summertime quick one sheet dinners. 


from Linda Bedo

Linda offers a bit of practical advice for Grandparents of teens and pre-teens…”Learn to love Steak and Shake and to play Dungeons and Dragons.”

I think the picture below says it all…



from Mary Morch

Unsolicited Quiet Time - I suddenly found myself at home, totally alone, for four days after a hectic June and beginning of July.  My husband was away, the grandchildren were in other states and volunteer commitments accomplished.

What?  Alone? I panicked. No one to cook for. No one needing my attention.


Suddenly  I  felt God was laughing at me.  For years I knew well that contemplation, listening, reading scripture was an avenue to a relationship with God. I was also aware that I found busyness my prayer of choice all these years. Who had time? God was aware of my intentions. So why the need to sit quietly and just listen?

As it turned out, this alone time was a wonderful experience. Days turned into dusk and I was able to focus. I was able to sit still longer than imagined.  I fooled with chalk, listened to music and let my thoughts wander. There was no TV, no interruptions and I ate when convenient.

By day three the comfort of this “not doing” settled upon me like soft sunshine on a breezy day. It was a feeling of having been here before and re-remembering the world of just “being”.


from Maureen Leahy


This is my little Maltese named Niki on his first birthday. Last month we celebrated 14 years as companions. For all the years that I worked I always knew that, as I returned home, he would be waiting at the door with wide eyes and a wagging tail that would not quit. At six months I took him to puppy training. Everyone would laugh as he raced in circles around the other dogs with so much energy. Now in his senior years he has become a little slower, sleeps more but never misses an opportunity to beg for a treat. Sounds a little like myself! The core team of the Band of Sisters meets regularly at my house. They have all been the recipients of Niki's greeting and begging for a treat. We may have a few more years together and I will always treasure the companionship and loyalty my Niki has shown. These furry friends are truly a gift from God.


Pat is enjoying a week of vacation at the beach with her family - we are hoping it is one of her favorite times of the summer.


from Cindy FitzGerald

Before you go - here are a few fun activities to consider if you want to get the most out of these final weeks of the season:

Journal About Your 5 Favorite Summer Memories

The act of writing accesses your left brain (the analytical and rational side). While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit, and feel. Writing in a journal about happy thoughts and memories from your summer can evoke a state of mindfulness. Use this positive spin of gratitude journaling and spend 15 to 20 minutes (or more, if you wish) writing about your Top 5.

Create a Collage from your summer photos - to preserve your memories

Surround yourself with fun photographs that will keep you in happy spirits for months to come. They're a great conversation piece when friends and family come to visit. Photos have a way of taking us back to “the moment”…they provide us with a form of time travel.

Put together a collage of photos from the summer that you can put on display in your home or office. Or look into one of those great apps that can turn your individual photos into a photo book for your coffee table or work station.

Devise a fun meal plan while your favorite fruits and veggies are still available

Revisit your meal plan and design one that includes fresh seasonal veggies and fruits, and explore new recipes you have been meaning to try - while you can still find the freshest ingredients.

Look for farm stands and road-side stalls. Stop by the Farmer’s Market. Check with your neighbors who garden - there is always and abundance of tomatoes and zucchini this time of the year. And remember to shop around the outside perimeter of the grocery store, where all the fresh foods can be found.

Get Social

Research shows that individuals who lack social connections or report frequent feelings of loneliness tend to suffer higher rates of infection, depression, and cognitive decline. Don’t let that be you. Plan some fun get-togethers with friends. Join us to walk the Labyrinth on 4th Thursdays of the month. Consider helping with Note in the Pocket…Band of Sisters volunteer on the second of the month.

Perhaps it’s time to create a FaceBook account - so many wonderful folks to stay connected with on FaceBook. Instagram is another way to stay connected - it’s quick and easy to follow people, favorite restaurants, bands you enjoy, view posts from around the world, behold incredible photos of natural beauty…

And here is some fun news - Band of Sisters is on Instagram. You can find us as bandofsistersraleigh (BOS). Want some help creating an account so you can follow us? Click here for a step by step…so you can follow us on FaceBook and on Instagram!

Update on our Fall Retreat


We have begun a waitlist for our Fall Retreat - Dipped and Dyed in Prayer. We are headed to St. Francis Springs (just North of Greensboro) on October 21, 22, 23. You can read more about the retreat here…and can get yourself waitlisted by clicking here and scrolling down on the calendar page to October 21 where you will find retreat information and waitlist instructions.

A Year Along the Geostationary Orbit

reposted from Aeon

From 20,000 miles up, our home planet is a hypnotic swirl of the familiar and the sublime

The Japanese weather satellite Himawari-8 was launched in 2014 for a planned eight-year mission to collect forecasting, weather-monitoring and research data. For his experimental short A Year Along the Geostationary Orbit, the German filmmaker Felix Dierich used Himawari-8 data made publicly available by the Japanese and Australian governments to craft a timelapse that condenses one year into 16 stunning minutes. Orbiting some 20,000 miles above the Earth – much further than the International Space Station (245 miles) yet much closer than the Moon (c238,900 miles) – while perpetually fixed over the Eastern Hemisphere, Himawari-8 provides a unique perspective on the planet and its weather patterns. With the film’s haunting soundtrack and swirling imagery, it’s easy to get lost in the hypnotic clouds and forget that below them is half of humanity, rendered almost entirely invisible by the distance.

something important...


“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.

“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.

“Yes, but - - -”

“Why ruin it?” he said.

“But you could be doing something important,” I said.

“I am,” said Pooh.

“Oh? Doing what?”

“Listening,” he said.

“Listening to what?”

“To the birds. And that squirrel over there.”

“What are they saying?” I asked.

“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.

“But you know that already,” I said.

“Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else thinks so, too,” he replied.

An Acoustic Ecologist Takes You On a Guided Walk In the Hoh Rain Forest

posted by Ann O’Hara

Silence is an endangered species, says Gordon Hempton. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth, as he knows it, is a "solar-powered jukebox." Quiet is a "think tank of the soul." If you visit the On Being website (click here) you can hear an interview with Gordon Hempton. There is also a thumbnail from the full length interview on the same website. Whether you choose to listen to the full interview or the small segment, from the interview by Krista Tippett, you can take in the world through Gordon Hempton’s ears.

A bit about On Being - we learn the following from their website:

“It began with a controversial idea for a public radio conversation, Speaking of Faith, that would treat the religious and spiritual aspects of life as seriously as we treat politics and economics. On Being, as it has evolved, takes up the great questions of meaning in 21st-century lives and at the intersection of spiritual inquiry, science, social healing, and the arts. What does it mean to be human, how do we want to live, and who will we be to each other?

The show launched on two public radio stations. Even as it grew year over year, it remained fairly hidden on the dial, consigned, as the New York Times wrote, to the “God ghetto” time slot of Sunday mornings. When podcasting came along, On Being took its place among leading podcasts. It has been downloaded and played over 200 million times.”

The short footage below, from National Geographic, provides us with both the sights and sounds of the Hoh Rainforest - and the sense of quiet…According to Mr. Hempton, “quiet is quieting’…give a listen…and a look.

The gift of quiet
is that it allows the faint meaning of sound
to gain its original importance.
— Gordon Hempton

Remembering when...


Posted from Pat Legere-Hicks

The Band of Sisters has held three October retreats at Laurel Ridge Retreat Center in the beautiful North Carolina mountains.  Many of you joined us for these retreats.  During the first retreat in 2016, “Dorothy Day- Seeker-Sister-Saint”,  Maryann Crea presented us with meaningful insights on the life and times of Dorothy Day. 


In 2017 at “B’s in a Bloomin’ Bonnet”, Christine Miesowicz and Regina O’Connor led us in an exploration of balance gleaning insights from St. Benedict and Brené Brown.  This retreat started off with torrential rains which produced tornadoes in the area.  Luckily, Laurel Ridge was spared and we were graced the first evening with a double rainbow. The retreat that followed was just as spectacular.  


Christine and Regina joined us again as presenters for our 2018 retreat, “That We Might See”.  All attending were blessed with insights on how they viewed their faith journeys.

As you you can see in the pictures, our time together for all the retreats has always been spirit- filled and full of joy and exploration. 

This year we will be hosting our retreat on October 21-23, 2019 at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, NC and hope you will consider joining us.  Space will be limited so the sooner you register the better.  Visit the Fall Retreat page to learn more.


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

- Mary Oliver

Immigrant Picnic


It's the Fourth of July, the flags

are painting the town,

the plastic forks and knives

are laid out like a parade.

And I'm grilling, I've got my apron,

I've got potato salad, macaroni, relish,

I've got a hat shaped

like the state of Pennsylvania.

I ask my father what's his pleasure

and he says, "Hot dog, medium rare,"

and then, "Hamburger, sure,

what's the big difference,"

as if he's really asking.

I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,

slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas,

uncap the condiments. The paper napkins

are fluttering away like lost messages.

"You're running around," my mother says,

"like a chicken with its head loose."

"Ma," I say, "you mean cut off,

loose and cut off being as far apart

as, say, son and daughter."

She gives me a quizzical look as though

I've been caught in some impropriety.

"I love you and your sister just the same," she says,

"Sure," my grandmother pipes in,

"you're both our children, so why worry?"

That's not the point I begin telling them,

and I'm comparing words to fish now,

like the ones in the sea at Port Said,

or like birds among the date palms by the Nile,

unrepentantly elusive, wild.

"Sonia," my father says to my mother,

"what the hell is he talking about?"

"He's on a ball," my mother says.

"That's roll!" I say, throwing up my hands,

"as in hot dog, hamburger, dinner roll...."

"And what about roll out the barrels?" my mother asks,

and my father claps his hands, "Why sure," he says,

"let's have some fun," and launches

into a polka, twirling my mother

around and around like the happiest top,

and my uncle is shaking his head, saying

"You could grow nuts listening to us,"

and I'm thinking of pistachios in the Sinai

burgeoning without end,

pecans in the South, the jumbled

flavor of them suddenly in my mouth,

wordless, confusing,

crowding out everything else.

Newsletter for July 2019

Carlo Dolci

Carlo Dolci

It has been three years since the celebration of St. Mary Magdalene, July 22, was elevated to the level of a feast day. “What difference?”, you might ask. It means that Mary Magdalene is celebrated liturgically like the rest of the apostles. She is the only woman to be so celebrated and rightfully so.

“Who was she? From the New Testament, one can conclude that Mary of Magdala (her hometown, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee) was a leading figure among those attracted to Jesus. When the men in that company abandoned him at the hour of mortal danger, Mary of Magdala was one of the women who stayed with him, even to the Crucifixion. She was present at the tomb, the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection and the first to preach the “Good News” of that miracle. These are among the few specific assertions made about Mary Magdalene in the Gospels. From other texts of the early Christian era, it seems that her status as an “apostle,” in the years after Jesus’ death, rivaled even that of Peter.”
— James Carroll

St. Mary Magdalene is an example of what it means to evangelize, to proclaim the central good news that Christ is risen. She serves as an example to all women that we, too, are sent to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.  

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee

 If you are ever in the Holy Land, visit Duc in Altum in Magdala on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. “Duc In Altum” exalts the presence of women in the Gospel. Thanks to Divine Providence, this idea was materialized in Magdala, hometown of Mary Magdalene. Mary was a follower of Jesus among other women who supported him with their own means (Luke 8).


The Women’s Atrium features eight pillars, seven of which represent women in the Bible who followed Jesus, while the eighth honors women of faith across all time.

The honored women are: Mary Magdalene – follower of Jesus and present at his crucifixion (Luke 8:2), Susana and Joanna, the wife of Chuza – followers of Jesus (Luke 8:3), Mary and her sister Martha – followers of Jesus (Luke 10:38), Salome, the mother of James and John – supporter of Jesus and wife of Zebedee (Matthew 20:20), Simon Peter’s mother-in-law – healed by Jesus, then supporter of Jesus (Matthew 8:15), Mary, wife of Cleopas – follower of Jesus and present at his crucifixion (John 19:25), Many other women – the many women who followed and supported Jesus (Mark 15:41), Unmarked Pillar – for women of all time who love God and live by faith.

 See photo and above quoted description here


 For more on Mary of Magdala and the Magdala Stone pictured in our July email go to


Our birthday celebration was magical. Linda Bedo warmly welcomed us to her home and Lee Werley amazed us with his magic. We extend our thanks to both. Cake and lemonade were enjoyed by all - and the rabbit, out of the hat, appeared to offer favors to those present. Our thanks to Linda’s grandson for entering into the fun. Scroll down to the June 19 post on this page to see photos of the event.

We thank all for their presence at this celebration. We also thank those who offered happy birthday donations and warm wishes via the website - Our ability to provide opportunities to gather depends on your generosity. Donations are gratefully accepted at any time. Click here to donate.


Registration for the fall retreat, “Dipped and Dyed in Prayer” to be held at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, is open. Click here to see registration info and to register. Our August newsletter will provide more details.

Are you following us on FaceBook? You can find us as BandofSistersRaleigh. Once you are on our FaceBook page, simply “like” us (thumbs up icon) and we will begin to appear in your FaceBook feed. We have just begun work on an Instagram account … more on that at a later date.



What did you notice?

The dew snail;
the low-flying sparrow;
the bat, on the wind, in the dark;
big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;
the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;
the sweet-hungry ants;
the uproar of mice in the empty house;
the tin music of the cricket’s body;
the blouse of the goldenrod.

What did you hear?

The thrush greeting the morning;
the little bluebirds in their hot box;
the salty talk of the wren,
then the deep cup of the hour of silence.

What did you admire?

The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;
the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;
the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the
pale green wand;
at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid
beauty of the flowers;
then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.

What astonished you?

The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.

What would you like to see again?

My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,
her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue, her
recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness, her
sturdy legs, her curled black lip, her snap.

What was most tender?

Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.

What was most wonderful?

The sea, and its wide shoulders;
the sea and its triangles;
the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.

What did you think was happening?

The green breast of the hummingbird;
the eye of the pond;
the wet face of the lily;
the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;
the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;
the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve
of the first snow—

so the gods shake us from our sleep.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Happy Birthday to us!

What fun we had at the birthday party. Linda Bedo and the core team hosted members of the Band for cake and lemonade and a warm visit. Lee Werley kept us smiling and laughing and scratching our heads - it was eye-popping as he taught us a whole bag of tricks that we could use with family and friends. We had quarters coming out of our ears, dimes disappearing, cards that magically appeared, and coloring books with pictures that could change color by whispering just a few magic words…

Greeting friends…

Greeting friends…

…old friends and new…

…old friends and new…

Our friendly magician…

Our friendly magician…

Teaching us to put a knot in the rope…

Teaching us to put a knot in the rope…

Practicing our lessons…

Practicing our lessons…

Studying the books…and figuring out how it’s done…

Studying the books…and figuring out how it’s done…

Passing a rope…

Passing a rope…

…right through her wrist!

…right through her wrist!

So that’s how he did that!…

So that’s how he did that!…


The Band of Sisters…it’s magic!

Newsletter for June 2019


June, the month of graduations, Father’s Day, and summer solstice, is upon us. This year Pentecost, the great feast of the Holy Spirit and the conclusion of the Easter season, also falls in June.

The Spirit’s work is helping us stay in relationship and building connection. The Spirit warms, softens, mends, and renews all the broken, cold places in and between things. Invisible but powerful, willing to be anonymous, the Spirit does not care who gets the credit for the wind from nowhere, the living water that we take for granted, or the bush that always burns and is never consumed.
— Richard Rohr

What practice increases your awareness of the Spirit with you? Here’s an easy one. Do you have a wind chime? Some love them for the music; some find them to be an annoyance. One symbol for Spirit is wind, gently wafting or violently blowing. Perhaps the movement of the wind in a chime might remind you that the Spirit is indeed with you.

How do you see the Spirit “warming, softening, mending, and renewing all the broken, cold places” in your life?



Remember our birthday party on Wednesday, June 19 from 1:00p - 3:00p. RSVP on the calendar page at any time by clicking here. Scroll down to the date of the event and follow the link. Once you RSVP, we will be back in touch with you about the Raleigh address of the party’s location.


Next date is Tuesday, June 18 from 9:30a - 12p. The Volunteer Center is located at: 5100 Lacy Avenue, Raleigh 27609.


Next date for our labyrinth walk at the Millbrook Baptist labyrinth (1519 E. Millbrook Rd | Raleigh, NC 27609) is Thursday, June 27 at 9:30a. Plan on 60-90 minutes of walking, reflecting, and faith sharing. Ann O’Hara will meet you there.

Dipped and dyed.jpg


Save the date for our annual retreat: Monday, October 21, 2019 - Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at the beautiful St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, NC (only about 2 hours from Raleigh). More details to come. Registration is open - click here to be taken to the calendar page. Scroll down to the date of the event to see pricing and accommodations.

Remembering when...

Posted from Ann O’Hara

The Band of Sisters is celebrating five years together. Throughout this fifth year of being in the Band, are taking a backward glance at some of our previous gatherings - so we might remember and celebrate the many graces that have marked our time together. This is our second post in the series - about our time with the labyrinth.


Back in the spring of 2017 the Band held a labyrinth walk as a gift to all of the faithful women who had been journeying with us.  Now, after three years of annual labyrinth walks, you might have to say it has entered into the realm of being a tradition – an established practice of the Band that really embodies who we are.

Our mission statement says it all: “The Band of Sisters is a group of women dedicated to providing opportunities for people of faith, especially women, to gather in a prayerful setting in order to learn about and share their experiences of faith.”

In the labyrinth, we find that expression of who we are when we gather in a beautiful prayerful setting, individually walk with God to deepen our relationship, and communally share that journey of faith.

Back in the 2017, we were looking for a prayer practice during the season of Lent - a prayer practice that moved us inward to reflect on our life with God, to rest in God, and then to move us back out into the world. The labyrinth seemed perfect. And so for two years we walked during the season of Lent - indoors at the labyrinth at Pullen Baptist Church where the labyrinth path is set into the warm colored wooden floor. This beautiful chapel allowed for quiet reflection.

This year, as we moved the date of the walk into the Easter season, we also moved the walk outdoors - to the Millbrook Baptist labyrinth where we were surrounded with the beauty of new life - blue skies, green trees and plants, the smell of flowers, and the song of the birds.

Traditions can get old if they aren’t allowed to grow a bit. We invite you to grow this tradition with us as we move our labyrinth walk from a yearly gathering to a monthly prayer practice.  Simply come to Millbrook Baptist Church on Millbrook Rd, Raleigh on the fourth Thursday of each month at 9:30 where you will find us - a gathering of the Band. You can also check our calendar for the upcoming dates and details by clicking here and scrolling to the May 23 date.

New to the Labyrinth?– check out this short video on walking narrated by Lauren Artress, the woman who is credited with re-introducing the labyrinth in modern times.

Newsletter for May 2019


As the days grow longer and spring bursts forth in many shades of green, we are surrounded by new life. In this “green” time, we remember St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 10th century mystic, prophet, musician, poet, healer, reformer,  saint, doctor of the Church but above all else a Benedictine sister. She saw the Spirit alive in all creation and described this presence of Spirit as greenness (viriditas, in her words). If you are interested in Hildegard, this 55-minute talk by June Boyce-Tillman is excellent. She begins her talk telling the story of Hildegard, as Hildegard. Click the white arrow to enjoy the video and celebrate the “greening”.



We are having a Birthday Party ro celebrate 5 years of the Band of Sisters. Plan to join the Band on Wednesday, June 19 from 1:00p - 3:00p at the home of one of our band members. There will be lemonade and cake - and even some magic!

You won’t want to miss a minute of the party because at 1:30p, we will be mesmerized by magic from our guest magician - Lee Werley. Following the show, we will have the opportunity to actually learn some magic tricks - so we can wow and delight our friends, neighbors, children, and grandchildren! Come share in the magic of celebrating together.

We will be sending out invitations soon - but you can RSVP on the calendar page at any time by clicking here. Scroll down to the date of the event and follow the registration link. Once you RSVP, we will be in touch with the Raleigh address of the party’s location.



This organization provides clothing to impoverished and homeless children in Wake County. Note in the Pocket believes it is unacceptable that children are limited in their educational and social development because they do not have appropriate clothes for school. Band of Sisters meets up and works with Note in the Pocket to process incoming donations and outgoing orders.

The Volunteer Center is located at: 5100 Lacy Avenue, Raleigh 27609

We are moving our regular day to volunteer to the third Tuesday of each month from 9:30a-12p. See you on May 21st! For the remainder of 2019, you can mark the following dates in your calendar: May 21, June 18, July 16, August 20, September 17, October 15, November 19, December 17.



As a result of the lovely and prayerful labyrinth walk earlier this month, the Band has decided to offer continued opportunities for this prayer practice. You are invited to join the Band at the Millbrook Baptist labyrinth (1519 E. Millbrook Rd | Raleigh, NC 27609) at 9:30a on the 4th Thursday of each month for 60-90 minutes of walking, reflecting, and faith sharing.

Ann O'Hara will start off the time together with a brief orientation on the labyrinth (as needed). Following that, all will be invited to walk the labyrinth (or spend time in contemplation on the nearby benches). There will be ample opportunity for quiet reflection after the walk - as well as time for faith sharing with one another.

Mark your calendars and plan to join us. Going forward for 2019, the dates will be May 23, June 27, July 25, August 22, September 26, October 24, off in November due to Thanksgiving, December 26.



Save the date for our annual retreat: Monday, October 21, 2019 - Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at the beautiful St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, NC (only about 2 hours from Raleigh). More details to come. Registration is open - click here to be taken to the calendar page. Scroll down to the date of the event to see pricing and accommodations.



With our beloved dead in mind, the Band of Sisters will gather on Monday, 28 October 10:30a-12:30p to pray for our departed. In addition, we will take a guided tour of this historic cemetery - which will have a special focus on the history of some of the women of note who are buried there.

Registration requested. Click here to be taken to the calendar page. Scroll down to the date of the event and follow the registration link.


How often during the Advent season have you felt like you are moving too fast? We hear it all the time from friends and family who get overwhelmed at the busy-ness of the season.

Join us at Sacred Heart Church (the old cathedral), 100 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh as we gather for an evening of Taizé Prayer during the Advent Season. Date and time to be announced.

The season of Advent embraces us with the mystery that “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14. 

The Incarnation reminds us that God chooses to meet us where we are and invites us into a deeper relationship.

Advent gives us the opportunity to prepare our hearts to receive the incredible gift of Christmas.

This Taizé service is offered at Sacred Heart by the parish’s Contemplative Prayer Group and the Band of Sisters - with the hope that it will provide for seekers of spirituality a comfortable place to worship no matter what their creed or dogma, bring a variety of people together in loving contemplation, and enrich the lives of those who attend through beauty. The service will last 40-45 minutes.

What Good Dads Still Get Away With

Division of labor in the home is one of the most important equity issues of our time. Yet at this rate it will be another 75 years before men do half the work.

By Darcy Lockman

Dr. Lockman is the author of the forthcoming “All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership.”

This article appeared in the New York Times Parenting Newsletter on May 4, 2019


When my husband and I became parents a decade ago, we were not prepared for the ways in which sexism was about to express itself in our relationship. Like me, he was enthralled by our daughters. Like him, I worked outside the home. And yet I was the one who found myself in charge of managing the details of our children’s lives.

Too often I’d spend frantic days looking for spring break child care only to hear him ask, “Oh, there’s no school tomorrow?” Or we’d arrive home late with two tired kids, and instead of spearheading their nighttime routine he’d disappear to brush his own teeth. Unless I pointed out these lapses (which he’ll tell you I often did, and I’ll tell you I often did not), he was unaware.

We’ve all heard this story before. Thinking about my own relationship, and watching the other couples I knew, I kept wondering: Why is this still happening?

The optimistic tale of the modern, involved dad has been greatly exaggerated. The amount of child care men performed rose throughout the 1980s and ’90s, but then began to level off without ever reaching parity. Mothers still shoulder 65 percent of child-care work. In academic journals, family researchers caution that the “culture of fatherhood” has changed more than fathers’ actual behavior.

Sociologists attribute the discrepancy between mothers’ expectations and reality to “a largely successful male resistance.” This resistance is not being led by socially conservative men, whose like-minded wives often explicitly agree to take the lead in the home. It is happening, instead, with relatively progressive couples, and it takes many women — who thought their partners had made a prenatal commitment to equal parenting — by surprise. Why are their partners failing to pitch in more?

The answer lies, in part, in the different ways that men and women typically experience unfairness. Inequality makes everyone feel bad. Studies have found that people who feel they’re getting away with something experience fear and self-reproach, while people who feel exploited are angry and resentful. And yet men are more comfortable than women with the first scenario and less tolerant than women of finding themselves with the short end of the stick. Parity is hard, and this discrepancy lays the groundwork for male resistance.

Though many men are in denial about it, their resistance communicates a feeling of entitlement to women’s labor. Men resist because it is in their “interest to do so,” write Scott Coltrane and Michele Adams, leaders in the field of family studies, in their book, “Gender and Families.” By passively refusing to take an equal role, men are reinforcing “a separation of spheres that underpins masculine ideals and perpetuates a gender order privileging men over women.”

While interviewing working parents for a book on parenthood, I spoke with one dad in Vermont who said: “The expectation among my male friends is still that they will have the life they had before having kids. My dad has never cooked a meal. I’ve strayed from that. But subconsciously, the thing that makes you motivationally step up and do something when you’re not being asked …” he trailed off, and then said: “I have justifications. It’s a cop-out.”

Take love out of the equation and focus on the workplace, and it’s clear how this plays out. Studies show that male employees sit back while their female co-workers perform the tasks that don’t lead to promotion. In a series of lab studies, the economists Lise Vesterlund, Linda Babcock and Maria Recalde and the organizational behaviorist Laurie Weingart found that in coed groups, women are 50 percent more likely than men to volunteer to take on work that no one else wants to do. But in all-male groups, the men volunteer just as readily.

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Vesterlund explained that the women do the work “because they’re expected to.” The men “come into the room, they see the women, they know how we play these games.”

We play the same games at home. I interviewed couples separately and found that the women were often angry, while many men didn’t seem to realize there was a problem.

“She felt like we were really in it together,” a father of teenagers told me — after I spoke with his long-frustrated wife.

The couples offered three explanations for this labor imbalance. The first was that women take over activities like bedtime, homework and laundry because men perform these tasks inadequately. But this isn’t “maternal gatekeeping,” the theory that men want to help but women disparage their capabilities and push them out. Instead these seem to be situations that necessitate the intervention of a reasonable adult.

A mother in California said: “It’s important to me that my sons are not falling asleep in class and that they’re not late for school. My husband does not share those priorities, so I do bedtime and school drop-off.”

The dad in Vermont explained: “I do laundry when I need it. When it comes to the kids’ laundry, I could be more proactive, but instead I operate on my time scale. So my wife does most of their laundry. Let me do it my way and I’m happy to do it, but if you’re going to tell me how to do it, go ahead and do it yourself.”

The second explanation involved forgetting or obliviousness. A mother in Illinois said: “My husband is a participatory and willing partner. He’s not traditional in terms of ‘I don’t change diapers.’ But his attention is limited.” She added, “I can’t trust him to do anything, to actually remember.”

A dad in San Francisco said that many of the tasks of parenting weren’t important enough to remember: “I just don’t think these things are worth attending to. A certain percentage of parental involvement that my wife does, I would see as valuable but unnecessary. A lot of disparity in our participation is that.”

Finally, some men blamed their wives’ personalities. A San Diego dad said his wife did more because she was so uptight. “She wakes up on a Saturday morning and has a list. I don’t keep lists. I think there’s a belief that if she’s not going to do it, then it won’t get done.” (His wife agreed that this was true, but emphasized that her belief was based on experience: “We fell into this easy pattern where he learned to be oblivious and I learned to resent him.”)

A father in Portland, Ore., confirmed that his wife takes on more but said: “It has to do with her personality. She always has to stay busy. No matter what day of the week it is, she has a need to be engaged, to be doing something.”

Many mothers told me they had tried to change this and had aired their grievances with their partners, only to watch as nothing changed. A mother in Queens said she spent three years trying to get her husband to do more before coming to terms with the fact that maybe it was never going to happen. “He notices the unfairness, but he just accepts it as something we have a disagreement about,” she said. “How much convincing of the other person can you do?”

All this comes at a cost to women’s well-being, as mothers forgo leisure time, professional ambitions and sleep. Wives who view their household responsibilities “as unjust are more likely to suffer from depression than those who do not,” one study says. When their children are young, employed women (but not men) take a hit to their health as well as to their earnings — and the latter never recovers. Child-care imbalances also tank relationship happiness, especially in the early years of parenthood.

Division of labor in the home is one of the most important gender-equity issues of our time. Yet at the current rate of change, MenCare, a group that promotes equal involvement in caregiving, estimates that it will be about 75 more years before men worldwide assume half of the unpaid work that domesticity requires.

If anything is going to change, men have to stop resisting. Gendered parenting is kept alive by the unacknowledged power bestowed upon men in a world that values their needs, comforts and desires more than women’s. It’s up to fathers to cop to this, rather than to cop out.

Jean Vanier, ‘living saint’ who ministered to people with disabilities, dies at 90

Colleen Dulle, May 07, 2019, America Magazine


Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche and Faith and Light communities, which support people with disabilities and their families, died in the early morning of May 7 at age 90, surrounded by family, according to a statement from L’Arche. He had been living in a nursing home since mid-April.

Mr. Vanier inspired countless people with his simple message that people with disabilities are teachers.

A former naval officer and professor, Mr. Vanier resigned from his teaching position to form the first L’Arche community, in which people with and without disabilities live and work side by side. He embodied an idea he often preached: that people best learn to love by climbing down, rather than up, the ladder of wealth and social success.

Randall Wright, the director of “Summer in the Forest,” a 2017 documentary about Mr. Vanier and L’Arche, said of Mr. Vanier: “He found a lot of answers through discovering, with joy, relationship with people at the bottom of society. And realizing that they have something which was on offer to him and in a sense hadn’t been on offer to him at the top of society, which is a kind of ability to be truthful about being human and not needing to put on the act of importance and authority.

And so I think what Jean did was declare that he was going to give up his life; he’s going to sacrifice for those people. He’s going to look after them his whole life. And when he did this, he had no idea that it would lead, in a sense, to success. He had no idea that people would be talking about this years later. It was just a way of declaring how the world should be,” Mr. Wright said in a phone interview.

Those who knew Mr. Vanier said that he was a physically towering yet deeply tender presence.

Krista Tippett, the host of the radio show “On Being,” interviewed Mr. Vanier in 2007. She described the experience in an email to America this morning. “Sitting with Jean was a transformative experience in and of itself,” Ms. Tippett wrote. “We called the show we created with him ‘The Wisdom of Tenderness’—a wisdom that radiated, [was] embodied, in his presence. Yet this tenderness was also a form of power, as paradoxical and true as the Gospel teaching the L’Arche communities took up as a way of life—that there is strength in weakness, light in darkness and beauty in what the world declares broken.”

James Martin, S.J., the editor at large at America, said: “Jean Vanier showed us, like few people ever have, the overwhelming power of gentleness. Not only in his ministry with the disabled but in his voice, his demeanor, his very presence. During his life there was no one I thought more deserving of the title ‘living saint.’”

Mr. Vanier was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1928 to a prominent Canadian diplomatic family. He grew up in France, until his family fled the impending Nazi invasion in 1940. The family moved to Canada, and shortly thereafter, at age 13, Mr. Vanier decided to join the British Royal Navy and began his studies at an English naval academy.

Mr. Vanier served in World War II with both the British Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. In 1945, while on leave from his military service, he joined his mother volunteering at the Paris railway station where survivors of the Nazi concentration camps arrived after their liberation.

He described the experience to Maggie Fergusson of The Economist: “I’ll never forget the men and women who arrived off the trains—like skeletons, still in the blue-and-white striped uniforms of the concentration camps, their faces tortured with fear and anguish. That, and the dropping of the atom bombs, strengthened a feeling in me that the navy was no longer the place for me, that I wanted to devote myself to works of peace.”

Mr. Vanier would continue serving in the navy for five more years, until he resigned in 1950 to take undergraduate courses in Paris and pursue a more spiritual path. He considered becoming a priest and began discerning with his spiritual advisor and family friend, Dominican Father Thomas Philippe. Mr. Vanier’s formation was interrupted when Father Philippe received an order from Rome to cease his ministry for undisclosed reasons.

Rather than pursuing the priesthood, Mr. Vanier went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy from the Institut Catholique de Paris, writing his dissertation on the concept of happiness in Aristotelian ethics. During his studies, he lived alone and continued praying about how God might want him to spend his life, at one point taking up residence at a hermitage in Fatima. He taught philosophy at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto during the fall semester of 1963.

Over the Christmas break that year, Mr. Vanier visited the French mental institution where Father Philippe served as chaplain. There, he encountered the harsh conditions under which the patients lived, dismissed as “idiots” and locked inside, given nothing to do but take a two-hour compulsory nap each day.

This now-famous encounter inspired Mr. Vanier to purchase a small house in Trosly-Breuil, a town in rural France, in August 1964. Mr. Vanier invited two developmentally disabled men who had been living in institutions, Raphaël Simi and Philippe Seux, to live with him in the cottage, which became the first L’Arche community.

L’Arche, named after Noah’s Ark, has today expanded to 149 communities in 35 countries on five continents. These houses and daytime communities are guided by Mr. Vanier’s philosophy that everyone, regardless of ability or disability, should be given opportunities to grow and learn.

Nathan Ball, who met Mr. Vanier as a volunteer at Trosly-Breuil around 1980, said in an email to America, “In those early years of L’Arche the only ‘charter’ we had was the beatitudes of Jesus. Jean loved to talk about his friendships with Jesus and with people who have an intellectual disability.... Through Jean’s insight, perhaps for the first time in the history of the church, people with an intellectual disability are seen, not as objects of charity but as a precious gift.”

In the early 2010s, several women without intellectual disabilities who had been spiritually accompanied by Mr. Vanier’s mentor, Father Philippe, reported that they had been sexually abused by the priest. L’Arche requested a church investigation that found him guilty of charges dating as far back as the 1970s.

Mr. Vanier expressed shock and sorrow in a letter, writing: “There is a tremendous gap between, on the one hand, the serious nature of these acts that generated such suffering in the victims and, on the other hand, the action of God in me and in L’Arche through Pere Thomas. I am unable to peacefully reconcile these two realities.” “That said,” Mr. Vanier continued, “in thinking of the victims and their suffering, I want to ask forgiveness for all that I did not do or should have done.”

Though Mr. Vanier’s Catholic faith shaped the first L’Arche house, the communities around the world have taken on an ecumenical bent, reflecting the predominant religious traditions of the surrounding areas and welcoming assistants and disabled “core members” of all traditions.

With Marie-Hélène Mathieu, Mr. Vanier also co-founded “Faith and Light,” an international organization of small groups that meet regularly to support and celebrate people with developmental disabilities and their families.

After spending a year and a half with Mr. Vanier at Trosly-Breuil, Mr. Ball decided to leave the community to undertake graduate studies in Toronto. “During my last visit with Jean before I returned to North America, he thanked me for coming to L’Arche, looked me in the eye and put his hand on my shoulder. ‘Please do whatever you can to help.’ He was not asking me for a favor. He was not asking me to stay with L’Arche, although in fact, I have never left,” Mr. Ball wrote. He has worked for L’Arche for 20 years.

“This was a man who lived an unshakably committed life asking me to do the same. He was humbly, confidently and joyfully calling me to work for peace by helping to foster communities of love and justice in the world. Jean knew that none of us can go it alone and that when we try, we are bound to fail. Jean lived the beautiful mystery of our human condition that we need one another, young and old, strong and weak, and he was asking me to do the same. I will be forever grateful.”

Ms. Tippett wrote: “I keep thinking this morning about a notion of Mother Teresa that animated Jean and that he took up with such delight and vigor—that we’re called to move ‘from repulsion to compassion and from compassion to wonderment.’ What a sentence for our world now. He will continue to teach us.”

Mr. Vanier wrote more than 30 books and was awarded a number of honors including the Order of Canada, the French Legion of Honour, the Pacem in Terris Award and the Templeton Prize. He directed the original L’Arche house in Trosly-Breuil until 1990 and lived there until April 2019.

Honoring Mary in your garden


Plant a Mary Garden

There can be such grace in gardening. During this month of May - the month of Mary, consider a planting a garden dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. In a Mary Garden, which can be as small as a lovely little pot or as large as your entire lot, a statue or image of Mary is surrounded by flowers and aromatic herbs which have special meaning.

A Mary Garden can be as fancy, formal, or wild as you wish. Whether you have a sunny or shady yard, the following list of plants and herbs provide you with a variety of choices regardless of your conditions or space requirements. Your location and type of soil will determine what can be planted in an outdoor garden. But once you have that sorted, let your personal preference be your guide.

Perhaps your garden already contains many of your favorite flowers that also appear on the following list. Whether you planted them with the intention of honoring Mary, or whether it is Divine Providence that they are already in your garden - it doesn’t matter. You can easily add to your garden as you turn your thoughts to Mary.

The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish's (in Pennsylvania) Mary Garden Dedication Booklet which asks the reader to visit the garden and think of Mary:

"Picture her eyes (Forget-Me-Nots), her hair (Maidenhair Fem), her five fingers (Potentilla). Think about her apparel: her smock (Morning Glory), her veil (Baby's Breath), her nightcap (Canterbury Bells), her gloves (Foxglove), and her shoes (Columbine). Remember her attributes: Mary's humility (Violet), the fruitful virgin (Strawberry), Mary's queenship (Virgin Lily), Mary's Flower of God (English Daisy), Mary's glory (Saint John's Wort), and Our Lady's Faith (Veronica).

Think about her life: The Bethlehem Star (Bellflower), the Christmas Flower (Poinsettia), Lady's Bedstraw (Dianthus - Mary used bedstraw to prepare a bed for Jesus), the Epiphany flower (Chrysanthemum), the Flight into Egypt (Fig Tree - legend says that the Holy Family ate the fruit of this tree during their flight into Egypt), Our Lady's Tears (Lily of the Valley - tiny white nodding bell-shaped flowers can be likened to a train of tears), Our Lady's Tresses (Asparagus Fern - legend holds that at the foot of the cross, Mary, in. deep agony, tore out a tress of her hair which Saint John preserved), Mary's Bitter Sorrow (Dandelion), and the Assumption (Hosta - Plantation Lily blooms at the time of the Feast of the Assumption)."

We were inspired by a older post on the Franciscan Media website and are using parts of it here to provide you with some information about how to honor Mary in your garden. You will find a listing of plants to consider - coupled with lovely reflections on how they relate to Mary. Perhaps you will want to incorporate some of these lovely blooms into your garden plan this Spring.

Honoring Mary in Your Garden

From Franciscan Media

Vincenzina Krymow (1930-2015) is the author of Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends & Meditations. Sister M. Jean Frisk, Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, has a master’s in theology with a Marian concentration and a licentiate in sacred theology.

During the Middle Ages, the faithful saw reminders of Mary, the Mother of God, in the flowers and herbs growing around them. Violets were symbols of her humility, lilies her purity and roses her glory. They called her “Flower of Flowers,” and named plants after her. Marigolds were Mary’s Gold, clematis was the Virgin’s Bower and lavender was Our Lady’s Drying Plant.

Devoted to Mary, people decorated her altars with flowers on her feast days. Poets and popes praised her in hymns, as in this 15th-century Ave Maria: Heil be thou, Marie, that aff flour of all As roose in eerbir so reed.

In the last century, prior to the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960’s, the faithful also honored Mary with flowers. May crownings were the tradition in Catholic schools during Mary’s month (May), and makeshift home altars bearing an image of Mary were decorated with the choicest home-grown blossoms.

Those traditions have almost disappeared, but the medieval custom of finding reminders of Mary’s attributes, glory and sorrows in flowers and herbs has left a legacy that can enrich our lives in this millennium.

In medieval times, legends about flowers and herbs, some of them dating from the first century, were used to instruct the faithful as well as entertain them. Those legends, as well as the Mary names of flowers, can still inform and delight us.

Reflecting on the flower names, we can honor Mary and find relevance for our own lives. We model Mary’s humility as we gaze upon the humble violet, sing her praises with petunias and share her sorrows as we behold the purple blossoms and sword-like leaves of the blue flag iris.

Flower and herb legends tell us about important moments in Mary’s life. The Madonna Lily was carried by the Angel Gabriel when he visited Mary to tell her God had chosen her to be the mother of the Savior. Our Lady’s Bedstraw, Holy Hay and other herbs became radiant in the humble manger where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Carnations and the Christmas Rose bloomed on that night.

More than 30 flowers and herbs bear legends about Mary’s life. Many of the plants can be easily grown in your own Mary Garden, a garden dedicated to Mary and containing her image and plants associated with her by name or legend. They are found in Mary Gardens throughout the world, should you want to make a pilgrimage in Mary’s honor. The legends and reflections which follow can take us, in spirit and in our hearts, on a virtual journey with Mary.


Aquilegia vulgaris. Our Lady’s Shoes.

aquilegia vulgaris.jpg

Columbine is said to have sprung up wherever Mary’s foot touched the earth when she was on her way to visit her cousin, Elizabeth.

The spurred flower resembles a little dove and came to symbolize the Holy Spirit. In England doves were used to decorate the altar in Whitsun Week, the week following Pentecost Sunday, as the faithful made a connection between the dove, the Holy Spirit and Our Lady’s Flower, the name they had given the columbine.


Mary, how many miles you walked upon this earth! Your grace-filled being brought the Son of Man close to us. Have we ever thanked you for the role you played? Let us follow your footprints; even better, teach us to walk in your shoes.

Ox-eye Daisy


Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. Mary’s Star.

On the night that Jesus was born, the Magi, praying on a mountainside, saw a star appear in the form of a fair child. The child told them to go to Jerusalem, where they would find a newborn child.

When the Wise Men, following the star, reached the village of Bethlehem, they looked for a further sign. Suddenly King Melchior saw a strange white and gold flower that looked like the star that had led them to Bethlehem. As he bent to pick it, the door of a stable opened and he saw the Holy Family.

A mystery play called Office of the Star, a pageant about the Magi’s visit on the Feast of the Epiphany, began as part of the liturgical service in the 11th century, probably in France. Later it was replaced by Feast of the Star, performed partly in church and partly outdoors.


Things, persons and events are prophets pointing the way to God; they are priests and people praising God. Did you learn, Mary, to discern God’s graces long before Bethlehem and the coming of your child? If only I could share your wisdom, as did the Wise Men who knelt down before the child in your arms.


Juniperis. The Madonna’s Juniper Bush.


In Sicily, it is told that the juniper bush saved the life of Mary and the infant Jesus during their flight into Egypt. As the soldiers pursued them, the Holy Family hastened through fields of peas and flax and thickets of various shrubs. A juniper bush growing nearby opened up its thick branches to enclose the Holy Family, hiding them until Herod’s men had left. The inside of the large bush became a soft bed, sheltering the fleeing family, while needles on the outside branches grew prickly as spears. Herod’s soldiers could not penetrate the spiky branches of the juniper and passed the family by.

The juniper mentioned in the Bible is thought to be Genista raetum, called White Broom or Juniper Bush in Palestine, which produces a scraggly plant not casting much shade. The common juniper is mentioned in the first European herbal, De Materia Medica, by a first-century Greek physician named Dioscorides. In the Middle Ages it was used in gardens with other scented herbs.


Our garden of life includes blessing and despair. We marvel that the two can go hand in hand. Just as we note the splendor of our gardens, we also note the toil and sweat it takes over the years to establish a good garden. Egypt worked hard to make a land where junipers can thrive. Mary, you, Joseph and the child would live there for a while. Sometimes I wonder how you mastered life in the desert. Teach me.


Fuchsia magellanica and hybrida. Our Lady’s Ear-drop.


The gently drooping flowers resemble ear-drops or pendant earrings. It is told that Jesus may have playfully hung flower jewels of ruby and amethyst colors on his mother’s ears.

In Devonshire, England, the old folks said Our Lady’s Ear-drop was the only name they had ever known for the flower. It is said that their forefathers, on first seeing the flowers and noticing how they resembled ear-drops, named them in Mary’s honor. It may be that pious persons named the blossoms Our Lady’s Ear-drops as their way of paying tribute to Mary, who through her ears “heard the word of God, and kept it.”


A baby’s fascinated play—tugging at his mother’s ear, exploring ears, mouth, nose and the softness of her skin—brings a smile to those who watch. Lovers, even little ones like this child, deck the beloved with lovely things, tuck flowers in her hair, make wreaths to bring her joy. Mary, nourish my love for you and Jesus.

Lily of the Valley

Convalleria majalis. Mary’s Tears.


It was said that when Mary wept at the foot of the Cross, her tears fell to the ground and turned into the tiny fragrant blossoms of this early spring plant. In England it had the name “Our Lady’s Tears” because when viewed from a distance the white flowerets gave the appearance of teardrops falling.

The lily of the valley was a symbol of the Virgin Mary because of its pure white flowers, sweet smell and humble appearance. It symbolized Mary’s Immaculate Conception and represented the purity of body and soul by which Mary found favor with God.


The sacred text does not speak of your tears, Mary, as our legend does. It tells us instead that you stood by the cross and you were not alone. Other women and John were also there. We wonder at the sorrow, the bitterness, the pain of this little community standing by. Fragrant tiny white lily-bells, a thousand quiet tears bowing before the still-cold winter winds, teach me of springtime and the Resurrection just beyond the stone-cold tomb.

Roses and Lillies

Rosa, red rose. Our Lady’s Rose; Lilium, white lily. Mary’s Lily.


About 12 years after Jesus’ resurrection, an angel appeared to Mary to tell her that in three days she would be called forth from her body to where her Son awaited her. Mary asked that her sons and brothers, the apostles, be gathered near her, so that she could see them before she died and so they could bury her. The angel told her the apostles would be with her that day, and they were immediately plucked up by clouds wherever they were preaching and transported to her house.


Then Jesus came for her and her soul went forth out of her body and flew upward in the arms of her Son. As Mary rose, she was surrounded with red roses and white lilies. Three days later, her body came forth from the tomb and was assumed into heaven, accompanied by a chorus of angels.

Thomas, however, was not present and when he arrived refused to believe that this had happened. He asked that her tomb be opened and when it was opened it contained only lilies and roses.

Roses and lilies have been symbols of Mary since earliest times. The rose, emblematic of her purity, glory and sorrow, was her attribute as Queen of Heaven and a symbol of her love for God and for Christ, her son. The lily represented her immaculate purity, her innocence and virginity.


Your destiny is our destiny, Mary. Your life mirrors to us what ours is to be, if we but faithfully follow Christ Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. We look forward, Mary, to our gathering in and homecoming; we also look forward to meeting you. Center us as you were centered. May he alone be the norm, form and goal of our lives.


Iris pseudacorus. Yellow flag iris.


During the 14th century in France, a wealthy knight, Salaun, renounced the world and entered the Cistercian Order. He was very devout but could never remember more than the first two words of the Ave Maria. He kept repeating the two words, “Ave Maria,” as he prayed to the Virgin. He prayed to her day and night, using only those two words. He grew old and when he died was buried in the chapel-yard of the monastery.

As proof that Mary had heard his short but earnest prayer, a fleur-de-lis plant sprang up on his grave, and on every flower shone in golden letters the words “Ave Maria.” The monks, who had ridiculed him because of what they viewed as his ignorant piety, were so amazed that they opened his grave. There they found the root of the plant resting on the lips of the knight. Finally they understood his great devotion.

In Chartres Cathedral in France, the famous 13th-century rose window of the north transept, which depicts the Glorification of the Virgin, includes the fleur-de-lis, said to be a symbol of the Annunciation.


Mary, more countless than the drops in an ocean or stars in the firmament are the repetitions down the ages of those gracious words: Hail, ave, full of grace, the Lord is with you. I add my chant, my prayer, my roses and lilies to the wellspring of praise.

Pilgrimage to Mary Gardens

Five large Mary Gardens, each with an original statue of the Madonna and all connected with religious institutions, are located east of the Mississippi River. To walk through the gardens is to take a sensual and spiritual tour. We smile at Our Lady’s Delight, smell the fragrant lavender with its tiny florets and imagine Mary’s purse spilling forth marigolds. Thyme and bedstraw, violets and columbine all tell of Mary’s life and inspire us to prayer and meditation.

A pilgrimage might include one or more of these gardens:

The Garden of Our Lady, across Millfield Street from St. Joseph Church in Woods Hole on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, grows behind a six-foot-tall yew hedge. The oldest known Mary Garden in this country is the “garden enclosed” of medieval times.

The Mary Garden at St. Mary’s Church, Annapolis, Maryland, is located behind the church in the quadrangle formed by the church, rectory and historic Carroll House on Duke of Gloucester Street in the heart of old Annapolis.

The Mary Garden at the Shrine at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto at Mount Saint John is located near Dayton, Ohio. The grotto is a proportional model of the Lourdes Grotto at Massabielle in France.

Mary’s Garden at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Portage, Michigan, runs along the front of the church, high on a hill. Both church and garden can be seen from the road. The sun beats down on the garden most of the day and the many-hued plants and blossoms form a cool oasis.

The Mary Garden at the Episcopal Convent of the Transfiguration covers a shady hillside on the grounds of the convent in the Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb of Glendale. This tranquil Mary Garden grows under huge shade trees and is filled with shade-loving plants.

International travelers might visit the Mary Gardens at the Knock Shrine, County Mayo, and the Artane Oratory of the Resurrection, Dublin, Ireland; the cloister of Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln, England; Our Lady’s Parish, Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia; and the Church of Our Lady of Akita, Akita, Japan.

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Closer to the Triangle - do you have a Mary Garden? Send pictures as your flowers bloom - The Band of Sisters would enjoy seeing what is growing in your garden…help us to take a virtual pilgrimage…