On November 21 (the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple), the Church will celebrate World Day of Cloistered Life, also known as “Pro Orantibus” Day, which is a Latin phrase meaning “for those who pray.” This is an important ecclesial event for all Catholics worldwide to commemorate the hidden lives of consecrated religious in cloisters and monasteries.
We celebrate this day because the contemplative life is a gift from Almighty God to us all — all the world benefits spiritually from the prayer and sacrifice of these dedicated and faithful souls, even when we may not know it. On this day, the faithful are encouraged to reach out to the cloistered and contemplative communities in their diocese, through prayer, encouragement, and material support.
“Religious profession so orders our whole life to God and neighbor that it is a sign the unity of the Trinity reflected in our unity and our outpouring love for God, our sisters and all mankind. It is this loving kenosis which produces perfect human fulfillment.”
—Constitutions for Poor Clare nuns (Article 5, number 3)
St. Thomas Aquinas asserted that happiness is union with the One who is Goodness itself, namely God. Our country’s forefathers saw the human desire for happiness as not just a goal but a fundamental right, the “right to the pursuit of happiness.” However, pleasure and happiness are not the same and the “right to the pursuit of happiness” presupposes the moral obligation to live according to the laws of God. Indeed, the Catholic Church proclaims that we were created to know, love and serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in the next.
This happiness or blessedness is ultimately holiness. Therefore, we can say we have been endowed by our Creator with the “right to pursuit of holiness.” This pursuit of holiness, or striving for perfection, is the life’s work and obligation of those who make profession of the evangelical counsels. We do this by daily offering our lives at the service of God’s plan in the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, emptying ourselves in order to be filled with Christ and bring him to others. “It is this loving kenosis which produces perfect human fulfillment.”
Obedience is an act of the will, a free choice, not an act of fear or compulsion. “The love of Christ impels us,” St. Paul says, and it is through this love that any fear is transformed into the free surrender of our will and the great desire to do what God is asking of me at this moment. In his conferences on the evangelical counsels, Archbishop Charles Schleck, C.S.C. asserts that “obedience perfects the will instead of suppressing it. To love God is not merely to surrender or give up something of our own will. It is to adhere positively and firmly to the will of the one we love. And to love God means to do what He desires; it is obey. Obedience is universal in character and belongs to the very life of the Church. It brings to completion our baptismal faith … (it) perfects the consecration proper to baptism.”
In her biography of Saint Colette, Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., describes the young Colette, with the vow of perpetual virginity fresh upon her soul, as a woman no longer alone in the world. She is espoused to Christ now. Yet this reality is hidden from the eyes of men and is part of the great paradox of Christian life where the one who loses her life finds it and the grain of wheat that dies brings forth much fruit. It is our radical renunciation of all things, even the great good of earthly marriage, for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven which is the source of our union with Christ. And it is our union with Christ which allows us to enter into His love for all mankind.
In a radical kenosis the second person of the Blessed Trinity became man to save us by His death and resurrection. In the words of St. Paul “… He did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at but emptied Himself.” Our form of life is to live the holy Gospel, and we do this by striving to imitate the self-emptying of Christ in every aspect of our life. “According to the thinking of St. Clare, evangelical poverty goes far beyond the renunciation of earthly possessions, extending to the whole of life. For in the Franciscan concept, the surrender of temporal goods is intimately bound up with the profession of obedience and chastity and also with enclosure and communion in the spirit” (Art. 11 #1).
“Enclosed nuns are called to give clear witness that man belongs entirely to God, and so to keep green among the human family the desire for a heavenly home” (Art. 20 #2). We strive for that union in this life and are a sign for the world of each soul’s destiny.
For those who are called and who respond to its totality of grace, ours is a life of profound joy in the pursuit of holiness through the total surrender of all we are and all that is, for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. “Amen, amen, without ever turning back” (Testament of our Holy Mother St. Colette)
In West Springfield, Massachusetts, on a busy street, up on a hill, is the Dominican Monastery of the Mother of God. Their presence there silently proclaims to the passers-by their faith in God and their desire to belong wholly to Him. Their foundress, Mother Mary Hyacinth of Jesus, entered the Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary in Union City, NJ, on September 8, 1908. She was chosen by Bishop Thomas Mary O’Leary to be the foundress of their community: “Come, come to Springfield in the name of God and Mary. This will be our gift to Our Lady on the feast of her birth.”
They eventually took on perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and went from Third Order sisters to Second Order nuns. Life in modern times is more complicated for everybody, cloistered nuns not excluded, but they have striven in recent times to strengthen the essentials of their enclosed life, striving for the one thing necessary – union with God.
In 2008, reflecting more deeply upon their contemplative vocation after the nuns’ Jubilee Year, they decided to take back their traditional veil, believing that each nun should strive to become a mini “house of prayer.” This was followed by the restoration of a simple grille in their parlors in 2011, as another reminder of their call to silence and withdrawal from the world.
Following the Rule of St. Augustine, they make solemn vows and follow Papal enclosure. The solemn chanting of the Divine Liturgy is at the heart of their day. Their Eucharistic adoration and Rosaries flow out of this wellspring of grace, while study and lectio divina are a fruitful preparation for it. They strive to make the Liturgy as beautiful as they can, all for the glory of God.
May Our Lady, who helped them to begin this work of love for God, allow it flourish through her special Motherly intercession. Amen!
The canonization cause for Ven. Henriette Delille (d. 1862), foundress of the Sisters of the Holy family in New Orleans, continues to move forward. Twenty-nine years ago, her cause was opened and in 2010, Pope Benedict declared her Venerable. As the Sisters celebrate their 175th anniversary this year, they are hoping that the details of a miracle, attributed to Henriette’s intercession, will be accepted and authenticated so that Henriette can be Beatified during this eventful year.
The Sisters of the Holy Family were founded in 1842. The sick, the infirm and the poor were the Sisters’ first concern and the “dearest objects of solicitude,” but they also sought “to bring back the Glory of God and the salvation of the neighbor by a charitable and edifying behavior.” Henriette’s antidote to the dissolution and irreligion of the time was to “teach the mysteries of the religion and the most important points of Christian morality.” One of her priorities was to promote the Sacrament of Marriage. How we need Henriette’s powerful intercession today when families are so under attack!
An exhibit on her life at the Ursuline Convent Museum in New Orleans opened late last year and runs through September 2017. Created by the Archdiocese’s archivist, it highlights the life of Henriette, born to a French father (it is believed) and mother who was a “free woman of color” of French, Spanish and African ancestry. Her great, great grandmother, Marie Ann, was a slave who purchased her freedom. The women in Henriette’s family were free, independent and well-to-do. But Henriette broke with family tradition, choosing instead to devote her life to the Lord as a “humble servant of slaves.”
Be sure to watch EWTN on February 28, 2017, when one of the IRL’s communities will be featured on EWTN. A 30-minute video on the Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate, a (newish) religious community in Canada, will be broadcast at 6:30PM (EST).
The video is an inspiring, intimate look into the apostolate of the SOLI Sisters from Cambridge, Ontario. This community of sisters in Canada is bringing about a renewal of authentic Catholic catechesis in the schools they serve, and in their care for the elderly. This deep love for young and old, as the Sisters daily strive to answer the call of becoming a true Bride of Christ, gives witness to their unwavering faith.
The sisters are also expanding into new mission fields! At the invitation of the Bishop, the sisters will be assisting in Catholic education in the Diocese of Peterborough, Ontario, where Sr. Bernadette and Sr. Mary Catherine have been appointed Principal and Vice-Principal respectively of Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic School.
The sisters were founded in 1977 by Father Lloyd Ryan and Sr. Mary Josephine Mulligan, formerly a Grey Sister. They both saw the need for a new religious order of women who would be dedicated to living the religious life authentically and teaching our Holy Catholic Faith with courage. This fervor and zeal for promoting the Truth with religious solidly formed with the essential foundations of religious life sounds much like Father John Hardon, S.J., who founded the IRL to support communities such as these, striving to bring the light of Christ to our secular society.
The institute of Catholic Culture, through its’ apostolate the Magdala Institute, has for several years now been providing top-quality, free formation classes for sisters and nuns. We were pleased at the IRL’s September Board Meeting to approve them as a new IRL Affiliate.
The ICC was founded in 2006 by Rev. Franklyn McAfee, S.T.D., and Rev. Hezekias Carnazzo, M.A., as an educational outreach project within the Office of Evangelization at St. John the Beloved Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia, in response to the Church’s call for a new evangelization.
From the beginning, the ICC has offered weekly seminars in Catholic history, philosophy and theology, with a strong emphasis on the study of Sacred Scripture. Soon, it was bursting at the seams, as attendees from all over the Northern Virginia / Washington D.C. metropolitan area began to visit, knowing they could receive quality, orthodox education with the Institute’s programs.
Today, the ICC averages over 200 eager participants at its regular education programs and offers Catholic adult faith formation opportunities in local parishes. In addition, it has expanded beyond its initial geographical region by offering live and on-demand video streaming of its programs, CD production of past seminars, and over 600 hours of catechetical programs in its free, on-line media library.
Of interest to IRL communities is their Magdala Apostolate, dedicated to providing sound doctrinal formation—both initial and ongoing—for women religious and novices, in accord with the Church’s call for a new evangelization. Each term, they offer semester-long courses in the faith to any religious sister or community who applies. All that is needed to participate is a:
An internet connection with a download speed of about 4.00 Mbps and an upload speed of about 1.0 Mbps.
They have also begun building an online resources library, so that those who visit their web site can access not only the archived and live programs, but also the written resources discussed and referenced.
Topics covered include:
Continuing formation classes like Greek, Biblical Apologetics, Ante-Nicaean Fathers
Father Carnazzo has been to many IRL National Meetings, both as a speaker and participant. Ordained to the priesthood on May 1, 2016, he also serves as the Director of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization for the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton. We highly recommend his courses. Feel free to call the ICC for more information at 540-635-7155.
Unless we strive to offer and impart to them the basic and fundamental need to draw closer to God, we have given them very little.
With these beautiful hearts, the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi in Lacon, Illinois, continue on with their mission to serve the poor, sick and aged in their apostolates. On August 13, 2016, they will celebrate their 70th anniversary in the United States. There were founded in 1894 in in Budapest, Hungary, by Anna Brunner to serve the poor and the terminally ill, in the compassionate spirit of St. Francis. They came to this country in 1946 from Slovakia and settled in Illinois.
They remain an international congregation serving in Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania and the United States in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, and schools with the same spirit of compassion and the love of God that guided Mother Anna during the congregation’s early years. They seek to serve Christ in His poor, sick and aged brothers and sisters at their nursing home in Lacon, Illinois, and their hospital in Mountain View, Missouri. They are fortified by their union with Christ in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosary, meditation and personal prayer.
We pray that during this celebration year, that God may grant them the grace to fully live out their charism of poverty, humility and a loving union with God.
We will, therefore, so live our religious vocation as to convince all that through our consecration to God we do not become estranged from our fellow men, but that our union with them grows deeper in Christ’s love.
Some communities are celebrating 25 years and 100 years this year but another is celebrating 775 years! Amazing!
The Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen were founded in 1241, just 15 years after the death of Saint Francis. In the early 14th C, they received the Third Order Rule of St. Francis. Throughout the centuries, they suffered the “slings and arrows” of misfortune as a result of the vicissitudes of history but they have persevered. In 1632, for example, the sisters had to flee from an invading army. By 1635, of the five sisters remaining, 4 died of the plague. In 1828, because of governmental laws forbidding the acceptance of new members, there were only 5 sisters left again. But by 1968, they had over 2000 sisters!
Today, they are an international congregation serving the Lord in 5 countries: Germany, the United States, Brazil, Spain and India. The sisters in Hankinson, the North American Province, currently live in six convents with 25 sisters. Worldwide, there are 800 sisters!
In May, three sisters from Hankinson travelled to Germany for the festivities. Back home, the sisters were busy planting trees – 42 of them in one day! According to tradition, when Sr. Mathilde arrived from Germany in the early days, she looked at the barren plain and yearned for the trees of Bavaria. So they planted trees. Lots of them! In honor of the 775th anniversary, the congregation decided to plant 775 trees throughout their 7 provinces.
Trees have deep roots. They appear to be asleep for a brief period of time and then they blossom forth again. “This related well to our Congregation,” say the sisters, “as through the years we have experienced the dry times when our congregation was down to one Sister and then a springtime of new growth, branched out in newness reaching the United States, Brazil, and India to share the message of Jesus Christ in caring for the sick, the hungry, the widow, the children and the lonely.”
There is a new contemplative community in the small town of Ghent, in southwestern Minnesota, called the Sisters of Mary, Morning Star (Sisters of Maria Stella Matutina). Founded in Spain in 2014, this Association of the Faithful is the only contemplative community of sisters in the diocese of New Ulm. There are 225 sisters worldwide in 10 countries.
The sisters are contemplative but not cloistered so they can participate in activities around the diocese and open their doors to the laity. Their primary work is to pray for the new evangelization and I read that they commemorate the Easter Triduum each weekend, beginning with a Holy Hour every Thursday where they recall the Lord’s Agony in the Garden. They also pray for a half hour after Mass and often spend 2 hours a day in Adoration. They live simply and support themselves by doing leatherwork and selling crafts.
Their unusual name stems from one of Our Lady’s titles in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Morning Star. From the Book of Revelation (2:26-28), we read: “To the one who wins the victory, who keeps to my ways till the end, I will give authority over the nations — the same authority I received from my Father. He shall rule them with the rod of iron and shatter them like crockery; and I will give him the morning star.” In Song of Songs (6:10) it says: “Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun.” The planet Venus is known as the Morning Star, often visible just before dawn before the sun eclipses her light. It is an image of Mary reflecting the light of her Son.
Their priory in Ghent is the site of their U.S. Novitiate. In 2015, they opened a second convent in Monona, Wisconsin, in the Diocese of Madison. For more information about the community, please email them at: SistersofMaryMorningStar@gmail.com or call (507)428-3919.
Our charism is to live the mystery of Christ’s offering to the Father, in light of the paternity of Saint John, and we desire to live with Mary her mystery of Compassion, for the Church and for all men.
Our Community wishes to live a contemplative life in the heart of the world in order to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit for the New Evangelization.
Living our contemplative life in the heart of the world allows us to welcome guests and share our life of Eucharistic Adoration, love for the Word of God, search for truth and fraternal charity.