27 January 2009

Snow Day!

Even the dog likes a snow day! Nick, our faithful guard dog, got some extra playing time today as various sisters decided to test out the pack-ability of the snow. To no avail they mounded together handfuls of our first snowfall of the year; the snow proved to be impossible to pack and therefore we had no snowball fights, no snow-nuns to show off ... and no one attempted a snow-angel (so far). All refectory trays appear to be untouched, which is an indication that no one (or should we say, "no nun") has "borrowed" them to go sledding down the hill at the top of our property. (Maybe tomorrow.)

Nicholas is also the only resident of the monastery who taste-tested the snow. Several times, when his favorite neon tennis ball found its way onto the snow-covered grass, Nicholas decided to sample the snow's flavor and consistency before retrieving his ball. Since he uttered no complaints, we can presume that the snow tasted as good as it looked!

24 January 2009

Salesian Theme Song!

As we celebrate the Solemnity of our Holy Father, St. Francis de Sales, we share a one-minute peek into the Divine Office for the day. The Canticle of Mary, at second Vespers for this Solemnity is probably the closest thing we have to a "theme song." It is comprised of the concluding lines of Book XII of St. Francis de Sales' "Treatise on the Love of God" and the music was composed especially for our Monasteries in the United States. (Many other members of the Salesian family borrow this lovely antiphon and many of our "Sunday regulars" are familiar with it since we also use it on special occasions throughout the year.) Do enjoy a short visit to Vespers with us!

"Live Jesus, Jesus whom I love. Live Jesus whom I love. Jesus who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen!"
St. Francis de Sales

21 January 2009

A "Palatial" Feast

It makes sense that on today's feast of Saint Agnes two lambs are blessed and their wool is collected for a special purpose. The origin of this custom is somewhat obscure. It is likely that Roman Christians would have been familiar with the pagan custom of offering lambs to the goddess of shepherding, Pales. The temple of Pales is speculated to have been located near the forum on the Palatine hill. When many important (and wealthy) Romans built their homes close to the forum, these mansions became known as palaces. It is possible that they "baptized" this custom in honor of the young virgin martyr.

The wool from the two lucky lambs is woven into pallia, which can be seen on the shoulders of archbishops (when presiding at Mass in their own dioceses), patriarchs and the Pope himself. The pallia made from this year's wool are placed above the relics of St. Peter on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. They rest there until they are bestowed upon the new archbishops. Although "pallium" and the goddess "Pales" sound similar, it is unlikely that the vestment owes its name to the Roman deity. More likely, the long white garment used as outerwear for a woman, a palla or the rectangular garment worn by Greeks, the pallium is responsible for the moniker of this sacred vestment.

"If the martyrs had looked upon their torments outside this good-pleasure, how could they have sung, in chains and flames? The truly loving heart loves God's good-pleasure not in consolations only but in afflictions also; yes, it loves it better upon the cross in pains and difficulties, because the principal effect of love is to make the lover suffer for the thing beloved."
St. Francis de Sales

18 January 2009

Coming to Jesus

In today's familiar account of St. Andrew calling his brother to meet the Messiah, we are reminded of one of our most important responsibilities as Christians: bringing others to Christ. Who knew, beside Jesus, how significant Peter's role would be in that first evangelization. Yet, we see that it was his brother Andrew who led him to Jesus.

We can never know what will become of someone whose life is changed when he meets the Lord. By our words, our actions, our example, we can imitate St. Andrew and lead others to Christ. In our workplace we may not be in a position to preach the Gospel as the apostles did, but the way in which we treat our colleagues can speak volumes. In our families, we may be ridiculed if we tried to preach the Gospel with the zeal of the apostles, but by showing interest in the daily life of our brothers and sisters or parents and in-laws being and by being patient with the idiosyncrasies of those with whom we live so closely, we may interest others to "come and see" the source of our joy. We, like Andrew, can bring our brothers and sisters a bit closer to Jesus by the manner in which we live.

"Neither tenderness nor desolation, shall be able to separate us from that Holy Love, whose foundation is in Christ Jesus. Such a fixed resolution never to forsake God, or let go of His Precious Love, serves as ballast to our souls, and will keep them steadfast amid the endless changes and chances of this our natural life."
St. Francis de Sales

14 January 2009

A Thing of Beauty

A week and a half ago something beautiful happened: a 23 year-old woman said "Yes" to the Lord. We don't often hear about Consecrated Virgins but they are around and they are a beautiful witness to the kingdom of God.

Our community is privileged to have met Jenna several years ago when she made a retreat with us. She is thoughtful, prayerful, interested, interesting and has a great sense of humor. She is an artist, a student, a thinker, a "pray-er" ... and a lovely young woman. You can visit her blog here and read a bit more about her here in "The Catholic New York." Please join us in thanking God for the witness and the gift of this young woman's life.

"But if you are happily called to be the chaste and holy bride of spiritual nuptials, and purpose to live a life of virginity, then in Christ’s Name I bid you keep all your purest, most sensitive love for your Heavenly Bridegroom, Who, being Very Purity Himself, has a special love for purity; Him to Whom the first-fruits of all good things are due, above all those of love."
St. Francis de Sales

10 January 2009

The Humility of John

In today's Gospel we hear something of the humility of St. John the Baptist, a humility we are invited to imitate. Not only does he reiterate for his disciples that he is not the Christ, but he speaks of the joy in being the bridegroom's friend, a joy that is complete even as John decreases and Christ increases. In a way, there is something about John's humility which goes against the grain of our human instincts. We are not accustomed to finding joy in situations where we "decrease" and another person "increases."

John's role as the "bridegrooms friend" brought him great joy because it brought him to honesty about his own role. John knew that he was not the Christ. He knew that he was the forerunner. There were no illusions of grandeur about John's role in Salvation history. And his joy was a joy that was born in truth. When we do not claim to be anyone other than who we are, we are poised to receive the Lord's gift of joy -- the joy that belongs to those who, in humility, accept their gifts and limitations. We may not be as smart, as attractive, as tall, as charming, etc., as we would like to be, but when we feign something that is not honest, we forfeit our chance to receive this joy.

"Oh, how far was St. John's spirit from that of our times! . . . We, on the other hand, are extremely receptive to the honors that are extended to us! Our human nature is anxious to attract whatever is to its advantage . . . . Our self love is such that it draws to itself all the glory that in any way belongs to it but also that which in no way belongs to it. . . . We act quite differently from the glorious St. John, who is not content simply to reject what does not belong to him; he even refuses what he could justly have accepted."
St. Francis de Sales

06 January 2009

The Queen of the Bean!

Pictured above is a very special pink jelly bean. This year, it heralded the Epiphany queen. Some years it has been an M&M and other years a different sort of bean, but this year, buried deep inside a piece of pineapple-pecan fruitcake was the bean pictured above. The cake on the plate belonged to our dear Sister Mary Immaculata. After many "queen-less" years of religious life, Sister Immaculata was delighted to be this year's Epiphany Queen (of the bean).

Sister Immaculata is crowned by last year's Queen, Sister Leonie Therese and our lovely visiting vocational retreatant (who is responsible for the bead-work on the crown). Stay tuned for a short video featuring some end-of-year activities as well as scenes from the Epiphany play where the Irish, Colombian and Italian kings, bearing native gifts, visit Mary and Jesus ... and a late-arriving Joseph (immigration problems at the Judean boarder!).

02 January 2009

Christmas Ass

Don't be scandalized, that's what the ancient holy card says, "The Ass." To be exact, it says, "No. 19: The Ass."
We have a Christmas custom in our community -- very likely one which is found in other monasteries as well -- where we draw billets for offices in the Court of the King Jesus. No one seems to recall the origin of these billets, but they are a beloved tradition in our monastery. Each billet has a quotation from scripture, a spiritual description of the office itself as well as a suggested practice and an aspiration. Besides this noble animal, other offices in the Court of King Jesus include the ox, the lamb, the lamp, the straw, the stable owner, St. Joseph and The Blessed Virgin.

This year, the editor of our humble blog was privileged to draw billet No. 19, The Ass. Perhaps it is the Lord's way of calling her to be a bit more humble in the world of push-button publishing. (or, perhaps, to resign from publishing entirely.) What follows is the text of the holy card:

No. 19
The Ass.
(Is., 1, 8)
At the court of the King JESUS you will have the office of the Ass, which a GOD permitted to be near His crib.

Offer yourself very humbly to this divine King, to be engaged in the most abject services, since you are incapable of sublime and elevated employments. Resign yourself to suffer and to be despised, in imitation of our Lord; say to Him with the prophet King that you are as a beast of burden before Him; ask Him to give you the understanding of Christian truths with humility of mind and heart.

Practice: Love to be unknown and reputed as nothing.
Aspiration: My Saviour, give me the treasure of Thy humility.