November 10, 2023

Dying and Rising Daily

While researching for an assignment on Church History the other day, I came across a startling essay on Ancient Monasticism. Scanning through the text to see whether it would be a helpful resource, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. While professing to be Catholic, the author openly declared that what he learned of monasticism went completely against his personal beliefs. Where he places a high value on self-improvement, he concluded that Ancient Monasticism was entirely focused on the opposite, on self-denial. He concluded the essay with expressing an unsatisfied curiosity about Monastic life – hopefully his curiosity continues to lead him to more enlightening sources!

In reality there is no contradiction at all between self-improvement and self-denial, which is the trimming away of things that get in the way of our well-being. Taking health for an example, it is obvious that the denial of unhealthy inclinations is actually a source of self-improvement. True, the selfish part of ourselves does not like to be trimmed back. Establishing better habits does need to involve a certain death to self – meaning, the part of myself that desires what is not ultimately good for me. It is in fact, extricating of oneself from the center of one’s life to put God there instead. Such a death to self prepares the soul for a new and beautiful flourishing of life, in the slow growth of holiness.

Mother Mary Francis, PCC, has a lovely reflection on this continual dying and rising throughout life. She comments on nature’s example of dying gloriously, in joyful self-sacrifice for the sake of the new life to come. 

Expertise is what we are after today. Nature has it in the sensitive area of death. She performs it like a Greek drama, with all the dignity of the inevitable freely chosen. Yet she dances it like an innocent child ballerina, spilling out the story with the effortless abandon of pure dedication. Again, she does it as purposefully as Francis of Assisi who sang because he had nothing left on earth and had found a Father in Heaven. She knows all about the return of spring and what makes that return possible. 

And so … each nun and novice was asked last week to go outdoors and take a lesson in dying and resurrection from nature. It was suggested (by which we mean: Go ahead and do it!) that each one take spiritual notes on dying from what God has to say in nature. A few main points were anticipated, such as: dying ungrudgingly, gloriously, gorgeously, gaily. Because this is the way to live. …some of us seem to have forgotten how one arrives at resurrection. How Christ did. That it was and it is through suffering and death. Odd, how we can miss such an obvious fact as that we have to die before we can rise from the dead. (From the 1973 Preface to A Right to be Merry, originally published in 1956)

Back row: Sister Madeleine Marie, Sister Ave Marie, Sister Rita Marie, Sister Mary Thomas, Sister Marie Francesca, Mother Louise Marie, Sister Rose Marie, Sister Mary Philomena, Sister Mary Jacinta, Sister Marianna, Sister Mary Catherine. Front Row: Sister Marie Therese, Sister Joseph Marie, Sister Benedicta Marie, Sister Clare Marie, Sister Mary Michael, Sister Mary Anthony, Sister Mary Faustina (Missing, Sister John Paul)

As a final point of reflection, allow me to call attention to the beautiful hymn O God Beyond All Praising. Its glorious tune and reflection upon God’s gifts to mankind leave a deep impression. But the often-omitted middle verse, interwoven with themes of praise and thanks, reflects that all things of this earth must die to allow for our passage to Heaven. But again, these ‘earthly splendors’ can refer to the selfishness, pride, and ego with which we do daily battle. They must give way to the Love of God and neighbor that will not end. This, so that as Christ died and ascended to Heaven, mankind can also rise through death, to ‘final victory.’


A moment prior to the All Souls’ Day Mass in the cemetery

October 24, 2023

In Lisieux For Therese’s Feast Day

By Sister Marie Therese

At the end of September four other sisters and I headed to France for a pilgrimage. We spent six beautiful days in Lourdes which was followed by visits to Paris, Lisieux, Ars, and Nevers. The entire experience was amazing. In fact, when reflecting on the pilgrimage, it is hard to pin-point one instance or aspect that was the “best part.” A definite highlight, however, was our visit to Lisieux.

On the Feast of St. Thérèse, October 1st , we were able to attend Mass at the Basilica of St. Thérèse and visit the Carmel where she was a nun. I wish that I had the memory and the space to write about every aspect of our visit, but I must be content with a few glimpses. I hope these glimpses will convey something of how grace-filled the experience was.

The first impression of the Basilica was the size. It is definitely impressive and can accommodate 4,000 people. Another noticeable characteristic is a large mosaic depicting Jesus with Mary and St. Thérèse on either side. Mary and Thérèse are holding Jesus’ mantle open and ushering sheep under its folds. These two aspects, the size and the mosaic, speak volumes of St. Thérèse’s mission of “spending heaven doing good upon earth.’’ The size demonstrates that Thérèse’s mission is for the multitudes. Anyone who comes to her will find help. Also, as shown in the mosaic, she unites herself to the Blessed Mother so as to bring souls to Jesus. As souls grow in devotion to St. Thérèse, she, paradoxically, often slips more into the background. This is what is illustrated in the Basilica: she brings us under the mantle of Jesus where we don’t look at St. Thérèse, but we look at Jesus. She simply holds us there with her prayers and the miracles of grace for which she intercedes. Praying in front of her relics and being there with my dear friend (and yes, her presence was real and palpable) brought this realization to a deeper understanding. At the end of Mass, as another reminder of Thérèse’s mission and her promise of “showering down roses,” rose petals were scattered from the dome above us.

St. Thérèse is still fulfilling her mission and keeping her promises. Ultimately, this is simply a reminder that Our Lord’s mission is also being fulfilled in us and that He is faithful to His promises. He is the giver of all good gifts and I am so grateful for the abundance of graces He gave during the pilgrimage.

Below are some pictures from our time in Lourdes:

And a few from our travels to Ars (where John Vianney served as priest) and Nevers (where St. Bernadette lived as a Religious Sister)

September 15, 2023

Configured to Christ

At the end of August, we were invited for several days to the annual National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors in the diocese of Rockville Centre in Long Island. Diocesan vocation directors gathered at Immaculate Conception Retreat House for prayer, talks, and fellowship.  This was an excellent opportunity for us to connect with priests from many dioceses, and the priests were happy to speak with religious Sisters supporting their work.

We were very edified as we visited with and prayed with and for our priests tasked with helping young men discern the call of priesthood and persevere through formation. The vocation directors are so full of zeal and a well-formed faith!  Please pray for them as they strive to raise up worthy priests to serve the Church in our times!

August 31, 2023

Sister Rose Marie’s Final Profession

(see full album of pictures here)

Although you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy” – 1 Peter 1:8

Last Tuesday, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, I was given the great blessing of making my Perpetual Profession of Vows. In the months leading up to this day, I was filled with ever greater gratitude for this gift! From my earliest days, God had set me apart to be His own. At last I was to give my total ‘yes’ to His plan!

The day was filled with joy from beginning to end, with family and friends coming from near and far to celebrate with us. But the greatest expression of joy was in the Liturgy itself. As I stood waiting for the entrance procession to form, the butterflies began to increase, but stopped suddenly when the Sisters began to sing,

“O veni, Sponsa Christi, veni” (O Come, spouse of Christ, come)

I am His, and He is mine! And how beautiful that this gift of self is made within the framework of the Holy Mass.

My thoughts were spinning as the Mass began. But then I looked up at the crucifix, the image of my Spouse Who sacrificed Himself for me. And from that moment on, my focus was fixed upon declaring my ‘yes’, to be united with Him in His sacrifice. What joy!

Whatever God has planned for the rest of my life, one thing is certain. This is a supernatural road, and I will need a constant gift of grace to follow in a way pleasing to Him. Please continue to pray for me, and for all Religious, that we may faithfully accomplish His will in all things!

(see full album of pictures here)

August 19, 2023

Praying, Sewing…Whitewater Rafting!

As the community prepares to receive our postulant, Sister Emily, into the Novitiate, there is plenty of activity surrounding this beautiful occasion. The Sisters have spent many weeks together pulling threads, sewing her habit, and above all, we have just completed our annual community retreat together.

But there is one more tradition before receiving the habit that seems to have cropped up in the last two years…white water rafting! For the past two summers, our community has been invited to participate in Fidelis’ annual Inspire camp, where Fidelis chapters from across the country gather annually for a week of summer fun in the mountains of East Tennessee, consisting of the Sacraments, small group time, talks, and a trip through the rapids!

We are grateful to Fidelis for this wonderful opportunity to share the Lord, time in prayer, and yes, one last (appropriate!) hurrah for our postulants before they enter into the Novitiate. We thank God for Sister Emily’s discernment and her continued ‘yes’ to our way of life and look forward to receiving her and her new patron saint into the community.