Sunday, December 29, 2019

Blessing of New Novitiate

Taking advantage of the visit of our good friend, Father Larry, OFM,Cap., we had our new novitiate common room and dormitory well blessed in the best Franciscan tradition yesterday, Feast of the Holy Innocents.  May these child martyrs pray for our young Poor Clares, that they may be true witnesses to Christ all the days of their religious lives!  Following are some photos of the event:

Father Larry wielding the holy water!
Mother Vicaress showing him the novitiate dorm
We get blessed too!
Novice Mistress Sister Margaret Mary with our Juniors (left)
Mother Abbess at Father's side with our Novices (right)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Tidings of Great Joy!

Thanks to God’s Providence and the great generosity of you, our good Benefactors, our New Novitiate Dormitory and Common Room are no longer dreams but reality!  Please know that the new generation of Poor Clares is eternally grateful and will always remember you in their loving prayers!

Blessed Christmas to one and all!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Holy Mary, Blessed Lady,
It is winter in our land.
The nights are long and dark,
The days cold and grey.
Skeletal trees scratch the sky,
Their leaves withered at our feet.
Death reigns supreme—
Or so it seems.

Some 500 years ago,
On another barren, winter day,
You came as Mother of Life
To rescue your children
From demonic forces
That held them as slaves of death.

You came, not with violence,
As did the conquering Spaniards,
But with a Mother’s springtime
Of arresting beauty,
Of compelling kindness.

Mother, come again to us.
Dark, demonic forces threaten,
Inspiring fear, demanding worship.
They lurk in Amazonian jungles,
In shiny offices of potentates,
In ivy-league universities,
Prowling even amid the pillars
Of cathedrals and basilicas.

Blessed Lady, Holy Mary,
You who crush the feathered serpent,
Save your children from
His fear, his empty promises,
From his winter’s death.
Bring us your Son,
The Word made flesh in your womb,
The new and everlasting springtime
Of love and peace and joy.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Introducing our Newest Novice...

Sister Marie Immaculee of the Lamb of God

It has been a wonderful day, celebrating the investiture.  Here are more pictures:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Postulant Mary Elizabeth to receive the Holy Habit

We have glad tidings of great joy!  Our Postulant Mary Elizabeth will be clothed in our Holy Habit on November 23rd, Vigil of the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe.  At her reception chapter, Mother Abbess gave us the following exhortation:

  I have been reflecting on many phrases and themes that Father Johnson presented to us during our recent retreat, and one that I would like to share in view of your coming investiture is that our identity has been affirmed in Christ through our Baptism.  We have no need of anyone to applaud us, to praise us, to confirm that we are good people, worthy of love, for in Christ, we know we are the Beloved of God.  We are “Of the Lord.” This is our identity as Christians.  Now, as religious, as Poor Clares, we have another call, intensifying the Baptismal call- a new identity is added to this primary one-we become, you will become, a beloved daughter of our Mother St. Clare, a member of our Holy Order in Spirit and in Truth!  Thanks be to God!
  As with the Sacred Gift of Holy Baptism, this call, this gift is pure unmerited grace-we have done nothing to earn or deserve it.  On the contrary, the opposite is often true-God chooses the lowly, the unworthy, the weak, to be His own, in order that He may be the more glorified and His Mercies may be the greater magnified.
This is confirmed in numerous place in Holy Scripture (“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are”) and in our own experience we know it to be true-He has a preference for the poor, the simple, the weak.

  In Holy Baptism, we are clothed with a white garment to symbolize what has happened interiorly to our soul- we are washed clean in the Blood of Christ, and become Christian.  Similarly with your investiture with the Holy Habit of our Mother St. Clare: a rough, cross-form habit will be placed upon you and headcovering which is pure white, each piece full of meaning. Outwardly we will be able to see that change which has happened interiorly- you are claimed by Christ in a deeper way.  The habit shows who you are  
and to whom you now belong in a more complete way, and will encourage you to put on interiorly that which it signifies.

 As we take Holy Water each day to remind us of our Baptism in Christ, so we take up these precious garments each morning with a prayer to remind us of our special calling to follow the Lord more perfectly: “Make me a religious according to Your Heart, although I am most unworthy to wear this Holy Habit”, etc.  (You have them memorized already, surely.)  I love very much that to each part of the habit is joined a desire for spiritual gifts, directing us to look deeper than the surface value of material things and have a new way of gazing upon the world.  We do not want to strive for those passing things which might capture our hearts for a time, but for those things which last forever.
Again, Scripture teaches us this Truth: “Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:3,4)
St. Paul, the great teacher also says:  “As God’s chosen ones, clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness, meekness and patience” etc… “And above all these put on love…” Truly all of our lives are spent acquiring this Love of Christ and becoming one with Him.

   Now a little word about Christ the King, since you will be clothed on the vigil of this great solemnity:  The cycles of the Liturgy for the Years A, B, & C give us a very rich image of Our Lord and Christ; He is the Good Shepherd, He is the Majestic King, He is the Suffering, Humble Lord, He is the Christ, the First Born of the Dead, He is the Faithful Witness, the Alpha and the Omega, He is the Holy One of God, whose Kingdom is not of this world.  And from the Introit for the Solemn Mass we learn too, that He is the Lamb Who was slain.
   I want to focus on the Shepherd and the Lamb for our purpose today and the similarities of these images.  Both are sacrificial types of our Lord: the Lamb was slain to give Life, abundant Life and to cleanse us with His Blood, so that we might be clothed in white garments and belong to Him forever.  The Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, lays down His life for his sheep.  He tends them with all that he is and has, clothing them, feeding them, shepherding them and defending them, to the point of ultimate sacrifice. This is the Lord we are called to follow and to imitate in sacrificial love; this is the Lord and the King to Whom we are infinitely blessed to belong.
 So, as you prepare now, and we all prepare with you, to belong more fully to this Lord and King, may you strive for those greater gifts with which to adorn your soul, so that the transformation will be complete-deep within your heart and outwardly with the Holy Habit of our Mother St. Clare.

Meanwhile, our Novitiate construction is ALMOST FINISHED!  Pictures will be coming!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Blessed Feast of St. Francis!

It is our custom that the Abbess should give a spiritual conference on the vigil of great feastdays.  Here is our Mother Abbess' reflection for today's feast of Holy Father St. Francis:

   I find very much that the Feast of the Stigmata of our Holy Father St. Francis so well captures his spirit that I have pretty much remained there on the mountain of LaVerna since then, especially during the solemn novena of these days. It was a period of great solitude for our seraphic father and it seemed that he wanted me to learn more about solitude from his own life.  The “dark night” and solitude with illumination is not just Carmelite spirituality, it is very much the spirit of our Father St. Francis.

   Our Father Francis, from his conversion, deeply felt the Spirit’s call to follow in the footsteps of Christ and not be conformed to the spirit of the world. The three-fold opening of the Gospel made clear the path for him to walk.
  In his later years, he also felt the Spirit moving him to share more deeply in the life and even in the death of Christ.  He was led into the desert, the wilderness, of the mountain of LaVerna,
to be alone with the Alone, and to await the revelation of His will.
   When he went to the mountain of LaVerna, it was precisely for the intention of seeking God in solitude and discerning His will for the future.  Francis was bearing a very heavy interior Cross of purification, which you could very well call a darkness which brought him into deep silence and interiority, so much so that he could not be in the presence of his brothers, as he was not his usual joyful self.  He wanted to penetrate the darkness and the pain, or allow God to teach him the meaning of it, and find the grace and strength to persevere.
    Francis went for true solitude, seeking God, not himself, nor did he desire to be isolated from his brethren, because he carried them always in his heart and prayer. .
   The biographers tell more of the sentiments of his heart, those who knew him well, his early companions:  He goes to seek a place of rest and secret solitude; to know in what manner he could cling more perfectly to the Lord God (at this stage in Francis’ life of great conformity to Christ, he still seeks to know how he can be more perfect and love Him more completely!); to bring to complete fulfillment what he had earlier simply and devotedly begun. He was looking for a clear word from God about what he was to do.
   And God did speak, most profoundly, uniquely in the heart and in the flesh of our father Francis. How infinitely good God is!  First He spoke a word of great consolation, peace and sweetness to confirm the heart of Francis in His Love and then He allowed our seraphic father to be all the more perfectly conformed to His Son in the reception of the Sacred Stigmata.
   First God consoled him in a tremendous way: through the vision and the conversation of the seraph, he experienced the majesty and tenderness of God.  St. Bonaventure relates “As he was drawn aloft through ardent longing for God and was praying on the mountainside, he saw what appeared as a seraph with six bright wings gleaming like a fire descending from the heights of heaven.”  The vision of if filled his heart with joy and delight together with compassionate love for Christ nailed to the Cross.  His soul was left aglow with seraphic love, and in his body he bore the wounds of Christ.
“Because of this new and astounding miracle unheard of in times past, Francis came down from the mountain a new man.”
Is this not the fruit of true contemplation?  We are changed, we become more like Christ, and we overflow with compassion and love.  His companion, Brother Leo, said Francis enjoyed consolations from his encounter with God in contemplation for the rest of his days. 
  This unique encounter with Christ was for Francis a strengthening grace, too, so he could endure with patience and even joy the struggles and the trials that were besetting him.
Francis’ intimate communion with God on the holy mountain LaVerna stamped a precise character on his way of following Christ from then on.  And coming forth from this experience he sings of the God he knows more fully:  He composed his “Praises”:
“You are good, you are all good, the highest good
You are love, you are beauty, you are humility

May our prayer so transform us.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Construction Control

Although we are past the completion date (no surprise there!) we are getting toward the end of our construction project.  It is a good thing, for all of us are getting weary and eagerly look forward to returning our cloister home to its usual peace and quiet.  Meanwhile, we do the best we can to survive. Both St. Clare and St. Colette lived through construction, and so can we!

Last week began the hanging of the dry walls which has to be about the messiest part of construction from the view of the inside.  Cutting, “mudding” and sanding create clouds of dust and white footprints everywhere. The new novitiate dorm, being located near the current dorm, has been the special concern of our novitiate Sisters.  Recently, they took extra initiative to try to keep the mess somewhat under control, including ripping up the protective paper floor covering the men had laid down, washing the hall and laying down fresh paper. 

It did not last long. 
But still it was an improvement.

One evening after night prayers, I was on my way to retiring, when I happened to see this sight:

It looked like the workmen had laid out their next day’s work down the hall.  Some enterprising novice decided that the Sisters all needed a warning:

Silence or no silence, I could not help laughing out loud!  I must humbly admit that by the grace of God, I have never been tempted to walk on the walls!  Climbing them…maybe…but never to walk on them!  Humor is a good tonic.  I slept well that night.

May God reward you, our good friends, who have been with us throughout this saga.  Soon we shall be able to show you more beautiful pictures!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Feast of Our Holy Mother St. Clare

Our Aspirant Mariana, first time gardener that she is, successfully grew these sunflowers in St. Clare's garden.  Here they looked like an honor guard for our Seraphic Mother during her novena, until...

  ...Sister Sacristan cut them for the bouquet at the foot of the altar.  They are still there as I write, our 2nd day for celebrating the feast of St. Clare.  I am sure she is as happy as we are that "her" sunflowers were given over to our Eucharistic Lord.

As I was passing by our construction area on Saturday, the vigil of the great feast, I happened to see our Sister Elise engaged in her own construction project: a flower stand.
Since St. Clare' s feast fell on a Sunday, many of our friends were able to attend Holy Mass and celebrate with us.  Here are the petitions we offered on that day:

That St. Clare, who contemplated the face of Christ in the darkness of faith and now lives in the brightness of His glory, may pray for Pope Francis and all Bishops, that they may govern the Church in the light of that same glory.

That faithful believers living in the hope of salvation, may shine as guiding stars on a world lost in the night of atheism and despair.

That through the intercession of St. Clare, those who feel acutely the wasting away of their bodies through any affliction, may not lose heart, but may keep their eyes fixed on Christ who prepares for them an eternal weight of glory.

That all of us gathered here to celebrate the feast of our Mother St. Clare, along with our friends, relatives and benefactors present in spirit and in our hearts, may ever abide in the love of Jesus, and being true branches united to the true Vine, may yield abundant fruit for the kingdom of heaven.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

St. Clare's Novena and Construction

We have begun our novena in honor of St. Clare!  Being still in the midst of our current construction project, it seems natural for us to reflect on our Foundress' experience of building.

When St. Francis brought Clare to the church of San Damiano outside of Assisi, it was not a monastery.  Rather, it was simply a country chapel that had at one time served a hospital.  Its patron, St. Damien, himself an early Roman Martyr, was also a physician.  St. Clare took up residence and soon was joined by a group of like-minded women to live a life dedicated to God in prayer and self-sacrifice.  It was not long before the little chapel with its upstairs attic proved inadequate.  In the picture shown above, you can see the original chapel facade along with the first addition St. Clare built to the right of the original building.  Notice that the rose window ended up off center to the whole.  Looking carefully, the line joining the two buildings up the middle can be seen. Later, she had to build a monastic refectory and infirmary to house her growing community.  It is good to know, as we live through the sights, sounds and smells of construction, that St. Clare lived through the same, minus the power tools and gas run engines!
Here are some photos of our project:

While the men were away, the novitiate went exploring their new dormitory.

We need some gutters and downspouts!

The novice mistress' office in its present state!

August 31st is supposed to be the completion date!  God only knows...Please do know that we remember you all in our prayers to St. Clare as we prepare for her August 11 feastday.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Construction Progress!

A lot has happened since our last post!  Let the pictures tell the story:

Concrete poured and smoothed out to make a lovely floor.

Walls and roof came next.

 Once the shingles were on, the building came alive!

Men working hard in 90 degree weather!

View from the "inside".

Doors being cut out of the original cinder block wall.

So there you have it!  Tomorrow will be an exciting and challenging day for us as the floors will be laid in our newly renovated kitchen area.  That means all kitchen operations will be done in our bakery down the hall for the next 2 days.  We will let you know if we survived.  Pray for us!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sister Chiara Marie makes her First Profession of Vows

I come from the beautiful ceremony of our Sister Chiara Marie's First Holy Profession to share with you some photos.  Above pictured is our new bride along with her formation director, Sister Margaret Mary.

Entrance Procession
Greeting her Family

Veni Creator Spiritus!

The Profession
Reception of the Black Veil
Festive Crown

It was a special joy to have newly ordained Father Dan (far left), Sister Chiara Marie's friend, with us for her day