Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New PCC blog post!

Great new post from the Barhamsville PCC blog concerning the Solemnity of Christ Our King!:

Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe

Jn. 18:33-37

In today’s Gospel, Jesus stands trial before Pilate. Our Lord says that He has come to bear witness to the truth and all who are “of the truth” hear His voice. We may ask with Pilate, “What is truth?”  The ancient philosophers would tell us that truth is WHAT IS. St. Thomas Aquinas would tell us that we must be humble before the truth. It is what it is and our duty is to seek it, find it, and then embrace it. Unfortunately, modern philosophers and pendants would tell us that truthis what we decide it is. How do we decide? Well, of course, according to our own convenience! So, what is true becomes what we like, what gives us pleasure, advancement, praise, or whatever we want at the moment. Pilate decided that the politically convenient solution was “true” and so he condemned an innocent man to a most cruel death. When an unborn child proves inconvenient to his or her mother, then our society has decreed that this child is not a human being. The truth about marriage is contested by those who find pleasure in “alternative lifestyles”.
Our Lord has said in another place that He, Himself, IS the truth. He is also the way to the truth and He is the life that comes from the truth. He is the standard by which we judge all of reality. Origen, an early Christian writer, says, “There should be in us a kind of spiritual paradise where God may walk and be our sole ruler with His Christ. In us the Lord will sit at the right hand of that spiritual power which we wish to receive. And He will sit there until all His enemies who are within us become His footstool.”
Few of us have the opportunity to fight the Lord’s battles on the stage of world history, but each of us has the responsibility to do so on the field of our own hearts. Our Father St. Francis began the reform of the Church and his society by first reforming himself. Let us follow his example by conforming our lives according to the truth that is Christ.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

On a recent road trip, I saw birds flying in perfect formation against a clear blue sky. These birds balancing so perfectly on the horizon where heaven and earth meet are a perfect image of the contemplative vocation.

Children love to think about what it would be like to fly. The grandeur and mystery of soaring up from the earth and into the heavens are enough to capture every young imagination (and those not so young as well!) The childish dream of flying, based on wanting to be lifted up out of the mundane and into the glorious, is fulfilled in the contemplative's blessed vocation.

The contemplative's dwelling where her fantastic mission takes place is the cloister. This enclosed dwelling has rightly been called the womb of Holy Mother Church. "What we cherish, we hold close," said Mother Mary Francis. The Church zealously cherishes her contemplatives as they are the love in the Church's heart, pumping lifeblood to every part of the Mystical Body through their prayers and sacrifices.

The cloister represents Zion, the city on a hill, both a part of earth and yet distinct from it. Both her cloister and her being are set apart, or consecrated, to God and therefore her life is lived solely for eternity where all the Saints will participate in the "one thing necessary": the contemplation of God while sitting at His feet, as Martha did while sitting at the feet of Jesus when He visited her home in Bethany. This passage is especially close to the contemplative's heart.

In a utilitarian world, God tells her that just being His is quite enough, and she believes Him.

"Everything is a mouthpiece through which the eternal speaks," said Romano Guardini. Much like God's use of birds to image the contemplative's vocation, the stars in the sky image the hidden contemplative life as well. The stars, like the contemplative, seem to be hidden in the heavenly realm, though science reveals that they are very much a part of the earth.

Star gazing has been popular since the dawn of time. Stargazers love to admire the countless twinkling stars, and much like flying, a feeling of awe and grandeur washes over those who take the time to admire this cosmic decor. The contemplative, like the star, has a luminescence of spirit that few of us manage to grasp in the rushed pace of our society.

"From the ivory palace comes music," the psalmist says.

"There have been remarks for centuries past about people who 'dwell in ivory towers.' We know what is meant when it is said in the way it is said. Exasperation. Condemnation. A certain contempt. That they are unaware of other persons. I always thought that was a very strange figure of speech. For one thing, one sees very well from a tower, much better than when one is in the midst of a crowd. If you really want to see the needs of everyone, a tower would be a very good place to go for perspective.

And then I thought, 'Ivory tower?' Well, what could give more joy to the poor who have so little than the sight of an ivory tower? How it would draw them! How it would beguile them. How it would uplift them. How it would make them surge toward it to investigate this beautiful thing. So an ivory palace is a very beautiful place to dwell in, - and that is your enclosure. Out of it must always come music, the music of Jesus. The one is very pre-eminently doing God's work.

So always from your life of prayer, from the ivory palace of your enclosure, may God hear music, for from the heart of true prayer comes stringed music to God and to the world. To all the grinding hatreds and frustrations of the world must come the stringed music of our enclosed life of prayer." -Walls Around the World by Mother Francis, PCC

Those who take the time to visit a cloister and let the prayers of the nuns wash over them are left with a renewed appreciation for inner peace, silence, and the grandeur of God. From the light of those dwelling within, the cloister itself radiates God's love, and will continue to do so as long as there are contemplatives to dwell therein, for "a city on a hill cannot be hidden."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Investiture Ceremony of a Poor Clare
Today I spoke with the Portress Sister on the phone, and it was so nice to hear her voice. I asked her to pray for my little sister, who is sick with a cold and whose birthday is tomorrow. The Portress asked her name then said, "How fitting since this is the Year of Faith...This next year will be our Year of Emma!" (Feel free to 'guess' my little sister's name.) I told her that I hope I will persevere to the completion of this ‘Year of Emma.’ We joked that perhaps the 'Year' will turn into years, then decades, and so on. If I do persevere in the Monastery, I will go through different periods of formation.

Generally, the Poor Clare formation follows this pattern:

Postulancy: 1 Year
Short Veil + Postulant Garb

Noviceship: 2 Years
Habit + White Veil

Juniorate: 3 Years
Temporary Vows + Black Veil + Cord Knots

Solemn Vows: Forever!
Wedding Ring

Roswell Poor Clares
I must say I was not expecting so much affection and love from my Sisters ‘this early in the game’, to so speak. I suppose I was expecting them to act in the same way a parent does when their child finds a lost pet. The parent usually tells the child: "The animal will probably not stay with us." In this way they err on the side of caution so the child does not get their hopes up only to be dashed if the animal does in fact leave. I am so pleased this is not the case with my Sisters the Poor Clares! I often wonder what community life is like if they shed so much love on an applicant. Mother Francis said in A Right to Be Merry, “Just as the vow of enclosure enlarges the heart of a nun to gather all of suffering, sinning mankind into it, so does it immeasurably increase her tenderness toward her spiritual Sisters. New postulants are very often struck by this, but it is only the living demonstration of the words of our Mother Saint Clare: ‘If a mother love and nurture her daughter according to the flesh, how much more ought a Sister to love and nurture her Sister according to the Spirit.’ There is never a spirit of every-man-for-himself in our cloister.” Note: This affection is not something the Sisters use to 'rope' girls into entering.. In fact, I didn't experience much of this until the visit where Mother told me of my acceptance. I think this is the point where Sisters normally begin to really bond with the person. 

Nuns have too much fun!
 Many experienced religious are quick to agree that community life is both the greatest joy and greatest penance as well. It should not require a great stretch of the imagination to assent that community life is a penance in the truest sense of the word, especially if we are considering a cloistered community. “Cloistered nuns rub souls as well as elbows all their lives, and if they do not step out f themselves to get a true perspective , they can become small-souled and petty and remain immature children all their lives long." But, as Mother Mary Francis points out, they also have ‘as great a right to be merry as any lady in the world.' She goes on to speak of the sacrifice involved in living with a small number of women in four walls for the whole future course of your life. “That (The common life) is where enclosed contemplatives have the edge on all other religious. They have no escape into the outside work, and can never blow a farewell kiss to their Sisters and be off to the ward or the classroom or the day nursery. Neither have they the luxury of eremitical solitude. They live alone in very close company. And if they do that well, they have ‘the greatest grace man can have under Heaven.’” But this waxing on about enclosure is for another blog post. Moving right along!

Joyful Poor Clares
After 1st Profession
 The bonding I have been experiencing with my future Sisters has been wonderful and really expanded my experiential knowledge of the cloistered nun's extraordinarily loving heart. Her heart must expand as a result of her life of virginal chastity so she can love the whole world. Most people struggle loving one person for their whole life, and a nun is supposed to love the entire world, you say? How is this possible? It really isn't for any human, even those few Saintly beings. The vocation to lead a contemplative life for love of God and all the souls in the world is quite impossible on our own. Only the grace of God makes this love for all souls in the world possible, and therefore fruitful.

"Their hearts are as wide as the universe and bottomless as eternity," says the late Mother Francis. Only women with special grace could bear to give all their love and affection to an applicant who will likely not persevere to Solemn Profession. Of course, the community is not imprudent. This is why the novitiate usually has separate recreations from the Professed Sisters, and why other separations are enforced. Yet there is still no absence of love from the Professed Sisters to those who have recently entered, which comprises the 'novitiate' Sisters, or those like me who are waiting to enter.
Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Blessed Mother is a perfect example for cloistered nuns and for all people that the greatest life is the one willingly sacrificed for the sake of God's Will. "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to Thy Word!" is the refrain repeating in the hearts of those called to the cloister. The cloistered nun identifies herself with Mary at the foot of the Cross, when Jesus gave every one of his followers the protecting embrace of His Immaculate Mother. (Jn 19:26-27) The nun imitates Mary in her love for every soul. Just as a Mother inconveniences herself to nurture her children, the Poor Clare rises at midnight to pray for the souls she loves so much.

Like Mary at the Annunciation, we can be deeply troubled by a summons from God to this obscure enclosed life. Most 'summoned' girls did not grow up with exuberant thoughts of impending nun-hood, and it is difficult to put our own plans, dreams, and desires aside for the sake of God's greater plan. "His love will make you happy," said Saint Clare. Any nun will tell you this is the truth, yet how hard it can be for us to accept it!

St. Therese
Let us say, "Fiat!" with the Blessed Mother in our holy Vocation, and also in every moment of our lives, which Saint Therese taught us could be sanctified through small acts of penance urged on by love. Six centuries before Saint Therese practiced her Little Way of adoring God in daily life (which is very Franciscan in its essence-St Francis must have smiled on this little Carmelite!), Saint Clare said this: 

"I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul. As I hope in Thee, O Lord, inspire me with that confidence which brings me to Thy holy mountain. Permit me, Divine Jesus, to come closer to Thee, that my whole soul may do homage to the greatness of Thy majesty; that my heart, with its tenderest affections, may acknowledge Thine infinite love; that my memory may dwell on the admirable mysteries here renewed every day, and that the sacrifice of my whole being may accompany Thine."

love Him, 
Who gave 
totally for 
your love." 
St. Clare of Assisi

Monday, September 24, 2012

The first 'Poor Ladies of Assisi' dwelled in San Damiano, the church St Francis rebuilt.
Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Patroness of the Roswell Poor Clares
Hello! Welcome to Entitled to Nothing At All. This blog will reflect on Saint Clare, the woman who considered herself entitled to nothing at all except "the Gospel poverty of Our Lord Jesus Christ", and her modern day daughters the Poor Clare Nuns, specifically her daughters in Roswell, who I hope to join on January 13, 2013.

This blog will also frequently quote A Right to Be Merry, a candid and humorous look into the Poor Clare life by the former Mother Abbess of the Roswell Monastery, the late Mother Mary Francis. 

May God reward you for your time spent here!