Sunday, August 24, 2014

Novitiate Update

It has been awhile since we took a picture of our Barhamsville Novitiate, all together in an ordinary setting.  So many blessings and transformations have taken place in the last few months!  Pictured here from left to right, beginning with the back row:  Junior Professed Sister Mary Angelique who made her First Profession of Vows on May 24th.  Novice Sister Miriam Rose who was invested with the Holy Habit on June 28th.  2nd Row:  Postulant Phoenix who entered our community on February 7th.  Aspirant Cecilia who entered on August 15th.  And Postulant Sarah who will be receiving the Holy Habit on October 7th.  Not pictured is Novice Sister Maria Christi who has taken up residence with the Professed Sisters, continuing her formation with them.  She has special treatment, being a "transfer Sister" from an active congregation.  Pray for all of these good young people as they pray for you!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cecilia's First Day as a Poor Clare

I am happy to report that Cecilia has successfully navigated the intricacies of Poor Clare living for 24 hours (with a little help from her friends).  She is pictured here earnestly accomplishing one of the first tasks of a new arrival: that of “marking her clothes”.  Each Sister’s “mark” fulfills the eminently practical function of identifying her clothing so that she gets it returned to her after our communal wash day.  “The mark” also serves to identify each Sister’s mailing pigeon hole, and where she puts her outdoor shoes (when not wearing them).  It appears on the liturgical board to show which Sister has petitions at Holy Mass on what day.  Aspirants get a Roman numeral as their temporary “mark”, which they will keep until the blessed day of Investiture when, along with her new name and title, a Sister receives a significantly identifying “mark”.  Many Sisters have marks derived from the Passion of Christ:  the cross, the crown of thorns, the spear, the hammer and the nails.  As in all things, we seek to elevate and beautify the mundane with a touch of the spiritual.

Sisters embroider their marks on their clothes with blue thread, while Aspirants and Postulants do their embroidery in green.  Sister Miriam Rose recently exchanged her Roman numeral III for a combination mark:  a small “m” beneath a cross, signifying Our Lady at the foot of her Son's cross.  Phoenix still has a few articles of clothing missing her green I and Sarah looks forward to exchanging her green IV for a new blue mark.  At the rate Cecilia is going, she will probably have everything embellished with a green II in no time!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Video! Investiture of Sister Miriam Rose, and more good news

Blessed Feast of our Mother St. Clare!  To celebrate, we have posted a new video on YouTube entitled “Investiture of Sister Miriam Rose”  Here is the link:

We also have some good news to share:  our community has approved our Postulant Sarah’s petition to receive the Holy Habit.  Mother Abbess revealed yesterday that this blessed event will occur on October 7, feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Surely our dear Mother Rosaria is smiling down on us from heaven!

And as if that were not enough, on the feast of the Assumption, this coming Friday, we will welcome our Aspirant Cecilia into the midst of our enclosure.  Pray for her, Sarah, and all our novitiate Sisters.  Help us to thank God for all these blessings!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

All You Who Are Thirsty, Come to the Water! More Pictures from Solemn Profession

Thus says the Lord:  All you who are thirsty, come to the water!  You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk…Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.  I will renew with you the everlasting covenant… Is. 55:1-3

The Latin entrance chant that Holy Church gives for us this Sunday is a paraphrase of the First Reading for Holy Mass: 

(translation) You who are thirsty, come to the waters, says the Lord:  and you who have no worth, come, drink with joy

Those of us who are privileged to sing Gregorian Chant are privy to a rich source of ancient exegesis.  The scripture ponderings of medieval monks and nuns bore fruit in revealing melodies that are a musical blessing for us modern singers.  In this particular chant piece, at the words, “you who have no worth”, the melody suddenly soars like a geyser of jubilation.  What a surprise!  Shouldn't we be sad about the fact that we have no worth?  Is this not the secret fear of all of us, to be counted worthless?  The prayerful composer of the chant says no!  Being worthless is not a hindrance, to divine love, but rather a precondition!  We hear an echo of Jesus’ words:  blessed are the poor, blessed are those who hunger and thirst…But wait; we have great worth, not of ourselves, but as we are created by God in His own image and likeness.  How are we to have no worth?  By pouring it out in love!  Christ has gone before us to show us the way.  He “emptied Hi
mself.”  But he did not remain empty, for “God highly exalted Him.”  This is ever the dynamic movement of love.  In heaven it will be pure joy to see and to participate in the eternal outpouring of the Divine Persons, One to the Other and to us.  But here on earth where sin and selfishness interfere, our self-emptying is always painful. So it was with Christ as “He became obedient, even unto death, death on a Cross”.  Yet the very pain experienced, both for Him and for us, becomes the source of redemption and salvation.

We are still in the afterglow of our Sister Marie Elise’ Solemn Profession, and so we cannot help but think of her at every turn of the sacred liturgy.  Today’s reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is also read at the Easter Vigil, when the catechumens are thirsting for the springs of salvation.  Religious consecration is an intensification of the Baptismal covenant and that is why it is not a separate sacrament.  So what is true of all baptized Christians is even more true for Sister Elise and all of us here at Bethlehem Monastery.  By our vow of poverty we have no money and are emptied of all worth so that we have free access to the divine water, wine and milk offered in abundance by the Church in her liturgy.  We come heedfully and listen to God’s Will as it is revealed to us in the living of our vow of obedience, and we experience the renewal of our covenant love in holy chastity.  We do this now and forever and always in our blessed enclosure.

Here are more pictures from our celebration of Sister Marie Elise’ Solemn Profession:

"I, Sister Marie Elise of Jesus Crucified, vow to God, before the witness of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Father St. Francis, Our Mother St. Clare, and all the saints, and I promise you, Mother, to observe during the whole time of my life, the form of life which the Blessed Francis gave to our Blessed Mother Clare and Pope Innocent IV confirmed, living in obedience, without anything of my own, and in chastity; and I vow to observe enclosure."

"Receive this crown, Sister Marie Elise, which your Spouse, the Son of God, offers you.  May you deserve to be made a partaker of his Passion on earth and of his glory in heaven."

Bridal Cake for Sister Elise

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sister Marie Elise Solemn Profession Pictures

Here are some pictures from yesterday's Solemn Profession ceremony:

Sister Marie Elise
leads the entrance procession of the Sisters

Sister Marie Elise
prostrate under a pall while the congregation prays
the litany of the Saints.
This symbolized her death to her former life and her rising to a new life in Christ.
Bishop DiLorenzo
prays the Solemn Prayer of Consecration
over the newly professed Sister Marie Elise

Monday, July 28, 2014

Solemn Profession tomorrow!

Our dear Sister Marie Elise of Jesus Crucified will make her Solemn Vows tomorrow!  Pray for her!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sister Miriam Rose Shares Her Investiture Day

It is our custom that after an investiture ceremony, the new novice writes a general letter to our other Poor Clare Monasteries to share her experience of that blessed event.  Here is our Sister Miriam Rose's letter for you all to enjoy:

Dear Mothers and each dear Sister,
Magnificat anima mea Dominum! I wish to thank you all and sincerely say may God reward you for your wonderful letters and beautiful holy cards. They each meant so much to me and I am strengthened all the more in knowing of your prayers as I continue to persevere in my vocation. And if I may, I also ask for your prayers for my dear community sisters who have given so much of themselves to make our investiture day special. (I say "our" investiture day because it was not mine and it was not His but ours, because He is a God who gives and shares everything and keeps nothing for Himself. We truly don't deserve Him.)
They tell me over here that you wish to know my own experience throughout the investiture and even though I am not the best with words I will do my best to give you what you wish to know:
To be honest, I think I had better retreats. I had so much interior noise blasting through my head that I found it hard to peacefully pray and concentrate. I remembered the advice Mother Vicaress (who, as you know, is also my Mistress) gave to me before my retreat: Just stay open and be receptive to whatever the Holy Spirit wishes to give to you. Huh! Easier said than done, I must say. But throughout the retreat I kept her words as close to me as possible and tried my best to remain passive even though I had no idea what was going on inside of me and why all of a sudden my thoughts were practically screaming at me. All I knew was that I had to hold on and trust, some how, in the Lord. (However, as I look back on it now I see the small and tender graces that were given to me and in all that chaos I now know for certain, even though it was never felt, that I was slowly beginning to surrender myself to our Beloved Lord.)
And so I went to bed on June 27th dreading the noise that would await me in the morning, but when June 28th finally came around I was quite surprised to be awakened and surrounded by a complete and peaceful silence. It was a peace that I had never experienced before and I will never be able to truly describe. All I can say is that it was a peace that only God can give.
And so I went to Lauds and coffee still amazed at what I was feeling and after I got into my Mother's wedding gown, Mother Vicaress brought me into the Novitiate common room and wisely left me there alone so that I might reflect on the amazing grace that was about to take place. A lot of things were thought in that moment: some silly, some serious and some personal things. But the one thing I really wish to share with you is when I turned to the picture of our Holy Mother St. Clare: I imagined myself putting my hand in hers and allowing her to lead me in the footsteps of our Blessed Mother.
Oh dear! So many things I wish to say! I wish you would have seen the smiles that each of my dear sisters gave me as they walked into the Novitiate and I wish you could have felt what I felt when I was given the olive branch and the softly lit candle. But, of course, you do know what I saw and how I felt because you all had gone through the same seedling beginning as I had just gone through. And I praise the Lord for that.
Another moment I would like to share, before I talk about the actual clothing ceremony was when we were making haste to the choir for the celebration of the holy mass. I remember that we sang "Look down with love on us radiant vine dresser" and how at the very end of the song we had just made it into the choir when we were singing "In our hearts that yearn jar Him" and it was then that I looked up towards the tabernacle to see Him waiting for me. I walked down the isle towards Him and as we looked at each other a thought came to me saying, "I yearn for you, too."
Isn't it beautiful the things He can say to us in the silence of our hearts?

The readings for Holy Mass were unbelievably fitting and it surprises me all the time how the Holy Spirit can fit extraordinary events and liturgical celebrations together so well. Plus I loved it that our Mother was the main honoree of the day. Everything was so special that I could not have asked for anything more. I had all my loved ones with me: my family behind me and my "far away" family and friends in the extern chapel and then, most of all, my God (Father, Best Friend, Bridegroom and Brother) with His Mother beside me. There was nothing else I wanted.
Then came time for the clothing ceremony. I remember being very careful the whole time in our gown, because it was covered with lace and if I made one wrong move, RIP! (Rest In Peace!) And so as I stepped out of our gown and into our new life the muscles I had restrained all that time gave way and I stretched as if! had finally awakened from a long night's sleep: Before, I was confined. Now, I am free. Before, I wore the world. Now, I wear the cross. And just as our Lord Jesus had done, I kiss it and embrace it every time I put it on, allowing it to remind me that I now live for Christ. And let no man take it away from me.
Some of you, I am sure, wish to know how I like my new hair do and I will just make one comment on it: Good riddens! But on a serious note: being "stripped" of yourself is the best way to describe how it was for me. I loved my curls. The wildness of them as I played sports in the park or walked in the breeze on the beach gave me much excitement. But that's the point. I gave myself excitement. Did I ever stop to allow Him to give me the excitement that comes with being His? Maybe sometimes I did. But when Mother was cutting my hair I could not help but smile and think that my pride and joy is no longer going to be myself, but from now on it will be God. He is the crown I am striving to achieve.
And after being adorned with the precious stones, priceless pearls, sparkling gems, and golden crown of the under cap, head band, head cover, and veil, I was finally given a new name. This was very important to me because like all young people we wish to know who we are. We desire to find ourselves and know ourselves. It is something we ache for because deep down, I believe, when we finally know ourselves is when we can truly live out our FIAT to the Lord. And so as Mother Abbess was preparing to tell me my new name I asked God: Lord, who am I? And through the lips of Mother, He gave me my answer. "You are to be called Sr. Miriam Rose" of the Holy Face.
With such a big name I feel very small and I ask for your prayers that I may live up to it.
But how I love my name! To be named after our Blessed Mother's Motherhood helps me to understand more fully that I am a child of God and as our Lord had gone through the Virgin Mary to become flesh with us, it is now my turn to follow our Holy Mother St. Clare by going through our Blessed Mother to be united to the Divine Bridegroom.
May we all be united to Jesus through Mother Mary and may He reward you again and again for your prayers and spiritual presence during my retreat, investiture, and for the many barefooted and poor years to come as I continue to discover the Love of God.

With much love and special prayers to each one of you as we all gaze on the Face of Christ together in the Eucharist,

Sister Miriam Rose of the Holy Face

P.S. Jesus loves you J