Category Archives: Cloistered life

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 Amazon.com 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!

ZELO ZELATUS SUM PRO DOMINO DEO EXERCITUUM
With zeal I am zealous for the Lord God of Hosts

Saints2

 

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”

 

 

 

 

A Desert Nun’s Clothing Ceremony

dseet nunOn June 6th, Jennifer Meissonnier became Sr. Augusta Mary of Our Lady of Grace, becoming clothed in the habit of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration  in Tonopah, Arizona. They are commonly referred to as the “desert nuns.”

The image of the desert is appropriate because it was the underlying theme behind Sr. Marie Andre’s talk during the ceremony. As she rightly pointed out, many people misunderstand the call to the cloistered life, viewing it as “barren.” On the contrary, a life lived in response to the Lord’s call is always fruitful. “Our life here justifies the absence of an exterior apostolate/working out in the world,” said Sr. Marie Andre, “by drawing down from Heaven an abundance of divine grace to assist the evangelical workers (especially priests and active-order Sisters) in the field of their labors.”

As Jennifer began her journey into the desert, Sister Marie Andre quoted Fr. Robert Barron who said quite beautifully: “The desert represents a stripping away so as to make the fundamental things appear. In the desert there are no distractions or diversions or secondary matters. Everything is basic, necessary, simple. One survives or one doesn’t. One discovers in the desert strengths and weaknesses she didn’t know she had.

Sister Marie Andre asked the question posed by the Psalmist long ago: “”Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?’ (Psalm 78) And like the Israelites of old, we have to say YES!!!! Not only a table with the manna of old, but a Eucharistic Throne, and this happens because God does all!”

Here are some highlights from the clothing ceremony. God bless Sr. Augusta Mary of Our Lady of Grace!

 

 

 

Chosen: The Hidden Life of the Poor Clare Colettines, Rockford

reeseDuring this year’s National Meeting at the seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, the IRL was blessed to host a photo exhibit on the lives of the Poor Clare Colettine nuns of Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford, IL. Entitled Erased From the Landscape: The Hidden Lives of Cloistered Nuns, the 40-photo exhibit beautifully portrays the everyday, extraordinary life of these women who are hidden from the world but are at the heart of the Church’s mission.

During the National Meeting, Abbie Reese, artist, author and filmmaker who developed the exhibit, talked about her next project called Chosen: Custody of the Eyes. For this project, Abbie provided the cloistered nuns with camera equipment, allowing them to capture their life on their own, rather than have an intruder inside the walls.

Chosen follows the story of one of the newer members of the community, beginning with her discernment, entrance, clothing, and vows. The new sister, who uses the pseudonym Sister Amata to protect anonymity, reflects on her transition and life within the monastery. This was one of Abbie’s aims—to capture the internal journey of this mysterious road to the cloister.

reese3How did Abbie, a non-Catholic, get a foot in the door with this community? It began when she approached the nuns and asked if she could undertake an oral history storytelling project. After a period of prayer and discernment, the nuns opened their cloister to Abbie who conducted interviews with members of the Poor Clare Colettines, allowing their story to be told to the world. Reese relays the oral history of the community in her work Dedicated to God: An Oral History: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns (Oxford University Press, 2014). (See prior blog post on this fascinating book)

If you would like to help Abbie raise the $15,000 needed to finalize the film and send it to post-production, please consider supporting her work through her current crowdfunding campaign. Please visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/chosen-custody-of-the-eyes–2#/story to make a tax deductible donation. During this Year of Consecrated Life, please consider supporting the effort of Reese to bring the life of Corpus Christi Monastery to the world.

180 Years of Consecrated Life – in three sisters!

MotherMaryJohn
Mother Mary John, OCD

What some families give back to the Church in terms of children who enter religious life is often incredible and heroic. Witness the jubilee celebrations of Mother Mary John Billeauld, O.C.D., Sr. Theresa Anne Billeaud, C.D.P., and Sr. Anne Deelaus, O.C.D. Together they are celebrating 180 years of consecrated life!

On May 24, 2015, the three Sisters celebrated their triple jubilee during a Mass in front of a record breaking crowd of over 400 family members and friends. Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Emeritus Sam Jacobs of Houma, Louisiana, was Msgr. Michael Jamail, V.G. of the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, and several other priests.

Mother Mary John and Sister Theresa Anne are blood sisters.  They come from a family of nine girls, five of whom entered religious life. Three are Sisters of Divine Providence and two are Carmelites. Commenting on her vocation, Mother Mary John said, “I just knew that (Our Lord) wanted me to be a Carmelite nun and He filled me with a desire to respond to Him. When this conviction is so strong on one’s heart, there is no room for doubt.”

Sr. Anne, OCD
Sr. Anne, OCD

In this year celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, Mother said that one of the best experiences of living the life of a Discalced Carmelite nun at the monastery in Lafayette, Louisiana, is knowing that the legacy left to them by St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross “can be fulfilled in our own lives today…”

Sr. Anne comes from a large family as well. Two of her sisters entered religious life as Carmelites in Rhode Island and New Orleans. After Vatican II, with all the changes sweeping through communities, Sr. Anne said that her superiors in Lafayette “strove to faithfully maintain the original Carmelite charism – prayer for the Church and world, and the necessary silence and solitude that would foster the growth of prayer and awareness of the needs of the time.”

What kept her going through the years? It was simple, she said. “I knew God wanted me here and I wanted to be here.” Difficulties experienced were lightened by her relationship with Jesus and His Mother and her sisters in Christ.

We gave thanks for these many years of fidelity to a call of the Spirit who has filled the hearts of our Sisters with His Living Flame of Love. With St. Teresa we can say: “The true love of God is as a fire!” This Fire has inflamed the hearts of our Sisters through these many years.

See the interview with two of the sisters in The Advertiser, Lafayette, LA and watch the video of the Mass on the Lafayette Carmel website.

Ada Carmelites: Refugees and Foundresses of Many

adaIn 2016, the Carmelite Nuns in Ada, Michigan, will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of their founding. In 1916,  sixteen Carmelite nuns (12 professed and four postulants) fled the terror and raging persecution in Mexico and came to the United States.

After traveling to Cuba, New Orleans and Saint Louis, they finally found a home in the Diocese of Grand Rapids under the paternal care of Bishop Henry Joseph Richter. Their monastery was placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  From this sacrifice of family and country came bountiful blessings. New foundations bloomed from Grand Rapids back to Mexico in 1919, then Buffalo, Detroit, Littleton, Traverse City, Iron Mountain and Denmark (WI).

Their original frame house in Grand Rapids was expanded and added on to many times to accommodate growth. Finally, in 1984, they were given ten rural acres outside of town in which to build a permanent, quieter home. They moved to Ada (Parnell), Michigan, in 1991.

This year, the are celebrating the 500th anniversary of their foundress’ birth. Commenting on St. Teresa of Avila, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, Pope Francis said: “(Teresa) asked her sisters not to waste time discussing ‘matters of little importance’ with God while ‘the world is in flames.'”

Be rooted in prayer, in communion with Jesus. Pope Francis said: “The prayer of Teresa was not a prayer reserved solely to a space or time of day; it arose spontaneously on the most diverse occasions. … She was convinced of the value of continual, if not always perfect, prayer. … To renew consecrated life today, Teresa has left us a great heritage full of concrete suggestions, ways and methods of praying that, far from closing us in ourselves or leading us merely to inner balance, enable us always to start again from Jesus, and constitute a genuine school for growth in love for God and neighbor.”

A Glimpse into the Santa Fe Carmel

santa feFor the year of Consecrated Life, the Carmel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Teresa in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has put together a charming little video to give people a glimpse into their life.

The Carmel is situated in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) Mountains, on the high desert of northern New Mexico, reminiscent of the terrain of the Order’s first founders who lived in the 12th century on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land.

They are part of the Spanish Catholic legacy of Santa Fe that has been present for more than 400 years. Santa Fe means Holy Faith! Their monastery traces its heritage back to Avila, Spain by way of Mexico.

A history book on the Carmelite order states that St. Teresa actually arrived here before the Carmelite sisters! A picture of her is found on the reredos of San Miguel Mission (built in 1610), the oldest church in the United States. The oval picture, found on the top left of the reredos, dates from the early 18th century and originated in Colonial Mexico. It is considered one of the earliest portraits of the saint.

reredosThe Carmeles arrived in Santa Fe in 1945 from the Carmel in Dallas, Texas. They in turn founded houses in Albuquerque, NM; Jefferson City, MO; and Kenya.

We pray that we may be a second Bethany where Our Lord may rest among those who have chosen the better part.