Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Sr. Mary Veronica chats with our dear friend Elaine Jackson, who has been helping us so much!

Readers of "Monastery Bells" (available on our website or by surface mail) know that we have been trying hard to raise money for a generator to keep the lights on when our power goes out--as it does very often when we have major storms, etc. Today, the Lufkin Daily News, our local newspaper, ran a lovely article on our generator needs. We encourage you to read it HERE. We are so grateful to all our family, friends and benefactors who are helping us achieve this much needed generator! And if you are able to help...we'd be grateful for that too! You can donate to our generator fund using PayPal (donate button at the top right hand corner of this blog) or securely on our website at You can also read more about our generator needs in our issues of "Monastery Bells" which can be found HERE. Check out the Fall 2012 issue and the Winter 2013 issue. And thank you so much for your support and prayers! We are praying for you every day!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Second Sunday of Lent, 2013

There are two aspects to the covenant God made with Abram: the promise of descendants and the promise of the land. Abram's response to the first is faith. But to the promise of the land he asks, "How am I to know?" The confirmation comes in the covenant ceremony which follows. This ritual of cutting the animals in two, where the parties walked between them, is what bound them in covenant. The splitting of the animal was a graphic way of showing what would happen if either participant failed to observe the terms. God, as fire, passes through, binding Himself to His promise. The land, however, will not come to Abram, but to his descendants. 

Fast forward to the Gospel scene. Jesus (Abram's descendant) has just foretold His passion. His apostles, shaken, need a sign to reassure them. So Jesus takes Peter, James and John who, if we use our imagination, witness a similar covenant ceremony. The Old Covenant (divided) consists of the Law and Prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah. The three apostles are also "divided" by their commitment to Judaism and their following of Christ. Jesus is like the birds who are not divided. The Church Fathers see the turtledove as representing chastity (pure, unstained, integral) and the pigeon as simplicity (guileless, uncompounded). Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah of His "passing" into the new land, His kingdom. Then the cloud covers them, and God "walks" between them with Jesus, proclaiming Him as His Son, ratifying the New Covenant which will come about through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. For a fleeting moment, the apostles are allowed to step into this "promised land". Peter, of course, wants to stay and build tents! But this was not to be. Fortified by this glimpse of glory, they would accompany Jesus on His journey for our salvation. 

When the vision was gone, there was "only Jesus". What more could we want?! What more do we need? To be united to Him is to enter the Promised Land. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bird Sighting

Several sisters recently noticed this bird standing out on the pier by our small lake:

It was unlike anything we had seen before--not an egret or a duck or a goose or anything like that--so we looked it up in the bird book. It's an anhinga! These birds are also called "snakebirds" or "water turkeys" and they are unusual because they swim with their whole bodies under water! Only their long necks and heads show as they paddle around on their webbed feet.

It entered the water gracefully. You can see why it's called a snakebird--its long neck looks very snake-like...

and swam around our lake, looking for fish. We read that it spears fish and other water creatures with its long beak. We have a lot of fish in the lake but we didn't see the anhinga catch one!

Back on the pier!

Here you can see the anhinga's large wings and tail.

We think this anhinga was just passing through, but we were glad to see it and have the opportunity to learn about it. What a wonderful diversity of creatures God has placed on His earth!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

First Sunday of Lent, 2013

This text is a selection from Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.

The desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is the place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and is placed in front of the fundamental questions of life, where he is pushed towards the essentials in life. For this very reason it becomes easier for him to find God.  But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus...takes on our temptations and carries our misery, to conquer evil and open up the path to God, the path of conversion.
What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role of God in my life? Is He the Lord, or am I? Overcoming the temptation to place God in submission to oneself and one's own interests or to put him in a corner, and converting oneself to the proper order of priorities, giving God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undergo.
In this Lenten season, Christ once again knocks at our door (cf. Rev. 3:20) and invites us to open our minds and hearts to his love and truth. May Jesus' example of overcoming temptation inspire us to embrace God's will and to see all things in the light of his saving truth.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

St. Valentine's Day

We don't really celebrate St. Valentine's Day in the Monastery--because it often falls during Lent, for one thing, and for another, we don't expect our Beloved to show up on our doorstep with flowers and candy...although it would be something if He did! No, usually His gifts to us come in different forms.

Readers of this blog know many of the sisters here are avid bird-watchers. When we saw these two birds nesting in the space above our carport, we had to get a picture:

What a beautiful reminder of the tender love God has for each of us--on St. Valentine's Day and every day. "My dove is hiding behind the rocks...Let me see your face; let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely." (Song of Songs 2:14)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday 2013

Today, with the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" and a cross of ashes smeared on our foreheads, we begin the season of Lent. This promises to be an interesting Lent, marked as it is by the upcoming resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the promise of a new Easter, we hope. No matter what happens, today is a reminder that we all  need to turn around and change our ways, to soften our hearts and open them to contrition and compassion. Here at the Monastery, we mark the season of Lent with fasting, penances, communal Stations of the Cross, and other observances. Even the psalm tones and hymns we sing take on a penitential sound, and Compline (the last office of the day) is especially beautiful with traditional Dominican chants such as "In media vita..." (In the midst of life, we are in death) and "In pace..." (In peace, I will lie down and sleep). We will be praying in a special way for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor, and of course we will be praying for all of you as well. Please keep us in your prayers as well. May we all have a beautiful and Spirit-filled Lent that leads to a glorious new beginning at Easter!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tet 2013

 Last night we welcomed the Year of the Snake as we celebrated Tet!

We learned some interesting facts about the presence of snakes in Scripture, and then several of the sisters performed a dance set to music played and pre-recorded by Sr. Mary Christine (who also choreographed the dance!). 

There was the usual table with treats and the tree with lucky money envelopes...

...and after the treats and dance we played a rather intense game. We tried to throw beanbags through a wooden target (seen below). Sisters could also score points by landing their beanbags on one of the snakes. Several sisters proved to be quite good at both and scored numerous points. It was a simple game, but it definitely brought out the competitive spirit in many sisters!

The target!

Sisters throwing their beanbags with skill and dexterity! And of course there were prizes for the winners!

It was a delightful evening, and as always we are thankful to all who provided us with Vietnamese treats, lucky money envelopes and other goodies to make our evening so special and fun! Thank you, and God bless you!

Pope Benedict XVI to resign...

We were shocked to hear the news about Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign. However, we trust that he knows what he is doing, and we are praying for him very intensely. We trust also in our cardinals who will elect a new Pope, and in our holy Catholic Church, and in the promise, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) Blessed be the Lord forever!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monastery Bells...and Raffle!

It's time for another issue of "Monastery Bells"! You can see it as a PDF by going to our website, HERE.

You can also participate in our 2013 Raffle, if you live in the United States! (Sorry, we can't send prizes overseas because of the expenses involved.) 

Just send your name and snail mail address to our email address,, and we will happily fill out your tickets and enter your name in our drawing to be held on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013! No donations are required but any donation you would like to make will benefit our life of prayer. You can make donations (if you would like to) using PayPal--the link is conveniently located at the top right hand corner of this blog, or through our website on the Donate page HERE. 

We will not put you on our mailing list unless you request it.

There are six great prizes, five of which were handmade by the nuns--and one is a SURPRISE! (Maybe the nuns made it too!) You can see pictures of the five known prizes HERE.

We will post the winners after the drawing!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sr. Bernadette Marie's First Profession

 Sr. Bernadette Marie's place mat in the refectory for this special day

Today Sr. Bernadette Marie of the Sacred Heart, OP made her first profession of vows. It was quite an event, as our bishop asked to combine the ceremony with the annual celebration for the religious men and women of the diocese on this day honoring consecrated life. So...we had Sr. Bernadette Marie's family. all the religious in the diocese, and various friends of the monastery. What a day!

Sr. Bernadette Marie listens as our chaplain, Fr. Paul Philibert, proclaims the Gospel

Sr. Mary John, our prioress, questions Sr. Bernadette Marie before her profession of vows

Sr. Bernadette Marie makes profession in the hands of the prioress. Dominicans profess only one vow, obedience, which includes the other evangelical counsels (chastity and poverty). Sister promised obedience for three years. If all goes well, after that she will promise obedience "until death".

Bishop Strickland was here for the celebration of consecrated life, and he was the main celebrant at our Mass today. Here he blesses Sr. Bernadette Marie's scapular before giving her the black veil. 

Bishop Strickland blesses Sr. Bernadette Marie after she has received the black veil. Sr. Mary John and Sr. Maria Guadalupe, our novice directress,  put it on her.

Sr. Bernadette Marie (do you recognize her in the new black veil?) smiles while eating dinner.

While Sr. Bernadette Marie visited with her family, we enjoyed a fun visit with the religious women (and two religious men) of the Tyler diocese! We have many religious orders represented in our diocese, including the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Brigittines, the Jesuits, the Fransalians, the Carmelites, Incarnate Word Sisters, and the Eucharistic Franciscan Missionary Sisters, to name just a few. We are also from many nations, including Poland, India, Mexico, and Hungary as well as our own community which has sisters from Vietnam, Cuba, Tanzania, and Haiti.

It was truly a day blessed by God. Even the weather was lovely! We hope you will join us in praying for Sr. Bernadette Marie as she begins this new stage of her religious life--and hopefully, in three years, you will be reading about her solemn profession! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Cakes...and More

February 2 is Sr. Bernadette Marie's profession day...but it's also the day our local Catholic school, St. Patrick's, is having its annual fundraising gala. Part of the gala is a dessert auction and they asked us to donate some cakes or other baked goods for this. Despite a very busy schedule preparing for the profession, a few sisters found time to do some creative baking!

The small cake with nuts on top is a hummingbird cake made by Sr. Mary Gabriel (with help from others); the cake below it (like a large white doughnut) is a cake based on a recipe by Martha Washington (the wife of President George Washington) baked by Sr. Mary Jeremiah; the darling ladybug cake was baked and decorated by Sr. Mary Dominic, and Sr. Maria Cabrini is holding her cake creation, an open book with the words, "We Love You, St. Pat's School" written in green and decorated with shamrocks! Sr. Marie Augustine made some delicious cookies, too (unfortunately not pictured). We hope our small contribution of desserts will help support St. Patrick's School at the gala and in years to come. Although we have chosen to lead a hidden life of prayer, we enjoy making our own contribution to our local parishes and supporting the efforts of the Church in general. These cakes are a reminder of all the prayers that we send up every day, not only for St. Patrick's School, but for the whole world!