Monday, October 18, 2010

Seekers Visit the Monastery


The Baltimore and Denver Provinces of the Redemptorist Congregation combine their efforts in both vocation development and the formation of new members. These two provinces include all of the USA and the Caribbean Islands. The dedication of the Redemptorists to these efforts is an inspiration. Last weekend here at Mount St. Alphonsus Retreat Center they offered the second in a series of "Come and See" weekends for men discerning a vocational call to religious life. The Redemptorists are a religious congregation so men pursuing a vocation with them first take the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and perseverance within the Congregation. From that point on they may choose to be a brother or a priest. But always they consider themselves first as Redemptorists following in the footsteps of their founder St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church. Their charism or spiritual motivation is to serve the poor and the most abandoned.

We always enjoy visits from our Redemptorist 'brothers' and are grateful that they believe it is important to introduce potential and new members to their Redemptoristine 'sisters'. We are especially grateful to Fr. Tat for introducing us to this group. They enjoyed praying in our chapel and talking to the sisters. They particularly enjoyed hearing our vocation stories. May they be blessed in their effort to hear and act upon God's call.

Upper left: Srs. Maria Linda, Maria Paz, Paula and Teresa with Fr. Tat Upper right: Sr. Mary joined by Srs. Paula and Maria Paz Below right: Sr. Maria Paz with visitors Lower left: Sr. Moira autographing her book, a novel about John the Baptist

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Redemptorist Archbishop

On Saturday, October 9, former Redemptorist Father General Joseph Tobin was ordained as an archbishop at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Our community was thrilled to watch the entire Mass via live streaming from the Vatican. A slide show of that event can be seen at .

On August 6, 2010 our dear friend, Father Joe, was appointed secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, colloquially known as the "Congregation for Religious." This Vatican office has responsibility for some 190,000 religious priests and brothers, and roughly 750,000 sisters, worldwide. It is also the office from which its chair, Cardinal Rode, launched the on-going Apostolic Visitation of active congregations of sisters in the United States.

Our monastery is on the grounds of the former Redemptorist major seminary where Fr. Joe was ordained. Some of the sisters here remember him as a student, especially his fall from a horse and his recuperation from broken bones. But all of us have enjoyed the pleasure of his company in our monastery. In the picture above he seems to be enjoying conversation at table with our sisters, especially our prioress, Sr. Paula Schmidt. This brilliant and modest man would share news of the entire congregation; its missionary work, its successes and its needs. In addition he would bring news of Redemptoristine monasteries around the world. And there would always be lots of stories about Rome.

We congratulate Archbishop Tobin and offer the sincere promise of our prayers for his new responsibilities as he follows in the footsteps of St. Alphonsus de Liguori.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church

Saint Teresa in Ecstacy by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The original Italian title of this famed work is also translated as "The Transverberation of Saint Teresa". While the word is a strange one, it suggests the pulsation of energy between God and Teresa which must have been present in the mystical relationship between this strong-willed and dynamic woman and the God who so desires to be in intimate relationship with us. This was a woman of her time and place. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was born in Renaissance Spain, a country reeling like the rest of Europe from the consequences of the Protestant Reformation. She began a reform of her Carmelite Order at the same time that the Council of Trent ws shoring up the frayed edges of the Roman Catholic Church. She embodied paradox. After a mid-life conversion experience she was drawn to a more contemplative and solitary expression of contemplative life within community than was the usual Carmelite practice of her experience. Yet, she could not escape the natural responses of her extroverted, expressive, and highly personable way of being. In spite of great physical pain and illness she went from place to place in the crudest and most uncomfortable of conveyances to establish monastery after monastery. And in a time when women did not think of writing books she wrote many. Eagerly read today, her words (Autobiography, The Interior Castle, The Way of Perfection) continue to resonate with truth as she describes the spiritual journey of the soul searching for God and what that journey demands. These works earned her the title "Doctor of the Church". She is a doctor of souls who knows human weakness and human nature and counsels in favor of the necessity of self knowledge and interior honesty. She is funny, self-deprecating, intensely female and much in love with God. She lived in the "freedom of the children of God".

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Three Reasons to Celebrate

Sister Maria Linda Magbiro
Silver Jubilee
1985 - 2010

On October 3rd our contemplative monastic community celebrated Sr. Maria Linda's 25 years of vowed life. A friend of our community, Fr. Roch Ciandella, OFM celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in our chapel. Afterward we all enjoyed a festive dinner and rejoiced in Sister's vocation, her perseverance and her gifted presence among us. We prayed for all of her loving family, those in the eternal embrace of God and those who also shared her joy on that day.

   A New Member of Our Community - Sister Teresa Pijak joined our community on September 25, 2010. Fluent in Polish and Italian, Sr. Teresa is making great strides in mastering yet another language. Like most Americans we do not share her linguistic gifts and admire her diligence. We rejoice to have Sr. Teresa among us. She is pictured here with our Prioress, Sr. Paula Schmidt
The third reason for celebration is the launching of this new look for "Contemplative Horizon". You may have noticed some experimentation along the way. Thanks for your patience. Hope you like the new new color scheme. But most of all, the hope is that you will be please with what you read here and occasionally inspired.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Doing It Her Way

St. Therese of Lisieux
of the Child Jesus
and of the Holy Face

Today is the feast of the saint often referred to as "The Little Flower". Perhaps that reference was one of the things that turned me off  with regard to St. Therese for so many years. Perhaps my disposition was also based on an early reading of her much edited autobiography, so massaged by her well-meaning sisters and others in the Carmelite community of Lisieux. We now know they had edited out the muscle of this young soul and left only weak submission behind. Fortunately, those impressions have been corrected by publication of the unedited "Story of a Soul", by wonderful essays from spiritual, theological and psychological points of view appearing in the journal "Carmelite Studies" (Experiencing St. Therese Today, ICS Publications, 1990), and, most recently, by the 2007 biography "Everything is Grace", by Joseph Schmidt, FSC.

Fifteen year old Therese arrrived at the Carmel of Lisieux with a lot of the emotional baggage we speak of so freely today.  As an infant she experienced separation from her mother and family and, over a year later, separation from her surrogate mother. Barely out of toddlerhood, she lost her mother who had suffered with cancer of the breast for years. Later, one after another, she endured the loss of yet other substitute mothers, her older sisters who entered Carmel before her. At the same time she was gradually losing the father she adored, one of those who tended to pamper this bereft child who experienced what would now be diagnosed as clinical depression. She knew her father's mind was gradually slipping into a world which neither she nor her sisters could penetrate. In the large community of Carmel she had to stand alone, serve her King, prove herself, and deal with the challenges of community life.

So many approach the pursuit of God, especially in religious life, thinking that God is calling them to holiness of life and greater love for Him. They assess the calling rightly but often their notion of how one goes about following the call is much too limited. The spirituality of St. Therese has none of these limits. While she speaks of her formal devotional life - meditating on scripture, communal and private prayer, other devout practices - she does not place these at the heart of her spiritual life. Rather she comes to see that it is the "little way of love" which must be the core, center stage for the pursuit of holiness. And this "little way" has everything to do with human interaction, with her responses to those around her, to those with whom she must work, pray, eat, and recreate in the Carmel of Lisieux. She develops an acute awareness of self, a mystical consciousness, of her own responses and behavior when she is hurt, insulted, discounted, rejected, past over. But she also becomes aware of what happens when she makes the effort to see another's pain, to imagine their feelings, their predicaments, their struggles. She determines to be love in the heart of Carmel because this is what love of her King, Jesus Christ, requires.

St. Therese would not advise those who ardently wish to grow in holiness to increase the hours on their knees, or the number of Rosaries, or their bodily mortifications. Rather she would advise them to pray for clear-eyed self-awareness, for a mystical consciousness of the call to love. It is a call to love those whom it is impossible to avoid each day - our children, our spouses, our co-workers, our community members, friends, and family, as well as the people "down the street" in our neighborhood, town, country, and world.