Sunday, December 14, 2014

Before Her True Image

Advent is always a Marian season, but never more so than in the week we celebrate two of her great feasts.  Last Monday we contemplated our Immaculate Mother, patroness of our Country, our Poor Clare Federation and our Franciscan Order.  Then on Friday we celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of all the Americas and of our own monastery.  She is truly “ours” by many titles.  Yet, most precious of all her names is that of “Mother”.  We love to call upon her as we look at her miraculous picture imprinted on St. Juan Diego’s tilma and reproduced in countless pictures throughout the world.  Almost every room in our home is graced by her lovely face.  Here is a poem by one of our Sisters who has a tender Marian devotion:

Before Her True Image

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rose of Paradise,
We thirst for healing waters of your grace
And find compassion flowing from your eyes.
Generations have longed to see your face.

            That men might know your love you came.
            We have no need to search beyond the skies:
            Your image here makes our exile home,
            Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rose of Paradise

No art of human hands that could reveal
All that this portrait speaks, these features trace:
A mother-with might of God at your appeal.
We thirst for saving waters of your grace.

            Fountain of life and hope of humankind,
            You hold in fold of hands and vigilant gaze
            Your children, all who turn in trust to find
            That warm compassion flowing from your eyes.

Fairest flower of earth and Queen of Paradise—
Alone Immaculate of all our sinful race—
Bring us to the fullness reflected in your eyes.

Happy the generations who see your face.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

St. Nickolas Novitiate Workshop

One of the great things about being a Franciscan is that our charism includes in its spiritual genes a childlike simplicity.  Such is evident in our yearly celebration of the feast of St. Nicholas.  All Poor Clare children residing at Bethlehem Monastery in Barhamsville write a letter to St. Nicholas (whom we familiarly call “Holy Man”), asking him for 3 gifts.  We also give suggestions to him regarding what he could give to other Sisters and offer our assistance in the making of such gifts.  Mother Abbess collects these letters and with the help of Mother Vicaress, makes arrangements with “Holy Man” for his feastday.  All the Sisters then become “Holy Man Helpers”, little elves who work diligently to make St. Nicholas’ feast a day to remember.

This year, the novices and postulants were given the assignment to sew a tunic (the garment we wear under the habit) for each of the Sisters.  To make this project especially challenging, their novice mistress told them to use old tunic “parts” left behind in the cupboard by unnamed former tunic makers.  I am pleased to report that said postulants and novices rose admirably to the challenge!  Other genuine, novitiate-made gifts included several rolls of homemade habit tape, a set of curtains for the library and several pillowcases. 

I must admit that the novitiate common room looks like a disaster area.  Or perhaps you could say that it looks “lived in”.  Lots of living, working and loving has gone on here!  But it is all worth it as we give joy to our Sisters with our simple gifts.  We will get cleaned up next week.  Promise!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Worthy is the Lamb!

Blessed First Sunday of Advent which also happens to be the very last day of November!  During the last week of the liturgical year we have been daily fed at Holy Mass with readings from the book of Revelation.  Meditating on the song resounding around the throne of the Lamb, and echoed in the Introit for Christ the King [“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive glory and honor and power…”], I began to wonder how we could give God these gifts.  After all, does He not already have them with infinite abundance?  In prayer I saw that I give them to God when I at last renounce my aptitude for usurping them for myself.

Power Made Perfect

Worthy is he,
The Lamb who was slain,
To receive from me
Honor and reign,

Inglorious godhead
Furtively claimed,
Power gone dead,
And wisdom maimed.

I fling these foes
Beneath His feet,
That with my throes
His might complete.

During this Advent season, we will celebrate how Jesus emptied Himself, not clinging to the prerogatives of His Divinity, in order to become one of us.  Let us follow Him in humility so that He can raise us up to live with Him forever! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunset Blue

Unlike many people, I do not have a favorite color, though in accordance with my choleric personality, I do tend to lean toward the warm tones of yellow, orange and red.  Dramatic sunsets that blaze with these fiery colors will invariably find me at a western window, or more likely outside enjoying God’s fine artistry.  But recently I had the joy of experiencing in a deeply moving way, what might be called a “cool” sunset.

The warmest color was yellow, and that just on the horizon.  No orange or red was to be seen.  Overhead and overwhelmingly was the most vibrant royal blue.  As my eyes searched its depths, finding at last, where it transcended itself into violet, I found my own self lifted beyond…

Here is a poem which attempts to capture that moment:

Only a little yellow ribbon light
Betrays the passing of the sun from sight.
Next, the merest thread of green transition
Teases the eye, daring recognition,
Then smiles and shyly fades from view,
Giving way to iridescent blue.

Indigo bordering on infinity,
Thrilling with uttermost intensity,
Lifts me irresistibly
Beyond the longest waves of light
And deepest violet hue
To zenith of supreme delight
In unimagined You.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sister Veronica Reflects on Her Investiture

After a novice's investiture ceremony, she writes a letter to some of our monasteries to share her thoughts on this big day in her life.  Here is an excerpt from Sister Veronica's letter:

The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is the day of my baptism.  (Mother did not know this when she chose the date!)  During my investiture retreat, I spent some time pondering the meaning of the word “Baptism”, “to immerse” or “plunge,” in light of our Lord’s “investiture day” when He was baptized in the Jordan River.  Christ did not simply get His feet damp when it came to entering our human condition- He plunged into the very depths of it.  He wanted to walk the same road we walk, and to experience the same agonies of fallen, wounded humanity that we experience, to the extent of wearing our wounds in His own body.  The totality of this self-emptying struck me in a new way during one morning of Lectio Divina (Scripture Reading).  I was walking down our road towards Godden’s Pond, which forms the furthest end of our enclosure.  From a distance, I saw that the surface of the pond was tinged with pink.  Curious, I approached a clearing where there is a broad view of the pond from the brim of a steep, high slope.  I looked down at the pond.  It wore the dark, shadowed aspect of mystery which cloaks every early dawn.  The somber grey wall of forest blended subtly into its blurred reflection in the water.  Only an irregular area in the center of the pond-mostly, it seemed, just below where I stood-eluded the reach of the shadows to mirror the pale blue sky and blushing clouds of the growing dawn above.  For a moment, the scene was one of a world “sitting in darkness.”  Then suddenly this world stood on its head!  I saw only the pond, where the trees seemed to grow downward toward an ever deeper abyss of sky.  Down there in the bottom of Godden’s Pond was a limitless expanse of eternity!  Hebrews 12:2 flashed into my mind:  “for the sake of the joy which lay before Him, He [Jesus] endured the cross, despising its shame.”  Our dear Savior dove from heaven’s heights into the waters of human misery, and in so doing committed all for the sake of what he saw at the end of the plunge-His Father’s glory and the salvation of the world.  The totality of Christ’s self-emptying was something which our Seraphic Father understood very well.  I was blessed to be on retreat during the novena and Solemnity of our Father St. Francis, who was instrumental in guiding me to the Franciscan family, so I went to him to ask him how best to prepare for the grace to be given to me.  The answer came during our Mother Abbess’ Vigil Chapter exhortation.  Mother used the motif of St. Francis’ Stigmata to reflect on several ways in which his life was “marked” by the life of Christ.  One of these ways, she said, was the readiness with which he stripped himself of everything, even down to the clothes on his back, in order to follow Christ, just as Christ emptied Himself even to death on the cross to save humanity.  It struck me that this moment in our Seraphic Father’s life could perhaps be called his investiture- his Di-vesture, if you will.  My investiture, I knew would be a di-vesture too.  

I am a very poetic sort of person, so the cutting of the hair which takes place during the ceremony was for me much more than a mere symbolic gesture,  With the harvesting of my hair, every dimension of my life- heart, mind, body, soul- would be stripped away, and I would lay my life in all its vulnerable, defenseless poverty into the pierced hands of Christ.  Our Holy Father St. Francis’ life said to me, “yes-yes, give it all to Him, all!  Hold nothing back!”

May we, as daughters of Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Holy Mother St. Clare, gaze always upon the self-emptying love on the cross; allow ourselves to be transfixed by it; and be transformed ever more into true images of Love Himself, Who meets our wounds with His own wounds and transfigures them in His Glory.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lord, I Give You My Life

Our Postulant Phoenix has a twin sister, Cheyenne.  She has made application to join us!  Here is her latest Youtube video on her vocation:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Poor Clare Style

All Hallow’s Eve, better known as Halloween, is kept by us Poor Clares as a penance vigil day in preparation for the great Solemnity of All Saints.  But a few days ago, Mother Abbess and the novitiate took advantage of a donation of large pumpkins to carve jack o-lanterns.  These greeted us, each in its own uniquely bright and silent way as we processed into our refectory to partake of our pre-dawn repast of bread and coffee.

Our Indian Sisters especially enjoyed this American custom.

Another Poor Clare tradition for All Saints Day is to display as many saint holy cards as we can, trying to somehow image the crowds of the heavenly city of Jerusalem that no one can count.  May we all be among them some day!

Our Chapter Room Altar
where our patron Saints are displayed

Each  Chapter Room window sill is covered!

The Novitiate Altar