Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

Every year on the morning of Christmas Eve about 6:30 we gather in the Chapter Hall, (a large room for solemn monastic occasions) . There is a special reflection, usually given by one of the younger Sisters. This year it was given by our Novice, Sister Mary Therese. It was very good and you can read it below the next photo.

Also, each year on Christmas Eve after Vespers (Evening Prayer), our chaplain comes in and blesses the Nativity Scenes in the Community Room and Refectory (dining room).

Solemn Chapter 2016

     This year, the Dominican Order celebrates the 800th anniversary of its founding. St. Dominic founded an Order 800 years ago dedicated to preaching the truth of the Gospel. Specifically, he wanted to preach the Gospel to the Cathars--heretics who believed in a dualistic reality in which matter and spirit were opposed to each other, with matter being evil and only spirit being good. Our Order was initially established to combat a heresy that the miracle of Christmas challenges.
     What is so special about Christmas? Why is Christianity the only religion that celebrates the birth of its founder, a birth that happened decades before Christs really "did" anything, things that identified Him as a religious leader such as preaching and performing miracles? Of course, the conception and birth of Christ is itself a miracle. The Virgin Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit and bore Jesus Christ, God made man.
     But the fact that God became a man at all is an even greater miracle. We Christians, 2000 years later, are accustomed to the idea of God becoming man. It is hard for us to understand how truly shocking this event was. Why did God come to earth as a baby? What would have happened if He had come to earth as a grown, powerful man, as one would expect a God to do it He came to earth at all? And why DID He come to earth as a man at all? Could He have saved us just as a divine, spiritual being? What's so important about our physical nature that God wanted to redeem that, too?
     God is spirit, with no physical nature, and thus it is tempting for us to dismiss the physical as "lesser," particularly as it is easier to see the flaws, brokenness, and messiness of the physical world. The spiritual world is exalted, esteemed, even mysterious, which makes it seem better and more important than the physical. But God created the physical world, and God created all things good. God Himself values the physical, natural world; He created it and wants it to exist and be saved.
     With the celebration of Christmas, we are reminded of the goodness of the world. God chose to come to earth as a human to redeem our humanity. He wanted to redeem not just our souls but our bodies as well. And He did that by living as a normal, physical human being, which includes coming into the world as a baby, just like everybody else does. From the day of His conception to the day of his crucifixion, Jesus endured all the suffering and messiness of a physical body in our fallen world. He chose to come to earth through a physical mother, instead of descending from on high in a glorified body. He lived nine months in Mary's womb and then was born, coming t\into the physical world the same way every other human being does. He then experienced childhood and all of the growing pains and scraped knees that every other child has. As an adult, He endured hunger and thirst and extreme discomfort during His mission of preaching and healing. And during His passion, He suffered unimaginable physical and emotional pain. And in experiencing a fully physical human life, Jesus redeemed humanity in both our bodies and our souls.
     Christmas is a celebration of the goodness of the physical world, because we celebrate God's great decision to incarnate as a physical human being in order to redeem the physical world. God created the natural world, and He created all things good. The natural world is now fallen, yes, but it is still fundamentally good and worthy of redemption. God created us as both body and soul; we are embodied souls. The "real me" includes both spiritual and physical natures, and we are not truly human without both. Even in the next life, we are promised a resurrection of our bodies, so that our physical and human natures will be forever united in the Kingdom of God.
     The miracle of Christmas proves that God loves us completely, both body and soul. He loves us more than we love ourselves. It is we humans who are tempted to reject the physical, in all its ugliness and pain. But God loves our entire humanity. He wants our spirit, but He also wants our body. At Christmas, we celebrate the incarnation, in which God embraces our human nature with complete love and acceptance, in all our frailness and woundedness. Christmas is a celebration not just of Jesus becoming human, but of all  of us being created in His great family of humanity, a family He joined to bring together as one body to redeem.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Emmanuel, Come!

(tune: O come, O come Emmanuel)

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel;
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

With each succeeding day, the O of our invocation, and the Veni of our supplication has grown more confident, more intense and, in a sense, more urgent.

Emmanuel. Is there a name sweeter or more tender? God-with-us. “Nothing in our difficulties, our misunderstandings, our sorrows, even in our agony, will find us alone. We will always have Someone with us, Someone present in our very heart to give the strength and light necessary in those moments.” (1964, Mother Marie des Douleurs Wrotnowska) Therefore, we never again need to be afraid or worry.

Be Emmanuel for us always. Never leave us, always with us.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Come, O King of the Nations!

(tune: O come, O come Emmanuel)

O come, desire of nations, bind,
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid thou our sad divisions cease,
And be thyself our Prince of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

One translation of this antiphon says, Christ is the “cornerstone that binds two into one”. It also says, “Come, and bring wholeness to man.” In other words, Jesus as King of the universe, is the only One Who can truly bring peace among peoples and to each individual heart. We have been fashioned from the dust. So now, today, we ask to be refashioned, reshaped, reformed by Christ, the Word through whom all things were made. 

In His Church, Christ originally united Jew and Gentile, and now and until the end of time, every nationality and race can become one in His Mystical Body. Every time a human being seeks the splendor of the truth, the radiance of beauty, the purity of goodness, he seeks the Face of Christ, the “Desired of all nations.”

Come, Christ, make me over, change me,
reshape all that is misshapen in me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

O Radiant Dawn!

(tune: O come, O come, Emmanuel)

O come, O Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put  to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

“Light from Light, true God from true God.” We recite these words every Sunday in the Creed. God is light. Light was the first thing He created according to Genesis 1. Most (though not all) creatures need light to live. Light is compared to truth; living in the light is also living in the truth.

Christ is the Light of the world, the “dawn from on high.” From earliest times, Christians have turned towards the East to pray. Christ is the Dayspring, the rising sun who dawns upon us from on high “to give light to those in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:9). The eastward orientation of churches and altars is a way of expressing the great cry of every Eucharist: “Let us lift up our hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.”

Let us live with our gaze fixed on God
within the communion of saints.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

O Key of David!

(tune: O come, O come, Emmanuel)

O come, Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

The Lord offers to lead us out of the darkness of our narrow minds, if we will but desire it. We don’t have to make long speeches to God. One word is enough, “Yes.” The mystery of the Annunciation, which is the Gospel for today is essentially, that one word, “Yes,” fiat. As Dante would tell us, the Love that moves the sun and stars waits for our response of a loving, trusting “Yes.”

On the shoulder of Christ was placed the key of the Cross, the key that opens what no mortal can open, and that closes what no mortal can close. In the image of a great key placed on His shoulder, we recognize the figure of the Cross placed on the shoulder of Christ, the key by which heaven is opened and hell vanquished. The way of peace is the way opened before us by the Cross-bearing Christ. Christ, with the key of the Cross, opens the door before us.

Lord, we give you the key to our hearts.
Unite our hearts to Your Sacred Heart.

Monday, December 19, 2016

O Root of Jesse, Come!

(tune: O come, O come, Emmanuel)

O come, O Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny,
From depths of hell thy people save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

This is the Child whom kings long to see, and perhaps compare to themselves. He is as fragile as a tiny shoot growing toward the sun, yet no one is as powerful as He. His frailty and power flow from His love. This image comes from Isaiah 11:1 and the next 2 verses list for us the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus and the Spirit are always One, together with the Father.

The frail shoot, root, stem, rod, will grow into a standard before which the world and kings tremble, but in which Christians find strength and comfort; for the standard/banner of Christ is the Cross. The Root of Jesse announces that the advent of the Son is focused on the mission of Redemption that He will accomplish on the Tree of the Cross. Jesus reigns over the universe from the throne of the Cross.

Come, Lord, grow in our hearts that we bow down in worship to You.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

O Lord, Come!

(tune of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)
O come, O come thou Lord of Might,
Who to thy Tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to the, O Israel!

Lord God, you appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai and gave him the Law to lead Your people into spiritual freedom. But they did not have the inner power of the Spirit to fulfill it. Lord, reveal Your Name to us that we may really know You in a deep and intimate way.

Come O Lord, and place Your law, Your will, Your Holy Spirit, within our hearts. Amen

Friday, December 16, 2016

O Wisdom, Come!


(tune of O come, O come, Emmanuel)

O come, O Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily,
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to the, O Israel!

Jesus can truly be called the Wisdom of God. As the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Christ, the God-Man, is also called the Word of God. As the Word of the Father, Jesus reveals to us the inner thoughts and will of the Father, and these thoughts and desires are divinely wise. To know Jesus is to know Wisdom. To grow close to Jesus is to grow in wisdom. The Gospel According to John emphasizes Christ as the Word, the Logos of God: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.

The Document on the Liturgy from Vatican Council II says that in the Liturgy, Christ is present in the ministers, the priest and deacon; He is present in the congregation, the assembled believers who make up the Body of Christ; He is present in the Word of God when it is proclaimed in the assembly. The Word of God—Scripture and Christ—bring us the Wisdom of God so that we might live holy lives. Jesus comes to us to show us the way to salvation, but during this Advent season He wants to reveal this saving way in greater and deeper detail. In the Liturgy, we partake of the Wisdom of the Word and of the Eucharist, Wisdom incarnate.

Come, Lord, open our hearts and minds to Your Wisdom. Amen.

The Last Days of Advent

We are coming to the end of Advent. Today we begin our special Christmas Novena for all our friends and benefactors (that includes all of you who read this post). In addition to our specially sung Masses, we have prayers throughout the day, concluding on Christmas Eve. May we all long and yearn for a deeper relationship with our Lord.

Tomorrow we begin the beloved and ancient O Antiphons which date back to the 7th century. The antiphons are sung at the Alleluia of the Mass and as the Antiphon for the Magnificat during Vespers. The are composed of ancient titles of the Messiah, rich in Scriptural meaning.
As Lent has Holy Week, so Advent has this last week of special prayers and readings that we might enter in more deeply into the mysteries of Christ's mission.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sisters Out Of India

Today is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to Asia. Together with St. Therese of Lisieux, he is co-patron of the missions. He devoted almost 3 years to preaching the Gospel to the people of southern India and Ceylon (today, Sri Lanka), converting and baptizing many. He built nearly 40 churches along the southwestern coast of India. While on his way to China, Francis Xavier died on an island on the southeastern coast of India.

We recently had some lovely and holy visitors from India, and the area St. Francis Xavier evangelized. The Sisters of the Destitute came to our Monastery to make their annual retreat.

The community was founded in 1927 by a young diocesan priest, Fr. Varghese Payapilly. "There were few organized charitable services in Kerala to care for the poor and the destitute, aged and infirm, unwanted and downtrodden ... abandoned in the streets or uncared for at home." Father Varghese, like Mother Teresa 20 years later, was deeply moved by Jesus' words, "As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me." (Mt 25:40). He believed God was calling him to found a religious community to care for all these people; providentially, the Archbishop introduced him to five young women who wanted to enter religious life to care for the poor. And so, the Congregation began in 1927. It was first called the "Little Sisters of the Poor", but when they discovered there was already a group by that name, they changed theirs to the "Sisters of the Destitute". He passed on to his spiritual daughters his mystical experience of contemplating the face of Jesus in the destitute and offering loving service to the poor. Unfortunately, while taking care of typhoid patients two years later, he contracted the disease and died on October 5, 1929. He left this world encouraging the young community to seek always God's will. The Congregation has spread throughout the world with more than 1,500 Sisters; and Father Varghese's cause for sanctity has been opened and he is officially a "Servant of God". Most of their vocations have come from the state of Kerala which is very Christian, due perhaps to the presence of St. Francis Xavier and some say even, St. Thomas the Apostle.

The Sisters of the Destitute have two communities in the USA: Shreveport, LA (4 sisters) and Beaumont TX (3 sisters). So the two groups met half way in Lufkin TX! All the Sisters studying nursing, and currently help in Catholic Hospitals. Because there were 7 and we have only 1 small guest room, they spent the nights at the house of a friend; and the days and meals were here at the monastery. Our chaplain gave them a conference each day on the consecrated life. We were very impressed with their prayerfulness in chapel and walking up and down our main road.

Their last evening here was an opportunity for all of us to meet them and learn about their vocations and ministries. We all had a wonderful visit and will keep them in our prayers. Perhaps they'll be back for another retreat.