Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Novel by Father Demkovich, O.P.

We are delighted to present this advertisement for Fr. M.Thomas-Paul Demkovich, O.P. 's new novel on Meister Eckhart, called The Death of Magister Aycardus. It's available in both paperback and Kindle at and other retailers. We found this book fascinating and enjoyable, and hope you will, too!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Third Sunday of Lent

On this Third Sunday of Lent, we encounter three different texts that speak to us of "living water". First, Moses is called to strike a rock so that the thirst of the grumbling Israelites may be quenched. In antiquity the rock in this case is a foreshadowing of the heart of Christ pierced by the lance through which blood and water flow in the final climax of the crucifixion. Jesus' body, so mangled by whips and abuse already, pours out His love ever after death. He wishes to give all to the Father even until the last drop. 

St. Paul remarks that Christ died at a point when most of the people in Jerusalem were hostile to Him. However, "the love of God has been poured out into our hearts" through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We are often like Moses, grumbling, or at least questioning when life gives us a spin we do not understand. How could God do this to me? Doesn't He know? Yet, because Christ died "while we were yet sinners" His grace beckons to us in the words of the responsorial psalm for Mass, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." He asks us to open ourselves to the living water, the light of grace, and trust--even though we may not see the way. 

The Samaritan woman at the well is promised this living water. Suddenly, she realizes with whom she is talking. She opens her heart and follows the grace she is being given by God. The Holy Spirit has revealed to her the Messiah and she goes in haste to alert her fellow villagers. 

In summary, let us examine our relationship with God. Have we heard this voice of living water deep in our hearts? Have we been attentive? Let us make it our prayer in this holy season of Lent.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Solemnity of the Annunciation

To celebrate this beautiful feast, we are delighted to give you Sr. Bernadette Marie's sermon from yesterday's Solemn Chapter:

     The Incarnation of the Word in Mary's womb is the precursor to us of the Holy Eucharist. Each day Christ's incarnation is repeated at every Mass at the moment of Consecration. St. Augustine wrote, "O awesome dignity of the priest's, in whose hands as in the womb of the Virgin the Son of God becomes incarnate." And He becomes incarnate in each one of us when we receive Him in Holy Communion. His love for us is so great that He was not content to be united to the purest of virgins; He desired to be united to each one of us in particular. Who will ever understand God's immense love for us! Who can fathom His great humility!
     St. Gregory the Great said, "Do you wish to know, dearly beloved, the leaps Christ made? He came from heaven into the womb of the Virgin; from the immaculate womb He went to the manger; from the manger He went to the cross; from the cross He went to the tomb." We can add one final leap to this, namely, to the Eucharist, because as St. Thomas Aquinas sings in the inspired stanzas of the Adoro Te: "On the cross only His divinity lay concealed, but here [in the Eucharist] is also hidden His humanity."
     Because we have the privilege of receiving Jesus in Holy Communion on a daily basis and because our human nature is weak, there is always the danger of Holy Communion becoming routine, and that we might offer an inadequate reception to the Divine Guest. For this reason, Mary must be our model; for she received Jesus with such love and joy in her heart. Who better than Mary, the highly favored one, whom God chose to unite His divinity to our humanity, can teach us the way to receive Jesus in our body and in our soul. The Mother of God is also our Mother, and like any good mother, she sets the example for her children to follow. Her faith, her humility and her gratitude for God's infinite goodness are all virtues to admire and imitate. 
     Mary is also the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Mary said to the angel, "But how can this come about since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow." St. Bernard says that the Holy Spirit is necessary to us just as He was to Mary, whom He covered with His shadow to protect her virginal body at the approach of the Divinity. 
     Just as the Holy Spirit was present in Mary in conceiving Jesus, in forming the Body of Christ, so also will the Holy Spirit act in us in our Communions. He wants to make of us other Christs. He desires to change us spiritually into Jesus, to make us one being with Him. So that when Jesus ceases to be with us sacramentally, He will still live in us spiritually. In this way the Holy Spirit prolongs our Communion, continuing in us the divine life of Jesus. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace." The Holy Spirit will also help us to receive Jesus, like Mary, with a heart full of love and fervor. "The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words." 
     So as we celebrate this day Christ's incarnation in Mary's womb, the day "the Word was made Flesh," with a humble heart let us give thanks to God for this "Sacrament of Love", as St. Thomas called it. For with the Eucharist God has given us everything. That is why St. Augustine exclaimed: "Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Second Sunday of Lent

     Each Lent the Church encourages us to do three ancient practices: prayer, fasting and almsgiving/charity. 
     Today's Gospel, the Transfiguration, focuses us on prayer. The glorification of Jesus before his apostles is meant to strengthen them for his coming Passion and Death. Prayer will also strengthen and calm us in the midst of our own trials and difficulties. This Christ-moment can teach us much about prayer and contemplation. 
     Contemplation is a spiritual, intellectual and emotional experience in which the apostles (and we) can receive insight into the depths of both Jesus' humanity and divinity. It is a prayer that is given to us. We do not earn it or make it happen. God takes the initiative and we respond. 
     The Transfiguration presents contemplation as a growing and transformative experience for everyone involved--Christ, Moses and Elijah received greater glory, the disciples greater insight and understanding. We, too, struggle and gradually grow in prayer. The Spirit increases charity in our prayerful hearts. 
     The disciples had a process of training, climbing the mountain, waiting for the manifestation of Christ's glory. This Lent is an opportunity for us to grow in our awareness of being active members of the Body of Christ through our greater efforts at prayer.

St. Joseph

The bonds that exist between the heart of Joseph and that of the Child Jesus are--since Jesus is God--of an even more amazing clarity and strength. No child has ever been so united to his father as Jesus is to Joseph; no father has ever been so united to his child as Joseph is to Jesus. Joseph loves Jesus' heart--a heart so burning with love, so humble, so poor and so gentle; he loves it with a divine love, which is "substantial" and eternal. He is wholly given to Jesus and loves Him with all his heart as a man and as a father, and with all his sensibility, for Joseph loves the sensibility of Jesus' heart, which is so close to Mary's heart. 
--from The Mystery of Joseph by Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Sunday of Lent

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil...
Matthew 4:1

The temptations Jesus faces in Matthew's Gospel are temptations to power and control in various guises. In fact, all our temptations seem to come down to this one thing: the desire to make ourselves like God. In union with our first parents, we have a hard time believing that God really forbade us to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (or whatever other sinful temptation presents itself to us). If we do not keep our gaze fixed on God alone, it's easy to be led astray by the apparent goods the devil offers us. But we can hold fast to God's Word, as Jesus did, quoting Deuteronomy to the devil in the desert and resisting the temptations to power and control that don't really exist. We know the devil can't deliver what he promises, so why listen to him? Let's keep our hearts open to God during this season of Lent and say with Jesus, "Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve." (Matthew 4:10)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

"We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

May this holy season of Lent bring us all closer to God! Amen!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Some Texas History from a Catholic Point of View

March 2 is the day Texas declared its independence from Mexico and so we are celebrating today! This is a special year for Texans because 2011 marks the terquasquicentennial of independence from Mexico--that's the 175th anniversary! What many people probably don't realize is that Texas was for centuries a Catholic area--"discovered" by the Spanish around 1519 and later a part of Mexico before winning independence in 1836. In their quest for gold and glory in the New World, the Spanish also brought priests to help spread the Gospel. Many of these missionaries in Texas were Franciscans who ministered to the Native Americans and built missions which are still standing today. Remember the Alamo? That was originally a Catholic mission in San Antonio!

The Spanish had help from a visionary Spanish nun, Maria de Agreda, who apparently bilocated to Texas in the 17th century and, while present, instructed the Jumanos (Native Americans in western Texas and eastern New Mexico) in the Catholic faith. Many of these Jumanos greeted the Spanish when they arrived and asked to baptized as a result of her work. 

 Maria de Agreda, who was a Poor Clare (Franciscan) nun

One of the most famous Native American converts in Texas is Angelina, a Caddo woman who learned Spanish and was invaluable for her intercultural skills, both as an interpreter and an adviser. The only county (out of 254!) in Texas to be named after a woman is Angelina County--coincidentally the county where our monastery is located!

 The statue of Angelina with a Native American and a Franciscan friar in Lufkin 
(Sculpture by Steve Gustafson)

There were many Catholics who fought for Texas independence. Some of the most famous were Jim Bowie, Ben Milam, and Erastus "Deaf" Smith. But the Catholic presence in Texas might have been lost if not for the work of dedicated bishops (like Bishop Jean Marie Odin, first bishop of Galveston) and the many diocesan and religious priests, religious brothers, and sisters who worked so hard to establish churches, schools, hospitals and orphanages in those early days--and the many faithful lay people who came as settlers, particularly Gil Y'barbo (one of our sisters is a descendant of his!).  They not only kept the Catholic faith alive in Texas, but also paved the way for contemplative life in Texas, and we are glad to say there are several contemplative monasteries in Texas (including ours, founded in Lufkin in 1945).  The Catholic presence continues in Texas today and we are grateful for the contributions Catholics have made to our state throughout our history!  

A view of the front of our monastery--notice the bluebonnets, our state flower!