Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Visitation 2012

On this feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we Dominican nuns are encouraged to reach out to and visit with our sisters in the active realm. We can do this primarily through prayer, and we will be offering special prayers for all our active Dominican sisters in the Texas area and throughout the United States and the world today.

Fr. Paul Murray, OP (who gave us a fantastic retreat some years ago) explains beautifully about the Visitation in his book Door into the Sacred: A Meditation on the Hail Mary. He writes: "To our astonishment, we discover that it is in the poor, in those who need our help, that the Lord is waiting to fill us with the knowledge, the joyful knowledge, that we are loved. And this knowledge is knowledge that heals. If we, who know ourselves to be wounded in some way, make an effort to help others who are suffering, if we 'share our bread with the hungry' and try to 'shelter the homeless poor' or make a visit to someone in need like Mary, then, according to the prophet Isaiah, not only will we experience enlightenment of some kind, but '[our] wound will quickly be healed over' (Isaiah 58:6-8). And why? Because in those who are most in need of help we will meet Christ himself." Sometimes we don't know when another person is in need, because their deepest needs are hidden from human eyes. But we can always take time to perform act an act of kindness--and who knows what effect that will have on both of us? Today let's try to find out!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost 2012

Did you receive the Spirit? 

We have the tradition of making a holy card for each sister here at the monastery for Pentecost. Each card has a Pentecost-themed picture on the front and a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit printed on the back--so for example, maybe Fortitude and Peace, or Piety and Charity, or Fear of the Lord and Joy. Sister makes enough cards for the community, and we each draw one during Office of Readings on Pentecost as we sing "Veni, Creator Spiritu". So the gifts and fruits each sister receives are (in a sense) planned for her by the Holy Spirit, because no one knows which ones she will get! Each sister can then meditate on the special way that these particular gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit impact her life throughout the year.

Our prayer for you today is that you will receive the blessings of the Spirit in ever greater measure as God pours out his Spirit on us all!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Enjoy the Silence

It was intriguing to see that the Pope commented on silence for his message for World Communications Day (which was celebrated on May 20--Ascension Sunday for most of us). 

 St. Peter Martyr, OP, suggests silence

"Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves." --Pope Benedict XVI

We understand this as Dominican nuns. Although we don't keep perpetual silence, or take a "vow of silence", we do try to keep a prayerful silence throughout the day and especially in certain areas of the house where noise carries easily and on the monastery grounds where it would be more respectful to be silent (the cemetery, for example). But external silence can often be kept more easily than internal silence! Sometimes, even when we are not speaking, our minds are running a mile a minute with distracting thoughts! The Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers tell us, "The nuns should make of their house, and especially of their hearts, a place of silence." (LCM 46:II) We strive every day to do this. Our silence helps us to communicate more effectively with our sisters, with the people we meet in the parlor, with all those we encounter in whatever way God brings them into our lives. And ultimately it helps our prayer as well, which is, after all, the greatest form of communication there is!

Monday, May 14, 2012

May Crowning 2012

Yesterday evening we had our May crowning--it seemed an especially appropriate occasion, being Mother's Day!

Processing (a good Dominican tradition!).

Sr. Bernadette Marie carried the crown of flowers...

...and Sr. Irma had the honor of crowning Our Lady!

Every evening during the month of May, we honor Our Lady by making a procession to her statue while singing the Litany of Loreto. This is part of our May novena to Mary, in which we remember in prayer all the petitions and requests that have been made by our friends, relatives and benefactors. Please know that we are remembering you who read this blog as well in our May devotions! May Our Lady intercede with the Lord for all your intentions, and grant those pleasing to His will!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fifty Years...and counting

Not long ago we had the Mass for Sister Miriam's golden jubilee...fifty years of professed Dominican cloistered religious life. Yesterday we had the community celebration for her jubilee--a day of games, festivities, food and laughter. How can anyone spend fifty years "behind the walls" of a cloister, seeing the same people day after day, praying with them, eating with them, having fun (we hope!) with them? We think the answer is love. Not just love for your sisters, not just love for the Order, but most of all love for Jesus Christ, who has called us together as a community. We celebrate him every day, at Mass, through our adoration of Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, through our times of communal and private prayer, and through our expressions of charity toward our sisters and those we meet from the world outside our cloister. Love is more than a warm feeling in your heart--love is expressed concretely in action and has to go on being expressed every day, especially at times when it hurts to love. Jesus is our example in this too, as in all things. But love does not mean simply suffering. In the Gospel of John we hear Jesus tell us, "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love...I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete." (John 15:9, 11) Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and a characteristic of love. If we have love for Jesus and love for each other, truly we will be full of joy, whatever happens! 

And on a lighter note, here are some pictures from yesterday's joyful celebration!

Sr. Maria Guadalupe and Sr. Miriam exchange a big jubilee hug!

Sr. Miriam, Sr. Mary Lucy, and Sr. Mary John are enjoying the program!

Sr. Miriam happily displays her beautiful community gift: a golden rosary!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Retreat Sunday

Tomorrow we will be having our monthly retreat day. The idea of a retreat day for cloistered nuns may come as a surprise--aren't cloistered nuns on retreat all the time? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we live all the time in the silence and awareness of God that people who live in the world try to experience when they are on retreat. No, in the sense that in addition to our silence and times for personal and community prayer, we have a lot of work to do in order to keep the monastery running! So it helps to take a day once a month to step back from the busyness that even cloistered nuns can fall prey to and simply be with God. 

In addition to our community retreat day, each sister is given the opportunity to take a private retreat day once a month (we call it a Moses day, referring to Moses' many times of withdrawal from the Israelite community in order to pray). Each sister also has a three day retreat around the anniversary of her profession of vows, and sisters who make it to their silver or golden jubilees get a whole 30 days of retreat! (They don't have to take it all at once...but they can!) 

All these retreat days strengthen us as a community. They bring us closer together, because through our silence and solitude we are drawn closer to God. We remember how Jesus called his disciples to come away and rest for a while after their first attempts at spreading the good news. However, we also remember how he sent them back out to preach again after their time of retreat! In the same way, we return to our daily work and recreation on Monday, refreshed and ready to be a joyful community once again. A retreat can help anyone, in any state of life. Consider taking a day and turning off your phone, TV, computer, etc., and try just to listen to God. He speaks in the silence!