Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

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Not Your Usual Music From Religious!

When we hear a venerable religious community has released a new album, the odds are good the music style of that album will be chant and polyphony.  So we were surprised to open a package from our Eastern Dominican Province friars and see an album entitled, “The Hillbilly Thomists”; pictured on the cover is a group of friars in white habits, holding various musical instruments – guitars and banjos, fiddles and clarinets, oh my!

But why not?  As the album liner notes explain, “Traditional bluegrass music is playful and energetic; along with American folk music, it often contains explicitly theological themes: belief in Christ, the goodness of life, the pain of unrequited love, the finality of death and hope in eternal life.  It is a traditional southern form of testimony to the presence of grace in the human heart.”  And hitting play on the CD, we were far from disappointed.

Most of the songs are familiar to many of us and treasured by all Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, young or old.  Yet, while remaining comforting and familiar (particularly for those of us who grew up with them), these classics are rendered in a fresh way.  From the opening count off of a lively rendering of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, to a toe-tapping “Saint Anne’s Reel”, the heart is raised up (we dare you to keep your feet still!).  Slower hymns and ballads, such “Angel Band” and “Steal Away” poignantly give expression to the soul’s longing for eternal happiness.

Brother Justin Bolger, O.P. has given “Amazing Grace” a new a cappella arrangement with tight harmonies and the album includes one of his original compositions: “I’m a Dog” – apropos for an album by Dominicans (a dog holding a torch in its mouth is associated with St. Dominic and the Dominican Order, and a play on the Latin for “Dominican” is often rendered as “Hounds of the Lord”).  And the song is truly Dominican – for only a Dominican could use the word “desiccation” with such a fun, catchy tune.  The lyrics also include a few other word plays and a bridge with bottomless depths of meaning.

If you like good music, well-performed instrumentation and vocals, and that speaks to the human experience as it yearns for the eternal, check out this latest offering from Dominicana Records.  Whether Protestant, Catholic, or “not religious but spiritual,” young or old, this album speaks to all and is exceptionally done.

The Greatest Adventure – Come and See!

With a new year comes potential for new opportunities, new adventures!  What greater adventure is there than to seek God and His loving plan for your life?  If you are a single, Catholic woman between the ages of 18 and 38, join us on Saturday, January 20, 2018 for a “Come and See” Day.  Our Mass celebrant and guest speaker is Father Michael Augustine Amabisco, O.P., prior of Saint Albert Priory in Oakland, California.  His talk is entitled “God’s Process”.  As part of our Come and See Day, attendees experience a taste of Dominican life, with Mass, Divine Office, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, and will hear presentations from the nuns, and have opportunity to speak with the nuns and hear some of their vocation stories.

Father Michael Augustine entered the Catholic Church as a college student.  In the seven years he’s been a priest for the Western Dominican Province, he’s served in parishes, campus ministry and now as Prior of the House of Studies.  “I love my life as a Dominican friar.  Never a dull moment, and God provides the graces I need to respond to His call.”

For more information about our Come and See Day and to register, contact Sister Joseph Marie, O.P. at vocations@nunsmenlo.org .

Novitiate Fun…Caption It Contest!

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Holy Innocents.  In the monastery, this feast is traditionally celebrated as a feast day for the novitiate.  So, in the afternoon, the novitiate sisters celebrated their feast with extra fun and games, then a supper party in the evening.

Joy always increases when it is shared, so here’s our invitation to share in our fun and joy!  Submit a caption for the picture below before we ring in the New Year for the chance to receive a Bethlehem olivewood rosary, handmade by our sisters.  These rosaries are also now available in our giftshop.

Merry Christmas from the Nuns!

Merry Christmas!

May God grant you and your loved ones peace and joy this Christmas season!

It is a tradition for us to hold a Joyous Chapter on December 23rd, in anticipation of Christmas.  Gathering in the chapter hall, the community prays Compline (the night office of the Church), which includes hearing the martyrology, the Gospel from the Mass of Christmas, and a reflection from one of the sisters – usually the youngest sister (in religion).  This year’s reflection was given by Sister Amata Marie, which we also share with you below.

 

GOD’S WAY IS NOT OUR WAY!

And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)

Looking at the manger scene, one has to humbly acknowledge that God’s way is not our way! Who would have thought the long awaited Messiah of the chosen people will be born in a stable?  Who would have thought the first one to be presented at the court of the Infant King would be the lowly, despised shepherds?  Who would have thought the Christ would set men free just by “the Truth”?  Who would have thought that God will save mankind by embracing the horrible and disputable death on the cross?  It is definitely God’s way through and through.  Throughout salvation history, countless patriarchs, prophets, judges, kings, and saints proclaimed and pointed to these contradictory signs.

The account of Christmas must be one of God’s most famous mixed-up-story of contradiction.  When Jesus was presented at the Temple, this was what Simeon prophesied about Him: He blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (Luke 2:34).

Tonight, we heard Saint Luke mentioned “a sign.”  What is the sign the angel gave to the shepherds to help them identify their Savior?  And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”  

An infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger!  What kind of sign is that for a Mighty Savior and King?  It might have been very well said that when Jesus enters a house, He turns things upside-down.  Israel cried out for a mighty warrior to deliver them, God sent them an infant: “a little child to guide them” (Is. 11:6).  Our Savior began his public ministry as a most ordinary man; so ordinary, in fact, that when Nathaniel was told about Him, Nathaniel exclaimed: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46)

God’s way is not our way!  He often “chose[s] the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong, and the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something” (1 Cor 1:27-29).  This is what our blessed Mother must have deeply felt when she lifted her voice in the Magnificat.

So what does Jesus really wish us to learn from this Gospel’s account?  Let us look again at the sign:

AN INFANT: Why did the Son of God choose to make himself known as a tiny, little baby in a manger?  The long awaited Messiah, the King of kings, Lord of lords, becomes a tiny baby:  a complete sign of weakness and helplessness.  The Eternal Word of God became a speechless baby.  For what, if not to teach us humility and obedience?  That is just His way.

WRAPPED IN SWADDLING CLOTHES:  Swaddling clothes: a piece of cloth belongs to the poor.  He, who adorns the magnificent sky, and beautiful flowers on earth such that “not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them” (Lk12:27).  Yet, he allowed Himself to be wrapped in swaddling clothes!  For what, if not to teach us the spirit of poverty?

Concerning clothing, St. Maximus of Turin said: “When the birthday of an emperor of this world is celebrated, his generals and princes and soldiers, arrayed in silk garments and girt with precious belts worked with shining gold, seek to enter the king’s presence; but “Christ our king does not demand splendid clothing so much as loving souls.  He does not look at bodily ornaments but considers the hearts.” (Sermons of St. Maximus of Turin, # 60).  That is just Jesus’ way.

AND LYING IN A MANGER:  Of all the places, why choose a manger?

How does the God of the universe, who provides every extravagant thing for his creatures, not allow Himself a most fundamental and basic human need – decent shelter?  A manger is a feeding trough for animal!  It is definitely not fit for human usage, let alone a crib for Mary’s tender baby!  Indeed, “fox have dens and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  From the very moment of His birth to his death, Jesus completely “emptied Himself” for our sake.  He became poor to make us rich.  For what, if not to show us the meaning of true love?  That is just so Jesus’ way!

We must heed Advent’s urgent message: “Be ready! Be watchful! Be alert!” (Mk 13:33).  We know that there are three comings of the Lord; the third lies between the other two.  At the First Coming, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, He indeed turned things upside down.  The shepherds were astounded when they beheld the tiny poor, homeless Savior; the wise men were utterly at a loss when they paid homage to the little King in the cave.  But at the Second Coming, Jesus will set everything back to their rightful place. We have His assurance when He said: “when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him” (Mt 25:31).  It would be His Third Coming that really keeps us pondering and anticipating.  He truly comes to us every day.  Yet at each Christmas, what we are reminded to get ready for is how Jesus manifests Himself to us in our daily lives.

God’s signs of love are all around us.  Let us beg the Holy Spirit to grant us a clear, unclouded vision so we can recognize Our Sweet Jesus in whatever forms He chooses to come to us.  Let us adopt the childlike spirit of the shepherds so we may have room for God’s surprises; let us develop the wonder and openness of the Wise men to behold and understand what God wants us to see in the mystery of Christmas.  With Our Lady’s help, let us offer our hearts, no matter how ragged, dreary and narrow, as a dwelling place for Jesus.  He wants to turn it into a heavenly Paradise!  Let us be at awe and inflamed with love for Jesus whenever we behold him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.

Shout for Joy and Do Not Fear…

Decemeber 21 – O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!

Readings: Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zephaniah 3:14-18a, Ps 33, Luke 1:39-45

Mary set off in haste to the hill country. It is not that she hurried in order to verify the words of the angel, but rather because she believed and fully accepted his words and the sign God had offered her. She realized that she might be of use to her dear Elizabeth during the remaining months of seclusion.

Truly Mary was a handmaiden at heart. She hastened to serve as if she could already hear the words of her beloved Son: “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” Mary also went to rejoice with Elizabeth in anticipation of Saint Paul’s exhortation to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. What can increase your gladness better than sharing it with someone who is truly happy for you? That Mary had just received a far greater blessing only increased her ability to genuinely share in Elizabeth’s happiness and in turn to receive Elizabeth’s joy for her. Together they sing a new song of gladness and thanksgiving to the God who saw fit to remove the disgrace from all mankind by sending his only Begotten Son born of a woman.

Hark! my lover comes leaping like a gazelle. Shout for joy and do not fear, the Lord God is in our midst!