Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sister Faustina's Investiture-photos and sharing



As promised, here is the sharing of our youngest novice's investiture ceremony:

            Praised be Jesus Christ, and happy 2018!  Behold the letter you have all been waiting for: recounting the joyous day of our Investiture on December 16!  First of all, I hope you have so far had a blessed New Year, filled with many graces and blessings.  For me, my heart sings loudly: “The mercies of the Lord are new every morning!”  It is so refreshing to realize how true this is and that this year before us is waiting for our “yes to all that the Lord will ask of us”, as Mother Abbess said in her New Year’s Eve Chapter.  I will expound upon this later in the letter.  Now, where do I start?
            I’d like to share about our retreat which I am so grateful for; it was so peaceful.  The weather was very cold, but I managed to get outside almost every day to enjoy God’s creation.  I did some light hiking down our trails and visited our beautiful pond.  My soul was wrapped in silence, and my heart was humming a gentle song of thanksgiving.  This became my theme for the retreat, which began on December 11, the vigil of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I received our refectory penance from Mother: “I humbly beg you to pray for me that my Poor Clare life may be a sign of the love of Christ for the world.”  This was a reference to our Lord’s words about the Divine Mercy image.  Kneeling before each sister and asking her to pray for me for this intention was such a joyful and humbling experience!  The Solemnity was rich with graces and at the end of the day I had the opportunity to participate in the festivities at recreation—although from a distance.  I sat with our dear Lord in the dimly lit Choir and listened to the angelic voices that came from down the hall in the Chapter Room.    Listening to the sweet sound of sisterhood brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart!   
            To finish off this time of quiet preparation I decided to pray the Stations of the Cross as an offering of thanksgiving for each of my sisters and their many prayers that made our retreat so fruitful and peaceful.  When I reached the last Station, I looked at the wooden cross with the anchor etched onto it.  I felt something within me that made me want to stay a bit longer at this Station.  I looked at that anchor intently; a sense of hope and peace washed over me.  Little did I know this anchor was destined to become my Poor Clare mark!  Definitely a nudge from the Holy Spirit!
            The next day was the big day.  My family arrived from Florida the previous evening.  We were thankful for clear skies and clear roads because they made the trip by car!  Later they told me they were exhausted from the drive but were very eager for the morning to come so they could see me in our bridal gowns; the first one being, of course, the traditional “fine garments of the world”, and the second being the lowly garments of a true Bride of Christ.  The first dress was a beautiful rose lace treasure brought over from Eindhoven, complimented with my Mom’s heart shaped miraculous medal.
           


Processing down to Choir with the blessed olive branch, the symbolic lamp of St. Clare and with the sound of my sisters singing “Look down with love on us” was an overwhelmingly joyous experience.  Gentle tears began to stream as I remembered that theme of thanksgiving which deepened as the morning unfolded.            


Before I knew it, we were in the Chapter Room awaiting my transformation.  Mother gave a beautiful exhortation before the ceremony actually began.  Every word was so meaningful.  Her theme was hope in God.  She drew inspiration for the mark from Hebrews 6:19.  If I can remember correctly she concluded with a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux:  “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.”  This was a hint to what my title would be!   





 
I was so happy to finally put on the second bridal gown, that of our Holy Mother St. Clare!
           

So now I’m sure you are wondering how Mother chose St. Faustina to be our patron.  Mother of course knew of my growing devotion to St. Faustina which began during Holy Week of 2016, months before I entered.  I entered in August that year and made the consecration to Merciful Love two months later on October 5, the feast of St. Faustina, which was very providential because I had other dates in mind; one of them being on St. Therese’s feast day.  Many graces followed and I grew in my love for our Lord of Mercy.  St. Faustina became like a sister to me, I could speak to her so easily.  Mother Abbess told us during recreation after the Investiture that she had noticed me standing for a long time before a picture of her that we had out in the Narthex on the evening of April 23, 2017, Divine Mercy Sunday, which was surprisingly and providentially the same date of the first Divine Mercy Sunday inaugurated by Pope St. John Paul II!  That was when she knew something special was going on. 

            Having said all that, and looking back on all the occasions God showed his mercy to me throughout my discernment, I realize how blessed I am to have St. Faustina as my friend and guide on this journey called life!  So that is how it all came to be!  Praise God!  I am still humming that gentle song of thanksgiving for all His mercies especially for placing me in the hands of such an amazing family. 
            Before I close, I said I would expound upon Mother’s New Years Eve Chapter conference.  She gave a beautiful exhortation which gave me hope for this New Year as a Poor Clare Novice.  One thing that really spoke to me was the words I shared at the beginning of this letter: “say yes to all the Lord asks of us”.  This made me think of all the ways the Lord may ask us to adore and glorify his Mercy in each loving encounter with our sisters and the needs of the world. 
 I also remembered the words our Lord spoke to St. Faustina: “These Rays of mercy will pass through you, just as they have passed through this Host, and they will go out through the entire world.”  After reading this I was filled with joy as I pondered the beauty of our Poor Clare vocation; our Holy Mother St. Clare desired this for all her daughters, that through our continuous life of prayer and sacrifice, although lived behind the walls of the enclosure, the endless mercy and love of Christ may spread throughout the entire world.  Outstanding is our vocation!  May the Holy Spirit make this great work of mercy blossom in our souls this year and may our Blessed Mother Mary teach us always to sing her great hymn of praise and thanksgiving for all the mercy the Lord has shown us. 
          
  Lovingly in Christ, Sister Mary Faustina of Merciful Love


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Glad Tidings for Postulant Casey


Above pictured is a glowing Postulant Casey.  Not only the sun shines upon her, but an inner joy animates her face these days as she anticipates her Clothing Day on June 29th, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.  This Friday, Mother Abbess solemnly announced before the gathered Sisters in Chapter the "Glad Tidings" of her reception and the appointing of her day of investiture in the Holy Habit.  Below is the text of Mother's exhortation.


Glad Tidings Chapter for Casey- Easter Friday, 2018


Dear Casey, today is the Octave day of the Death of our Savior and we are already looking ahead to the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.  That seems to be a pattern of our contemplative life: we are deeply rooted in the present moment, in God’s loving will for us, yet looking with great hope to that which is to come, ultimately the vision of God for all eternity. 
  June 29th is not far off, as you know how quickly monastic time passes, and so we are all joined with you in preparation and anticipation of your investiture on that great solemnity. 
Today is the octave day of the Crucifixion, and so we look back to the Cross of Christ, for it is the Altar upon which our Savior was offered to the Father for our salvation.  The Cross therefore, has become a very precious sign of our redemption and the love of Christ Jesus for us.  Both St. Peter and St. Paul knew this, each learning it through their own unique experiences of the Lord’s love for them, but once they understood, they gave their entire lives to Christ in return.
I think this is also what has happened to you.  You have gazed upon Christ on His Cross, you have seen His Heart pierced open wide for you, you have tasted how good the Lord is and you want now to love Him in return for His love, to give your life, to follow Him.
  Father Francis mentioned in his homily on Good Friday that it is only when we understand that Christ suffered for us (for me) are our lives wholly changed.  Both Sts. Peter and Paul experienced this, as did our own Seraphic parents, Francis and Clare. Each one came to know and believe that “Christ loved me and gave Himself for me!”  This became the power, the impulse of love within them which made it possible for them to give everything back to God.
   And here we are, in the Octave of the Resurrection of the Lord, and you have heard the Glad Tidings of your coming investiture and I think you can see this as a sign of Christ’s choice of you. In these days of His Resurrection, Christ appeared and revealed


Himself to His beloved friends and disciples, to confirm, strengthen and encourage them; also to call them to a more intense form of following Him.  Did He not say to St. Peter: “Do you love Me?” And was this not an invitation to love Him more and begin anew to lay down his life for Christ? “Feed My lambs, Feed My sheep.”
Christ has a special mission of love for you as well, and perhaps your new name and title and mark will give you some insight into what that mission is.  We do know that as a Poor Clare novice, you will be entrusted with greater responsibility for the needs of the world, as you prepare to pronounce your vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure.  You become a full member of our Order and take part more fully in our life.  It is a time also of being drawn nearer to the Heart of Christ Who has called you and desires you for Himself. 
   Your entrance into the Novitiate is a step toward that day of espousals, which you surely already desire with all your heart.  The habit, which you will soon wear, is symbolic of that personal covenant of love with the Bridegroom and is a continual reminder of your belonging to God. This will be a time to intensely prepare your heart and allow the Lord’s transforming grace to work in you, a time to enter more deeply into a relationship with Him.
  The garments that you receive on your investiture day will be the clothing you wear for the rest of your life.  Each morning, you can be clothed anew when you rise and dress yourself in the holy habit.  The cord, not yet knotted, is symbolic of your blessed binding to Christ, and is also a reminder to pray that you may never be separated from Him. The headband will be a daily call to keep His passion ever in mind.  The habit itself, speaks of your desire to remain always in His holy House as a true religious.  How fitting that we kiss each garment before putting it on, as the habit is truly precious and sacred to us, and we want to be forever grateful and more so each day for the grace to be clothed in the holy habit of our Mother St. Clare.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Investiture of Sister Chiara Marie: Sharing and Photos



Today, March 18th, is the anniversary of our Mother St. Clare’s investiture as the first “Poor Lady”, the first woman in a long line of feminine followers of St. Francis.  In the year 1212, March 18th fell on Palm Sunday, though the two days never coincide in modern times due to the differences in how the date of Easter was celebrated in the middle ages.  A few years ago, we actually were able to have the investiture ceremony of one of our novices on March 18th.  A slide show was made of the event which you can view at: http://youtu.be/tnGUEOaxYGw

Last year we were graced to celebrate two investitures, that of Sister Chiara Marie and Sister Mary Faustina.  As is our custom, after a novice has been clothed in the Holy Habit, she writes a letter sharing about her experience which is sent to some of our other monasteries.  Below is an excerpt from Sister Chiara Marie’s letter, along with some pictures of the ceremony.

 Pacé é Bené! Not that I know Italian by any means, but I do enjoy learning little phrases here and there, and, with our new Italian name, I feel like it has enhanced that enjoyment in my inner dialogue. I catch myself saying, “Santa Chiara! Ora pro nobis!...wait a minute, that second part is Latin”. So, it’s still emerging.
I was so overwhelmed with all the graces and blessings that Our Lord was pouring out during our retreat, on our Investiture day, and continues to pour out daily. It is neat to see how much the Lord has transformed me since I entered a year and a half ago. All He asks is that we surrender and say, “yes” and, how beautiful, that He does all the work! Very truly, I have done nothing, except tried to step out of the way and allow Him to work. 

I shared with our Dear Mistress (Sister Margaret Mary) that I felt like I was trying to drink from a fire hydrant with all the graces that I was receiving from all your prayers. I recalled feeling the same way when I entered but, at that time, felt like I was trying to search for buckets to collect all the extra graces to save them up for when I would really need them later. But this time around, I felt surrounded in His love and asked Him to let the graces flow through me and cleanse me and continue to pour out to each of my Sisters and strengthen them and flow out of them and onto the whole world in abundance! How joyous! I also have learned that we don’t need to store up graces, because He provides the grace we need in every situation in each moment that arises. He even tells us in Second Corinthians, “My grace is sufficient for you.” The second part of that verse which is “for strength is made perfect in weakness” is a whole other sharing.

I wanted to share, “When the Lord delivered Kathryn from Postulancy, it seemed like a dream.” But then one would think that postulancy was like bondage, so we’ll change it. “When the Lord delivered the name Chiara Marie, it seemed like a dream.” The antiphon for this complementary psalm is appropriate too, “The Lord has done great things for us; He is the source of all our joy.” How true! I am still in a state of bewilderment that He would gift me with such a beautiful name and patroness. It is very humbling too, which I’m sure you all have experienced, to be named after a saint really makes you feel very little and very unworthy of that name. Santa Chiara, ora pro nobis! Mother Abbess shared how the Holy Spirit gave her confirmation after confirmation after confirmation about our new name leading up to our Investiture.

 I was still not expecting it at all, but just excited to see what the Lord had prepared for me. Apparently, the state of bewilderment shows on my face and a few times since my clothing my dear Junior Sisters have looked at me and said, “You look lost…”. Although I am only a new Novice, I feel like a new Postulant at times, where I feel like I have forgotten our rhythm of doing things and I don’t know what to do next. I shared this with one of our Junior Sisters and she said, “Everything looks different through a headcover.” How true that feels!


The day of our Investiture itself was beautiful. Even though the liturgy for the day was a feria, the whole Divine Office spoke directly to my heart. I love how the Lord works in that way! It was funny because everyone recalls that Moses had to “remove your shoes, you are standing on holy ground”, but the first lesson of Matins on a simple feria Thursday of the 10th week in Ordinary Time tells us that Joshua was also told the same thing. Nobody ever recalls that little story. But on the day that I would be told that same thing, Our Lord reveals that little story to us. I was able to wear my mother’s wedding dress from 47 years ago. My large family and some close friends were all able to come and share in the day and visit with them. I told them about our tradition here about praying an Ave Maria when you call someone by their Baptismal name. I received a LOT of prayers that day and I’m sure I am still receiving even more from them. Storing up treasure in heaven!
Santa Chiara, prega per noi!
                                               
With love and joy from 
His unworthy little plant 
and your newest little Sister,
Sister Chiara Marie of Jesus


Stay tuned for Sister Mary Faustina’s letter and pictures which will be coming soon!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

“By the labor of your hands you shall eat...





 ...you will be happy and prosper.”  So does the psalmist describe a life of blessedness.  Genesis also reveals that God gave the care of the earth to Adam and Eve, and it was only after the fall that their work became a matter of penitence and sweaty labor:  “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…”.  It seems then, that the gardener has one foot in paradise and one that tramples the thorns and thistles! 

We at Bethlehem Monastery do our best to eat by the work of our hands and it has been great fun as well as muscle toning penance to be able to work up a bit of perspiration this first week of Lent tilling our vegetable field in a surprise day of 80 degree weather. 

 The novitiate garden crew has been busy during the cold and rainy days of February doing the first steps of shoveling rows of raised beds.  

Cardboard boxes, flattened and piled for mulch and pine needles to cover them at last are being put in their proper place on the paths between the rows.  Our trusty Troy built tiller churned up 4 rows so that the soil can start composting the spring weeds.  Soon these beds will be ready for planting peas, beets and mustard greens!  

Although we do our best, we cannot possibly grow enough to meet the needs of our big family.  But that is lovely too, as it makes us dependent on the goodness of our kind benefactors whom God inspires to support our way of life, not only by monetary donations, but by gifts of food as well.  Soon we shall be adding a page on our website that will inform visitors of our immediate needs so that if anyone is dropping by, and feels the breath of the Spirit upon them, they may know where to direct their love!  Some of our friends now use Amazon to order their gifts on-line.

We do landscaping work as well.  Here is a picture of some pre-spring beautifying activities in the cloister courtyard.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Novitiate Photo



It is good to be back on-line and to receive such encouragement!  This is our most recent photo of our current novitiate group and it is already outdated!  One postulant has become a novice since this was taken and the aspirant in the front now sports a black veil with her postulant companions.  But everyone is here (for the moment, that is--2 more are on the way)
So, from left to right, starting at the back row:
Junior Professed Sister Veronica Mary and Sister Angelique, Novices Sister Chiara Marie and Sister Laetitia.
Middle row:  Postulants Mary Elizabeth, Phoenix, Mary, Cheyenne (now Sister Faustina) and Casey.
Front and center:  Aspirant Jean, now a full fledged Postulant

Pray for all these earnest young people and for us elders who work to feed, clothe, house and educate them in the way of holiness taught us by St. Francis and St. Clare!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

We are back! Feast of St. Colette

St. Colette  with St. Francis and St. Clare
decoration for our Chapter Room altar

Yes, we are back after nearly a year of rest from blogging!  A lot has happened at Bethlehem Monastery in Barhamsville, so I will be spending the next few posts bringing you all up to date.  But first a word about today’s feast.  We celebrate on this day the feast of St. Colette whom we call our “2nd Mother” because she was responsible for revitalizing the Order of Poor Clares that had fallen on hard times in the 15th century.  Since I have been appointed Franciscan History teacher for our growing novitiate, I decided to summarize for my students the state of the Church during the lifetime of St. Colette.  After reviewing this time period in our church history book, the only thing I could say was, “Oh my God, this is awful!” :Two antipopes (at the same time!) warring with each other and the real pope, politics, intrigue, scandal, monasteries and convents emptied by the Black Plague, general despair and violence.  And we think we have problems!  Well, we do, but it is useful and instructive to see our own woes in the perspective of history. 
St. Colette was called to do her bit to be part of the solution to the problems of her day by living and teaching a way of holiness.  Now it is our turn to play our role in bringing about a new springtime of faith in the winter of our present afflicted world.

Since you last heard from us, we have had two investitures and a number of new arrivals, bringing our novitiate crew to a record 10 members!  Pictures will be coming in due course as I find them and/or take them.  Home improvement projects have been completed and new ones planned.  Our increased numbers means decreased space.  The monastery we built 14 years ago and that seemed so huge at the time feels much smaller and tighter today.  We count our blessings!  Twenty five Sisters is high on the list!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pentecost 2017


I love this painting depicting the moment that the Holy Spirit descended in flames of fire on the disciples at the feast of Holy Pentecost.  There is such dynamism; truly a worthy representation of the action of a divine Person upon a receptive humanity!  Each of the disciples has his or her own unique response to the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of power.  Our Lady is there at the epicenter, again giving birth, now to the infant Church, the Mystical Body of Jesus.  The Apostles are in various states of ecstasy, some gazing upward at the hovering Dove, some looking at her as the Mediatrix of this blessed event.  Then there are two women:  one upward gazing, the other looking at the Mother.  This woman’s face is full of peaceful contemplation.  She is so close to Mary that she seems to share her mystery.
We sometimes forget about the women, even though the Scriptures clearly tell us that they were there with Mary and the Apostles and received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as did the men.  Perhaps we neglect them because nothing more is said of them.  The Apostles threw open the doors of the upper room where they had been and rushed out to preach to the people gathered outside.  But the women remain hidden with their Mother.  It was not their mission to go preaching, but their vocation was no less essential to the newborn Church.  They remained at the hearth, there to faithfully tend the fire enkindled by the Holy Spirit in prayerful pondering, in adoring love.
Scientists tell us that as soon as a child is conceived in the womb, the first thing that happens is differentiation.  The newly fertilized cell quickly divides into many cells and each begins to assume its own function while remaining united in one body.  So it was that as soon as the Church, Christ’s Mystical Body came into existence, the members soon discovered their own place.  As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be:  for the Poor Clare, her place is at the side of Our Lady, Spouse of the Holy Spirit.  We share in her mission to tend the fire of God’s love at the hearth of the Church so that those called to govern and preach may be enflamed and enlightened by divine power, strengthened and sustained by our sacrifice and prayer.

On May 13th we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima.  Having two statues of her, we shared one with our friends in the public chapel and the novitiate decorated the other in the back of our monastic choir. 

  As you can see, they exercised all their youthful creativity, braving inclement weather and other obstacles to obtain the required flowers.  Another member was added to their number, bringing our novitiate up to seven.  Three more are scheduled to enter this year.  Their common workroom is becoming cramped, so we are making plans to enlarge it.  If anyone would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to a worthy cause…visit our website: http://www.poor-clares.org/ContactInformation.php

Just so you know, we will be taking a break for awhile from posting on our blog and putting more emphasis on our website.  Check there for updates and pictures of coming events.  June 15th our Postulant Kathryn will be invested with our Holy Habit!  God bless all our good readers.  We keep you all in our prayers!