Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Celebration, O.P.-Style

FrCorwin at Elevation Mass of Thanksgiving (2015.08.08 IMG_3582

There exists a tension in Dominican life that was given to us by our Holy Father Dominic. As an Order, we are contemplative and seek God in solitude…and then we go out “two-by-two” and preach the Gospel as apostles. We embrace a life of strict poverty…but also make use of cutting edge technology when it is most fitting and necessary for our preaching and teaching apostolate. We live a daily life of silence, penance and austerity…yet our recreation times and celebrations are filled with joy and laughter shared together. How are these things brought together in one Order?

When St. Dominic first began the Order, he was working to eradicate a heresy that had taken hold in southern France and other parts of Europe. The heresy taught that the spiritual world was created by a “good god” and thus good, and the material world was created by an “evil god” and thus evil. This dualism wreaked havoc in people’s lives. Carried to its logical conclusion, it denied the Incarnation and death of Jesus Christ (thus our redemption), taught people should not marry and have children (because you are trapping spiritual souls in a material body and world), and suicide was laudable (because you are freeing your soul from the material world). Because they shunned the material world, leaders of this heresy lived very poorly, owned nothing, fasted extensively and walked from town to town barefoot. This example resonated with the local population, many of whom were suffering from poverty due to the poor economic conditions.

St. Dominic, his bishop Diego, and the other bishops, priests, and monks who were trying to share with the people the true Gospel message freely taught the world God created is truly good – he made the beauty that surrounds us, the food and drink that sustains us, and our bodies to work, play and share in the goodness of His creation. Yet, they embraced the “apostolic life” – traveling on foot, living poorly, etc. – to show that there is something better and greater: God Himself.

However, St. Dominic also knew that God wants us to take joy in the good things He provides and he knew how to celebrate with his sons and daughters. It was not uncommon for Dominic to spend the day traveling and preaching, and arrive at a priory or monastery late at night. One night, he arrived at the monastery after everyone had gone to bed. Nonetheless, he’d been blessed with a very fruitful expedition and wanted to share the news with the friars and nuns. So, he rang the bell and roused everyone from sleep, had the friars brought from the local priory, and instructed the nuns to pour a cup of wine as he was thirsty. All gathered in the parlor and listened with eagerness and joy to Dominic’s news and stories and rejoiced together at God’s provision. He drank from the cup, then passed it to his brothers. The celebration continued to the early morning hours as the cup of wine was passed among all the friars, then to the nuns, all drinking their fill, the cup never running dry.

On the solemnity of our Holy Father Dominic, we celebrated God’s goodness and the life and example of Dominic in true Dominican style. No, there was not a repeat of the miracle mentioned above, but we did have unending joy! Our day began with prayer and liturgy, beginning with the first hours of the Divine Office, then Mass shortly before noon. We were doubly blessed as it was also a Mass of Thanksgiving for recently ordained Fr. Corwin Low, O.P. (it is custom that our friars come to the monastery sometime during their first year of ordination to offer a Mass of Thanksgiving and give the nuns a first priestly blessing), and concelebrated by our recently retired chaplain, Fr. Eugene, and Fr. Emmanuel, who was recently assigned to Stanford University.

2015.08.09 OHF Dominic Fr Corwin blessing SJM IMG_3601 (WEB)

Receiving Father’s priestly blessing

After Mass, we shared a leisurely visit with some of our brothers from St. Raymond of Peñyafort’s parish in Menlo Park, as well as Fr. Corwin and Br. Gregory (who served for Fr. Corwin at the Mass).

Then after Vespers, our community retired to the back patio for a barbeque of hamburgers and fresh corn on the cob, ending with sundae cones – all of which were a wonderful treat. But the best part was the stories and laughter we shared together throughout the day with our friends, brothers, and each other.

2015.08.09 Back Patio Grilling IMG_3644 (WEB)

2015.08.09 Back Patio Grilling02 IMG_3638 (WEB)

Oh…the smell of freshly grilled corn!

As day drew to a close at Compline, peaceful silence wrapped us like a warm blanket and contentment brought smiles and sighs. It is good to be a Dominican contemplative nun. Very good, indeed.

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