Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fasting and Feasting

Mother Abbess and Sister Mary Christine
cutting the jubilee cake

In our Franciscan tradition, food is very important in the spiritual life.  Our Poor Clare perpetual fast in no way negates our appreciation for the culinary arts.  Rather, I would say that the fast enhances it!  Fasting is the best appetizer; only the abstemious really know how to eat.  In the liturgical calendar, we have what are called “feastdays”.  These are celebrations of our Lord or the saints or an event in salvation history.  The original meaning of the word, however, is that this was a day on which you had a feast:  Good food and plenty of it.  Without violating the fast (one meal a day with two light refections), the quality of our meals is determined by the rank of the liturgical day or by whatever we happen to be celebrating on the family/community level.  On Sister Mary Christine’s diamond jubilee of religious profession, we had a three tiered cake, decorated by our creative cooks to uniquely express our joy in her 60 years of consecrated life.  Not only the taste and smell, but also the visual presentation of our meals is important.  The body can share in the joy of the soul on a special day just as it will at the resurrection.  But these special days must be spaced out during our mortal life, lest our still sinful inclinations take advantage of us.  So whether feasting or fasting we do all in the name of Jesus our Lord!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Continuing Scandal

Does this scandalize you?  The Catholic doctrine of the Holy Eucharist scandalizes us today every bit as much as it did two thousand years ago when Christ first revealed it.  How could anyone, much less the all-powerful, infinitely perfect Divinity, condescend to pour himself out in such ultimate self giving to poor, sinful, ungrateful humanity?  

And what if we should see Him ascend to where He was before?  Here is the other scandal, of which the Eucharist is an extension:  the Crucifixion.  Christ ascended to the bosom of the Father, His place from all eternity, by way of His ascending the wood of the Cross.  Such is the foolishness of Divine Love, a scandal to the intellectual and a stumbling block to the accountant.  It does not make sense.  At least, it does not make sense to the mind that starts from the premise of self interest.  For love has to do with the happiness of the other.  Here the mind must give way to the heart.  When one really loves with the heart, sacrifice of the self is the very thing that makes the most senses

Sacrificial love, that which Jesus exemplified and which He commands, is always a scandal to the world when lived truly.  Faithful spouses are misunderstood as well as cloistered nuns.  We are told it is fulfilling and indeed self-destructive to make a permanent commitment.  That is why the celebration of anniversaries of commitment are so important.  They say to the skeptic that yes, it can be done!  Last month we celebrated the silver jubilee of religious profession of our Mother Abbess Therese.  This month we celebrate the ruby jubilee of our Sister Jean-Colette and the diamond jubilee of our Sister Mary Christine.  If anyone thought that 25 years of sacrificial love for Christ and His Church was too much, what about 40 years or even 60 years?  And they are just getting started!

Young women are still willing to risk all to make their commitment to love.  We now have two aspirants eager to begin their Poor Clare life.  Pray for Katie and Kira who are set to enter in January.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Update

The crepe myrtle that line our road are almost finished their blooming.  Three times today I saw and heard the Canadian geese flying over Goddins pond, that body of water which borders our monastery grounds.  After our midnight prayers, it is now possible to open windows to catch the cool night breeze.  Spring planted beans and tomato plants are showing their age.  Mornings are drenched in dew and afternoons are not quite so hot.  It is amazing to note all these obvious signs of the dying summer, for it seems like just yesterday that we bade farewell to spring!  Since our summer months have mostly been spent in jubilation, the time has flown by while we were having fun.  On the other hand, the weeds in our vegetable garden have thrived on neglect as well as abundant rainfall.  With the help of weeding Sisters and the aid of a roto-tiller and line trimmer, we are gradually re-establishing our dominion over the earth—or at least over this little bit of earth that the Lord has given us to cultivate.

We also have taken the memories of Mother Abbess’ Silver Jubilee celebration and produced a video.  Here is the link for your enjoyment:  Mother's Jubilee

Sunday, August 9, 2015

St. Clare Novena

We are deep into the Solemn Public Novena to our Foundress and Mother St. Clare in preparation for her feast on August 11.  Many of our friends are sending in their petitions in response to our newsletter that we sent out a few weeks ago.  If anyone would like to have their special requests entrusted to St. Clare, please send us an e-mail:  For those of you who do not receive our newsletter, here it is:

Our dear Friends,

            Have you heard them?  Our bells, ringing out to say: This is the day.  Yes, it is the day and it is from the heart of our jubilation for our Mother Abbess’ Silver Jubilee that we come to greet you as we approach the blessed days of our solemn novena in honor of our Holy Mother St. Clare.  At this writing, we have just come from the first of our three special days of celebration with the bells of the Mass with our Bishop DiLorenzo and six concelebrating priests still echoing in our hearts.  They will ring out again in a few days on Sunday, July 26, when we celebrate the second of our three days of rejoicing with Father Robert McCreary, O.F.M. Cap., at the altar.  As you know from previous editions of this august publication, one day is never enough to give thanks to the Lord for His grace and goodness in bringing one of our Sisters to this milestone in her religious life.  And how much more so in this year especially dedicated to giving thanks for the charism of the consecrated life in the Church!  We were delighted to have so many of you join us that day, both in body and spirit, and are sure that you received many special graces from the hand of Mother’s divine Bridegroom.

            But to backtrack a bit to the place we left you a couple months ago.  Our former chaplain, Father Francis Simeone, led us through our celebrations of Holy Week and Easter this year.  It was the first time since his retirement that he had presided at the entire Triduum.  When we greeted him in the parlor afterwards to thank him for his presence and for his insightful homilies, he remarked that, for him, too, the days had been most fulfilling. Those outpoured graces grew and blossomed during the following weeks as we prepared to send our Mother Abbess and Sister Francis Maria westward to California.  There they joined abbesses and delegates from each monastery of our Federation of Mary Immaculate as they met in Los Altos Hills for our triennial chapter.  These events are always a source of blessing for us all, as together we share and support one another in our way of life, which is such a mystery to those not called to it.  As our Bishop recalled in his homily at Mother’s Jubilee Mass, that is especially true in our world today, which seems to be set only on material things.  The cloistered life is set instead as a question mark in the midst of all that, “to keep green among the people of God the memory of a heavenly homeland” as one of the Council documents puts it.  In other words, to prompt (or provoke) people to ask “Why?”

Our Sister Maria Christi of the Immaculate Conception is one of those who heard the answer, and on May 14, Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, pledged herself to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, in poverty, and in chastity, vowing to live in the enclosure, following the path our Father St. Francis and our Mother St. Clare traced out for us more than 800 years ago.  After such a beginning, we concluded the Church’s great novena for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  with a special Vigil Mass at 11:30 p.m. on the Saturday before Pentecost.  Those of you who joined us heard readings in Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi, Malayalam, Latin, and Portuguese, with the responsorial psalms in English.  We are planning to do it again next year, but at an earlier hour.   Just a few weeks later, on the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we had the joy of welcoming into the fullness of community our Sister Mary Prabha who came to us from India several years ago.  Approval of Sister’s permanent transfer had come from her home community in Raiganj in late April, but we wanted an extra special day for our celebration.  Then, on July 10th, we opened our arms and our hearts to receive into our midst two more of our Sisters from our monastery in Holland: Sister Margaret Mary and Sister Petrice. A third, Sister Theresia, had come over in January.  The monastery had to close because of a lack of vocations in secularized Europe.  A couple of days later, we sealed our welcome with a mini-fireworks festival (we had saved a few sparklers and a couple exploding fountains from the Fourth).  It was our version of a 21-gun salute to these valiant Sisters who had given all they had to follow Christ along His mysterious and often mystifying ways.  

These past few months have also seen us hosting several young men seeking silence and solitude for their retreats on the way to diaconal or priestly ordination.  You may recall some years back during the special year for priests we had offered the opportunity to the priests of our diocese to spend quiet time in our guest area, the only charge being to say our morning Mass.  It seems that the seed planted back then has taken root as more busy priests have sought to renew their spirits at this hearth of our holy Mother St. Clare.

Speaking of seeds being planted, this summer has blossomed with more than its usual share of young women discerning the call of the Lord.  Some have come and seen that our way is not for them.  But others have caught echoes of their hearts’ desire and have asked to return for deeper listening. Some have come singly; some as part of a group; all have said they felt graced with a special meeting with the Lord. Many of you recently met one of those who have heard the deeper call when Sarah Meier came to St. Bede’s Parish in Williamsburg to ask for help in meeting her college debt.  We would like very much to express our gratitude to all of you at St. Bede’s who responded so generously to her appeal and to share the great glad tidings that before you receive this missive, our enclosure doors will open wide to welcome her into our midst.

Soon our bells will be ringing again for the joy of Jubilee for our Mother.  We will share more of that in our next issue. A little farther down the road, on August 2nd, they will sound once more to announce the beginning of our great novena in honor of our Holy Mother St. Clare.  You may notice from the insert included in this mailing that our novena will be prayed in the evening this year as is traditional in most of our monasteries.  On the final evening, August 10, there will be a Vigil Mass for the feast, at which the traditional breads will be blessed.  Be assured we will be remembering all of you, far and near, commending you to the prayers of our Holy Mother who was a light in the darkness for the people of her own era.  Surely her intercession will bring light into the shadows of our own times and illumine the rough places in the lives of all who trust in her who placed her trust so firmly in the One Whom she knew as
      “God-with-us, the God close to us and not merely in the spatial and temporal sense;  He is close to us because He has, as it were, ‘espoused’ our humanity; He has taken our condition upon Himself, choosing to be like us in all things but sin in order to make us become like Him…Christian joy thus springs from this certainty:  God is close, He is with me, He is with us, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse.  And this joy endures, even in trials, in suffering itself.  It does not remain only on the surface; it dwells in the depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and trusts in Him.”
                                                                                                                                                        -Pope Emeritus Benedict  XVI

            May that Lord be with you always and may you be with Him always and in every place.
                                                                                                                                                         -St. Clare


August  2 – 9                         Novena in honor of our Holy Mother St. Clare          7:00 each evening
August 10                                  Vigil Mass of our Holy Mother St. Clare               6:30 p.m.

August 11                                  Solemnity of our Holy Mother St. Clare             Morning Mass 8:00 a.m.                                                                                                    

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Only Too Much Is Enough!

 Franciscans know how to celebrate!  One day is not enough for a Silver Jubilee, so we always have three days.  Our eldest Sister, octogenarian Sister Mary Christine, who is most experienced in the art of celebration, was in charge of making Mother Abbess’ jubilee crowns and corsages.  If one rose was good on her first day crown, four roses were better!  Was it too much?  Maybe so…But as our celebrant for Mother’s second day jubilee Mass said in his homily: Jesus made too much wine at the wedding feast (120 gallons!).  He made too much bread and fish at the multiplication of the loves (12 baskets of leftovers!).  When He saved us, He shed every drop of His blood.  Theologians say that one drop would have been enough.  But God is not a theologian; God is love.  And for love, only too much is enough!

One of our community poets, inspired by Mother’s red rose, expressed her thought in this way:

Bridal Rose

O Red
O Sacred Heart
Too deep to speak
Yet you beat
So meek
My ear can hear
Inside, inside
You speak within
my poor and needy heart
Too deep, too deep for speaking words
But inside my eyes can see
And ears, they hear
You speaking unto me
So meek:
“My dear, my dear, come
And take my yoke
And I can teach
you, not so meek
To seek, to learn, discern
To see and hear me
In the Red”
Beloved Red
O Red Rose, O Red, You Bled
O Sacred Hart
You beat
Hearing certainly can hear
Seeing most assuredly can see You,

beating meekly inside me