Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas at Bethlehem Monastery of Poor Clares 2014

Here are some Christmas Scenes 
from around Bethlehem Monastery

Our Choir Sanctuary

Nativity Scene in Our Cloister Courtyard

Nativity Scene in our Monastic Refectory

Stairwell Decorations

Looking into the Refectory

Novitiate Tree with Family Gifts

Novitiate Nativity Scene

Cheyenne's Cell is Decorated and Ready for her Entrance on Friday!

Cheyenne's Cell Crib

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pre-Christmas at Bethlehem Monastery

Poor Clares do not decorate for Christmas until the very last minute, or just about!  On Saturday, the novitiate went out with wheel barrows, clippers and saws to cut our evergreens for Decorating Day, the eve of Christmas Eve.  Tomorrow we head out again to collect holly berries.  Meanwhile, we continue to meditate on our Blessed Lady and her Holy Child:

My Mother

Better is she than the freshly fallen snow
That for all its whiteness is flaky cold
Lovelier far than the fragrant lily bloom
Whose pure petals blight and brown too soon.

Beyond even linen fuller bleached and pressed
That shrinks and wrinkles at the least caress,
She is most like milk, warm from the breast,
Strongly smooth as ivory, yet sweet and mild,
Purest good for press of a precious child.

Blessed Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Before Her True Image

Advent is always a Marian season, but never more so than in the week we celebrate two of her great feasts.  Last Monday we contemplated our Immaculate Mother, patroness of our Country, our Poor Clare Federation and our Franciscan Order.  Then on Friday we celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of all the Americas and of our own monastery.  She is truly “ours” by many titles.  Yet, most precious of all her names is that of “Mother”.  We love to call upon her as we look at her miraculous picture imprinted on St. Juan Diego’s tilma and reproduced in countless pictures throughout the world.  Almost every room in our home is graced by her lovely face.  Here is a poem by one of our Sisters who has a tender Marian devotion:

Before Her True Image

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rose of Paradise,
We thirst for healing waters of your grace
And find compassion flowing from your eyes.
Generations have longed to see your face.

            That men might know your love you came.
            We have no need to search beyond the skies:
            Your image here makes our exile home,
            Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rose of Paradise

No art of human hands that could reveal
All that this portrait speaks, these features trace:
A mother-with might of God at your appeal.
We thirst for saving waters of your grace.

            Fountain of life and hope of humankind,
            You hold in fold of hands and vigilant gaze
            Your children, all who turn in trust to find
            That warm compassion flowing from your eyes.

Fairest flower of earth and Queen of Paradise—
Alone Immaculate of all our sinful race—
Bring us to the fullness reflected in your eyes.

Happy the generations who see your face.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

St. Nickolas Novitiate Workshop

One of the great things about being a Franciscan is that our charism includes in its spiritual genes a childlike simplicity.  Such is evident in our yearly celebration of the feast of St. Nicholas.  All Poor Clare children residing at Bethlehem Monastery in Barhamsville write a letter to St. Nicholas (whom we familiarly call “Holy Man”), asking him for 3 gifts.  We also give suggestions to him regarding what he could give to other Sisters and offer our assistance in the making of such gifts.  Mother Abbess collects these letters and with the help of Mother Vicaress, makes arrangements with “Holy Man” for his feastday.  All the Sisters then become “Holy Man Helpers”, little elves who work diligently to make St. Nicholas’ feast a day to remember.

This year, the novices and postulants were given the assignment to sew a tunic (the garment we wear under the habit) for each of the Sisters.  To make this project especially challenging, their novice mistress told them to use old tunic “parts” left behind in the cupboard by unnamed former tunic makers.  I am pleased to report that said postulants and novices rose admirably to the challenge!  Other genuine, novitiate-made gifts included several rolls of homemade habit tape, a set of curtains for the library and several pillowcases. 

I must admit that the novitiate common room looks like a disaster area.  Or perhaps you could say that it looks “lived in”.  Lots of living, working and loving has gone on here!  But it is all worth it as we give joy to our Sisters with our simple gifts.  We will get cleaned up next week.  Promise!