Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
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!
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
Saturday, October 1, 2011
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
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
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
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
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
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 façade 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
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
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
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
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
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
Friday, March 18, 2011
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
Monday, February 21, 2011
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
Friday, February 11, 2011
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
Thursday, January 20, 2011
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
“’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!