Christmas Prayers & Greetings from the Passionist Nuns

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Discernment in the Spirit of Advent – Union with Mary

This is the final article in a 4-part series.  To read the other pieces, click here, here, & here.

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As we enter the last few days of Advent, the spotlight shines on Mary, the privileged daughter of God who was first to receive the Son at His coming into this world.  Among the Gospels read at Mass this week, we hear the story of the Annunciation to Mary, her Visitation to her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, and Our Lady’s hymn of God’s glory, the Magnificat.  Each year the Church invites us to ponder these events with the Virgin Mother, to allow ourselves to be formed in greater openness to Christ’s coming, in union with Our Lady, His first disciple.

There is so much richness to be drawn out of these passages and applied to our lives, entire books have been written on the subject!  Today, however, I would like to focus on one point from the account of the Annunciation, which is heard at Mass on December 20th.

“Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” (Lk 1:38)

Before uttering her fiat, her “let it be done unto me” in response to the Angel Gabriel’s message, Mary speaks an ecce, “behold.”  She presents herself to the Lord in humility and openness, a prelude to allowing His mighty will to be accomplished in her life.  This disposition is an apt model for us as we approach Christmas, certainly, but also as we discern the Lord’s calling in each of our lives.

In the words of Our Lady at the Annunciation, we discover that God wants more than just to accomplish His works in our lives; He desires our humble gift of self first of all.  There is an ever present temptation in any period of discernment to jump straight into fiat/”let it be done” because, well, we want to be done and know the final outcome already!  In so doing, it is as though we tell someone they can borrow our car, without giving them the keys.  The Ecce is the key – with it we say, “here I am Lord, everything is yours.”  On the foundation of this transparency and docility, we can add our fiat in freedom, “let it be done unto me, accomplish your will in me.”

These final days approaching the solemnity of the Nativity are a beautiful time to draw near to Mary and ask her to teach us how to speak our own ecce to the Lord.  As a good mother, she is ready to help us, if only we ask!  Consider offering three “Hail Marys” for the intention of knowing your vocation and being open to accept it.  It is a simple practice, easy to slip into our busy days even in the hubbub of Christmas preparations and celebrations.

Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us!

Come pray with us!

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photo courtesy of Larena Lawson

 

In the Owensboro area?  Please consider joining us for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord or the Octave Day, solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

MASS TIMES

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve – carols begin at 11:30pm

Christmas day – 10 a.m.

New Year’s Day – 8 a.m.

Discernment in the Spirit of Advent – Wonder

This is the third article in a 4-part series – to read the first two articles, click here & here.

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As the season of Advent progresses, it draws us not only into silence, but into a spirit of wonder.

There is a certain natural wonder we encounter, even among those who approach Christmas in a more secularized manner.  Think of the amazement and delight so evident in children as they admire the trappings of the season – nativity scenes, candles, the tantalizing possibility of a snow day, the brightness of flowers blooming in the dead of winter.  Or consider the awe sparked by the many heartwarming tales of generosity which circulate, as people seek to spread the love and light of the Babe of Bethlehem into the darkness around them.

In the whirlwind of activity as Christmas draws near, it can be a great help to us to pray for fresh, childlike eyes to see these little gifts around us, and seeing them, to give thanks to the One who gave them.  The movement from wonder to gratitude stretches our hearts and makes them more open to the gifts God wishes to pour upon us, gifts both temporal and spiritual .

Beyond this “natural” wonder, Advent also invites us to wonder at the supernatural.  In the scriptures proper to this liturgical season, there is a continual sense of astonishment at the bold promises God makes to His people.  “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him,” as the prophet Isaiah puts it (Is 64:3).

Promises that a virgin will conceive and bear a son, that God Himself will come to save His people, that He will gather us as a shepherd gathers his flocks, from the four corners of the earth – these promises must have seemed almost incredible when they were spoken through the prophet, and even more impossible as Israel suffered under a succession of foreign powers.  Yet these promises were passed down through the generations and hope remained alive until the fullness of time arrived.  Then, in a manner surpassing all Israel’s imaginings, God Himself did come to fulfill His promises, in the person of the Incarnate Word.

But how does this wonderful history of promise and fulfillment apply to our lives today?

Each one of us hears promises from God.  To each of our hearts, He has promised that He has created us with a purpose, that He wants us to be His co-workers in a particular way for the spreading of His Kingdom.  Perhaps you have heard that promise in a moment of quiet prayer, in a time of life-changing conversion, or through the lips of a faithful friend.  Whenever you heard it, you began to cherish that word, to seek and to follow that path God desires for your life.

Still, at times in the process of finding His path for us, as Israel experienced in waiting for the Messiah, the promises can seem too wonderful, unbelievable.  Discernment seems difficult.  God seems silent.  You aren’t sure where to go next.

Then what?  How can you keep the brightness of wonder alive and trust in His promises?  The season of Advent suggests an answer: recall the works of the Lord, recall that He is faithful.

The memory of God’s actions on behalf of His people – the Exodus, the establishment of the Davidic Kingdom, the return from exile – under-girded their confidence that even the most extravagant promises would come to fruition.  We too can recall these works of salvation history, can remember His faithfulness to His people.  And we can spend some time in prayer remembering the movements of grace in our own lives.  In these final days approaching Christmas, try setting aside some time to prayerfully revisit some of the ways God has been at work in your life.  Ask Him to remind you of the gifts He has been giving – you may be surprised at the moments and graces which come to mind!  Let the memory of His care and fidelity reignite your wonder as you wait for the next steps to be revealed.

As we hear again and again the Advent liturgy, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it” (1 Thes 5:24).  Today, let’s look to Him with confidence, for what father is as wonderful in his fidelity as our God and Father?

Come Spouse of Christ – First Profession of Vows of Sr. Maria Faustina, CP

December 8, 2017, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, was a day of great joy for our community at St. Joseph Monastery as we witnessed the consecration of a new Bride of Christ by the profession of the five Passionist Vows.  Sr. Maria Faustina of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus and the Sorrowful Heart of Mary committed herself to follow Jesus Crucified more closely in a life of devotion to and grateful remembrance of His Passion, a life of chastity, poverty, obedience, and enclosure.

Despite the fervent prayers of some of the younger nuns, there was no snow outside, but it was a winter wonderland nonetheless, with glorious blue and white bouquets honoring our Blessed Mother and befitting Sister’s wedding day to the King of kings.

Most Rev. William Medley, Bishop of Owensboro, presided at the Mass.  Assisting him were four Fathers of Mercy, Fr. David Wilton, Fr. Lou Caporiccio (our chaplain and the day’s  homilist), Fr. Joel Rogers, and Fr. Andy Cravalho; two Passionists, Fr. Sebastian McDonald and Fr. John Schork; and two dear priest friends of our community, Msgr. Bernard Powers and Fr. Joseph Mills.  We were blessed by their presence, along with the help of our Master of Ceremonies, Ian Barnstead, and servers, Greg Mills and Maximilian Combs (Postulant with the Fathers of Mercy).

A big “thank you” is also due to the Passionist Oblates who provided a bounteous reception following the Mass!  And we are especially grateful to our three anonymous donors who supplied for the flowers and the printing of the worship aids for Mass.

The celebration of Sister’s profession was undoubtedly touched with the serenity and joy which accompany the presence of our Blessed Mother.  Reflecting on Mary as model of religious life, Sr. Maria Faustina shared:

As the spotless Bride, she draws us by her beauty (the beauty which is a crystal clear reflection of God Who is Infinite Beauty) to imitate her and do all we can to become beautiful brides for Christ.  When we entrust ourselves to Mary, she helps to make us radiant brides of Christ.

We could certainly see that beauty in Sr. Maria Faustina, the new bride of Christ Crucified!

Now without further ado, we share with you some photos from the Mass – courtesy of Larena Lawson, grazie mille!

Click the photos to see them full-size with captions.

After Mass – most from Larena Lawson, a few taken by the nuns:

Odds and ends from the beautiful day:

Discernment in the Spirit of Advent – Silence

This is the second article of a four-part series – to read the first part, click here.

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Advent is undoubtedly a time for silence, even if the lived reality of the season is often far from this ideal.  As the liturgy recounts for us the centuries of Israel’s wait for the promised Messiah, we are invited to join the vigil.  There is a sense of hush, of the silence and stillness of midnight while we long for the first blush of the “dawn from on high to break upon us” (Lk 1:78).  With the patriarchs and prophets, we strain our ears to hear the cry go up, “The bridegroom is here!  Come out and greet him!” (Mt 25:6).  This is not the silence of sleep, but the silence of eager watchfulness.

The silence of the Blessed Virgin is also present in the spirit of Advent.  Our Lady has very few words or actions recorded in the Gospels.  She is truly a woman of silence, and during this holy season we may especially see her silence as she goes about her simple daily labor, in her own home and in the home of her cousin Elizabeth, as the Infant Christ is being formed within her.  St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, a Carmelite saint of great silence herself, reflects thus: “Do we think what must have been in the soul of the Blessed Virgin when, after the Incarnation, she possessed within her the Incarnate Word, the gift of God?  In what silence, what recollection she must have buried herself in the depths of her soul in order to embrace that God whose mother she was.”  Indeed, Mary has a silent heart, ever-attentive to the voice of God and to the presence of the Incarnate Word in her womb.

Discernment of our vocations is, in a certain sense, a process of discovering what gift of God has been placed in our own hearts – we seek to know for what we have been created.  How does Christ want to be made present to the world through our lives?

The process of discernment also has similarities with the waiting of the people of the Old Covenant for the coming of the Lord.  “How long, O Lord!” we are tempted to cry out; at times, it may seem like He is slow in coming to show us the path marked out for us!

In all this, the Advent spirit of silence can be a great help to keep our hearts attentive and eager, yet in peace.  The scriptural images of silent vigil which we encounter can provide us with food for reflection on how God may be asking us to wait for His revelation of His plan.  Praying with some of the scriptures used in the Masses of Advent is an excellent way to grow in a spirit of eager and open anticipation, without falling into anxiety or impatience.

We can take advantage of this season to incorporate a little more silence into our days.  It isn’t possible to control all the noise in our lives.  But perhaps you can turn off the radio when you are driving alone.  Or step out of a Christmas party for a few minutes of silence to thank the Lord for those gifts of fellowship and joy.  Maybe you are able to set aside 15 minutes to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament on your way to work.

Ask Our Lady to help you see where you can grow in silence.  Even these little practices can be very fruitful in giving God more space to speak to our hearts, and as we grow in hearing His voice about small things, we are more disposed to be open when He calls us to big things!

Homily from Sr. Maria Faustina’s Mass of Religious Profession

On Friday, December 8, our chapel was transformed into a winter wonderland of blue and white as we celebrated the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the first profession of vows of another member of St. Joseph Monastery.  Sr. Maria Faustina was a radiant bride, and we have lots of pictures of the Mass and reception on their way.  In the meantime, we’d like to share the wonderful homily preached for the occasion by our chaplain, Fr. Lou Caporiccio, CPM!

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Sr. Maria Faustina is examined by Bishop Medley before professing her vows

Sr. Maria Faustina of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus and the Sorrowful Heart of Mary’s First Vows

December 8, 2017 – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Readings: Gen. 3:9-15, 20; Ps. 98:1-4; Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12; Lk. 1:26-38

 

The Call of God to Consecrated Religious Life as a Passionist

Every vocation whether to religious life, priesthood, marriage or the single life is a call or vocation that comes from God. In Sacred Scripture we find two vocations that compliment each other. The first is common to all. This has come to be known as the universal call to holiness and it is found in the very first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, where it says that “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Commenting on this passage from Genesis, the Catechism of the Catholic teaches, “God who created man out of love also calls him to love— the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love.”[1] The second vocation that we find in the Bible is one in which a special mission is given either to an individual or to a group. For example, in our Gospel reading today we hear of Mary’s call or vocation to be the Mother of God (see Lk. 1:31-33).

Every call or vocation from God has five stages or phases. First, God makes a choice. The Church applies the words of our second reading today from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians to both the universal call to holiness as well as the vocation to a special mission: God “chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). From all eternity, God choose Christie Anna Carmichael now known as Sr. Maria Faustina to be not only a consecrated religious but also a member of the Passionist Congregation. Second, God makes His choice known to the individual. In the Gospel we see how God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to convey His choice of her to be the Mother of His Only-Begotten Son. No doubt, Sr. Maria Faustina can recount how God in many ways has revealed His call to her to be a consecrated Passionist religious. Third, the person whom God calls responds. Mary’s response is “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according your word” (Lk. 1:38). After the homily, Bishop Medley will say to Sr. Maria Faustina: “My dear Sister, what do you ask of God and of His holy Church?” She will respond: “The mercy of the Lord, and the grace to serve Him faithfully in the Institute of the Religious of the Passion of Jesus Christ.” Fourth stage, God consecrates or sets apart the one whom He has chosen and He empowers him/her to live this vocation. Mary is told, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk. 1:35). When Bishop Medley examines Sr. Maria Faustina he will ask her: “Sr. Maria Faustina, by water and the Holy Spirit you have already been consecrated to God’s service. Are you resolved to unite yourself more closely to Him by the new bond of religious profession?” She answers: “I am.” By religious profession, Sr. Maria Faustina will deepen the baptismal consecration she received many years ago and like Baptism, she will be given all the graces she needs to live the life of a Passionist Nun to which she has been called.[2] Fifth and final stage of a vocation: God sends the one He calls to fulfill a concrete mission. Mary conceives the Son of God in her Immaculate womb and her life from that moment onward will be forever intertwined with Jesus’ life both on this earth and in eternity. Sr. Maria Faustina’s mission will be that of every consecrated religious, but she will live this out specifically as a Passionist Nun.

All religious have a two-fold mission in the Church, which is found in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council: First, “The profession of the evangelical counsels, then, appears as a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation[3] and second, “the holiness of the Church is fostered in a special way by the observance of the counsels[4] In other words, Sr. Maria Faustina, like all religious, is called to be a sign of or to manifest the universal vocation of all Christians to be Holy as God is Holy; to love as God loves, but her life as a religious should also stimulate, prompt and foster all Christians to desire to live the universal call to holiness. However, as a member of the Passionists she is to do this in a very unique and specific way. We see this in the very first vow Sr. Maria Faustina will profess when she says, “I vow to promote devotion to and grateful remembrance of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, and to express it in my style of life.” On the night of the Last Supper our Lord Himself taught us: “No one has greater love than this, that to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13). In the Passion of Jesus we see how to love as God loves in its highest, purest and most perfect manner.

Preface for Holy Virgins and Religious[5]: It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For in the Saints who consecrated themselves to Christ
for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven,
it is right to celebrate the wonders of your providence,
by which you call human nature back to its original holiness and bring it to experience on this earth the gifts you promise in the new world to come.

May the Passion of Jesus Christ be ever in our hearts!

[1] CCC 1604. Also see Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 40.

[2] See St. John Paul II, Allocution to Male Religious in Sao Paolo, Brazil, July 3, 1980, 2.2: “Religious life, the Council teaches, is not placed in the Church on the level of institutional structures (it is not a hierarchical rank nor is it added as a third element between pastors and laity), but in line with the charisms and, more exactly, in the dynamism of that holiness that is the primordial vocation of the Church. The first reason why a Christian becomes religious is not to acquire a position in the Church, a responsibility or a task, but to sanctify himself. This is your task and your responsibility, ‘the rest will be given to you in addition’ [Mt. 6:33]. This is your service to the Church: she needs this school of holiness to concretely realize her own vocation of holiness.” Also see Blessed Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelica Testificatio, June 29, 1971, 11; Lumen Gentium 12b (the words special gifts instead of charisms is used in the English translation).

[3] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 44c. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html. Accessed December 5, 2017.

[4] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 42c.

[5] Roman Missal, 3rd Edition.

***photo by Larena Lawson – many thanks!

2017 Newsletter now online!

It has been a busy year here at St. Joseph Monastery, so busy, in fact, that we could barely find time to tell you all about it!  At long last, here is our first (and only) newsletter of 2017, just in time to recap the many wonderful events of the last 12+ months.

 

Some highlights are:

  • The First Professions of Sr. Frances Marie and Sr. Lucia Marie
  • Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Fatima apparitions
  • Sr. Mary Magdalen’s Gold Jubilee celebration
  • Lots of vocation visitors
  • the Passionist Nuns’ international work of renewal and revitalization

Here’s the link:  Passionist Nuns’ Autumn 2017 Newsletter

Enjoy!

Discernment in the Spirit of Advent

Entering Advent, we find ourselves before a banquet of spiritual riches.  In the liturgy and practices of the season, the Church seeks to help up prepare ourselves to encounter Christ anew.  It is a time to recall His coming as an Infant in Bethlehem, to look forward to that final glorious coming upon the clouds, and to receive Him as He desires to be present in the small, daily moments of our lives.

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Yet, in the busy-ness of preparing for Christmas, it is all too easy for us to miss the banquet.  Garlands to hang, gifts to wrap, mountains of baking, not to mention all those Christmas cards that need stamping…I assure you, even in the cloister we can get distracted by all that needs to be done!

For anyone discerning their vocation, this can also be a time of temptation to press the pause button on the journey of seeking God’s will.  We might think:

“I’ll pray later, right now I need to finish x, y, & z”

or

“After Christmas I’ll make that phone call or sign up for that retreat”

or

“If I can just get through this month, then I can figure out what God wants me to do!”

But rather than shelving the idea of discernment until the partridge has left the pear tree and the ten lords have leaped their last, we can use the time of Advent as a powerful opportunity to grow in our openness to hearing the still, small voice of the Lord.  Perhaps it is not the time to make a big decision, but by practicing the virtues of this holy season of waiting, we can prepare our hearts, not just to recognize Christ’s coming in the manger, but to welcome Him as unfolds His plan for us.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore the spirit of Advent and how it can contribute to our time of discernment, especially through a spirit of silence, of wonder, and of union with Mary as we wait upon the Lord.

Wisdom from Our Holy Founder

While our chaplain, Fr. Lou Caporiccio, CPM was spending a few days visiting his confreres at the Fathers of Mercy Generalate, we were blessed by the presence of Fr. Arthur Carrillo, CP.  Hailing from the community of Passionist Fathers in Chicago, Fr. Arthur came to offer Mass and take a few days of solitude in our Guest House.

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Mother John Mary & Sr. Catherine Marie with Fr. Arthur Carrillo, CP

In each of his homilies, he brought out some words of our holy founder, St. Paul of the Cross, written during his 40-day retreat in 1720.  This retreat was made immediately after St. Paul received the holy habit from Bishop Gattinara on November 22nd, and it was at this time that he wrote the rule for the Passionist Congregation he would later found.  The spiritual diary kept by St. Paul during that retreat remains a great treasure, as it gives much insight into our founder’s life of prayer and inspirations for the foundation of the Passionists; we can “follow his footsteps” by reading each day what he wrote of his experiences.

Here is some spiritual wisdom from St. Paul of the Cross’s entry on November 30th, 297 years ago!

I remember that I kept praying to my Jesus to grant me the greatest degree of humility.  I wanted to be the least of mankind…and I kept praying to the Blessed Virgin with many tears to obtain this grace for me….Because, just as the devil desired the highest place in paradise and for his pride was cast into the very depths of hell, so, on the contrary, the soul which humbles itself below hell makes the devil tremble and overcomes him, and the Sovereign Good exalts it to paradise.

-St. Paul of the Cross

Saturday, November 30, 1720

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle


Advent is right around the corner, and today our “Kitchen Sisters,” with the help of many hungry nuns, are clearing out the meat from the pantry to get ready for this season of extra fasting and abstinence as we prepare our hearts to receive anew the joy of Christ’s Incarnation at Christmas.  We pray that each of you have a blessed beginning to the Advent season!

Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus!