Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sister Faustina's Investiture-photos and sharing

As promised, here is the sharing of our youngest novice's investiture ceremony:

            Praised be Jesus Christ, and happy 2018!  Behold the letter you have all been waiting for: recounting the joyous day of our Investiture on December 16!  First of all, I hope you have so far had a blessed New Year, filled with many graces and blessings.  For me, my heart sings loudly: “The mercies of the Lord are new every morning!”  It is so refreshing to realize how true this is and that this year before us is waiting for our “yes to all that the Lord will ask of us”, as Mother Abbess said in her New Year’s Eve Chapter.  I will expound upon this later in the letter.  Now, where do I start?
            I’d like to share about our retreat which I am so grateful for; it was so peaceful.  The weather was very cold, but I managed to get outside almost every day to enjoy God’s creation.  I did some light hiking down our trails and visited our beautiful pond.  My soul was wrapped in silence, and my heart was humming a gentle song of thanksgiving.  This became my theme for the retreat, which began on December 11, the vigil of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I received our refectory penance from Mother: “I humbly beg you to pray for me that my Poor Clare life may be a sign of the love of Christ for the world.”  This was a reference to our Lord’s words about the Divine Mercy image.  Kneeling before each sister and asking her to pray for me for this intention was such a joyful and humbling experience!  The Solemnity was rich with graces and at the end of the day I had the opportunity to participate in the festivities at recreation—although from a distance.  I sat with our dear Lord in the dimly lit Choir and listened to the angelic voices that came from down the hall in the Chapter Room.    Listening to the sweet sound of sisterhood brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart!   
            To finish off this time of quiet preparation I decided to pray the Stations of the Cross as an offering of thanksgiving for each of my sisters and their many prayers that made our retreat so fruitful and peaceful.  When I reached the last Station, I looked at the wooden cross with the anchor etched onto it.  I felt something within me that made me want to stay a bit longer at this Station.  I looked at that anchor intently; a sense of hope and peace washed over me.  Little did I know this anchor was destined to become my Poor Clare mark!  Definitely a nudge from the Holy Spirit!
            The next day was the big day.  My family arrived from Florida the previous evening.  We were thankful for clear skies and clear roads because they made the trip by car!  Later they told me they were exhausted from the drive but were very eager for the morning to come so they could see me in our bridal gowns; the first one being, of course, the traditional “fine garments of the world”, and the second being the lowly garments of a true Bride of Christ.  The first dress was a beautiful rose lace treasure brought over from Eindhoven, complimented with my Mom’s heart shaped miraculous medal.

Processing down to Choir with the blessed olive branch, the symbolic lamp of St. Clare and with the sound of my sisters singing “Look down with love on us” was an overwhelmingly joyous experience.  Gentle tears began to stream as I remembered that theme of thanksgiving which deepened as the morning unfolded.            

Before I knew it, we were in the Chapter Room awaiting my transformation.  Mother gave a beautiful exhortation before the ceremony actually began.  Every word was so meaningful.  Her theme was hope in God.  She drew inspiration for the mark from Hebrews 6:19.  If I can remember correctly she concluded with a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux:  “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.”  This was a hint to what my title would be!   

I was so happy to finally put on the second bridal gown, that of our Holy Mother St. Clare!

So now I’m sure you are wondering how Mother chose St. Faustina to be our patron.  Mother of course knew of my growing devotion to St. Faustina which began during Holy Week of 2016, months before I entered.  I entered in August that year and made the consecration to Merciful Love two months later on October 5, the feast of St. Faustina, which was very providential because I had other dates in mind; one of them being on St. Therese’s feast day.  Many graces followed and I grew in my love for our Lord of Mercy.  St. Faustina became like a sister to me, I could speak to her so easily.  Mother Abbess told us during recreation after the Investiture that she had noticed me standing for a long time before a picture of her that we had out in the Narthex on the evening of April 23, 2017, Divine Mercy Sunday, which was surprisingly and providentially the same date of the first Divine Mercy Sunday inaugurated by Pope St. John Paul II!  That was when she knew something special was going on. 

            Having said all that, and looking back on all the occasions God showed his mercy to me throughout my discernment, I realize how blessed I am to have St. Faustina as my friend and guide on this journey called life!  So that is how it all came to be!  Praise God!  I am still humming that gentle song of thanksgiving for all His mercies especially for placing me in the hands of such an amazing family. 
            Before I close, I said I would expound upon Mother’s New Years Eve Chapter conference.  She gave a beautiful exhortation which gave me hope for this New Year as a Poor Clare Novice.  One thing that really spoke to me was the words I shared at the beginning of this letter: “say yes to all the Lord asks of us”.  This made me think of all the ways the Lord may ask us to adore and glorify his Mercy in each loving encounter with our sisters and the needs of the world. 
 I also remembered the words our Lord spoke to St. Faustina: “These Rays of mercy will pass through you, just as they have passed through this Host, and they will go out through the entire world.”  After reading this I was filled with joy as I pondered the beauty of our Poor Clare vocation; our Holy Mother St. Clare desired this for all her daughters, that through our continuous life of prayer and sacrifice, although lived behind the walls of the enclosure, the endless mercy and love of Christ may spread throughout the entire world.  Outstanding is our vocation!  May the Holy Spirit make this great work of mercy blossom in our souls this year and may our Blessed Mother Mary teach us always to sing her great hymn of praise and thanksgiving for all the mercy the Lord has shown us. 
  Lovingly in Christ, Sister Mary Faustina of Merciful Love

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Glad Tidings for Postulant Casey

Above pictured is a glowing Postulant Casey.  Not only the sun shines upon her, but an inner joy animates her face these days as she anticipates her Clothing Day on June 29th, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.  This Friday, Mother Abbess solemnly announced before the gathered Sisters in Chapter the "Glad Tidings" of her reception and the appointing of her day of investiture in the Holy Habit.  Below is the text of Mother's exhortation.

Glad Tidings Chapter for Casey- Easter Friday, 2018

Dear Casey, today is the Octave day of the Death of our Savior and we are already looking ahead to the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.  That seems to be a pattern of our contemplative life: we are deeply rooted in the present moment, in God’s loving will for us, yet looking with great hope to that which is to come, ultimately the vision of God for all eternity. 
  June 29th is not far off, as you know how quickly monastic time passes, and so we are all joined with you in preparation and anticipation of your investiture on that great solemnity. 
Today is the octave day of the Crucifixion, and so we look back to the Cross of Christ, for it is the Altar upon which our Savior was offered to the Father for our salvation.  The Cross therefore, has become a very precious sign of our redemption and the love of Christ Jesus for us.  Both St. Peter and St. Paul knew this, each learning it through their own unique experiences of the Lord’s love for them, but once they understood, they gave their entire lives to Christ in return.
I think this is also what has happened to you.  You have gazed upon Christ on His Cross, you have seen His Heart pierced open wide for you, you have tasted how good the Lord is and you want now to love Him in return for His love, to give your life, to follow Him.
  Father Francis mentioned in his homily on Good Friday that it is only when we understand that Christ suffered for us (for me) are our lives wholly changed.  Both Sts. Peter and Paul experienced this, as did our own Seraphic parents, Francis and Clare. Each one came to know and believe that “Christ loved me and gave Himself for me!”  This became the power, the impulse of love within them which made it possible for them to give everything back to God.
   And here we are, in the Octave of the Resurrection of the Lord, and you have heard the Glad Tidings of your coming investiture and I think you can see this as a sign of Christ’s choice of you. In these days of His Resurrection, Christ appeared and revealed

Himself to His beloved friends and disciples, to confirm, strengthen and encourage them; also to call them to a more intense form of following Him.  Did He not say to St. Peter: “Do you love Me?” And was this not an invitation to love Him more and begin anew to lay down his life for Christ? “Feed My lambs, Feed My sheep.”
Christ has a special mission of love for you as well, and perhaps your new name and title and mark will give you some insight into what that mission is.  We do know that as a Poor Clare novice, you will be entrusted with greater responsibility for the needs of the world, as you prepare to pronounce your vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure.  You become a full member of our Order and take part more fully in our life.  It is a time also of being drawn nearer to the Heart of Christ Who has called you and desires you for Himself. 
   Your entrance into the Novitiate is a step toward that day of espousals, which you surely already desire with all your heart.  The habit, which you will soon wear, is symbolic of that personal covenant of love with the Bridegroom and is a continual reminder of your belonging to God. This will be a time to intensely prepare your heart and allow the Lord’s transforming grace to work in you, a time to enter more deeply into a relationship with Him.
  The garments that you receive on your investiture day will be the clothing you wear for the rest of your life.  Each morning, you can be clothed anew when you rise and dress yourself in the holy habit.  The cord, not yet knotted, is symbolic of your blessed binding to Christ, and is also a reminder to pray that you may never be separated from Him. The headband will be a daily call to keep His passion ever in mind.  The habit itself, speaks of your desire to remain always in His holy House as a true religious.  How fitting that we kiss each garment before putting it on, as the habit is truly precious and sacred to us, and we want to be forever grateful and more so each day for the grace to be clothed in the holy habit of our Mother St. Clare.