Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

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!