Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Throughout The Monastery

It's been very busy here at the Monastery, but we wanted to bring you some images of our decorations before we leap into 2014! Remember, the Christmas season lasts until the Baptism of the Lord (which is on January 12). So don't take that Christmas tree and creche down too soon!

The sisters show off their cupcake baskets for the Knights of Columbus. Our faithful Knights have been cooking Christmas dinner for us for 31 years! We are so grateful to them for all their kindness to us--in so many ways! 

The refectory creche. The novitiate really did a fantastic job this year!

The library creche

Our beautiful statue of Mary and Jesus, decorated!

The creche in the Guild office

The community room...

The chapter hall...

...and the Chapel!

As you can see, we have all  kinds of creches and decorations which each in their own way express the mystery of the Incarnation--Emmanuel, God with us! We hope you had a very Merry Christmas and we pray that 2014 will be blessed and joyful for you all!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Holy Family

Today we are invited to reflect on the family called holy. 

What is the definition of family? In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read, "A man and a woman, united in marriage, together with their children, form a family" (2102). What exactly does being a "holy family" mean? 

In the second reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Colossians, we read, "Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection." (Col. 3:12-14) Love is understood as an essential name of the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of love and unity of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is God who absolutely wills to make families be united in peace and love and to lead them to true happiness. From him, they obtain a spirit of poverty willing to accept all things with patience and tranquility of mind, so that they might experience the joy and beauty of sanctified marriage, for God made man and woman in his own image and likeness.

The reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew draws particular attention to St. Joseph and leads us deeply into the beautiful mystery of him who is the humble man, the foster father and heroic guardian of the Son of God and his Mother, who is now the Guardian of the Universal Church. Joseph and Mary stand out among the poor, meek and suffering of the Lord who confidently hope for, receive salvation from, and are deeply grateful to the most merciful Father, who protects his Son from Herod. 

Through the intercession of the Holy Family, may God bless and protect families so that parents and children may imitate the simplicity and trust of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the home at Nazareth.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Peace

As is our custom, we had Solemn Chapter this morning. Sr. Mary Thomas sang the Announcement of Christmas and then Sr. Bernadette Marie gave this sermon for us to meditate on. We would like to share it with you! 

So often now the festivities of Christmas are a far cry from the simple celebrations the early Christians must have celebrated when it was truly and only a religious holy day, and not the secularized version we see celebrated today by the world. Christ is hardly mentioned. 

As individuals, the world yearns for peace--peace of mind, peace of soul. They look for peace by accumulating wealth so as not to worry about their future needs. They look for peace by taking care of their bodies, so that they won't get sick and have long lives. They look for peace by indulging in drugs and alcohol so as to forget their past and present problems. Christ came to give us that peace, but when he came, "the world did not know him" (John 1:10) and they still do not know him.

What the world thinks important and necessary is not necessarily so for Christ. Our soul is what is important to Christ, because the soul is eternal. More than anything he wants us to live in everlasting peace with him in the next life. 

Christ gave us a key in order to have this peace when he said, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." It is not always easy to do God's will. It is not until we let go and surrender our will to God that we find peace. We can never have peace as long as our will is at war with God's will.

We here in the monastery are not immune to the cares of the world, but we have no excuse for losing our peace, because we know Jesus and we know he is with us to help us through difficulties and trials. If ever we lose that peace through sin, then we can thank God for giving us the sacrament of penance to be reconciled, once again, to God and one another. 

Although tomorrow is certainly a joyous occasion for us all, I cannot help but feel some sadness because so many are not reaping the fruits of his coming. They don't know his love, and therefore they don't have his peace. 

Our prayers and the faithfulness with which we live our consecration are of paramount importance for the conversion of the world. Christ could only feel compassion for such souls and so must we. So I would like to end with a prayer written by the soon-to-be-canonized Pope John XXIII:
O sweet Child of Bethlehem,
grant that we may share with all our hearts 
in this profound mystery of Christmas.
Put into the hearts of men and women this peace
for which they sometimes seek so desperately
and which you alone can give to them. 
Help them to know one another better, 
and to live as brothers and sisters,
children of the same Father. 
Reveal to them also your beauty, holiness and purity.
Awaken in their hearts
love and gratitude for your infinite goodness.
Join them all together in your love,
and give us your heavenly peace. Amen.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

4th Sunday of Advent, 2013

"The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel." (Is 7:14) In today's readings we see a contrast between two "sons of David", Ahaz and Joseph (who according to Matthew is Ahaz's great-times-15 grandson) in their response to this promised sign from God. Ahaz does not want to listen, nor does he care about God's sign; Joseph hears and recognizes it. Scripture scholars as far back as Erasmus have pointed out that the Hebrew word translated here as "virgin" is "almah", which means a young girl of marriageable age. The immediate fulfillment of Isaiah's sign was probably the birth of Hezekiah, Ahaz's son, who proved to be a just king. But as with other prophecies such as Balaam's star (which originally pointed to King David), the immediate fulfillment fails to satisfy the human heart. A just earthly king ensures peace and prosperity, but he cannot bring peace to our hearts. He cannot deliver us from our compulsions, our addictions, our weaknesses, our broken relationships, our petty rivalries, our egoism. We need a spiritual king, one who will deliver us from our sins. The angel reveals to Joseph in his dream that this type of king is coming. The old sign takes on new meaning. The Hebrew "almah" becomes the Greek "parthenos", "virgin". "The virgin will conceive and bring forth," showing that God is doing something new in history. He is directly intervening. He, himself, is coming. The sign given to Ahaz did not affect him much personally, but the one given to Joseph touches his very heart. It destroys and remakes his world. Out of love and concern for Mary he determined his course. Having proved his trustworthiness, the mystery is revealed to him.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Celebrating Sr. Maria Guadalupe's Feast Day

We really do try to spend Advent in silent expectation and prayerful waiting. But sometimes things come up! Like Sr. Maria Guadalupe's first feast day as our prioress! We had to do a little something to show her our love and thanksgiving for all her dedicated service to our community.

Because her feast day falls in Advent, Sr. Maria Guadalupe asked for "something simple" and that is what we tried to provide. We watched an excellent movie about the life of St. Augustine in the morning, and had gifts in the afternoon and then a fun and actually relatively simple program. Here are some highlights of the day...

 The gift table in all its glory

Sister was delighted to receive a number of books for her feast day...she's truly a Dominican!

A beautiful painting of St. Martin de Porres

One talented sister crocheted an octopus for Sister! A charming and whimsical gift!

We sang the feast day song in the evening, and then each sister took a turn wishing Sr. Maria Guadalupe a happy feast!

Sr. Mary Jeremiah (assisted by Sr. Mary Gabriel) humorously described some places we might not want to visit, such as Cahoots, Conclusions, and other unusual spots

Sr. Mary Thomas and Sr. Mary Margaret entertained the community with several piano duets.

Sr. Mary John and Sr. Mary Rose concluded our evening with a rendition of "Ave Maria"

What a great day! Now we are happy to return to our regularly scheduled Advent silence and waiting for the coming of Christ...although we never know what else God may have in store for us!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gaudete Sunday, 2013

Today we are reminded to rejoice that the Lord is good and to see a beacon of hope as we continue through Advent. Joy is the result of knowing that the Lord is with us, even in those times of darkness and sadness. It is possible to rejoice even in our sufferings.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains that spiritual joy is a rejoicing over God's own goodness and over our sharing in that goodness through divine grace. Joy makes us say with Job, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" (Job 2:21) Finding joy in the many difficult and painful situations in our world seems unnatural at first. Yet joy brings to the soul the revelation of a faithful God.

Today's Gospel encourages us to look more closely at this divine promise.  John's confinement in a prison cell is symbolic, as if he has returned to the womb--a barren womb that has become blessed, as it did for his mother Elizabeth. From this cell, John reaches out blindly but with trust in God, asking, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for another?" (Matthew 11:3) He asks to hear the voice of hope and it comes to him. "Go and tell John what you hear and see," Jesus says (Matthew 11:4). The first reading sums up this hope: "The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song." (Isaiah 35:1-2). This is the source of our joy: it is the confidence that God will always grant us that true gift of joy that guides us in the day and in the night, the faithful joy that brings delight in our salvation.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Visit from Fr. Brian Pierce, OP

For two days we enjoyed a great visit from Fr. Brian Pierce, OP, who is a friar of our Southern province and also happens to be the Promoter for the Nuns of the Order of Preachers. Father will be stepping down from his office early in 2014 (after six and a half years!) and taking a well-deserved rest. But for now he continues his busy schedule, visiting nuns all over the world--even in Lufkin, TX! 

Father gave us a beautiful study session on the Master of the Order's letter on the Liturgy of the Hours. Following this, we had many intense discussions about the nuns of the Order and various other things. 
Father Brian listening intently to our questions and considering an answer!

We can't help but mention that it was through our monastery in Lufkin that Father received his vocation. He visited our monastery and made his first contact with the Dominican Order while he was a student at nearby Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, TX. We consider him in a way "our" vocation and we have been praying hard for him all these years. And of course we will continue to do so!

Providentially, Father was here to visit us on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe--which happens to be Sr. Maria Guadalupe's feast day! What a blessing!

Thank you so much for all your hard work on behalf of the nuns of the Order, Father Brian! We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Questions Answered: Advent Edition

Q: I notice you have posts about things you do at Christmas, but how do you celebrate the season of Advent?
A: We have a lot of things we do during the Advent season. Primarily of course we pray and keep a special silence, awaiting the coming of Christ. The Advent liturgies and Mass readings give us much to contemplate.
We also put up an Advent wreath. Actually, we have about three: one in the chapel, one in the refectory, and one in the novitiate. The candles on the chapel wreath are lit for Mass and Morning Prayer and Vespers; the refectory wreath candles are lit for our evening meal (and accompanied by special prayers) and the novitiate traditions vary according to times and circumstances.
We do some penance during Advent. Advent is not a major penitential season like Lent, but it is a time for doing some extra little things to help prepare for Christmas.
During many Advent seasons, one of the matachines groups from our local parishes comes out and dances for us in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is always an exciting event!
Q: Do you go Christmas caroling? 
A: We save Christmas carols for the Christmas season. When we sing during Advent, we sing Advent songs and hymns like "O Come, Divine Messiah" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" (just to name two most people know). We often go caroling through the monastery during the Christmas season (that's December 25 until the Baptism of the Lord) and it's a lot of fun! Not too cold either because we mostly stay inside!
Q: OK, I'm curious. What about Santa Claus? 
A: Being Dominicans, we take a theologically nuanced view of this concept. Of course we know there was a St. Nicholas who (according to questionable legend) not only supplied poor but deserving girls with much-needed dowries, but also attended the Council of Nicaea and defended the true faith against the Arian heresy. So, in a sense, yes, we believe in Santa. But we don't exactly decorate with images of Santa Claus, or even St. Nicholas (although OK, yes, we have a few little things...). Hey, we don't even start decorating for Christmas until about December 22! That's part of keeping the spirit of Advent. And when we decorate, we have mostly nativity scenes or creches, with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus and later the wise men, instead. That's the way we operate. But there's nothing wrong with Santa, or St. Nick, as long as you look at the whole picture of what Christmas (and Advent) is all about...which is the coming of Christ into our world, to save us.    

Saturday, December 7, 2013

2nd Sunday of Advent, 2013

Almost every Scripture reading and prayer in today's Liturgy speaks of all the nations seeing the salvation of God. Let's examine the entrance antiphon: 
People of Zion, behold the Lord will come
to save the nations,
and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard,
to the joy of your hearts.
Augustine wrote that "Peace is the tranquility of order." We see in the universe an astounding order to things. When God began the work of redemption there is also a refined order. He chose specific people and events to set this work in motion. From the choice of Abraham and the patriarchs, God founded the Jewish people. 

As this people grew, especially in their self-identity, they came to believe they were the only ones to be saved because they had the divine revelation--the promises, covenants and laws. But in the course of time God raised up a great prophet, Isaiah. Part of his message was to correct the people's myopic vision of salvation and to expand it to a universal salvation. God's gifts of redemption are open to everyone who responds to his call. God chose the Jewish people, the people of Zion, in order to bring all other nations to a love and knowledge of the one true God.

From the chosen Jewish people came Christ the Lord, the salvation of the nations. Thus, following their elder siblings in faith, the Church, the new people of Zion, carry on and extend this mission of proclaiming God's love to all the nations.

We have been given the tremendous gift of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not a secret to hoard, but an experience of love to share. Blessed John Paul II once said that "faith is strengthened when it is shared." We also owe a profound debt of gratitude to the Jewish people for their fidelity to God's covenant through many trials. All people are called to live in peace and brotherhood in the family of God and to worship him together in peace!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How Charm-ing!

The Lufkin Daily News publishes a bimonthly magazine called Charm--and they featured our monastery in their December/January issue! You can read the article here (be sure to go to pages E24-E25 to see us!). You can also check out Charm magazine on Facebook here, and we understand they're also on Pinterest. Many, many thanks to Melissa Heard (author of the article) and Andy Adams (who took the cover picture and some of the ones inside too), and everyone who works on Charm!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

1st Sunday of Advent, 2013

The word Advent is taken from the Latin adventus, meaning, "to come" and refers now to the liturgical season immediately before Christmas. Advent, as we know it today, began between the 9th and 10th centuries in Rome under the guidance of Pope Gregory I. The season was to begin on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew (November 30) and last four weeks or until Christmas. 

Pope Gregory included Christ's "three comings" as part of Advent: the commemoration of His coming at Christmas; the celebration of His coming into our hearts through grace each day; and the preparation for His second coming at the end of time. Advent is intended to be a time of joyful anticipation of Christ's coming rather than a strict penitential time like Lent, but we are still encouraged to practice self-denial for the sake of helping others, and to receive the Sacrament of Penance.

During Advent it is good to spend some quiet time reading the Scriptures and listening to what the Lord is telling us. In the Gospel for this first Sunday of Advent Christ urges his disciples to "stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:42) He refers to the people in Noah's time, who were totally unconcerned until the flood came and destroyed them (Matt. 24:39). The Lord, in His mercy, warns the people to listen to Him, and continues to do so through His word.

In today's first reading at Mass, Paul exhorts the Romans (and us): "It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed...Let us live honorably as in daylight...let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh." (Romans 13:11, 14) Paul tells us how to "live honorably" in the verses which proceed today's reading: "Owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another...You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Romans 13:8, 10)

Holy Mary, our Lady of Advent, pray for us as we begin this holy season of Advent in preparation and in anticipation of the birth of Christ, your Son, anew in our hearts and in our world. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christ the King, 2013

Often on this solemnity, preachers will begin by saying that in our modern day and age we do not understand the meaning of kings and queens, especially if we live in a democracy. However, we can easily understand Christ as our King if we think of the duties of a king in Biblical times. These duties were four-fold:
     --to represent the people
     --to protect the people
     --to establish peace and unity
     --to reward the good and punish the evil.

It doesn't matter whether one is a king or a president, senator or principal of a school. The basic issue is authority. How is it exercised? How is it obeyed and respected? Christ has transformed the meaning not only of kingship, but of any kind of authority. Authority is not for dominating others, but for service.  

Parenthood is an everyday image of authority. Although they hold a certain power over their children, parents become, in a sense, servants of their children. For years, parents change their entire way of life to feed, clothe, and care for their children. But there is no drudgery here, nor the resentment of a slave. All this self-sacrificing labor is performed out of love.

And this is the essence of Christ's Kingdom and Kingship--self-sacrificing love. If we want to be part of his kingdom, all we have to do is imitate him, become like him. The Preface for today's Liturgy describes Christ's kingdom as:
       a kingdom of truth and [divine] life,
       a kingdom of holiness and grace,
       a kingdom of justice, of love and peace.

Our Baptism and Confirmation give us the privilege and responsibility of participating in Christ's kingdom and serving as he does. The Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI concludes today. Let's all pitch in and help continue the great work of evangelization so that countless other people may share in the Kingdom of Love. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Presentation of Mary / Pro Orantibus Day, 2013

Today is a special day for cloistered communities, because this memorial of the Presentation of Mary in the temple is also Pro Orantibus Day, a day of prayer for cloistered contemplatives. We feel a special bond with Mary, who (according to legend) was chosen to serve God in the temple in what might be called a cloistered life before her marriage to Joseph and becoming the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although this story of the Presentation is not found in the Bible, it is a very old tradition and worthy of respect for what it tells us about Mary: that she was dedicated even as a child, like Samuel in the Old Testament. She came from God-fearing parents who loved their daughter enough to give her to God as His handmaiden when He requested this favor. Today we also thank all the parents of cloistered contemplatives, who like Mary's parents have given their children lovingly and unselfishly for the service of God in His temple. May they all be blessed like Joachim and Anna, the parents of Mary! May many young women feel the call of God today to serve Him as a cloistered contemplative nun--perhaps a Dominican nun?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2013

As the year ends, the Church selects readings to call us to be more attentive to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit who has spoken to us by both the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament writings. Today the first reading is from the book of the prophet Malachi. We read that "The sun of justice with its healing rays"  is coming. And in the Responsorial Psalm, we read, "The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice." These words can give us comfort, confidence in God's justice, and mercy, for St. John writes, "God is love." Can we seriously understand the justice of God? And if we say that God is just, how can we also think of him as merciful or loveable? 

In an article in the Summa Theologiae St. Thomas Aquinas quotes St. Augustine: "God's wisdom became man to give us an example in righteousness of living..."  The word "righteousness" is like the word "justice"; they have the same meaning. In the Old and the New Testaments, we meet it a lot. Justice is one of the highest moral virtues because it pleases God and is inseparable from his love.

"Learn to do good, search for justice." (Rm 13:18 and Is 1:17) St. Paul also mentions a gift of justification in his writings: it is from God through our Lord's redemptive sacrifice on the cross. God gave us a great example in our Lord Jesus Christ's loving, consecrated, humble acts. At the Last Supper, as the darkness fell, Christ showed his followers great love from his heart in giving them the wonderful gift of his own sacrifice--his body and blood--the wonderful sign of love being completed as he knelt and washed their feet. Then he dried their feet with a towel. In humility, Christ embraced the lowliness of his passion willingly in order to lead us back to the Father's love. That is, "God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us back to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved." (Eph 2:4-5)

The Day of the Lord draws near, we come closer to the mystery of God's infinite love as he is always showing justice and is just.  Christ is absolutely able to provide the goodness and love for all, because God has loved justice and offered us a chance to participate in his divinity, as his Divine Son became human. The Sun of Justice, who is God, shines within us.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2013

He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive. -- Luke 20:38

This verse resounds throughout the readings for today. We call to mind the courageous woman and her sons in 2 Maccabees who faced death itself and became, instead, indelible witnesses to the power of the living God through the gift of their lives. We see this with clarity on the lips of the fourth son, when he says, "It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him..." (2 Maccabees 7:13)

We can see this concept even more deeply in the Gospel, where Luke presents to us the story of the Sadducees who pose a question to Jesus about an eternal life they themselves do not believe in. Jesus responds with a declaration from the dialogue of Moses and the burning bush in the book of Exodus. He says, "Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." 

But what does this mean for us? Today's readings challenge us to grow in the virtue of hope. Hope is the "theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and  relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1817) The primary way to grow in hope is through prayer. "The prayer of the Church and personal prayer nourish hope in us." (CCC 2657) Hope leads us through the rocky crags that make up our life on earth. Hope strengthens us to stand upright in trial, because here we have no lasting city. Yes, God is the God of the living and has promised to be with us for good and for ill as we walk the path of faith. Our God is a living God who indeed loves us and will be there for us always.

A Visit from Fr. Michael Demkovich, OP

Fr. Michael Demkovich, OP recently made a brief visit to our monastery as he drives around the United States trying to raise awareness (and financial support) for the International Dominican Foundation.

 Fr. Michael Demkovich, President of the International Dominican Foundation

The International Dominican Foundation was created to promote and support three great Dominican institutions of learning: the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, the Angelicum in Rome, and the Dominican Institute of Oriental Studies in Cairo. Father was delighted to learn that we have a graduate of the Angelicum in our midst--Sr. Mary Jeremiah!

Father explains the International Dominican Foundation and his ideas for the future

The International Dominican Foundation furthers Biblical research, advances theological study, and helps promote inter-religious dialogue, among other things! We encourage you to check out their website and maybe start to receive their great online newsletter here.

We are so grateful to Fr. Michael for including us in his busy itinerary. It's always a pleasure to see you, Father, and we are praying hard for the success of your work here and abroad!

Fr. Demkovich (behind the gate) with Sr. Mary Christine, Sr. Mary Rose, Sr. Bernadette Marie, Sr. Mary John, Sr. Mary Margaret, Sr. Mary Gabriel, Sr. Mary Lucy, and Sr. Mary Jeremiah 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2013

Dear Zacchaeus,

    I see that we will be hearing your story again this Sunday, how you wanted to see Jesus and so climbed a tree when he passed by and how he told everyone there that salvation was coming to your house that day. Did you know that the salvation he was talking about was he himself and that the house he meant was not your dwelling place but you yourself? What a day that was--himself coming to yourself!
    I wonder if you remember all the others who had the same desire as you did that day?--to see Jesus, and not just with their bodily eyes, but with their hearts and understanding? 
    Remember the Magi and the shepherds who also desired to see Jesus, though they did not know his name then? But seeing him brought them joy and they went on their way glorifying and praising God for what they had seen. 
    John the Baptist saw him too at his baptism and saw the Spirit come upon him in the form of a dove. Later Jesus would confirm John's witness when he told John's disciples to tell him all they had seen and heard Jesus do as proof of Jesus' mission.
    And then John encouraged some of his own disciples to follow Jesus, and when they asked him where he was staying, he told them, "Come, and you will see." (John 1:39)
    Later in Jesus' ministry, some Greeks came to Philip asking to see Jesus. Philip himself would one day ask Jesus to show him the Father and Jesus would tell him that seeing Jesus was to see the Father, that he and the Father were one. What a powerful revelation that was for Philip to absorb!
    You know Mary Magdalene saw Jesus after his resurrection but did not recognize him at first. But when she did, he told her to "Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."
     Of course, we can't forget St. Stephen who, as he was being stoned to death, looked up to heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 
    There are other occasions which I could mention, but these are enough to see what great company you have kept!
    As for us, we pray that when we hear your story again Sunday, our own desire to really see Jesus will be greatly increased, so that salvation might come to our house, for when we see him as he is we shall then be like him. 
     Signed: A fellow seeker

All Souls Day, 2013

We'd like to offer you some thoughts from St. Catherine of Genoa on this All Souls Day, when we remember our beloved dead:

"There is no joy save that in Paradise
to be compared with the joy of the souls in Purgatory.
As the rust of sin is consumed
the soul is more and more open to God's love.
Just as a covered object left out in the sun
cannot be penetrated by the sun's rays, 
in the same way,
once the covering of the soul is removed,
the soul opens itself fully to the rays of the sun.
Having become one with God's will,
these souls, to the extent that he grants it to them, 
see into God.
Joy in God, oneness with Him, is the end of these souls,
an instinct planted in them at their creation...
The overwhelming love of God 
gives the soul a joy beyond words.
In Purgatory great joy and great suffering
do not exclude one another."

 Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon them!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Saints, 2013

What do you think heaven will be like? Some of us may have a rather static notion of heaven--a place where you sit still forever, "being good". Pretty boring! In this picture Fra Angelico (a Dominican blessed, in addition to being a great artist!) depicts heaven as a kind of dance, where saints and angels join in both movement and conversation, always inviting the newcomers to come along and enjoy themselves. Heaven is perhaps more dynamic, what the Fathers of the Church referred to often as "our true homeland", the place where we can most be ourselves because we will be perfectly attuned to the will of God. Today we celebrate all the saints--that is, all our beloved departed who have reached heaven, the ones we remember in Church and the ones known only to ourselves, like family and friends, and the ones known only to God. May they all intercede for us today, so that we will eventually join them in the great dance of heaven!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Questions Answered: October Edition

In this occasional series, we answer questions that come up. If you have a question you'd like to ask, feel free!

 Q: You all seem to have a lot of speakers and people giving talks at the monastery. Is that usual? 
A: Well, we actually have had more than we usually do in a short span of time. Our Association of Monasteries of Nuns of the Order of Preachers in the United States sponsors two programs we've been participating in: the Monastic Theological Studies Program (which was held here at our monastery in late July-early August) and the Ongoing Formation program, which brings speakers on various topics to the monasteries. We have had two Ongoing Formation speakers this year, one in August and one just recently in October. We also had our annual retreat in October (guest retreat master for that) and we are expecting another person to come and give us some classes in November.  It just happened that way. But we do go through stretches without all this excitement!

Q: Do you continue your regular schedule of Mass and Liturgy of the Hours while you have guests, retreat, et cetera?
A: Absolutely. We might have to make some small adjustments in the schedule, but we don't omit anything.  

You can leave a question for us in the comments box, or use either contact form (website or blog), or just email us. Our email address is on our website. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Patristics with Fr. Brian Daley, SJ

We had the privilege of some lectures (and some informal question and answer sessions) with Fr. Brian Daley, SJ this past week. These lectures were part of the Ongoing Formation program, which is coordinated by our Association of Monasteries of Dominican Nuns. Fr. Daley, a professor at Notre Dame University, gave us a series of lectures on Mary and the Fathers of the Church. In addition to being a wonderful teacher, he is also a very kind and humble man! We really enjoyed our time with him and hope he will be able to return someday. 

 Fr. Daley lecturing in the community room

Fr. Daley answering some of our questions

Fr. Daley with Sr. Mary Rose, Sr. Mary Thomas, and Sr. Mary Jeremiah during our recreation time in the Gate Parlor

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Check this out...

Dominicana, the blog of the Dominican student brothers in the Eastern Province, has done a very nice post on our monastery! Please check it out here. Many thanks and prayers to all the friars who work on Dominicana, and especially to Br. Athanasius Murphy, OP, author of the post! May God bless you!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Retreat...and Visitors

We recently finished up a wonderful retreat with Fr. Gerard Austin, OP. He was able to stay on a few days after the retreat as well, which was a real blessing. Father spoke eloquently in his retreat conferences about sacramental aspects of the liturgy and Mass, sharing his wealth of experience. He knew and lived with some famous French Dominicans who contributed to Vatican II, including Yves Congar. His retreat conferences helped us to see the Mass in a new and exciting way. Thank you so much for everything, Father!

Fr. Austin with (back, left to right: Sr. Mary Margaret, Sr. Mary Gabriel, and Sr. Maria Cabrini; front, left to right: Sr. Maria Guadalupe, Sr. Mary Annunciata, Sr. Mary Jeremiah)

We also recently had a visit from Fr. Peter Asantebwana, from the diocese of Moshi in Tanzania.
Sr. Marie Augustine and Fr. Peter in the large parlor. As always they are separated by a partition you can't see in this picture!

Thanks be to God for the blessings of our annual retreat, and for the blessings of the friars and priests who come to visit our monastery!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Issue of Monastery Bells

We mailed the Fall issue of Monastery Bells on Monday, and you should be receiving it in your mailbox soon! If you don't subscribe by snail mail, or if you want to get a sneak preview, check it out here. More on our retreat and other things coming soon!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Our Lady of the Rosary, 2013

We're still in retreat so we bring you just a quick thought:

"With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of His love." 
--Blessed (soon to be Saint!!) John Paul II

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Annual Retreat 2013

Most people who go on retreat like to go somewhere beautiful...and who can blame them, since the beauty of God's creation often brings us closer to Him? But we are fortunate in that we have a lot of natural beauty without having to travel outside our cloister walls.

The monastery lake and surrounding forest

Some of the monastery buildings. The main building is on the left (you can't see it) and the professed dormitories and Chapter Hall are on the right.

Of course, being on retreat also means cultivating the inner life...
...through the gift of extra time for prayer, reading, and lectio divina. But many sisters enjoy a walk outside, especially since the weather is starting to be a little bit cool. (For Texas, of course!)

Fr. Gerard Austin, OP will be our retreat master this year and we are looking forward to hearing his conferences!

Please keep us in your prayers and know that we will be praying for you as well. We will be checking in on emails, etc. but not too often so please be patient if you need to contact us during retreat time!

St. Therese and her Roses from Heaven

On this feast of St. Therese of Lisieux we invite you again this year to encourage anyone you know who might have a vocation to the religious life to consider his or her call. There are many ways to do this...the classic way for devotees of St. Therese is to give the person in question a rose. This is because people who pray to St. Therese for a favor usually request that she send a rose as confirmation that she got the message, so to speak, and is passing it on to God.

It doesn't have to be an actual could be a picture, a symbol, even someone's name. (Did we mention our novice directress is named Sr. Mary Rose?)

Anyway, if you know someone who's considering religious life, maybe God (through St. Therese) is giving you a nudge today to help that person in his or her discernment. Or maybe you're discerning yourself and have been waiting to see if any roses unexpectedly show up. If so--maybe this is your sign!