Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Mary’s House

It almost seems to go without saying that today’s saint, Luke the evangelist, wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament.  Many know that he was also a Greek and a physician.  But did you know it is also thought he was an artist?  And not just any artist, but one who knew our Lady and painted her portrait.  And how many know that the portrait played a key part in the establishment of the second monastery of Dominican nuns founded by Our Holy Father Dominic in Rome?

During the time of St. Dominic, monastic life, like many areas of the Church needed renewal.  Pope Innocent III and his successor, Pope Honorius III were concerned about this and tried to remedy some of the problems, one being the life of nuns in Rome.  Many monasteries were lax in observance; other nuns still lived with their families.  Pope Innocent III tried to remedy these issues by gathering the nuns into one monastery under one rule, but his efforts failed.

As the Dominican Order began to take shape, Pope Honorius III asked St. Dominic to reform the nuns of Rome, not an easy task, but one which he humbly and firmly accepted.  In conversation with the nuns, they were won over by the grace of the Holy Spirit with which he spoke.  Part of the planned reform was to gather the nuns who agreed into one monastery – the Monastery of Saint Sixtus.  To this suggestion, the nuns of Santa Maria in Trastevere hesitated, for they had in their possession a picture of our Lady, held by tradition to have been produced by St. Luke. In the past, when the picture was removed from the church, it would mysteriously reappear in its original place at the monastery.  Dominic proposed that they take the picture with them to the new monastery.  If the picture returned to the old monastery, as it had done in the past, then the nuns could also return.  To this the nuns agreed.  But the picture did not desert them!  It remained in place at the Monastery of Saint Sixtus and so the nuns remained as well, finally firmly established as the second foundation of Dominican nuns.

Just as our Lady watched and prayed over St. Luke and the apostles, and continues to do so over all the faithful, the nuns follow in her example, watching and praying for our Dominican family and for the salvation of souls, that none may be eternally lost.  And as we might imagine the joy Mary felt when one or more of her sons would stop by her house for a visit and to rest, so too we rejoice and share in the rest of our friars when they come to the monastery.

On the solemnity of Our Holy Father Francis, we were blessed to have Father John Maria Devaney of the Eastern Dominican Province celebrate Mass and spend some time visiting in the parlor.  Father John is currently assigned to St. Vincent Ferrer Priory as a hospital chaplain, but he is also involved in radio ministry – the Eastern Province has a radio program which broadcasts on satellite radio.  Short portions of the program are posted to their website.

On October 11th, we were overjoyed to meet our new novice brothers of the Western Dominican Province.  They prayed midday prayer and the rosary with us, then after our midday meal, we met with them in the parlor and got to hear more about them and their vocation stories.  As always, our time was too short, but we parted assuring each other we would be keeping one another in prayer.

Most recently, we had a wonderful visit with Father Daniel Syverstad, O.P., currently assigned as pastor of St. Raymond’s Church here in Menlo Park.  Father Daniel was once Provincial of the Western Province and our vicar and has been a blessing to our community in many ways.

There is great temptation in our culture to think if a person is not visibly productive, they are wasting time, or of less value to society.  But the life and example of Mary shows clearly how wrong this is – that there are more important things than the world we see and touch and hear.  That the things which truly matter are borne and nurtured in the heart and last for eternity.  This is the daily life of the nuns – to bring the things of God into the little things of daily life, to carry in our hearts our Dominican brothers and sisters, to share their joys and sorrows and support their life of preaching for the salvation of souls with our life of prayer and penance.

Do you want to know more about life as a Dominican nun in Mary’s house?  Join us for a “Come and See” Day!

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