Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter Dawn

This week the welcome sound of singing down spouts heralded the melting of last week’s blizzard.  Only a few patches of snow are left in shady places.  The ground is completely saturated around our new greenhouse so that water is seeping into my otherwise winter free area.  I had to delay my cardboard floor construction plans in order not cover the wet areas and so encourage mold ahead of season. Oh, well.  I sincerely hope that this water seepage is an unusual event!  I shall find out in the coming months.
Going back to the great snow, I was doing my lectio (monastic contemplative reading of Scripture) at dawn in my cell and heard a single bird begin to sing.  All the ground was white with winter, and here was a little, feisty harbinger of spring, greeting the rising sun.  Oh, to have a heart full of hope that impels one to sing despite the ravages of suffering!  This is what our faith should give to us.  Spring is coming!  The eternal spring of heaven will be ours after the winter of this life’s pain and disappointments.  A poem to commemorate the event:

Winter Dawn

A lone call sprang
Across the fallen snow.
A single seeing bird sang
To morning’s rising glow.

The full and futile moon,
Sank in silent west,
While east a springing love tune
Warms one small breast.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Great Snow of January 2016

St. Clare in the Snow
About twenty five years ago, my parents, now both deceased, gave me a picture album of old photos taken of themselves when they were first married, and then of me at various stages of my early existence.  As I debated with myself whether or not to go out into the winter wonderland of today, I remembered a picture of me at about the age of 2, all bundled up and chest high in snow.  My face gave every appearance of a toddler on the verge of a temper tantrum.    That settled it.  From the very first instant of my encounter with snow I have not liked it and now it is high time that I admit the truth.  Or perhaps it is not snow in itself, but rather the fuss and bother of getting all geared up to go out and make some sort of attempt to enjoy it.  One thing I do like about snow however, is its consummate beauty, especially when the sun shines to make it sparkle like a scattering of diamonds.  But I can see my fill of this loveliness from the many windows of our monastery while my bones suffer not because they benefit from our heating system.  Nor are these same bones in any danger of being broken from the winter activities the younger sisters are fond of pursuing.  So this year, I politely decline their invitation to join them, but not at all begrudging them their fun.  We each have our own gift as St. Paul reminded us in our second reading at Holy Mass today.  There are gifts for enjoying as well as gifts of function.  Mine is to enjoy the snow from afar and theirs to go out and play in it.  It is a part of our Franciscan tradition to respect and foster the differences of persons so that community life is not a dull uniformity, but rather a pleasing harmony.

Another winter Franciscan tradition is to feed “our sisters the birds” as St. Francis Francis liked to call our feathered friends.

Mother Abbess on her way out to the courtyard on her mission of mercy

Little friends enjoying their feast

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Good Wine

And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”

So often unbelievers portray the Church as a legalistic institution, given to moralistic declarations of “Thou shalt nots” aimed at taking all the fun out of life.  Today’s Gospel of the Wedding feast at Cana, stands in complete contradiction to that view of the Church and to her Divine Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Not only did Jesus make around 120 gallons of water into wine, it was good wine!  What a waste, thinks the practical-minded headwaiter, to give such good wine to already half-intoxicated guests.  Little did he or the disciples know that they had seen nothing yet.  This was good wine, but the best wine would be given three years later at another feast in Jerusalem, wine turned into Precious Blood poured out for the remission of sin.  Not 120 gallons worth, but an infinite stream of divine love would flow from the heart of the Savior, first on Calvary in the presence of His Mother, called by Him, “Woman”, and then again through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The crowds who heard the Apostles enthusiastic preaching of the Good News on that day would laugh and say that they had been drinking new wine!  Perhaps Mary smiled, for she was there too, and thought, “Yes! New wine!  The happy hour has come!”

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Baptism of the Lord

The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a transitional day, being both the ending of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Ordinary Time.  Our sanctuary, which last week was richly decorated with Christmas trees and crèche, is now sparsely ornamented with not quite so fresh poinsettias.  When these fade, others are waiting in the wings of the sacristy to replace them.  Like Jesus, fully grown, baptized and anointed for His mission, we go forth into the New Year, ready for its challenges and its joys.

Our long awaited greenhouse, gift to our Mother Abbess from her family in honor of her Silver Jubilee, was finally constructed.  It was delivered in large boxes about a month ago, but had to sit out in the torrential rains of December until we could obtain manpower to put it together.  It was certainly a relief to see it suffered no ill effects from the delay.  Some fine details still have to be worked out, like getting electrical power, and leveling out the ground “floor”, but we are on our way to a major improvement for our gardening endeavors!

Our Aspirant Kathryn entered on Friday in the presence of her large family and gathering of friends.  She is making her way through the monastery, generally in the company of her “Dear Mistress” Margaret Mary or one of her novitiate companions, with that special look of puzzled amazement reserved for newly born monastics.  We all smile discretely, remembering our own first “daze”!
Stored poinsettias.
 In the window, you can just barely see Aspirant Kathryn with her little white veil blowing in the wind.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Appearing with our Christmas decorations was this article cut out of our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Virginian.  Yes! By the end of the week we shall have a new member, Katie Moore, soon to be known among us as “Kathryn”.  She will be our consolation prize as we bid farewell to the lovely Christmas Season.  De-decorating Day is scheduled for Wednesday of this week.

Meanwhile we continue with our celebration of Epiphany, that appearing of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the three Wise Men who had the faith to read in the stars the promise of a King.  Here is a poem commemorating their arduous journey’s end:

The Wise Man

The waking dawn gilds in gold the brow
Gone pale with too much facing of the night.
Lips that pursed in earnest thought are now
Parted, making a thurible for prayer,
Heaven bound as dew dissolved in light,
Lifts in clouds through early morning air.

Then suddenly, from star dry gazing eyes,
Drips drops of myrrh on Wisdom where He lies.

May we also have the fortitude of the Magi to follow the inspirations that enlighten our hearts until we reach Him who alone can fulfill all our desires.