28 April 2011

Returning to Rigden

...and the second-to-last in our series of Sister Anne Catherine ...

In the beginning of November 1820, Mother Ann Catherine Rigden developed an inflammatory disease that caused everyone great alarm. She had abscesses on her breast and other disturbing symptoms. Dr. Beaty, the monastery physician, thought there was no immediate danger, but Sr. Mary Leonard McNantz, who was ill and expected to die soon, prophesied that Ann Catherine “was never to recover from this sickness, that she would get better for a while and go about a little, but that finally she would die of it.” She repeated this twice in different company, which increased the sisters’ alarm. They prayed and said many novenas for Ann Catherine’s recovery, and in the spring she did attempt to resume work. “Alas, however,” the constant cough returned, along with pain in her chest, and a slow, burning fever. She continued to work, but by fall she lost her remaining strength. She concealed the symptoms of her decline, and sometimes after a particularly bad night she would forbid the sister who stayed in her room to say anything about it. This left the poor sister at a loss about what to say if asked how Mother was doing. Whenever she wanted to get help for Mother during a bad night, Ann Catherine would exhort her not to “disturb the spouses of Christ, for whom we should have great respect.”

Toward the end of November it became evident that she would die soon, but she didn’t express the least concern except for her apprehension of God’s judgment, “not on account of any sin which I have committed in the world, nor whilst I was a simple religious, but since I have been Superior.” She humbled herself with much sincerity before all the community, begging pardon of anyone whom she thought she might have afflicted. Sometimes she would send a sister in her name to ask pardon when she was unable to get up and do it herself, and she would ask the sister to do so in the most humble manner. She spoke to everyone with heartfelt gratitude for the care she received, and she reproached herself for any uncharitable or rash judgment she may have formed against any of them.

24 April 2011

Seeking The Risen Christ

In today's Gospel the angel says to Mary Magdalen, "Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified." What an observation! Would that the people we encounter could say the same thing about us. As we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, let us pray that we, by our words and actions -- like Mary Magdalen -- may reveal to those around us that we too are seeking Jesus. For more pictures from our Triduum, click here.

"Blessed are the souls that seek the Lord everywhere. For they will find Him everywhere and everywhere they will seek what they have found."
St. Jane de Chantal

20 April 2011

Triduum Schedule 2011

Locals are welcome, as always, to join us for the celebrations and liturgies during the Sacred Triduum. Below is our schedule:

Holy Thursday

5:00pm Mass of the Lord’s Supper

7.30pm Night Prayer

Adoration until Midnight

Good Friday

7.30am Office of Readings

8.45am Morning Prayer

11.00am Daytime Prayer

3.00 Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion

7.00pm Night Prayer

Holy Saturday

7.30am Office of Readings

8.45am Morning Prayer

11.30am Daytime Prayer

5.05pm Evening Prayer

8.00pm Vigil Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection

In the Holy Night of Easter

All events underlined in bold take place in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. All Liturgies of the Hours take place in the Monastery Choir, just down the ramp from the chapel. Please arrive a few minutes prior to the time listed, as we do not ring bells during the Sacred Triduum.

17 April 2011

More Mini-Series

This is the ante-penultimate installment in our series about Sister Ann Catherine Rigden.

Ann Catherine Rigden worked as mistress of boarding students, who were drawn to her talents and sweet manners. She taught them many little practices of devotion, as the sister who wrote her life recalled from her own youth. Ann Catherine was especially close to Sister Isidora McNantz, who died at age 15 about three years before Ann Catherine’s death. She performed the last office for Isidora--meaning she placed her in her coffin--and she twice felt pressure on her hand from the hand of the deceased. The first time it alarmed her somewhat, but the second time it seemed fond, “either a remembrance of some compact of prayers, or as a last token of affection.” Some nuns said later that the incident might have been a harbinger of Ann Catherine’s own death not too long after, but this touch did not disturb her peace, for she had no other desire in life than being closely united with God.

She did all the most useful and laborious jobs in the house except the role of Superior, which she did not desire. Since 1800 there had been only one Superior, Teresa Lalor, whom the sisters called “the cornerstone of this house.” But an election was required at the Ascension of 1819, and “Ann Catherine Rigden became our mother, to the great joy of the whole community.” This especially pleased the sisters who had previously been her boarding students. This was a delicate time for the community, as the sisters were just getting acquainted with the rules of the Visitation as Clorivière interpreted them. However, Mother Ann Catherine’s health began to decline noticeably.

13 April 2011

Making Room for the Word

Jesus speaks some powerful (and painful) words in today's Gospel: "But you are trying to kill me because my word has no room among you." How often is our first response one of hostility -- even if it is contained in our hearts and never seeps out into our actions -- when we are faced with a difficult truth or an inconvenient situation? Perhaps someone has pointed out an unconscious habit we have which is irritating to those around us; maybe someone has corrected or challenged us with respect to a fact which forces us to reconsider some significant aspect of our life. More likely, it may simply be the vicissitudes of daily life that present us with opportunities to be patient and charitable. In each inconvenience that befalls us: lost car keys, an irritable neighbor, interrupted internet service, etc., is an opportunity to allow the Lord's grace to work in us -- a chance to make room for the Lord and his word, a chance to accept that which is beyond our control and trust that the Lord will use it for our growth in holiness, in patience, in charity. He will use it to continue to make our hearts bigger so that there is more room for Him and all things which are dear to Him.

As the passing days of Lent draw us closer to Holy Week and the celebration of the Lord's passion, let us welcome every opportunity which will help us to make room for the Lord and His saving word.

"So long as God’s Providence does not send you great and heavy afflictions; so long as He does not ask your eyes, at least give Him your hair. I mean, take patiently the petty annoyances, the trifling discomforts, the unimportant losses which come upon all of us daily; for by means of these little matters, lovingly and freely accepted, you will give Him your whole heart, and win His. I mean the acts of daily forbearance, the headache, or toothache, or heavy cold; the tiresome peculiarities of husband or wife, the broken glass, the loss of a ring, a handkerchief, a glove; the sneer of a neighbor, the effort of going to bed early in order to rise early for prayer or Communion, the little shyness some people feel in openly performing religious duties; and be sure that all of these sufferings, small as they are, if accepted lovingly, are most pleasing to God’s Goodness, Which has promised a whole ocean of happiness to His children in return for one cup of cold water. And, moreover, inasmuch as these occasions are forever arising, they give us a fertile field for gathering in spiritual riches, if only we will use them rightly."
St. Francis de Sales

09 April 2011

A Distinguished Alumna

Baptized Dorothy Holly Reynolds and known to her family and friends as "Holly," she graduated from our high school in 1950. After a year and a half of college, she entered the Poor Clare monastery in Jamaica Plain, MA where she received the religious name Sister Mary Lucy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was one of twelve sisters who left Jamaica Plain to begin the foundation in South Carolina at the invitation of Bishop John Russell.

Sister Mary Lucy, in the years that followed, served her community as novice mistress, abbess and, for a time, responded to a call to solitude by living in a hermitage near her community on the grounds of their monastery until her heath declined. Sister loved nature, the outdoors, animals and she raised African violets.

Our own Sister Philomena was a classmate of hers in high school and remembers her to be "extremely brilliant academically and simple soul who had great confidence in God."

Sister's health began to fail in the spring of 2010, when she returned, from her hermitage and was cared for by her community. On Tuesday 5 April 2011, Our Lord came for her and He, no doubt, found her waiting for Him, whom she had so loved on earth. Requiescat in pace.

05 April 2011

The Drama Continues

Part III of the on-going narrative of Sister Ann Catherine Rigdon:

She mastered the rules immediately upon entering, which was unusual because at the time the sisters of our monastery had not yet received the rule books from the Visitation order, and the rules our sisters had adopted were more rigorous. “There were more fasts, less sleep, more frequent disciplines, more austerities, and fewer accommodations.” Ann Catherine immediately took on the harshest and most tedious drudge work, never sparing herself and putting up with cold, heat, and inconvenience as though she didn’t even feel it. She often would stay up at night working (which was itself against the rule), and she was good at all types of work. Despite her “modesty and unalterable meekness,” she did not seem to have a high opinion of herself. Other sisters said that she was marked by obedience, patience, mortification, “admirable simplicity,” and a childlike heart so that she did not even reflect on what she was told to do. For example, if it was her task to call the sisters to prayer in the morning, she would rise frequently in the night to check the clock. Although she knew there was no need to be fully clothed if just checking the clock, she was also mindful of the rule that one must never leave a cell without being clad and veiled, so she was always dressed for these excursions.

One day the Bishop commanded the sisters to perform good works for the souls in purgatory, which of course they did. But during the night Ann Catherine woke, worried that she had not done enough, and that perhaps some poor soul was suffering because of her neglect. She rose, went to a convenient place, and picked up a discipline (an instrument, usually cord or metal, that was used for penance). She used it unmercifully on herself. When morning was come, “she could not conceal her fatigues and pain.” Leonard Neale saw her and asked what ailed her, and she was forced to tell him. His “punishment” was to forbid her to ever use that instrument of penance again. He also deprived her of a rough hair shirt that had weakened her constitution. Since she was forbidden to use those familiar implements of mortification, she took advantage of something out of the Bishop’s reach, and she never told him of it. “Do not blame her for this, dear sisters,” wrote the nun who penned her biography, “for it seems that she was inspired to act thus...” and the nun went on to explain that Ann Catherine was silently enduring violent headaches, which seemed to stand in place of the earlier physical acts. Although the Bishop lived for several more years, she never mentioned these to him, or to anyone else except her last director, who did not feel bound keep silent after her death. She claimed that in one of her dreams she was comforted by the late Bishop, who said that by making her petition for mortification she had “rendered herself most agreeable to God.” After she was Superior, she suffered so much from headaches that the sisters asked her permission to make a novena for her relief, or to give her some remedies. They urged her to wear St. Bobola’s cap, a reference for which our archivist has not found the meaning, but she refused, saying it would be a sin to beg to be relieved from pain which had freed her from greater torment.

01 April 2011

We Love Our Seniors!

It's that time of year again! For the second year in a row, we are having our seniors join us for a morning of reflection which begins with a presentation about "making holy the day" with suggestions from the writings of St. Francis de Sales. Following the presentation and a brief introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours, seniors join the monastery community for daytime prayer and then down to the refectory for dinner. Above, seniors enjoy a taco dinner and homemade cupcakes for dessert.

"As soon as they awake, the Sisters should cast their souls wholly upon God with some prayerful thoughts which the Holy Spirit will suggest . . . at the beginning of any interior or outward action, let them ask for God's grace and offer to His divine goodness all the good they may do . . . And let them not forget to do this even in little things which seem unimportant: eating, drinking, resting, recreating . . ."
St. Francis de Sales