The architecture for our simple bell tower is again modeled on the one at San Damiano monastery in Assisi. Bells connected with divine services go back in Christianity to about the fourth century. When our Father St. Francis visited the Near-East during his wondrous odyssey of 1219, he became passionate about reproducing Muslim fervor for public prayer. He listened to the crier (muezzin) in his minaret and watched these non-Christians prostrate in profound adoration; and he straightway brought their custom, in Christian form, back to his hometown and territory. Today's Angelus is a direct descendant of his effort! Our two tower bells, Maria and Chiara, announce not only the Angelus, but the greatest moments of the day, our Eucharistic celebration as well as the seven daily hours of the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours.
Here at the center of the residential area of our monastery is the "cloister", our "garden enclosed". It symbolizes for us the monastic way to union with God: a life truly ordered for his glory. The cross-formed walkway reminds us that it is through the redemptive suffering of Christ and our own sharing of his Passion that the world is brought to peace and the beauty of love. Like our Father St. Francis and our Mother St. Clare, we shall delight in the loveliness of nature, finding the face of God reflected in each flower and leaf. Thus shall our hearts be purified for entering into his Eucharistic Presence as we make our way daily to the monastery choir that completes the circle of the cloister and is the true center of our lives
The monastic refectory, where meals are taken in silence while the spirit is nourished by spiritual reading is indeed another Cenacle. Because the Eucharist was instituted in the context of a meal, the connection between our sanctuary and the refectory is profound. Architecturally they have been placed across from and in view of each other on the quadrangle of the building. A connecting length of sidewalk accentuates their sacred and complementary functions.
Communing with God and communing with one another are the partnered expressions of our enclosed contemplative life. From both we seek to commune with all the people of God's world. The very name community room bears special witness to the sisterhood to which we are called. This multipurpose room reflects so many aspects of our life in common: recreation, work projects, communal discussions, classes, and more.
The term cell, so ancient in monastic usage, has, unfortunately, been given a pejorative meaning in our day. It derives from the Latin cellula - a very small room. It is a little portion, private to each sister, reflecting the simplicity and purity of our life with Christ. This is her secret trysting place with the Beloved, a little alcove in the King's Rooms. Besides being a place for rest at the end of a busy day, it is a private oratory for contemplating the Word of God, and sometimes a scriptorium for study and some forms of quiet work. Small by worldly standards, it is as spacious as the heart of its occupant.
The sister-cook exercises a maternal-like care over her kitchen duties as Mary over her household at Nazareth. Using the many gifts of God's creation, she shares daily in his creativity in the preparation of simple nourishing meals. Bethlehem means 'house of bread." The work of the sister-baker in preparing our daily bread, a morning portion and an evening repast, is a sacramental sign of the Eucharistic meal provided by the Bread of Life himself. Monastic menus follow closely the feasts and fasts of the Liturgical Year. This rhythm, pulsing in the heart of the Most Holy Trinity, pulses through every aspect of a given day.