Saturday, November 23, 2013

What are these Wounds? Christ the King of the Universe

Blessed Feast of Christ the King of the Universe!  In Year C of the Liturgical Cycle, we view Christ on the royal throne of the Cross.  Here is a poem by one of our Sisters who contemplates and questions the Crucified King:

Chapter Room Crucifix

What are these Wounds? 

“What are these wounds, my Lord, upon Your breast?”
Asked one among the household of His own.
“These wounds are made by those I favor best.”

He who replied, the King upon His throne,
Bore wounds as well in hands and feet and side.
With light resplendent all the bruises shone,

And as he held their mirror to His bride,
A sadness infinite was in His eyes.
Yet love and lasting pity flowed full tide

And broke upon the shores of her disguise
To wash her gently back against His breast.
“Am I not more to you than self’s vain prize?”

Then she through whom the sword of shame had passed
Asked not, “What are these wounds upon Your breast?”

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Collards Charism

Since our new novice, Sister Maria Christi, had been duly invested with our Holy Habit, and her new clothes were becoming a bit rumpled, spotted and wrinkled so that she ever more looked like the rest of us frayed Franciscans, we were able to at last pick, prepare and cook our collard greens under her expert supervision.  We found out that what us Yankees did not know was that you have to cook collards the day before you eat them because the cooking literally takes all day.  Although Sister Maria Christi was quite limited by our Poor Clare custom of only using seasoning on feastdays (unfortunately, Thursday was not such a day), and of course, the Louisianan tradition of using pork fat was completely out of the question, she declared the end result quite good and we concurred.

I must confess that I never had much affection for greens before I began growing them, but now I am sold.  They are such amazing things, providing us faithfully with iron-rich nourishment when everything else in the garden is devastated by frost.   On Friday, our community celebrated what we call “Foundation Day”.  This day commemorates the beginnings of our Bethlehem Monastery.  On November 15, 1956, a group of Poor Clares traveled from their monastery in Cleveland and arrived in what was then Warwick, Virginia.  After some time in a temporary residence, they moved into their partially completed monastery and began their simple monastic life of prayer and penance. At first the community seemed to flourish, but then the unsettling years following the 2nd Vatican Council revealed serious problems.  The first community finally dissolved, with some Sisters returning to Cleveland, others going to other monasteries and some going back to secular life.  But a second community, formed by generous Sisters from Roswell, New Mexico, along with one brave Sister from the former community, restored Poor Clare life in Virginia in 1972. 

Other trials, sometimes severe ones, have afflicted this community, but by the grace of God, it has always survived.  Two of the re-founding Sisters have attained to their eternal reward.  The others are our aging elders that give daily witness to the younger newcomers.  After forty some years, it can be said that our community is a lot like those collard greens out in the November garden that have withstood the test of hoary frost again and again.  Here we stand in a death dealing, wintry world, providing it with a wholesome, though perhaps rather strong tasting spiritual nourishment:  iron for the building up of blood for the Mystical Body of Christ!

Friday, November 8, 2013

All is Ready for Erin's Investiture!

All is ready for Erin’s investiture tomorrow.  Or, at least all is ready as it is ever going to be.  The ceremony will take place after Holy Mass, here in our Chapter Room.  Mother and Erin will sit before the altar for the first part, which is a para-liturgy of a biblical reading, psalm and then an exhortation by Mother Abbess on the spirit of our Holy Order.  Then begins the investiture proper when Erin is slowly transformed from a postulant to a novice.

From left to right clockwise:
headcovering, basket and scissors for cutting hair, breviary,
 flower crown and pins, handkerchief, Franciscan Cord 
Here is my table with everything I need to give to Mother for the clothing of a novice except the habit tunic (that is on a separate tray to be blessed at Mass).  As Novice Mistress, I am also “Mistress of Ceremonies” with all the responsibility that implies.  If something goes wrong, it will probably be my fault.  Several times today I have practiced and I think I have it memorized:  Take off shoes, give habit, cord, scissors, headcover, breviary, crown, crucifix.  I know when Erin is supposed to sit, stand, kneel.  I will be ready to give a gentle press of the hand if necessary.

When all has been accomplished, Mother will give Erin a new name which she will carry with her for the rest of her religious life.  All the Sisters will be leaning forward with anticipation and mounting excitement.  At this writing, no one knows except Mother and God Himself.  Check back here tomorrow to find out!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Announcing the Investiture of Postulant Erin!

Sewing hands and singing hearts proclaim at Bethlehem Monastery of Poor Clares that there will soon be a new novice in our midst!  Postulant Erin will receive the Holy Habit of our Mother St. Clare this Saturday, November 9th, feast of St. John Lateran Cathedral.  She begins her retreat tomorrow to prepare her soul for the great event even as we continue to prepare her monastic trousseau.  Please join us in prayer for her preparation.

Erin has a great love for the Psalms and so I am sure she will be using these ancient forms of prayer in the coming days.  Here is a poem she wrote, celebrating the place the Holy Psalter has in her life:

Key of David

The key is the Tree
Master the riddle
since nothing
shall pass
Not one jot nor tittle
‘til He comes to pass
through the lock
 Leviathan’s depths…

so come now Nocturnal
to bar, gate, and
break open the seal
O Verbum Supernal.
Lift up the gates with Your
David’s 150
with Your Canticum
with Your Paschal

This wheat crush and sift
Your Passion
inside me
Your Passion
inside me.

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saints Day

One of our best loved traditions is decorating our devotional shrines with holy cards of saints on All Saints Day!  Here is a view of the novitiate altar.  The actual display extends out on both sides.  Blessed feast to all saints in the making!  Tomorrow we will pray for our beloved departed that they too may join the saints in heaven to praise our good God who offers salvation and peace for those who love Him.