Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Friday, December 29, 2017

It's Still Christmas!

While most people have already taken down their Christmas decorations and "moved on" to the next thing to occupy their time and minds, we are barely half-way through celebrating Christmas. We are only on Day 5 of the Octave of Christmas. That means that Christmas is such a Big feast that it takes 8 days to actually celebrate and embrace the Reality. Then, there will still be another week of the Christmas Season, which, this year, concludes on January 8 with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Advent was very short this year with only one day of the Fourth Week. The Sisters did not have much time to change from the Advent purples to the Christmas reds and greens, especially in our Chapel and our Refectory (dining room). So, simplicity was the key element to decorating, but the results were just as stunning.

We would like to share some photos of the ingenuity of our Sisters.

First, is our Chapel which is usually decorated from floor to ceiling with greenery, ornaments and lights, etc. This year there is a simple single strand of white lights on the tree. Of course, the beautiful poinsettias make anything look elegant and lavish.

The Sanctuary is prepared for Benediction on Christmas night.
We use an elaborate monstrance for Exposition on special days such as Holy Days.

Our Chapel will look like this until January 8.

Second, is our Refectory which the Sisters in the Novitiate decorate. They had a clever idea this year to use simple bows to dress-up the walls. Instead of the multiple piece large Manger Scene, they displayed a simple, but tastefully, made banner.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

In our Monastery, we like to keep the Season of Advent as much as possible. We begin to decorate for Christmas only a few days before Christmas. This year was unusual because the Fourth Sunday of Advent was also Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve is the threshold into the great Season of Christmas. We begin the day with an ancient monastic custom of Solemn Chapter after Morning Prayer. The Christmas Proclamation from the Roman martyrology* is sung by one of the nuns and a sermon given by another nun on the Mystery of the Incarnation.

*In olden days, this was a reading of all the saints to be celebrated the following day.

A Traditional Translation of the Christmas Proclamation
On the twenty-fifth day of December;
In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;
In the year two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood;
In the year two-thousand and fifty-one from the birth of Abraham;
In the year one-thousand five-hundred and ten from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses;
In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David as king;
In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
In the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
In the year seven-hundred and fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome;
In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus;
In the sixth age of the world,
while the whole earth was at peace—
JESUS CHRIST eternal God and the Son of the eternal Father,
willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming,
having been conceived of the Holy Ghost,
and the nine months of His conception being now accomplished,
was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man.
The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.

Our Sister-Preacher this morning gave a beautiful talk in poetic form which we would like to share with you. To read it,just go to the next picture and it is below it.

Also, on Christmas Eve after Vespers, our Chaplain usually comes inside the enclosure and blesses the Nativity Scenes in our Community Room and Refectory.

One dark night,
Fired with love’s urgent longings
Ah, the sheer grace!
I went out unseen,
My house being now all stilled
A canopy of stars puncturing the black sea of space
The eyes of the animals transfixed
Transfixed on the newborn baby in their midst
Did they think of Noah perhaps?
The Noah who spared their species when the dark seas of earth
Raged over the landscape with unrelenting fury?
Obliterating the stain of somber memory?
A new heavens and a new earth.
In silence he comes forth
“Behold I make all things new”

On that glad night
In secret, for no one saw me.
Nor did I look at anything
With no other light or guide
Than the one that burned in my heart
A frigid chill with its high-pitched scream
forces its way in between the timeworn slats of their dilapidated shed.
Yet, a light shines in the darkness
And the darkness does not overcome it.
Here burns the true light of the world
Like the dove
Creating in the hushed silence of primordial earth
Here burns the light of the world
The quiet voice raised above the din to meet Elijah’s waiting ear
“I am the Alpha and the Omega
The beginning and the end”
“How long have I loved you beauty ever ancient ever new
How long I have loved you.”
The slow counting of eons gone by
All consumed with a single purpose
Each expectation whose signs may be read in constellations and stars,
 In giant expanse or a grain of sand.
In the time deemed right by Thine omnipotent hand
The time has come
Has come to save.

“Who is man that You take notice of him
    Or the son of a man that You make account of him?”
The Word made flesh
Clothed in the creature He had made
Reaching out with love’s silent longing
To grasp the rag enfolding Him
With hands no bigger than a pebble on the shore of the sea
He comes:
and Fragile
“But now, O Lord, You are our Father;
    We are the clay, and You are our potter;
    And we all are the works of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:7)”

Upon my flowering breast
Which I kept wholly for Him alone
There he lay sleeping
And I caressing Him
There is a breeze from the fanning cedars.
The crunch of dried hay beneath footsteps
A cloud, like smoke, escapes the lips that are cold and dry
Bursting and shredding it explodes upon the scene
Smothering the voice of the cricket in the night
The eyes of the shepherds
Stabbed with light
Behold an angel praising glory
Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to men of good will.

After the angel
Stillness except for one thing
The bleating of the innocent lambs
A sacrifice for a forgotten temple
While their true Master and Creator
Was flogged without mercy
In its wake
Amid their cries for freedom.
No longer saved by the reddened door posts of old
Or the staff resting in Aaron’s hand
To pay the ransom we had incurred
The ransom so many knew not when.
 Such is our life
And such is our hope
For now, in peaceful slumber,
Cruelty hides its wrath
For now, the creatures have their king
For now the Shepherds and angels adore
For now, a single kiss
That will soon give way to a crown of thorns
For now he is Lord
King of the Universe
He is our salvation and redemption
Our God
Of beginning and eternal end.


A hand pressed into an arm
Shivering from want

The mother picks up the child for the shepherds to see

I abandoned and forgot myself
Laying my face on my Beloved
All things ceased; I went out from myself
Leaving my cares
Forgotten among the lilies.

I came to bring fire upon the earth,
and how I wish it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49)”

—Sister Mary Dominic, OP, ©2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Advent Holy Hour

This week we had our bi-annual Holy Hour for Vocations. But it was extra special because we had a guest homilist - Fr. Ian Bordanave, OP, currently living at the Priory in Irving, TX. We first met Father Ian when he was a brand new novice. More recently when he was Pastor of Holy Rosary church in Houston, he would drive up once a month to be our confessor.

After Fr. Ian arrived from driving to Lufkin from the Dallas area we had a very enjoyable visit in the parlor to catch up on what he - and we - have been doing during the past few years.

Fr. Ian is congratulating Sr. Mary Therese who will be making her First Profession at the end of January.

During the Holy Hour we had meditations of the five decades of the Joyful mysteries, a homily, then Compline (Night Prayer) concluding with Benediction with the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Different Sisters, as well as the President of our local Dominican Laity read Scriptures and the meditations, while Fr. Ian led the prayers for the Rosary.

The New Evangelization

On Wednesday and Thursday, we had an interesting workshop on the "New Evangelization" by the Vicar of Evangelization for  the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Father David Caron, OP, of our Southern Dominican Province, was here for a whirl-wind visit of less than 24 hours. However, he was able to give us three lectures that will stimulate our thoughts and prayers for many months to come.

Father is originally from Massachusetts where he was ordained a diocesan priest. By a "God-incidence", he was an altar-boy for our friends the Dominican Nuns at Monastery of the Mother of God in  West Springfield MA. He first came to our monastery when he was just a novice for our Province back in 2001. We have already invited him back for another whirl-wind of lectures!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Days of Guadalupe

Sister holds a turtle made by one of the nuns
We have been celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the past four days!! Besides being the feast of  Our Lady of the Americas (north, central and south), it is also the Feast Day of our prioress, Sister Maria Guadalupe.

We began on Saturday with our joyful greetings and a song, then snacks and games, "talking" meals in the Community Room, and concluding with the Nutcracker Suite in the evening.

On Sunday she opened her many beautiful gifts, which the prioress uses in the name of the Community - usually going to the Gift Shop, our annual Raffle, or benefactors and friends. Each Sister is very talented in a unique area. We concluded the day with a movie in Spanish from Peru about a Dominican Nun!! This excellent film was about Blessed Ana of the Angels who lived in Arequipa, Peru in the 17th century.

On Tuesday, the actual liturgical Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we had the joy of watching some Matachine dancers from our parish, St. Patrick. The Matachines dance for religious purposes - to worship God, Christ, or to honor the Virgin Mary or a saint. The custom originated with the encounter of the native Indians and the Spanish conquistadors. The practice now reaches from northern Mexico to as far south as Peru. Their costumes and fancy foot work were amazing.
Thank you - Gracias!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Friend from Trinidad

We had the joy of hosting Sr. Ann Bradshaw, OP, the Prioress of Rosary Monastery in Trinidad for several days. She stopped here on her way to Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery in Lancaster PA, where there is a meeting of the prioresses of the Dominican monasteries of our Association of Monasteries.

Sister Ann and our prioress, Sister Maria Guadalupe, left yesterday for the important meeting which begins today. The Master General of the Dominican Order, Fr. Bruno Cadore, will come and talk with them as a special treat. The Sisters will return to Lufkin later in the week.

Please join us in praying for the success of this meeting.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

We Thank God for You, Our Readers

Another Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, but we continue to enjoy the entire Thanksgiving weekend, as we hope you do. Here are a few pictures of preparing for our special dinner in the Community Room. We eat in that room when we want to talk during a festive meal, but usually eat in what we call the Refectory where we keep silence and listen to the reading of a book or CD.

Everything for our Thanksgiving Dinner came to us as gifts from our generous benefactors. We even had fresh lemonade right from the tree.

While the Professed Sisters prepared the Meal,
the Novitiate Sisters prepared the Room.

We had a new table this year to celebrate the "internationality" of our Community. It was ladened with dishes from Tanzania, Cuba, Vietnam and Columbia... and we had homemade Mexican hot chocolate and bunuelos for breakfast.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

East Texas Autumn

The glorious season of Autumn has arrived in East Texas. We usually have something like a "default" season of summer. That is, every few days, or maybe even a week, the weather turns hot. But this week we are enjoying the cold nights and warm days.

Even some of the trees are turning  pretty reds and oranges. The photo above is of our Japanese persimmon tree behind the professed dormitory. We have several "American" persimmon trees. Their fruit is almost heart shaped and must be soft to eat, if you do not want your throat to close up because of the unripe astringent elements in the fruit. The fruit of a Japanese persimmon, on the other hand, is a squatting square, and stays hard even when ripe. Having the two kinds of persimmons makes it especially important to know which you are eating, or you can be in for a very unpleasant surprise.

We have a cute little family of tree frogs living in one of the flower pots next to St. Joseph by one of the entrances to the professed dormitory. When the days are warm they are out looking for food; when the air turns cold, they are back for a snooze in the leaves and dirt. This one is at the very top of the door near the ceiling of the porch. This is one of the Parents", about 1 inch long. The baby is only 1/2 inch long.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Circle

To have a "Circle" at the Monastery is a "technical term".   😄    Or, you might say it is a form of "monastic-speak". In other words, it means that we gather in an open circle to share recent news or events.

Whenever a Sister needs to go on a trip, we have a "circle" after her return, to hear about her adventure, travels, people she met, etc.

In this way, we can all hear the news at one time... and get the story straight. Sister has many souvenirs that the other members of the International Commission gave her.

One day they took a special field trip to see where the Dominican Friars first lived when St. Dominic sent them to Bologna, Italy. They also had Mass in the cell where our holy father died and then visited the side chapel in the Church of St. Dominic where he is buried today.

We are excited that we now have more pictures to add to our Dominican History class!!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Meeting Goes On

A wonderful new development in the procedure of the International Commission on the Nuns occurred when Fr. Cesar, the Nuns' Promoter, asked the representatives to write the monasteries in their region every, or every other, day. This has been a simple way to keep us all connected through the internet.

        From left to right: Sr. Paola (Italy); Sr. Maria de Mar (Spain); Sr. Mary Rose (Lufkin TX); Sr. Lioba (France)

Yesterday they discussed Youth, and, Justice and Peace issues.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

International Commission of Dominican Nuns

Sister Mary Rose was chosen as the new representative of Dominican Nuns for the North American Region. The International Commission is composed of eleven representatives from throughout the world. They are currently holding their annual meeting in Bologna, Italy.

Whenever any of the Nuns go out for a trip, we always pause to get the prioress' blessing for safe and blessed travels.

Two of the Nuns drove Sister Mary Rose to Bush International Airport, near Houston, on Wednesday, October 18, to fly to Bologna by way of a 5 1/2 hours layover in Frankfort, Germany. 

She will return to Lufkin next week on Thursday, October 26.

 Our last view of Sister as she prepares to enter the Security area. Buon Viaggio!

Please join us in praying for Sister and all those attending this meeting, that the Holy Spirit will fill their hearts and minds for the future of the Dominican Nuns.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Last we we had a wonderful workshop on the Theological and Moral Virtues with Fr. Leo Almazan, OP, of our Southern Province. Father Leo is originally from Mexico City, but joined the Dominican Order while studying and working in the USA. He is an excellent teacher! His most recent assignment was as Prior of our Student Brtohers Formation Community in St. Louis, MO.

There are three theological virtues which join us directly with God:

There are four Moral, or Cardinal, Virtues which concern our relationships with other people.
PRUDENCE  &  JUSTICE  - direct our relations with others

FORTITUDE & TEMPERANCE  -  regulate ourselves

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Columbus Day Celebration

We had a restful and joyous Columbus Day. It's often more enjoyable than the excessive heat of July 4th. It was very overcast threatening rain; and, in fact, as soon as we concluded the opening flag ceremony, the drops began to fall. However, that did not last long. Yes, it was a lovely day indeed: warm sun and cool breeze.

Now and then some of the Sisters enjoy grilling. So, this year Sister Mary Christine did a fine job of cooking our picnic dinner. Not only did we have hamburgers and hot dogs, but also plenty of chicken.

The day was spent playing games, eating snacks and talking. But we never, ever stop the Divine Office, heading for chapel 7 or 8 times a day to pray for you and everyone in the world.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Until next year ...

The Dominican Contemplative Novice Mistresses of the North American region concluded their annual meeting on Friday, September 29, the Feast of the Archangels. They were fortunate to have all but two of the member monasteries represented. It was a very profitable meetings and everyone is energized to put into practice all the wonderful ideas they discussed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Novice Mistress Meeting in the Bronx

This week our Novice Mistress, Sister Mary Rose, is attending the annual Novice Mistress Meeting held at Corpus Christi Monastery in the Bronx. They are having talks in the mornings given by Father Walter Wagner, OP, the current Pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan. Almost all the Novice Mistresses have been able to attend. We are only missing the ones from Trinidad and Lancaster PA. The meeting is going very well and our hosting community is very warm and welcoming.

From left to right: Sr. Joseph Maria (Summit NJ); Sr. Mary Jordan (Marbury AL); Sr. Joseph Marie (Menlo Park CA); Sr. Mary Angela (Los Angeles CA); Sr. Mary Rani (Farmington Hills MI); Sr. Mary Rose (Lufkin TX); Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart (Bronx NY); Sr. Emmanuella, (Springfield IL); Sr. Isabelle (Squamish, BC, Canada); Sr. Maria Pia (Bronx NY); and Fr. Walter Wagner, OP (NYC)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Retreat in the Desert

The Nuns are making their annual retreat from September 13-20. Many people laugh when they hear the nuns are going on retreat. "Aren't you in a perpetual retreat?!"  Well, yes. But we do live in community, and sometimes we need more solitude than we normally have; as well as extra silence and time for prayer, reading, and simply resting.

We usually have a "preached" retreat in which someone preaches to the entire community twice a day on aspects of the spiritual life, plus the homily at Mass ties in with the theme of the retreat. Another kind of retreat might be a "directed" retreat, in which a person might meet daily, or every other day, with a Retreat Master and share privately what he or she has been praying about.

 In the photo above, Fr. Emmerich is explaining where he obtained his white rosary.

Our retreat Master this year is Father Emmerich Vogt,OP, from the Western Province headquartered in California. We had never met him before so when he arrived Tuesday afternoon we arranged to visit with him, before "going into the desert" Wednesday morning. Although Father Vogt is originally from Connecticut, he has lived most of his life in California. He has had various ministries: parish work, Provincial, chaplain for our nuns in Los Angeles, and now giving retreats and workshops throughout the country, and world.

The theme of our retreat is "Liturgical Asceticism".  We are enjoying the retreat and Father Emmerich's very thought provoking reflections. He is funny yet profound.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Chaplains - Old and New

Our new chaplain, Fr. John Lydon, OP, began his ministry with us on August 1. He comes from Philadelphia, but is quite acclimated to living in Louisiana and Texas. Most of his ministry has been in the area of Campus Ministry. It's easy to see that he must have done well. He is down to earth and loves people. We thoroughly enjoy his daily homilies and never know what to expect.

By co-incidence, just yesterday our previous Chaplain, Fr. Marcos Ramos, OP, successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Ad multos anos!!
That's more or less, Latin for "Congratulations".