Presentation of the Infant Jesus

O Thou, Who through Thy birth hast sanctified the virginal womb,
and Who hast blessed the arms of Simeon as it is meet,
do Thou, when wars prevail, give peace to Thy people.
Hail O thou, full of grace, virgin and Mother of God,
for from thee has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ God,
illuminating those who are in darkness.

This Feast, celebrated on February 2, has several names, all pertaining to the various meanings of the Feast. In the Eastern Church it is called Hypapante or Encounter, because Simeon and Anna encountered the Infant Jesus in the Temple. We usually know it as the Feast of the Presentation – the 40th day after His Birth when Jesus was presented by Mary and Joseph in fulfillment of the Law of Moses. The Law also prescribed that mothers submit to a rite of purification at the same time, so today’s Feast has a strong Marian significance. Our Lady, who is All-pure, willingly submitted to this rite, giving us a marvelous example of obedience to the Church in all things.

Adorn your bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ, the King. Greet Mary, the gate of heaven, with loving embrace; for she bear the King of Glory, the new Light. There stands the Virgin, in her arms the Son begotten before the day-star.
(Procession hymn)

This Feast is also called Candlemas Day, the day on which all the candles to be used in the Liturgy are blessed. This signifies that Simeon called Jesus the Light of Revelation to the Gentiles. By our Baptism and Confirmation we are required to bring the Light of Christ to the world too, and so before Mass the priest gives each of us a candle. Then all go in procession into the Church with the lighted candles.

We should never forget that consecrated life is a gift which comes from on high, an initiative of the Father “Who draws His creatures to Himself with a special love and for a special mission” (Vita Consecrata 17). This look of special love profoundly touches the heart of the one called, who is urged by the Holy Spirit to place himself or herself in the footsteps of Christ, in a particular way of following Him, by means of assuming the Evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.

In 1997, Pope John Paul II designated this day as Consecrated Life day. He chose this day specifically because this Feast “reveals the mystery of Jesus, the One consecrated by the Father, come into the world to carry out His will faithfully.” All religious are obliged by their religious consecration to do this in a special way. Consecrated life the Pope said, is a “stupendous gift” of the Father to the Church. On this day everyone should “give unceasing praise and thanks to the Lord” for this gift. Furthermore he intended that celebration of this Feast should “promote a knowledge and esteem for the consecrated life by the entire People of God.” “What would become of the world if there were no religious?” he quotes from St. Teresa. Yes, with all our hearts we thank God for our call to religious life!

The Holy Name of Jesus as a Seal on One’s Heart

Manuscript illumination of Bl. Henry Suso

This letter from our Dominican brother, Blessed Henry Suso, speaks in his distinctive evocative style of devotion to Our Lord and to the Holy Name of Jesus.  Although he is writing to Dominican nuns as their spiritual father, his words may apply to all who love and seek God.

Pone Me ut signaculum super cor tuum!

The eternal God pleads for a resting-place with His bride: “Lay me upon thy heart like a love-token” (Song of Songs).

My dear children, I am sending you these letters to provide food for your souls by which your heart and spirits may be constantly renewed and set aflame in tender love of the fair and gentle eternal wisdom.  For here is the deepest joy we can have in this life, when, alas, the purest contemplation, the most tender and intimate embrace and unchanging, everlasting union with Him is still impossible to us.

By means of them we can always be thinking of our lover, our chosen one, can long for Him in our hearts, speak of Him always, read His affectionate messages to us, unite ourselves with Him in all our work, be attached to nothing else on this earth.  Our eyes should look at Him with love, our ears be open to His word, our heart, mind, and spirit embrace Him.  When we have angered him, we must plead for pardon: when He tries us, we must bear it patiently: when He hides Himself from us, we must seek our adored one and never relinquish our search until we have found him, again and again.  When we have found Him, we must cling to Him in tenderness and virtue.

Whether standing or walking, eating or drinking, the golden sign of Jesus should always be engraved upon our heart.  If we can do no other, we must impress His image upon our soul though our eyes, let His sweet name sound on our tongues.  We should be so occupied with Him during the day that our dreaming at night is of Him alone.  Let us echo the heartfelt sigh of the prophet: “Oh, beloved God, Thou fair, tender, most excellent wisdom, how good thou art to that souls which seeks Thee, which desires Thee alone!”

Image of the Holy Name

This, in turn, reminds us of the hymn we sing for the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus at the beginning of this month of January.  If we were not already nuns, this hymn would make us want to enter the monastery to belong to Jesus alone!

Jesu dulcis memoria
dans vera cordi gaudia:
sed super mel et omnia
ejus dulcis praesentia.

Sweet is the memory of Jesus, giving true joys to the heart; but above honey and all things is His sweet presence.

Nil canitur suavius,
nil auditur jucundius,
nil cogitatur dulcius,
quam Jesus Dei Filius.

Nothing sweeter is sung, nothing more pleasant is heard; nothing more lovely is thought, than Jesus, the Son of God.

Jesu, spes paenitentibus,
quam pius es petentibus!
quam bonus te quaerentibus!
sed quid invenientibus!

O Jesus, hope of penitents, how kind art Thou to those who pray!  How good to those who seek Thee!  But what to those who find Thee!

Nec lingua valet dicere,
nec littera exprimere:
expertus potest credere,
quid sit Jesum diligere.

No tongue can tell, nor written word express it; only one having experienced it, can imagine what it is to love Jesus.

Sis, Jesu, nostrum gaudium,
qui es futurus praemium:
sit nostra in te gloria,
per cuncta semper saecula.

O Jesus, be Thou our joy, who art to be our reward; in Thee be our glory forever.  Amen.

Christmas Greetings and Newsletter 2016

Blessed, Joyous Christmas Greetings!

Image of Mary, Baby Jesus, and a lambOh Come, Divine Messiah! The joy of Our Lady is truly ours in this Advent Season leading up to the luminously beautiful celebration of Christ’s Birth. One of the blessings of living in the Monastery is that of being free from the hustle and bustle that has come to be associated with preparation for Christmas. While there is much to do during Advent, we can still focus on preparing for the coming of the Infant Jesus. Like most folks, we accumulate a lot of “excess baggage” on our pilgrimage to Heaven. Silence helps us discover that baggage and rid ourselves of it. During Advent we enter the “desert” of Silence in greater depth. Saint Mother Teresa gives us five ways to practice silence: eyes, ears, tongue, mind and heart. By closing our eyes, ears, tongue, mind and heart to the noise of uncharitableness, untruths, and selfishness, and opening them to the beauty and goodness of God as witnessed in others, we shed our excess baggage. This will make our journey to Bethlehem a joyful and light-hearted one.

Of all the “firsts” that a postulant experiences in the monastery perhaps the most memorable is her first Christmas. Our new postulant, Sister Anna, the second oldest of a large Catholic family, grew up in Bethel, Ohio. She entered the Monastery on October 1st, after graduating from Northeast Catholic College this past May. Sister’s most recent Advents were probably spent studying for exams—quite a contrast to the Advent Liturgy’s solemn countdown to the Holy Night. Yet to come is the increasing drama of Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass and the characteristically monastic (but not dull) celebrations in honor of Our Lord’s long-awaited appearing on earth.

Photo of community of cloistered Dominican nuns with the Master General of the Order of Preachers

Our community with the Master General of the Order of Preachers

As Marbury is far off the beaten track, we were totally surprised when we received a call informing us that the Master General of the Order of Preachers, Father Bruno Cadoré, O.P. wanted to visit us this past October. Our excitement was not the least dimmed when we later learned that he would be arriving about 8:00 p.m. and leaving early the next morning. It was a great honor and delight for us to receive the successor of Saint Dominic in our midst. How grateful we are for Father Bruno’s thoughtfulness and solicitude for the Nuns of the Dominican Order.

High School Football teams usually have colorful names indicating how ferocious they will be on the field. We are familiar with the Lions, Tigers, Cougars, Bull Dogs, Wolverines, Knights and Pirates, Yellow Jackets, Hornets and Bees. When she heard the name of another team recently, however, Sister was a little puzzled. Was SQUASH BUGS really the best they could do? Fortunately, a Sister with better hearing assured her that the name was actually SWASHBUCKLERS! (The devastating attacks on our cucumber plants can testify, however, that a team named Squash Bugs may well be undefeatable.)

“Bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells! What a fine monastic life their melody fore-tells!” With our apologies to Edgar Allen Poe, our life in the monastery is filled with the “tintinnabulation” that rings to mark the time in our daily rhythm of prayer and work. In this particular case, we are thinking of the chimes of the grandfather clock which now stands in slender majesty in a niche between our community room cabinets. A true grandfather clock, it was assembled by the grandparents of one of our Sisters, and was brought down to us after they both passed away earlier this year. Now, as it chimes the quarter hour throughout our times of work, or announces (with undue cheerfulness!) the end of evening recreation, we pray for their souls and praise God for the many “bells” which lead us too towards Heaven.

Our Lady’s memories of the life of her Son are what make up the beautiful chain of the mysteries of the Rosary. At Fatima, Our Lady asked in every apparition that we pray the daily Rosary. As Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, we constantly ponder the mysteries in and through Mary’s Heart. The Rosary is so powerful. May we all pray it for peace, for our country, and for the whole world.

May you have a joyous Christmas and every blessing in the New Year!

Mother Mary Joseph, O.P. and Sisters

Advent in the Monastery

Advent in the monastery is a time of such joyful expectation! Long before Advent officially begins, the Sisters are turning their thoughts eagerly towards this season of preparation for the coming of the Savior. As the short summer nights lengthen into autumn, one or another Sister will break into Christmas carols in the kitchen while doing dishes at recreation. “It’s not Christmas yet!” someone objects. “I know—but it’s coming!”

Our Lady of Advent

We hear the first real whisper of Advent in the special Ave Maria we sing after Mass beginning 40 days before Christmas. The haunting melody sets the tone for the season, continuing up until we sing it for the last time after Midnight Mass of Christmas, now bathed in the radiance of Christ’s birth. Ave Maria—Hail Mary, Hail you who were perfectly prepared to receive Him. Help us enter into the age-old longing of the Patriarchs and Prophets, help us to repent, be converted, do penance, and welcome the Kingdom of Heaven into our midst in the Person of its Infant King.

The call of our sung Ave echoes the summons of the liturgy, which is truly the heart of the life of a Dominican nun. The great cycle of the liturgical year, making present for us all the mysteries of Christ, is realized each day in the cycle of the Divine Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, its center. Hymns, antiphons, readings—all usher us more deeply into the longing, repentance, and joyful expectation of Advent.

Dominican chant antiphon O Radix for December 19

Today we begin the great “O Antiphons,” sung before the Magnificat at Vespers, which hail our coming Messiah under His various titles. Now the tenor of the liturgy changes—we are coming down the home stretch! The nuns’ spiritual preparation is now joined by increasing material preparation: there are cookies to be baked, holiday ironing to be done, the chapel to be decorated.

This is one of the best parts of Advent in the monastery: how the expectancy increases step by step, degree by degree, until the celebration of Christmas. First the Ave, then the St. Andrew (or Christmas) novena; then our other Advent devotions, preparing our hearts to receive the Divine Infant with greater fervor. Then Gaudete Sunday—now the octave of the O Antiphons, with the initials of their invocations forming an acrostic which spells in reverse, Eros Cras, “Tomorrow I will be there,” the great cry of Christmas Eve.

He is almost here! Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!

Urgent Request for Prayer

On this Solemnity of Christ the King, we earnestly request your prayers for the conversion of hearts, so that all people may embrace the saving truth of Jesus Christ and there may be peace in our country, the Church, and the world.

We commend to you one prayer in particular for this intention: the Rosary.

Why the Rosary?

The Rosary is a powerful spiritual weapon because it unites us to the saving mysteries of Jesus Christ.  When we pray the Rosary, we meditate on the events of our salvation in the life of Jesus, as we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary in the words that first announced the dawn of our salvation in Christ.

This prayer shows its power not only in our own hearts, but through miracles that can only be called spectacular.  Consider:

  • The Battle of Lepanto (October 7, 1571) — A Catholic fleet by a miraculous turn of events destroyed a larger and more advanced fleet of Muslim Ottoman Turks who had sworn to conquer Rome and threatened Christian Europe.  In Rome, Pope St. Pius V himself led Rosary devotions for the defense of Christendom.  He witnessed the victory in a vision on the very evening of the battle, and later declared the feast of Our Lady of Victory, now Our Lady of the Rosary, in commemoration of this miracle.
  • Austria (1955) — After World War II, part of Austria, along with “East Germany,” was given to the Communists.  In 1946, at the Marian shrine of Mariazell, the Austrian priest Fr. Petrus Pavlicek heard Our Lady tell him, “Do as I say and there will be peace.”  He organized a “Holy Rosary Crusade of Reparation” which by 1955 drew more than half a million people, more than 10% of the population of Austria.  That year, the Communists unexpectedly and peacefully left Austria.
  • Marbury (late 1940’s) — We also have our own “Rosary Miracle” story.  In the early days of our foundation, far before any local fire department, a forest fire was bearing down the hill toward our small farmhouse-turned-monastery.  Our Foundress, Mother Mary Dominic, advanced toward the fire.  Invoking Our Lady, she hurled her Rosary as far as she could into the flames.  At that moment, the wind changed and the fire was pushed back, leaving the monastery unharmed.

These are only a few of the stories that can be told of Our Lady’s intercession, through the Rosary, obtaining victories, miracles, and the conversion of hearts.  For more, we highly recommend Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC’s new book Champions of the Rosary!

Image of Our Lady of Las Lajas

Our Lady gives the Rosary to St. Dominic in the miraculous image of Our Lady of Las Lajas in Colombia. The image appeared on the rock, and is actually made of colors that extend deep into the rock itself.

Words from Heaven

At Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, the Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children and told them to pray the Rosary for peace in the world, to make sacrifices for sinners, and to offer reparation to God for all the offenses committed against Him.  In many, many of her apparitions in the 20th century, Our Lady has told us to pray the Rosary, and even herself prayed the Glory Be’s along with the visionary.

Our Lord told Sr. Lucia, one of the visionaries at Fatima, that the peace of the world was entrusted to the hands of His Mother.  Learn more about Our Lady’s request for reparation at the Sister Servants’ website.

Pray the Rosary!

Please, pray the Rosary every day for conversion of hearts, so that all people may embrace the saving truth of Jesus Christ and there may be peace in our country, the Church, and the world.

Pray the Rosary alone, with your family (little children love leading decades), in a church, or listing in with EWTN on TV, radio, or internet.

Our resources for the Rosary:

As nuns devoted to the Perpetual Rosary, we have these resources on our website:

Dominican Rosary Meditations - Image of Booklet Cover

Scriptural Rosary for Vocations

Audio meditations and recordings from our Pilgrim Rosary celebrations.