Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas, Continued

Our Christmas celebrations began on Christmas Eve when Fr. Paul Philibert, our chaplain, blessed the creches in the community room....

...and the refectory.

We have Christmas decorations up all over the house, including this scene in our chapter hall: 

And yesterday, on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, we celebrated Sr. Mary John's "real" feast day! Although we often celebrate close to the solemnity of the nativity of St. John the Baptist, her official feast day is on December 27--because her patron is St. John the beloved disciple. At evening recreation, we watched happily as she opened a box of lovely presents sent from the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Farmington Hills, Michigan. 

A lovely tile from Prouilhe with the "O lumen ecclesia" (a song to St. Dominic) printed on it!

More note paper--a prioress can never have too much of this! 

We hope all of you are enjoying a blessed and happy Christmas season, and pray you will have a wonderful New Year 2013!

Holy Innocents

On this day, the liturgical celebration of the Holy Innocents martyred in Bethlehem so long ago, we especially remember the victims of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut two weeks ago today. We are praying for the victims and the survivors. May God grant them peace. 
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, 
and may perpetual light shine upon them
and upon all innocent victims of hatred, war and violence.

Monday, December 24, 2012

No Room At The Inn

Every year we begin our celebration of Christmas with Solemn Chapter, held in the Chapter Hall, including the singing of the Announcement of Christmas and a sermon given by one of the sisters. This year, Sr. Mary Rose delivered a beautiful sermon, which we offer below in order that the world may enjoy it and not just the sisters!

To meditate on Christmas can be a daunting task, for the Infancy Narratives read something like a romance or a fairytale: a poor couple, an evil king, exotic visitors, heavenly messengers, narrow escapes, celestial signs. It all sounds so far removed from our everyday experiences. However, there is one experience recounted in Luke's telling that some of us can probably relate to: trying to find a room in a hotel. I personally can recall a cold night in Flagstaff, AZ. My father, after many hours of driving across the desert, was going from hotel to hotel looking for a room for his family. We children, peering out of the van windows, could see the red neon lights under each hotel's sign flashing "No Vacancy". I do not remember how the night ended, but the memory of going from place to place remains. 

Often dramatic or cinematic presentations of Mary and Joseph's arrival in Bethlehem portray St. Joseph knocking on many doors looking for lodging. What St. Luke actually says is, "They found him lying in a manger because there was no room in the inn," (Luke 2:7b), implying that there was only one inn in Bethlehem, which, given the size of the village, is quite likely...The full inn could be interpreted spiritually as St. Luke's way of saying what St. John articulated as "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (John 1:11) It is often interpreted personally as a warning to make sure that there is room in one's own heart for the Lord's coming, not having it overcrowded with distracting anxieties or over-attachment to spiritual and temporal goods. These interpretations are legitimate and useful; however, literally, there is no reason to think that the inn refused to receive Mary and Joseph out of ill will, greed or snobbery. It was not that Mary and Joseph were unable to pay for lodging. It was simply that there was no more room. True, no one went so far as to give up their own place to a young mother about to go into labor, but it is often assumed the stable Mary and Joseph ended up in was the inn's, which would indicate that the innkeeper was not heartless...It seems that God the Father was engaging in the kind of hyperbole Jesus would come to love, exaggerating to make a point. To give a faint indication of how far His Son was stooping, He has Him born among the animals....

...When God enters one's life, this is what happens: everything changes. Both Joseph and Mary had heard God knocking at their doors: Mary through the angel Gabriel and Joseph through his dreams. Both let Him in. And the world has never been the same. This has happened to us as well: in our initial call, in the daily promptings of grace. Entering the monastery was life-changing, so we should not be surprised if God continues to turn our world upside down. He does this so His Son can enter. 

Let us ask St. Joseph, then, to intercede for us that we may pursue our own vocation in single-mindedness, in the concrete circumstances of our own time, in trust that God will come to dwell with us for we know, as Joseph did, that God can turn a stable into heaven.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2012

"This is the real commitment of Advent: to bring joy to others. Joy is the true gift of Christmas." --Pope Benedict XVI

At the root of today's gospel is joy--which is one of the fruits of the holy Spirit. Joy permeates this story. Joy is most notably in the heart of our Lady who not only travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth, but makes haste in the effort. Joy is also experienced by the babies in the womb, tumbling about in the darkness, as they hear the dialogue of their mothers and sense each other near. 

Joy comes from Love, and God is love. Thus, the more we are united with him, the more joyful we will be, even in the midst of dark times. The joy of the Trinity goes beyond the fleeting joys of this world, beyond the gifts we give and receive for Christmas, and remains in the heart until the soul is drawn up to Jesus in the heavenly court. Today we pray for this joy, and we pray that all mankind will feel it in the complete gift of self. In this way, we too can mirror the joy of Mary and Elizabeth and rejoice that we have a Lord who will be with us forever.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Third Sunday of Advent 2012

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!

In these, or similar words from the Entrance Chant and the second Scripture reading today from the Letter to the Philippians, the Church cries out with joy in the house of God. There are few Sundays in the Church year so charged with gladness as today. What is the reason for so much joy in the midst of this preparation for Christmas? The good news: "the Lord is near."

The Lord is close to us through grace, which is His presence flowing from the sacraments. Paul tells us in Philippians what a Christian must be, how one must act, and the spirit that should animate the heart. The life of grace in our souls shows itself by hearing good fruit in our lives, especially the four fruits of "goodness, trust in God, prayer and peace". Christ is present invisibly among us, in the hidden form of sanctifying grace. This too is the joyful message of the Gospel: Christ is in our midst through grace.
Grace makes us a child of God. Only a person of grace can approach God as a loving Father.  Prayer is the key to God's heart. Every prayer is answered even though what we ask for is given to us in another form. Through prayer in time of trial we find comfort and strength, no matter the external outcome. Grace is the divine life within us that enables us to be at peace with ourselves, with God, and with our neighbor. Peace is a special fruit on the tree of grace. It is Christ's peace that enables us to be satisfied with our lot in life. Peace and joy go together. Grace is the solid foundation for true Christian joy. A person living in God's grace is content and happy knowing that he or she is loved and cared for by God.

Christmas Novena

It's time again for our Christmas Novena! This novena lasts from December 16 (today!) until the 24th and includes all our sung Masses as well as our prayers. We will be remembering you all, the readers of this blog, in a special way during our novena! Thank you so much for your support and may you be blessed abundantly by our Infant Savior this Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe is Mother and patroness of the new world, America. She is our mother! To us, as to all of God's people, she says: "I am the Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, of Him through whom all live, the Creator of men, the Master of our immediate surroundings and the Lord of Heaven and earth. I am your merciful Mother, yours and the Mother of all who live united on this earth. I am the Mother of those full of love for me and who will cry out to me and place their trust in me...I shall hear their groaning and their sadness and I shall console them and lighten all their troubles, wretchedness and suffering." Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Second Sunday of Advent 2012

"God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God" (Baruch 5:7) Here Baruch records for us the return of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. It reminds us of the crossing of the Red Sea--an event in which the Israelites marched amidst the wall of seawater and tread on dry ground as they escaped on their way to the land of freedom. As we set out on our own journey toward the land of freedom during this Advent time, we remember that as we face the challenges of life we have a God who is faithful--who gave to Moses and Abraham the strength of faith to trust and believe in the Lord who clothes the flowers of the field and feeds the birds of the sky. He will give us this same faith if only we ask Him for it!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2012

The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is a powerful example of God's largess--a magnificent gift to Mary and through her to all humanity, indeed all creation. With a certain measure of risk, God created the first man and woman with free will and they abused that gift by choosing to disobey God's commands regarding life in the Garden of Eden. When, in the fullness of time, God was ready to begin His new creation, He chose another sinless pair, Christ His Son and Mary of Nazareth. A familiar hymn, which we sing frequently at the Liturgy of the Hours, summarizes this story so well:

When, in His own image
God created man,
He included freedom
In creation's plan...
God to man entrusted
Life as gift and aim.
Sin became our prison,
Turning hope to shame...
Then in time, our make
Chose to intervene...
So that man's devotion
Newly might begin.

The Immaculate Conception is God's first intervention in his plan for his new creation. He once entrusted humanity's future to a "frail humble maiden", creating her sinless at her conception so that in complete freedom, she would be able to choose to obey God's will and so offer to her brothers and sisters in all generations the incalculable gift not only of true freedom, but also of everlasting salvation through the Son she accepted to bear when at the Annunciation she said YES to God rather than Adam and Eve's NO.  

We turn to Mary then, as the perfect model of faithfulness to God and ask her: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Sunday of Advent 2012

The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he will do what is right and  just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Israel shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: "The Lord our justice." 
-- Jeremiah 33:14-16

Happy New Year! These words of the prophet Jeremiah are a hopeful beginning for our new liturgical year. Today is like a new school year in which we will be educated and formed by the mysteries of Christ's life proclaimed every time the Liturgy is celebrated.  

Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfill the promise...

The Lord is coming, and every year we have a time to prepare our hearts and minds to be more aware of this and to welcome his coming to us. We are preparing for Christ's coming at Bethlehem and at the end of time. But He also comes to us every moment of every day. Let us ask Him for the grace to welcome Him every day: in the joyful and difficult moments, in temptations and in prayer, in small and great events, in our neighbors and friends, and in each stranger we encounter. An Advent well spent will bring forth God's special blessings and make us stronger in Faith, Hope and Charity.