Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Cross and the Crib

Blessed Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr!  The Cross is never far away from the Crib at Christmas nor at any other time.  Here at Bethlehem Monastery, we take care to decorate our crucifixes as well as our Christmas trees and Creche scenes.  As St. John's prologue puts it:  The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Here we would like to share our Christmas morning Mass petitions:

That all who have been reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism may celebrate this feast of the Lord's Nativity with surpassing joy, and walk always in the Light of Christ which shines upon them and through them, illuminating the darkness of the world.

That the great ones of this world may follow the lowly in simple faith to find their true King who rules in humility and governs in poverty.

That the afflicted in body or spirit, for whom this day is a temptation to despair, that they too may come to the manger where their sorrow will be turned into joy by the tears of the Infant Christ.

That we who have heeded the angel's song and have come to Bethlehem to see the great thing that has taken place, may like the shepherds, return to our daily lives, glorifying and praising God for all we have heard and seen:  God made Man for love of us.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Greetings from Bethlehem Monastery

Our artistic Novitiate somehow makes tissue and construction paper into stained glass!  This creation hangs on the glass door leading into one of our interior patios, making a rather bleak sight into a meaningful nativity scene.  May Our Lady and her Blessed Child brighten your life with their gracefilled presence this Christmastide!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Construction/Fundraising Update

We have good news….                And not so good news….

We have a contract and the price is not as high as we feared it would be!
                                                                                                                                                But it is high enough.

We have raised enough funds to pay for the architectural plans!
                                                                But we still need money for things like bricks, windows, doors….

Novitiate Dorm Fundraising Goal:  $100,000

As the insurance company and our contractor debated the merits of the contract, the Poor Clare crew set to work.  Mother Vicaress emptied her storage closets destined for demolition and the novitiate Sisters removed the doors.(No one is quite sure where the contents of the closets went.  It is Mother Vicaress’ secret)

Our good lawn maintenance man cut down the courtyard trees that were in the way of construction, while the Poor Clare gardeners transplanted shrubs and flowers.

This little engineer’s flag marking the site of soil testing in our courtyard is our sign of hope that construction will soon begin!  When?  God knows even if we don’t!  We thank you for all your help and ask you to continue your support of our project both by your donations and your good prayers!

You can use our Paypal button at the right hand corner or send us a check through the mail:  Bethlehem Monastery of Poor Clares, 5500 Holly Fork Rd., Barhamsville, VA 23011.

Those who use Facebook may want to consider doing a fundraising campaign for us there.  We have heard these can be quite successful!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.

We are in the first week of Advent, yet we do not forget why He came and His Passion lived out in the crisis afflicting the Church at the present time.  One of us wrote a poem a year ago after taking care of a persistent wound for an elder Sister.  This year, the poem seems prophetic.

Your Body

Your body is so very wounded,
It wearies me.
Sores all over, unhealed, unsalved,
No hope of healing.
Woe, woe for wounds that weep,
Sores that seep
When I bandage them,
They fester beneath the gauze.
There is no soundness to be found in You-
Even exhausted pores sweat blood.

Where the end
To anguish beyond remedy?
I too have sinned;
I look upon You, and my own battered body
Resonates within.
I lay my hands upon You to heal,
Only to inflict infection.

Your Body wounded all over
Has been bought in blood;
Her slavery to sin has ended-
There remain now the open stripes.
Help us, Lord;
Have mercy.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Sister Laetitia's First Profession

Our New Bride with St. Clare

Sister Laetitia made her First Profession of Vows on Wednesday, the feast of the Presentation of Mary in the temple.  Her large family was able to attend the ceremony with us to share our joy.  Below are some scenes from that glorious event:

Entrance Procession
Mother Abbess Therese, Sister Laetitia, Sister Margaret Mary (Novice Mistress)

The Examination

The Profession of Vows

A Moment of Prayer

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Keep on Living!

Remember that monster squash vine that I was going to pull up but didn’t?  Well, it made about 10 various sized pumpkin-like squash!  The novitiate carved them up to make Poor Clare style Jack-o-lanterns pictured here-(a few donated pumpkins were included)

The next week after a good frost I thought that now was the time.  But when I went out to the vegetable field, I saw new green leaves unfurling among the frost bitten yellow ones!  So the vine had another reprieve.  It ended up making 3 more squash:  small, medium and large.

Over the many years I have gardened, the field has taught me many lessons.  Recently, it has been reminding me of my mortality as the tasks to be done take longer to do and I find myself saying, “I’ll wait until the novitiate come out for that”.  God bless them!  They have so much energy while I…”The old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be”.  But as I gazed at that old squash vine, I heard the message it was trying to give me:  even if you are half dead, keep on living!  You never know what great things you will yet do!

This Thanksgiving, thank God for the gift of life and the opportunities to love!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Novitiate Slide Show

This is the first time I have tried this:  upload a video here on Blogger.  Above, please find this first attempt.  It is a simple slide show featuring our novitiate, some recent photos of ceremonies and more prosaic scenes.  In the background you will hear them singing a Christmas Poem.  The sudden cold weather here in Barhamsville after an overly long, hot summer makes me think of Christmas!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Construction Update

So far, this little flag is the only outward sign that we are about to construct a new novitiate dormitory.  It was placed there to mark the location where a sample of our ground was to be taken to determine how deep to put the posts that will hold up said dorm.  We are happy to report that the posts do not have to go too deep!

On our library table is the other evidence of our intent:  the newly drawn up construction plans!  Here is a pertinent picture:

Then, our insurance company wants to know the exact location of the construction.  So here is a modified excerpt from our old plans:

The Sister in charge of our finances informs me that we have so far raised enough money to pay for our new construction drawings.  Hurrah for us and all of our good benefactors!  But we are going to need more funds for things like bricks, mortar, windows, doors...So if you can help us out, please give what you can by using our little donate button at the top of the page.  All donations are tax deductible and more importantly, will be rewarded by our good God who is never outdone in generosity.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Our Newest Novice

As promised, we have for you the best of our pictures of our newest novice, invested with the Holy Habit yesterday, feast of St. Faustina and nameday of her twin Sister!  It was a wonderful day for us all.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Pictures of Novitiate and Garden for September

Before these pictures are out of date, I had better get them on-line!  Here it our crew of postulants who are soon to lose one member to the novitiate.

Postulant Phoenix will be clothed in the Holy Habit of our Mother St. Clare this Friday!  Stay tuned for pictures of that blessed event to come!

And here is our current novice crew, soon to gain one member, but due on November 21st, feast of the Presentation of Mary, to lose another to the juniorate....

our Sister Laetitia!

Meanwhile, out in the garden, an amazing thing!  I was about to pull up this winter squash vine since it is September and that is what you usually do at this time of year.  But all of a sudden it took on new life.  Now it is taking over the grass that in its turn has taken over the empty spots of the veggie field.  Large fruits have been spotted last week, so...Where there is life there is hope!  May it be so for the seemingly dead and dying areas of the Church!  May we witness a new springtime, even in the approaching winter.  It is our job to pray and sacrifice to that end.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The More Things Change...

 When young Francis de Pietro de Bernadone was discerning his vocation, he felt inspired to enter the dilapidated old Church of San Damiano to pray.  While kneeling before the Byzantine crucifix hanging there, it suddenly came alive for him and spoke, “Francis, go repair my house which as you see, is falling into ruin.”  As he was a simple man, Francis sold some merchandise from his father’s fabric shop and offered the money to the resident priest for the repair of the church. 
But fearing he was being mocked, the priest refused.  

Then Francis became a construction contractor, and stone mason although he knew nothing about these trades. 
Where there is a will, there is a way—especially for Francis of Assisi.  But after he had repaired three old churches around the countryside and had also attracted followers in his new style of life, he came to realize that Christ’s words to him had a deeper meaning.  He was called to repair not physical churches, but THE Church which through the corruption of wealth and the abuse of power, was threatening to collapse.  The reigning Pope also had a dream in which he saw St. John Lateran basilica toppling over and a small man rushing forward to prop it up with his shoulder.  When Francis arrived at the Vatican to get approval for his newly founder Order, the Pope recognized him as the man of his dream.

The first church Francis repaired, San Damiano, became the first monastery of his “Poor Ladies” who are now known as the Poor Clares.  While Francis’ brothers, the Friars Minor, uphold the Church through their imitation of the life of Christ, we his sisters, do our part as Mary did, by a maternal and prayerful presence.  The Church of the 21st century is much like that of Francis’ 13th century.  Then, as now, there were immoral priests, negligent and power hungry bishops, scandalized laity.  Christ is crucified again in the victims of abuse and we stand at the foot of His cross with Mary, compassionating Him, comforting the suffering laity gathered there and supporting those priests who, like St. John, remain faithful.

During this last week I have often wondered if we should be building an ark rather than a dormitory!  But then I was reminded that in ancient days, monasteries were built according to the dimensions given by God to Noah in Genesis.  The idea was that monasteries were indeed arks in which the life of prayer and penance offered a safe haven from the floods of chaos in the world.  So, as we build our dormitory to shelter young women seeking to live that very life of prayer and penance which offers salvation to the world through Christ, we actually are building an ark as well!  Let us continue to hope for God’s mercy, even as we anticipate his coming judgement upon us.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

We have a problem...

Look about and see;
             they are all gathering
                         and coming to you...
         "This place is too narrow for me,
                          make room for me to live in." Is.18-20

Yes, indeed, we have a problem!  

But it is a nice problem to have
When we moved from Newport News to Barhamsville in 2004, it never occurred to our modest community of twelve to be concerned that our new monastery had a maximum capacity of thirty.  But here we are in 2018 numbering twenty-seven sisters, with more than three young women asking to share our Poor Clare life. 
The problem?  No more room!

 Our novitiate dormitory, containing 6 monastic “cells,” is filled to overflowing.  With your help, we hope to build a new novitiate addition comprising six more cells, two storage rooms and a bathroom.  We also plan to expand the novitiate “common room,” a multi-purpose area for work, study, and recreation, that is presently too small for our growing family.

Every vocation is a unique and unrepeatable mystery of God’s call and a young woman’s response.  Join us in thanking God for the gift of each of these ardent young vocations, and help us to make room for them in the heart of the Church.  Every donor to our novitiate building fund will be gratefully remembered in the prayers of our newest Poor Clares and in those of us “old timers” as well!

Donations can be made by check payable to:

Bethlehem Poor Clare Monastery and sent to:
5500 Holly Fork Rd, Barhamsville VA. 23011
or through PayPal (see the donate button above on the right!)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

August Gardening

I have heard it said that missionaries have a hard time explaining the concept of divine forgiveness to indigenous people who are nature worshipers because in their experience, “Mother Nature” does not forgive!  Our gardening experience confirms it.  This year we got did not get the compost into the squash row before planting and we got behind in the weeding.  The result? Not much squash. Never mind the excuses of not having time, etc.  Tell it to the birds.  They won’t listen either!  But then, sometimes Nature smiles like the sun on a clear day, and for some reason  things go marvelously well.  We had some volunteer pumpkins that ended up being the success story of this year’s garden.  Here is pictured our Sister Prabha holding our prize winner weighing a hefty 35 lbs!
We thank God for the pumpkins, the few squash we did get, the abundant cucumbers and tomatoes still being harvested.  But most of all we thank Him for His love that DOES FORGIVE US when we fail, even if we have to bear the consequences of our negligences.  That is what is called “the temporal punishment due to sin”.

We are now in the midst of our novena to our Mother St. Clare in preparation for the celebration of her feast on Saturday, August 11.  May she bless all of you with the gift of her intercession!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

More photos of Sister Francesca

As promised, here are more pictures of Sister Mary Francesca's investiture:

Sister Mary Francesca

Sister Francesca's Hair Offered in Sacrifice 
Cutting the Cake

Sister Francesca has long since removed her festive crown of flowers and is happily learning how to manage her activities barefooted and clothed in the Holy Habit.  She reports it is easier than in postulant garb!  She is also moving out of her cell in the novitiate dormitory in order to make room for our newest member, Aspirant Amanda who comes to us next Sunday!  We have only 2 more cells left, so it is getting time to build another dormitory.  Stay tuned for further developments!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Investiture of Postulant Casey as...

Sister Mary Francesca of the Blood of Christ!

Casey dressed in her bridal gown
 at the beginning of the ceremony
Today, June 29th, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, we had the joy of transforming one of our Postulants into a radiant new Novice!  Here are highlights of the ceremony.  More photos will follow in the coming weeks.  Sister Mary Francesca's heavenly patron is St. Pio, better known as Padre Pio.  His baptismal name was Francesco (Italian form of Francis).

Casey attends Holy Mass 

Novice Mistress, Sister Margaret Mary
adds the final touches

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Revisiting Holy Week

Holy Thursday Adoration
 During Holy Week, the Church celebrates the Paschal Mystery, particularly as she commemorates the historical events of the Easter Triduum:  The Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus and His Resurrection.  Glorious are the mysteries celebrated!  Yet their glory is overshadowed by the mournful remembrance of Christ’s bitter Passion.  Therefore, fulfilling our human need to thoroughly celebrate what we have commemorated, the liturgy gives us another chance in the weeks following Pentecost.

Our Corpus Christi Monstrance

Today, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we revisit Holy Thursday, and rejoice that Jesus has left us His Blessed Sacrament whereby we are united with Him and are able to adore Him on our altars.  Since the time of our Mother St. Clare, the Poor Sisters have fostered an intense Eucharistic devotion and lifestyle.

Statue of St. Clare
Long before there were Eucharistic ministers, artists have depicted St. Clare holding a monstrance as her characteristic symbol of sanctity.  Her daughters carry on her legacy today in joyously reverent Sacred Liturgies  and daily adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

On Friday, we will revisit Good Friday in the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Here, to the left, you can see the cross awaiting its unveiling and veneration at the Three O'Clock Service.  To the right is a photo of the community in silent meditation afterwards.

Following in the footsteps of St. Francis, St. Clare exhorted her Sisters to always remember the Passion of our Lord.  His pierced Heart, wounded not only by the soldier's lance but by love, is our gate into paradise and there we find our rest.