Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day for Travelers' Blessing

Pleasures of Being
Together and
Making Something

In all of our prayers times together during these eight days we have made a beautiful joyful noise for the Lord. In addition, during one of the days that all eighteen of us Redemptoristines nuns from around the world spent together, we handcrafted some beautiful things for the Lord. These were reflections of of our own lives of prayer and spiritual journeys with God. Here is Sr. Maria Celeste sculpting her own piece.

This statuette is Sr. Maria Linda's image of the Samaritan Woman at the Well. This woman meets Jesus who offers her "living water."

Our own Sr. Moira, always so creative, sculpted this perfect rose.

Sr. Weena's creation captures all the action of an elephant rider in her native Thailand.
Today four of the sisters will return to Liguori, MO after receiving a travelers' blessing. It is always hard to say "Goodbye."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Redemptoristine Round Up Continues

Contemplative nuns from five different countries gather at our monastery for renewal, formation, and lots of fun just in being together.

Sister Katherine Hanley, CSJ offers her wisdom concerning the Samaritan woman at the well and her encounter with Jesus. Sr. Kitty invited us to go into the depths of the living water Jesus offers.

We enjoyed a great post-Easter party in which it wasn't so easy to pass around even plastic eggs. The prizes inside made it worthwhile and so did the laughter.

Sisters diligently take notes during a presentation by Brother Donald Bisson, FMS. His topic for the day was, "Community Life as Spiritual Practice."

Today was a pilgrimage day for a trip to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. We visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in the morning. Later all twelve of us enjoyed lunch in a small sandwich shop that withstood our invasion with good humor.

Then we were off to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy were a dear Brother gave some sisters a tour of the grounds in his motorized cart.

This is a statue of Pope John Paul II on the grounds of the Shrine. Many of the huge tents erected for Divine Mercy Sunday remain up and provided welcome shade on this gloriously sunny and warm day. They tell us the temperature hit 95 degrees at home!

Before the drive back home we delighted in the opportunity to participate in the Divine Mercy Novena said daily at 3pm in accord with the inspiration given to St. Maria Faustina. These prayers were followed by Benediction and special blessing with and veneration of a relic of the saint.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Region Formation Meeting at Esopus


Redemptoristine contemplative nuns from around the world are meeting at our monastery this week. We are thrilled to have sisters with us whose native lands include Thailand, the Philippines, Ireland, Slovakia and the good ole U.S.A. The topic is formation. In the language of religious communities formation means in-service education for those just entering the Order or in-service education at another level for those who have more experience but are eager for information and spiritual renewal.

We've had the benefit of great speakers (more to come on that score), enjoyed terrific meals and conversation, shared recreation (if pass the Easter egg is recreation) and, of course, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours together and been united around the table of the Lord at Holy Eucharist. All has been a tremendous blessing.

AND the weather has been the most beautiful with all the signs of spring and new life filling our eyes wherever we look.

More to come.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Lords is Risen, Alleluia

Special Note: Scroll Down for Easter 2009 Slide Show

The photo above, a precious image of new life emerging from last fall's dead leaves; this shock of audacious color and strength reaching toward the sun, speaks so much of the Easter message. It bespeaks resilience, courage, commitment, beauty, renewal and the bounty of nature - all gifts of God. And how we need to be reminded of them, in each of our days and the midst of these times. It says,"The Lord is truly Risen."

Through an accidental meeting on Facebook with my first cousin once removed, the much accomplished Anne L. Galante, I discovered her stunning photography and received permission to use her images here. This was one of the great gifts of this Easter season. Anne has a history that makes me breathless - nurse, doctor, wife, mother of two, practicing gynecologist and, now, photographer of note. Anne also volunteers her medical skills each year for a period of time in service to native Americans on a government reservation in the west. Thank you Anne, for all that you do and share.

Below this post appears a slide show of Easter celebration in our contemplative monastery assisted by the presence of Redemptorist priest and students, and many friends and guests. For us, the liturgies were glorious and tremendous blessing. Some first time visitors spoke of the intimacy and drama of the Paschal story especially in the dramatic moments and readings of the Easter Vigil. The Exultet was sung by a Redemptorist brother, his baritone melody molded by deep faith and the musical tradition of his African heritage, touched us all. The readings moved us thorough the Passover story in all of its mystery and awe.

Now we proceed through the Easter Octave, eight days of the Easter Sunday Office for Morning and Evening Prayer. All to remind, to underscore the message, to communicate, like the crocuses pushing a fist of color up through dead leaves, that we have been given life anew in Christ Jesus risen from the dead because "God so loved the world..."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Into the Darkness and Waiting

Empty Tabernacle
Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery
Redemptoristine Nuns
Espous, New York

Holy Saturday

The following excerpts are taken from an ancient homily on Holy Saturday. It is among those selections chosen by our Church for the only official public worship of this holy day, the Liturgy of Hours. Those participating in the most solemn expression of this at Tenebrae (prayer "in the dark" - a combination of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer) today, heard this most poetic description of that mysterious time between Jesus' death and his Resurrection. In addition, at Tenebrae, the Psalms of the Offices and the selected readings would be punctuated by sections from the Lamentations of Jeremiah.

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on the earth today, a great silence and a stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep...He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep...He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now, by my own authority, command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated...

The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

This poetic imagery is invitation. Surely we too dwell in darkness. Surely we too have surrendered our freedom and carry the bondage of crippling emotions and addictions, of norms and values thrust on by the surrounding culture. Surely we too suffer a variety of abandonments - grief, disappointing friends, goals not attained. Today we are invited to shed the bonds, to step out into the light because the one who loved us has died for us, died united with our sufferings, whatever they may be. And in these days has prepared the banquet feast of heaven just for us, those who are intensely loved by the Father in whose image we were created out of love. We need not wait until our mortal death to experience this gift of freedom. We can experience he Resurrection now.

What is the nature of my darkness? What binds my soul, spirit and body? Where am I drowsy and unmotivated? What is the particular invitation to me today in the words of Jesus Christ, "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead."

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.
(response to the Lamentations of Jeremiah)

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Holy Thursday

Spotlight on

* Love as Service

* Communion in Living

* Sacramental Priesthood

The Drama of the Holy Triduum Begins

These are very solemn yet very busy days in any monastery. We began a time of recollection with Compline, Tuesday evening. But there is much to prepare especially in the way of liturgy and holy celebration. Our library has been transformed into a fitting place for reposition of the Blessed Sacrament and adoration this evening until midnight. Seating in our chapel has been expanded to accommodate Redemptorist students and other guests. A leg of lamb is roasting in the oven as traditional fare for our Passover Seder with Jesus in community.

One of our guests this evening is a non-Catholic friend who asked for some context and explanation of the liturgy of Holy Thursday. Perhaps others would be interested in my background material. May it enrich your experience of the Sacred Triduum.

As for Holy Thursday... I heard once that the liturgies of these three days were, at one time, one great long liturgy of the Paschal Mystery. Understanding each of the components (the rite for each day) is made easier by that image of a continuing drama being played out in a series of 'acts'. This is particularly true with the transition between tonight's liturgy of Holy Thursday and tomorrow's rite which is not a Eucharistic Liturgy, that is, a Mass with a consecration of the species. The Liturgy of Holy Thursday commemorates three things, not necessarily in this order: Jesus model of service and his last request that we loved one another; the institution of the Eucharist and, therefore, the institution of the sacramental priesthood. At times, this last - the priesthood - has been unduly emphasized in some places by a ritual renewal of vows for priests and religious. Liturgically that is really not in keeping with the most important messages of the liturgy. We try to emphasize the model of service in the foot washing and the institution narrative of the Eucharist. In every Catholic Church the Holy Thursday Liturgy will end with some kind of procession from the church to a place of reposition, a place where the consecrated hosts can be reserved with reverence. Since we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist at this liturgy, the Eucharistic procession and private adoration afterward are in order. This removal of the Eucharist leaves the church empty in readiness for the mood of Good Friday. The door of the chapel tabernacle stands open to remind us of emptiness. There are no linens on the altar, no candles, no flowers, etc.

The Good Friday ritual is really a prayer service consisting of three parts: a reading of the Passion Narrative from one of the Gospels; veneration of the Cross after it is ceremoniously brought into the church in procession and held up for all to see accompanied by the sung antiphon, "Behold, behold the wood of the Cross on which is hung your salvation. Come, let us adore Him." ; and last, a communion service in which the reserved Eucharist, consecrated at the Holy Thursday Mass is brought back into the church and is received by the people. After this the consecrated hosts are once again returned to a place of reposition, the altar is left without any linens and a cross of some kind remains in the church for private veneration. All of this sets the scene and the mood which is held throughout Holy Saturday. The empty tabernacle and bare altar, will speak of the death of Jesus and His three day descent to the realm of the dead. It will also speak of the fear, grief, and sense of abandonment in his followers.

The Easter Vigil on Saturday night will begin with the lighting of the new fire from which the Paschal Candle, symbol of the resurrected Christ, will be lit and carried in procession to the church. The Paschal Candle will be set in a prominent place and a great hymn of praise at what has happened in the new Passover of the Lord will be sung (the Exultet). From this ancient hymn comes the line which calls the first sin of Adam, "Oh, happy fault." In the light of the Resurrection even the sin of Adam is seen as in some way fortuitous, as part of the plan of Redemption. Then, in complete darkness, the congregation will hear the Exodus story (seven readings) which culminate in the sung "Gloria" when all the lights go on and all the bells are rung in announcement of the Lord's victory over death.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Entering Holy Week

Photo by Marion Lunt

Entering Holy Week in Union with the Crucified
and in Hope for the Resurrection

Tomorrow the crescendo will begin; the slow yet painful and certain movement of Jesus to the inevitable. How can we move with the growing momentum, not as if we are just sleepwalking through the all too familiar but with our consciousness fully aware and comprehending?

Each day at the Office of Readings the Church offers us its ancient guidance. Today following a reading from the Letter to the Hebrews speaking of the priesthood of Christ and His creation of a New Covenant, we were offered the words of St. Gregory of Nazianzen, 4th century bishop of Constantinople and great theologian. It was an excerpt from a homily about the sharing of the faithful in the approaching Passover of Holy Week. He wrote:

We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second,
turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies...
We must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything
we do, accept all that happens for the sake of the Word,
imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring the blood
by shedding our own.
We must be ready to be crucified....
Worship him who is hung on the cross because of you,
even if you are hanging there yourself.

Gregory speaks to his flock and to us today of the realities of the human condition, the realities Jesus entered and shared with us by his Incarnation, participation in our humble humanity. And Gregory says unite it all with him on the cross. He acknowledges the certainty of our human suffering and then invites us to exalt it in union with Jesus hanging on the cross. There is no denial of our suffering, but only the suggestion to exalt it.

The photo above - The Cross and the Laundry - speaks to me of the human condition of suffering and Jesus' union with all of it on the cross. His suffering and that of all humanity are one. It is easy today to think of human suffering in terms of the victims of yesterday's massacre in Binghamton, New York, the suffering of their families and the demented torture of the man who wrecked such havoc on the innocent. It is easy to think of the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe without food, clothing, medicine, and schools. Surely there is great suffering in the violence in the Holy Land, Afghanistan, Iraq and Mexican drug wars. Truly these are great sufferings. But here is a pain, a suffering, a struggle, or an addiction in each of us. Jesus took on himself, and continues to take on, both the universal and particular sufferings. He is united with us in ours and St. Gregory invites us to respond from our own experience and unite it, in turn, with that of Jesus on the cross.

The bishop does not end there. He does not stop and remain at the cross.

If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to one who ordered
his crucifixion, and ask for Christ's body. Make your own
the expiation for the sins of the whole world.
If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night,
bring spices and prepare Christ's body for burial.
If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna,
weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.