June 1, 2021

Bring Flowers of the Rarest

On Mother’s Day, the Sister Servants gathered to crown the statue of Our Lady beside Mother Mary Gabriel’s crypt (pictured below) as well as the statue of Our Lady in our conference room. In this reflection, Sr. Mary Anthony recalls her memories of the May Crownings her family always celebrated together.

The May Crowning was a traditional event in our home, always celebrated with all the solemnity that children’s hearts can muster! Every year at the beginning of the month, we had to make our May Altar. Someone would select a table and find a place for it, someone would find a candle or two, and the rest of us would go outside looking for flowers. Anything was fair game. Everything from clovers and dandelions to Mom’s irises would be ruthlessly plundered for the sake of Our Lady! And no matter how beautiful the bouquets or how simple or even straggly were our offerings, neither our Mom, nor our heavenly Mother ever rejected any of them.

Sr. Mary Anthony and some of her siblings crowning Our Lady when they were younger.

The statue would be brought out and one of us would get to place the crown on Mary’s head while we all sang, “Bring Flowers,” “Tis the Month of Our Mother” and any other Marian hymn of which we could remember a significant number of words (If you forgot part, you just hummed, or thought up other words that sounded relatively suitable). Then it was not uncommon to do it all over again, because somebody was sad that they hadn’t been chosen to crown Mary, so they had to have a turn. Over the years, as nieces and nephews came into the mix, we might crown Mary on several different days, sometimes at the May Altar, sometimes at the outdoor statue, with whichever bunch of kids was visiting. Sometimes we would pray the Rosary, sometimes other prayers, but we always sang, and we always brought flowers.

Sr. Mary Anthony’s nieces and nephews continue the tradition of crowing Our Lady to this day!

Was it as perfect as I am making it sound? Of course not (memory has a way of smoothing off the rough edges!), but one thing I know is that my relationship with Mary was fostered by that devotion in my family. And the idea of Mary as a Mother who is as pleased with my little bouquets of clover as my own Mom never failed to be has been with me ever since.

I asked Mother Louise Marie if I could share my memories with you in the hopes that you might consider making this devotion a tradition in your own family. Even if you live alone, making a special place to honor Mary in your home and your heart during the month of May will surely bear fruit. Our Lady will certainly be pleased, and you might find that it’s a little easier to relate to her as Mother when you come to her “bringing flowers of the rarest” or at least with the simplicity of a child.


Pictures from our 2021 May Crownings at Casa Maria

April 29, 2021

Easter Season with the Sister Servants

Easter Preparations

Every year, we look forward to Holy Week and the Easter Triduum. Our religious life allows us to enter more fully into the rhythm of this sacred week. All hands are on deck as we prepare for these holiest of days through our work in the chapel, in the yard and in the kitchen.

The Triduum Liturgies

Fr. Patrick Mary, MFVA, celebrated our Triduum liturgies, and he was joined by some of his brother Friars who assisted him with preaching. Fr. Joseph Mary, MFVA, celebrated our Easter Sunday Mass. Still restricted by COVID, we were not able to have the larger crowds of past years. We look forward to welcoming our friends again for Holy Week in 2022!

Easter Octave Outing to the Bankhead National Forest

One of the ways we celebrated the Easter octave this year was by taking an outing to the Bankhead National Forest in Northern Alabama. Several of the Sisters went hiking in the Sipsey Wilderness area while others enjoyed the nature and fellowship with one another.

April 2, 2021

Retreat on Jesus’ Seven Last Words with Fr. Hugh Gillespie

When someone we love is at the point of death, that person’s last words are often the most important lessons that he or she teaches us. Fr. Hugh Gillespie pointed this out in his recent Casa Maria retreat where he offered a series of meditations on Jesus’ seven last words from the Cross. Focusing on the order and structure of these words, he showed how Jesus called on God as Father at the beginning and at the end of His Crucifixion, thus teaching us to turn to our Heavenly Father in times of suffering. Following Our Lord’s example, we are then able to entrust our heavenly Father with everything and hand over our spirits to Him in abandonment and love.

We wanted to share these reflections with you to help you enter into the events of the Triduum more profoundly. We hope that you find these talks as spiritually fruitful as we do.

March 10, 2021

The Story of My Vocation: Sr. Mary Philomena


Sr. Mary Philomena has been taking part in a ChristLife small group study and recently shared her story with her small group. She wants to share it with you!

I grew up in a family that did not attend Mass on a regular basis. My mom was a cradle Catholic, and my dad did not convert until I was about 12. At the age of 10, I felt the need to attend Mass each Sunday, so I asked my grandma if she would pick me up and take me. Every Sunday I got myself up and ready for her to pick me up. After my dad’s conversion I would go with him.

Throughout my life I feel I had many conversion moments when I accepted Jesus in my life, but awhile after those moments, I would slip back into the way of the world. Even though I was not living the life, I should I always went to Sunday Mass. One reason my conversion moments did not last during that time is that my parents weren’t strong in their faith to help support and guide me.

When I was a young adult my parents had deep conversion. They attended a Life in the Spirit seminar at our parish and had a more profound conversion. I had seen a transformation in their faith. They began attending a weekly prayer group and invited me to join them at different group functions or at their prayer group meetings. I would decline, thinking it wasn’t for me.

Then a protestant counselor moved to town, and I had to talk with her frequently. I worked in a group home for mentally disabled adults, and she was their counselor. One day she asked me if I knew of any prayer groups she could join. The only group I knew of was the one that my parents attended, and she asked me if I would go with her. I said I would. My parents were excited to hear that I would be attending the next meeting.

At that meeting I began my transformation and eventually accepted Jesus in my life. From that time I began to grow in my faith, and it was there that when someone was praying over me, I got the overwhelming sense that God was calling me to religious life. I reluctantly began the journey to find the community God was calling me to be His spouse. At the time I gave my boss a one year notice, and a year later I entered the Sister Servants where I continue my journey in growing with the Lord.

 

March 3, 2021

Snow at Casa Maria

It is very rare that we see any snow in Birmingham, and for our winter-loving sisters, even snow flurries are a treat! On February 15, we woke up to a surprise: the air was filled with flurries, and they were actually sticking to the ground! When it finished, we had gotten about half an inch. The Lord blessed us in Alabama because we didn’t have any of the traumatic experiences that many in the nation suffered. Our prayers remain united to all those who continue to suffer from the effects of the recent snow and cold in Texas and other parts of the South.