Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Novena 'Community'

Our annual Novena in honor of our Mother of Perpetual Help is a community builder on many levels. First, it builds up the Body of Christ as an opportunity for devotion to our Blessed Mother in the context of worship, especially in the context of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Second, it always serves to build up our own small contemplative monastic community as we prepare for and take part in the Novena but also as we interact with those from the local neighborhood who come to join us. Another large part of this level of community building is receiving the many petitions mailed to us for the Novena. These are read and prayed over. And every one receives a personal response from one of our sisters. Some of the petitions are accompanied by a monetary offering. This year we are well aware of the financial difficulties being endured by so many. So we have been humbled by the generosity reflected in offerings no matter the size. Hearts are so big, gratitude to Our Mother of Perpetual Help is so great. We know too, because people tell us, that our life of prayer is deeply appreciated by those who chose to contact us. Novena time or not, we receive prayer requests throughout the year by every possible means of communication.

The Novena mail and the people who attend our Novena Masses help to extend our community beyond the monastery walls. Since the beginning of the monastic movement, early in the 3rd century, these communities , although enclosed, were open to those around them, to those who traveled to visit them, to those who came for alms, food, or medical care. The enclosure was created to protect the life of prayer but not meant to isolate those who were praying.

When this community decided to make the Perpetual Help Novena a public event about 25 years ago there was an evening Mass every day of the nine day Novena. I remember those days and attended regularly. But in the late 1990s, as the demolition of our old monastery approached and the requirements of moving into a new one loomed large, the nine days of evening Masses preached by the same Redemptorist became impossible to consider. For the last eight years, we've had evening Masses and a particular priest as celebrant and homilist for only the Triduum of the Feast, June 25-26. A few people come to our early morning masses on the first days of the Novena. A couple we'd never met before has been coming this year and thus we have made new friends. They have found a welcoming community they would not have known about except for the announcement of our Novena in their parish bulletin. So the intimacy of those morning Mass makes for a very warm atmosphere.

In this way another level of community building goes on. We enlarge the community of friends - people we can call friends of the monastery - people who have found a welcoming place in our contemplative atmosphere. We hope they know this mutual blessing. In all of this our Blessed Mother must be pleased.

So for the next three days, the Triduum of the Feast, Fr. Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR will be the celebrant and homilist at our Masses. Saturday's Mass will be at 2:00pm in the afternoon. We hope for a good turn out. It is usually an occasion on which we see many old friends and make new ones too. We hope that this siege of dark rainy weather will clear and allow for our tradition of refreshments outdoors following the Mass. But, whatever the weather, we know that our Mother of Perpetual will be honored and that our community building at every level will be pleasing to our loving God.

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