Contemplating Christ Crucified

Detail from Fra Angelico's painting of Jesus Crucified

This past Thursday, we read at the Office of Readings a quote from Pope St. Leo the Great: “True reverence for the Lord’s passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in Him our own humanity.” Our Holy Father Pope Francis spoke of this contemplation of Jesus’ suffering and its relationship to our humanity when he met with Poor Clare nuns in Assisi last fall.  (You can read the full text at Zenit.)  The cloistered nun, he says, does not become “otherworldly” in a sense that would somehow “transcend” her humanity.  Rather, “When she goes on the path of contemplation of Jesus Christ, of prayer … Continue reading

In Honor of Saint Joseph

St. Joseph and the Child Jesus

Happy, blessed feast of St. Joseph! This feast brings a welcome burst of celebration to the somber season of Lent, and is extra special to us for two reasons. First, St. Joseph is our beloved Father and Provider, as he was for the Holy Family; the entire month is brightened by our devotions in his honor. Second, the feast of St. Joseph is the patronal feastday of our Prioress, Mother Mary Joseph. The weeks preceding his feast find us all hard at work (secretly of course!) preparing feastday gifts. A few years ago, one of the Sisters’ wrote the following poem to present to Mother. Ode to St. Joseph Remember, … Continue reading

Parce Days: Making Reparation

St. Dominic prays at the foot of the Cross with his arms like a cross

Today is the first of the three days leading up to Ash Wednesday which we call the “Parce Days” (pronounced PAR-chay, for those unfamiliar with ecclesiastical Latin). These are days are observed as days of special penance in reparation for the excesses of Mardi Gras, going back to at least the 13th century. During the Parce Days, we pray special prayers of reparation, most notably by dropping our other employments and returning to choir (the nuns’ part of the chapel) every hour on the hour to sing the Parce, from which these days take their name. Given that nowadays the Mardi Gras celebration in certain regions runs much longer than … Continue reading

Vocation Letters: Good News for Candlemas

Cartoon of a Dominican Nun writing a letter to a vocation candidate while a nun poses with a snowman outside

Don’t worry–in real life, the Vocation Directress writes to applicants much more frequently than the correspondence posted in this fictional Vocation Letters series! Ave + Maria Dear Melanie, Happy Feast of the Presentation!  This is a special feast for us, traditionally closing the Christmas season with the celebration of the Purification of Our Lady and Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.  For centuries this feast was known as Candlemas, because on this day the faithful brought donations of candles to the church to supply the altars and shrines throughout the year.  Even now the liturgy retains a special blessing of candles (the Sisters work hard ahead of time to bring … Continue reading

Blessed Henry Suso: Making Suffering Praise

Manuscript illumination of Bl. Henry Suso

When some people hear of cloistered nuns who are “free for God alone,” they imagine that somehow these nuns “turn their back on the rest of us” in order to turn towards the Lord. Not so! Rather than putting the world behind our backs, the cloister and the life dedicated to God enables us to keep the needs of the world in the depths of our hearts, in order to raise all to Him. “In the cloister the nuns devote themselves totally to God and perpetuate that singular gift which the blessed Father [Dominic] had of bearing sinners, the down-trodden and the afflicted in the inmost sanctuary of his compassion.” … Continue reading