Sunday, November 30, 2014

Year of Consecrated Life begins today!

With our friend Sr. Anna Rose, TOR
Pope Francis has proclaimed a Year of Consecrated Life which begins today, November 30, which happens to be the Feast of St. Andrew, the First-Called.  It will continue until the World Day of Consecrated Life, February 2, 2016.

Well, it's pretty exciting to have a year dedicated to us!  The Church will be praying for us, seeking ways to support our life of prayer, teaching about this particular vocation and encouraging discernment.  But it also presents us with a challenge and responsibility.  Please pray for us as we accept the challenge of seeking to become all that God is calling us to be, as His brides and as witnesses for the Church and the world.

To kick off this Year of Consecrated Life, we'll share some beautiful excerpts from a document published in preparation for this year by the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  The document, based on the teachings of Pope Francis, is called, "Rejoice!"

1. ...To accept this teaching means to renew our existence in accordance with the Gospel, not in a radical way understood as a model of perfection and often of separation, but by adhering wholeheartedly to the saving encounter that transforms our life. “It is a question of leaving everything to follow the Lord. No, I do not want to say ‘radical’. Evangelical radicalness is not only for religious: it is demanded of all. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. It is this witness that I expect of you. Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up.” 
In their finite humanity, on the margins, in their everyday struggles, consecrated men and women live out their fidelity, giving a reason for the joy that lives in them. So they become splendid witnesses, effective proclaimers, companions and neighbors...

Joy, the beauty of consecration 
3. “This is the beauty of consecration: it is joy, joy...”. The joy of bringing God’s consolation to all. These are the words spoken by Pope Francis during his meeting with seminarians and novices. “There is no holiness in sadness”, the Holy Father continued. Do not grieve like others who have no hope, wrote St. Paul (1Thess 4:13). 
Joy is not a useless ornament. It is a necessity, the foundation of human life. In their daily struggles, every man and woman tries to attain joy and abide in it with the totality of their being. 
In the world there is often a lack of joy. We are not called to accomplish epic feats or to proclaim high-sounding words, but to give witness to the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing we are loved, from the confidence that we are saved....
Your calling 
4. “In calling you God says to you: ‘You are important to me, I love you, I am counting on you’. Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from that! The joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. Understanding and hearing this is the secret of our joy...." 

Friday, November 21, 2014

"...that we might be holy and immaculate in His presence"

Happy Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple!

But first, a few notes:

  • Today is Mother Theodora's third anniversary of her tonsure as a stavrophore nun (life profession) in our monastery!
  • Today is the 50th anniversary of Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, an important document from Vatican II.  This document has been fundamental in the ongoing renewal of authentic traditions in the Eastern Catholic Churches.  The document states, "All members of the eastern churches...are to aim always at a more perfect knowledge and practice of their rites, and if they have fallen away due to circumstances of times or persons, they are to strive to return to their ancestral traditions."
  • Please to continue to pray for Moki, who was originally scheduled to enter yesterday evening at vespers.  She is recovering from pnemonia and God-willing will enter in a couple of weeks!
  • We are about a week into the Nativity Fast.  This fast is traditionally an abstinence from meat and dairy products for these 40 days in preparation for the birth of Our Lord.  Consider joining with us in fasting in some way in order to let go of your attachments so that you may be better able to receive the great gift of God's love in the Incarnation!
Mother Theodora's Profession

Ok, back to the feast day:

The Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple gives us a lot to reflect upon!  Today, let's compare our own process of sanctification to the preparation of Mary to become the Temple of God...

It should be a great relief to us that Mary, the one without sin, wasn't expected to prepare herself by herself.  She was taken to the Temple to be prepared.  In fact, she couldn't have prepared herself.  This was something that only God could do.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity writes,
"'God,' [St. Paul] says, 'chose us in Him before creation that we might be holy and immaculate in His presence, in love' (Ephesians 1:4)....I must remain 'in the presence of God' through everything...and it is contact with the divine Being that will make me 'holy and immaculate' in His eyes" (Last Retreat, Third Day).
Tradition says that at Mary's entrance, Zechariah took her into the Holy of Holies.  At that time, there was no greater place of "contact with the divine Being" on earth!  It was Mary's living in the Temple, in close proximity to the presence of God, that prepared her to contain Him within her.

For us, this place of contact with God happens in such things as the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), the Divine Liturgy, in prayer and in encountering Him in others.  This contact with God slowly transforms us, especially as we surrender to God's action within us.

St. John Damascene's thanksgiving prayer after Holy Communion says,
"May [Your most pure body and blood] burn away my sins, enlighten my soul, and brighten my understanding.  May they sanctify me, making a dwelling-place in me so that I too may be in You forever...." 
This is beautiful news, but news that is hard for us to accept!  We want to think that we can achieve holiness through our own work!  May the Mother of God intercede for us and help us to surrender to the great love and power of her Son, who alone can prepare us for all that He asks of us on earth and for all that He has destined us for in the eternal glory of heaven!

Monday, November 17, 2014

"We don't need to worry about anything..."

“Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!” (Song of Songs 2:10) was the theme of our annual discernment retreat, October 30-November 2.  Two young women responded to God’s call to spend this weekend with Him, listening for His voice of love.

Fr. Michael Lee celebrated the Divine Liturgy on Friday, October 31, for the feast of Blessed Theodore Romzha, Mother Theodora’s patron.  Fr. Michael’s talk after lunch set the young women at ease in the midst of their discernment struggles and set the tone for the rest of the weekend.  He explained that the purpose of life is union with God, and in discernment, “God isn’t focused on the answer; He’s focused on you.  If you’re face to face with God, you can relax and let Him do the work.”  He said that we are each called to be the bride of God; the question is simply “where?”  He also explained that God’s voice says, “‘Be with Me,’ ‘be not afraid’ or ‘I love you,’ and anything that is not fundamentally one of those things is not God’s voice.”

We also gave talks throughout the weekend.  Sr. Cecilia spoke about the development of monastic life in the Church and about the ways that monastics are “reference points for all the baptized” (St. John Paul II, Orientale Lumen).  Sr. Gabriella shared her vocation story.  Mother Theodora spoke about the vocation of monastic life as a call to enter into the heart of Christ.

The retreat was a peaceful harmony of talks, prayer and community time, which allowed us just as much as the retreatants to pause from the usual daily work and to listen to God’s voice and to rest in Him.  We were all inspired by the film “Bakhita,” the story of a slave from Africa who allowed the abusive experiences of her life to make her a saint instead of a bitter person.  On Saturday evening, we all experienced healing through the Mystery of Holy Repentance.

Selina Melancon, who traveled from Las Vegas, described her experience at the monastery: “The Sisters’ gift to the Lord of hospitality to the weary and burdened makes the monastery the true home of each soul that enters.  To pray and live among the Sisters is to dwell in the safety of the Bridegroom’s Divine Heart: as a guest there, I immediately felt a member of the family.”

Elizabeth Hofmeister, from Greenwood, Ind., succinctly explained the truth that was uncovered in her heart: “I learned the most important ‘secret’ ever!...That true discernment isn't forcing God to tell us what His will is, but drawing so close to Him that we will just know through our relationship with Him.  We don’t need to worry about anything, but simply look at Our Lord and fall more in love with Him as we let Him work on us and perfect us.

Please pray for these young women and for all who are discerning a call to the monastic life.  Click here to view more photos from the retreat.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pray for Moki, who will join our community on November 20!

Moki, at center of photo, during our Girls' Camp
*Update: Moki is recovering from pnemonia and God-willing will enter on December 8!

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!  It's a perfect week to announce the wonderful news that our community will grow from four to five when we welcome Motria ("Moki") Lonchyna as a dokimos (postulant) on the evening of November 20, during Vespers for the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple!

Moki is an incredibly joyful young woman.  She is Ukrainian Catholic and currently lives in Philadelphia.  She fulfilled her observership at the monastery this summer, spending six weeks living our life and helping with our Girls' Camp.  We are thrilled to welcome her into our family!

Please pray for Moki as she prepares for her entrance day and begins to live this new life of joyful dying-to-self in the monastery!

Monday, November 3, 2014

November Feast Days

This month we celebrate the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and all the Angels and the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple.  Here is our "open-to-the-public" liturgical schedule for most of this month.  Remember to check the calendar on our "Upcoming Events" page for an up-do-date schedule and more information!

Friday, November 7
4:45 p.m.         The Jesus Prayer in silence
5:00 p.m. Great Vespers (Feast of St. Michael & all the Angels)

Saturday, November 8
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy (Feast of St. Michael & all the Angels)

Wednesday, November 12
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy

Saturday, November 15
4:45 p.m.         The Jesus Prayer in silence
5:00 p.m. Great Vespers

Sunday, November 16
10:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy

Friday, November 21
9:00 a.m.    Divine Liturgy (Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple)
                        Third Anniversary of Mother Theodora's Life Profession