Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Life with the Cloistered Domincan Nuns

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!!!

All of us in the Monastery had a beautiful Christmas Day and will continue to celebrate the great mystery of God's love for all human beings through the Incarnation. We wish each of our readers and their loved ones every grace and blessing for a faithful and fruitful Christmas Season which continues until February 13, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Below is an "un-panorama" of our sanctuary looking from right to left:   The photos were taken immediately after our Christmas morning Mass. All the candles are still burning.

The Advent wreath has become a "Christ-candle" tree.

At center stage is Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
On the left, where the children (young & old) can contemplate the manger scene.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Advent becomes Christmas

Our unique Advent Wreath of the stump of Jesse has sprouted and begun to bud forth into Christmas.

As is our custom, we have the nativity scenes in the Community Room and Refectory blessed on Christmas Eve after the First Vespers of Christmas. This year our newly arrived substitute chaplain, Fr. David Seid, OP, did the blessings for us. Father currently teaches at St. Joseph Seminary College in Saint Benedict, LA. Previously he had been on mission to China, working principally in Macao. Father is himself Chinese, from Mississippi.

In the Community Room, Father David Seid has just finished blessing the creche.

Solemn Chapter for Christmas

This morning we had our customary Solemn Chapter for Christmas in which one of the Sisters gives a sermon on Christmas and the Incarnation.

This year our preacher was Sister Mary Rose, our Novice Directress. Her beautiful and profound sermon is below:

“And Made his Dwelling among Us”
(Jn 1:14)
            “Home” is a word closely associated with Christmas. Even in secular celebrations of Christmas, Bing Crosby croons, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and the fabled Santa Claus makes his nocturnal visits to the homes of good little boys and girls. In English, the word “home” connotes more than its synonyms: “house”, “dwelling”, “domicile”. “Home” implies a place of security, an intimate space generally reserved to family and close friends. “Home is where the heart is,” goes the adage. “Home” implies a whole web of relationships. When we speak of someone being “homeless”, the use of this word is much more powerful in describing the reality than if we were to say “houseless”. For the homeless are usually suffering from some sort of rupture in human relationships be that through mental illness, addiction, or social injustice. The association of “home” with Christmas picks up a fundamental truth of the Incarnation. By becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made his home with us. He entered into the web of human relationships coming from a particular tribe and a particular people, born into a particular family, as the genealogies point out.
            Traditionally, the Season of Advent celebrates three comings of Our Lord: his coming in the flesh at the Incarnation, his coming at the end of time, and his coming today into our hearts. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live…The heart is the place of decision…It is the place of truth…It is the place of encounter” (CCC 2563). “Home is where the heart is.” We could also say, “Our hearts are our homes.” In so many of the hymns, antiphons and prayers of Advent we are urged to prepare a home for Christ in our hearts.
Then cleansed be ev’ry heart from sin,
Make straight the way of God within;
O let us all our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there.
-On Jordan’s bank, verse 2
By thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.
-Come, thou long Expected Jesus, verse 4
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look East, and sing today:
Love the Guest is on the way.
-People, Look East, verse 1
Emmanuel, Emmanuel, come and live in our midst;
Emmanuel, Emmanuel, come, make your home in our hearts!
-Emmanuel, Refrain
Let us cleanse our hearts for the coming of our great King, that we may be ready to welcome him; he is coming and will not delay.
-Ant. 3, Office of Readings, First Sunday of Advent
“She is the virgin who prepared a joyful home for God in her heart.”
-Responsory to the Second Reading at Office of Readings,
 December 13, Memorial of St. Lucy
May the Lord make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you. May he strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones (1 Thes 3:12-13).
Come and stay with us, Lord.
-Response to the Intercessions, Evening Prayer II, First Sunday of Advent
            A prime example of someone who prepared for the coming of the Messiah in his heart is St. Joseph. The Scriptures describe him as a righteous man. Retreating into his heart to deliberate on what to do when Mary is found to be with child he decides on a compassionate response. A man at home with himself, he is able to act rather than react out of passionate anger or an indignant insisting on his rights. This of course does not diminish the agony of St. Joseph, his perplexity and bewilderment. However, he refrains from lashing out in his hurt and causing more injury. How different his behavior is from the villain in St. Matthew’s Infancy Narrative, King Herod the Great. We know from contemporary historians that this usurping Idumean propped up by the Roman Senate, neither at home in Judea nor with himself, sought to bolster his claims to kingship by marrying the beautiful and popular Hasmonean princess, Mariamne, after dismissing his own wife and son for the sake of political expediency. (The Hasmoneans were the descendants of the Maccabees.) Herod passionately loved Mariamne. However, in the jealousy so often born of insecurity he could not stand to think of another man marrying her in the event that he should be killed and repeatedly gave orders that she should be executed if he died. This cooled the feelings of Mariamne towards him as she understandably concluded that he did not really love her. Herod had her executed and later the two sons she had borne him thus eliminating the Hasmonean Dynasty. In Joseph’s troubled sleep, the angel of the Lord tells him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home” (Mt. 1:20). Joseph knows who he is. He knows he is of the line of David. (Historians say there is indication that the house of David moved north into Galilee as the Hasmonean Dynasty rose in power.) The angel addresses Joseph as a prince, but whereas the pretender to the throne dismisses his own wife and son and then executes his second wife and two of his own sons, this Son of David is asked to take into his home his own wife who is bearing a child he knows he did not beget. His ancestor David stole another man’s wife and fathered a child with her. The wife of another man attempted to seduce his Old Testament namesake, but nowhere in Scripture is another man asked to do what God requests of St. Joseph. Even in the rocky marriage of Gomer and Hosea, the children born of her were Hosea’s. And Joseph accepts. Unlike the Joseph of old, he knows how to keep silence even when this will mean looking like a fool as other people jump to their own conclusions. Joseph’s security does not come simply from having a rightful claim to the kingship. It comes from the right order in his relationships with self, God and others. Having deliberated in his conscience on the right course of action and receiving enlightenment from God, he acts. So Joseph does welcome Mary into his home and in welcoming her into his home he welcomes her into his heart and with Mary comes Jesus.
            Here then is the irony. After being told to take Mary into his home, Joseph and Mary have to leave home for Bethlehem to register in the census. Thus came about Christ’s birth in a stable. Interestingly, St. Matthew’s narrative, which is told from St. Joseph’s perspective, makes no mention of the original house in Nazareth, the trip to Bethlehem, the full inn or the birth in the stable. Was it just too difficult for Joseph to talk about leaving the home he had so lovingly prepared for Mary and the frantic search to find some sort of shelter on that first Christmas night? Or did subsequent events overshadow these details? Again, it is interesting to note that Joseph’s narrative does not mention the shepherds, only the Magi and the subsequent murder of the Holy Innocents. (Mary, on the other hand, seems to be so deeply grateful to these first men who came to see her baby that she has been appearing to shepherds ever since.) It seems Joseph is thinking about another house, not the house in Nazareth but the House of David. The homage of the Magi and fury of Herod indicate that this child is indeed the Son of David, who is to come. (As an aside, although, the massacre of the Holy Innocents is not mentioned by non-biblical historians, it seems perfectly in keeping with Herod’s character, which had not spared his own wife and sons, to have seized the opportunity of the Roman census to try to destroy the remaining dynasty with claims to Jewish kingship. Infanticide was not considered a crime in Rome so it is not surprising that Roman historians do not mention it.)
But what would have happened if Mary and Joseph had remained in Nazareth or if there had been room for them in the inn? By leaving their own home, the Holy Family became more accessible to all classes of people. Joseph and Mary were not wealthy. However, they came from good families. Even though they were both presumably descendents of the Shepherd King, shepherds in their day were of the lowest class of people with whom they probably would not have socialized. The stable was a semi-public place. To go to someone’s house in the middle of the night would have been much more intimidating for the shepherds. They would have felt more at home and less awkward in a stable. Here we see a characteristic of God: He meets us where we are. Then, too, the Magi would never have found the newborn King in Nazareth. The Jewish wise men would not have directed them there.
However, even though Mary and Joseph had to leave their home in Nazareth and the first Christmas was not at home, Jesus did find a home that first Christmas night in the hearts of Mary and Joseph and then in the shepherds. Jesus’ divine origin was from the Father’s heart as the Intercessions say for Sunday I of the Fourth Week of Advent, “Born in your Father’s heart, you became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary.” In the home of his parents’ hearts Jesus traveled to Egypt and then to Nazareth. In the House of David, the home of Joseph, he learned in his humanity of the Father’s love and our ultimate destiny: to go home to the Father’s heart.
            So this Christmas, may Christ find a home in our hearts. May we remember that the Father’s will is being worked out even when things do not go as planned or we are asked to leave the familiar for, ultimately, it is God who knows how to prepare a home for himself and how to lead us home.
O come, thou key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home,
Make safe the way that leads on high,
That we no more have cause to sigh.
-O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, verse 5

Sunday, December 23, 2018

4th Week of Advent

Our 4th Week of Advent this year is incredibly brief! Just today, because tomorrow, December 24, is Christmas Eve and has it's own special liturgy.

If you pray the Angelus (an ancient prayer recalling the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, prayed 3 times a day), you will recognize the Collect or organizing, focusing, prayer for today's Mass...

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known
by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.

“Seeing is believing”, they say, but believing makes us want to see. “Crede ut intellegas! Believe that you may understand!” is a common theme for St. Augustine of Hippo (+430). Today many people pit faith against reason, authority against intellect, as if they were mutually exclusive.

Faith and authority are indispensable for a fuller rational, intellectual apprehension of anything. In all the deeper questions of human existence, we need the illumination that comes from grace and; revelation. We must receive and believe. Faith is the foundation of our hope, which leads to love and communion with God, as Augustine would say. When we hear about something or learn a new thing we often rush to know more, to have personal experience, to see. This is a paradigm for our life of faith. There is an interlocking cycle of hearing a proclamation (such as the Gospel at Mass, a homily, or a teaching of the Church) or observing the living testimony of a holy person’s life (such as Teresa of Calcutta). Because of an experience of reception, and subsequent pondering, we come to love the content of that which we received.
The content of the prayers which Holy Church gives us is the Man God Jesus Christ.
By hearing and pondering & using well these prayers, we come all the better to know Christ and to love Him. In loving Him we desire all the more to know Him. Acceptance of the authority of the content of our orations at Mass opens previously unknown treasuries which would otherwise be locked. Some of them are ancient. Indeed, today's prayer is from at least the 8th century. They are like treasure boxes which, with the right keys, we can open to find irreplaceable riches.
Our Blessed Mother, so closely associated with today’s Collect, first received the message of the Angel. She accepted and believed the message, and made it her own. She pondered it in her heart. She pronounced her Magnificat. She brought our Savior into the light of the world.
H/T: Fr. Z

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Two of Our Dominican Friars

During these past two weeks of Advent we have had the joy of welcoming two of our Brothers in the Dominican Family.

The first one was Father Art Kirwin, a former chaplain of ours for a year in 2013. He is currently assigned to the Dominican Priory in Atlanta, GA. He ministers with various groups, including at one of the Homes of the Hawthorne Dominican Sisters. They care for poor cancer patients without asking for any payment. This congregation was founded by Rose Hawthorne, the daughter of the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her cause for canonization has been introduced.

The second Dominican Friar to be with us is Father Armando IbaƱez, OP, originally of San Diego, TX, near Corpus Christi. We first met him when he was just a novice, but haven't seen him for many years. Father spent 11 years in the Los Angeles, CA area studying and working on films. Now he is currently teaching, ... and still working on films, in south Texas. He has a profound and gentle contemplative spirit and ministers in multiple ways: professor, poet, but most of all as a film maker. Father Armando showed us some of his documentaries, as well as giving some poetry readings of his own compositions.

We are expecting two more Dominican Friars to come celebrate the liturgy for us before the New Year. So, stay tuned.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The 3rd Week of Advent

The 3rd Sunday of Advent is nicknamed “Gaudete … Rejoice!”, from the first word of the first chant, the Introit. Today we relax slightly our penitential focus during Advent. Some say Advent is not a penitential time, even though it has always been considered such in centuries past. ... We fast before our feasts. Our vestments are violet or purple, as in Lent, though some like to use a bluish rather than reddish purple to differentiate Advent as less somber, somewhat less focused on the penitential aspect.

In the 1st week of Advent we begged God for the grace of a proper approach and a strong will for our journey. In the 2nd week, we asked God for help and protection in facing the obstacles we encounter in the world. Today we glimpse the joy that will soon be ours at Christmas.  Liturgically this has been symbolized, though the use–just today–of the rose-colored (rosacea) vestments. Gaudete is the counterpart of “Laetare … Rejoice! Sunday during Lent. [It's easy to remember by the fact that both words start with an "L" = Laetare, Lent.]

Our Collect, [or Prayer, Collect, [meaning "gathering" all our prayers, thoughts], is ... as pristine as the 5th century (probably earlier).

O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Let us give a strong & joyful “Amen” when we hear this Collect pronounced or sung in our churches.
In the Collects of the last 2 Sundays we have been “rushing” and doing good works, striving and being careful not to get tangled in worldly things. This Sunday we have an image of unrestrained joy, an almost childlike dash towards a long-desired thing. Our heavenly Father watches over us as we run down the path toward our Savior even as we make sure our paths are straight. Have earthly fathers not watched this scene on Christmas mornings?  Do children go to their gifts by zigzags or by running out of the house & away from them?  They always go straight at them. Parents watch over their little ones so that, in their intensity, they don’t hurt themselves.
Our heavenly Father leaves us free, but His protecting and guiding hand and eye is upon us. We should feel an eager joy for the Lord’s Coming under the gaze and guidance of our generous and loving God. He’s is our Father and He has a plan for us.
We have to make the path straight for the Lord. He is coming. When he comes, he will come by the straightest path, straightening them Himself if we have not straightened them first. That straightening will not be so easy for us if we are twisty. The eschatological/end times content of the message of Advent truly is “good news”. God hasn’t left us in doubt about how to treat our neighbor. That is “good news”. That helps us to be more responsible about our souls and those of our neighbor.
God hasn’t left us in doubt that he will come as Judge. He has not left us in doubt that rewards come to His friends and “unquenchable fire” of separation comes to those who are not His friends.  Dire sounding?  No. If we are Christians that is “good news”. It prompts us to be responsible about our souls and leaves us comforted with the knowledge that we can in fact attain the Kingdom Christ helps us to by His grace. We cannot save ourselves. We depend on grace.  We even depend on God to help us help ourselves.  But our salvation is worked out through grace and elbow-grease. We are responsible for our souls. We can choose to accept or to reject the Lord, in Himself and in our neighbor. We can refuse to straighten out.
Make straight the path … NOW. If you have something to straighten out with yourself and your God, with yourself and your neighbor… straighten it out NOW.


H/T: Fr. Z

Monday, December 10, 2018

The 2nd Week of Advent

We are now in the Second Week of Advent and it is becoming something very palpable. The Scripture Readings, the music and the advent wreath, all pull us deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation. Scripture, music, wreath and candles speak to us in a different language than words. Even though the Scriptures are composed of words, there is something more profound - divine - that comes through and touches our soul. Scripture is the Very Word of God in written form! Scripture, music, wreath and candles speak to our hearts in symbols beyond words. Let them touch you and change you this Advent.

This year when we entered the Chapel last Saturday evening to begin our Advent journey we were confronted with a very different kind of Advent Wreath. Our creative Sister-Sacristan was inspired by a classic passage from Isaiah 11:1--
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

Our wreath images this new shoot. The stump that has grown up represents the hand of God. The wreath is on the thumb, while the other four fingers become flames of fire as the weeks progress.

Sister spent many hours walking through our woods to find the exact tree to represent this unique sprout from the lineage of Jesse. It is one of our many crepe myrtle trees. In Trinidad, people call this tree, "the Queen of trees". It loves hot weather, and in our Texas summers it is one of the few plants that puts forth blossoms.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Our Current Chaplain Substitute

Our current visiting priest at the Monastery for the weekend is Father Carmen Mele, OP, of our Southern Province. The last and only other time he came to visit was about 20 years ago. So it's really wonderful to have him with us.

Father is originally from Chicago IL and met the Dominicans when he went to study at Providence College in Providence RI. After graduating, he joined the Eastern Province of Dominicans. When our Southern Province in 1979 was founded he took the plunge and joined us. He has ministered in Texas for many years, and is currently teaching Moral Theology at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis MO.

Thank you Father Carmen for volunteering to be with us.
We love your homilies.