Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Saturday, February 22, 2014

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

In the first reading from Leviticus, God is really repeating himself! He really wants us to love one another. But why? Because God is love! And he loves each and every human being with an infinite love. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, can be summarized in one word--Love.

At the dawn of creation, the Creator-God lovingly fashioned the human creature from the "dust of the earth". All other creatures came into being by a single, generic and indirect word. Yet God creates humans directly, intimately, with his own hands. God touches and holds Adam, and finally breathes his very life into him by means of a kind of "divine CPR". 

Let us ponder the act of creation for it will give us insights into today's Scripture readings. God stops what he was doing and humbly kneels down in the dirt. He takes into his hands the dust of the earth which he had created, he mixes it with water and he molds it, that is, he slowly gives it the form he desires. The Hebrew verb "to mold", to model, to give form, always expresses a concrete work, an intense application, a desire for beauty and perfection, a loving gaze upon the figure in one's hands. He looks at it; he scrutinizes it with impressive care, until he adds the crowning touch, an exact image of his eternal Being. 

Benedict XVI has said that we are all "a bit of dust that God loves." If God loves each of us so tenderly and even "knits us together in our mother's womb" (cf. Ps. 139:13), shouldn't we try to love one another as fellow creatures of the same Father?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

At the beginning of Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount, he interprets God's plan to restore creation to the purity of its origin and set all man's loves in order. "You have heard it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Mt. 5:27-28)

In order to enter a communion with divine life, our affections and emotions need to be redeemed through grace and sound teaching, and so the Lord teaches us here the virtue of temperance. What is temperance? St. Augustine says, "The function of temperance is to control and quell the desires which draw us to the things which withdraw us from the laws of God and from the fruit of his goodness..." Temperance is a virtue of moderation. It does not mean emptiness, withdrawing from others or from the beauty of creation, but enjoying in moderation the good things which God created for us. We allow the life, power and grace of Christ to transform us completely in order to enter a new and beautiful life. 

Blessed Pope John Paul II once commented on the writings of St. Augustine, reminding us that the saint invites us to love beauty. It is not only the beauty of bodies, which can easily make one forget the beauty of the spirit, nor only the beauty of art, but the interior beauty of virtue. Christ implanted the gift of communion of grace with the Trinity deep within each human heart. This divine life springs out of the full manifestation of the beauty of marriage and the beauty of consecrated life and the beauty of single life lived chastely for the sake of the Kingdom.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monastery Bells...and Raffle 2014--UPDATED

We just sent out our latest issue of "Monastery Bells"--which you can read online here if you can't wait for the mail! We are also having sending out our raffle tickets in this issue. If you would like to participate in the raffle but do not receive our mailings, just send us your name and snail mail address and we'll fill out some tickets for you. It's that easy! Sorry, we can't send prizes outside the USA for various reasons. You can see our prizes (well, most of them) here. Raffle drawing will be on Easter Sunday so send those tickets in!!

UPDATE: We just added pictures of the jewelry (that's the 4th raffle prize) so you can check them out here. Remember we just draw randomly for the can't specify which you prefer! Thanks so much for your help and support!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

At the time of Christ, salt was a valuable commodity. The Greeks called it divine, and the Romans offered it to their gods. Romans soldiers were often paid with salt (sale), and even today in Italy the colloquial term for money is saldi. Jewish rabbis used the image of salt for the Torah, because both are necessary for life. On the peaceful, sloping hills of Galilee overlooking the Sea of Gennesareth, Jesus instructed the people on what it means to be his disciple. At one point he said, "You are the salt of the earth." (Mt 5:13) 

Salt has three special qualities:
First, salt purifies. The Romans said salt was the purest of all things, and this is why they used it in religious sacrifices. Christians still use salt as a sacramental against evil influences. Just as salt purifies, Christians must also purify. Today the standards of morality and values are almost leveled. A Christian must be the one to live a life of integrity.

Second, salt preserves. Salt is the most common preservative, used from antiquity up to our own day. It keeps food and other things from going bad and becoming corrupt. In the same way, Christians must have a cleansing, antiseptic influence on life. People usually avoid dirty jokes or foul language when a Christian is around, because his or her presence defeats corruption and makes it easier for others to be good. 

Finally, salt enhances. Christianity is to life what salt is to makes it more enjoyable, brings out its best flavor. Salt is ordinary and inconspicuous, disappearing when mixed with food, but you can taste the effects! With this salt we remain serene in a worried world; joyful in a depressed world; radiant and full of life. 

Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth." Not, "You will be," or "You should be," but "You are." This salt is given to us in the Holy Spirit and fidelity to God's word. Christ's disciples are the salt of the earth, purifying the world of its greed, lust, indifference, overcoming the culture of death with the vitality, trust and joy of life in God. May we never lose our distinctiveness of salt!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day

Today, the feast of the Presentation, used to mark the official end of the Christmas season--that was before the liturgical changes after Vatican II, we believe. Some of our sisters here can remember leaving the Christmas decorations up until February 2--wow! February 2 is also known in the secular world as Groundhog Day, the day when groundhogs (or other rodent-like animals) are supposed to predict either the coming of spring, or six more weeks of winter. Believe it or not, this has a certain Christian angle to it--and we don't mean the use of the film "Groundhog Day" to help discern a vocation! As we celebrate today's feast, we begin to make a remote preparation for the season of Lent--which will begin in about a month (March 5, to be exact). Regardless of what the groundhog predicts, the seasons are gradually beginning to change from winter to spring, as we see the nights becoming shorter and the days longer. We put away the infancy narratives of Christ for another year; we focus anew on his public ministry and soon on his passion.

We don't have groundhogs in Lufkin--at least, not that we know of. We have lots of other native creatures, but if we do have groundhogs they've never ventured onto the monastery grounds. So when we want to know whether spring is coming, or six more weeks of winter, we consult the squirrels!

Looks like this squirrel is expecting spring to come!!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Part 2

The feast of the Presentation of the Lord is celebrated beautifully at the Monastery, with light, joyful songs, and a procession inside the cloister from the chapter hall to the main chapel. Each nun carries a candle that has just been blessed by the priest. It is as if we were going with the Holy Family to Jerusalem to fulfill the prescriptions of the Law of Moses--the purification of the Mother and the presentation of her first-born Son, Jesus, in the temple where God is present. 

Mary is holy and pure, but she chose to submit herself to the Law, although she did not need to do so. Her actions show her obedience to the will of the Lord. Mary offered to God her first-born Son, the true "Lamb of God". When Jesus is brought to the temple by his parents, Simeon was inspired by the Holy Spirit to recognize him as the true Savior of the world. He proclaimed Jesus as "a light for revelation to the nations". He added that Jesus would be a "sign of contradiction" and that a sword will pierce his Mother's heart. The parents were astounded and awed when they heard the divine mystery and plan that God had generously revealed to them. 

Today we are invited to join the procession to welcome Jesus into our hearts. He is our true light and freedom, sent by God to save the world. With confidence in God's mercy and Christ's love, "let us go to God's house", offering ourselves and those who are dear to us to the most gentle and loving Father.

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Part I

This feast has had many names over the past two thousand years. The Mosaic law required a ritual cleansing of a mother forty days after she bore a son. This rite consisted in offering one sacrifice as a sin offering and a second in thanksgiving for a safe delivery. Because Joseph and Mary were poor and could not afford an animal, they offered two turtledoves or pigeons.The dedication of the first born son was joined to this ritual of purification. 

The liturgical celebration of this feast began in Jerusalem in the 4th century with the title, "the 40th day after Epiphany". From there it spread to Byzantium, where by the 6th century it was known as "the meeting of Jesus and Mary with Simeon". In the 7th century the feast was celebrated in Rome as the "Purification of Mary". Today, it is called the "Presentation of the Lord".

The ceremonial ritual of presentation in the temple is also a form of consecration to God. On this feast in 2002, Blessed Pope John Paul II said in his homily at Mass, "In today's feast...we celebrate the mystery of consecration: consecration of Christ, consecration of Mary, consecration of all who follow Jesus for love of the kingdom." All the baptized are in a sense "consecrated"--set apart by God to do some mission for him, although some are called to follow in a more radical way through profession of the evangelical counsels. But no matter how we live the consecration we have received, we have the consolation of supernatural help from Our Lord and his Mother, as Blessed John Paul II concluded in his homily, "How comforting it is to know that Mary is beside us, as Mother and teacher, on our path of consecration!"