"Young Religious ought to enter blogs and correct the opinions of the youth, showing them the true Jesus" - Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for Rome

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our First Tonopah Christmas

Merry Christmas from all of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration!
Our Monastery Christmas: Fr. Fred Adamson celebrating Midnight Mass, Carols in the Chapel, and Veneration of the relic of the Crib of Jesus.

There are moments in life when just for a moment time seems to stop, all of creation seems to hold its breath, and the silence sings praises to our God!  That sums up our first Christmas here in Tonopah!  

We were blessed to have Fr. Fred Adamson celebrate both Midnight Mass as well as Christmas morning Mass for our Community.  He has been a beloved friend and father to our Community, from the very beginning and faithfully on from there! 

Christmas Eve festivities began in the Main Chapel as Sr. John-Mark played Christmas carols on the organ - and we sang along!  Sister is teaching herself to play the organ (thank You Lord for musically gifted Novices!)  And she is doing a wonderful job!  This was the first time we sang together in the Chapel - the acoustics are phenomenal!  As Sr. Esther Marie pointed out, our voices were swept up to the top of the dome then delivered to the rest of the Church!  As we are not using the main Chapel for any liturgical services until its consecration in May, we headed back to our in-house Chapel for the veneration of the relic of the Crib of Jesus and the chanting of Divine Office, which is then followed by the celebration of Mass.  I must say, after 15 Christmases in the Monastery, I still feel like a little child - giddy with Christmas joy - as we begin to sing the processional song for Mass!  The hope-filled Advent cry of "Come Lord Jesus" is fulfilled on that Holy Night as we hear in the beautiful Christmas Hymn, Hodie Christus Est:
Today Christ is born. Today the Savior appeared.
Today on earth the angels sing, archangels rejoice:
Today the righteous rejoice, saying:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people
of good will. Alleluia.

We received an outpouring of love from so many friends and family - to make our first Tonopah Christmas quite unforgettable!  Sweets and treats appeared in our P.O. Box, as well as on our doorstep.  Steve Talbot, our dear friend and construction superintendent, made us a crowning jewel for the in-house Chapel.  You will see it featured in the photos above.  It is a beautiful Throne to hold the Monstrance for Eucharistic Adoration!  We are confident that St. Joseph had a hand in all of it - the craftsmanship is wonderful.  Surely our Infant King will shower blessings on him and all those who prayed for us and sent gifts and cards. 

Our beloved friend Donna from Chicago surprised us by sending deep dish Chicago pizzas for Sr. Mary Fidelis' birthday just a few days before Christmas!  Much to Sr. John-Mark's chagrin (who was trying to keep the deep dish delivery a surprise), Sr. Fidelis was there when the UPS truck delivered the goods!  Sr. Esther Marie crowned the birthday goodies off with a homemade Yulelog birthday cake.  

We continue to celebrate Christmas each day of the Octave!  Please know that as we visit the manger, we carry your needs and intentions with us and present them to the Babe of Bethlehem - asking Him to bless you and your families with an outpouring of His Love.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Promise is a Promise

On Saturday, December 4th, Fr. Matt Lowry arrived in Tonopah AZ with a few car loads of college students from Northern Arizona University.  They accepted the invitation to COME AND SEE the marvels of the Lord in this far away place of solitude and prayer.  After three hours in the car and a jostling ride on about 5 miles of dirt roads, they came at long last to Our Lady of Solitude.  

This was our first full-fledged group retreat day - complete with Mass, a tour of the Chapel, lunch, confessions, personal prayer time, and concluding with Benediction.  The students had a chance to chat with some of the Sisters - and we had a chance to get to know these faith-filled young people.  It was a wonderful day from start to finish.  It made me think of Pope Benedict's words to youth:  
Make space for prayer in your lives! To pray alone is good, although it is even more beautiful and fruitful to pray together, because the Lord assured us he would be present wherever two or three are gathered in his name (cf. Mt 18:20).

A great big SHOUT OUT OF GRATITUDE to the awesome NAU students for spending their Saturday in prayer together with us!  Come back soon!!!

If you know a group of young people that would be interested in making a COME AND SEE Vocation Discernment retreat, email us at desertnuns@msn.com

Fr. Matt Lowry, Sr. John-Mark Maria and some NAU students!

Adoration and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament in our in-house Chapel

This past week was splendid!  We were blessed to have Fr. Mariusz, CFR and Br. Francis, CFR with us as they took some time for retreat.  What a great Advent grace to have such good friends and role models in our midst.
During their stay, on the Second Sunday of Advent, we had the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in our new home.  What a beautiful ceremony!  Have you had an image of the Sacred Heart enthroned in your home?  If not, click here to read more about the ceremony!  There are many graces attached to such a devotion.  One of the 12 promises of the Sacred Heart, as recorded by St. Margaret Mary is:  
"I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated."
 The Lord is faithful to His promises.  There was such an outpouring of grace and peace that came upon our new home as Jesus was enthroned anew as King of our home and King of our hearts.
Fr. Mariusz reading from the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart ceremonial
As part of the ceremony of the Enthronement, the priest blesses the house.  Here the Sister process behind Father and Brother
And this leads me to this one final thought: Advent is a time of hope that God's promises will be fulfilled!  I pray that your Advent leads you to a greater realization of His Love.  Trust Him...for He is a promise-keeper! 
"He has promised to men that they will be like God; to mortals he has promised immortality; to sinners, righteousness; to the lowly, glory."  - St. Augustine

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

This blog is going to be a bit of a mish mash of this and that!  So, on your mark, get set, let's blog!!!

Wish List:  Firstly, as you may have noted, we recently posted a wish list.  More recently, we added a link to the Moon Valley Nursery site, with a customized Wish List of some of the larger landscaping needs!  Here is the link: Moon Valley Wish List

November Birthdays:  Sr. Marie St. Paul celebrated her birthday on November 19th and Sr. Augustine on the 25th (Thanksgiving Day).  Happy Birthday to you both!

Thanksgiving: Our first Thanksgiving in Tonopah was a very happy one!  Fr. Bob Reddy and Fr. Mike Holmes from Canada joined us for the festivities (for the 14th consecutive year...such faithful friends!).  There was much to be thankful for indeed!  With a touch of nostalgia, we reflected on the many years we have been together - journeying toward Tonopah!  And now, at long last we are here...  It was indeed a beautiful Thanksgiving. 

 Advent: Last but certainly NOT least, is that the season of longing and expectation has begun: ADVENT.  It is such a powerful and packed liturgical season - so rich in imagery, challenges, preparation, and joy.  As we journey with Our Lady and St. Joseph through Advent, be assured of our prayers.  MARANATHA - COME LORD JESUS!!!

Enjoy this little gem from Pope Benedict XVI.  I hope it serves as spiritual nourishment for you during this holy time.  It's one of my personal favorite Advent quotes of all time:

"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent's intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church's year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart's memory so that it can discern the star of hope. It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

It's hard to believe that it is already Thanksgiving!  We hope and pray that you and your family have a very blessed day of gratitude and joy.  We will be celebrating our first Thanksgiving in Tonopah.  Since entering the Monastery (for many of us that was about 15 years ago), we have celebrated Thanksgiving with our dear priest friends from Canada.  This year is no exception.  Fr. Bob Reddy and Fr. Mike Holmes are here to help us celebrate our first Thanksgiving in our new home.  And there is so much for which to be thankful. 

A hearty THANK YOU to all who asked that we post a wish list of our needs.  Great idea!!
Below is a list with links attached.  Thanks so much for your generosity!

Monday, November 15, 2010

YES...We Have Moooooved In

Sr. Augustine Marie and Sr. Marie Andre standing inside the door of our new dwelling: Angelica House - named of course after our beloved Mother Mary Angelica
Well here we are in Tonopah Arizona!  We've been here about 2 weeks, which is hard to believe!  Time flies when you are unpacking boxes!!!  It seems like it has just been the blink of an eye.  We've adjusted quite well to life in the country.  As the title of this blog implies: we are very close to a dairy and the mooing of the cows reminds us of this...as well as the unique cattle smell that wafts across the desert! :)  I grew up in the country surrounded by corn fields!  So all the familiar sights and smells bring me back to my childhood!  Tonopah really is a lovely little spot on God's beautiful earth.  It's a very simple beauty, crowned with the surrounding mountains.  Kind of a like a desert shire...if such a thing could exist.

Our dear friend Rob bringing the last of our patio furniture from Black Canyon City :)
Fr. Fred Adamson came out to offer Mass for us yesterday.  He asked us the question: What has been the greatest surprise since moving here?  We certainly have had a few surprises - like a sidewinder on our patio.  But after some reflection, what came to my mind wasn't that, but rather, it was SILENCE that came as the greatest surprise.  The kind of quietness that is so quiet you can hear it.  The kind of silence that makes you want to sing...

Statue of St. Joseph in Chapel Parking Lot
Fr. John Greb and the wonderful people of St. Joseph's parish in Phoenix donated an organ to our Chapel.  Father drove it out here a few weeks back.  Sr. John-Mark, our musically talented novice, is teaching herself how to play.  She plugged the organ in and let her fingers do the walkin'.  As Sr. Marie Andre said, it sounded as majestic as St. Peter's Basilica (perhaps we are just a little partial)!  I was outside walking the dogs when I heard the sound of the organ burst through the doors of the chapel.  Sr. Esther Marie was singing along to "O Come Divine Messiah" - it really was glorious.  This music in the midst of the great silence made me long for Heaven where song and jubilation weave with silent awe and adoration to make a symphony of praise!

I look forward to when all of you - blog readers both near and far - can come to experience a bit of the glory of the new Our Lady of Solitude Chapel yourselves!  And that day will come...soon...but not quite yet.  The Chapel will open until the Spring.  However in the meantime, if you would like to make a visit to see the Chapel, please email Sr. Andre (desertnuns@msn.com) to arrange a time and to get a map. 

Sr. Marie St. Paul with a big smile on her face: "We made it!"
Since moving on October 28th, quite a few friends and family have visited - including Fr. Anthony Mary, our long time friend and MFVA Friar.  He was here when we actually moved in and was the first priest to stay in the new priest retreat house named: KAROL KOTTAGE (after Pope John Paul II)!  If you are a priest and interested in making a retreat, please contact us for more details!

Other visitors included local friends, Sr. Augustine's father, Sr. John-Mark's parents, Sr. Fidelis' brother and his family, our dear friend Donna from IL, Kit from the Institute on Religious Life, Fr. Bob from Canada and others. It's been wonderful to have our friends and family here with us as we take these first steps on Tonopah soil. 

More details and photos to come soon.  Thanks to so many of you who have prayed for this transition.  Rest assured that your prayers are bearing fruit in our lives...as we trust our prayers are bearing fruit in yours...

As a reminder: our new address is 
Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, P.O. Box 639, Tonopah, AZ 85354

Fr. John Muir offered the first Mass in our private in-house Chapel on October 31st.
Singing hymns of thanksgiving that Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament came to dwell with us.  And so begins our life of Eucharistic Adoration in Tonopah, Arizona!

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Beginnings

YES...It's finally happened!  We've moved...or are in the very concrete process of moving.  Suffice it to say that as of November 1st, we officially will be Tonopah residents.  (Insert cheering, screams of excitement, joyful hoorays)

Please make note of our new address:

Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration
Our Lady of Solitude Monastery
P.O. Box 639
Tonopah, AZ 85354

(note: our website and email info remains the same)

More to come soon!  Once we get settled, we will be sure to post lots of photos, news-bits and the like!  Thanks for your prayers as we make this transition!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

St. Therese and the Priesthood Reflections, Part IV

Final Reflection on St. Therese and the Priesthood.

Love Is Poor
In the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord exclaimed: “Blessed are the Poor In Spirit…theirs is the Kingdom of God.” As St. Therese made spiritual childhood her own, so she made her own poverty of spirit. She aspires to be nothing more than "a poor little child" who looks to her Father for everything and who obtains everything from Him because of this same poverty. She cultivates this poverty and wants to keep nothing for herself, not even her merits and her good works.

"There is only one way to force the good God not to judge at all, and that is to present one's self to Him with empty hands.” I am a firm believer that there are times in all of our lives when Our Lord gives us a taste of the clay of which we are made.  We experience our littleness and our poverty.  Truly, Without Him We Are Nothing.  Easy to say – but the actual experience of this can be painful. 

I have learned from Priests this very Theresian truth: LOVE IS POOR.  Currently we don’t have a permanent chaplain.  So the diocesan priests of Phoenix make many sacrifices to care for our Sacramental needs – traveling great distances to offer Mass for the Sisters.  Recently one of our newly ordained priests gave a homily that drove home this point: LOVE IS POOR.  He was preaching on Elijah and to the widow in Zarephath.  We all know the story.  Elijah asks for something to eat.  She says that she does not have enough flour.  Elijah responds: Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.  For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.'  In Father’s homily he spoke about how when we feel ‘empty’, like we don’t have enough…we need to give the VERY LITTLE that we do have to God.  We can’t keep anything back for us.  In this condition of poverty, emptiness, vulnerability, need: we see the power of God at work. 

This newly ordained priest touched on a lesson that is so needed in our day: LOVE IS POOR. In this state of poverty there is no mistaking the work of God.  Weakness is not an impediment to intimacy with God; it is a stepping-stone.  Littleness is the very condition necessary for God to show His greatness.  Priests experience this so often – as the Lord uses the little they have (so to speak) in mighty ways.

In the life of St Therese we learn of the following story which drives this point home:
“Sister Marie of the Eucharist wanted to light candles for a procession.  She had no matches; however, seeing a little lamp that was burning in front of the relics.  Alas, it was half out; there remained only a feeble glimmer on its blackened wick.  She succeeded in lighting her candle from it, and with this candle, she lit those of the whole community.  It was therefore the half-extinguished little lamp which produced all those beautiful flames…nevertheless, it would always be the little lamp which would be first cause of all this light.  How could the beautiful flames boast of having produced this fire, when they themselves were lighted with such a small spark?”  Love is Poor…

Love Remains
In this final portion of this reflection: I want to focus in on the 5th Luminous Mystery of the Rosary – The Institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood.  JESUS CHRIST TAUGHT US THAT LOVE REMAINS…

So who is a priest?  Pope Benedict XVI said: “I reaffirm with conviction and deep spiritual joy that the priest is above all a man of the Eucharist.”  Both the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood teach us that the Love of Jesus Christ is Present, Truly Present right here, right now.  Both teach us that LOVE REMAINS.

Saint Therese has a very Eucharstic soul.  She is a Eucharistic Saint.  We see in her a desire to remain close to us, just as Jesus desires to remain close to us.  LOVE REMAINS.  Her love for God is so great that it overflows in torrents upon souls.  She promised not only to look down upon us from Heaven, but to COME DOWN.  In a way, she promised to REMAIN with us….and over 100 years later, we see that she kept her promise.  She is truly a Eucharistic Soul.

My life is centered around adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.  My desire is to remain with Him always.  He is my dearest friend, my faithful spouse, my mighty redeemer.  Therese too wished to remain with Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  When she was 14 years old, she sent her gold bracelet to the chaplains of Montmartre so it could be melted into part of a great monstrance - a gesture that clearly expressed Therese’s desire to keep watch day and night close to Jesus in the Eucharist.  As an aside, the monstrance was built and placed in Le Sacre Coeur in Paris where Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament is adored perpetually - day and night - to this day.  LOVE DOES SUCH THINGS…because LOVE REMAINS close to the BELOVED. 

In a letter to her sister Celine, Therese said: “Celine, I feel that Jesus is asking us to slake His thirst by giving Him souls, souls of priests above all…We are so small a matter yet Jesus wills that the salvation of souls should depend on our sacrifices, our love.  He is a beggar begging us for souls.”   This thought was woven throughout her entire life, right up until the moment of her death.  She kept nothing for herself.  She understood that her vocation was to pray for priests.  She went so far as to offer up her last Communion for an ex-priest, Fr. Hyacinthe Loyson, a Carmelite. She never kept anything for herself.  ‘Everything I have, everything I merit, is for the good of the Church and for souls.’

Let us ask St. Therese to intercede for us, to teach us how to become intercessors for Priests.  Let us ask her to teach us to pray.  She did not take Jesus by the hand.  She took Him by the heart.  Perhaps this is the lesson she wants to teach us today.


Monday, October 18, 2010

St. Therese and the Priesthood Reflections, Part III

St. Therese and the Priesthood Reflections, Part III

The Nuns with Br. Francis, our spiritual brother, and Barbara Campbell, mother of Sr. Andre and Sr. St. Paul
Love Unites
Love unites souls.  Revisiting St. Therese’s definition of Love: “Love is uniting my will to God’s Will.” we realize why we are so united to those who share our faith journey.  There is also a unique spiritual union present between those for whom we intercede.  As women, who are "pre-programmed" for motherhood, I believe this bond is similar to the bond a natural mother experiences for her children.  When we pray for someone – whoever they may be – we take them into our maternal heart.  Love unites souls.

When speaking of the genius of spiritual motherhood and intercession, I want to hearken back to the simplicity of St. Therese. Sometimes we can make things very complicated: prayer included.  Toward the end of her short life, her superior entrusted Therese with 2 spiritual brothers to pray for.  She wondered how she could properly care for their spiritual needs in prayer.  Indeed, when we are called to be a spiritual mother, we experience the joys, responsibilities, and burdens of motherhood.  Therese says that she wanted to ask for both of these souls and the souls of all her spiritual children what they needed.  But then, if she went into detail about it, the days would not be long enough…and she adds so candidly: “and I fear I would forget something important.” So in true Theresian fashion, she says: This is too complicated!  She turns to Jesus and He shows her a better way. 

What is the better way, the simpler way, the more effective way?  As with all things, she turned her eyes from self toward JESUS.  And she sought the answer in Him:

Sr. John-Mark Maria with Fr. Paul Sullivan and Phoenix Seminarians
She says: “He made me understand these words of the Song of Songs: “Draw me, WE shall run after you in the odor of your ointments.” O Jesus it is not even necessary to say: “When drawing me, draw the souls whom I love!” This simple statement, ‘Draw me” suffices; I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the odor of Your ointments, she cannot run alone, all the souls whom she loves follows in her train; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of her attraction for You.  Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean, drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, O Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your Love, draws with her all the treasures she possesses.  Lord, You know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine; it is You who have entrusted these treasures to me, and so I dare to borrow the words which You addressed to the heavenly Father at the Last Supper: “Father I will that where I am, these also whom you have given me may be with me.” 

Love unites.  She uses the words of Our Lord at the Last Supper to express her own love for the souls entrusted to her care: “Lord, let those you have given me be with me where I am.”  Love unites.  As our union with God grows, so will the effectiveness of our intercession for souls.  If we truly wish to be champion intercessors for Priests – and so win salvation for many, then we must first allow the Lord to be the champion of our hearts. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Love Empowers, Love Understands

St. Therese and the Priesthood Reflections, Part II
Fr. Joseph Mary, Br. Paul, and Br. Justin helping Sr. Esther celebrate her birthday on Sept. 19th

Love Empowers:
There is an amazing phenomenon amongst priests.  I am sure it has been the case for quite a while, but its something that just struck me recently: Priests LOVE St. Therese.  So many of my priest friends turn to her as to a sister and friend in all their needs.  There was a time when St. Therese was looked upon by some as ‘saccharine’, ‘overly sentimental’, and 'childish'.  WHAT A MISUNDERSTANDING of this strong and amazing and REAL saint - who knew and embraced reality!  With the help of some  wonderful authors and devotees, the true spirit of Therese is being seen in all its splendor!  So many priests and faithful turn to Therese as a powerful intercessor, a tough guide, and a spiritual warrior. 

Why are the priests of the 3rd millennium so devoted to St. Therese?  Why is she termed the greatest saint in modern times?  I believe a key to unlock the Therese trend is to realize that LOVE EMPOWERS.  Many priests (and many faithful for that matter) know – through her words and through the experience of her intercession – that Therese LOVES them.  And this LOVE EMPOWERS them to incorporate her doctrine of spiritual childhood into their own lives. 

On her deathbed, Therese said: “ I believe my mission is about to begin, my mission of making souls love God as I love Him, my mission of teaching the little way to souls.  If my desires are fulfilled,” she says, “I shall spend my heaven in doing good upon earth.  She continued later, “I will send down a shower of roses.” A Sister asked her: “Will you look down?” “No.” Therese answered, “I will come down.”  Continuing in the same vein she said to her sister Marie: “I will begin my mission.  I will come down to aid missionaries and to obtain the baptism of pagan children before they die.”  Her sister Pauline told her they would put a palm branch in her hand after her death.  Therese responded: “Yes, but I will have to let it slip from my hands b/c I will use them to shower graces.” 

She has made good her promises. How many priests have experienced this love?  How many priests have been transformed by this love?  Therese’s mission is caught up with the mission of priests. 

To know the love of a saint is to get a glimpse of the love of God.  To know the love of this saint is to grow in a desire to make her Spouse known and loved.  It is a LOVE that EMPOWERS.  Therese says so plainly: “How great is the power of prayer.  Like a queen who has free access at all times to the king, and can obtain all she asks.”  Yes, Therese understood so well that LOVE EMPOWERS!

Love Understands
St. Therese understood both the dignity and the humanity of priests.  Throughout her entire life, St. Therese fostered a deep love for the Priesthood.  In 1887, when she was 15 years old, she went on month long pilgrimage with a group of people including her father, sister Celine and several priests.  In Story of a Soul she says the following: “I understood my vocation in Italy…I lived in the company of many saintly priests for a month and I learned that, though their dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless weak and fragile men.  If holy priests, whom Jesus in His Gospel calls ‘salt of the earth’, show in their conduct their extreme need for prayers, what is to be said of those who are tepid? Didn’t Jesus say too: ‘If the salt loses its savor wherewith will it be salted?’  How beautiful is the vocation which has as its aim the preservation of the salt destined for souls!…To be apostles to the apostles.  We are to pray for them while they are preaching to souls through their words and especially their example.”

If we want to follow in the footsteps of our beloved saint, then we must imitate the realism of Therese.  She teaches us that we must respect the dignity of the Priest, to love the Priest, to intercede for priests.  To be an aqua duct of grace for priests is to affect more souls than just the priests.  There is a great multiplication factor when we pray for priests.  We support and strengthen just one priest through our prayers, then he in turn is a powerful instrument for many, many souls.  Then it goes on from there...these 'converted souls' touch the lives and hearts of others...and on and on!  If we love souls, then we will be drawn to pray for priests.  

 G.K. Chesterton once said of St. Francis of Assisi: “He was a lover of God and he was really and truly a lover of men, possibly a much rarer and mystical gift.”  The same can be said of St. Therese.  She loved souls.  She lived for souls.  Why?  Because she loved Jesus and wished to imitate His own love for souls: The Word becoming Flesh, living in poverty, laboring, experiencing fatigue and hunger, being betrayed and denied by those who were closest to him, dying to save us, remaining with us in the Most Blessed Sacrament...  St. Therese understood the Heart of Christ.  She understood the heart of men.  Love understands. 

Such a love inspired the following words to her spiritual brother, Fr. Maurice Belliere: “When I shall have arrived at port, I will teach you how to travel, dear little brother of my soul, on the stormy sea of the world: with the surrender and the love a child who knows his Father loves him and cannot leave him alone in the hour of danger…The way of simple love and confidence is really made for you.”

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sancte Pater Francisce

Written by Sr. Marie Andre on October 3, 2010

Our Lady of Solitude Chapel's encaustic tile of St. Francis' encounter with Our Lord: "Go and Rebuild My Church"

One of the many things I admire in our holy father Francis is his ability to be himself.  He could be who he was:  simple and humble and perhaps even be looked upon as being outlandish, especially at the beginning of the founding of the Friars Minor!  And yet, that did not matter because he truly was in love with Jesus.  He saw and met the Lord in his neighbors, in nature, in the words he preached, but most importantly in the Eucharistic Presence.

He realized his life in Christ was the end.  And our holy father Francis did not preach just by words but by his life.  He made his life to be the imitatio Christi, the re-presenting of Christ, the re-living of Christ in the most literal sense.  Just as he had been the model of action earlier in his life, our holy father Francis became the perfect example of contemplation on Mount Alverna when he received the stigmata.  In the words of St. Bonaventure: “Francis tasted the hidden manna, and with Christ rested in the tomb, dead, as it were, to the outside world.”

It seems impossible to achieve the heights of holiness that St. Francis achieved, and yet he did so through his littleness and humility and the grace of God.  Just ask St. Therese of Lisieux!  She and the Poor Man of Assisi will tell you it is a relief for we weak and sinful children of God to discover that we are loved unconditionally by Jesus, just the way we are.  Dr. Conrad Baars says that Jesus always adjusts His perfect love to our imperfect state.  Let’s keep it simple:  if we have grateful and enthusiastic hearts, we can turn away from ourselves and turn toward the One who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.  And St. Francis will be there with us, encouraging and praying for us along the way...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Love Expands the Heart

"I feel I shall be more useful to you in heaven than on earth…I really count on not being inactive in Heaven. My desire is to work still for the Church and for souls.”  -St. Therese to Fr. Adolphe Roulland
St. Therese and the Priesthood Reflection, Part I

Today marks the anniversary of the death of St. Therese in 1897.  Tomorrow we celebrate her Feast Day.  Here at Our Lady of Solitude she is among our most beloved friends.  Reflecting on the life and love of St. Therese leads one to reflect on her life and love for priests.  In her honor, I want to offer a little reflection on what it means to be a true intercessor for our priests.  Throughout the month of October, I hope to offer other reflections on St. Therese, as well as some thoughts on Our Holy Father Francis. But let's start here for now... 
Love Expands the Heart
Expanding and contracting:  2 divergent terms.  Love expands.  Sin contracts.  Love sets the world on fire.  Sin snuffs out the wavering flame.  Each day we face a spiritual battle between love and sin.  In a unique way, the priest – an altar Christus – is at the forefront of this battle.  In Persona Christi, he forgives sin and plants love anew in the soul.  But such an uprooting and planting does not come without a cost. 

As intercessors for our priests, it is our job to fight our sometimes small and insignificant battles faithfully – all for love.  Our Blessed Lord takes the spoils of such battles and uses them as armor for his Priests. 

Such selfless love expands our hearts.  Such selfless love sees in every moment an opportunity to draw closer to Christ.  St. Therese teaches us that “the most trivial work, the least action when inspired by love, is often of greater merit than the most outstanding achievement.  It is not on our face value that God judges our deeds, even when they bear the stamp of apparent holiness, but solely on the measure of love that we put into them.” 

She goes on to say:  “I am glad to recognize that when we love God our heart expands, and we can give incomparably more tender love to those who are dear to us than when our love is selfish and barren… Love is fed by and develops from sacrifice. The more we deprive ourselves of natural satisfaction, the stronger and the more disinterested our love becomes."

There are several stories of Therese using seemingly insignificant daily occurrences.  In the convent garden, she would walk with energy and vigor, saying that she was “walking for a missionary.”  Such an attentive love pleases the Heart of Jesus.  Such an Other-centered existence expands the heart and makes it capable to pure love.  And as St. John of the Cross says: “The smallest movement of pure love is more useful to the Church than all other works put together.” 

Let us resolve anew to offer sacrifices for priests – selflessly offering the big and small things in life for the fruitfulness of their priestly ministry and their personal sanctification.  This will not only expand their hearts, but ours as well.

St. Therese, Pray for Us...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blessed John Henry Newman, Pray for us

Written by Sr. Marie St. Paul on September 19, 2010

Br. Francis with 2 of his paintings: Servant of God John Paul II and BLESSED John Henry Newman!
At 1:30 am this morning, four dedicated nuns cuddled up on the couches of the living room to watch with slightly bleary eye the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.  Thanks to EWTN and their great coverage, the sisters and I have been avidly accompanying the Holy Father these past three days during his visit to Scotland and England.    

What a beautiful and grace-filled visit!  We’ve watched with great joy the crowds greeting the Holy Father with loud cheers and heard his words calling not only the faithful of Great Britain but all of us “to look into our hearts each day to find the source of all true love.  Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with Him and to hear His Voice.”  The Holy Father in his inimitable way always points his flock to Jesus.

But I digress…we’re celebrating the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, beatified by the Holy Father himself in Birmingham, England!  What an honor for that great and heroic man who endured so much during his lifetime.  Reading about the influence of Cardinal Newman and his Oratorians on JRR Tolkien piqued my own interest to learn more about the Cardinal.  Following Fr. Bassett’s suggestion that one of the best biographies on Newman was written by Meriol Trevor, I first read her two volume work about ten years ago.  The Cardinal’s friendship and example have enriched my life immensely!  He is truly a beautiful soul.

One of the tidbits that particularly touched the sisters and I during the Holy Father’s visit was seeing the photos of Blessed John Henry’s dearest friends hanging in his little chapel to the right of where he prayed.  Friendship was a key element to the formation of our new Blessed.  This morning, Sr. Fidelis and I discussed the importance of spiritual friendship and the reality of Christ's love any good friend brings to one’s life, whether they reside on this earth or in Heaven.  They too, as the words of the Holy Father do, lead us to Jesus.    

Many depictions of Blessed John Henry Newman have been circulated during the Holy Father’s visit, but I want to share with you one of the best portraits that I’ve ever seen, lovingly painted by Br. Francis Edkins, CFR (a photo of the painting is seen below!).

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Touch of the Eternal

"The Cross is the most profound condescension of God to man . . . The Cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man’s existence" 
(Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia)

THE PHOENIX - to the right you see the cloistered portion of the reredos with an awesome wood-carved Phoenix. 

Before moving to the great Southwest about 5 years ago, I never gave much thought to the symbolic meaning of the Phoenix.  Sure I knew it was a bird that rose from the ashes, but I never gave it a second thought.  But that was yesterday and yesterday is gone!

In case, like me, you've never given the Phoenix much thought nor made the Christian symbolic connection, allow me to share what I've learned:  The Phoenix is a mythical creature with beautiful gold and red plumage.  At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes.  But that's not the end of the story.  The Phoenix would then rise from the ashes in victory.  

Thinking of the today's Feast, the Triumph of the Cross, it's not hard to see the correlation between the Cross and Resurrection AND the 'death of the Phoenix' and it's rising in victory.

Our Beloved Lord is the King of Kings - robed in gold!  He is also the King of Martyrs - robed in red.  The fire of His Love set the world aflame, as He hung upon the Cross.  His death brought life.  But at first glance, everything seemed to be reduced to ashes...

Yes, with only a cursory look, the Cross looked like defeat.  But that wasn't the case, was it? We know the end of the story.  We know that our salvation was won upon that mount.

We remember the garden, the Gardener, and Mary Magdalene: "Mary!"- "Rabboni!"  "Go and tell me brothers..."  The Lord is risen as He promised - Alleluia.  We know the Victory was won...The Phoenix rising from the ashes gives us all hope.  It reminds us of our ultimate hope - The Tomb is Empty...Alleluia!

(Check out more pics at: http://medievaldreams2reality.blogspot.com/2010/09/more-pics-at-long-last.html)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Finders Seekers

Those who have found in Jesus the truth, joy and beauty which give meaning and direction to their lives will naturally desire to bring this grace to others. Undaunted by the presence of difficulties, or the enormity of the task at hand, they will trust in the mysterious presence of the Holy Spirit who is always at work in the hearts of individuals, in their traditions and cultures, mysteriously opening doors to Christ as "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14: 6), and the fulfillment of every human aspiration.- Pope Benedict XVI

How can a cloistered nun open the doors to Christ?  How can she bring Him to others?  I spoke with a man this weekend who posed this very question.  He asked, "What is your apostolate?"  When I explained that we were contemplative nuns whose main work is perpetual adoration, he looked at me with much sincerity.  Nearly inaudibly he said: "It takes a lot of faith to believe that your prayers bear fruit for the Kingdom - especially since you can't see the fruit."  This man summed up the hidden life of a contemplative.  It is a life of faith.  

A cloistered nun opens the doors to Christ through her prayers and sacrifice - through the faithful living out of her humble and hidden life.  She brings Him to others by bringing others to Him - through her work of intercession.

As the Sisters and I are entrusted with building a new Eucharistic Throne for our Bridegroom, we have before us a unique opportunity to open the doors for Christ, to bring Him to others.  Our Lady of Solitude Chapel will sit there upon the desert sands, as if it were a ship sailing on the boundless ocean.  Majestic.  Awesome.  A reminder that we are pilgrims, and that God is unchanging.

When the doors are opened, and the new Eucharistic Throne is unveiled, the Sisters and I will have the immense JOY of opening the doors to Christ for all those who visit.  We have found Him in Whom our hearts find rest.  Now we want to bring that grace to others.

Like Pope Benedict XVI said so beautifully in the quote above, we strive to remain undaunted by the presence of difficulties or the enormity of the task at hand.  Continually we are faced with our weak humanity.  Weak knees, weak stomachs, trembling hands, pounding heart...And yet, we keep pressing onwards.  Why?  Because He is worth it!  Bringing others to Him is worth it!  Bringing Him to others is worth it!  In such matters there can never be any counting of the cost!

Sr. Fidels' mom, Peg, with Sr. Augustine - standing in front of the newly erected reredos

Alexander, our amazingly talented wood carver, going over the plans

Alexander showing the cloister Mass choir grille to Jill and Sr. Esther Marie

Ta Da!  The reredos with statues!  WOW.  More pics to come.  Isn't it awesome?!?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sharing the Joy

Fr. Muir, Ruth, and Joe posing for a pic in the Chapel with Sr. Augustine and Sr. Fidelis
Whenever I see a rainbow, I must share it with someone!  It's just too beautiful to keep for myself.  The Sisters are accustomed to my proclamations: "Come outside, there's a rainbow."  "Come outside and see the sunset."  "Come outside and see the moon."  "You've gotta see how the fig tree is growing."  Come and see...it's a constant refrain for me!  Given it has a scriptural link, I can get away with dragging my sisters outside to see all the miracles of the desert sky and landscape.

This COME AND SEE attitude flows over to our desert oasis in Tonopah.  Taking friends out to see the chapel progress brings us great joy.  "Come and see what the Lord is accomplishing!"  Witnessing their eyes light up, hearing the exclamations of joy and wonder, feeling the excitement grow - it's all such a testament to the Providence of God at work in this deserted place.

Sr. John-Mark's reaction EACH TIME she goes to visit Tonopah is the best on record: immediately her eyes fill up with tears and she says: "I just can't believe this."   I think it's what each of us experiences - it just comes flowing - so freely - from the heart of our white-veiled Sister.  And it's good to see.

Sr. Jean Steffes seeing the Chapel progress for the first time! 
Witnessing the plans progress from one grace-laden YES, to a piece of graph paper and a lot of dreams (and opinions...with 6 strong-willed women, what do you expect?!?), to the architects blueprints, to the shell of a building, to a beautiful structure, to a HOUSE OF GOD...well, it's been quite a journey.

We look forward to when we can say to all of you: COME AND SEE.  That time is coming nearer - but is not here yet.  Many have been asking about when the Church will be open to the public and when the date for consecration will be set.  All of that is still up in the air - so we ask for your continued prayers.  There are still some interior appointments that will take some time to get finished.  Daily Mass will not be available until after the Church is consecrated.  Please keep an eye on the blog and website for further details - as they become available.  Thanks for your support, prayers, and encouraging comments.  Check out the dreams to reality blog for more pics!

With all the trips back and forth from the land, with the packing, and other assorted activities that go along with moving 6 nuns, 3 cats, and 2 dogs, we've had to get some extra help with day to day work.  Here is our newest employee, Sir Thomas Percy as he learns data entry from our Novice, Sr. John-Mark Maria!  :) 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Beautiful Holy Mother Clare Feast Day!

Our celebration of the solemnity of Our Holy Mother Clare was splendid.  To everyone who sent email greetings, cards, telephone calls, and visits : THANK YOU!  We praise God for the gift of our friends and extended spiritual family.  We prayed in a special way for all of our Franciscan family, especially all of our fellow Poor Clares.  

Our Canadian Connection of Priests have been rotating their summer holiday so as to care for our Sacramental needs for nearly the entire month of August for us.  Fr. Mike, Fr. Marco, Fr. Bob, and Fr. Steven are priests from Toronto whom we have prayed for since early on in their priesthood.  We are blessed by the friendship and kindness to us.  Fathers, we are so grateful for your sacrifice!  Our greetings go out to Fr. Jim Bussanich - part of the Canadian connection who was unable to get away from his parish for his annual visit!  We miss you, Father!

And, today, we continue the Saint celebrations with St. Jane Frances de Chantal (one of my personal favorite saints! Pic to the left) . Like St. Clare, she had a "Francis"  as well to guide her and journey with her along the path of sanctity.  She was the spiritual daughter of St. Francis de Sales. Here is a good sampling of St. Jane de Chantal's spiritual wisdom: 
 “Live joyously and courageously, my dear daughter, never doubting that Jesus Christ is entirely yours.”
Getting back to St. Clare: Fr. Marco's homily yesterday was wonderful.  (And our thanks to the Seminarians of the Diocese of Phoenix who served the Mass). Below you will find a transcript of the homily. P.S.  When we asked Father for his notes to put online for all of you to enjoy, he gave us his hand-written homily - and what beautiful handwriting!  So I had to type out the homily.  As you may have noted from past blogs, I am not the most meticulous typer (I can just see my sophomore typing teacher cringe!) So bear with any typos :)  And enjoy this little spiritual gem!
 Homily by Fr. Marco Testa on August 11, 2010

Thus says the Lord: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. (Hosea 2:16)

These words of the Prophet Hosea speak in a very specific manner to you, Sisters, as you prepare to move to your new Monastery.  They are also words that Our Lord spoke to each one of you individually as He called you to walk in the footsteps of your Holy Mother St. Clare.  'Here, O daughter, and see; turn your ear, forget your people and your father's house.  So shall the king desire your beauty.'

But Our Lord is also speaking to us today, to the Church as a whole; and in St. Clare, this quintessentially Franciscan saint we are all led to the very heart of the Gospel that the Church proclaims and by God's grace endeavors to live.  In the Litany that we prayed at Vespers yesterday, we asked for the grace to follow St. Clare in poverty, humility, and obedience.  These virtues, abundantly evident in the life of St. Clare and of her faithful daughters, are so thoroughly evangelical that they render both the holiness and the teaching of St. Clare relevant to the Universal Church.

All of us are familiar with the mandate given by Our Lord to St. Francis to go and to rebuild His Church.  St. Clare and her daughters, then and now, share in this work.  Each in their own way, St. Francis and St. Clare fulfilled this mandate principally, I believe, by giving form to the first beatitude: the poverty of spirit expressed in poverty - both material and spiritual - in humility and in obedience.  Poverty of spirit - this doctrine is the basic truth of the Gospel and the heart of this truth so clearly understood and taught by St. Clare is that nearness to God grows not out of fullness in righteousness but out of the receptive emptiness of our poverty.  Visually, I think this means that we all come before Our Lord with empty hands.  This is why the call to the desert is made to the Church and to each one of the disciples of Jesus.

By virtue of our Baptism all of us have been consecrated servants of the Gospel.  All of us are called to live this poverty of spirit.  And as we walk this path guided as we are by Our Lord Himself and the Saints we come to realize that the holiness for which we strive is the wholehearted openness to the love of God.  There is a correlation between poverty of spirit and holiness.  The greater our knowledge of our innate poverty, the greater our openness to the love of God so generously bestowed on us in Christ, Our Lord and our Brother.

Today we are rejoice in the memory of a woman whom you Sisters are privileged to call your Holy Mother.  In her daughters, In her daughters, beloved of God and loved also by us, St. Clare continues to teach us that we must embrace our poverty; effectively we must abandon ourselves to Divine Providence which is both concrete and immediate; and God will indeed take care of everything.

As we now prepare to encounter Our Lord in His Eucharistic poverty, may St. Clare obtain for us the grace to live Eucharistic lives.  It is with empty hands that we come before Him.  May she obtain for us the grace to recognize our own poverty in the Eucharist that we may truly be His disciples.  For poverty of spirit is no less simplicity of heart and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI long ago observed that the faith of those who are simple of heart is the most precious treasure of the Church.  To serve and to live this forth is the noblest vocation in the renewal of the Church.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Clare - Bright Light...Shine On!

Our Holy Mother Clare, Pray for us!
Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Clare of Assisi (a Solemnity for Poor Clares).  This year the festivities will be heightened as we are celebrating her newly installed stained glass window in the Chapel of Our Lady of Solitude.  Above you can see a photo of a portion of the window.  So full of light.  So golden.  So CLARE!!  

Yes, the first 6 stained glass windows were installed on August 7th.  And, let me tell you, THEY ARE AWESOME.  Each one competes with the next to be our favorites!  Sr. Esther Marie, after much debate, finally chose St. Clare as her favorite.  It was a good choice!

I think Our Lady of Guadalupe is my favorite (to the right is the middle section prior to installation).  But then again, St. Francis is so beautiful.  Then there is St. Faustina - so noble.  And St. Anthony - so devotional and loving.  Oh yes, and we can't forget the awesome round window in the cloistered Mass Chapel of our Poor Clare genealogy - tracing our roots from St. Clare to Mother Marie de Ste Claire, to Mother Mary of the Cross, to Mother Agnes, to our own beloved Mother Angelica.  Below is a photo of Sr. Esther Marie giving thanks to God for the gift of this stunning window!

Please be sure to check out the video log of the windows installation http://medievaldreams2reality.blogspot.com/2010/08/stained-glass-installation.html

I can't finish this blog without reflecting for a moment more about St. Clare.   
“Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! And transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation."

So many of St. Clare's quotes lead the soul to the contemplation of God, to prayer of the heart, to peace and to trust!  It was said of St. Clare that: "Her life was like an arrow which took flight from the bow of her single-minded, burning desire and sped upward into the very being of the Godhead."  Once she fell in love with the Lord, there was no stopping her.  She journeyed - with a daring heart - ever closer to the FIRE of HIS LOVE - her eyes fixed on her Goal...yet, as a true follower of St. Francis, she gratefully received the gift of the present moment. She found her Lord along the road.  She rejoiced in Him.  She led others to Him.  She reflected His Light.   

The Poor Clares in the Netherlands wrote the following about our Foundress and Mother: "Sheer transparency: that was Clare. The light of the Divine gleaming through this woman who had emptied herself through the total gift of her life blinded all who drew near her. Pauper or Pope, it didn't matter. Hidden within the walls of her monastery, the joy that consumed her penetrated every corner of the Church. The joy of living continually in Christ's presence. For which reason she is most often portrayed holding the Blessed Sacrament." 
May Our Holy Mother Clare obtain for you all the graces you most desire and need.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Monsoon Season

It is definitely monsoon season in the desert.  We've had cloudy skies, rain, and cool temps (OK, 'cool' is a relative term.  It was under 100 degress - so that's cool).  Sr. John-Mark and I were taking the puppies out last night, and she made a bold statement: "Wow, the breeze is actually cool."  Again, cool is a relative term.  In any case, we are enjoying monsoon season! 

Rain in the desert brings much joy.  For us, it is a sign of graces pouring down upon the earth.  Monsoon season, then, is a time of grace!!!!  We experienced some of this grace this past week.  We had the great joy of having 2 of our CFR friends and brothers here for a visit: Br. Jeremiah and Br. Joshua.  We are so grateful for their friendship and support! 

On Thursday, July 22nd (Feast of St. Mary Magdalene), we headed out to Tonopah to show off the building site.  We were joined by two of our other friends and supports: Fr. Fred Adamson and Fr. Greg Menegay! 

This was one of our first visits to the land that was actually overcast.  The differing shades of the stone, dome slate, and roof tile all look so different without the sun shining down on them - equally as beautiful...but different! 

They began putting up the medieval-themed light fixtures while we were there.  They need to be lowered a bit, but look really awesome.  Check out the ceiling in the chapel - it looks wonderful.  While we were there they began unpacking some of the custom made floor tile scenes.  WOW.  Pics coming soon :)