Category Archives: Cloistered life

Visitation Sisters Renew Vows

Visitation Monastery in Tyringham

On November 21, 2015, Visitation Sisters around the world renewed their vows. On the day when the entire Church celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day when Sts. Anne and Joachim presented their daughter to the Lord, these daughters of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal presented themselves before the altar of the Lord and professed their eternal devotion to their Spouse.

Joining in this renewal of vows was the the Visitation Monastery in Tyringham, Massachusetts. It is relatively new, the sisters having moved there in 1995 from Delaware. It is called Mont Deux Coeurs or the Mount of the Two Hearts because it is dedicated to the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of His Mother, Mary.

It could also be said that the term Mont Deux refers to the hearts of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal who were the co-founders of the Visitation Order. One biographer said that their relationship went unbelievably deep – “One is forced back to Scripture parallels: the love of Joseph for Mary, the love of our Lord for Martha and Mary.” One could say that the Visitation nuns are twice twice blessed!

VHMThe Visitation Sisters of Tyringham are cloistered, contemplative religious whose lives are dedicated to prayer and to living in community. They try to be gentle instruments of the Lord in the midst of a world increasingly violent and intolerant.

Their “work” is to sing the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day with the Church. On the first Sunday of the month,  one of the Sisters gives a talk on the Heart of Jesus at the monastery, open to everyone. One of the recent talks was about Leonie Martin (d. 1941), sister of St. Therese of Lisieux. She was a Visitation nun, in Caen, France, and her cause is being promoted.

Leonie was the most difficult of the Martin children, prone to outbursts and a poor student. Can you imagine having a saint for a sister? Yet, she persevered, really persevered and found her heart filled after a long life with the infinite tenderness of God.

Sr. Leonie Martin, V.H.M.
Sr. Leonie Martin, V.H.M.

Here is a Visitation sister’s reflection on what her canonization would mean to so many: “To those millions of souls who see themselves ungraced, ungifted, unlovable, unlikely to succeed (in every conceivable way), Leonie presents the impossible turned possible, the lost sheep hoisted upon the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, Who searches out the least of His flock and gathers them close to His heart.”






Pro Orantibus: The Order of the Most Holy Savior

CaptureThe IRL has begun a new series on featuring cloistered and monastic communities to raise awareness of the special gift to the Church which these religious men and women are and also to promote World Day of Cloistered Life. To find out more about the World Day of Cloistered Life which is now only a few weeks away click here.

The second community featured in this series is the Order of the Most Holy Savior, commonly known as the Brigittines. The monks of the Brigittine Priory of Our Lady of Consolation are affiliate members of the IRL and have a deep love of Christ, devotion to the fullness of liturgical worship, respect for learning and authentic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. Bridget of Sweden founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior in 1370 upon direct revelation from God. After wars ravaged Europe, the Brigittine monks dispersed in the middle of the nineteenth century.  Then in 1976, Brother Benedict Kirby founded a new male branch with their monastery now holding the canonical status of priory.

g3The Brigittine monks lead monastic lives following the Rule of St. Augustine. They sing the Liturgy of the Hours in choir and have specified times of prayer with the Eucharist being the apex of their day. They follow the ancient Brigittine tradition of continual prayer for the souls in purgatory and the conversion of sinners. As part of their work and in order to support themselves, the monks make gourmet confections.

The Brigittine Monks in Amity, Oregon are the continuation of a long tradition of contemplative men and women that dates back to the time of St. Bridget of Sweden. Through their extraordinary lives, they wish to create an atmosphere in which one can know and understand the joy of living this life in Christ.

Celebrating the 800th Jubilee in Cloister

St. Dominic RosaryThe Order of Preachers, commonly known as Dominicans, will soon be celebrating the 800th Jubilee of their approval by Pope Honorius III in 1216. In anticipation for this milestone, the Order has dedicated a website to the event and developed ways to celebrate that will incorporate all members of the Dominican family, including those in cloisters.

One way in which all members of the Dominican family will be able to celebrate is the year-long Rosary Pilgrimage which each monastery within the Order will participate. During the Rosary Pilgrimage, each monastery worldwide will be assigned two days to observe in a special way the holy rosary in whatever way each monastery chooses.

Mother Mary Joseph of the Dominican Monastery of St. Jude said that the Order has been praying a nine year novena in preparation for this 800th Jubilee. She also sees the timing as very fitting because, “When Pope Francis announced the special Jubilee of Mercy for 2016, we saw this as a Providential correspondence, since the proclamation of God’s Mercy is at the heart of the ‘complete evangelization of the word of God’ which is at the heart of our Order.  Our Friars, Sisters, and Laity are to preach this to the world, while we cloistered nuns are supposed to live it out in our own lives as an example of the fullness to which God calls all people.”

The Rosary Pilgrimage is an appropriate celebration of the 800th Jubilee as tradition holds that Our Lady gave the rosary to St. Dominic, “in times particularly dangerous for the Catholic cause.” (Pope Leo XIII) It is also fitting for cloistered Dominican nuns to celebrate by praying the rosary because St. Dominic first founded a community of cloistered women to pray for the Order before establishing the male branch. The prayers from the cloistered nuns today will continue to empower all of the Order as it celebrates its 800th jubilee.


Dominican Nuns of Marbury Vocation Letters

marburyThe Dominican Nuns in Marbury, Alabama, have issued a series of letters between a woman (fictional) discerning a vocation and a Dominican nun. The names may have been changed to protect the innocent (as they said in the old Dragnet series) but the letters do accurately depict Dominican monastic life as it is typically lived at Marbury. The sisters wish to keep their day-to-day life veiled behind the enclosure but you get a good glimpse of Dominican life behind the walls as you read on!

“Melanie” writes to the Novice Mistress “Magistra” which is Latin for “lady teacher.” Melanie also writes to her sister “Clare” who is curious about her “Come & See” visit to the monastery. After she enters the monastery, she writes to her family. Here are some excerpts:

It seems to be a common misconception that “extroverts should be active, introverts should be contemplative.  However our community history does not bear that out…. God calls people of all temperaments to live for Him in the contemplative life…. From Sr. Mary Magistra

It is a great motive for fidelity and joy in living our cloistered, contemplative life, to know that we are living it on behalf of and in union marbury1with our brethren the Dominican friars (and the other members of the Dominican family) in their consecration to God and in their preaching for the salvation of souls. From Sr. Mary Magistra

When Mom and Dad experience first-hand the peace to be found here, and see for themselves the joy of the nuns, they understand much better why such a life could be attractive and fulfilling for their own child. From Sr. Mary Magistra

When is the best time to enter religious life? Without delay. From Sr. Mary Magistra

(Melanie, writing to her family after entering) Since this was my first time being here in the monastery for the Paschal Triduum, I had to use of lot of energy just following everything and trying to turn the page at the right time, but I am so looking forward to having these ceremonies grow into a part of me over the years….  It is truly the liturgy that gives direction and movement to our lives, drawing us ever deeper each year into union with the Mysteries of Christ, “whom we desire to love solely.”

The letters are accompanied by charming pictures. As a visitor to Marbury last spring, I can vouch for the accuracy of the images!

For more information, visit the Marbury website.



Pro Orantibus: Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary


The IRL is beginning a new series on featuring cloistered and monastic communities to raise awareness of the special gift to the Church which these religious men and women are and also to promote World Day of Cloistered Life. To find out more about the World Day of Cloistered Life which is now less than one month away click here. The first community featured in this series is the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. This young community strives to spread devotion to God and mercy for all through prayer, adoration and works of mercy.

The Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary are a contemplative community of religious priests, sisters, brothers and lay members, that serve the Hearts of Jesus and Mary through contemplation, Eucharistic adoration, as well as, works of mercy and compassion. Founded in 1997 their charism is composed of three pillars: contemplation, Eucharistic Adoration and works of mercy.

With contemplation as a pillar of the community, the order is particularly dedicated to prayer. The majority of their day is dedicated to prayer, specifically contemplative prayer. Their life or prayer centers around the Eucharist by celebrating daily Mass and spending hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament which is the second pillar of their charism.

As they spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, the brothers and sisters are transformed by His Presence becoming carriers of His love and in turn pouring out this love on others. They accomplish this through the third pillar of the charism, works of mercy. Members of the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary offer themselves joyfully and without reserve in order to envelop the whole world in God’s merciful love.

From Cowboy to Contemplative

joachimJohn Green Hanning (d. 1908) was a headstrong, hot-tempered son of a farmer who became the humble and gentle son of the Mother of God as a Trappist brother at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky. His story was recounted in the best selling book The Man Who Got Even With God, which is available online from for 99 cents.

John Green Hanning was born in Kentucky in 1849. He wasn’t a bad boy but he had a temper and was stubborn as a mule. After a dispute with his father, he burned the family barn down with all the stored crops inside and ran away from home and headed southwest to be a cowboy. His parents were heartbroken. For nine years, they had no word from their son.

During this time he was far from God and the Church. When he finally came home, he was received with open arms. As the author, Fr. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O, said, “Love is so forgiving and so forgetful.” He eventually came back to the Church, got engaged but determined, much to everyone’s surprise, including himself, that he was called to religious life.

The story of the taming of this wild stallion into the gentle Br. Mary Joachim, O.C.S.O., will astonish and amaze you and finally bring you to tears. Find a used copy or download the kindle version. It’s a timeless story of love, forgiveness and transformation of a man into a gentle giant of faith.

The God of love is never beaten! Somehow, sometime, someplace or through some person He finds a way of stretching out His hand to the boldest, brazenest, blindest, most defiant.

He made a “saint” of John Green Hanning.




Heralds of Holiness and the Traverse City Carmelites

Traverse girls savengerIn the midst of our National Meeting preparations last spring, a kind couple from Michigan came to the office to pick up our Heralds of Holiness exhibit, an 80-panel display showing the ancient roots of the consecrated life, as well as how it is still expressed in our many Affiliate communities today. They brought it to the Carmelite Monastery of the Infant of Prague in Traverse City, Michigan, where it was on display for an open house as part of the celebration for the Year of Consecrated Life.

traverse rearMore than 300 people visited the monastery to tour the nuns’ renovated chapel and to view the exhibit. About 30 young people squeezed into the monastery “speakroom” for a Question and Answer session with the nuns about their cloistered life.

Heralds of Holiness then went on the march, thanks to the efforts of the Carmelites who promoted it around the diocese. It began with a tour of Catholic schools in the diocese of Gaylord, and was viewed by 600 students at St. Francis High School, Traverse City; 55 students at St. Mary’s K-8 school in Kingsley; and by over 230 students and parents at St. Francis Xavier School and St. Michael the Archangel Regional Catholic Academy in Petoskey before the school year ended.

After this, the display traveled to St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Gaylord for viewing by the faithful gathered for the ordination of three transitional deacons and one priest on June 25th. In July, the exhibit went to the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods.

cross in the woodsI have to admit that I was not familiar with this incredible place of pilgrimage until Heralds of Holiness arrived there. The crucifix on the cross on the hill, at a weight of 7 tons and 28 feet in length, is the largest in the world! The sculptor gave the face of Jesus an expression of great peace and strength to offer everyone who comes to pray there encouragement in the face of their own struggles, a perfect place of pilgrimage for the upcoming Year of Mercy.

If you would like to visit the Carmelite monastery in Traverse City, the chapel is open for prayer and daily mass. Join them for the Triduum of Masses in honor of St. Therese, September 29, 30 and October 1. We pray that Heralds of Holiness awakens in young people a desire to learn more about religious life and result in holy and persevering vocations for the Carmelites as well!

Keeping Her Lamp Ready: Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus

Mother Mary Teresita and the Poor Clares in Palos Park with the late Francis Cardinal George
Mother Mary Teresita and the Poor Clares in Palos Park with the late Francis Cardinal George

Aspiring to attend college, get married and have many children, Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus’ plans changed dramatically when she chose to follow God’s call to become a Poor Clare.

Mother Abbess Mary Teresita of Jesus heard God calling her to impact the world by pursing a religious vocation. After reading Mother Mary Francis’ book A Right to be Merry, she knew that God was asking her to serve Him in a cloistered community. In 1963, Mother Mary Teresita entered the Poor Clare monastery in Roswell New Mexico, the same monastery which Mother Mary Francis belonged to. She has since relocated to Chicago re-establishing the Order there at the invitation of Cardinal George.

Mother Mary Teresita’s life as a Poor Clare is one primarily of prayer with day punctuated with prayer every three hours beginning at midnight. She says that rising to pray at night is like keeping her lamp ready as you do not know the hour when Christ will return. In between prayer Mother Teresita works, mainly in silence. All of the Poor Clares in community tend a garden, bake, mend clothes and make items to sell at their gift shop. They also keep a perpetual fast abstaining from meat and partaking in simple meals. Their breakfast is coffee and bread followed by lunch which is a vegetable, potato and a “third portion,” typically a cheese or eggs for protein, lastly, the sisters eat dinner which is comprised of bread and milk with cheese or nuts.

Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus and all the Poor Clares in Palos Park pray for the Church and the world. All benefit spiritually from the hidden lives of these dedicated religious women. For a better glimpse into their lives, read , the book which inspired Mother Mary Teresita to pursue a her vocation with a cloistered community, A Right to Be Merry by Mother Mary Francis.

“The Ground Zero of Prayer” – The Carmelites of Wahpeton

wahpetonThe Carmelite monastery in Wahpeton, North Dakota, has been called the “Ground Zero of Prayer,” says Fr. Peter Andrel, the priest who regularly hears the confessions of the 8 cloistered nuns who live in the Carmel of Mary. According to Father Peter, there hasn’t been a bad harvest in the neighboring fields for 80 years, citing the intercessory prayers of the nuns as a blessing on the area.

Father adds that “very few people are aware of the graces that flow from the hallowed halls of this place. I honestly have never had a prayer request go unanswered here, and usually, very quickly. They’re amazing.”

The Prioress, Mother Madonna, is an Air Force veteran and astonished her parents back in Texas in 1989 when she told them that she was going to enter a small cloistered monastery in North Dakota. “That love for our Lord had been growing since I was very young and I knew if I wanted to serve Him totally I couldn’t do it as a teacher, as a nurse or even in a parish,” she explains. “In order to give myself fully, the cloister would be the only place I could do that.”

Most people are aware of the Discalced Carmelites who were founded by St. Teresa of Avila as a reform of the Carmelite Order. The Wahpeton sisters are Carmelites of the primitive observance and instead of O.C.D. after their name, you will see O.Carm. They are one of only four such monasteries of women in the U.S., the others being in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

The Carmel in Wahpeton was founded in the Marian Year of 1954. They observe strict Papal enclosure. They pray seven times a day and rise at midnight to pray “against the sins of darkness committed at night,” says Father. “That’s powerful.”

There were two articles online recently about the community. Click here to read the first on on Mother Madonna, the prioress, and click here! to read the second on the community in general.

On August 16, 2015, come join other pilgrims for the 59th annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Prairies at the monastery. There will be rosary, mass celebrated by Bishop John Folda, confession and a picnic. And a chance to meet the sisters!

With zeal I am zealous for the Lord God of Hosts



Assumption Little Known Facts

Mural done by artist Raul Berzosa for the Oratory of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Sorrows, Málaga, Spain.
Mural done by artist Raul Berzosa for the Oratory of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Sorrows, Málaga, Spain.

The Cistercian Nuns in Prairie du Sac, WI, in their summer 2014 newsletter, reminded us of the beautiful history behind the Feast of the Assumption.

According to Scripture and Church tradition, only three human beings have been taken up directly to Heaven: Enoch, Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Enoch was taken by God (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah was whisked into Heaven by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). The story of Enoch shows us the possibility of intimacy with God in a kind of interior Eden. Elijah’s intimacy with God was the source of his participation in divine power on earth and the cause of his triumph over death. Mary, full of grace, “participates more than any other in Christ’s reconciliation of man with God….The life of a contemplative nun, conceived in the self-gift exchanged between Mary and the Trinity, anticipates radically the life of heaven.”

Here are some interesting facts behind the the Assumption taken from the newsletter and other sources:

  • Mary’s death is dated 3-15 years after the Ascension.
  • St. Juvenal relates that Mary died in the presence of all of the Apostles but when her tomb in the Kedron Valley was opened, it was found to be empty. No one has ever claimed to possess first-class relics of the Blessed Virgin. Fr. William Most wrote: “Since the Church has never sought for bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin, nor exposed them for the veneration of the faithful, we have an argument which can be considered as ‘practically a proof by sensory experience.'”
  • A document from the 4th century is the earliest printed reference to Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.
  • The Feast of the Assumption was universally celebrated in the Church by the sixth century.
  • The feast was originally celebrated in the East, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means “the falling asleep.” In Jerusalem, you can visit the Church of the Dormition of Mary on Mount Zion.
  • In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, universally held as part of Apostolic tradition.
  • In 1954, Pope Pius XII established the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.
  • All Cistercian houses are dedicated to Mary under the title of her Assumption.

Pope Pius XII wrote: “For she, by a completely singular privilege, conquered sin in her Immaculate Conception, and thus was not liable to that law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, nor did she have to wait for the end of time for the redemption of her body”