Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Wonder of The Immaculata

Painting by Sr. Joseph Marie, O.P.


 Who then are you, O Immaculate Conception?
 
Not Adam, formed out of the dust of the earth (Gen. 2,7). Not Eve molded from Adam’s rib (Gen. 2,21). Not the Incarnate Word, who exists before all ages, and of whom we should use the word “conceived” rather than “conception”. Humans do not exist before their conception, so we might call them created “conceptions.” But you, O Mary, are different from all other children of Eve. They are conceptions stained by original sin; whereas you are the unique, Immaculate Conception. 
(St. Maximilian Kolbe.  Sketch: Feb. 17, 1941, as found in Manteau-Bonamy, O.P.  Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit)
 
During the last five days, our community was on our annual Advent silence retreat so as to spend more time in solitude, prayer, and meditation.  During this time, I thought of our Blessed Mother and how she would be the perfect companion, especially during this time of waiting for the Light of the world to come, for she once lived in this period of joyful waiting and hopeful expectation centuries ago.  I became so fascinated by the Marian teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Maximilian Kolbe and I spent my retreat diving more deeply into this wondrous transcendent love and mercy of God, our Creator, who has given us so many unmerited blessings and graces through our Blessed Mother.
 
In the Mass today we heard the recounting of the story of the Annunciation where the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary as the Virgin who is “full of grace,” and Mary was greatly troubled and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. And when the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and bear a son who will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,  Mary questioned as to how can this be?  The Angel assured Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. (Lk. 1:28 - 32)  
   
Wall painting by our deceased Sister,
Sr. Mary Agnes, O.P.

Centuries after the Annunciation, we heard from the same Virgin’s lips at Lourdes as she revealed her identity to the whole world by telling Bernadette: “Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou…I am the Immaculate Conception.”  Based on the teachings of the Church, God preserved Mary from original sin at the time when she was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne and filled her with sanctifying grace that normally comes with baptism.  But one might wonder as to the how…why…and what is the profound meaning behind Mary’s exceptional identity…the Immaculata or the Immaculate One.
 
Let us turn to our Brother Thomas Aquinas who teaches that Mary was not only sanctified in the womb but also had always been  preserved from every sin, mortal and venial.   St. Thomas teaches that God prepares and endows the ones he chooses for some particular job so that they are able to fulfill it; and since God entrusted Mary with the office of the Mother of God, she received the full intensity of grace as she would bear within her womb the author of grace.  This is the meaning of the Angel’s greeting, "Hail Mary full of grace! The Lord is with you."   Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit from the very moment of her conception.  This profound loving union is a reflection of life and love of the Holy Trinity
 
Drawn from the fact that the Father begets the Son known as "generation",  and the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son known as "spiration,"  St. Maximilian Kolbe further teaches us that the Spirit is the divine “conception” that springs from their love. Among human beings the wife takes her husband’s name because she belongs to him and is one with him…the source of new life, “with how much greater reason should the name of the Holy Spirit, who is the divine Immaculate Conception, be the title of her in whom God lives as uncreated Love, the principle of life in the whole supernatural order of grace?”  In other words, The Saint is saying that this "eternal" Immaculate Conception, which is the Holy Spirit, created divine life in Mary's womb and made her the "human" Immaculate Conception!

So for all the love and mercy the Father has for us, let us give joyful thanks and praises this day as we honor the Immaculate Conception, and in unity with our Holy Mother Church we pray:
 
Father,
the image of the Virgin is found in the Church.
Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared
and a love that never knew sin,
for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception.
Trace in our actions the lines of her love,
in our hearts her readiness of faith.
Prepare once again a world for your Son
who lives and reigns with you the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.
 
(Alternate Opening Prayer from the Office of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Extravagance of Divine Love


The term Advent comes from the Latin word Aventus and can be translated as coming, arrival or presence.  It is then very fitting that our holy Mother Church designated Advent as the first season of the new Liturgical Year. In understanding that God is very near, we feel strengthened to continue facing the challenges of life on our journey of faith throughout the year. 
 
Yet, it is only in stillness, silence and attentiveness that we are able to sense the presence of God manifested in many different ways and circumstances of our life.  And how does God come to us?  “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)  This is the wonderful and unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God that should make our heart burn with profound gratitude each time we contemplate the love of God

St. John tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life." (Jn 3:16).  In his commentary on the Gospel of St. John, our Brother Thomas Aquinas teaches us that the cause of all our good is the Lord and divine love.  For to love is to will good to someone.  And it is because of his great love that God gives us the good of glory, and this love of God is the greatest for the following reasons:
 
First, God’s love is the greatest because of the person loving...it is God who loves, and infinitely.  Thus he says, God so loved.
 
Secondly, God’s love is the greatest because of the condition of the one who is loved; that is, man, who is of the world and living in sin.  St. Paul writes: God shows his love for us, because while we were still his enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Rom 5:8)  Hence he says, the world. 
 
Thirdly, God’s love is the greatest because of the greatness of his gifts, for love is shown by a gift; as Gregory says: “The proof of love is given by action.”  But God gave us the greatest of gifts, his only begotten Son; his natural Son, consubstantial, not adopted, to prove the enormity of his love.  St. Paul again writes that "God did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for all of us.” (Rom 8:32)  Therefore he says, that he gave his only begotten Son.
 
Fourthly, God’s love is the greatest because of the greatness of its fruit, which is eternal life.  Accordingly he says, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life.  This he obtained for us through his death on the Cross.

But did God give us his Son with the intention that he should die on the Cross?  Indeed says St. Thomas, that God gave Him to us for this purpose. The Son of God freely willed from eternity to assume flesh and to suffer for us.  He has a divine will (along with a human will) that is totally in union with the Father's.  
 
Truly, our God is an awesome God!
 
So  next time when we experience a personal Advent, a visit from God, whether it be a happy occasion or an afflicted situation, let us continually give thanks to God for He is a "mad Lover" as our Sister Catherine of Siena tells us. He wants to come to us, live with us, share our life with us and desires that we share our life with him in whatever state of life we found ourselves in.
 
Let us conclude this meditation with a verse from the Stanbrook Abbey's hymn that we've been singing each night at Compline:
 
With all who wait with longing
give thanks that never cease
For Him whom God is sending
to visit us in peace.  


A Blessed and Holy Advent to All!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nunsmenlo Went On A Pilgrimage!

We recently went on a pilgrimage to the lands of our founder St. Dominic.  The best part of the trip was that we didnt have to leave the monastery to do so!  It was totally a virtual and spiritual journey with one of our most charismatic and warm-hearted Dominican Sisters, Sister Ann Willits, O.P. 



Sister Ann is an active member of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary in Wisconsin. She has served as a General Council and Vicaress General for her congregation, and as a high school principal and teacher for many years.  Sister has gone many times to St. Dominic's birthplace, Caleruega, Spain.  She traveled to Palencia where he studied, and to the lands where he travelled and preached.  She also went to the spot where he had the vision of the "signadou" or the sign of God indicating where he should establish the first monastery for the nuns of the Order.


Even though we know well the history of our Order, Sr. Ann made the history alive through her storytelling, accompanied by a slide show.  After four days of listening to Sister Ann and engaging in discussions and conversations, our hearts were once again enkindled with the love for truth and the missionary zeal of our holy father Saint Dominic.  Sister challenged us to think about the apostolicity of our  lives as enclosed nuns and ways in which we could strengthen the family bonds with all the members of our Dominican family,  the active Sisters, the Dominican Laity and the Dominican volunteers.  

We were reminded of our former Master General Carlos' hope and conviction that the renewal of the Order will come through the strengthening of the contemplative element of our Dominican life, along with the preaching of the whole family centered on the fraternal bond between the friars and nuns sharing the fruits of their contemplation.  Prayer, study, the vows, and the liturgy are at the center of our life; and by reason of profession, authority is at the heart of Dominican government where each professed member has a share of responsibility in the governmental structure.  This style of governance is very unique to our Dominican Order  We were encouraged to live the charisms of our holy father Dominic, his charity, obedience, trust in Divine Providence and his love for souls.   


We all look forward to our next encounter with Sister Ann, who is truly an  enlightened and joyful Dominican after the heart of our holy father Dominic.  We wish Sister Ann abundant blessings on her many journeys as an itinerant preacher.  

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Visit from a Wise Friar of the East!

This past Sunday we enjoyed a brief visit from our Dominican Father, Father Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. of the Eastern Dominican Province, the Province of St. Joseph.  Father came to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT) in Berkeley to discuss the insights that Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas can offer  to scientists today concerning the nature of interactions in biological systems.  
Father Nicanor is a brilliant young friar who has an undergraduate degree in engineering (Bioengineering) from the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in microbiology from MIT. He has been a Scientific Advisor to the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly since 2001 and currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Biology at Providence College, RI.


Living in this chaotic world of today, many people, young and old, easily get lost in the pursuit of Truth.  Father Nicanor possesses a wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit, the source of all truth.  May the Holy Spirit continue to shower upon Father Nicanor all the graces and wisdom he needs to guide his students to see things from God's perspective.  Only when one lives and acts according to God's eternal law will one possess true happiness and taste the goodness of the Lord.  


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Good Must We Do To Gain Eternal Life?


He has loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood. (Rev. 1:5)

Scriptures tell us that through Christ's passion and death, we have been delivered from the debt of punishment due to sin.  We have been "purchased and at a price," the price is the Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb unspotted and undefiled. (1 Peter 1:18) The apostle Peter also tells us that through Christ's passion, we receive the spirit of adoption of sons and become heirs of the immortal glory.  That is truly the Good News of salvation!

Still, in order to secure the effect of Christ's passion, it is not surprising that most of us found ourselves asking the same question that the young man once asked of Jesus.   Jesus' answer was very simple: "
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." (Mt. 19:17)  Then Jesus further emphasizes: "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

As religious striving for perfection, we're following our Lord's command in doing just that.  However as wayfarers, clothed in the weaknesses of the flesh and traveling on the path of life that is filled with dangers, we need help for left to ourselves we cannot do it.  This is where the communion of Saints is so efficacious: the Saints intercede for us before thethrone of God; the holy souls that are being sanctified pray for us; we can pray for one another and for the holy souls who can intercede for us but cannot help themselves.  This month of November is a wonderful month that reminds us that as Christians, we are not alone on our pilgrimage of life.


Our Cloister of the Dead

Our Chaplain, Fr. Eugene Sousa, O.P. likes to remind us once in a while that if one is to die, the best Order to die in is the Dominican Order.  This is because after a person's death, she or he will be remembered daily in prayers by all the members of the Order.  This advantage does not apply only to Dominicans but also to all their relatives, friends, and benefactors.

Each year, a Mass is to be celebrated for the deadon February 7th for the anniversary of fathers and mothers, on September 5th for the anniversary of relatives, friends and benefactors of the Order, and on November 8th for the anniversary of brothers and sisters.  The souls of our dear ones
 are being remembered at the beginning of each meeting, and at least once a day before meal the De Profundis (a Lament of the Penitential Psalm 130) is recited for the deceased brothers, sisters and benefactors of the Order.

Our Constitutions also requires that once a week the community participates in the conventual Mass as a suffrage for the deceased and we are to recite the seven penitential psalms or a third of the rosary for the dead.  Besides these suffrages for the dead, on the death of each Sister, our Monastery arranges that a set of Gregorian Masses be celebrated for her soul.



This year we remembered our deceased brothers and sisters in a special way.  Our community planned to have a procession to the Vault where our sisters are buried.  However, due to the change of weather and the darkness which accompanies the daylight saving change, we had to process into the Chapter Hall where we sang, prayed and recalled the name of each of our deceased sisters along with the year they entered Eternal Life.  



So as we unite with you in praying for all the faithful departed who have gone before us and especially during this special month for the holy souls, we recommend to you our beloved sisters who had dedicated their lives to God's service and His people.  As we pray for them, may they remember us in their prayers!




O God, by whose tender mercy the souls of the faithful find rest, may all your servants and handmaids who are sleeping in Christ here and everywhere be reconciled to You through the forgiveness of their sins so that once freed from all guilt they may rejoice with you forever.  Through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fraternal Visits

A little history of the Dominican Nuns and our connection to our Friars...

The Nuns of the Order of  Preachers came into being when our holy father St. Dominic gathered women converts from the Albigensian to the Catholic faith in the monastery of Blessed Mary of Prouille in 1206. These women, free for God alone, he associated with his "holy preaching" by their prayer and penance.

Our holy Father drew up a rule to be followed and constantly showed a father's love and care for these nuns for "they had no other master to instruct them about the Order." He entrusted the nuns as part of the same Order to the fraternal care of his sons.

The fraternal charity shown by our Brothers is a well kept tradition since the beginning of the Order's foundation.  Over the years, we've enjoyed many fraternal visits from the different Masters of the Order and our Dominican Friars who passed through the town.  More recently, Fr. Viktor Hofstetter, O.P., the first Promoter of the nuns in the 1980's visited us and enlightened us with many of his teachings and stories from all over the world.

Fr. Viktor
Geographically, we're very blessed living in Menlo Park because of the short distance from the headquarters of the Friar's Western Dominican Province in Oakland.  They have given us strong spiritual support, and for this, we are very grateful.  Each year when a new class of novices arrives at the Novitiate House in San Francisco, Father Novice Master takes them to Menlo Park for a visit.  This year two Brothers from the Southern Dominican Province also joined our Western Province Brothers for their formation.

Meet our Brother Novices  from the Class of 2010

Sharing of our vocation stories and journeys

Drawing of Prayer Partners

From left: Fr. Anthony Rosevear, O.P. Novice Master, Br. Juan de la Caridad (Southern Province), Br. Bradley Thomas, Br. Kevin, Br. Dennis, Br. Thomas More (Southern Province)

The Brother Novices also have their own website and a blog to share with us their lives and experiences as Dominican Novices.  You may visit them at: http://novices.opwest.org/Class2010/Novitiate_2010/Novices.html

Our Brothers would certainly appreciate some prayers to the "Come and See" weekend at St. Albert Priory starting this Friday November 5th!  May many young men who heard God's call respond generously to this blessed life of preaching and contemplation.

If you or someone you know are wondering about what it's like to be a Dominican Friar, this event would be extremely helpful.  You may also contact the Friars' Vocation Director, Fr. Steven Maekawa, O.P. at www.opwest.org




Monday, October 11, 2010

Angels Among Us



I know what youre thinkingthe Feasts of the Holy Angels are over so what else is there to be said?  Am I late in writing this little tribute to the angels? 

For me, Angel is such a fascinating topic that it deserves more than just a day of reflection and expression of gratitude.  Through Scripture, we learn but briefly about the angels, whether they are archangels or our own guardian angels; and though we do not see these wonderful celestial spirits, we believe that God commands them to assist and guard us in all our ways ever since the moment of our birth. The psalmist sayswith their hands they shall support us, lest we strike our foot against a stone. (Ps. 119)

The word angel comes from the Greek angelos, meaning messenger.  While celebrating the Feast of the Holy Angels recently, I thought also of a different specie of angels or messengers that are sent by God to us in many different ways, shapes and forms.  Theyre the kind that are very much visible to our human eyes if only we look more closely into the events in our daily life.

As I see it, angels are all around us. As Dominicans, our mission is to praise, to bless, to preach, and to share with others the fruits of our contemplation.  For us as Dominican nuns, a good amount of our time is spent in contemplation and prayer to accompany our Brothers in their preaching for the salvation of the world.  Though our altar bread business is our main source of income, we depend heavily on the generosity and kindness of others to help maintain our contemplative life and we thank God that he has sent us many wonderful and generous Angels who help us along our journey. 
 
As a new librarian for our monastery with not much experience in the field, I had a special opportunity to spend an intense amount of time working and learning the field of Library Science the past six weeks with one of Gods special messengers to our monastery, and I would like you to meet her


Earlene...in her favorite librarian t-shirt
Earlene V. Billing came to Corpus Christi Monastery one day in 1986 for an enrollment into our Venite Adoremus Society.  By Gods providence, Earlene came back shortly after and volunteered to work in the infirmary taking care of our infirm and elderly sisters.   Earlene was raised by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose and at the young age of 10 helped the sisters in the infirmary there. She was an experienced and a natural caregiver and was most welcomed and loved by our sisters.

In knowing that Earlene has a degree in Master of Library Science with many years of experience working as a Librarian and Consultant, overseeing some of the public school libraries in the Bay Area, our head Librarian, Sister Maura, was eager to have her help organize and catalogue the books in our library.  Consequently, after her retirement Earlene has devoted many hours teaching, organizing and cataloging the growing number of 7000 books in our library. 


Sister Maura was very hopeful that since Earlene knew many librarians, she could ask them to come and put our library in order.  She thought that working together perhaps they could do it in ONE day!  Understandably, there was not one retired librarian who would be so out of her mind as Earlene to spend the hours it would take for our library to be properly ordered.  Earlene has spent endless hours and days with tremendous patience teaching and working in our library...all out of her deep love for God and our Dominican family.  (Earlene is also a member of the laity of our Dominican Order.)  Truly, Gods message of love and providence has come to our life through Earlene who has acted in an angelic way. 

Earlene has presently moved to Jonesboro, Arkansas, where she will be helping her son Larry Billing with his blooming business as owner of the Shadrachs Coffee and Roasting Company, and with her daughter-in-law, Risa in taking care of their two little boys and her expected granddaughter due on the Feast of St. Luke. 

A little belated but wonderful surprise gift
for Sr. Maura's Diamond Jubilee on July 22nd
Since study is one of the important charisms of our Dominican Order, providing us with a well-organized and a professionally established library, Earlene left us a legacy that will be remembered and treasured for years to come.  Not satisfied with her precious time donated to us for many years, before the last farewell, Earlene opened her loving heart once again and gave the community a workshop to help the sisters, and an expensive library truck as a Diamond Jubilee gift to our Sister Maura.  Sister had dreamed of having one for years but we could not afford it. 


Naturally, after weeks of working closely with Earlene and Sister Maura and learning the "ropes" from them, Ive come to appreciate librarians!  They must attend carefully to detail, getting spellings and dates and punctuation exactly right.  They must often deal with large backlogs of materials needing processing so it is important for them to communicate with people in different areas to assess the priority.  They also must stay abreast of rapid changes in the field of information access as Ive experienced recently.  So as we change librarians, it is also a sign of a new eraan era of high speed of changing technology, but still an epic of service to those who come seeking to advance in their learning and knowledge of God. My heart has been overwhelmed with so much gratitude to God and to all of our benefactors or Angels who have kindly and lovingly dedicated their time and resources to help us since the foundation of our monastery. 










 A note of appreciation is also given to our Dominican Friar, Father Patrick Labelle, O.P. who donated his library of approximately 600 fine books to our collection before he left his position as director of the Vallombrosa Center for his new assignment as Prior of St. Dominic Priory in San Francisco.

This brings me to the teaching from the Letter to the Hebrews

"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Hebrews 13:2)

As you can see I will have a giant task ahead of me to continue organizing the library so that our sisters will continue to have sufficient and up-to-date resources for their study and contemplation.  Earlene and I have developed a system to catalog the non-book materials such as audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, etc. thanks to the help of the head librarian at St. Patrick's Seminary - Dr. Cecil White and his staff who graciously spent their time to assist us; and to Nicolas Szegada, a librarian at the Menlo Park Library who optimistically and happily passed on to us a few good tricks of the trade and free on-line resources for librarians! 

At the same time we desperately need to build more shelves in our library to accommodate all the books that we are currently cataloging. Also, if you or someone you know, is so 'out of their mind' and is a mad lover of God and nuns as our Earlene was and would like to help us in any way, please contact us at op.nunsmenlo@yahoo.com 

We pray that God will continue to bless our dear friend Earlene and her family, and all those who do us good as we offer prayers for them each day before the Eucharistic Lord who alone can repay them with all that is His to give. 

Deo Gratias!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our Dominican Friars share the fruits of their contemplation...

Fr. Eugene Sousa, O.P.
We're blessed to have Father Eugene Sousa, O.P. as our monastery chaplain, who nourishes our souls daily with the Bread of Life and the Word of God.  Father lives next door to us in a small Dominican community of St. Thomas Aquinas.
 
Fr. Nathan Castle, O.P.
Other members of the community are Father Nathan Castle, O.P., director and pastor of the Catholic Community at Stanford; Father George Matanic, O.P., director of the Vallombrosa Center which is right accross from our monastery; Father Isaiah Mary Molano, O.P. Associate Director, Parochial Vicar of the Catholic Community at Stanford.  Each Wednesday, when Father Eugene has a day off, we look for a surprise Friar replacement who gives us a different taste of the fruits of his contemplation in his homily.
 

Fr. Isaiah Mary Molano, O.P.

The Friars have put their Sunday homilies on podcast and you can listen to them at:  http://catholic.stanford.edu/media/podcast
 
This morning at Mass, we enjoyed Father Isaiah Mary's homily that we would like to share with you.  Thank you dear Father, for your very well written and thought out homily.  May God continue to bless you all with much wisdom and strength to preach the Good News, to praise and to bless! His homily follows:
 
A married couple of 45 years were at an expensive restaurant.  It was their wedding anniversary.  He was dressed in a very expensive black suit and deep blood red shirt, she in a purple gown with a lot of sequins. After they had their second or third glass of wine, he experienced a heart attack and collapsed in front of her. 
They were brought into the hospital at 12:30 in the morning.  I was the chaplain on call.  The doctors told me that that he would not make it past the night.  I was called in to console the wife and be present when her husband of 45 years died.  …lucky me. 
We kept on praying, over and over again, the Lucan version of the Lord’s Prayer.  For some reason, Presbyterians pray this version of the Lord’s Prayer, and not the Matthaen.  But it was this prayer, the Lucan version of the Lord’s Prayer that we recited over and over again.  We read a little from scripture, we talked about her husband and their family, about what they had for dinner, about what songs they danced to that evening. But it was this prayer, over and over again that we came back to. 
Around 4 o’clock that morning, we told the wife to go home.  The head of the emergency told me to go home too, after I think about it.  As we were leaving, the wife said to me, “We ask the Lord to feed us, we ask him to forgive us and everyone else, we ask God to keep us from the final test.  We do not ask God to change our lives.”  With that, she got into her car, and drove off into the night.
When the Council of Jerusalem met, the Apostles found themselves at a terrible quandary.  They saw that Paul was exposing the Gentiles to the Jewish way of life.  They saw that Paul was allowing Gentiles into the Jewish inner-circle.  The Gentiles were being taught that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob wanted a relationship with them just as much as the progeny of Abraham himself.  Paul was making vast changes to the Jesus Movement, and the Apostles had no idea what to do with themselves. 
Yet, we know that these changes were indeed from the Holy Spirit.  We know that opening up the New Covenant to all of humanity was God’s Gift.  Jesus Christ was not only for the progeny of Abraham, but for the entire human race.  And this was the work of the Holy Spirit. 
 Though we may live within the heart of the monolith that is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Roman Rite, loyal of the Supreme Pontiff, the world around us is in perpetual flux.  Yes, Jesus Christ, the same now and forever, yet the world he created, is changing moment by moment.  The life we lead as members of the Order of Preachers is beautiful and wonderful for those who are strong enough.  However, simultaneously, how willing are we to expose ourselves to the ever changing world, showing the world how relevant and necessary our lives of contemplation, prayer and study really are?  …or would we rather disappear into the pages of history?  Are we willing to meet and confront the new demands of mass media and the internet, preaching a word of never-ending contemplation and prayer to the millions of young people around the world, begging for some sort of Truth, Oneness and stability?  …or are we hiding our pearl of great price? 
Change is terribly a scary thing.  I deal with it all the time at the University.  Most of the things I deal with when talking to my students have to do with transition and adaptation.  Change scares just about everyone. 
Our friend from the hospital said to me, “We ask the Lord to feed us, we ask him to forgive us and everyone else, we ask God to keep us from the final test.  We do not ask God to change our lives.”  …actually, he does.  The Holy Spirit constantly asks us to stretch, change, and adapt throughout our lives.  The question, though, is whether we want to.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

EWTN Visited NunsMenlo!


This past week, we had a surprise visit from our dear friends and benefactors, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Soeherman, who came  from Alabama for a family visit.  With them was their son, Fr. Miguel Marie of our Lady, Mediatrix of all grace, MFVA.
Mr. Soeherman graciously volunteered a countless number of hours to help in our library some time ago.  Their son, Fr. Miguel Marie, a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, found his vocation to the priesthood while working as a System Engineer for Electronic Data Systems


We fondly remembered Fr. Miguel Marie’s vocation story and one could say that it was through his parents’ prayerful witness and fidelity to God that helped to nurture his vocation.  One year when his parents went on a trip abroad, they asked him to pray for them.  So each day he would stop by a Church on his lunch hour to pray for them during Mass.  Little did he know, the Holy Spirit took these opportunities to speak to his heart and made known the lofty vocation to which God was calling him.  It took much discernment, as he wanted to have a big family, but yielding to the Spirit's lead, he finally entered the  
Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word (MFVA.)


 
Your priestly blessing please Father...
Father Miguel Marie was ordained to the priesthood on June 5, 2004 and currently serves as the Community Vicar, MFVA Council member, Local Servant at Ephesus House in Hanceville, Alabama and Novice Master.  Many of his homilies can be viewed online and heard through the Youtube

We’re grateful to God for Fr. Miguel Marie’s talents and generosity in giving himself totally to serving God and his people, after the example of his parents.  May our Blessed Mother continue to show Father Miguel Marie her motherly love and bless him with abundant graces and strength, that he may guide others in the way of truth and salvation. 


*  Our Sister Mary Isabel is an Indonesian-the same nationality as the Soehermans-so this was quite a happy visit and reunion for all of us.  Even Sister Joseph Marie was quite happy and impressed when Fr. Miguel Marie prayed with her the Hail Mary in Vietnamese!  Father has promised to learn more prayers in Vietnamese so as to pray with her on his future visit to our Monastery.  Deo Gratias!



This is how we know what love is:
Christ gave up his life for us;
and we too must give up our lives for our brothers.
(1Jn 3:16)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Go and Preach to All Nations...

...baptize them and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you, says the Lord. (Mt 28:19-20)

 Today we joyfully celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist as we remember and pray for all the apostles of today: our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, all Bishops, Priests and Missionaries who faithfully follow the footsteps and the commandment of the Lord. 

We know very little of St. Matthew except that he was a tax collector as recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel.  He was also known as Levi, a Jewish name, by Sts. Luke and Mark. His profession as a tax collector was despised by many people for it was easy for such a person at that time to line his own pockets with more than the taxes legally due.  This line of work fell under the religious ban and the Jews of strict observance considered him to be unclean and would have nothing to do with him. Therefore, St. Matthew’s vocation is one of the greatest experiences recounted in the Gospel where Jesus plainly teaches that God desires mercy, not sacrifice.  Jesus saw in Matthew the true person he could become and not the person that he was at the time. 

St. Bede the Venerable also teaches in his homily that Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men.  St. Bede went on to tell us that no sooner was he converted, Matthew drew after him a whole crowd of sinners along the same road to salvation.  How can we, as children of our heavenly Father, become one of mercy, compassion and understanding toward those we live with?  To those we meet each day?  And to those we have not met but recognized that they need our mercy? 
 

As was told in the Gospel, upon hearing the call of Jesus, Matthew left all that he had and immediately followed Him.  His response was one of generosity and without measure or counting the cost.  The quick response of St. Matthew reminded me of the story of one of our aspirants, Tara Clement. 

Tara came to us through the referral of one of our Dominican Friars of the Western Province ministering at the Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage, Alaska.  She was a convert to Catholicism only a few years ago but her love for the Lord has led her to the strong desire of abandoning all earthly goods upon finding the one treasure…Jesus Christ Himself.

Tara's conversion began when a co-worker friend of hers invited her to Mass. Although she didn't understand the Mass, she couldn't find anything that was contrary to the teaching of the Bible.  So Tara started to look more closely into the Catholic Church so that she could better "evangelize" her friend about the "Christian" truth.  Tara turned to Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and discovered the truth lay in the Catholic Church through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The rest is history.

Even though Tara has been a very active Catholic in her own parish, she still finds something missing in her life and for the last few years, rigorously discerned the call to religious life.  Tara found herself drawn gradually to giving herself entirely to Christ as a Dominican contemplative.  She has investigated different orders and congregations and spent a month within the enclosure of our monastery to further discern her vocation.  In Tara’s own words: My heart’s desire is to offer myself, my gifts and talents to Christ in the cloister of a Dominican monastery, in contemplation and prayer, for the salvation of souls.  Tara has tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord and like St. Matthew, has found the incorruptible treasure of heaven.
 
Despite the fact that her educational debt is huge, Tara does not lose hope or faith in God.  Entrusting herself entirely to the Divine Providence, Tara is currently working very hard as a self-employed attorney and with the Laboure Society to eliminate her debt so as to be free for God alone.  Tara has also created a blog to record her journey to becoming a contemplative Dominican nun at supporttarsvocation.wordpress.com.  She would appreciate your support, prayer or just a word of encouragement.  Tara may also be reached at amataveritas@gmail.com.

Like St. Matthew, Tara wishes to leave everything and follow Christ.  How soon she could do that depends greatly on her brothers and sisters in Christ who will help her achieving her dream.  We admire Tara for her determination and keep her in our daily prayers as well as her generous benefactors.  We wish her well on this long yet faith-filled journey for she has truly fallen in love with God; and nothing is greater than this realization as we contemplate the words of St. Augustine:

 To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances;
To seek Him, the greatest adventure;
To find Him, the greatest human achievement.

Many people often wonder why the nuns chose to live an enclosed life and what do nuns do all day?  And you yourself might wonder why our friend Tara, is considering leaving all things behind to join a monastery.  In our future bloggings, we will give you, our readers, a peek into the life of the contemplative nuns, our history and the love that urges us to do what we do. 

But for now, let us be content with the final words from our St. Bede the Venerable…Our Savior attests to this: Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  On hearing Christ’s voice, we open the door to receive him, as it were, when we freely assent to his promptings and when we give ourselves over to doing what must be done.  Christ, since he dwells in the hearts of his chosen ones through the grace of his love, enters so that he might eat with us and we with him.  He ever refreshes us by the light of his presence insofar as we progress in our devotion to and longing for the things of heaven.  He himself is delighted by such a pleasing banquet.


St. Matthew, pray for us!