Lectures with Fr. Augustine Thompson, OP

On March 26-28 we hosted Fr. Augustine Thompson, OP from the Western Province for lectures on Dominican Conversus/Lay/Cooperator Brothers (and a little on the sisters!). Fr. Thompson has been studying this topic in depth in preparation for a book he is writing. This series of lectures was a little extra-ordinary in that it was something of an international event. We had Dominican monasteries from three countries participating: America, Canada, and Trinidad.  This involved a little scrambling as we tried to find times that suited three different time zones! 

They joined us via GoToMeeting to take part in the lectures as a sort of 'trial run' to see if/how this would work as part of the on-going formation programs the Association runs for the monasteries.  We had a wonderful, patient lecturer and the format seemed to work well. We'll have to wait and hear the experiences of the other participating monasteries to see what needs tweaking. The four monasteries participating were us, Queen of Peace Monastery in British Columbia, Canada, Rosary Monastery in Trinidad, and the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas. You can read about Lufkin's experience of the lectures in their blog post Monastic Cyberspace

Fr. Thompson spent each session lecturing and then had time for questions and comments at the end. It wasn't just the Summit nuns who could ask questions, the sisters in the other monasteries raised their hands and Sr. Mary Magdalene (or the rest of us!) would alert Father and they'd be able to interact. It was really neat to attend the lectures with three other monasteries: an incredible way to share lectures without leaving the monastery, as well as a great opportunity to foster relationships between the monasteries.

Solemn Chapter of the Annunciation

As per tradition, this morning we held Solemn Chapter of the Annunciation in our Chapter Hall after Mass. Ordinarily the prioress will ask another sister to prepare the homily for Solemn Chapter. No one knows who has been asked until someone stands up when the prioress says, "Will the sister who is to give the homily please come forward." This year we all sat down after the chanting of the Prologue of John by Sr. Mary Catharine and the Dominican prostration called the venia...but no one was called forward.

This year's homilist was our Sr. Mary Elizabeth, chosen posthumously, who passed away in mid-January. Sister had been asked to write the homily for the Solemn Chapter in 2013, and it was this that Sr. Mary Martin read.  The full text is below.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.  Luke 1:38

These momentous words spoken by the humblest maid of all time, many centuries ago in a little hill country of Galilee bring us great joy for they are the beginning of our redemption.  Mary acquiescing to Almighty God brings Heaven to earth and unites Divinity with humanity.  Since these words are so very important, let us dwell upon them for a few minutes and see just what they do mean to Mary, our Mother, and to us.Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  First of all, what is a handmaid?  A handmaid is said to be one who exerts herself for her master, or one who has no freedom of action but who is under the control of another.  This was Mary, truly exerting herself for her Master.  Her will was in perfect harmony with the Divine Will.  Nothing she did was ever against His wish.  Her waking, her sleeping, her working, her praying all this gave Him pleasure, because all was for His honor and glory.  In pronouncing these words, Mary betrayed the depth of her faith, the profundity of her humility and the extremity of her love for God and men.

Let us go on.  Be it done unto me according to thy word.  Could any other words be more complete, more resolute?  Could there be any other words that would portray such absolute obedience and perfect trust?  Mary had spoken them and knew the impact of them, and she would not go back on her word.  With these words, Mary surrendered her body and her soul unconditionally to God, and expressing her Fiat she became His mother.  However, her life would change little, for she would continue to live her ordinary life, doing ordinary household chores day in and day out for many more years.  She would begin to live the ordinary life of being a devoted wife and a loving mother.  Yet with all this conformity to a very regular life, Mary became the greatest saint that ever lived.

Now let us see, how do these words affect us?  We, too, on our entrance into the monastery say with Mary:  Behold the handmaid of the Lord, for we have given up our freedom of action and we desire to exert ourselves for our Divine Master.  We have answered our Lord’s invitation to be His handmaid, to be at His beck and call night and day.  We, too, were anxious to do all to please just Him.  We wished to serve and praise Him with our every action.  All that we did…eat, sleep, work, play or pray was to give Him pleasure—to do His Holy Will.  What a privilege it is for us to live solely for Him:  to think, to pray, to live and adore just Him, our Master, our God and our Lord!

Be it done to me according to thy word.  In crossing the threshold of the enclosure, we have interiorly said:  Here I am Lord.  Do with me what Thou wilt; and in so doing, we, too, have given all the faculties of our bodies and souls to God.  Now whether He sees fit to use our abilities or not, whether He wishes to give us health or not, a long life or a short one, all is for Him to decide.  We have nothing to say for we no longer belong to ourselves.  We are His to do His work, His wish, His will.  What is His will:  What is it that He asks of us?  Nothing extraordinary!  He asks us all to live an ordinary life, like many; doing the ordinary chores of everyday living by being devoted spouses of the Lord and loving Sisters.  He, in turn, is to care for us, love us and cherish us.  He, in turn, is to tell us what to do with every minute of our lives.  Is there any surer way of reaching sanctity than to always say Yes to Him?

God asked Mary to be His Mother.  She said Yes.  God asked us to be His spouses.  We, too, have said Yes.  May we with Mary, our Mother, live these words to the fullest of our capacity and in so doing we will obtain a pure joy and a true peace which will abound in our hearts beyond all understanding.

                                                                                  Sr. Mary Elizabeth of St. Joseph, O.P.

Monastery Crafts: The Making of a Stole

Deep in the monastery basement is a room full of color. Reds, blues, green—you name it it's there—in shades from the palest baby pink to the brightest 'safety vest' orange. The afternoon sun pours in windows high on the western wall and a steady wooden beat echoes from out its doors. Can you guess what this room is?

It's our Loom Room. Also known as the weaving room, it houses our two 4-harness floor looms and all the accompanying paraphernalia needed for the art of weaving. Despite the room's official name, it also houses our knitting needles, crochet hooks, and the yarn and gadgets involved in those crafts as well. Weaving has a moderately long but broken history in our monastery. Sr. Maria of the Cross began with a rickety old loom, followed shortly by Sr. Mary Catharine to whom the weaving room is certainly most indebted, having acquired our floor looms and the other various gizmos. The art then passed on to Sr. Maria Teresa and Sr. Joseph Maria. Just recently one of our novices, Sr. Maria Johanna has begun to learn.

One of the products of the Loom Room is the confessional stole sometimes gifted to new priests of the Order who say a First Mass for us (if they give us enough advanced notice!). We thought you might be interested in seeing the process for making these stoles. 

1) The process begins with pen and paper, with a little help from a calculator. The quantity of thread required having been computed, we're ready for the next stage.

3) Next the warp thread (the thread used to dress the loom) must be measured out.

5) Almost!  First a thicker yarn is used to spread the threads evenly. After leaving room for the fringe the weaving begins... and then quickly halts as you go back to hemstitch the beginning.

6) Not the best picture, but now we're off and running! When the desired length has been reached the end is again hemstitched and the stole can be removed from the loom. We often put enough thread on the loom for 3 or 4 stoles. The stoles can be removed as they are finished, or left on as the rest are woven. It depends how quickly a new priest is showing up!

2) Making sure you have enough thread! We like to use Camilla Valley Farm's UKI- 5/2 Mercerized Cotton in Purple (#27)

With the warp having been prepared we're ready to go on.

4) The most complicated part of the process (...besides possibly the calculations...) is warping (or dressing) the loom. Each thread must be carefully pulled through the beater (seen below) and a heddle (those vertical metal things in this picture), arranged specifically for the desired pattern. Once the warp is fastened to the back of the loom, an intricate process is used to roll up the warp, making sure tension is kept steady and even.  The front is tied off and we're ready to begin!

The end having been hemstitched, it is time to weave!

7) The last part is embroidering on at least the middle cross.  Here Sr. Mary Veronica is embroidering on the cross.

This is the process to go from THIS (left picture) to THIS (right picture)! 

The looms don't make only confessional stoles: they've produced (with a little help from a nun!) lectionary ribbons, table runners, huck lace for small altars, scarves, stoles, orphreys, belts, wall hangings, etc.! At the moment the other loom is busy with a Marian lectern cover.

The End of an Era

With Sr. Mary Daniel's passing comes the end of an era. Sister was the last of the sisters who lived during the time of our foundress, Mother Mary Imelda. That last living link to our beginnings has been lost, and with it the many stories and much wisdom that came from living in the monastery for more than 70 years. 

Sr. Mary Daniel of God was the 12th of 13 children in her parents' Millburn, NJ home. Something of a social butterfly, "Flossie" was well known in the area and many were privileged to call her 'friend.' She entered the Monastery on April 30, 1946 at the age of 21, having first spent some time studying at the College of St. Elizabeth, and professed simple vows on December 9, 1947. Three years later Sister sealed her commitment with Solemn Vows on December 9, 1950.

During her more than 70 years in the monastery sister held a variety of offices including prioress, novice mistress, bursar, sacristan, and seamstress. She will, perhaps, be best known for her time spent as the sister in charge of maintenance.  In this capacity she supervised as many as eight workmen at a time, many of them young men working as they attended college. She was a second mother to them all, young and not so young, listening to them with sympathy, seeing that they were well fed from the monastery kitchen and that they did their assigned jobs, while turning a blind eye to their hi-jinx. Often they would return in later years, growing families in tow, to tell her how grateful they were for the good start she gave them in life. Even after she “retired” from this position, the sisters would go to her with questions about the furnace or the breaker panel or the laundry equipment. She knew where everything was and how it worked! 

In her later years, Sister was in charge of answering the community mail, taking the prayer requests to heart and doling out sage advice and words of comfort, promising the sisters' prayers. When she began slowing down sister was often found filling in whenever necessary at the rosary guard and applied herself to the mounting of Blessed Roses. Sister has always been a dedicated worker. Even in her last days, spent at the Caldwell Dominican Sisters' Infirmary, Sister would call to request more plastic slips or mounting cards as she continued her Blessed Roses work there. 

Sister was thoroughly devoted to the community, always putting the community before herself. We will miss her many stories, her vast knowledge of the monastery and its friends throughout the decades, and most especially her jokes. 

May she rest in the peace and joy of the Lord.