Bethlehem Monastery of Poor Clares
Our dear Friends,
O Crux Ave, spes unica!/ Hail, O Cross, our only hope! O the mysteries of God’s time! Hardly have the carols and bells of Christmas faded than the sights and sounds of the Lenten season have appeared in our homes and churches. It seems such a short time since we were sitting at our keyboard, writing to you in the midst of the antiphons of Advent, many of which, in point of fact, do proclaim in so many different ways that “Redemption is nigh!” So caught up are we in the joy of the coming of our God to the earth, however, that we rarely think of how that redemption will be brought about. How many of us ever get as far as the words of the oldest carols that tell us rather plainly how “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through; the Cross be borne for me, for you”? Truly, our calendar this year gives us a once-in-a-century (they say) opportunity to experience how everything flows toward and from the great Paschal Triduum we are about to celebrate. As we look forward in hope to those great days, however, we also want to look backwards in gratitude to share with you the happenings, small and great, that the Lord has been pleased to work in our midst since our last issue.
As many of you know, we have been working for quite a while to meet the on-going challenge of correcting – or at least improving -- the drainage/erosion situation on the hills behind our monastic home. Each attempt has brought some positive change, some of it quite remarkable, such as the extension of our blacktop roadway spoken of in past issues. These past couple of months, however, we decided to do a major re- grading and re-seeding of the slope behind the north side of the house as well as of a couple of small patches of ground (one couldn’t – then – call them lawns) on the south side outside our kitchen and laundry areas. This also included creating an ingenious system of buried perforated pipes in those two areas designed to carry so-called ‘storm water’ from various downspouts not only away from the house but into the ground without disturbing its surface. We have been very pleased with the results, and the bright green of the new grass now coming up gives us sure promise of the spring just over the horizon!
While all this was going on, Christmas came with that hope always springing new from the coming of our God, and with it, yet another “first” here on Mount St. Francis (yes, we do still have them, even in our fourth year here!). This time, it was our first ever celebration of the Holy Night with a Dominican priest at our altar in the person of Father Kevin McGrath, O.P. Father is librarian at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., and was actually fulfilling a long-awaited “first” of his own: he had never before had the opportunity to preside at the Christmas Midnight Mass. Gifted as he is with a beautiful singing voice, Father had always before been assigned to lead the schola or else to celebrate some other Mass that day. And so, when Mother contacted his friary about our need, Father was happy to offer his services, making this year’s celebration memorable for both of us. We discovered that, besides being librarian, Father teaches an introductory course to St. Thomas Aquinas. We were so delighted at this discovery that he has promised to return to share a few things with us at some time in the future.
Speaking of sharing, we have been blessed once more through our shared sisterhood among our federated Poor Clare monasteries. Our St. Louis sisters have gifted us with the presence of their Sister Mary Rose for three months to help with our infirmary duties, bringing her own experience in caring for several of their sick sisters in time past to enrich our own. We can never be grateful enough for the help we have received these last few years from them and from you all as we grow in age and (hopefully) in grace as we look forward in hope to that blessed place awaiting us which the Lord Himself has prepared by means of His Paschal mystery.
February brought a different sort of sharing as Father Christian, O.S.B., and Father Francisco, O.S.B., monks from the Abbey of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico, came for a few days to share with us their experience of being part of an international community. The Abbey is one of the few strictly contemplative Benedictine houses in this country and is one of the most flourishing, having at present 35 monks, many of whom have come from Mexico or Vietnam. They also have two foundations in Mexico and are discerning the possibility of one in Korea. Their days with us were most enriching as we may someday receive new members of Hispanic or Asian background. As both Fathers pointed out, this would help us reflect a more accurate picture not only of the Church in our own country, but of the face of our country itself as well. And so, we continue moving forward into this new year of grace, rejoicing to discover in each new day the Lord’s unfolding plans for us.
Part of those unfolding plans have included the completion of a few of our own. One of these was the addition of several rows of stonework behind the presiders’ chairs in our sanctuary in mid-February. That wall looks so finished now and needs only the crafting of the seating envisioned in our original design to bring our first dream for it fully true. Another area of fulfillment lay in our cemetery at the arrival of long-awaited headstones a few weeks ago. It is most moving now to see the graves of our dear Sisters Paula and Mary marked in granite as together they keep watch near the foot of the great Crucifix, sign and symbol of that which is the key to our salvation. As Pope Saint Leo the Great sang so many centuries ago:
“O wondrous power of the Cross! O unspeakable glory of the passion which became the Lord’s tribunal, the world’s judgment, and the power of the Crucified! From your cross you draw all things to yourself, O Lord!...Your cross is the font of all blessings, the source of all graces, and through it the believers receive strength in return for weakness, glory in return for shame, life in return for death.”
Our Holy Week Liturgies in this Year of the Lord 2008
March 20 Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper 5:00 p.m.
March 21 Good Friday Celebration of the Lords’ Passion 3:00 p.m.
March 22 Holy Saturday Easter Vigil 11:00 p.m.
March 23 Easter Sunday Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection 9:15 a.m.
Visit our Public Chapel: 6:30 AM --6:30 PM
Daily Mass: usually at 8 AM (call ahead to be sure)
Benediction Holy Hour: every Sunday at 3:40 PM