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!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place, Lord, God of Hosts!!

This is God's holy temple. 
He lavished care on it; He built it stone by stone.

Today we had the joy and privilege of celebrating the Solemnity of the Consecration of our Chapel.

Each year, on this day before dawn and the start of our Morning Prayer, Sister Maria Christine, our Extern Sister who takes care of the outside Chapel, lights the twelve candles that are placed before the twelve crosses, one at each Station along the two sides of our Chapel. These crosses were impressed on twelve pillars of the Chapel on the day of Consecration. These lighted candles burn throughout the day from dawn until dusk.

In addition to the delight of the celebration, this morning at Mass, our Chaplain, Father Eugene Sousa, O.P. recalled the joy and unforgettable memories of that great day on Saturday, September 12, 1953 when our Chapel was consecrated. Father Sousa was a Novice at the time and enjoyed greatly the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a Dominican Novice with his other seventeen classmates.


The confirmation that a Church or Chapel is consecrated

Fr. Eugene Sousa, O.P. giving the homily
As Father Sousa explained to us in his homily, the definition of a consecration is to dedicate in a special way, a place or a person, to the service of God. A house is made holy through the presence of Jesus. We’re made holy through the presence of Jesus in each one of us for we’ve been consecrated by our baptism. In the early days of the Church, the Eucharist was celebrated in the homes. How was Jesus present there? Jesus said, where two or three gather in my name, there I am. So what makes a home holy? Jesus' presence. When Jesus is present with the people gathered together to pray, the dwelling is made holy.


We still have five Sisters living in our monastery who were present at the Consecration ceremony; and we always take delight in hearing the story retold over and over again each year. Let us now take a peek into the Chronicle of our Monastery to relive this most magnificent moment in the history of our Monastery, of the Order, and that of the Church.

Our Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart was a three-week old postulant when the Consecration took place, and her meditations and comments to the event are given in italics.



The Glorious Celebration of the Consecration of our Chapel
September 12, 1953

About 9 a.m. the ceremony of the Consecration of the Chapel began. Bishop Guilfoyle, attended by Father Bowe and Father Cahil started the august ceremony. Bishop Guilfoyle had prepared for it by a day of fasting, as he was to represent the Eternal Pontiff who opened heaven to us by fasting and suffering.

The sacred relics that were to be placed in the sepulcher had been retained in the sacristy overnight, and were so placed in the little grille opening into our Chapel hall, that we were privileged to venerate them there during the night hours. Two candles burned before them constantly and flowers adorned the aperture.

The ceremony began promptly in the morning. The Bishop, wearing a white cope, and accompanied by the clergy, remaining outside the Chapel, approaches the relics, to implore near them the mercy of God. For this purpose he recites the seven Penitential Psalms. Meanwhile the door of the Chapel is closed. There was no one inside except the Deacon, who was our Chaplain, Father Clark, wearing an alb, girdle and white stole.
(The Chapel had been prepared before the day by removing every movable thing – chairs, tables, flowers, vases, etc. No persons may be inside the Chapel during the first part of the ceremony. All, even the clergy, are outside the door. This is a vivid symbol of how we must empty our hearts of EVERYTHING to consecrate them to the exclusive use of God.)

The Bishop, struck by the greatness of the undertaking, cries out, “O Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, be in the midst of us.” To implore this help, the Litany of the Saints is recited.
(Here we learn how important it is to entreat the Saints to be with us and help us as we consecrate ourselves to God.)

After this, the Bishop blesses salt and water, with the usual exorcisms and prayers. Having made an aspersion on himself and clergy, he goes around the Monastery walls, sprinkling the exterior with holy water, and saying continually, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy ghost.” During this time, the antiphon is intoned, “The House of the Lord is built upon a mountain, etc.”

Having returned to the front of the monastery, the Bishop recites a prayer, asking God to bless this dwelling and make it a house of holiness and prayer.
(And we ask God to make of our very person a dwelling place for Himself and one that is a house of holiness and prayer.)

Then with his pastoral staff, he strikes the door once, saying, “O princes open your gates; and the King of Glory shall enter in.” 

The Deacon, who is inside, asks, “Who is the King of Glory?” The Bishop answers, “He is the strong and mighty God.” During all this time, the outer door of the Chapel has remained closed. There is no one inside, except the Deacon. (He was Father Clark, our Chaplain.)

The Deacon does not open the door. The Bishop now goes around the Monastery a second time, saying the same words.
(We see from this that it is not easy to prepare our hearts for consecration. It takes persevering effort and repeated pleading to be made worthy to be His own.)

Having returned to the front of the Chapel and asking God’s blessing on all who were assembled, he strikes the door a second time, saying the same prayers as was said the first time. The door of the Chapel is not opened yet. The Bishop goes around the building the third time, sprinkling the walls and blessing them. Meanwhile, the anthem, “O Master of the universe” is intoned.

Returning to the front of the Chapel, the Bishop offers a prayer and strikes the door the third time, making the same invocation. The deacon responds and then opens the door.

“Peace to this house” the Bishop says, as he enters the Chapel. All kneel down in the middle of the Chapel, and the Bishop intones the “Veni Creator.” The Litany of the Saints is again said. Whereupon the Bishop traces, on the floor, with his crosier, on two lines of ashes, the Greek and Latin alphabet.
(The evening before the ceremony, Msgr. Kennedy had come to see that all was in order. But he found that the wax on the Chapel floor did not permit the laying down of the ashes. So he rolled up his sleeves and scrubbed all the wax off the floor and laid down the ashes in the form of an X from one corner of the Chapel to the other.)

After blessing the walls on the inside, he mixes new water putting into it salt, ashes and wine. This is called Gregorian Water.
(And is used for the consecration of the Altar.)

And now, after more prayers, the Bishop goes around the Altar seven times, wearing cope and mitre, sprinkling the Altar and reciting the Miserere.

The moment has now come to place the sacred relics in the sepulcher.
(This is a rectangular hole which has been hollowed out of the center of the Altar which is made of one large slab of stone.)

The Bishop recites a prayer, after which he consecrates the sepulcher with holy chrism and immediately lays the holy relics in it, together with three grains of incense. The relics were as follows: one of St. Fortunatus, one of St. Felicitus, and that of our holy father St. Dominic in which the last one was allowed at the community’s request.
(The relics placed in an Altar must be those of a martyr of the early Church. You request them from the Vatican and take whatever ones they send you. We asked that a relic of St. Dominic also be included and our request was granted.)

Our Altar with the sepulcher containing the relics inside
The Bishop now consecrates the stone that is to close the sepulcher which now contains the relics. He fixes it on the sepulcher with the cement he has made and blessed. Then anointing it again with the holy chrism, he says, “Let this Altar be sealed and sanctified in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and let peace always surround it.”

(Similarly we hope that peace will be sensed when we are present.)

After this, the Bishop incenses the Altar and its pillars; while all this time, a Dominican student continued, without ceasing, to swing the thurible, perfuming the Altar with its fragrant incense.
(We want our prayer to rise before the Lord as sweet incense in His sight.)

Twelve crosses had been impressed on twelve pillars of the Chapel, one at each Station. From the beginning of this great ceremony, lighted candles burned before these crosses.
(It is good that the Bishop was young and athletic because he had to go up a stepladder at each station to anoint the cross.)

While the candles and incense are burning on the Altar, the Bishop and clergy prostrate and sing the anthem, “God be praised,” etc.

During the progress of this long ceremony, besides the Seven Penitential Psalms, seven various Psalms were recited outside the Chapel and sixteen on the inside.

Archbishop Guilfoyle was assisted, throughout, by Father Raymond Cahil and Father Thomas Bowe. Father Meyer and Father Quinn were Masters of Ceremonies.

After further prayers and ceremonies, the Altar was furnished with flowers and candles were lighted, and the august ceremony concluded with Solemn High Mass at the newly consecrated Altar, at which our Provincial, Very Reverend Father Fulton, O.P. was Celebrant, Reverend Father Kelly, O.P. was Deacon, and Reverend Father Ward, O.P. was Subdeacon.

This great ceremony was a foretaste of the joys that await us in the blessed city of Heaven!

This is God’s dwelling place and He has made it holy; it will stand for ever firm.
Deo Gratias!

As we give grateful praise and glory to God this day, we remember all of our dear Sisters who have died offering their lives of sacrifice and prayer in this holy dwelling.





Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Queen of Heaven and Earth

Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed, and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages…

Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day. Let there be one common festival for saints in heaven and people on earth. Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebration. Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator.
( St. Andrew of Crete, Bishop)

 

On this joyful day, as we commemorate the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose splendid life has illumined the Church with her personal sanctity and vocation as the Mother of God, we ask that by the help of her prayers, we too may come to share the fullness of God's grace and the joy of his peace.

We also remember in our prayers Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, O.P. on the 55th anniversary of her religious profession and Sister Maura of the Holy Spirit, O.P. on the 62nd anniversary of her entrance to our monastery. We give grateful praise to our Almighty God for their witnesses of fidelity and service to the Church and to our community.



With one mind and heart, we join our Dominican family throughout the world in giving praise and thanksgiving to God for our new Master of the Order, Father Bruno CadorĂ©, O.P., the 86th successor of our holy father St. Dominic. Especially on this day, we pray that our Blessed Mother, who has tenderly protected and guided the Order since the beginning of its foundation, will continue to keep Father CadorĂ© under the mantle of her grace and love as he begins his arduous task as leader of our family.

Father Bruno CadorĂ© was the Prior Provincial of the Province of France.   He was trained as a physician and has taught especially in the area of bio-medical ethics.

Heartprints

People often wonder what nuns are like. To understand nuns or for that matter, any person, one must be invited to look at their heart. For it is in this dwelling place of the Trinity that the truth, integrity and uniqueness of each individual abides.

The human heart is formed by the Creator in an act of love and openness between two people.  Its story develops in the wondrous exchange between mother and child, person and community, friend with friend.  As time, silence and solitude slowly exert their influence, the formative value of inwardness is established.  As the person grows, the joys and challenges of interdependence, the relevance of openness becomes clear.

Each one, as she responds to the call of God and others contributes her own unique "heartprint", the sum total of the experiences that have shaped and formed her, receiving in turn the heartprint of others in hope-filled expectation that this sharing will lead to communion.

As Dominican Nuns we have joyfully sought out and made our own the heartprints of Saint Dominic de Guzman, humble contemplative, itinerant preacher and fervent intercessor on behalf of sinners. He who called his children to fraternal charity, voluntary poverty and a contemplation that was to bear fruit for others, continues to call women to share with us their hopes and dreams --- their heartprints.