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!