Thursday, December 25, 2014
Monday, December 22, 2014
"More, and on a deeper level than before, we really know this time that all of life is Advent."--Fr. Alfred Delp
Our final Advent companion is a man who has not been formally canonized, but whose writings on Advent are beautiful and moving. Alfred Delp, SJ was a German Jesuit priest who was executed by the Nazis on February 2, 1945. Fr. Delp was a a great preacher and a critic of the Nazi regime, working actively against the Nazis. One collection of his writings in English, Advent of the Heart (published by Ignatius Press) brings together several Advent sermons and writings from prison as well as an Advent play he wrote. On the third Sunday of Advent in 1944, while incarcerated in Tegel Prison, Fr. Delp wrote on the theme of joy, which is fitting for Gaudete Sunday: "In order to be capable of true life, man must live according to a specific order and relationship to God. The capability of true joy and of living joyfully is itself dependent upon specific conditions of human life, upon particular attitudes regarding God. Where life does not perceive itself as taking place in community with God, it will be gray and gloomy and drab and calculating." This is the secret of Advent joy: our communion with God. If we are in communion with Him, everything becomes pure joy, regardless of exterior situation. Without Him the happiest celebration becomes like dust and ashes. Fr. Delp reminds us that our whole lives are a kind of Advent as we await the coming of the great King at the end of our lives. Let us be ready to meet Him when He comes!
Friday, December 19, 2014
Blessed Margaret of Savoy was a fifteenth century Dominican nun. She was (as her name reveals) a member of the royal house of Savoy and related to all kinds of kings, queens, and even an antipope (Clement VII). Although she had always wanted to be a nun, she married Theodore Paleologus, marquis of Montferrat, for reasons of state. Their marriage was reasonably happy and after his death she resolved not to remarry. She was 36 at the time. She first became a Dominican tertiary and later, by permission of Pope Eugenius IV, a Dominican nun. She formed a community at Alba and lived there until her death.
Margaret had a difficult life as a nun. Early in her religious life, she had a vision of Christ offering her three arrows labeled "Sickness, Slander, Persecution" and she suffered from all three of these. However, she saw God's hand in all her trials, and was able to carry on. Margaret is a good companion during Advent for two reasons. First, she was able to work cheerfully and devotedly for God under all circumstances, traits so needed during this season when we should all be happy and full of joy but when it is also easy to become depressed or angry. Second, Margaret had a pet deer that used to follow her around (yes, even indoors) and keep her company, even running errands for her when she needed things done. The deer would knock on a sister's door when Margaret needed her, and then lead the sister to Margaret. This is a bit farfetched, but at this time of year when we sing happily of flying reindeer, it doesn't seem entirely improbable! (Or does it?) Let us continue on our way with Margaret and all the holy Dominican women this Advent, who looked forward to the birth of Christ not only in time but in their hearts and souls.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Today begins our annual Christmas novena of prayers and sung Masses. As always we remember all of you who read this blog in our prayers! If you have a special intention you'd like us to remember this year, please contact us and let us know what it is. Or you can keep it in your heart and let it be known to God alone. Whatever your prayers this Advent season, know that we are joining ours to yours and to the prayers of all the universal Church. Let us all together continue our Advent journey to the joy of Christmas and the incarnation of Our Lord.
Monday, December 15, 2014
On Saturday we celebrated Sr. Maria Guadalupe's feast day--which of course actually falls on December 12, but Saturday is a better day for a celebration!
We had a "flamingo" theme for the party!
In these pictures, you can see some of Sister's many gifts and surprises.
We spent the morning playing a fun game of "Flamingo Bingo" (which is basically regular bingo with flamingo trivia included). In the afternoon we met again in the community room to watch Sister open her gifts.
A cute doll made by one of the sisters. She made all the clothes for the doll too, except the shoes!
Sister received a fascinating book explaining how to make pine needle baskets--a traditional art practiced by Native Americans in this part of East Texas. Will this be our next project?
A gorgeous cross-stitch of Our Lady of Guadalupe done by one of the sisters. This was one of many beautiful handcrafts given to Sister.
We concluded our fun day with a showing of the movie "The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima". It was a delightful celebration. We are so thankful for Sr. Maria Guadalupe and her leadership of our community. May God grant her many blessings!
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Recently we enjoyed a visit with Fr. Ramon Gonzalez, OP, of our Dominican province of St. Martin de Porres (the southern province). He came to our monastery to visit our chaplain, Fr. Marcos Ramos, OP, and graciously met with us on Friday evening. Father Ramon is an accomplished flautist and spent most of the visit entertaining us on the flute:
Friday, December 12, 2014
St. Barbara was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in medieval times, especially invoked against sudden death (which is why she has become the patroness of electricians, artillery gunners, etc.). Although she was removed from the General Calendar of the Catholic Church in 1969, she is still venerated by the Eastern Orthodox and the Anglicans. Barbara was a martyr, possibly in Greece, who converted to Christianity against her father's wishes and was later killed by him. A bolt of lighting struck him dead as soon as he had killed his daughter. St. Barbara is also the patroness of builders and architects, because she proclaimed her new-found faith by insisting on the addition of a third window in her new bath house--three windows to honor the Holy Trinity. We have a statue of St. Barbara in the infirmary of our monastery, possibly as a holy reminder of the fragility of life.
St. Barbara is an Advent companion because she was a woman of great integrity. When she found the truth, she lived it, regardless of the consequences. And she proclaimed her faith to the world through her willingness to die rather than give it up. In the times we live in, our Christian faith is often held up to mockery and hatred. May we, like St. Barbara, find the courage and singleness of heart to hold fast to the faith in the face of so many temptations to take the easier road, to lead a quiet life, to keep silent. May we call out from our modern-day towers, "Throw open the third window / In the third name of God." (G.K. Chesterton)
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
"Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection?" --Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego
Juan Diego and his family were among the first Indians to embrace the Catholic faith when it was brought to the land we know today as Mexico. The story of the apparitions of Mary to Juan Diego are well known. It is touching to remember that one day, when Juan Diego was hurrying to visit his sick uncle, he took a different route for fear of being detained by Mary--but she found him, anyway, and cured his sick uncle as well. After the miracle of the tilma and the construction of a church on the hill of Tepeyac, tradition holds that Juan Diego lived as a hermit near the church, caring for pilgrims who came to visit the miraculous image and worship the true God.
Juan Diego is a companion for us during Advent because of his humility and obedience--virtues which are also traditionally associated with the Virgin Mary who appeared to him. Although he was rebuffed several times by the bishop, who did not believe in the apparitions at first, Juan Diego continued to return and make Mary's requests known to the bishop. Juan Diego valued the good graces of God above any human opinion, and he trusted in Mary, his mother and ours. May we imitate him as we continue our way through this Advent season!
Friday, December 5, 2014
"I am the Immaculate Conception." -- Our Lady to St. Bernadette Soubirous
Mary was conceived without sin, and she never committed any sins. She was as perfect as a human being can be. Does she perhaps sound boring? Despite what the world may tell us, sin is not what makes more interesting, more intriguing, more human. Mary was not a static, boring person. You can see this from what she has to say in the Gospel of Luke, the text we call the Magnificat:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For He has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering His mercy,
according to His promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1:46b-55)
These are the words of a woman who means business! God has chosen her, and she thanks and proclaims the greatness of God for what He has done, for her and for all people. Mary is infinitely interesting because she is so closely united with God.
The Magnificat is a powerful song that overturns our conceptions of how the world is, reminding us that God will put things right in His own time and in His own way. Mary is a good companion at all seasons of the year, but especially during Advent when we celebrate two of her feasts (the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe) because she reminds us that we are also called to help effect positive change in our world, through listening to the Word of God and acting on it. God speaks to us constantly--through Mary, and through many other means. Are we listening?
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
"Be it known to you that we have made a league--all the Jesuits in the world...--cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so must it be restored." --St. Edmund Campion, "Campion's Brag"
St. Edmund Campion (c.1540-1581) was a Jesuit priest and martyr for the faith in Elizabethan England, when it was a crime to be a Catholic. He left a promising career in England to become a Catholic priest and a Jesuit, returning to England secretly in 1579. While ministering to imprisoned Catholics in London, he wrote a challenge to the Protestant authorities called "Campion's Brag". This, and the publication of his treatise "Ten Reasons", caused great sensation in England and efforts to capture Campion were stepped up. He was finally captured in Norfolk in 1581, and after repeated tortures was executed at Tyburn on December 1.
We remember St. Edmund Campion during Advent, not only because his feast day often falls within this season but also because he is a man who defended the faith not with gloom and doom (as we might expect in such a time and situation) but with style and grace. He forgave his enemies and prayed publicly for Queen Elizabeth I right before his death. He shone a light which illuminated countless others: one young man who attended his execution was so moved that he became a Jesuit and a martyr himself. May we too be encouraged by St. Edmund's example to defend the faith, to promote it, and to do it with the cheerfulness and joy that is the infallible sign of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Usually during Advent, we try to bring our readers meditations on the Sunday readings--and that has been very fruitful, for us and hopefully for you as well. This year we are trying something a little different: meditations on different saints and holy people who can be companions for us during this Advent season. We will be publishing six or so of these at various times throughout Advent.
Advent is not just a historical reenactment. We don't pretend to be surprised that Christ is born on Christmas any more than we pretend to be surprised when He is risen on Easter. But every day we are all preparing for something we cannot possibly imagine: the second coming of Christ in glory. We don't know the day or the hour, but we know it will come. Advent is happening at all times as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. May these holy men and women--and all the saints--be our companions as we travel onward toward Christmas, remembering always the wonder of the Incarnation and the mysteries of Christ's coming: in the flesh, into our hearts, in glory.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
This weekend we begin a year dedicated to consecrated life! The year officially begins on November 30, 2014 (the first Sunday of Advent) and ends on February 2, 2016 (the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple). As consecrated women, we're excited about this year and look forward to celebrating in many ways!
In fact, we're getting things off to a good start with a Holy Hour for Vocations in our Monastery chapel on Tuesday, December 9, 2014. It starts at 7 PM and will include the Rosary, Compline and Benediction as well as time for silent prayer and reflection. If you are in the area, we hope you will join us--and if you're not close enough to come in person, we hope you will join with us in spirit!
Friday, November 28, 2014
It's a little late (since Thanksgiving here in the United States was yesterday) but we were kind of busy yesterday decorating and cooking and eating!
Our cornhusk family
Even the Pope got decorated! (We hope he doesn't mind!)
We've also been enjoying some lovely autumn weather here in East Texas, where autumn comes later than other places.
Sr. Mary Annunciata's tree (the pretty orange one) in all its autumnal glory
Not too long ago, some dear and generous friends of the Monastery gave us this new golf cart! We are so thankful for it. We use golf carts for transporting baskets of fruits and vegetables we harvest from the gardens, for relocating plants, and most of all for taking sisters who are unable to get around easily for rides on our large property. This new golf cart will probably be used primarily for the latter purpose since it is a two-seater (and it goes really FAST--kind of a golf cart sports car!). Thank you so much to all our benefactors who consider our needs, large and small! We are grateful for everything you do for us!
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
We're always delighted when a Dominican friar drops by--and yesterday was no exception when we had a visit from Fr. David Adiletta, OP, from the province of St. Joseph (also known as the Eastern Province)!
Father Dave has been working for some years in Africa, but has now returned to the United States. We had a great visit with him, and wish him all the best in his new assignment!
Sr. Mary Jeremiah, Sr. Mary Margaret, Sr. Mary John and Sr. Mary Rose with Fr. Dave Adiletta, OP
Thank you so much for stopping by, Father! It was a pleasure to meet you!
Monday, November 24, 2014
We had our community celebration of Sr. Mary John's golden jubilee earlier this month, and yesterday--the solemnity of Christ the King--we had her jubilee Mass! Some of Sister's family and friends were able to be present, and Bishop Joseph Strickland celebrated the Mass, joined by Fr. Marcos Ramos, OP (our chaplain) and Fr. Marty Iott, OP.
Sr. Mary John renews her vows
Sister Mary John and Sr. Maria Guadalupe presenting the gifts to Bishop Strickland during Mass
After the beautiful Mass, Sister Mary John was able to visit with her family and friends in the parlor.
Bishop Strickland and Sr. Mary John
Mother Susan Catherine of the Daughters of Divine Hope with Sr. Mary John
Sr. Mary John and her niece, Helen, her namesake
Sr. Mary John and her brother, Charles!
In his homily at the Mass Bishop Strickland praised Sr. Mary John for her 50 years of dedication to the Lord and His Church, and said that she could look forward to another 50 years! We don't know if this is possible, but we certainly wish Sr. Mary John many good and happy years to come as she continues to serve God with joy and gladness!
Saturday, November 22, 2014
The ancients and medievals believed that everything in the cosmos made music, sending sound waves eternally into space as planets and stars and galaxies and everything gave off a song of praise to their Maker as they whirled in an endless dance. It seems in some ways they may have been right, as musical sounds have been picked up coming from comets! This suggests a deep-seated joy in the heart of all that is, for we sing to express happiness that cannot be contained. Who ever sang when they were angry or frustrated? (Operatic arias are one exception that proves this rule.) Today we celebrate the feast of St. Cecilia, who, according to legend, "sang to God in her heart". She is often pictured with an organ, although there is no evidence she played any instruments. We honor her as a martyr who faced a terrible fate but continued to sing to God in her heart, overcome by a joy that the world does not understand. We remember her as the patroness of musicians, and we remember also today that according to another saint (Hildegard of Bingen) all creation sings, except for one particular group: the devil and his minions. Let us be among those who sing with joy to God in our hearts and voices!
Monday, November 10, 2014
Sr. Mary John's Golden Jubilee Mass will be held on November 23, but we had the community celebration last Saturday! It was fantastic!
We started off with the jubilee song, a fun Nigerian song with new lyrics to suit the occasion. Sr. Marie Augustine played the drum.
Our general theme for the day was Texas--appropriate for a jubilarian who has spent all her life here in this great state! Sr. Mary Thomas provided sound effects for a funny Texas skit using the keyboard and her own natural abilities.
Sr. Mary Jeremiah sang the theme song from the movie "Giant" (which takes place in Texas)
Sr. Mary Gabriel acted the part of Mooch in a delightful skit based on Patrick McDonnell's book "The Gift of Nothing", featuring characters from the cartoon strip "Mutts". (OK, this has nothing to do with Texas as such, but it was really enjoyable!)
There were many more skits, acts, and displays of talent in the morning, but we must move on!
In the afternoon, we watched Sister Mary John open her many gifts.
How cute...handmade stuffed animals created by one of our sisters! It's a bunny rabbit and a Piglet!
After all that celebrating, Sr. Mary John was literally doing a dance! Sr. Marie Augustine helped the festive mood by showing Sister a few African moves.
From our hearts we thank God for Sr. Mary John's faithfulness to Him all these years, and for the many ways she has served God, our community, and our Dominican Order during this time. God grant you many more years, Sr. Mary John!
Monday, November 3, 2014
The renovations we began some time ago in the novitiate are finally done! All the furniture has been moved in, and sisters are living there again. Here's a look at some of the major improvements which have been completed:
Just for comparison...This is the old floor!
The beautiful new floor! It's basically white with flecks of brown. This floor is found throughout the novitiate now (instead of the eclectic mixture of original and patched tiles) A tremendous improvement!
Earlier this year (during Lent, to be precise), the novitiate sisters embarked on a project: make some new Stations of the Cross for our novitiate oratory. Our former set of Stations was getting a little faded and needed some updating. So all during Lent the novitiate sisters sanded, varnished and glued together crosses made of cedar wood (using wood left over from another project--and our workmen cut the pieces out for us using a saw), and finally attached the pictures for the Stations. They finished up right before Easter, which was most appropriate! We are bringing you the completed project now because the wall where the Stations hang was recently repainted and new lighting fixtures were installed.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
We had the special joy of visiting with Fr. Thomas Crean, OP in the parlor last night! Fr. Thomas is a Dominican friar of the English Province who has been visiting Lufkin in order to celebrate the wedding Mass of the sister of one of our nuns here at the Monastery. This is his first visit to the United States and while he hasn't done much sight-seeing he has sampled many of the local delicacies (barbeque, anyone?). Fr. Thomas is currently studying at the International Theological Institute in Austria. He also holds a degree from Oxford and has also spent time at Cambridge, where some of us were delighted to learn he met (and actually had lunch with) the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe! Fr. Thomas is also a published author, and at least two of his books--God Is No Delusion, an answer to Richard Dawkins, and The Mass and the Saints are available in America from Ignatius Press. We had a lovely visit with Fr. Thomas and while it seems unlikely he will ever find his way to Lufkin again, one never knows what the future may hold! (And by the way, his patron is St. Thomas Aquinas!)