Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hope Deferred

Frost devastated fig tree
(our dog Honey at lower left)

Did you ever notice that salvation history seem to be a series of false starts?  Right from the very beginning, in Genesis we see God creating a wonderful universe, and placing Adam and Eve there.  But soon comes the dreadful fall.  Then God sends them out into the world and there is a fresh start.  New life happens in the birth of Cain and Abel.  Next, Cain kills Abel.  New hope comes in the form of Seth who seems to get off to a really good start.  He and the family he engenders walk with God, calling upon His name.  Enoch, a descendent of Seth is so good that he is taken up to heaven.  However, the family of Cain intermarries with Seth’s family and corrupts it.  Things become so bad that God regrets He made the world and determines to destroy it with a flood.  But Noah finds favor with Him.  And on it goes.
The New Testament is no different from the Old in this respect.  Jesus begins His ministry with great success but then is crucified.  The resurrection vindicates Him and Pentecost sees the coming of the Holy Spirit in power upon the Apostles.  Persecution, spread of the Gospel to the gentiles, worse persecution by Nero follow in swift succession.  The Church finally wins out and becomes the religion of the empire.  But nothing fails like success, and soon heresies and corruption set in.  Councils, reforms, schisms more reforms, persecution, restitution again follow throughout the centuries and millennia.  Since it has always been this way, it looks like it will continue to be this way until the Lord comes in glory at the end of time.  What is the good of it all?
I began to ponder this question when a few weeks ago, our very warm Spring was suddenly arrested by a killing frost.  Oh, it was so sad to see our fig tree!  It had just sent out its delicate, iridescent green leaves, when the frost hit, turning them into black hanging rags.  But being a seasoned nature lover, and Virginian resident of over 30 years, I knew that nothing stops the Spring for long.  I am still not sure why the frost has to happen in nature or in the life of the spirit, but it must be an intricate part of God’s plan as He is rather consistent about permitting it. The “Exultet” that the Church sings at the Easter Vigil gives us a clue, calling Adam’s sin a “necessary fault” which brought us such a Redeemer. The Paschal Mystery is the “Mystery of Faith”.
Here is a poetic meditation on this theme:

Hope Deferred

The late spring frost horrifies the heart.
O grieve for the daring leaves unfurled,
The new shoots blighted in the starry night,
The cold dawn sparkling on the crystal doom
Of death decreed for the upstart bloom.

But the strains of spring will not be halted.
Its melody will rise undaunted.
Account the frost, not a senseless wrong-
Score it as a measured pause
In song.

New leaves coming!
Spring will not be halted!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Continuing our celebration of Sister Charitas' Golden Jubilee

It is truly impossible for Poor Clares to celebrated a Golden Jubilee for only a single day, so it should come to no surprise that we are still in jubilee mode a week after the event.  Today our Bishop DiLorenzo was able to preside at our celebration.  Here are a few pictures:

Sister Charitas being "reflowered" by Mother Abbess

Bishop DiLorenzo at the Eucharistic Prayer,
 flanked by our chaplain, Father Gerry
and our good friend, Father Robert, OFM, Cap.
Sister Charitas up front and center 

Bishop DiLorenzo congratulating Sister Charitas

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sister Mary Charitas Golden Jubilee

Yesterday we had the joy of celebrating the Golden Jubilee of our Sister Mary Charitas.  Here are a few picture highlights.  More to come!

Entrance Procession

Renewal of Vows for the 50th time!

Cutting the Bridal Cake

Evening Program:
Classical Indian Dance
(novice Sister Veronica dancing with her Indian Sisters for the first time!)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dedication Day Rainbow

Being daughters of St. Francis, that ardent lover of God and enthusiastic singer of God’s creation, Poor Clares are often about marveling at the wonders of nature.  So when I looked out of a window on my way to our evening recreation and saw a brilliant setting sun shining through a shower of rain, it was no surprise to me that I was greeted with the plea:  “Get your camera!  There’s a rainbow!”  I ran quickly to my cell to retrieve the camera, for a rainbow is a major photographic event.  This ancient sign of blessing and peace arched gracefully over our public chapel toward the east, becoming a double arch and then slowly faded as the sun sank lower in the western sky.  A few of our elder Sisters were not agile enough to make it to the window before the fading of the rainbow, so I transferred the pictures to a computer for their enjoyment.  Technology has its own wonders!  

We always love rainbows, but the day of this one’s appearance gave this particular rainbow a special significance; it was the twelfth anniversary of our church’s dedication.  God gave us a tender sign of His love and an encouragement to be in our turn a sign of His mercy in a dark and stormy world.

Sisters enjoying the Dedication Day Rainbow

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mercy Sunday

Blessed Mercy Sunday!  Today Jesus appears to His disciples who had failed Him utterly during His time of trial, and yet He offers them His Mercy.  More than a simple greeting, He comes close to each of them, "breathes on them" in an intimate embrace of restored friendship and gives them the Holy Spirit in a joyful kiss of peace.  Then those disciples who have been forgiven and redeemed are sent out with the power to offer forgiveness to all the world.

Above is our Mercy Shrine that we have erected this day in our sanctuary.  Below is our Mercy Display in the narthex outside of our choir that greets us each day of this year dedicated to Mercy.

Now that we have completed the celebration of the Paschal Octave, our sights are set for our Sister Charitas' Golden Jubilee to take place on April 16!  Join us in anticipation and prayer!

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Our Redbud Tree

The entrance chants for the Easter Octave are some of the most beautiful that the Church offers her children.  One Sister did a poetic study of  "Introduxit", sung on Easter Monday.  The following is the English translation of the Latin text and then Sister's poem inspired by that text.  Blessed Easter celebration to one and all!  Remember, we have 50 days!

The Lord has brought you into a land flowing with milk
and honey, alleluia:  so that
the law of the Lord always may be in your mouth,
alleluia, alleluia.
Ps. Give thanks to the Lord, and invoke his name:
announce among the nations
his deeds.

You have led me into a spacious land
that flows with milk
as from the breast.
Its very rocks, O Lord,
are honey-sweet
Whereon the manna comes to rest.

My lips you bathe
in everlasting love;
Candid law and goodly bread
are on my tongue.
Not enough for me to tell of who
you are and what you do-
these must be sung.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stations of Mercy Part II

During this year of Mercy, each Sister is taking a turn presenting a particular aspect of mercy to the community.  Below is the first half of one Sister’s presentation, the fruit of her prayer.  She has a special devotion to the Way of the Cross, and so it is not surprising that she would use the stations to illustrate her reflections on God’s mercy and our response.  This is the second half of her meditation.  The first half was posted last week.

Stations of Mercy
And the Life of Penance
(Love’s Reply and Other Sources)

VIII.       The eighth Station follows directly on this thought.  The image of the weeping women compassionating Christ.  From the Gospel of Saint Luke: A great number of people were following Him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for Him.  But Jesus turned to them and said: ‘daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the days are surely coming when they will say: blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.  Then they will begin to say to the mountains: fall on us; and to the hills: cover us.  For if they do this when the wood is green, what will they do when it is dry?  Of course there is a reference here to Isaiah and much can be said about that, but without presuming to give a commentary on these words, one notices a connection with the Vow of Chastity.  Jesus said that when the Bridegroom is taken away the children of the wedding feast will fast.  We are in that time now, a time of fasting and mourning and dry wood, are we not?  A wholesome sorrow and contrition is part and parcel of the Life of Penance.  But it turns out to be a blessing.  The Old Testament is full of images of a barren woman which God blesses with seven sons, and so forth, and the New Testament speaks of the last being first.  In fact, God’s solutions are far better than our own.  So at this Station we can think of how our apparent barrenness is a good sign that we are not being unfaithful to Him, and we can be sure that His merciful blessing of fruitfulness will be far better than anything we could achieve by ourselves, or by creatures.
IX.             The Ninth Station—Jesus’ Third Fall.  At this Station we might imagine that Our Lord was a miserable sight, covered in matted blood and gaping wounds and the dirt of the street… moreover, He was weak, and soon He would die.  Yet something about the Blood of Christ stirs our devotion and desire, almost as if the Blood Itself were love gushing out of Him.  Recall the Second Lesson for Good Friday by St. John Chrysostom: “As a woman feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too Christ Himself continually feeds those whom He has begotten with His Own Blood.”  It is a beautiful Lesson, and it tells us something about ourselves.  By Chastity and the other vows we are entirely focused, but the desire is not extinguished.  It is a cause of suffering for us, but also a joy, because we know God has promised to satisfy our need for Him.  This Station is like a pause when we can remember how important He is to us, and how Merciful He is in giving Himself to us.
X.                The Tenth Station.  How does God give Himself to us?  There is, of course, a problem, and that problem is human sinfulness and perversity.  As Love’s Reply puts it, there is one thing which must not attract the servant of God, one thing he must thoroughly detest, and that is sin.  By sin he ceases to be the servant of God, and seeks to serve another master; by it the Kingdom of God is destroyed within him, and he is turned away from the ultimate goal of his life…(and later it says) whoever has abandoned the loving designs of God through sin and has strayed from the path of Christ must indeed be punished.  He has cut himself off from union with God and has become a son of the devil, whose works he does…by greed and desire of possessions he becomes the servant of the devil, a slave of self and of the powers of darkness which take possession of him.—The problem is that this is a reality that can’t be shrugged off, and the Crucified Christ testifies to that.  At this Station we can see Christ’s utter misery, nakedness, woundedness, and shame, as He stands before a mocking crowd stripped of everything and about to be nailed to a Cross in that condition.  We can see ourselves as the jeering crowd that has now been given access to Christ.  We have been given access to Him, and we can believe that He intends to continue giving Himself to us until we experience the full possession of Him in eternity.  Is there any greater evidence of Mercy?
XI.             This Station is the kiss where misery meets love.  Christ’s being fastened to a Cross for love, become totally vulnerable, totally given, is for us the dearest treasure and testimony of God’s Mercy.  But, to quote again from Love’s Reply, “The lover seeks to become like to the Beloved.  If she therefore lives with Christ and embraces Him, she will also desire to share His sufferings.  As His Love for us led Him to suffer and die, so does it expect to be answered in like zeal on our part.  To give answer to such a plea, Our Holy Father Saint Francis made his own a prayer which clearly expresses such readiness…Please, O Lord, let the fiery, honeyed force of your love lap up my spirit from everything there is under heaven: so that I may die for love of love for you, who deigned to die for love of love for me.”  Then it says that the Franciscan mysticism of virginity is centered primarily on death to self, the dying of the natural man, that Christ’s Love may live and flower in him: “Temptation overcome is the ring with which the Lord espouses the soul of his servant.” (quoting Celano)  This is difficult of course, but it is consoling to think that Christ did not nail Himself to the Cross, that is, He Himself did not wield the hammer.  In this Station, it seems, we are to have some assistance, channeled by our Holy Vows, Superiors, Rule, etc., in making that complete self-offering which will unite us to Him forever.
XII.          The most striking thing about Christ’s Death on the Cross is that it is the Consummation.  From the moment He came into the world He offered Himself as a living sacrifice to the Father’s Will.  There was no moment in His lifetime that He wasn’t fulfilling His intention of Sacrifice.  But it is interesting to think that, after the Agony in the Garden when He said “not my will, but Thine be done.” He never for a moment went back on His decision.  From that time on He was peaceful and strong, with a constant “yes” in His Heart, even during the worst moments.  He was so entirely composed and given up to the Father’s Will that He ceased to think of Himself, and thought instead of the well-being of those around Him, and of the purpose He had come to fulfill.  Perhaps we do not experience such a firm yes in our hearts, yet the wonderful thing truth is that Christ’s Death and Christ’s Merits are ours.  If we claim Him, we too can offer the Father a perfect “yes” at our death.  So great is Christ’s merciful gift to us, that He has not refused us anything, He even gives us His Own achievement, His Own merit, to present to His Father with Him. 
XIII.       I quote our Holy Father Saint Francis: “Now that we have left the world, we have nothing else to do, save to be solicitous to follow the Will of the Lord and to please Him.”  At this Station Christ’s Body is entirely vulnerable.  It is taken down by comparative strangers to be laid in a tomb.  It would have been possible at this time for anything to be done to it, and it would have protected itself now even less than it had before Christ had sent forth His Spirit, since then at least His Spirit would have been there to give it dignity.  It is the same with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.  He is there for us to tend and care for, or to ignore… yet He has given the Gift permanently, and He keeps His Word: He will always come down at the words of the priest, no matter what will happen to Him then, no matter what kind of evil souls will come to claim Him.  We too can consider that our bodies are given to Christ.  When we die, they won’t be worth much until the Resurrection.  But now, while we live, they are worth very much, because we have the opportunity to use them to serve Him.  God has given us the immense and precious gift of life and time in a mortal body on this earth, and while we’ve got it, we can do like Christ is doing even now: give.
XIV.       Saint Colette speaks very movingly about the cloister being our Sepulcher of Stone, in which we can live forty years either more or less, and in which we will die.  This is consoling because, once Christ’s Body entered the Sepulcher, there was only one thing that happened next.  Saint Colette urged us to praise Him, love Him, serve Him worthily so as to be certain of unending life, as sure as those who are already in its full possession and who see God in the clear vision of His Sweetness and Infinite Goodness with supreme rejoicing and perfect security of the eternal possession of Him.  If by faith we possess the substance of the Beatific Vision even now, then we can see in this Station a monument to hope and confidence.  It is dark in a Sepulcher, and the Light of the Resurrection has not yet dawned, but by God’s Mercy we can have joy, because we have been redeemed.

XV.          As an aside… after reflections on the Stations of Mercy and the Life of Penance, another means of gaining access to Christ’s Mercy is through His Wounds.  By His Wounds we are healed, through His Wounds we dare to approach the Father, by possession of His Wounds, we can attain to the Divine Reality, even in our weak human condition.  If Mercy is defined by God’s Love meeting human misery, then as Fr. Larry Webber so well put it, the Cross is the Instrument of Mercy, and understanding the Passion of Christ is the key to understanding Mercy.  Fr. Tijo took it one step further: we too are called to open the wounds of mercy, to become vulnerable, so healing streams can flow from us to others.