Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tet 2014

It's that time of year again--the Lunar New Year, or Tet as our Vietnamese sisters call it! We have come full circle this year--we began our community celebrations of Tet in 2002 (which was also the Year of the Horse) and now we are starting (so to speak) another 12-year cycle! Over the years our celebrations have varied but some things remain constant, like our traditional dance choreographed by Sr. Mary Christine. We'll let the pictures of the dance speak for themselves!

 After the dance the sisters enjoyed delicious Vietnamese treats and lucky money envelopes.

It was all so good! Many thanks to those who provided us with these treats!

Some of the sisters in our community who were born in the Year of the Horse: Sr. Mary Rose, Sr. Maria Guadalupe, and Sr. Mary Veronica

We played some fun games and in the end everyone received a little gift. It was truly a wonderful celebration and a great opportunity to learn more of our sisters' varied cultural traditions and grow in our mutual love in Christ. We look forward to next year! 

Sr. Bernadette Marie and Sr. Irma display their New Year gifts.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

In our first reading from Isaiah we have the actual text from the prophet, which is not exactly as Matthew gives it to us in the Gospel. The prophecy ends on a very positive note: 

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;...
[God has] brought them abundant joy..
For the yoke that burdened them,...
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian. (Isaiah 9:1-3)

What is this "day of Midian"? Midian was a great and powerful nation southeast of Israel. For many years it had periodically plundered and raided the Israelites. This was the moment when Gideon was made a judge to protect and defend God's people. Gideon raised an army of 10,000 warriors, but God thought that was too many and sent all but 300 home. Besides that, he did not allow those left to use any weapons. The Israelites would defeat their enemy with horns, empty clay jars and torches. 

God did not need 10,000 soldiers to destroy Midian. He didn't even need 300. They were only an example of how much their faith enabled God to act through them to overcome danger. The same holds true for each of us. In the many battles and struggles of life, often all we can really do is pray to God for his help. Pray for guidance--to know God's will--and strength, to do it and carry it to the end.

Nothing in this world is secure and lasting--no nation, no continent, not even the mighty stars. Only God and what he wills is lasting. One of the things God wills to last forever is us--and our immortal souls. What are we doing to make ourselves ready for eternity? Each of our daily choices goes into the "mix" of our eternity. May our sins and tendencies toward evil "be smashed as on the day of Midian".

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow on Lotus Lane

As we finished Compline last night, it started snowing...and this morning we awoke to a rare (for Lufkin) winter wonderland! We haven't had a snow like this since...2010?? And this was heavier snow than we had back then!

Snow on the magnolia tree--and on Our Lady!

 In the woods

Another shot of the woods. You can see the novitiate building at the left.

The snow-covered angel at our flagpole.

By noon, the snow was beginning to melt, although it was still pretty cold outside--for Lufkin. We realize for many parts of the United States and some parts of the world snow is no big deal because it happens every winter, or at least more often than not. But for us it was an opportunity to wonder anew at God's marvelous works. And maybe to throw a snowball or two! "Bless the Lord, ice and snow, praise and glorify him forever!" (Daniel 3:70)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Last week we celebrated the feast of the Lord's baptism. Today God's word invites us to understand Jesus better through the preaching of John the Baptist, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world..." (John 1:29). Why did John the Baptist call Christ a lamb? Let's examine two reasons. 

First of all, in the old law, there are several animals which can be offered to make reparation for sin: the heifer, the goat, the sheep (which might be a ram or a lamb), the turtle dove, and the pigeon. All of these prefigured the true sacrifice, which is Christ, who takes on himself the sins of the people and offers himself as a "lamb of expiation" (cf. Leviticus 14). 

Secondly, in the new and eternal covenant, Christ is sacrificed and offers himself. The Passover feast has a deep meaning in Israel's history. In Exodus 12 we read, "Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each must be a lamb without blemish." It must be "without blemish" because it is an offering to God. This prefigures Christ who was pure, innocent, and slain. In Exodus 12:11, the meal is a necessary part of the ritual. When the Israelites came to the promised land, they continued to celebrate the Passover meal. It was seen as part of a sacrifice ritual, a covenant-making ritual. Our Lord chose the context of the Passover supper to institute the Eucharist. He says, "This is my body...this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many." (Mark 14:23-24)

In today's Gospel we are invited to participate in the offering of Christ which makes possible the living of the covenant. With God's help we come back to Christ in the Mass to renew the links that bind us to God and to receive grace and virtue from Christ's sacrifice in the Mass. As we read in Matthew, this "blood of the covenant" is "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:28)

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2014

In addition to 9 Days for Life, today is also the starting date for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. There's a lot to pray for this week! 

We will have a Holy Hour from 7 PM - 8 PM on Wednesday, January 22. This will include some time for silent prayer and also Compline and Benediction. If you are in the Lufkin area, you are welcome to come and join us! This Holy Hour is actually for the cause of pro-life, but we will probably offer some prayers for Christian unity as well, because all Christians (and really all people of good faith) have to work together in order to help the most vulnerable members of our society. We can accomplish so much more when we have unity in heart and mind. Let's be united in prayer this week and always!

Friday, January 17, 2014

9 Days for Life 2014

Tomorrow, the 9 Days for Life novena begins! You can see the novena and reflections for each day here. The prayers are really excellent and offer good options for sacrifices that probably anyone can do, regardless of your state of life. We encourage you to participate in these nine days of prayer and sacrifice for the protection of human life called for by the USCCB. If you go to the link we've provided, you can see how to sign up and receive the novena prayers as an app, email, or text messages as well! There's a lot to pray for in the week coming up (as you will see tomorrow). So let's get going and pray!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Baptism of the Lord, 2014

As we are about to return to Ordinary Time, the Church celebrates the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. As we do so, we recall our own baptism. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way: "I thank the Lord for the first anointing with sacred chrism that I received in my hometown...It took place during my baptism. We are all justified and clothed in Christ by this sacramental cleansing with water. We also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit for the first time. This anointing with chrism is a sign of the outpouring of the Spirit, who gives new life in Christ and enables us to live in the righteousness of God..." There are three fruits of the baptismal grace we would like to share with you today.

First, believers become children of God. When we were baptized, a priest poured water on our heads and said, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." In the Old Testament, we read of Noah and his family, who survived the flood, a foreshadowing of baptism. The people of God crossed the river Jordan before they reached the land of Canaan, the image of eternal life and the everlasting covenant God promised. Similarly, we become part of God's family when we are baptized.

Second, "[The believers] come to share in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), the new life in Christ. Paul writes, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?...Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in  newness of life." (Romans 6:3-4) St. Paul clearly teaches that baptized believers enter into a mystical communion with Christ.

Finally, the believers become temples of the Holy Spirit, who sets their hearts ablaze with his fire so that they become holy. The call to holiness is the universal call for all vocations in Christ.

What a blessing baptism is! May all Christians give thanks to the loving Father for this gift, which grafts our lives like branches into the vine which is Christ. He makes us new members of his mystical Body which generously carries out his mission. "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Epiphany Celebration 2014

Having seen the star in the heavens, the Magi made an interesting journey around the monastery grounds this year seeking the Holy Family. We have a lovely creche set which can be put outside, and this year the novitiate used Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus in their decorations for the Chapter Hall (as you can see in an earlier post). The Magi (which go with the set) were spotted as 2014 began, traveling toward the Chapter Hall. One was seen starting from the gate that leads into our monastery; another was seen in Sr. Mary Jeremiah's garden; a third was discovered on our trail in the woods. We eagerly watched each day to see where the Magi would travel next. One day they stopped to converse in the middle of the cloister; one day they were peeking inside the novitiate; one day we found them peering into the refectory. At last, they found what they were looking for!

"...on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11)

We had a delightful morning program on the Solemnity of the Epiphany complete with games and prizes. Then, in the evening, we had a visit from--well, two magi (hint: the third is coming soon, we think)!

To continue our celebration of Epiphany, we decided to play that venerable game--Kingo!

 Being serious Bingo--that is, Kingo--players, we have our own little set for calling numbers! The two magi took turns playing and calling numbers.

 We had a great time playing. The sisters were very intent on the game as you can see in this picture! For several (including Sr. Mary Lucy, who can just be seen at far left) this meant a win and a very nice prize!

The evening concluded with more little gifts from our generous friends and benefactors, as well as from the loving hands of our sisters. Epiphany, as many of you probably know, is a traditional gift-giving day in many countries so it's appropriate to give little gifts on this day in honor of the Magi and the Christ Child they came to worship! May God bless all who are so good to us and help make our celebrations so beautiful and memorable!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Solemnity of the Epiphany, 2014

Liturgically, this celebration focuses on the arrival of the Magi, first at the court of King Herod and then at the dwelling place of the Holy Family. Religious art almost always depicts the Magi arriving at the stable where Jesus was born, but the Gospel says only that the star led them to the place where the child was. It is equally uncertain whether Jesus was still a baby or perhaps a small child--at least two years old or older!

The early Church Fathers identified two other events as Epiphanies: Christ's baptism by John the Baptist and Christ's self-revelation at the wedding at Cana. Much has been written and preached about regarding these events, but there are other epiphanies in the course of Christ's life--his appearance to Mary and Joseph at his birth, to the shepherds who came in obedience to the angel's command, to Nathaniel whom Jesus saw under the fig tree, to Nicodemus to whom the working of the Spirit was revealed, to the blind, the lame, the deaf, the leper, the sinner, all of whom were given new life. And then there was Peter, to whom the Father revealed the truth of Jesus' Divine Sonship, and Peter with James and John who saw Jesus transfigured. There was Mary Magdalene, who first saw the risen Lord, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus who recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

In all these "epiphanies" there is always an element of surprise, of unexpectedness, that captures and holds the attention of the recipient so that Jesus is able to act in his or her life. The opening antiphon at the Liturgy of the Hours for today declares: "Christ has appeared to us..." It does not say: "Christ will appear..." He has appeared to us--to you and me, not once, but often--even daily. Have you noticed? If you do, you will see what he has done for you.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Desiring in his supreme wisdom and love to effect the redemption of the world, "when the fullness of time came, God sent his son, born of a woman...that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal. 4:4)

Mary, the Mother of God! This is a title which we would have thought impossible for any creature to possess. How could a creature become the mother of her Creator? By becoming man in the womb of the Virgin Mary God lost nothing of his Godhead. Instead, he took on human nature while retaining his divine nature. Being born, then, of the Virgin Mary, she became the Mother of God.

"The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. Redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit..." (Lumen Gentium 53)

How awesome it is that God should take on our human nature so that we could become his sons and daughters, and live with him forever in Heaven! Yet we know from sacred Scripture that this was not without great love and sacrifice. Thanks to Mary's "yes" to take on this role as Mother of God, Mother of the Redeemer, and our mother; to Joseph's "yes" to provide for the Child and his mother; and especially Christ's "yes" to the will of his Father, we know that through Christ all humankind is redeemed. Now it is our turn to say, "Yes, here am I, Lord; I come to do your will."

As Mother of God, Mary is not God; she remains a handmaid and an intercessor for all who call upon her. "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."