Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's Still Christmas!

While the world is packing away the Christmas decorations and looking forward to New Year's Day, the monastery is still celebrating the Christmas season with Christmas prayers, songs, carols, decorations, and cheer! We didn't start decorating until about the 21st of December so we want to enjoy our Nativity scenes for a while longer.

This outdoor Nativity scene is usually on display in the monastery front yard, but this year for a change we set it up inside the cloister so the sisters could enjoy it!

The Holy Family gets a little decoration, too!

Our Nativity scenes range from the small and simple, like this cornhusk version in the kitchen (we thought it was kind of appropriate!)... the more elaborate scene in our community room (complete with Christmas tree).

We wish you a joyous Christmas season, and pray the Holy Infant, our patron,  will bless you in the coming year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thanks for your help!

We have run out of our 2012 calendars!  Thanks so much to all who supported us--we really need your help and prayers! We are grateful and we are praying for you, too. Keep watching this blog for our next fundraiser, which should hopefully debut in 2012!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Matachines 2011

Last night we were delighted to welcome the matachines from St. Andrew's parish here in Lufkin.

They wore exceptionally beautiful costumes, as you can see...

and danced in the traditional style. Note the very young matachine at the end of the line!
It was a privilege and a delight to see them honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lord in our chapel! Thank you so much!

You can see last year's visit from the matachines from St. Patrick's parish (with more information about matachines in general) HERE.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Novena

It's time again for our Christmas novena, which starts today and runs through December 24. This includes all our prayers and sung Masses, as well as our special novena prayer. We will be remembering you all, the readers of this blog, in a special way this year! May God bless you all and give you a joyful and blessed Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St. Lucy

There are many saints with the name Lucy--there's even a Dominican Lucy, Blessed Lucy of Narni (we're not making this up!), but the Lucy we remember today is a virgin martyr from the early days of Christianity. She is the patroness of people who are blind, because according to legend, her eyes were put out. Today we pray especially for all who are blind or having trouble with their vision--physical or spiritual. May St. Lucy enlighten these days of Advent for us all!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Welcome, Sor Irma!

Sor Irma, O.P. comes to us from the Dominican monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena in Puebla, Mexico. She will be staying with us here in Lufkin for about six months, learning English among other things, and we are delighted to have her! She is already praying the rosary with us (in English, that is) and singing a little at Mass, and she only arrived on Monday. We are so happy to renew and strengthen our ties to our Dominican nuns in Mexico, and pray Sor Irma will have a pleasant and helpful time here at our monastery. Please keep her in your prayers as well!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Lot to be Thankful For...

We had a great Thanksgiving holiday and hope you did too! 

Sr. Bernadette Marie and Sr. Mary Gabriel make a wish!

 Sr. Mary Veronica and one of the turkeys she prepared...

We always eat in the community room on Thanksgiving...which gives us an opportunity to talk while we eat (a rare privilege!)

Sr. Maria Rosario and Sr. Mary Catherine enjoying the delicious meal

Many thanks to our friends who helped make our Thanksgiving dinner possible! We are so grateful to all of you! May God bless you abundantly!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Retreat with Fr. Gabriel O'Donnell, OP

We should admit right now that this picture was NOT taken at our monastery...none of the pictures we took turned out, unfortunately. But we still want to show you Father Gabriel O'Donnell, OP (if you don't know him already). He gave us a marvelous retreat on the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) and the cardinal virtues (prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance), relating them to the monastic life--and he added a talk on humility as well, which was most welcome! Fr. Gabriel is the academic dean at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC and we are so grateful he was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to come and give us this retreat. We hope you will be able to return to see us again one day soon, Father!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Presentation of Mary / Pro Orantibus Day

Today we celebrate the memorial of the Presentation of Mary in the temple, an event not mentioned in the Gospels, but significant because it symbolizes Mary's complete dedication to God. Blessed Pope John Paul II said, "Mary appears to us today as the temple in which God has placed his salvation and as the handmaid who was totally consecrated to the Lord." And Yves Congar, OP writes, "As the type of all faithful souls and of the Church herself, Mary expressed spiritually and supremely in her life that 'presentation' which, for each one of us, is to begin by the service of faith and to be consummated in heaven."

Today is also Pro Orantibus Day, a day "for those who pray", meaning for cloistered religious. We hope you will join us in praying for more vocations to the cloistered religious life and especially to our monastery! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christ the King

"And now, Lord Jesus, come and remove the stumbling-blocks within the kingdom which is my soul, so that you who ought to may reign in it. Greed comes along and claims its throne in me; arrogance would dominate me; pride would be my king. Comfort and pleasure say: We shall reign! Ambition, detraction, envy, anger fight within me for supremacy, and seem to have me entirely in their power. But I resist insofar as I can; I struggle against them insofar as I receive your help. I protest that Jesus is my Lord. I keep myself for him since I acknowledge his rights over me. To me he is God; to me he is the Lord; and I declare: I will have no king but the Lord Jesus! Come then, Lord, rout them by your power and you will reign in me, for you are my king and my God, who grant victories to Jacob."
--St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Annual Retreat Time

Tonight we begin our annual retreat. Our retreat master this year will be Fr. Gabriel O'Donnell, OP, and we are really looking forward to his conferences. We will finish our retreat on November 24. Please keep us in prayer and we will be praying for you in a special way during this graced time!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friends and Family

People often ask us, "Do you ever get to visit your family and friends?" Well, we don't leave the enclosure to visit them, but they can come to us! We have several parlors--that is, rooms where nuns can visit with people who come to see them. 

 Sr. Mary Lucy and family

Sr. Mary Thomas and family

Sr. Miriam and family

We do have a fixed counter or other separation to maintain enclosure, but this is simply a reminder that we are cloistered nuns, separated from the world. It doesn't prevent us from enjoying time with our families! Usually, a family is allowed to visit for a few hours each month. If a nun's family does not live close enough for a monthly visit, she may be allowed to spend longer periods with her family over a couple of days--especially if they don't come very often. We encourage our family and friends to come join us in the chapel (on the extern side, of course) when we pray together or have daily Mass, and many of them do this.

But our visitors aren't limited to family! Sometimes we get some surprises, like a recent visit from our dear friend Fr. Ron Foshage, MS. He came up from Jasper, TX to hear our confessions and brought along a marvelous Protestant family of talented musicians who played for us.  It was a wonderful ecumenical encounter. And to our delight, Fr. Ron joined in and played the violin!

There were three violins, a viola, and a cello. Everyone played beautifully!

In addition, some of the younger girls sang for us! Their harmony was simple but lovely. 

We thank God for all His many gifts, which He brings to us without us ever having to leave the enclosure!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dominican All Souls Day

That's right! Just as we have a Dominican All Saints day to remember in a special way all our Dominican saints, we also have a Dominican All Souls day to remember all our deceased brothers and sisters of the Order. It's sometimes said that it's good to live as a _____(fill in the blank with a religious order you choose!) but die as a Dominican. Why? Probably because of all the prayers, Masses and general suffrages for the dead that we have as an Order. We have no less than three special days for praying for our dead (our parents, our friends and benefactors, and today's remembrance). Mechthild of Magdeburg once had a vision of a deceased Dominican friar suffering in Purgatory. He explained that because of the dignity of the Dominican Order, he did not go to hell, but he would be in Purgatory for some time! He asked her for some help (prayers and Masses offered for his soul). It's impossible to know the validity of such a vision, but it does make you think!  Incidentally, if you would like us to remember your beloved dead in prayer this month (and always) just send their names to us HERE and we will do it!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dominican All Saints Day

Today we celebrate all the Dominican saints--and there's a lot of them. In addition to the many Dominicans who lived holy lives and died more or less peacefully, there are over 100 Vietnamese martyrs in the Dominican family, and quite a few newly beatified Dominicans from the Spanish Civil War, as well as all the Dominicans who were martyred in China and Japan and other places. And we'd like to remember some of the Dominican saints who are patrons of sisters here at the Monastery: 

Blessed Sybillina 
St. Catherine de Ricci
St. Agnes of Montepulciano 
St. Margaret of Hungary
St. Dominic
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Rose of Lima

Of course, we should also mention some "honorary" Dominicans who have namesakes in our community as well--St. Mary Magdalene (Apostle to the Apostles and the first preacher of Christ's resurrection!) and St. Augustine, who wrote the Rule that Dominican friars and nuns still follow today. May all the holy Dominican men and women intercede for us today and every day!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls Day

Today and all this month we remember our beloved dead--those that we know had faith and those whose faith is known only to God. Here at the Monastery of the Infant Jesus we always pray in a special way for the dead during November, and we'll be doing the same thing this year as well. We would be happy to pray for anyone you would like us to remember--just send us an email HERE and we'll include that person in our prayers. God bless you!

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Saints Day

Today we celebrate all the holy men and women who have gone before us in faith--those canonized, those whom we remember as saints (even though the Church will probably never formally recognize them), and all those known only to God who intercede for us night and day before the  heavenly throne. We often sing the hymn, "For All The Saints" on this day, with its stirring melody by Ralph Vaughn Williams, but the words strike an odd note somehow--they speak of the saints "who from their labors rest", when in fact we hope that, like St. Dominic and St. Therese and a host of other saints, they are still working hard from Heaven for us. This was St. Dominic's great promise on his deathbed--"I will be of more help to you where I am going than I have been here". His words were echoed by countless other saintly Dominicans as they lay dying. And we are probably all familiar with St. Therese's promise to "come down" from Heaven after her death. Maybe Heaven is more of a dynamic state of union with God than a place of eternal rest, with our beloved dead interceding for us who remain on earth. Whatever Heaven is like, it's got to be better than the cartoon version that shows a man apparently recently arrived in Heaven (decked out in white robe, halo, etc) sitting on a cloud and saying wistfully, "Wish I'd brought a magazine!" 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Waiting (sort of) Patiently...

We're having some technical difficulties with the new website, so it may not be up as quickly as we hoped it would be. But you can still check out our current website in the meantime! We'll try to update the community page (we've had a new member since July--you might have noticed her in some of our pictures!) as soon as possible. Please join us in prayers that we will soon have a new website up and running. We'll announce it when it happens!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

St. Luke

"Luke promises peace to the whole human race, and traces human origins from Jesus to the first man, as though to declare that all have a right to the salvation Jesus came to bring if only they are willing to receive it. This is what is meant by Luke's universalism. If Luke sees any class as privileged, it is the sinners, so piercing is the appeal of mercy in his gospel. Like Matthew and Mark, Luke tells of the call of Levi, and of Jesus' kindness to tax collectors and sinners; but he goes further, to relate the pardon granted to the sinful woman, the parables of the lost coin and the prodigal son, the conversions of Zachaeus and the good thief and--more moving even than the tears of repentant sinners--the profound, exuberant joy of the One who forgives, that surge of fatherly tenderness, that astounding revelation from the heart of God, which has converted so many souls."
--Fr. Marie-Joseph Lagrange, O.P.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bazaar News, Part 2

Saturday, October 1 was our target date for the bazaar, but it took us two days to get all our stuff out of the boxes and set up!

 Sr. Mary Thomas smilingly unpacks

Sr. Mary Margaret hangs the hanging baskets

Sr. Mary Christine arranges cards and calendars

Thuy, Sr. Maria Guadalupe, Sr. Bernadette Marie, and Sr. Maria Rosario showing off some of our varied offerings!

The bazaar was really a great success and yes, we are considering doing another one! Please do keep us in prayer as we consider all the options!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bazaar News, Part 1

We wanted to bring you these pictures from the bazaar preparations before the bazaar (which was  held on October 1) but we were too busy actually getting ready to post anything! Well, better late than never...
Sr. Mary Christine sewing a Christmas tree skirt

Sr. Marie Augustine makes aprons
Sr. Maria Cabrini with a doll that needs stuffing, hair, and other things!

One of the many fruits of the bazaar was the way the entire community pitched in and worked together to make many wonderful arts and crafts. It was a strengthening and enriching experience for all of us.We hope to do this again sometime...maybe next year?? Pray for us! More to come!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Farewell to the Hummingbirds

We have a hummingbird feeder on the breezeway inside our monastery cloister, and it provides much enjoyment for the sisters who love to watch the hummingbirds come to drink the nectar (and occasionally fight over who gets to drink!). And we get other visitors to the feeder as well, including orioles, wrens, wasps, and lizards! But we put it out especially for the hummingbirds of course. Since they started flying around and looking for food in April, we put the feeder out early, but now that October has come we haven't seen a single bird in days. Probably they have all flown south for the winter, but we hope to see them again come spring!

 Enjoying a drink...

Just a little more...

Now off to points south!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

St. Therese, pray for us!

OK, there's no really strong Dominican connection with St. Therese that we know of...we just love her! We have two sisters in our community named for her! We chose this picture because it's so different from what you usually see in connection with St. Therese...she was sweet, sure, but she was also tough!

We especially today invoke St. Therese's blessing as we are having our first-ever bazaar! It will be held at St. Andrew's Church in Lufkin, TX from 9 AM to 2 PM today. If you are in the area, please drop by and check out all the great stuff! (This bazaar is why we've been so quiet on the blog front recently!!) We will be bringing you more about the bazaar in days to come. 

Also would like to answer some questions that have come up about the bananas! Regarding fruit flies...we have never had a problem with this. We have a statue of St. Martin de Porres in the kitchen which is supposed to deter mice but maybe he keeps fruit flies away too! (We don't have mice either. Or any kind of vermin in the kitchen. Thanks, St. Martin!!) Regarding the preparation and timing...We usually let them set on top of the gas stove (pilot light on) for several days, turning them about once a day. You know they're ready when they're all dried out but still flexible. You can cover them with a towel or net if you have trouble with flies, etc. You can do them in the oven too but they need to be watched. We have burned some by mistake! 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Going Bananas

It's often said, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." But what do you do when life hands you bananas?

We recently received several cases of bananas from a generous benefactor--and then we received still another case from ANOTHER generous benefactor! We all like bananas, but there's only so many you can eat before they start to get, what to do? Fortunately our head cook, Sr. Marie Augustine, is an expert on bananas. Whenever we receive large quantities of bananas, we dry them! It's easy to do, healthier than banana bread or muffins, and the sisters love them. 

First, of course, you peel the bananas!

Then you slice them, first across the width, then in half down the middle of the banana, so you have four pieces, as you can see here!

Be sure to place the bananas seed side up--they get very sticky on the bottom otherwise. We dry our bananas on baking sheets on top of the stove. It usually takes a few days. You can probably do it faster with a drying machine but we prefer this method because we can do a lot of bananas at once. 

Dried bananas are naturally sweet, and make a great addition to breakfast! When we started drying bananas, we learned that not only our African sisters (like Sr. Marie Augustine, who is from Tanzania), but also our Vietnamese sisters were familiar with dried bananas and liked them. We are fortunate to have a wide mixture of cultures and backgrounds in our community, and we welcome any more that would like to join us! In the meantime, we're enjoying our bananas--and we're so grateful to ALL our benefactors who make our life possible!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Holy Name of Mary

 "Blessed be the name of Mary, virgin and mother..." (from the Divine Praises)

St. Bernard of Clairvaux once wrote, "In danger, in difficulties, in doubts, think of Mary. Call upon Mary! Never let her name be absent from your lips or absent from your heart." As Dominican nuns, we each take a form of this name as part of our religious name. It can be Mary, as in Sr. Mary Agnes; or Marie, as in Sr. Marie Augustine; or Maria, as in Sr. Maria Rosario, or even Miriam, as in Sr. Miriam. The possibilities are numerous, but the intention is the same: to honor Mary and her holy name. May we all have renewed respect for the names of Jesus and Mary today and every day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Armchair Pilgrimage to the Lands of Dominic

April, says Chaucer, is the month to go on pilgrimage, but for Dominican cloistered nuns, any time is a good time! From September 7-10, we enjoyed a unique pilgrimage--taken without ever leaving home. Our guides were Sr. Ann Willits, OP and Fr. Matt Walsh, OP and our destination was Europe--specifically, the lands where Dominic lived, went around preaching the Gospel, and eventually died.

St. Dominic began his life and journeys in Spain, but traveled as far as northern Germany and into France and Italy over the course of his lifetime.

Our pilgrimage with Sr. Ann and Fr. Matt was in many ways a journey into the heart of Dominican life, as we explored not only the physical world of St. Dominic through slides and lectures but also the interior world of St. Dominic through reflections on many aspects of Dominican life. Sr. Ann's thought-provoking lectures and Fr. Matt's wonderful homilies and talks gave us much to contemplate! We are so grateful to them for their insights and for giving us a renewed sense of belonging to the Dominican family.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"Our Lady is the culmination of that long process of selection, of choosing here and rejecting there a human instrument suited to his purpose. which is so characteristic of God's dealings with his ancient people...God's grace and man's free will corresponding with it--that ancient mystery is illustrated at every turn of the Old Testament story, until at last we turn over the page into the New Testament and find its ideal illustration in the life of our Lady herself...She is the culmination of all that process; for in her human nature reached to its highest dignity, to greet the divine condescension of the Incarnate. In her, as nowhere else, God had found the human instrument suited to his purpose; the worthy receptacle of a grace that had not dwelt on earth since Adam lost his paradise. The work of selection is consummated; mankind stands ready for its Redeemer." --Msgr. Ronald Knox

Today we celebrate the birthday of the Virgin Mary. We don't know a whole lot about Mary's birth or childhood because these things aren't mentioned in the Gospels--but there are a lot of apocryphal stories about her floating around, which is where we get the names of her parents, Joachim and Anne, for example. Still, we are happy today to celebrate our Blessed Mother's birthday! As Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. writes, "Mary's is a birthday to remember because the answer to our sorrow, misery, malice, loneliness, inability, and strife is to be born of Mary." Happy birthday, dear Mary!