Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Contemplative Nuns Celebrate Solemnity

Our Mother of Perpetual Help

For our Order and for the Redemptorist Congregation today is celebrated as a solemnity in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus our Redeemer, under the  title of Perpetual Help. We have already participated in Mass concelebrated by two Redemptorist priests. Father Thomas Travers requested that our prioress, Sister Moira Quinn, offer a reflection on the significance this title of Mary, our mother, has for us as Redemptoristine Nuns. Here are her words, words which inspired us to trust in these difficult times, not only for ourselves but for many who entrusted their petitions to us during this annual novena.

We Place Our Hands Within Hers
        St.  Alphonsus and Ven. Mother Maria Celeste Crostarosa both had great devotion to our Lady and placed all their cares and concerns within the hands of our Lady though neither mention the icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help.
        Alphonsus wrote the classic book on Mariology, ‘The Glories of Mary;’ and had his Redemptorists defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception years before it became dogma.  He always had a painting of the Madonna of Our Lady of Good Counsel on his desk.  Alphonsus even painted depictions of Mary himself such as his La Divina Pastora, the Divine Shepherdess: a woman dressed in humble attire, not as a distant queen of heaven, with the child Jesus on her lap reaching to play with the sheep. The painting represents Alphonsus' Marian theology: "Jesus and Mary are not distant supernatural figures but ever close to the poor, in their midst, and involved in the struggles of their lives." 
       Alphonsus may have known of the icon of Perpetual Help because it hung, at the time, in St Matthew’s in Rome between the basilicas of St Mary Major and St John Lateran.  Twelve years after St Alphonsus’ death it went into hiding and was lost for some sixty years until it was reinstated in the church that had been rebuilt after Napoleon’s army destroyed St Matthew’s and named it in honor of a new saint, Alphonsus, where his brother Redemptorists functioned then and continue to do so today.
       In 1865 Pope Pius IX commissioned the Redemptorists to use the miraculous image of Perpetual Help to ‘Make Her Known’ throughout the world.  They have done so with weekly prayers and novenas held across the earth in her honor.
       I doubt Ven. Mother Maria Celeste ever saw or even heard of Our Mother of Perpetual Help but she also had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  She writes in her ‘Exercise of love for every day:’ 
       “O my Lady and Mother, well can you say that all generations in heaven and on earth will call you blessed.  You are our only Hope, all nations will call you blessed; the angels and all the heavenly spirits look on you as their Queen, since you are the Mother of the great King; the just have recourse to you as to a Rock of strength and the Teacher of Virtues, safe Guide in this vale of tears, Gate of salvation; under your patronage sinners hurry to you to obtain pardon and protection… and all generations recognize you as Mediatrix and instrument of our Redemption.”   Florilegium 10.
       Both Alphonsus and Celeste turned to Mary in their times of need, as we turn to Mary in ours. We have as our model, Jesus, who ran into his mother’s arms for help and comfort. We see in the icon of Mother of Perpetual Help Jesus looking over his shoulder at the vision of his crucifixion while holding on to his Mother’s strong, steady hands.   Mary’s gaze invites us to take hold of her hands in our times of distress and to be of hope.
        Our community has been standing at the foot of the cross with Mary these last few months as we planned a move, canceled the move, sought temporary accommodations here at Mother Cabrini’s, actually moved and settled in only to have Sr. Lydia break her leg and Sr. Mary Anne come down with shingles.
        All the while I picture us, and all those who have mailed us their intentions which are in the bowl under the icon standing in a circle holding on to Mary’s hands and one another.  Her calm, sympathetic, steady gaze assures us of God’s tender care.

        I really am not attracted to the icon style as art.  In Perpetual Help Mary looks stern to me. But once, when I was young in religious life and looking at our large icon I thought I saw her smile.  How reassuring, encouraging to be aware of her presence to me personally.  But what really draw me are her hands:  they are at the center of the icon and large enough for us all to place our hands in hers. 
         So today, aware that we can turn to our Mother of Perpetual Help in any need we thank her for her past favors and continue with confidence and hope to place all our cares in her strong hands to bring whatever lies heavy on our hearts to her Son, our Most Holy Redeemer. 
Amen.                                                                 Sr. Moira Quinn, OSsR

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Redemptoristine Contemplative Insight

New Book Published by Redemptorists

Congregation of the Most Holy

(from the back cover)

Redemptorists have a common language. There are words, however, make us sometimes ask: "I wonder how that is understood in our history and tradition?" The Lexicon focuses on key words and Redemptorist history, tradition and spirituality...It is not meant to be just an academic addition to the bookshelf. 'Reflection Questions' at the end of each entry are designed to stimulate internal contemplation and external discussion...A resource for ongoing formation.

This book has been along time in coming. Rather than being a dictionary of key words and concepts , it is a far more informative and useful collection of brief essays on key people, topics, and spiritual concepts in the Redemptorist tradition. As example, these topics fall under the letter 'r': recollection, reconciliation, Redeemer Jesus Christ, Redemptorist family, Redemptoristines, restrusturing, resurrection, review of life, revivalism.

One of the editors and author of many of the Lexicon's entries is Father Dennis Billy. Over htree years ago he asked me to write the entry for the key concept of Redemptoristine spirituality "viva memoria" or living memory. The inspiration for this insight into the mystical life was received by our foundress Ven. Maria Celeste Croastarosa. Her insights and her Rule of Life preceeded that of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Since they were friends during the ciritical days of the founding of our Order and less than two years later the beginning of his congregation, they influenced each other. Each saw the need to live so much in the virutes of Jesus Christ that one is transformed into a "viva memoria" a living memory of Jesus the Redeemer. Maria Celeste's way was through solitude, silence, and contemplation and that of Alphonsus through pastoral and ministerial devotion to the poor and most abandoned.

The following is the full text the of the entry "VIVA MEMORIA" , p.289

               The words “viva memoria”, commonly translated as “living memory” or “living memorial”, are both the core and general theme of the charism or spiritual mission of the Redemptoristine Nuns (Order of the Most Holy Redeemer). These words are product of the mystical inspirations of the Venerable Maria Celeste Crostarosa. When Maria Celeste (1696-1755) and St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) met in 1730 each was at a critical point in life and spiritual development. Alphonsus became a supporter of Maria Celeste and, in turn, her mystical inspirations influenced his effort to found the Redemptorist Congregation. Key elements of her inspired Rule were adapted and appear in various versions of the Redemptorist Rule.

                The words “living memory” first appeared in the rule for contemplative religious life revealed to Maria Celeste. Following her reception of the Eucharist on April 25, 1725, she ‘heard’ these words in her mystical prayer: “…I have been pleased to choose this Institute to be a living memory and image of the works of salvation and love accomplished by my Only-Begotten Son during the thirty-three years he lived as man in this world.” The dynamic concept of “living memory” is a variation on the theme of imitation of Christ as a means of attaining holiness of life and union with God. However, “living memory” moves beyond imitation into personal transformation in Christ. It is a constant and dynamic process by which one is changed interiorly, gradually stripped of the false self, so as to reveal the Christ dwelling within. In accord with the intention of God the Father, this is the Jesus in whose life we were intended to participate by virtue of his Incarnation as a human being. Gradual revelation of the dynamic life of Jesus within the soul makes present in our world and time the person and works of Jesus Christ. According to Maria Celeste, the constant and dynamic personal spiritual process of transformation is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit in an environment born of virtue and availability to God in times of silence and solitude.

             Maria Celeste Crostarosa, like St. Alphonsus Liguori, was born in Naples. At the time of these revelations, she was living in Scala, a hill town outside the city, among a community of contemplative nuns following the rule of the Order of the Visitation but not officially attached to them. Maria Celeste’s spiritual director and co-founder of the monastery, Bishop Tommaso Falcoia, was also an advisor to Alphonsus.  In 1730, Bishop Falcoia, uncertain about the reliability and soundness of Maria Celeste’s inspiration for a new institute, requested that Alphonsus visit the monastery, investigate the situation and present his recommendations. After interviewing Maria Celeste and all the sisters who were considering adoption of the rule she proposed, Alphonsus concluded that Maria Celeste’s project was divinely inspired. In further discussions with the nuns he persuaded them to accept the new rule. On the Feast of Pentecost in May 13, 1731 the community began living contemplative monastic life as the Order of the Most Holy Savior (eventually changed to Holy Redeemer). However, the exact text of the rule they would follow remained in dispute.    

              For almost two years the friendship between Maria Celeste and Alphonsus developed. He shared with her his inspiration to found a congregation of priests to serve the poor and most abandoned. His vacillation in the matter seems to have come to an end only when Maria Celeste reported her mystical vision of him as a founder. Alphonsus gathered a few confreres around him and the Congregation of the Most Holy Savior came into being in the guest house of the Scala monastery on November 9, 1732.

             During this period controversy about the exact points of the rule for the new Order was escalating. The principle conflict arose between Maria Celeste and Bishop Falcoia; she favored the original rule as inspired while he proposed changes according to his own views. Alphonsus, wedged between two strong personalities, each of whom called for his allegiance, began to support the Bishop and soundly scolded Celeste. The situation, further complicated by factions within the community of nuns, came to a head in May, 1733 when the Bishop presented an ultimatum to Marie Celeste. She agreed to accept the altered rule and to live by it within community, but she could not agree to accept the Bishop as her spiritual director for life. She was expelled from the monastery, eventually creating a new foundation in the city of Foggia in 1738.
For Maria Celeste, the realization of the living memory of Christ in each nun would be accomplished through development of nine virtues (later increased to twelve by Bishop Falcoia who added faith, hope and love of God): union of hearts and mutual charity, poverty, purity, obedience, humility and meekness of heart, mortification, recollection and silence, prayer, self-denial and love of the cross.

                Studies of the various early (18th century) versions of the Rule for the Redemptorist Congregation indicate that key elements, especially personal pursuit of the twelve virtues as the means of spiritual transformation were directly influenced by the original rule received by Maria Celeste. By this participation in the life of Jesus, the individual becomes a living memory of the Savior, the active presence of Christ in the world. From an early rule formulation: “…All those called to this Institute are to esteem highly and rejoice in such a calling and are to strive as much as possible to make themselves living copies of that divine model, becoming like the life of the Savior…(Complesso, 1732) The first sentence of a later formulation of the Rule, “The purpose of the new and least Institute…is none other than to imitate, as much as possible with divine grace, this divine Master and model…” (Compendio of Bovino, 1745). Primitive Rule of the Redemptorists begins, “The purpose of the Institute is that of the closest imitation of the most holy life of our Savior Jesus Christ and of his most adorable virtues.” (Text of Conza, 1747) This is the first text of the Rule approved by the Congregation as a whole.  All of these documents express two ends or purposes for the Congregation: to live as Jesus Christ and to be in missionary service of the poor and most abandoned.  

            Other evidence indicates the extent to which the inspiration of living memory influenced early Redemptorist spirituality. In 1741, Alphonsus wrote that Gioacchino Gaudello, the first to die in the Congregation, “…manifested to all the life of Jesus Christ.”  When Vito Curzio, the first brother in the Congregation died in 1745, Redemptorist Giovanni Mazzini eulogized him saying he had “achieved his objective to become a living copy of Jesus Christ.”   
             Nonetheless, as Alphonsus earnestly labored to obtain approval in Rome for the Rule of his congregation,  texts clearly began to depart from early versions which retained so much of the flavor of the Rule of Maria Celeste as revised by Bishop Falcoia. In order to receive official approbation of the Rule concessions were made in terms of emphasis and format and primary influences were obscured.

             Today, interpretation of “living memory” is appropriating theological understandings of the Eucharist memoria or memorial of the Mass. In the words of consecration (the institution narrative or anamnesis) not only is the Body and Blood of Jesus made present under the appearance of bread and wine, Jesus Christ and all of the Paschal Mystery are also made present and active among us. We are not merely remembering Jesus’ life and death or imitating the last supper with his disciples. Those events are rendered as living and actively working in their redemptive power for the world in our time. By our presence and expression of faith we too become gifts transformed. The level of participation penetrates even more deeply if the community offers itself along with the gifts of bread and wine, uniting itself with the words of the Eucharistic Prayer III, “Father we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

            The theologian, Johannes Metz (1928 - ) wrote that consecrated religious fulfill an important role in the Church. “…They press for the uncompromising nature of the Gospel and of the imitation of Christ. In this sense they are the institutionalized form of a dangerous memory within the Church.” Proclamation of the memory can be dangerous as it may be threatening to the status quo in any institution and to the norms of the surrounding culture. The living memory spoken of here is the dangerous living reminder of God’s redemptive love, of the desire of God to be incarnated in every human being, of a divine reality open for participation by all humanity.

             For Redemptoristine and Redemptorist religious in our time, transformation into the life of Jesus Christ remains primary. The chief means to this end continues to be the ascetical practice of living the virtues of Jesus, living his life, death and Resurrection, the entire Paschal mystery within the community. In this shared charism, community life, human relationship at every level, is the locus of those who would become “viva memoria,” living memories of the generous love of the Redeemer. The invitation of God, to participate in divine life and divine love in such a way as to become a living memory of Jesus Christ is the missionary message of  everyone who promotes the Redemptorist/Redemptoristine charism.
For Reflection
  1. To what extent is the imitation of Christ a conscious part of your spiritual practice?
  2. How might the ideal of becoming a living memory of Christ be manifest in your own life?
  3. How can the connection between living memory and the Eucharist made here enhance understanding of both the Liturgy and practice of the virtues?
  4. How has your appreciation of the Redemptorist charism and mission been expanded?
Constitutions and Statutes – Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Rome: General Curia         C.Ss.R., 1982.
Constitutions and Statutes – Order of the Most Holy Redeemer. Rome:1985.
Founding Texts of Redemptorists Early Rules and Allied Documents, edited by Carl Hoegerl.        Rome: Collegio Sant’Alfonso, 1986.
Lage, Emilio. “Suor Maria Celeste Crostarosa e la Congregazione del SS. Redentore,” in La          Spiritualita di Maria Celeste Crostarosa, edited by Sabatino Majorano, 120-131. Materdomini, Italy: Editrice San Gerardo, 1997.
Metz, Johannes. Followers of Christ – Perspectives on the Religious Life. Translated by Thomas    Linton.  Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978.
Oppitz, Joseph. The Mystic Who Remembered – The Life and Message of Maria Celeste     Crostarosa, O.Ss.R. Esopus, NY: Redemptoristine Nuns of New York, 2003.
Pleva, Hildegard Magdalen. “A Charism Illumined: Eucharistic Anamnesis and ‘Viva       Memoria’.” Review for Religious 63.1 (2004): 40-52.
Raponi, Santino. The Charism of the Redemptorists in the Church – A Commentary on the             Constitutions. Rome: The Center for Redemptorist Spirituality, 2003.
                                                                        Sr. Hildegard Magdalen Pleva, O.Ss.R. 12/08

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Contemplative Nuns Begin Novena

Novena for the Feast
of Mother of Perpetual Help
Begins Today

Today we announce the beginning of our annual novena to Mother of Perpetual Help. For those who have not received it, I post the 2012 edition of our annual novena letter written by our Prioress Sr. Moira Quinn which was sent out a few weeks ago via surface mail. Please do join us in offering the daily prayer given at the end of the letter. We are united in prayer for a myriad of personal intentions we are receiving. We are also united in prayer for peace in our world, our Church, our communities and our families. 

Although we are not having our usual Tridiuum Masses in the evening prior to the feast we do invite you to join us at 8:00am Mass daily during all the days of the Novena (Sunday at 11:00am). We are located at Cabrini West Park, Route 9W, West Park.

Dear Friends,

In our Advent letter we came to you in the posture of Naomi and Ruth, Mary and Joseph: standing together at the crossroads journeying to a new home.  This Easter season we are now traveling on the Road to Emmaus: bewildered by what has happened, yet walking with Jesus. We beg Him to “Stay with us,” along the journey.  We have “…recognized Him in the breaking of the bread,” and say to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road!” 
As we write this letter we we still find ourselves "on the road." We have been on the road since spring 2011. After a long search we thought we had found a new home in New Jersey but it was not meant to be. So we continue our search.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Women are like tea bags; you never know how strong they are until they’re put in hot water.”  Our strength, over the last year since we began our search, has come from the Lord, Mary, our Mother of Perpetual Help and so many wonderful people, like you, who have supported us with your prayer, love and friendship.  

Because of this development, we are going to move temporarily into the lower level of Cabrini on the Hudson in West Park.  It is only about five miles south of our Esopus monastery on 9W.  We will have access to their chapel upstairs for our daily Mass.  We will keep the same schedule of 8:00 a.m. Mass Monday through Saturday and 11:00 a.m. on Sundays.  Thankfully, we will still be close to the Redemptorists, our friends, associates and doctors and will be able to keep our post office box in Esopus.  After we settle in, we will renew our search of where the Lord is leading us.

As we do at this time every year, we invite you to participate in our Annual Novena in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, June 19-27th.    As Jesus turned to his mother Mary when he was frightened, so we also confidently turn to our Mother of Perpetual Help and invoke her powerful intercession for all our needs and of those of the world.

Because of circumstances beyond our control, we are saddened to inform you that we will not be holding a public Triduum in honor of our Mother of Perpetual Help this year. 

Please keep us in your prayers, and send us your intentions to be placed before the icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help in our chapel as you join us from home throughout the novena, June 19-27:

                               NOVENA PRAYER

All:    Holy Mary, help all in distress,
encourage the fainthearted, console the sorrowful,
be the advocate of all clergy and religious,
strengthen family life,  bring peace to our  world,
intercede for all God’s holy people,
let all feel your aid who implore your Perpetual Help.

       Our Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
      That we may be made worthy of the promises
  of Christ.

   O Lord Jesus Christ,
who has given us your Mother Mary
whose miraculous image we venerate,
to be our Mother, ever ready to help us,
grant we pray, that we who earnestly implore her aid
may deserve to enjoy perpetually
the fruit of your Redemption.
You who live and reign for ever and ever.  Amen.
 Pleace and blessings be yours
and may our Mother of Perpetual Help
be your strength in all your needs.

Your Redemptoristine Sisters

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Contemplative Nuns Relocate

Current News ...As Promised

         The Redempstoristine Nuns, formerly of Esopus, New York are eager to remain in contact with all their friends. We are newly relocated to the grounds of Cabrini West Park along Route 9W, just five miles south of our old home. In the last year and a half our community has followed a demanding path, searching for and investigating scores of possible sites for a suitable permanent home. There were great hopes for a former friary in an urban area of New Jersey where we could happily relocate and be part of the local Church community in a new way. Unfortunately issues involving a buried leaking 4,000 gallon fuel oil tank made it necessary to withdraw from the purchase contract at the end of April. There remained little more than a month in which to find a temporary home for the community and its monastic furnishings.
          Our current home includes the lower level of the administration building (kitchen, dining room, common room and nine bedrooms with baths), two offices on its first floor, use of a lovely chapel and ample space for storage.  The view of the river fills us with awe. May not seem possible but it is an even more beautiful view than the one offered by the Mount. However, our presence on the property is invisible to those passing by.
Except for the time of daily Mass, visitors must ring the bell at the side service entrance to access the Redemptoristine quarters. The common room has been arranged to accommodate the cape sewing room (in full swing at the height of the season), computers and mailroom as well as makeshift community room space. While far from ideal, we are nonetheless grateful to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart for their willingness to rent this space to us at such short notice. In the spirit of Mother Cabrini they have once again welcomed immigrants into their midst.
          The move itself was quite a marathon – three days of packing by the movers, two days of loading trucks and two more days of unloading. It was a blessing that we were able to welcome the return of our older sisters from a Carmelite monastery the day after the movers left. Our first Mass took place the next day, Trinity Sunday. The sisters who facilitated the move appreciated three days of generous overnight hospitality from the Benedictine Sisters in Kingston.
          We will be taking some time to recuperate from the rigors of transition and formulate a plan for the next stage of their journey. We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our discernment and count on the support of your prayers. Mailing address and telephone number remain the same. The physical address is Cabrini West Park, 2085 Route 9W, West Park, NY, 12493. The sisters maintain a community Facebook Page which can be checked for updates. In addition, a new edition of our website is about to be launched.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Habits in the Making

First a Note: The small but none the less faithful audience for this blog must be waiting for an update of our relocation situation. Frankly the process was so demanding and arduous that we've been taking time to catch our breath. Small updates appear every few days on our Facebook Page "Redemptoristine Nuns of Esopus". One of the things that has to be figured out is how to change that name! In the meantime...someone asked on Facebook for pictures of Redemptorist habits. That was easy to do.

The "Habit Work" of the Redemptoristines

Almost complete - only sleeves need to be sewn on
When the Redemptoristines first came to the Mount St. Alphonsus in 1957 their remunerative work was to be sewing habits for the many professors and seminarians. Brothers who were expert in this work taught them how to make the habits. One of the brothers had been trained as a tailor of German military uniforms. Over time each sister took a turn  working in the  habit department. When the seminary closed this work could no longer provide adequate income. Then the community began to make capes for the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.
Detail of side poket flap and sleeve button holes
Note top stitching in both
Still we are very attached to providing this service to our Redemptorist brothers. Sr. Paula is the master of the craft providing expert measuring, establishing proper patterns for fit, cutting and putting it all together. Sr. Mary Anne taught me how to make the stiff collars (machine belting)  complete with hidden hooks and loops and insert them by hand. This process takes about an hour and a half. Often I do the sleeves with their faced cuff and lapped button closure.
Collar put in by hand just yesterday
Note hidden hooks and loops as well as
collar extension that gives a bit more neck
room after a good meal

It gives us great pleasure to see a Redemptorist wearing one of our habits, especially if it fits well. Even Archbishop Tobin and Father General wear our habits. But it is such fun to meet and measure those men about to profess vows. It feels as if we too are sending them on their way attired in a new habit and accompanied by our prayers.