March 9, 2022

Setting Out on the Way

Reflections by a Sister Servant

Greetings in Christ from the Sister Servants, wishing a holy and blessed Lent to each one of you!

The Church gives us this valuable season, guided by rich liturgies, as an opportunity to examine ourselves and our relationship with the Lord. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the season of Lent is an “intense [moment] of the Church’s penitential practice.” (CCC 1438) We have forty days, this desert time, during which we keep our gaze focused on Christ’s sacrificial suffering. It helps us prepare to enter deeply into the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church has traditionally taught that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are vehicles to help us keep proper focus throughout Lent.

Over the years, we’ve all given up many things, promised to add more prayers to our day, and maybe even put a little more in the collection plate at Mass. But this past Friday’s first reading at Mass from Isaiah is quite startling and struck me as my own guide for Lent this year. (It can be read in full, here.) “Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?” (Is 58:5) My personal takeaway from Isaiah was that I must dive deeper into Lent this year, beyond my chosen discipline. Easter Sunday has to be more than congratulating ourselves for successfully keeping our fast, finally sticking to Bible in a Year (I confess, I started over, too), or fulfilling our extra tithing at Church.

Our personal relationship with God is the most important thing we can ever cultivate for ourselves in this life. We need to choose disciplines that will help us bare ourselves fully open to Him this Lent. As the prophet Isaiah says, God wants to be invited in to heal our wounds, be our rear guard, and answer our every cry (Is 58:8-9). I encourage us all, no matter what we have chosen to add to or eliminate from our lives this Lent, that they are means of making us more mindful every day of the God Who loves us so much that He gave us His own life for us. This is a Truth, a gift, that we need to open ourselves to receive as deeply as possible, come Holy Week.

God desires that we have life to the full. As His light grows within us, breaking forth like the dawn, may we be a light to others long after our Lenten season has passed.

We are walking with you during this holy season, and keep each one of you in our daily prayers.

January 28, 2022

Illuminating the Psalms

This past Fall, as part of a class on the Liturgy of the Hours, a few Sisters completed the assignment of making an illuminated manuscript. They each chose a favorite Psalm for the project.

As consecrated religious, we chant the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours) daily, thus joining Jesus Christ, our High Priest, in His canticle of divine praise (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 83).  Composed primarily of the Psalms (which, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, contain “all of theology”), the Scriptures punctuate our day in order to permeate our day.  The scheduled times of prayer give us an experience of sacred time that gradually teaches us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) during each moment of each day.

In imitation of (and inspired by) faith-filled Catholics throughout the ages, the Sisters poured their energies and creativity into a true labor of love, yielding a work that reflects the beauty and importance of the Word of God.  It also gave the Sisters an opportunity to contemplate the Psalm in a new way, for they were forced to slow down, writing each line very carefully as well as deciding on the appropriate colors and design.  Some of them even included small pictures reflecting the Christological meaning of the Psalm, laying bare some aspect of its New Testament fulfillment in Christ. 

The careful, contemplative, and unhurried way the Sisters approached the various elements of this project provided a very tactile way of experiencing the contemplative attitude we seek to cultivate as we pray the Psalms throughout the day, in order that the word of God may be always, not only in our mouth, but also in our hearts (cf. Rom. 10:8). 

Why not try copying down your favorite Scripture passages sometime? It doesn’t have to be a fancy illumination – even making a clean and simple copy is a prayerful and fruitful activity.  The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures may well inspire (or illuminate) you with new insights as you slow down and allow the Word of God to penetrate your being in a new way.

January 8, 2022

Joy to the World!

As we come to the close of the Christmas season, with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sister Madeline shares her experience of her first Christmas in the Convent – and what a Christmas it was!

We had the great fun of a snow day early in January

Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room. And Heaven and nature sing. And Heaven and nature sing. And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing!

This Christmas was my first Christmas in the convent, and my golly what a wonderful and blessed time it has been. I have never set up so many nativity scenes in my life.

Christmas Eve was filled with praying, cooking, and decorating as we awaited the celebration of Our Lord’s birth. The carols we sang before our “Midnight Mass” were beautiful and special because we sang them for Our Lord. Unfortunately, we were unable to invite anyone to come for Holy Mass because of sickness in the house. It was interesting to sing carols for half an hour before Holy Mass to prepare our own hearts and make room for Him to dwell.

Being the youngest in the community, I was given the blessing to lay the baby Jesus in the manger under the altar while the sisters sang “O Come All Ye Faithful.” That was a very beautiful moment because it was so real. Truly as I was kneeling to lay Him down in the manger, the words were echoing in my heart “O come let us adore Him!”

Afterwards, Mother Louise Marie gave me a gift to open, and I received my own baby Jesus and manger, made by Sister Ave Maria, for me to put in my cell. It was such a precious gift to receive.

The octave was filled with games, rest, and free time which is always much appreciated. This Christmas was definitely more centered on the birth of our Savior especially since I wasn’t surrounded by distractions of shopping deals, secular Christmas movies/songs, etc. What a joy it is to celebrate the birth of our King and meditate upon how much He loves us. I pray that this Christmas season has filled your heart with great joy and peace.

December 12, 2021

Guest Performers for Mananitas!

For many years, the Sister Servants have celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with great festivities in honor of our Mamacita, Mary. It is a special celebration which we gratefully offer to our community of local volunteers. The day always includes a conference, Holy Mass, and the singing of Mananitas.

Las Mananitas are Spanish songs traditionally sung to honor a loved one on their birthday or feast day, and on December 12th we sing them to Our Lady herself. Years ago, we began singing the Mananitas with the help of a Mariachi band, but 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the Sisters leading all the singing.

We wrote this song to tell the story of the apparition of Our Lady to Saint Juan Diego at Guadalupe, but it has been several years since we’ve had a full production! The children acting out the song are family of Sister Marie Therese, and we hope you enjoy this piece of our celebration as much as we did.

You can purchase a CD, DVD, or MP3 recording of our 2011 Mananitas through our bookstore, here.

November 25, 2021

Where have the Sisters been?

   There has been a noticeable decrease in the number of Sister sightings around Casa Maria lately. Aside from regularly scheduled streams to and from the chapel for community prayer (and a few extra pious – or frantic – visits), there has been very little visible activity even within the convent…

… so what have we been up to?

No cause for alarm – we have only been extremely focused on the final stages of our latest expedition into Theological studies! The Fall semester, devoted to Moral and Spiritual Theology, climaxed in what has been unanimously identified as the greatest challenge yet in our community class experience. The last essay and the final exam have seen sisters completing heroic feats of study and memorization, practice essays and drills, quizzing and research! And, reminders to use, I quote, “a ruthless economy of words”.

While the hallways may have been unusually vacant, study locations revealed a flurry of flash cards, layers of open books, a multitude of greatly varied study techniques, and impromptu meetings to discuss the depths of the moral life. Afternoons frequently saw gatherings around the coffee pot, from which fragments of conversations could be overheard, with phrases such as “I missed the section on heteronomy!” … “Actually, that would be directly, materially, cooperating in evil!” … “concommitant what?”… and, “don’t forget to use a doctor of the Church!” 

     In all seriousness, though, this course has been another tremendous blessing. The material feeds directly into our apostolic work, and both our personal and communal spiritual life. It is especially handy that our professors purposely make many of the prompts for assignments suited toward classes, presentations, or articles that we can share at a moment’s notice. Be on the watch for timely articles and talks that contain themes of man’s vocation to happiness, the unity of the Decalogue, and God’s revelation of Himself within it! Plus bonus excerpts focusing on the Church Doctors’ teaching on the Spiritual life – Quiz: According to Saint Catherine of Siena, at what point did the Apostles reach Transforming Union? Or was that Saint Teresa. . . ?

In short, we have an additional reason to be THANKFUL to God this Thanksgiving! Another course successfully completed, and already bearing much fruit. We have so much to be thankful for, including all of you, our dear family and friends. Know that you are in our prayers every day as we head in to the holy season of Advent!