September 17, 2020

Sister Servants Sing for LIHM Sisters’ Profession

We are so glad for our dear friends, the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters, a community founded in the Philippines in 1991, who just celebrated the Profession of Vows of nine Sisters who are assigned in the United States. They have been patient through many years of waiting and delays!

Our Sisters prepared with frequent practices at Sacred Heart Parish in order to grow accustomed to the pipe organ and acoustics that are so different from what we’re used to!

The Sisters honored us by requesting that we sing for their Profession Mass, which we were so happy to do! Over the course of the summer, we worked to prepare the music for the beautiful occasion, practicing both at home and at Sacred Heart Church in Cullman, AL. We enjoyed every visit to the beautiful church, with its magnificent pipe organ and acoustics. The practices gave a special opportunity to get to know the delightful parish community there.

We were blessed to be able sing the Mass, sharing many pieces that we have used for our own profession Masses over the years.

You may enjoy watching the video of the profession Mass, hearing the music, and seeing the LIHM Sisters’ radiating joy!

Congratulations, LIHM Sisters, and thank you for inviting us to celebrate this wonderful day with you!

Here is Veni Jesu, Amor Mi, a Communion Hymn:

You may watch the entirety of the Mass here:

(Or Watch on the Parish Facebook Page)

 

Five Sisters made their Perpetual Profession of Vows, with great joy.

 

The four Sisters who made their first profession also received the religious habit and their religious names within the same Mass.

September 11, 2020

Allow Us to Introduce:

On the feast of the Nativity of Mary, we celebrated with great joy as Sister Laura received the religious habit and her new religious name! She is now:

Sister Marie Isabel, of the Infant of Prague

Our community has the custom that each postulant submits to the superior three names that they are drawn to, and Mother may choose one of these to give them, or may choose something else if so inspired by the Holy Spirit! Sister Marie Isabel was named for St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Isabel is the Portuguese form of Elizabeth). After the ceremony, Sister Marie Isabel shared with us that during her postulancy, she was much drawn to St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s reflections on the name Elizabeth, meaning “House of God”, and then specifically to St. Elizabeth of Portugal, due to her being known as the peacemaker.

As you see, this was also the day our new little Marian shrine, which has been nicknamed the “Portiuncula” (after the tiny chapel St. Francis loved so dearly in Assisi, naming it the ‘little portion’ for his friars). The last few details of the project came together in a miraculous way, with each piece fitting the others seamlessly, even down to the donation of slate shingles for the roof, and just the right lantern to hang over Our Lady, along with other lights for the nighttime. Father Anthony came to bless the statue and the shrine, after which we finished the day with a picnic!

August 29, 2020

A Philosophy Class

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”

John Paul II, Fides et Ratio

As part of our program of continuing formation, we were blessed to welcome Fr. Anselm Rodriguez, O.Praem, from St. Michael’s Abbey in California, to Casa Maria during the week of August 10-15 to teach us a course entitled “Introduction to Philosophy: Themes in Aquinas.”

Just as a bird needs two wings to fly, man needs both faith and reason to soar to the truth.  As Christians, we are blessed with God’s Revelation, the contents of our Faith to which we adhere by the gift of faith.  But faith does not exclude man’s reason; rather, since grace builds upon nature, the two work in harmony to provide an accurate understanding of reality; therefore, each is indispensable in our flight to heaven.

The teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, called by the Church the “Common Doctor” (meaning, a master teacher in every respect: prayer, doctrine, morality, etc..), presents a most perfect balance and harmonization of both faith and reason.  In the three-fold division of all things knowable, Theology studies the order which God has revealed to reason, the speculative sciences study the order discovered by reason, and the practical sciences study the order produced by reason. While we regularly study Theology, this week was an immersion in St. Thomas’s philosophy (the speculative and practical sciences) which builds upon the wisdom of Aristotle to examine reality according to reason alone.

Philosophy is defined as an account of the ultimate causes of things according to reason, and seeks to give explanations for our common experiences, answering the question “why?”  The study of philosophy is not something reserved to the elite few. Instead, it is accessible to all, perfective of our human nature, and good in itself.

Lectures sparked many lively discussions regarding the application of philosophy in daily life!

We spent much of our time on the speculative science called natural philosophy, examining knowledge gained through the senses.  This included the principles and causes (explanations) of nature, coming to know God’s existence through reason, and the philosophy of man with a special emphasis on the powers of the soul.

After discovering the nature of man, we examined the practical science called ethics, which seeks both to identify man’s ultimate end (or purpose), and to determine the best means to reach that end.  After arriving at the conclusion that man is made for happiness, which is the activity of contemplating God by means of virtue, we took a brief survey of the different kind of virtues and the best means of acquiring them.

Father Anselm, ordained in June, celebrated a solemn Mass of Thanksgiving at Casa Maria and imparted to each sister his first Priestly blessing. This was a tremendous joy for us!

Why should Religious Sisters study philosophy?  Philosophy, in addition to being good in itself, and perfective of our human nature, is known as the “handmaid of Theology,” for Theological truths are better apprehended when built upon the solid foundation of philosophy. The Church values the philosophy of St. Thomas so much that priestly candidates study it for several years before diving into Theology.  Additionally, philosophy is useful for apologetics, for in a world so confused about the nature and purpose of man, it equips one to defend basic truths by reason alone to those without faith.

We are immensely grateful for this week and pray that it may bear abundant fruit in our lives and in the lives of those we serve.

For an accessible introduction to the Theological and philosophical thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, we recommend “My Way of Life” by Fr. Walter Farrell, OP, and Fr. Martin Healy, available from our bookstore.

 

August 15, 2020

A New Marian Shrine

“To give worthy praise to the Lord’s mercy, we unite ourselves with Your Immaculate Mother, for then our hymn will be more pleasing to You, because she is chosen from among men and angels. Through her, as through a pure crystal, Your mercy was passed on to us. Through her, man became pleasing to God; through her, streams of grace flowed down upon us.”
– St. Faustina (Diary # 1746)

Even during COVID, while you haven’t been able to come to Casa Maria, we have been working on some surprises for when you return! We have been creating various outdoor sitting areas and places for prayer, and are especially excited about the new Stations of the Cross pathway that was finished in April.

 

On this Feast of the Assumption, we wanted to share with you some pictures of one project that’s currently underway.

It’s an outdoor shrine for this beautiful large statue of Our Lady that was given to us by our dear friends John and Joyce Williams. Clearly the Holy Spirit has been at work, and everything has come together perfectly. There will be seating in a small paved area in front of the shrine, so it will be a perfect place for prayer, study, or meditation.

 

Below are a few pictures of the progress of this shrine, being built by generous volunteers under Sister Ave Maria’s direction.

The design is inspired by the ‘wayside shrines’ seen on roadsides all across Europe. The cedar wood for the roof was a gift from the same friend who cut, planed, and donated the cedar for the Stations of the Cross as well. He taught the Sisters how to treat the wood with linseed oil to protect it for many, many years! May God bless all the friends and family who have been part of this project in honor of our beloved Mother, Mary.

July 30, 2020

Fostering Vocations

The girls joined us for community prayers throughout their stay.

This month we had the joy of hosting a “Come & See” weekend for a few young ladies who have been discerning religious life and wanted to get to know our community. We loved hosting them and spending time with them. Throughout the weekend they had classes with various sisters to learn about religious life and our community in particular. They attended prayers with us and shared in some of the sisters’ duties – and lots of laughter! Please keep them in your prayers as they discern God’s call.

Sister Mary Faustina has been assisting with vocations work for the last couple years, and was asked to share her vocation story for our local Catholic newspaper. We wanted to share it with you, knowing that everyone loves to hear a vocation story!  They are such a great way of seeing how clearly God is at work in our lives, through all the ups and downs, using so many people to lead us to the place He has prepared, and the work He is asking us to accomplish for Him. May this story be an inspiration to you, to help you look for God’s hand in your own daily life.       

Sister Mary Faustina with her parents, Mother Louise Marie and Bishop Baker on the day of her final profession

     “I remember being woken up in the middle of the night, climbing into my shoes and stumbling out to the van to accompany my mom to her weekly Holy Hour at our parish’s little Adoration Chapel. I was about ten years old when she allowed me to begin to join her. Even though I spent most of the 3:00AM Holy Hour asleep in a small armchair, I am convinced that those times spent with Jesus in the Eucharist shaped my vocation story. There are many ways God communicated to me His invitation to belong only to Him in religious life: my Catholic up-bringing, my parish community, good friends, my family and so on. However, it was the Blessed Sacrament that had the biggest impact upon my vocation, and in a particular way, it was Eucharistic Adoration.

 

     “I first experienced a strong inclination to religious life before I even knew what it was. When I was about four years old, I began to desire to be like St. Therese; I wanted to belong to God like she did. That desire never left me throughout my  childhood but after I graduated high school, I began to really wrestle with the fact that all of sudden this could really happen. The natural longing for marriage and family began to grow and at the time it seemed to be competing with the deeper and more mysterious desire for religious life. Selfishness and fear pulled at my heart. “Would I really be happy giving up my family?” “Could I be fulfilled by giving up a husband and children of my own?” “Why is God asking me to give Him so much?” As I began to shrink back from the sacrifice of religious life I also began to shrink away from God. Whenever we pull back from Our Lord, we experience a sense of emptiness and loss. I found that I was becoming less happy and less fulfilled even though the world was telling me that blazing one’s own trail was the way to find happiness.

Eucharistic devotion is part of all our apostolic works. Last spring the Sisters led their catechesis students in a Eucharistic procession through the school grounds

“Thankfully, my spiritual director called me out on the mistake that I was making: I had put my own will before God’s will. I went on retreat with the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word and ended up with an application in hand. But the battle was not over. Even as I filled out the forms and mailed them to the sisters, I was begging God to spare me! Little did I know that He was not offering me a life of sadness but a gift of joy. Throughout this time, I was blessed to have maintained the practice of a weekly Holy Hour at St. Luke’s Adoration Chapel, my home parish in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Each Friday afternoon at 1:00 I would stumble into the chapel, perhaps looking pretty similar to my ten-year-old self who used to stumble in nine years before, except that now I was stumbling over my own selfishness and fear. Week after week, Our Eucharistic Lord listened as I poured out my misery to Him and each week, He showered His mercy on me. If it were not for that hour with Him each week, I would not have made it to July 14th, the day of my entrance. Finally, one Friday, as I was leaving the chapel after my Holy Hour, I came to understand that it was Jesus who I was rejecting when I fought against my vocation. It became a little clearer to me that when I begged Him “Don’t make me be a sister” that I was begging Him to take back a gift from God the Father.

     “I have been with the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word for nine years. My vocation is a gift which continually blows me away. I understand even better now that God was not pinning me down or boxing me in but rather, that He was holding me firmly and gently. There is no doubt in my mind that it was Our Lord in the Eucharist who broke through my fear and selfishness. A Eucharistic miracle took place in a little chapel in Kentucky and I believe firmly that Eucharistic miracles are more common than we realize.”

Tomorrow, we will be entering our annual eight-day Community Retreat.  Please keep us in your prayers, that it may be a fruitful time for all the sisters!

July 16, 2020

Our Lady and the Brown Scapular

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel!

Today is a special day for us, as the day Mother Mary Gabriel began our community and received Sister Mary John Paul as the first Sister Servant!

Mother Mary Gabriel had strong faith in Our Lady’s intercession and the graces she promised to all who would wear the Brown Scapular with devotion. Her conviction of the role this sacramental can play in our spiritual life, and Lucia’s mention of the Brown Scapular in conjunction with the Fatima message, led Mother Gabriel to include an opportunity for enrollement in the Scapular on every retreat at Casa Maria.

In the 20+ years that the sisters have been promoting devotion to the Brown Scapular on retreats, many graces have been received. Just this month, a woman told us the story that after receiving a scapular on our retreat, she also took one to her brother-in-law who was dying in the hospital. Throughout his illness, he had refused to see a priest but accepted the scapular and kept it with him. Within days he changed his mind, asked for a priest, and received the sacraments. He kept the scapular with him until he died, attributing his reunion with Christ to the graces brought through the scapular. The graces didn’t stop there, either. The priest who attended to the dying man was so struck by his visible change of heart, that his own faith in the Scapular was reinvigorated, and he intends to promote it more widely among the faithful.

May Our Lady’s motherly care continue guiding us to seek and follow her Son ever more closely!

 

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Click here to order Sister Rita Marie’s Booklet on the Brown Scapular

“Wear this scapular devoutly and perseveringly. It is my garment. To be clothed in it means you are continually thinking of me, and I in turn am always thinking of you and helping you to secure eternal life.” – The Blessed Mother to St. Simon Stock

“When we faithfully wear the brown scapular, we are disposed to receive the graces God wishes to give us through the maternal care of Our Blessed Mother.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 4, 2020

Happy 4th of July!

Today we celebrate all the good things we have received through our Nation and its forefathers, and ask God to “bless our dear homeland.”  Every morning in our Community Intentions we pray for our Country, its leaders, and all our fellow Americans through the intercession of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, our Country’s Patroness. 

Please join us in prayers of thanksgiving and for peace for our Country!

 

A few years ago, we put up a flag pole near Saint Joseph’s statue at the front of our driveway.

 

Coming from a military family, Sister Margaret Mary grew up with reverence for our Nation’s Flag and has enjoyed passing on to the Community the proper way to care for it. 

 

We fold the Flag with respect and a prayer for our Country every time we retire it for the night.

 

Many thanks to our family and friends who have made our 4th of July celebrations so memorable over the years.  We wish you all a happy Independence Day and hope you are able to find ways to celebrate this weekend!

Please enjoy these pictures from years past:  

A traditional 4th of July picnic – in the breezeway!

 

Thank you for the sparklers!

 

Fresh from the grill.

 

The grand finale of a wonderful day!

June 26, 2020

When the Wind Blows Through

 

What is the best way to praise God

for a gloriously sunny and windy day?

By making a kite, of course!

 

Hope you enjoy these photos of the sisters!

 

June 18, 2020

Celebrating the Sacred Heart

 

We celebrate with great joy the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus! 

The Church dedicates the whole month June to this Mystery of Jesus.

At Casa Maria, one of the first things visitors see is the beautiful Sacred Heart Statue in our courtyard.  Our community has a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus!  We pray an act of consecration to Him every morning and observe the First Friday devotions every month.

In the Image of the Sacred Heart, Jesus reveals many things about the nature of His Love.

When the Sacred Heart appeared to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, He said:

 

 

“Behold the heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even exhausting and consuming itself in testimony of its love.”

 

 

The Flames represent the Passionate Love of Jesus.  Passionate love is a burning desire for the good of some beloved person.  To desire something we cannot have – or at least not without great struggle – causes a painful heartache in our deepest being. 

What is God’s desire that prompted Him to suffer His Passion? He desires us! God created us to be happy and He is waiting for us to respond to that welcome gift. 

His Heart burns with this passionate love so that all men may be gathered to Himself. (John 12:32)

The Crown of Thorns surrounding Jesus’ Heart reminds us to have sorrow for sin and share in His compassion for poor sinners.  Although historically Jesus was crowned with thorns as a mockery of His Kingship, it points to a greater reality:

His Kingship is a Reign of Redemptive, Self-sacrificing Love.

Jesus’ Heart bears the Cross like a trophy.  He willingly suffered His Passion because He wants us to share Everlasting Life with Him forever.

When Jesus reminds us of the Cross, He wants us to remember the extent of His Love! 

Jesus’ Heart is pierced.  The drops of blood flowing from it indicate that it is still an open wound.  Jesus has thus made Himself vulnerable – so accessible to us that He can be hurt by our rejection. 

He keeps it that way to pour out graces upon us and so that we can be free to approach the Merciful Heart of God to beg Him for all our needs.

While He reveals the suffering of His Heart, Jesus also shows us His Glory by the Light that emanates from behind His Heart.  He has already won the victory for us over sin.

Let us respond to His grace and imitate His Heart by our lives!

This is an especially rich time to prayerfully meditate on God’s Love.  When you look at His Sacred Heart, know that He is speaking to you with singular affection and calling you to enter into His Heart, where “you will find rest.” (Mt 11:28)

June 12, 2020

Welcome to the Sister Servants’ Blog!

 

 

Hello to all our family and friends!

The last few months have certainly been a challenge for all of us. So many are experiencing great hardships in this current pandemic, and we want you to know of our prayers for you and your families. We have missed seeing you in person, whether here for Mass and retreats, or at other events where we would have met this summer.

But we know that when the Lord closes a door, He opens a window. While our in-person apostolic work has had to be put on hold, we are using the time to develop new ways to stay in touch with you. One result of our time in quarantine is this new blog! We hope to update it frequently so that you can get a peek into our daily life and activities.

We miss you all!  Please keep us in your prayers, and stay in touch until we can see you again!

With our Love and Prayers,

The Sister Servants of the Eternal Word