Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

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Pro Orantibus – For Those Who Pray

Today we remember an event passed down to us through tradition – the presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple.  The stories passed down through tradition reflect the earliest years of Mary’s life were much like Samuel’s of the Old Testament.  Anne and Joachim were childless, which was a sign of disgrace in that culture.  They prayed to God and He answered their prayer by giving them Mary.  At the age of three, Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, took Mary and presented her to God at the Temple, where she remained until (or shortly before) her betrothal to Joseph.

Artists have long painted this scene with a joyful Mary climbing the fifteen steps to the temple, where the high priest waits in astonishment at her mature demeanor for such a little child – her footsteps are graceful and sure and she doesn’t look back.  It is also said she danced with joy in God’s presence once she reached the top.  Her parents see her off at the bottom of the steps, faces full of joy and gratitude for their child, yet laced with sorrow at the parting.

Today is also the day dedicated by the Church to celebrate World Day of Cloistered Life, an ecclesial event for all Catholics to commemorate the hidden lives of cloistered and monastic religious.  Like Mary, cloistered religious have left all to dwell in the house of God and seek His face on behalf of His people.  Special promotion of this annual celebration is being coordinated in the United States by the Institute on Religious Life.  They have suggested some wonderful ways to honor the event, including prayer (participating in a novena, offering up Masses, etc.), encouragement (writing letters to contemplative communities, visiting them, calling to thank them, etc.), and material support (financial and in-kind donations).

A few years ago at a general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis reminded the Church, “Let us give thanks to the Lord for the powerful testimony of cloistered life.” He also urged the faithful to lend their spiritual and material support to these brothers and sisters of ours “so that they can carry out their important mission.”  Our community is grateful for all of you who have so generously supported us with the generous giving of prayers, time, talents, and treasure.  We humbly ask for your continued support, as you help make possible the life we live for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.  Deo gratias!

Prayer in Support of the Cloistered Life

Eternal Father, We praise and thank you for those sisters and brothers who have embraced the gift of the cloistered and monastic life. Their prayerful presence is indispensable to the Church’s life and mission, and is the foundation of the New Evangelization. As we celebrate World day of Cloistered life, let us honor the holiness and glory of the Blessed Virgin. May she, who was presented in the Temple, intercede so that many young people might dedicate themselves entirely to Your divine service by hidden lives of contemplative prayer and selfless sacrifice. May all of us be mindful of the spiritual and material needs of those who commit their lives to seeking God by fixing their gaze on those things which are eternal. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

For more information and resources, including a meditation for a Holy Hour, visit CloisteredLife.com.

The Eucharist is at the very core of the contemplative life. Indeed, the offering of your lives gives you a particular share in the paschal mystery of death and resurrection present in the Eucharist. 

VDQ, no. 22

 

Under Construction!

Watch your step and don’t mind the dust in the novitiate!  As our novitiate has grown, we’ve had the opportunity to make a few much needed improvements to the novitiate common room and dormitory.

First, let there be light!  Some time ago, we were alarmed at a strange “hot” smell coming from somewhere in the monastery.  The odor was quickly traced back to the novitiate common room where one of the old ballast light fixtures was beginning to smoke.  Thankfully, nothing was damaged, but over 1/3 of the lighting was lost in the novitiate common room as the electrician was unable to fix it – the lights would have to be replaced.

The novitiate was thrilled when the day finally came when we could have new lighting installed!  But then we discovered the new, sleek lighting did not cover all the ceiling the old light had covered, and in one patch, ceiling plaster had crumbled, leaving a hole.  Time to patch and paint!  And while we are at it, let’s rearrange the furniture and work spaces…

Now the novitiate has a very comfortable common room for work, class and recreating, with enough light to make sunglasses tempting!

But we didn’t stop there.  Our novitiate storage room also needed some organization.  “Sisters, we have some scrap wood – how good are your carpentry skills?” Our Prioress, Sister Maria Christine asked the novitiate.  One of the beautiful things about monastic life is that you may have skills and talents that are “hidden”, but which are called forth for the common good.  Our novice, Sister Mary Francis did an amazing job of designing and building our new storage system with limited tools and supplies, and with the helping hands of her novitiate sisters.

With these projects under our belt, the novitiate sisters are looking around the monastery and wondering, what home and garden improvements can we tackle next?  Cultivating plant cuttings?  Redesigning one of the gardens?  Fixing some of the wobbly furniture and sticking doors?  Repairing our planting shed?  Let’s do it!

The Feast of a Prioress

Last month, we had the joy of celebrating the feast day of our prioress, Sister Maria Christine of the Cross, O.P. in an extra special way according to our monastery’s custom. In the monastery, feasts are generally recognized with greater festivity than birthdays, and the feast of the prioress is a nearly all-day celebration.

As Dominicans, we honor our prioress as primus inter pares (first among equals) in accordance with St. Dominic’s vision of a divinely inspired form of democratic government that fosters maturity, trust, openness to dialogue, collaboration and teamwork. All of this is evidenced in the willingness of the prioress and her sisters to listen to one another, and be attentive to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit.  The prioress holds first place in the community, but before God, is the servant of all.  Chosen by God through a free election, she receives the grace to ensure the flourishing of both the common good and the personal vocation of each sister. It falls to her to uphold discipline, to foster the unity of charity, constantly promote the contemplative life of the nuns, to “admonish the unruly, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, and be patient toward all,” and diligently care for regular observance.

In our monastery, we foster the fraternal bond of charity through liturgical worship, personal prayer and meditation, study, work, recreation, and regular chapters—meetings led by the prioress to renew and develop the life of the community. These pillars of the monastic life are safeguarded by our prioress. We are indeed grateful to our prioress, Sr. Maria Christine, for her generous self-donation, and for her many sacrifices, both hidden and manifest. So, with great appreciation for her service and in honor of her office, we pull out all the stops to celebrate her feast day.

The morning began with beautiful liturgical worship and a solemn Mass, followed by delicious meals and entertainment by the novitiate featuring a variety of talents in drama, music and the arts. This year, the novitiate hosted dinner in their “newly renovated” common room.  A wonderful Italian feast was donated by friends of the community.  After dinner, the novitiate entertained the community with a skit entitled, “I Love Sister Mary Lucy”, inspired by the antics of the sitcom, “I Love Lucy.”  The show included a waltz performance interpreting the election of a prioress and an original composition by one of our sisters describing the responsibilities of a prioress.

Then, Sister Maria Christine was presented with many gifts, some made by the sisters, some given by friends of the community in her honor, all useful to her and/or the community.

After Vespers, the celebration moved outside for a luau picnic of barbequed ribs (also generously prepared and donated by friends) and macaroni salad.  We ended with our customary night prayer (Compline) with a procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our holy father, St. Dominic.  Truly a wonderful day of gratitude and rejoicing with and for our prioress.  Deo gratias!

 

October “Come-and-See” Day: Recap (with Pics!)

A big thank you to everyone who gave their time, prayers, and resources for our October “Come-and-See” Day – it was amazing!  One attendee commented at the end of the day, “Thank you!  I have visited a number of communities and this Come and See Day has been far the most informative and beneficial to my discernment!  You’ve given a lot of great information that will be very useful to me…”

After Mass, Divine Office and breakfast, Father Reginald Martin, O.P. gave the first talk on Dominican study.  Study is one of the four pillars of Dominican life, but the practice of study for a Dominican is not what most people think!  Father shared great insights into the place study has in Dominican life.  For more information about Dominican study, you can also check out one of our past blog posts here and here.

Two of our nuns, Sister Joseph Marie, O.P. and Sister Marie Dominic, O.P. also presented different aspects of discerning God’s will and making life decisions (including tools for discernment), and about the religious vocation and in particular the vocation of a cloistered Dominican nun.

After lunch, attendees spent time with the community, hearing highlights from their vocation stories and asking questions about the life.  Finally, as the day began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (and we had time for prayer and adoration in the middle), we ended the day with Vespers and Benediction.

Again, a big thank you to everyone for your prayers and support.  And please keep the young women who attended this “Come and See” Day in your prayers.  May God grant them peace and joy and they continue to discern His will for their lives!  And if you missed out last weekend, make plans to join us on January 21st!

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!