Advent in the Monastery- Part I

What is Advent like in the Monastery? In this four part series we'll share with you a little of how we observe Advent.

This season of watching and waiting is especially meaningful to us as contemplatives whose whole lives are structured to foster an atmosphere of prayerful waiting on the Lord. We prepare our hearts for Our Lord's visitation, remaining alert and watchful (just like today's readings remind us to be!) so that He does not find us asleep when He comes. We foster this practice of alertness physically by rising early for prayer, and keeping watch praying the rosary in rotation throughout the night twice a week. Spiritually our hearts can become drowsy by the long wait, we can let our alertness slip sometimes without realizing it. The season of Advent is a time to take stock and more fervently prepare our hearts for the coming of Our Lord.

Advent begins at First Vespers Saturday night when our prioress blesses our Advent wreath and candles with holy water. If you visit our chapel during Advent you might wonder why we don't have an Advent wreath in the sanctuary. We have it in our choir so that we have access to it! Twice a day, at the Magnificat of Our Lady during Vespers and at the Alleluia during Mass, we take turns lighting the candles.  As is the custom with many things in religious life, we do this in order of profession starting with Sr. Mary Martin our prioress. One exciting part of lighting the Advent candles is that postulants also get a turn! When a young woman enters the monastery she is slowly acclimated to our way of life. As she progresses in formation she is given more responsibility. Postulants do not read at Mass or in the refectory, but they do get their turn lighting the Advent candles! 

More than one sister will count the days to discover which candles she gets to light. Unsurprisingly, it is always a special treat to be the sister who lights the rose colored candle for the first time! Who will it be this year? 

Feast of St. Cecilia

"In the city of Rome there was a virgin named Cecilia, who came from an extremely rich family and was given in marriage to a youth named Valerian. She wore sackcloth next to her skin, fasted, and invoked the saints, angels, and virgins, beseeching them to guard her virginity

During her wedding ceremony she was said to have sung in her heart to God and before the consummation of her nuptials, she told her husband she had taken a vow of virginity and had an angel protecting her. Valerian asked to see the angel as proof, and Cecilia told him he would have eyes to see once he traveled to the third milestone on the Via Appia (Appian Way) and was baptized by Pope Urbanus.

Following his baptism, Valerian returned to his wife and found an angel at her side. The angel then crowned Cecilia with a chaplet of rose and lily and when Valerian's brother, Tibertius, heard of the angel and his brother's baptism, he also was baptized and together the brothers dedicated their lives to burying the saints who were murdered each day by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius.

Both brothers were eventually arrested and brought before the prefect where they were executed after they refused to offer a sacrifice to the gods.

As her husband and brother-in-law buried the dead, St. Cecilia spent her time preaching and in her lifetime was able to convert over four hundred people, most of whom were baptized by Pope Urban.

Cecilia was later arrested and condemned to be suffocated in the baths. She was shut in for one night and one day, as fires were heaped up and stoked to a terrifying heat - but Cecilia did not even sweat.

When Almachius heard this, he sent an executioner to cut off her head in the baths.

The executioner struck her three times but was unable to decapitate her so he left her bleeding and she lived for three days. Crowds came to her and collected her blood while she preached to them or prayed. On the third day she died and was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons.

St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music, because she heard heavenly music in her heart when she was married, and is represented in art with an organ or organ-pipes in her hand."  Source: Catholic Online

May St. Ceclila intercede for our musicians!

Sr. Maria Agnes playing our community room piano and Sr. Denise Marie playing our choir organ at Mass. 

61st Anniversary of Solemn Profession

Although only a Memorial for the rest of the Church, our monastery celebrates today's feast of Our Lady's Presentation with the rank of a Feast. Why? Because it is our community's anniversary of Solemn Profession! On November 21, 1955 all of the sisters in perpetual vows made solemn vows as nuns of the Order of Preachers. We have a recording of our sisters making their vows which we listened to tonight at Supper.  Sr. Mary Daniel is the only sister left living who made Solemn Profession that day.

The Community in 1927, 28 years before making Solemn Profession.

Meet our New Novice Mistress

Meet our new Novice Mistress, Sr. Joseph Maria of the Holy Family, OP

Sr. Joseph Maria entered the monastery on June 15, 2007, coming to us from Arlington, Texas. Originally from Vietnam, sister immigrated with her family to the United States in 1995 at 9 years old.

Sister made her First Profession on Feb 13, 2010 and her Solemn Profession on May 31, 2013. Before being assigned as Novice Mistress, she was in charge of our Print Shop, as well as the Shipping Department for our Cloister Shoppe. She also has held the all important job of Puppy Mistress! Sister is also a talented gardener. We joke that she can plant a dead twig and make it grow. 

Please join us in praying for Sr. Joseph Maria as she begins her new role as Novice Mistress.

Prioress's Feast Day

The election of Sr. Mary Martin as our community's prioress meant that Nov. 3, St. Martin de Porres, would continue to be the Prioress's Feast Day. The celebration of the Prioress's feast day begins the evening before (just like All Saints' Day did!), which meant dispensing the community from the end of our All Souls fast day.

Each year a sister writes a "greeting song" to be sung in the prioress's honor as she is led by the sub-prioress from choir into the decorated community room. Sr. Maria-Agnes has become somewhat of our official geeting song piano player. Although she is not able to play for the community's liturgy, sister was a trained pianist in the Philippines and is magnificent! This year Sr. Denise Marie, Sr. Mary John, and Sr. Maureen went all out in decorating the community room after discovering ridiculously inexpensive end-of-season mums at a nearby nursery. 

As usual, this is a '10 & 4' day with recreation in the community room at both 10am and 4pm, as well as 'talking' dinner and supper. Sr. Mary Magdalene's father gave us some delicious steaks that sister was only too happy to cook up on the grill.

Right after prayer in the afternoon the community headed outside for a photo shoot. We've had quite a few changes since our last community photo with sisters entering or receiving the habit, and of course the change of our veil & coif/guimpe, necessitating a new picture. We did things a little differently this time and are happy with the results. Sabina (our golden retriever) was a little impatient and thought it would be more fun to play than stand still for a picture, but she eventually cooperated!

In the afternoon Sr. Denise Marie entertained the community with a "Guess that Summit tune" game. Sr. Denise Marie played a song from the Summit Choir Book while the sisters each wrote down both the season/common/etc. of the hymn as well as the first few words of the first verse. This was trickier than we thought, especially since we don't sing the first verse for a few hymns. Organists had a bit of an advantage, but Sr. Joseph Maria won with an impressive number correct (...with Sr. Denise Marie and Sr. Mary Martin ineligible). Traditionally we would spend evening recreation playing bingo, but all felt in the mood for a more relaxing recreation of sisterly conversation.