A Nun Blog - The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration

A Nun Blog - The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration "For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the Image of His own Eternity." Wisdom 2:23

Monday, December 12, 2011

Incredible Identity

Recently, one of our Sisters was doing the grocery shopping. While she was busily gathering veggies in the produce department, an astonished little wide-eyed tyke spotted her and gasped “Mommy, what is that?!” The child’s mom and the nearby store staff member were evidently more embarrassed over the comment than Sister herself! These types of incidents always make for a good laugh! They break through the surface of normal routine and bring back to mind things of fundamental importance… things like - who we are!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Providence to the Rescue

The beauty of our premises here at Our Lady of the Angels is a marvelous tribute to God’s Providence and daily reminder of His love. Divine Providence is a powerful manifestation of the Father’s care, power, and love in the tiny and giant events of our lives. It is a challenge to see the good, and possible good, in every circumstance; but it is so worth the effort to believe, that “all works for our good” – because it’s true! The daily manifestations of Providence especially in the middle of the day-to-day humdrum astonish us, and teach us that God is in everything.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Novice's Yes!

Following Vespers the evening before All Saints Day, we celebrated our communion with the Saints in glory. The most anticipated moment followed supper, when a basket was passed round the table and each sister chose (blindly!) her new patrons for the year. Although we draw from among the slips of paper, it seems that it is the Saint who chooses the sister! Sometimes the correlation between the two souls can be surprising or amusing… and other times the significance is imperceptible.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saints of the New Millennium

Today is the Feast of Bl. John Paul II!!! In his memory, a little tribute...

Rather than surrender to the finality of goodbye, our natural tendency is to grasp and hold on, to fight against the separation from those we love. Many of us felt a gigantic loss on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 2, 2005, when our beloved Pope John Paul II entered eternity. As champion of hope, spiritual father, intellectual colossus, and remarkably influential pontiff, Pope John Paul unconsciously created an entire generation of Catholics: the JPII Generation. Born, nurtured, and matured in faith under his watch, this generation of Catholics mourned his passing from a unique vantage point, that of having never experienced life in the Church under another pope. Yet, his influence reached even further. Entire nations, sovereigns, Catholics and non-Catholics alike took notice of this disciple of Christ and are better today for what his life offered us in deed and word. The Beatification of Blessed John Paul II on May 1, 2011 again brought into focus the phenomenal effect this man had on the world. The very fact that his death was the catalyst for such a genuine outpouring of grief from believers and nonbelievers alike is indicative of his enormous human impact. The personal connection he made with millions of people generated an individual sense of loss in each of them. It is this one-on-one encounter with living and vital Christianity through the person of the Vicar of Christ that changed the face of modern Catholicism. The Pope who raised to the altar numerous saints for the third millennium, thus showing us the many and varied faces of Christian holiness, now joins the ranks of the blessed himself. Blessed John Paul II, newest blessed of our generation, pray for us!

“Young people of the every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplatives, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace”

Blessed John Paul II

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Pope Benedict XVI’s recent announcement of the Year of Faith, to begin just one year from now, is a fresh exhortation to share with others, one’s ‘Credo’. It’s a great chance now in preparation, to look to the North American Martyrs – today’s Saints! These men who planted the cross in the soil of this continent and in the hearts of the natives back in the 1600s, lived and died in the faith. As in the film The Mission, which follows Jesuit missionaries in their endeavors to build a strong village – a new civilization steeped in faith – for the people of South America, the Cross takes a central focus. At the beginning of the narrative, the native Brazilians send a Jesuit Father over a massive and thundering waterfall – affixed to a cross. This apparent, futile ‘failure’ becomes the impetus for another zealous priest to follow after his martyred confrere and give himself entirely to serving, educating and ministering to the very same tribe. Certainly the circumstances surrounding the North American martyrs had their own set of struggles. Yet the love of Christ burning in their actions and sacrifices gave the same incredible brilliance to their proclamation of the Faith. Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Ratzinger) in his book Introduction to Christianity speaks of this mystery of the Cross embodied in the martyrs: “Anyone who has stretched his existence so wide that he is simultaneously immersed in God and in the depths of the God-forsaken creature is bound to be torn asunder, as it were; such a one is truly ‘crucified’. But this process of being torn apart is identical with love; it is its realization to the extreme (Jn 13:1) and the concrete expression of the breadth it creates.” The Pope goes on to elaborate that Christ’s love which led Him to reconcile us with the Father through the Cross is stronger than death. This is the greatest proclamation of the martyrs: “Jesus’ total love for men, which leads him to the Cross… becomes stronger than death, because in this it is at the same time total ‘being held’ by [the Father]” (Cardinal Ratzinger).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Into Glory

Yesterday evening during the celebration of the Transitus of our holy Father, St. Francis of Assisi, a passage from St. Bonaventure’s account of his death was read. His final words, like his whole life, run in the same vein as those of Christ. Francis’ exhortation, “I have done what was mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours”, seem to image the words of Jesus, “It is finished” - and the exclamation of St. Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). The entry of St. Francis into eternal glory is a verification of the supreme beauty of the Christian life! His passage into the life of heaven is the ultimate affirmation that living the Gospel is THE way of being conformed to Christ, to experiencing in one’s person “the love which is God.” In his letter to the entire order, Francis cries: “hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally!” What a great exhortation for all who desire to enter into the joy of the Lord! A Happy Feast Day to ALL!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Suds & Sanctity

Here at the monastery above the large kitchen sink, where piles of pots, measuring cups, serving spoons, & sometimes-burnt pans are washed day after day, is perched a little holy card of today’s Saint, Therese of Lisieux. Maybe you’ve seen this photo of her, bending over the wash pool in Carmel, next to her sister Celine. The caption is a saying of the Saint: “To ecstasy, I prefer the monotony of sacrifice.” Sounds rather heroic. And yet, it is a prime characteristic of what distinguishes her in all her extraordinary ‘humanness.’ Her Little Way is a sure path to holiness and is accessible to all who desire the sanctity of the beatitudes. It is a road for those despoiled (or being despoiled!) of self-sufficiency and growing in an ever-deepening experience of the Lord's words: "without me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5). Therese didn’t rely on her own gumption when facing hours in a stuffy laundry with Sisters possessing a spectrum of personalities, but she continually sought wisdom and assistance from above. Next to her exceptional poverty of spirit, her ‘mourning’ for the sins and failings of herself and others often took the form of self-sacrifice. Desiring to console Jesus by quenching his thirst for souls, she embarked on the path of self-denial. By curbing petty curiosity or offering to help a demanding Sister, she entered into the joy that is a fruit of the Cross. Although these are thoughts on just two of the beatitudes, meekness, mercy, purity of heart and genuine peacemaking were all Christian attributes St. Therese pursued with a courageous boldness! She has paved this Little Way to such an extraordinary degree, that we really have no excuses, no reasons why we can’t start, or start again, or continue on our way to complete and eternal Beatitude – all with grace from above!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Unabashed Mercy

Vocations stories in all their varieties and drama are a real testimony of God’s grace (and here we have a plethora!) Anyone who lives the consecrated life, is aspiring to the priesthood, or lives a life of dedicated service to the Church will point to one, common, living source and reason for their allotted path… God’s grace-filled call! Of all the remarkable ‘calls’ in history, Saint Matthew’s own vocation remains a veritable proof, fit for our times, of Christ’s all-embracing mercy. As the notorious tax-collector got up from his bench, leaving all wealth and relinquishing his power over others, he was not only embarking on an unknown adventure with the Savior, he was taking the first steps of his own ‘salvation story.’ That immediate response to Christ inaugurated a life of transformation – from disciple, to apostle, then evangelist. The initial grace to ‘turn from sin’ was truly an act of God’s mercy – the same mercy that brought him to salvation and through him, manifested divine, redeeming love to all ends of the earth. God’s mercy extended to ‘public’ sinners, as seen in the Gospels, has a unique splendor, for in it we see clearly the magnanimity of Christ’s Heart. And yet for each of us, sinners that we are, this mercy is no less potent, no less purifying. St. Therese (whose feast day is not far off!) in all her amazingly real holiness, spoke profusely of the mercy of God. In her simplicity and ‘groundedness’ she KNEW that it was by God’s grace that she was the person she was. She wrote some striking lines in her autobiography that Saint Matthew himself could have penned… “I know how he loved the prodigal son, I have heard his words to St. Mary Magdalene, to the woman taken in adultery, and to the woman of Samaria. No, no one could frighten me, for I know what to think about his love and his mercy.”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Musings on Monotony

September 8th, now past, dawned with slivers of sunshine after several days of clouds and rain as in much of the surrounding South. It was quite fitting, considering the themes repeated in the Divine Office for Our Lady’s Birthday which highlighted Mary as the Dawn of our salvation, Jesus Christ. When we think of Mary’s humble birth and what her early life must have been from the vantage of our more ‘sophisticated’ age, perhaps we are tempted to immediately think: ‘monotony!’ Could life in 1st century rural Nazareth have been exciting, or anything other than tedious?! And yet the so-called ‘monotonous’ life cloaks the possibility for a deep penetration into the Reality that rests beneath the tizzy of frenetic life. One can imagine how the hours of routine tasks in Mary’s life gave her the time to marvel at her Son, to delve into the meaning of Simeon’s words, or to wonder at her Son’s unannounced stay in the Temple. Through her simple life, dwelling daily with God Incarnate, she knew firsthand that God looks with favor on His lowly servant. The dawning of salvation began in the obscurity of a human village, and it continues in the unassuming work of the here and now. Perhaps many people today would wish for a slower, quieter routine in a rather demanding world. Even if one has to juggle a thousand responsibilities, as St. Teresa of Avila once said, God can be found among the pots and pans! (It’s true!!) Nonetheless, it is important to use the lulls, or the stretches of ‘flavorless’ work, to penetrate beyond the mundane and material. Those moments lend themselves most surely to our minds, hearts and souls to rest in God and see what He has to say…

At this time we pray especially for those who lost loved ones 10 years ago this September 11th, and in times more recent. Where grief and sorrow add a heavy burden to the routines of daily life, we pray you find solace in the compassionate and sorrowful heart of Mary.

The above picture was taken at dawn here at the Shrine on September 4th when we celebrated the Patronal Feast of the Shrine: the Solemnity of the Divino Nino Jesus! It was a blessing to have hundreds of pilgrims come (especially from the country of Columbia!) to honor the Divino Nino!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

WYD Front Row

Watching World Youth Day 2011 from ‘front row seating’ (as we like to call it here at OLAM - via EWTN), one cannot help but stand in awe at the immensity, not only of the event itself and the faith it proclaims, but the action of grace at work. As we were staring intently at the screen with this event unfolding before us, soaking in the power of the Holy Father’s message, we were also half engrossed in the ordinary routines of opening mail, folding stacks of library cards and sorting basil. Yet these little tasks suddenly opened out onto the extraordinary vista of WYD – mail and the Pope, basil and a million souls in prayer, cheers of ‘Viva Il Papa’ and silent adoration, God and the world. You may have seen the staggering view of more than a million gathered with the Holy Father and Christ Himself in the Eucharist. What an amazing sight, drawn further into the heart as one by one, individuals’ faces are seen. Here we are – sons and daughters of the one Father, brought together by one faith, one Lord, one God. In these souls, and in all those united in prayer before Jesus truly present, is the field, the soil where the Holy Spirit is at work. The silent heart present to God, attentive to His word, seeking to find and serve Him in one’s neighbor – this is where faith can take firm roots! That means the possibility for all of us to bear fruit abundantly. Whether we are in Madrid, starting classes, looking for work, taking care of little ones at home, paying bills… the life giving fruit that brings goodness to the lives of others, hope in suffering, and unabashed joy in the midst of contradiction all starts with Christ, with silently gazing at Him. And by faith we see that He too is gazing at us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Milestones in the Making

Yesterday on August 15th, Mother Angelica celebrated her 67th anniversary of entrance into religious life!! The solemnity of the Assumption, already a day of unique and triumphant beauty, is a vastly significant day to give thanks for Mother’s own ‘fiats,’ throughout these many years. Incidentally it was also the 30th Anniversary of the inception of EWTN, Mother’s unforeseen apostolate to literally preach the Gospel to the nations. More incredibly this proclamation of truth and love would be for you – for each individual looking to find and know God and the hope to which He has called us. It is completely fitting that these momentous occasions coincided with the Assumption of Mary, our Mother who has gone where we are called and headed, precisely because she lived the Gospel with her whole being and was preserved from original sin. Like Christ, who has gone to prepare a place for us, she has preceded us and is the one who lives in the fullness of our destiny. Not least of all, yesterday our Sr. Mary Michael celebrated 60 years since she first walked through the enclosure door, and Sr. Mary Regina reached 49 years in service to the Church! We give thanks for each of these spouses of Christ and all they have given to God. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love Him! (1 Cor. 2:9)

Above pictured: Mother Angelica with Sr. Mary Joseph of happy memory, Sr. Mary Regina, and Sr. Mary Michael

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Our Little Portion

On August 11th, in solidarity with our worldwide Poor Clare family, we celebrated the Solemnity of our Holy Mother Clare during the 800th centenary of her flight from nobility and wealth to humble obscurity and poverty. Under the auspices of the Little Poor Man of Assisi, Lady Clare’s beginnings in the aptly titled “Little Portion” chapel (Portiuncula) inaugurated a way of life that would inspire countless young women to follow the poor and humble Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Our Holy Mother Clare’s hidden life of contemplative prayer is an image of bridal love, which is itself representative of Christ’s relationship to His Church.

Clare, often called the “Little Plant” of Saint Francis, began her radical Gospel life at the feet of Francis in the Portiuncula. Kneeling on the rude stones put in place by Francis himself, she renounced the trappings of nobility and donned the bridal splendor of her Savior: poverty, chastity, and obedience. Far from narrowing her vision of the world by leaving it, she paradoxically enlarged her life dramatically by living inside the Gospel.

Sister Mary Paschal of the Lamb of God, following eight years of prayerful discernment, embraced “with her whole heart” this simple but profound example of our Spiritual Mother. What was true for Clare in the Middle Ages carries equal veracity for Sister Mary Paschal in the 21st century. Our sister, in leaving “houses [and] brothers [and] sisters [and] father [and] mother… [and] lands”, (Matthew 19:29-30) has become spiritually rich in her poverty, loved in her solitude, and liberated in her obedience. Like Clare, her world has become infinitely larger by virtue of her inhabiting the Gospel. The cloister walls, because they contain a Christocentric life, defy reason: the Real Presence of Christ makes our cloister larger inside than out.

This truth was illustrated in a concrete way during the party thrown before Sister Paschal’s pre-profession silent retreat. In a case of art imitating life, one of the props used for the party marvelously illustrated a theological truth. A replica of the fa├žade of the portiuncula, handcrafted by the sisters, featured a doorway through which the sisters had to enter. Our tall Sister Paschal had to bend low to enter the room, which was made in the image of a chapel. What profound truths from such small actions! It was a concrete lesson in how we all must enter the presence of the King: humble and aware of our smallness, effacing ourselves as we bring our hearts into the Presence of the Beating Heart.

Below, we share with you the poem composed for the occasion. Enjoy!

Behold, the end of our travels,

But not the least of the marvels!

Though called the “little portion, this is something of a paradox;

This dwelling was for the friars so much more than a pile of rocks.

The poverty and humility of its surface

Concealed the grandeur and nobility of purpose.

Oh Paschal of statuesque beauty, bend low—it’s the only way!

For you to enter the King’s domain and receive your corona virgine!

For the King rests inside, infinity inside the finite,

But to our human minds, that math is not quite right.

For you can search all over in lands far and wide,

But you’ll never find something else that’s bigger in than outside!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Knock of Faith

On July 22nd, with three knocks at the enclosure door, Genevieve Rose entered the monastery as a postulant! The excitement, apprehension, and plethora of emotions that come with one’s entrance day, all surround (or enhance) that crucial, distilled moment of faith when one steps from the world to the cloister. It has been stated that the primary formation of cloistered nuns is a formation in faith. This very essential core of the Christian life is to take root and blossom for the good of the Church in the lives of all who live the monastic life. Faith is certainly exercised by all followers of Christ, or else we are not Christians at all… but sometimes when reading the Gospel passages about the faith that is ‘small as a mustard seed’ – that faith that ‘moves mountains,’ we can ask: ‘what does that kind of faith look like in everyday life?’ We don’t need to search beyond those favorite stories in scripture where David’s faith in God took the form of five smooth stones when he faced a gigantic insulter of the Almighty. Obviously he knew that as he was fighting for his Lord, God would be fighting for him. Our Lady cannot be overlooked in this regard, her ‘fiat mihi – be it done unto me,’ in total faith struck at the very foundation of the mountain of iniquity of the whole human race, and in time this mountain would ‘be cast into the sea’ of her Son’s mercy. And last week, we saw our new Sister’s faith take root as she knocked at the cloister door. Small beginnings, yes – but with God all things are possible! Please pray for Sr. Genevieve Rose as she wholeheartedly gives herself to this new life in faith!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Berries... and More

It’s been a good while since there has been a posting here …many things slow down in this southern heat, but not time! As the daily work of the monastery begins to include attending to the produce spilling in from the garden, life gets more ‘colorful’ (literally!) and the psalms in choir more vivid: ‘the earth has yielded it’s fruit, for God our God has blessed us.’ Right now the ‘fruit of the week’ is blueberries! These little plump morsels are being used in a myriad of recipes. One blessing of having an abundance of one kind of fruit is that it affords the opportunity to have something as thrilling as instructions in the art of pie baking. One of our eldest Sisters is a true genius in the kitchen! Being served blueberries in various forms at breakfast, lunch and supper is no hardship; there is just that other dimension that cannot be forgotten. Some hardworking persons forage through the bushes to bring in buckets of fruit (and all the other veggies as well)! Any ‘spare hands’ are eagerly welcomed out in the backyard berry-ville. Certainly it was these types of real life situations that Our Lord used to illustrate some of His most urgent teachings or to give His instructions: “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest!” When there is no one to bring in ‘the harvest’ the inevitable happens – rotting food, spoiled vegetables and wasted labor. In a world dependent on these things, the terrible result of a lost harvest is hunger, and perhaps death. This has crucial application in the spiritual realm that is far from alien to our own lives. Without laborers and shepherds in the Lord’s harvest, the plagues of spiritual hunger, weakness and death is never far off. Thankfully we have a true, faithful and untiring shepherd in Pope Benedict XVI – ‘a humble laborer in the Lord’s vineyard’ to whose example we look as we seek to serve the Lord ‘in spirit and truth.’ Lord send out laborers for your harvest, bless those sent out in your Name & let us serve you as you see fit!
The photo is from an early blueberry survey... not a shot of the full scale harvesting! To those who made generous offers to help us pick blueberries, the 'blueberry patch' is within our cloistered yard - but we are grateful for your thoughtfulness just the same!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day of Grace

Ordinations. New graduates, weddings and newly weds. June is a month during which the Church experiences a tremendous outpouring of grace and new vitality – how appropriate that we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost during this time! Although (unlike in the movie The Sound of Music) we do not have weddings in our monastery chapel, or see men ordained to the priesthood from the Mass choir, the joy of this ‘new creation’ extends to all members of Christ’s Body who pray for the building up of the Church! Without a doubt, although the evidence that God’s grace is needed in every part of the world, a glance at our own hearts can suffice to produce a sincere invocation – Come Holy Spirit!!! Just briefly considering the situation of the first disciples prior to the descent of the Spirit, one can easily identify with their need for the coming of the Advocate. As in yesterday’s Gospel where Peter is asked by Jesus: ‘Do you love me?’, what could one answer, sitting there by the sea, seeing Him with His forever-wounded hands, with one’s utter failure fresh in mind? Peter’s sincere answer is beautiful beyond doubt. His response coupled with his own recognition of personal weakness suffices to reassure us two millennia later that nothing is beyond God’s grace. God accepts us where we are and by the Holy Spirit, transforms this clay into temples of His grace – His very life!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Of Storms and Such

Living in a community whose members come from all over the map, provides an opportunity in times like these when tornados & disasters hit so many places to starkly experience St. Paul’s words: “When one member of the body suffers, all the members suffer with it.” While we were spared the more tragic devastation left by the tornadoes that recently tore through nearby Cullman, the effects of these events were experienced far outside the destruction zones. While our daily lot following April 27th consisted of finding inventive ways to carry out various tasks without electricity, many of our neighbors were doing without so much more, and grieving much loss. Waiting through each funnel sighting in the crypt chapel in silent prayer with families who were wondering if they would have a home to return to was a sobering reality. During the critical storm hours and ever since, we have benefited from the compassion – the ‘suffering-with’ of our family and friends who offered up prayers & wrote or called in concern. Even more recently, as Sisters with families in the red zones of the Midwest storms prayed for their safety, all shared the burden of their apprehension and intercession. This is one of the beauties of our life as Christians! When the deeper questions of life surface, especially in such drastic circumstances as various areas in our country have seen, one must look deeper. Here, in the greater picture of life and in very real situations, one can find oneself as it were in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the illustration of the house built on rock, or the agony in the Garden – watching with Christ and the suffering members of His Body. When we respond to these opportunities to bring help, to provide support and offer prayers for our brothers and sisters, the reward offered to us surpasses what we can give – that is - hearing the words of Jesus spoken in the Gospel… “you did it to me.”

Monday, May 9, 2011

Silver Celebration

On April 30th, despite the horrific storms, tornados and catastrophes that occurred earlier that week here in Hanceville and nearby Cullman, we had a great reason to rejoice in God’s goodness and mercy. On that eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, Sr. Mary Agnes of Jesus celebrated 25 years of Religious Life! One of the verses Sister chose to commemorate this milestone was taken from Revelation: "Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life." As Fr. Joseph, MFVA mentioned in his homily at the Jubilee Mass, it was a most fitting day to celebrate ‘faithful love’ – Sister’s fidelity to Christ in prayer for the Church and in a special way, for the newly beatified John Paul II! Could there be a better anniversary gift than to see the person one had been interceding for, for so many years, raised up as a Blesssed?! Overwhelmingly apparent too, was the evidence of God’s faithfulness as he brought Sister and her family together in the midst of terrific ‘odds’ for this joyous occasion! Having become a bride of Christ during the Easter season more than two decades ago, there could be no better time for Sr. Agnes to renew her vows than during the Easter octave – the great ‘day that the Lord has made!’ The ingenuity exercised by all – cooks, sacristans, etc… as they prepared by daylight & lantern light for this celebration, certainly added to the solemnity of the day! We give thanks to God for all the ways He has blessed us and the whole Church through Sr. Agnes’ fidelity these 25 years! May He continue and fulfill the good work begun in His bride 25 years ago!

Thank you to all who kept us in prayer during the tornados that recently swept through Alabama. God certainly preserved us from harm and we cannot thank Him enough - that alone is enough for a post of its own!!! Our prayers are with those suffering from the immense destruction the storms caused and those who are struggling to live day by day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

88 Strong!

Eighty-eight years is a good long time! Today, April 20th, Mother Angelica reached this remarkable milestone. This afternoon, we gathered the stunningly beautiful flowers and brightly wrapped gifts that many of Mother’s friends sent her in celebration of this day. She was chipper and beamed brightly as her surprises were unwrapped. Mother smiled and nodded in appreciation when she was told of the many prayers that were offered for her in thanksgiving for her life! Thank you to all who keep Mother in your prayers! She is very grateful.

Providentially, Mother’s birthday falls this year right before Holy Thursday and the beginning of the Easter Triduum. Her long-suffering & patient endurance of a myriad of burdens has certainly allowed her an ever-greater glimpse into the depths of God’s love.

For much of this week, the antiphon that is chanted at midday prayer in the liturgy of the hours borrows from the Gospel of John: Jesus had always loved those who were his own, and now he would show them the depth of his love. The astounding reality of these sacred days is truly this – to be drawn into the unfathomable depths of Christ’s love – his love that lays down his life for us, his love that ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’ unto the end. When one receives Him at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – at the very outset of His ‘hour’ – these words of Pope Benedict XVI have a profound resonance: The overcoming of guilt has a price: we must put our heart – or, better, our whole existence – on the line. And even this act is insufficient; it can become effective only through communion with the One who bore the burdens of us all. We too are called to communion and a sharing in this same life giving love of the Redeemer through the Cross - and all the forms that it takes in our lives.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Desert Whisperings

New arrivals to Alabama will often hear some enthusiastic well-seasoned resident share the unnerving fact that the state they now live in is home to a number of venomous snakes. Even more disconcerting than hearing this statement is the queasy feeling that begins to grow as one thinks: I wouldn’t know what to do if bit by a snake! - while wondering the distance to the nearest hospital. The passage from Exodus that chronicles the Israelites’ plight and rescue from seraph serpents in the desert displays a similar drama in its darkest form. Israel had begun to grumble, and with ‘their patience worn out by the journey’ (Num 21:4) they lost sight of God’s providence and unfailing faithfulness. The ‘serpent’s’ whisperings, manifested in their thoughts and complaints, suddenly were seen, as it were, in the flesh. God sent among them the visible consequence of their unbelief. The result was suffering from the serpent bite and the ultimate evil – death. While these most cunning of all the animals destroyed God’s chosen ones, the Lord himself intervened and saved those who succumbed to the father of lies. The problem with ‘the serpent’ of course began in the Garden. Eve, seduced by the tempter’s words, tasted his ‘poison’ – the poison of death as she took the fruit – her first act of mistrust and disobedience. In Lent we keenly feel the residue of this venom in our very selves. The poison of sin and selfishness has corroded our relationship with God and we often do not ‘do the good [we] want (Rom 7:19).’ And yet the remedy for our foolishness far exceeds the damage we have incurred. While we have often tasted the forbidden fruit, choosing to live for ourselves, - the Cross, the Tree of Life offers us salvation in the One lifted upon it. He draws us to taste this Fruit, which is Himself given up for us in the Eucharist. Here at the Tree of Life we find the Woman who will (and does!) with her Son, crush the serpent’s head. Let us stay with her as Holy Week approaches and as we take part in the great drama of our salvation.

Friday, March 25, 2011

For the Life of the World

“And the Word was made flesh.” Mother Angelica has a profound love for these powerful words. which have had an immeasurable impact on her life. Here at Our Lady of the Angels we have a special reason to rejoice on this feast – it is the Feastday of our Reverend Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation! We can certainly give thanks again and again for all that God has done through her faithful ‘yeses’ through the years (and they are numerous!) We especially look forward to spending some time with her as a community on her big day, to share with her some laughs, some smiles and perhaps a song. The Feast of the Annunciation is an fitting day to celebrate someone who has brought the Word of God to so many!
The mystery of the Annunciation and the Incarnation! God and man are forever united in and through Christ. Beautiful too, is the realization that Mary perfectly fulfilled what God had ordained for her. Having been prepared from the moment of her conception, free of sin for this Divine Gift, she fully corresponds to the designs of God. She was a woman who had ‘meditated on the law of the Lord’, who knew the history of salvation yet unfolding, and the promises of God contained in the Torah. Mary’s consent was full, entire, self-emptying, total. And in place of that unconditional surrender, she received God Himself. She is an unparalleled exemplar for all of us in hearing and receiving the Word, believing what God has said, and responding in turn. The challenge for us is passing on the great treasures of our faith that we have been given without distorting them, without watering down, without compromising either love or truth. So let us receive & let us give! What more does this broken and aching world need but the Word of God and His presence among us?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Journey On!

This Lenten season has begun! As we set out on this ‘exodus’ journey from sinful habits, to a greater freedom in Christ, it is essential that we always keep our goal and destiny in sight. The normal fasting from a favorite pastime, food, or bad habit is a starting point for a greater end. It is no secret that this process from start to finish is plagued with setbacks, failures, difficulties and temptations. These are not the issue at hand, but it is imperative to remember that temptations are to be expected. Temptations and lies – are all set up to distract us from our end, to delay or turn around the process of overcoming sin and being faithful to the Gospel. It is important that we be able to exercise ourselves in doing good in all aspects of life so that we CAN recognize the presence of lies and the one that speaks them. We will reject lies and sin at the renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter… so that is why we get this opportunity to do just that now! The great Solemnity of St. Joseph affords us a spectacular chance to glimpse the beauty of this end that we seek in Lent – new life in Christ Jesus. Joseph – a man of faithfulness and justice knew God and believed His promises spoken throughout the generations. Therefore he did not hesitate to respond in faith at EVERY prompting God gave him. May it be so for us! St. Joseph – pray for us!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Glimpse: The JPII Eucharistic Center

This is a small little preview of the much-asked-about John Paul II Eucharistic Center in progress here at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament & Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. To Catholics and believers of all faiths alike, the reason for the Shrine, while prominent, remains an inexhaustible mystery . At the center and heart of the chapel here is Christ truly present in the Eucharist. The JPII center is a 'small' yet significant and innovative tribute to Jesus' unfathomable gift to us - Himself in the Eucharist. Here, visitors to the Shrine can step into recreations of a Jewish home at Passover (a foreshadowing of the Eucharist) and a constructed synagogue like the one where Christ would have given the discourse in John chapter 6. On display are immense paintings depicting the price Christ paid to give us this memorial of His passion and death. Multi Media presentations including stunning reenactment of historical Eucharistic miracles as well as dynamic question and answer segments are available at various booths. Not least of all are tributes to Saints and martyrs who gave the ultimate confession of faith in Christ's Real Presence - their own life. Your prayers and support for this great work are truly appreciated! Adoro te devote!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beginning Again

Not long ago, we had a reunion - Part II - with our AZ Sisters! Having recently moved ‘on site’ with their newly constructed chapel and in need of help to build a monastery, the Desert Nuns were invited to be on EWTN’s Life on the Rock show. That’s where their visit with us at OLAM began… sharing stories from the years when we’ve been many miles apart and getting a ‘simulated-imagine-it-in-your-mind’ tour of their chapel (with no pics!) from their chief ‘architect’ Sr. St. Paul, was great fun! All too soon, it was time to see them off…and off to the show!

Close on the heels of this excitement, another (albeit unexpected) ‘friend’ invited himself into the chapel. High up on a wall, by a large stained glass window there was a small black blot – a bat. Although his kind has taken refuge, or found adventure maneuvering their way into the Shrine – this one behaved quite differently from those who have previously visited us. As darkness fell, and the lights went off, this nocturnal creature put his flying, diving and swooping skills on display for Sisters spending an hour with the Lord! By nightlights and candlelight, these adorers saw enough to give them a night to remember! Providentially, that week we had readings at Mass about Noah and his incredible trial of faith: 40 days in the Ark with hoards of animals - and the known world obliterated. It made 1 night in the chapel with 1 bat sorely pale in comparison! Just imagining a ship the size of the Shrine filled with all kinds of creatures, having minimal light, ventilation and silence… made Noah seem more heroic than ever before. Thankfully he began again, all over again after the flood… or where would we be? So here we have it: another day to begin again!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vows At Candlemas

Sr. John Paul, named after the soon to be beatified Pope, made her first profession of vows on February 2nd, the day her namesake had dedicated as the day for Consecrated Life. February 2nd, primarily the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is suffused with the Light of Christ as we celebrate him as the light of revelation to the nations. Fittingly, Sister made her public profession to follow Christ in poverty, chastity and obedience on this day.

The candlelight procession at this Mass, (also known as Candlemas), seems to resonate with other celebrations where all present hold a light as a sign and testament of their faith – the Easter Vigil, Rosary Processions and World Youth Day Vigils, just to name a few. Particularly at the Easter Vigil, each member of the faithful, standing in the light of their own candle and those surrounding them, renews his or her baptismal promises to reject Satan and the works of darkness and also professes one’s faith in God. Sister John Paul deepened this act of faith by religious profession in order to live according to the Gospel and its counsels. What an awesome gift to make such a promise in the presence of this cloud of witnesses (both on heaven & earth!). And what a grace for us, to have another Sister zealously dedicated to the adoration and service of Our Lord! Sister herself was beaming with smiles throughout this joyous day – a testimony that the light of Christ was truly burning within!

“You must be strong with the strength that comes from faith… I ask you to accept once again your spiritual heritage… with faith, hope and love… I ask that you never despair, never grow weary, never become discouraged; that the roots from which we grow are never severed; that you keep your faith despite your weakness, that you always seek strength in Him; that you never lose that freedom of spirit for which He has liberated man; that you never spurn that love… expressed by the cross, without which human life has no roots and no meaning. I ask this of you.”Venerable John Paul II

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sum of it All

One of the yearly landmarks in the monastery is the great day of Job Changes!! This telling moment takes place early in the year after some serious efforts are made to get one’s ‘charges’ in order for the next Sister designated to that particular job. New assignments can be thrilling for some – the refectorian may be ecstatic to trade in setting tables every day for baking bread … or the laundry sister may happily exchange folding towels for dicing peaches in the canning room. Come what may, whether it’s continuing on in the same tasks, or being challenged with a whole new set of responsibilities, there is always something new to be learned and grace to carry on! There are of course supremely important things that do not change in the daily patterns of our day. Mass, adoration, spiritual reading – all these ‘activities’ are primary, and they are where one’s ‘learning experiences’ all begin.
Thomas Aquinas, whose feast is today (the 28th!) is someone with incredible mental genius. This ability, surrendered to God in prayer and study, became a fantastic source of wisdom for the whole Church. His knowledge and insight seemingly spanning theology, has put into words and into beautiful hymns and prayers what the faithful have always believed. Though his intelligence may seem so far superior, one can, like him, come to know ‘the height and the length and the breadth of God’s love’ – these things he learned from the Crucified One. To study in search of the Truth Himself gradually opens the heart and mind more and more to realize as St. Thomas did, the greatness and the goodness of God. The more one comes to know about Him, the more it all comes clear (as it says in the book of Sirach) that: “The sum of all our words is: He is all.”

St. Thomas Aquinas : Short Prayer After Communion Sweetest Jesus, Body and Blood most holy, be the delight and pleasure of my soul, my strength and salvation in all temptations, my joy and peace in every trial, my light and guide in every word and deed, and my final protection in death. Amen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Despite the Snow...

A recent meeting of PCPAs here at Our Lady of the Angels had some proof of God’s Divine Humor in the drama surrounding this event. We hardly could have guessed that a group of nuns traveling from the sunny deserts of Arizona & the warmth of Texas would have had their travel plans befuddled by a SNOWSTORM in (of all places) Alabama! Though snow delays are tidings of great joy amongst students and teachers - for nuns awaiting their long-distant Sisters, such anticipation is among the greatest of penances! To give the shortened version of the story… the Sisters finally arrived safe and sound to our great delight, and the meetings commenced!

Many exciting themes focusing on the core of our contemplative vocation coalesced during these four days of sharing amongst our ‘extended community’: PCPA identity, integrity, human development and flexibility were included in the discussions. Underlying and supporting these important ideas is the need to INSPIRE one another, or plainly put, good example. And there is only one source, one example – we look to Jesus Christ for our interior transformation. Franciscans like to keep things simple. A good formation plan (for anyone, really) begins with oneself. This is a life-long adventure (i.e. on-going formation) that is sure to be filled with laughter, tears, and the inspiring example from others who live their Vocations to the max - inside or outside the monastic grill! 2011has the new & fresh feel yet. Let us forge ahead with hope. We are in this race together.

Above is a shot of : Sr. St. John, Sr. Marie Andre (AZ), Sr. Gabriel & Sr. Fidelis(AZ) during a reprieve from the meetings.

http://desertnuns.blogspot.com/ for an glimpse at the Arizona nuns' story!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Different Route

Epiphany at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery has a striking character; it is the day when we have our ‘house blessing.’ ‘Every heart’ here has striven to ‘prepare Him room,’ and every nun has cleaned her cell! Therefore it is a perfect time to join ‘heaven & nature’ in singing the glories of God and invoking the blessing of our newborn Savior. As prayers are prayed and carols sung through the hallways, the words of the Magi are apropos: “we have come to adore Him!” Like these noble men, countless Christians (and maybe you!) have sought out the Christ, have been led by the light of faith, and have found Him, not in a manger as they did, but abiding in the Eucharist. Such an encounter with God includes a call, an invitation. As Pope Benedict writes,

’And they departed to their own country by another way" (Mt 2:12). The Gospel tells us that after their meeting with Christ, the Magi returned home "by another way". This change of route can symbolize the conversion to which all those who encounter Jesus are called, in order to become the true worshippers that He desires (cf Jn 4: 23-24)…Listening to Christ and worshipping Him leads us to make courageous choices ... Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. …When we meet Christ and accept His Gospel, life changes and we are driven to communicate our experience to others.”

One such person who could perhaps identify with this call to live a life especially dedicated to God and His Gospel is our newest postulant, Sr. Christy. A bright new star in our midst, she entered on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2010! Thank you for keeping her in your prayers as her great journey begins! And thanks be to God for the grace He gives to men and women such as her to make ‘courageous choices’ on behalf of the Church! May you be blessed with a new encounter with the Word made Flesh this Epiphany!