Bethlehem Monastery of Poor Clares Summer, 2015
Ring out your joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Our dear Friends,
Have you heard them? Our bells, ringing out to say: This is the day. Yes, it is the day and it is from the heart of our jubilation for our Mother Abbess’ Silver Jubilee that we come to greet you as we approach the blessed days of our solemn novena in honor of our Holy Mother St. Clare. At this writing, we have just come from the first of our three special days of celebration with the bells of the Mass with our Bishop DiLorenzo and six concelebrating priests still echoing in our hearts. They will ring out again in a few days on Sunday, July 26, when we celebrate the second of our three days of rejoicing with Father Robert McCreary, O.F.M. Cap., at the altar. As you know from previous editions of this august publication, one day is never enough to give thanks to the Lord for His grace and goodness in bringing one of our Sisters to this milestone in her religious life. And how much more so in this year especially dedicated to giving thanks for the charism of the consecrated life in the Church! We were delighted to have so many of you join us that day, both in body and spirit, and are sure that you received many special graces from the hand of Mother’s divine Bridegroom.
But to backtrack a bit to the place we left you a couple months ago. Our former chaplain, Father Francis Simeone, led us through our celebrations of Holy Week and Easter this year. It was the first time since his retirement that he had presided at the entire Triduum. When we greeted him in the parlor afterwards to thank him for his presence and for his insightful homilies, he remarked that, for him, too, the days had been most fulfilling. Those outpoured graces grew and blossomed during the following weeks as we prepared to send our Mother Abbess and Sister Francis Maria westward to California. There they joined abbesses and delegates from each monastery of our Federation of Mary Immaculate as they met in Los Altos Hills for our triennial chapter. These events are always a source of blessing for us all, as together we share and support one another in our way of life, which is such a mystery to those not called to it. As our Bishop recalled in his homily at Mother’s Jubilee Mass, that is especially true in our world today, which seems to be set only on material things. The cloistered life is set instead as a question mark in the midst of all that, “to keep green among the people of God the memory of a heavenly homeland” as one of the Council documents puts it. In other words, to prompt (or provoke) people to ask “Why?”
Our Sister Maria Christi of the Immaculate Conception is one of those who heard the answer, and on May 14, Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, pledged herself to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, in poverty, and in chastity, vowing to live in the enclosure, following the path our Father St. Francis and our Mother St. Clare traced out for us more than 800 years ago. After such a beginning, we concluded the Church’s great novena for the coming of the Holy Spirit. with a special Vigil Mass at 11:30 p.m. on the Saturday before Pentecost. Those of you who joined us heard readings in Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi, Malayalam, Latin, and Portuguese, with the responsorial psalms in English. We are planning to do it again next year, but at an earlier hour. Just a few weeks later, on the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we had the joy of welcoming into the fullness of community our Sister Mary Prabha who came to us from India several years ago. Approval of Sister’s permanent transfer had come from her home community in Raiganj in late April, but we wanted an extra special day for our celebration. Then, on July 10th, we opened our arms and our hearts to receive into our midst two more of our Sisters from our monastery in Holland: Sister Margaret Mary and Sister Petrice. A third, Sister Theresia, had come over in January. The monastery had to close because of a lack of vocations in secularized Europe. A couple of days later, we sealed our welcome with a mini-fireworks festival (we had saved a few sparklers and a couple exploding fountains from the Fourth). It was our version of a 21-gun salute to these valiant Sisters who had given all they had to follow Christ along His mysterious and often mystifying ways.
These past few months have also seen us hosting several young men seeking silence and solitude for their retreats on the way to diaconal or priestly ordination. You may recall some years back during the special year for priests we had offered the opportunity to the priests of our diocese to spend quiet time in our guest area, the only charge being to say our morning Mass. It seems that the seed planted back then has taken root as more busy priests have sought to renew their spirits at this hearth of our holy Mother St. Clare.
Speaking of seeds being planted, this summer has blossomed with more than its usual share of young women discerning the call of the Lord. Some have come and seen that our way is not for them. But others have caught echoes of their hearts’ desire and have asked to return for deeper listening. Some have come singly; some as part of a group; all have said they felt graced with a special meeting with the Lord. Many of you recently met one of those who have heard the deeper call when Sarah Meier came to St. Bede’s Parish in Williamsburg to ask for help in meeting her college debt. We would like very much to express our gratitude to all of you at St. Bede’s who responded so generously to her appeal and to share the great glad tidings that before you receive this missive, our enclosure doors will open wide to welcome her into our midst.
Soon our bells will be ringing again for the joy of Jubilee for our Mother. We will share more of that in our next issue. A little farther down the road, on August 2nd, they will sound once more to announce the beginning of our great novena in honor of our Holy Mother St. Clare. You may notice from the insert included in this mailing that our novena will be prayed in the evening this year as is traditional in most of our monasteries. On the final evening, August 10, there will be a Vigil Mass for the feast, at which the traditional breads will be blessed. Be assured we will be remembering all of you, far and near, commending you to the prayers of our Holy Mother who was a light in the darkness for the people of her own era. Surely her intercession will bring light into the shadows of our own times and illumine the rough places in the lives of all who trust in her who placed her trust so firmly in the One Whom she knew as
“God-with-us, the God close to us and not merely in the spatial and temporal sense; He is close to us because He has, as it were, ‘espoused’ our humanity; He has taken our condition upon Himself, choosing to be like us in all things but sin in order to make us become like Him…Christian joy thus springs from this certainty: God is close, He is with me, He is with us, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse. And this joy endures, even in trials, in suffering itself. It does not remain only on the surface; it dwells in the depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and trusts in Him.”
-Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
May that Lord be with you always and may you be with Him always and in every place.
MONASTERY EVENTS 2015
August 2 – 9 Novena in honor of our Holy Mother St. Clare 7:00 each evening
August 10 Vigil Mass of our Holy Mother St. Clare 6:30 p.m.
August 11 Solemnity of our Holy Mother St. Clare Morning Mass 8:00 a.m.
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