Sunday, October 2, 2016

September Celebrations

Jesus us says that when we have done all things well, we should say that we are “useless servants”.  I must say that I don’t care for that designation!  In fact, I like to consider myself quite useful; I garden, I sew, I do blog posts…So what is this about being useless?  But Jesus says in another place that He “has called us ‘friends’”. Friends do not consider each other as “useful”.  If they do, they are no longer friends; they are perhaps business associates.  What is worse than being “used” by a friend?  Only being “used” by a family member.  “Use” is only one step away from “abuse”.  God is love.  And love is never about utility, but about appreciating, enjoying and giving for the benefit of the other.  God does not need the many wonderful things we can do.  He is interested in loving the wonderful persons we are.

To love means to give the self, the one thing necessary, the only thing the lover desires for and from the beloved.  The cloistered nun, who lives for God alone, and so is considered “useless” by secular standards, is the sacrament of this mystery.  What she does in a very explicit way is what every soul is called to do:  to love the Lord God with all the soul, mind, heart and strength.  During the month of September, we celebrated the First Profession of Sister Veronica Mary, and also the Silver Jubilee of Sister Mary Joyce.  There is a special joy in witnessing ceremonial first giving, and then commemorating the faithful living out of that same self-sacrificial giving in a covenant that has matured over 25 years.  Here are some pictures of both these blessed events:

Sister Veronica Mary and Sister Margaret Mary (novice mistress)

Sister Veronica Mary at the Mass of her Profession

Sister Veronica Mary makes her vows in the hands of Mother Abbess

Receiving the black veil of a professed nun

Our current novitiate along with Sister Margaret Mary and Mother Therese
(next week Casey will join the group)
Sister Mary Joyce leads the procession for her Jubilee Mass

Sister Mary Joyce renews her vows for the 25th time

At Holy Mass

Sister Mary Joyce adorned with a traditional Indian garland

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Following Jesus

Sister Charitas renews her vows for the 50th time!
In today’s Gospel, our Lord seems to be about throwing cold water on the enthusiasm of the crowd following Him.  He turns around and says that if anyone does not hate every member of his loved family and even his very self, he cannot be the disciple of the Christ!  That must have stopped at least some of the people dead in their tracks!  We too must pause and reflect on what this saying means for us.
As with many of Jesus’ words, this one too contains a paradox which is not be immediately apparent.  The lived experience of cloistered Poor Clares may be of help to understanding how “hatred” can be reconciled with love.  When each of us left our homes to follow the Lord’s call into the strict enclosure, it seemed to many of our loved ones that we indeed loved them no longer.  Does not voluntary separation and abandonment imply aversion, neglect and even hatred?  Yes, except when it is done for the love of God!  When one chooses, or better, when one is chosen, to abandon all other loves for the sake of Divine Love, then it is that the paradox is manifested.  God is Love, and all our love relationships have their origin and end in Him.  Putting God in the first place, which is His proper place, and everyone else second, makes us more loving, not less.  Our natural, human loves are freed from the possessiveness, controlling manipulation, dependency and suffocating need that so often poisons and ruins our relationships.  God Himself, is the fulfillment of our every need, so now in His abundance we overflow with generous, self-giving love.  We and our family members can testify that far from separating us, the cloister actually unites us in a deeper and more fruitful bond.
As we begin September, we look forward to celebrating the willingness of our Sisters to embrace the Cross and so become transforming instruments of God’s mercy to the world.  Sister Veronica Mary will pronounce her First Vows on the 17th and Sister Mary Joyce will renew hers for the twenty-fifth time on the 29th.  We have posted on YouTube a video remembrance of Sister Charitas’ golden jubilee celebration that took place earlier this year.  This video is also a celebration of her life with some very endearing family photos of her early past! Please view and enjoy! Sister Charitas Golden Jubilee  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

An Eventful July

It is hard to believe that August has arrived!  Life has been eventful on Mt. St. Francis, so that must have made the time fly.  The speediness of time experienced in the cloister may come as a surprise to those who think of monastic life as a dull, unchanging routine.  But in fact, “the Spirit breathes where He wills”, as our Lord says in the Gospel, and often He seems to be blowing at gale force! Just having coming out of our retreat given on the theme of the Holy Spirit, what else can we expect?
Today we look back on July, thankful for the rich harvest of summer vegetables as well as the grace to keep up with their preserving despite the demise of one of our large kitchen storage coolers.  Since said cooler cannot be repaired (it being too old) and its twin showing definite signs of imminent death, we have decided to construct an outdoor , walk-in cooler to take care of our produce needs.  This project, one of those things to do “someday” suddenly rocketed to the top of our priority list.  Yet, as Murphy’s law, particularly “Everything takes longer than expected”, holds true even in the cloister,  the new cooler is expected to be completed by the end of October!  So we have been earnestly praying that our remaining refrigeration will continue until then.  Meanwhile, as the summer fades, it is time to uproot the old and begin preparing for the fall garden!

Better news to share is that our novice Sister Veronica Mary received the “glad tidings” of her acceptance by the community to make her First Profession of Vows.  This blessed event will take place on Sept. 17, when Franciscans celebrate  the day our Father St. Francis received the wounds of Christ in his own flesh.  A perfect choice, for Sister Veronica Mary also bears as her religious title “of The Wounds of Christ”.
Thus not only do we look back, but we also look forward to the graces that lay ahead.  After celebrating Sister Veronica’s profession, we will then celebrate the Silver Jubilee of our Sister Mary Joyce on Sept. 29th
And if that were not enough, August itself holds the anticipated joy of Our Holy Mother St. Clare’s feast on the 11th, preceded by her public novena, and then of receiving a postulant on August 15, Feast of the Assumption.

St. Clare exhorted her daughters to go forward “with light step and unstumbling feet” along the way of our life, which after all, is Jesus Himself.  A breathtaking journey indeed!

Please share with us your intentions for prayer during our novena to St. Clare!  Also, anyone feeling inspired to donate toward our new cooler is also welcome! Here is the link to the contact page on our website: Contact/Donate

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Introducing our New Novice...

Sister Laetitia of the Merciful Heart of Jesus!
On June 22nd, which Poor Clares all over the world celebrate as “Covenant Day”, Mother Abbess gave the Holy Habit of St. Clare to Postulant Cecilia, transforming her into our newest novice.  We were all agreed that the name was perfectly chosen for this year of Mercy. 

Above is a collage of pictures taken of the transformation.
The center picture is of Sister Laetitia after receiving the white veil of a novice.
Then going around clockwise from upper left:

Two novices!  Old Sister Veronica Mary who is looking forward to her First Profession with Sister Laetitia and lonely Postulant Katherine.  But next month Katherine will have a postulant companion.

Katherine and Sister Laetitia exchanging the Pax.

Mother Abbess placing the Habit over the bride and Sister Margaret Mary waiting to help.

Sister Margaret Mary and the Bride

Postulant Cecilia passing on the flame to her Sisters.

The cutting of the hair: a Poor Clare’s sacrificial offering.

Sister Margaret Mary, recently appointed as Novice Mistress, did very well in her first time role of assisting Mother at the Investiture ceremony.  It is lovely now to have two novices leading our monastic processions like the angels of the Resurrection.  Being of similar height and girth, they are a matching set.

Meanwhile, life continues on a more mundane, but not less eventful level.  The gardens are flourishing, producing flowers and vegetables in abundance.  The Sister in charge of the vegetable field wrote a poem about a special moment experienced when picking zucchini:

Zucchini Picking
Bending low I see
Orange-yellow stars aglow
In a firmament of green,
Open fully now
To the pollinating bee.
Florescent beauty
By the busy one unseen:

A nectar-fill for her-
Instilling hope for me.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

New Video

As we prepare for Cecilia's Investiture to take place on the 22nd of this month, it is my joy to present a slide show depicting our last investiture ceremony:

Sister Veronica's Investiture

For those of our friends who check back here every week, please know that posts will now be monthly events instead of weekly.  New posts will probably appear at the beginning of the month. So, July's entry will feature pictures of Cecilia turned Poor Clare novice!  Pray for her during these last days of preparation.  Meanwhile, our guest area is booked with young women making discernment retreats.  Pray for them too!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

O Sacred Banquet!

You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. (Ps.23)

O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is received,
the memory of His passion is renewed
the mind is filled with grace
and a pledge of future glory is given to us!
Many times during the day we pray this beautiful prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas when we come into the Presence of our Eucharistic Lord.  The Holy Eucharist is not fast food!  It is a banquet, lovingly and laboriously prepared for us by a most solicitous Host.  It is indeed what the ancient Christians called, “A Love-feast”.  When human beings eat, they do not merely devour plants like a herd of cattle or flesh like a pack of wolves.  Or they ought not.  Men and women “do not live on bread alone”, but on loving relationships.  In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, food has a sacramental value.  Meals are prepared not only for the sake of physical nourishment, but as a means of self-giving love to the beloved.  The Eucharist is this in an eminent way.  The Bread from Heaven was baked in the fire of the Passion and the Wine of the New Covenant flowed from the wine press of the Cross.

Not only cooks have to work to prepare a feast, but also gardeners labor  by the sweat of their brow”, particularly in Virginia!  Our cool and rainy spring has given way to welcome sunshine and warmer weather.  The gardens are flourishing, flowers and vegetables as well as opportunistic weeds!  A bumper crop of beets as well as mustard and Swiss Chard are currently a major part of the Poor Clare cuisine these days.  Summer plants are up and coming!  The fight is on to rescue them from bugs, fungi and other pests eager to share the wealth and the space.  Such is life after the Garden of Eden.  In this fallen world, all self-giving love involves suffering and every labor done through love is blessed.  Since God has loved us so in Christ, we are privileged to show this same kind of love to one another.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Holy Trinity Sunday

“Charitas Dei diffusa est in cordibus nostris”:  The Love of God has been diffused in our hearts we sang in our entrance chant this morning on this beautiful feast of the Most Holy Trinity and our own Golden Jubilarian’s nameday.  How lovely to be named for love!
Each Sister who has a jubilee is given the opportunity to design her remembrance card.  Most need some help from their more artistic Sisters.  But since Sister Charitas is numbered among the artistic, she was able to do the designing herself.  Yet, a remembrance card, like most other aspects of Poor Clare life, is a community affair.  There is paper to cut, computer graphic programs to be run, printing to be done and finally stuffing envelopes for the unskilled but generous Sisters willing to help.

Pictured above is Sister Charitas’ card.  The triangle represents the Most Holy Trinity.  In the center is the Sacred Heart her Bridegroom of fifty years, who is also the center of her own heart and life.