Archive for the 'Cloistered life' Category

A Pilgrimage with St. Therese of Lisieux

Monday, February 24th, 2014

o.carm. shrineThe Carmelites of the Ancient Observance in Allentown, Pennsylvania, are unique in many respects not the least of which is their monastery and chapel, a close duplicate of the one in Lisieux, France, where St. Therese the Little Flower lived and died. It is also the first Carmel of the Ancient Observance established in the United States.

The Carmelites trace their lineage back to Elijah, the great prophet, though the order was formally begun probably in the 12th century on Mount Carmel in modern-day Israel where hermits were believed to have resided for many, many centuries. You may recall from the first book of Kings that it was the site of the great confrontation between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal. Elijah challenged them to a trial by fire, won by the true God of Israel. When the people saw fire descend on the offerings of Elijah, they cried: “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” (cf. 1 Kings 18)

stella marisFor all who have been to Mount Carmel in Israel, overlooking the harbor of Haifa, it is a place that leaves one with goosebumps. I happened to stay a memorable night at Stella Maris with the Carmelite nuns who live on the mount and offer pilgrims rooms. The cave below the main altar is believed to be the cave where Elijah lived.

Mother Therese of Jesus, O.Carm., founded the Allentown Carmel in 1931 along with her companion, Mother Clement Mary. Mother Therese was born in Germany and Mother Clement in North Dakota  but both came to America by way of a Carmel in Naples, Italy! In fact, an eruption of Mount Vesuvius precipitated their departure.

Mother Therese died on Easter Tuesday morning, April 11, 1939. However, when the mausoleum was being renovated in 2001, her body was exhumed and appeared to be incorrupt, 63 years after her death. So was the green palm branch that had been placed in her tomb. Her body was moved to the Monastery, and the tomb is now open to the public on Sundays for visits and prayer. The cause for her canonization is being studied.

ocarmThe chapel, whose patroness is St. Therese of Lisieux, is full of stained glass windows showing scenes from the saint’s life not often seen depicted in stained glass. Other Carmelite saints are also highlighted. It sounds like a wonderful place to contemplate the mysteries and majesty of God!

With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.” (Carmelite motto)





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Desert Nun Run

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

nunrunSome “nun runs” involve young women taking minivans to various convents and monasteries. This “nun run” truly involves running!

The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery in Tonopah, Arizona, are hosting their 5th annual “desert nun run” on March  8, 2014. This is their biggest fundraiser of the year with the proceeds going towards the construction of their monastery. For the time being, they live in temporary modular homes though the chapel was dedicated in 2011. Their goal is to have a complete cloistered monastery in the heart of the desert, a first for the diocese of Phoenix. They also hope that the publicity will build up their community of friends and raise awareness of their otherwise hidden contemplative mission of adoration and intercession.

If you are in the area, sign up! You can do a 10k or 5k run, or a 1 mile walk. If you cannot attend, you can still be a sponsor for the event or a donor. Fr. Mark Mary from EWTN’s “Life on the Rock” will be there, running or walking, I do not know!

The nuns are a foundation from the Mother Angelica’s monastery in Alabama. The “desert nuns” welcome retreatants, both lay and priests, who would like to participate in their life of prayer and solitude.

Solitude is the place where man finds God.  – St. Eucherius

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All Will be Revealed in the Next World

Monday, February 17th, 2014

cp familyMany Catholics are aware that there are cloistered orders of nuns in the Church, and they probably would be vaguely aware of the Carmelite family and perhaps the Poor Clares, if only because of St. Francis. But the average person in the pew is not likely to know the Congregation of the Passionists, founded by that dear holy man, St. Paul of the Cross in 1720 in Italy.

Which is a shame, because they have the mission to keep the Lord’s Passion forever in their hearts. When the world is going about its business, and people are living their lives oblivious to the salvation won for us by Our Lord’s Passion and death, these sisters ponder it anew every day, every hour, for us!

The nuns make altar breads as a means to support themselves.
The nuns make altar breads as a means to support themselves.

The IRL has three Passionist Affiliate Communities in Whitesville and Erlanger, Kentucky; and in Ellisville, Missouri. This blog post is to alert you that the Ellisville Passionists have a new blog! Through the kindness of some lay people who love them, the blog is an effort to make them better known. Death has taken some of the beloved sisters to their eternal reward and their faithful friends would like to see them receive holy vocations!

So please, visit their blog and ‘like’ it and pass it on to young women who might have a vocation to this life of Prayer, Solitude, Penance and Community. They profess a five-fold vow: poverty, chastity, obedience, enclosure and devotion to and grateful remembrance of the Passion.

A newly professed Passionsist nun wrote: In the cloister, it is so much easier to turn one’s thoughts to God, and to remember also His Church, and all persons in the world, those in and out of the Church, so many living lives of sin and needing God, and to call upon God’s mercy for oneself and others, remembering the dying. In His work for souls, Our Lord relies on us His religious far more than we know. How He has used us will all be revealed in the next world.


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An Irremovable Part of the Church

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

sts europe iiLast week, the Holy See issued its proposed plans for the upcoming Year for Consecrated Life as announced by Pope Francis last November during a gathering with superior generals of men’s institutes. “Make no little plans” as the saying goes and this certainly holds true for this year that is so important to the IRL and its member communities.

The Year will kick off in October to coincide with the anniversary date of the issuance of the conciliar constitution Lumen Gentium as well as the 50th anniversary of the publication of the conciliar decree on the renewal of consecrated life Perfectae Caritatis.

The Year for Consecrated Life will have three objectives.

  1. Gratefully remembering the past.
  2. Embracing the future with hope.
  3. Living the present passionately.

The 50 years since Vatican Council II is an opportunity to reflect on God’s love and mercy. Though the consecrated life has experienced severe strain in the ensuing decades, it is not an “antechamber of death.”

We have hope because the consecrated life will never disappear from the Church since “it was desired by Jesus Himself as an irremovable part of His Church,” said Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. This is a moment ”for bearing witness to the beauty of the sequela Christi (following Christ).”

A few of the Events planned for the year will include:

  • A kick off on November 21, 2013, World Pro Orantibus Day (“For those who pray”)
  • A plenary assembly of the Congregation with the theme: “The ‘Novu’’ in Consecrated Life beginning from Vatican II”
  • A meeting of young religious and novices
  • An international conference dedicated to “Renewal of the Consecrated Life in Light of the Council and Perspectives for the Future”
  • An international exhibit on “Consecrated Life: The Gospel in Human History”
  • A world Chain of Prayer among monasteries

Two important documents related to the consecrated life are also being rewritten:

  1. Mutuae relationes: On the relations between bishops and religious
  2. Verbi Sponsa: Instruction on the Contemplative Life and on the Enclosure of Nuns
  3. And possibly Sponsa Christi (Spouse of Christ)

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the Year for Consecrated Life is a call to religious to fully embrace and discover anew the charism and witness of the founders of the institutes as a means to awaken the world. It is a prophetic witness meant to reach those at the existential margins of poverty and thought, as Pope Francis has asked.


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A Glimpse Behind the Walls

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The Poor Clare Colettine Nuns in Rockford are featured in a new book called: Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns. A part of the Oxford Oral History Series, the author Abbie Reese was given permission to spend time over the course of 6 years with the nuns. She wanted to get a first hand glimpse into what goes on behind the mysterious walls.

51kVMJ6PEqL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_By the looks of the chapter headings, the story of individual nuns is told. From the excerpts I read, it is a fascinating and frank glimpse into the lives, past and present, of the nuns.

The Poor Clares are an IRL Affiliate Community founded in 1916. According to an article about the book in a Rockford newspaper, there are 22 nuns in the monastery (ranging from age 20 to 81), 50 Poor Clare monasteries in the U.S., and 1,221 monasteries worldwide with a total of 14,000 Poor Clare nuns. Pope John Paul II said that their life “appears as the most radical way of living the Gospel on earth, a way which may be called divine.”

Mother Maria Dominica thought that this unprecedented access was “valuable because it gave flesh to the life.” She said, “We live a hidden life. We’re not used to publicity. But we’re human beings, like everyone else.”

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The Heart of the Dominican Apostolate

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

sr opThe Dominican Nuns in Marbury, Alabama, have just released a video in which Sister Mary Jordan, O.P. describes her vocation journey to the cloistered convent. The video was filmed through the grill by Fr. Benedict Croell, O.P., Vocation Director for the St. Joseph Province, who first met Sister when she was in a high school youth group in a Dominican parish in Cincinnati.

What makes the story interesting is that Sister loved teaching yet she fell in love with the monastic life through reading the book A Right to Be Merry by Mother Mary Francis, PCC. Why would God put this love of teaching into her heart of she could not “use” it in a cloistered convent? Watch the video to find out about her understanding and embracing of spiritual motherhood!

Sister took the name “Mary Jordan” in honor of Bl. Jordan of Saxony, the second Minister General of the Dominican Order. It is probably not well known that St. Dominic founded the women’s branch of the Order before the men’s branch, demonstrating how much the preaching of the Dominicans is and was dependent upon the prayers of the nuns. A shining example of the complimentary relationship between the friars and the nuns is seen in the correspondence between Bl. Jordan and Bl. Diana, who professed her vow of virginity at the hands of St. Dominic himself!

sr op2Sister Mary Jordan discovered that her prayerful way of life was in no way incompatible with her desire to teach. For what is teaching but imparting true knowledge to the world? The nuns are the heart of the Dominican preaching apostolate and their prayers, penances, sacrifices, joy and total availability to God are inexhaustible sources of fruitfulness for the Dominican friars, active sisters and third order members. A Dominican friar told the nuns that their presence was a deciding factor in his decision to become a Dominican.

One of the mottoes of the Dominicans is to “give to others the fruits of contemplation.” The silent contemplation of the Nuns bears fruit as their lives become more conformed to Christ, who gave Himself completely for the salvation of souls.

Click here to go to website and watch the video.

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Keeping Their Eyes on Christ

Friday, January 10th, 2014
Who knew that nuns roller bladed?

Who knew that nuns rollerbladed?

During our December Executive Committee Board Meeting, the IRL unanimously approved the  nomination of the Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas, to be an IRL Affiliate Community.

As contemplative Dominican Nuns, their mission is to witness to the Gospel by a hidden life of prayer and sacrifice on behalf of all God’s people. They adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament throughout the day and evening.

Their monastery is located in the piney woods of East Texas on almost 100 acres of land that includes a small lake. The chapel at the monastery is open to the public to come to for prayer or to attend daily Mass.

The Dominican nuns were founded of course by St. Dominic in Prouilhe, France, in 1206. However, this monastery was founded from Detroit (now Farmington Hills), Michigan, in 1945. There are presently 23 nuns in their monastery who hail from the USA, Cuba, Mexico, Tanzania and Vietnam. They sing the entire Liturgy of the Hours as a community every day.

For more information, visit their website!

oplufkinAnd for a glimpse into their life, watch this YouTube video!

The nuns should keep before their eyes by day and night Christ the Lord who, during his life on earth, offered up prayers and supplications to God with loud cries and tears, and now sits at the right hand of the divine majesty, always living to make intercession for us. (LCM 74:I)

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The Carmelite Family Grows

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

alex sdIn their Christmas 2013 newsletter, the Discalced Carmelites of Alexandria, South Dakota, mention that they are beginning a new foundation in Hague, North Dakota, at the invitation of Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck. Forty acres of land including a farmhouse, outbuildings and a pond make up the property that was purchased by the Diocese. After suitable repairs are completed, the Carmel of the Holy Face will come into existence. They were blessed to receive donations from another Carmel of an altar, tabernacle, grating for the Choir, choir benches, Carmelite statues and books, and much more.

The Monastery of Our Mother of Mercy and St. Joseph in Alexandria was founded 17 years ago as a foundation from Buffalo, NY. It has been led with motherly wisdom by Mother Marie Therese of the Child Jesus during all those years. She has taught “us little ones to follow Jesus and Mary and to treasure and persevere in Our Carmelite vocations.”

The Carmelite Monastery in Alexandria has at least 19 members, including one novice, one postulant and five who made their first profession. They obviously are doing well enough to expand and bring blessings upon another Diocese!

The new foundation has not been without its challenges. Yet they quote St. Raymond of Penyafort who said, “May you never be numbered among those whose house is peaceful, quiet and free from care….Your purity of life must be made purer still, by frequent buffetings, until you attain perfect sincerity of heart.”

They also quote Tertullian who explains that while the old way of prayer “was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger even before it reached its perfection,” Christian prayer “gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what it is suffering for the name of God.”

How happy it is to dwell in His house, in imitation of and with Mary in
Nazareth, as well as at the foot of the Cross, comforting Him through our
sacrifices, collecting and disseminating by prayer the grace won by Him through
the shedding of His Blood – under her gaze, to leave all to find All and to
spend one’s life in His Presence!



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Get Your Fruitcakes Here!

Monday, December 16th, 2013

fruitcake2There is a charming article in the Kansas City Star about the Trappist (Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance) monks at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri, who make a popular fruitcake. One could expect that these men, who live in silence most of the time, to be somber and introspective with one foot in heaven. One foot in heaven they may have and if so, heaven will be a lively place once they get there, God willing!

The monks are getting up there in years yet they still produce the fruitcakes and run the abbey as they have been doing for the last 60 plus years. It’s getting more difficult as the monks age. Boniface is 87, Robert is 88, Thomas is 85. These are three of the monks who are the backbone of the abbey. Many of them were in the military in World War II when monastic life was viewed as a spiritual Marine Corps. Then Vatican II came, says Cyprian, and “it was no longer a favorable environment for fruitcake3spiritual life.” Cyprian says, “I’ve accomplished everything I’ve wanted except to join my brothers in the cemetery.”

Thankfully, help is on the way. Monks from Vietnam are coming in stages to fill out the ranks. They will carry on with the fruitcake tradition, and may even mail some back to Vietnam, though Father Peter from Vietnam says, “Americans like very heavy food.” The monks, in fact, used to make concrete blocks but now make fruitcakes. “We had to change the recipe slightly,” Cyprian said. “And fruitcakes are easier to stack.”

Boniface sometimes bakes over 40 loaves of bread a day. The difference between a cook and a chef, he says,  is that a cook has to do his own dishes. He also has a soup called MustGo soup. “I go through the refrigerator and say, ‘This must go.’”

Assumption Abbey is a daughter house of New Melleray in Iowa and was founded in 1950. The Abbey produces an astounding 30,000 cakes annually, their main source of income. To place an order, click here!


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Men and Women Who Can Awaken the World

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

superiorsLast week, Pope Francis announced that 2015 would be a year dedicated to consecrated life. Needless to say, we at the Institute on Religious Life are very excited!

The Holy Father made the announcement during the 82nd General Assembly of the Union of Superior Generals in Rome. Although a brief meeting with the Union was planned, the Holy Father spent an estimated three hours answering questions from the 120 participants.

According to the Holy See Press Office, the first questions to the Pope dealt with the mission and identity of consecrated life. “A radical approach is required of all Christians, but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: They are men and woman who can awaken the world,” the Pope said.

“Consecrated life is prophecy. God asks us to fly the nest and to be sent to the frontiers of the world, avoiding the temptation to ‘domesticate’ them. This is the most concrete way of imitating the Lord.”

The Holy Father said that the formation of religious must be founded on four fundamental pillars: spiritual, intellectual, communitarian and apostolic. The aim, he said, “is to form religious persons with a tender heart, not acid, not like vinegar. We are all sinners, but not corrupt. Sinners are to be accepted, but not the corrupt”.

The Holy Father concluded the meeting by thanked participants for their years of service to the Church and announced 2015 as a Year dedicated to consecrated life. “Thank you for what you do and for your spirit of faith and your service. Thank you for your witness and also for the humiliations through which you have had to pass.”


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