About Sr. Nun Other

May 16, 2012, completed my 30th year as a Sister. It was both a milestone and just another day in an interesting journey. Some of those thirty years included singing with Gloriae Dei Cantores, marching in Spirit of America band, and serving on our Sisters Council. As a monastic, I live surrounded by beauty and within a frame work of opportunity and possibility. I'm sixty-four (much to my surprise) and extremely grateful for my life as a sister - past, present, and future.

Feast of Saint Andrew – November 30th

Saint Andrew was a fisherman by trade, called to be an Apostle of Christ and martyred upon a cross form called crux decussate (X-shaped cross or “saltire.”)  His crucifixion took place mid to late 1st century at Patras, Achaia, Roman Empire. The saltire, also known as Saint Andrew’s Cross, is the central figure on the flag of Scotland, of which Andrew is Patron Saint.

Andrew, whose name in Greek means manly and brave, was born in 6 BC in the village of Bethsaida along the Sea of Galilee.  A faithful and uncomplicated man, he led an extraordinary life of missionary work. Some scholars believe that he preached along the Black Sea, as far as Kiev and on to Novgorod. Saint Andrew became Patron Saint of the Ukraine, Romania, and Russia. 

In the Orthodox tradition, Believers refer to Andrew as protokletos, or First Called.  This claim is substantiated in scripture, specifically John: 40-42: Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John (The Baptist) said. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” Then he brought Simon to Jesus.

Matthew’s scriptural account tells a slightly different story. We read in Matthew 4:18-20 the following:  As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And at once they left their nets and followed him.

Whether called first or simultaneously first with his brother Peter, Saint Andrew is an example of humility.  There is little record of his interactions with Jesus and the other disciples; however, we know that it was he who told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes. Andrew was also one of four disciples who approached Jesus on The Mount of Olives to inquire about signs of Jesus’ return. Neither gregarious nor impetuous like his more famous brother, Peter, he served Jesus with a quiet and sincere heart. Tradition, rooted in ancient writings praise Saint Andrew for his great love of the Cross and his Savior.

Saint Andrew, Community of Jesus

To Commemorate the Feast of Christ in Glory November 24, 2019

From the Hymn—Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

Christ, whose glory fills the skies
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near,
Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by Thee;
Joyless is the day’s return,
Till Thy mercy’s beams I see,
Till Thou inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

       —Words by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

      —Music by Conrad Kocher, 17786-1872

Christ in Glory Fills the Skies

Feast Day of Pope Saint Clement I — November 23

Clement is somewhat a man of mystery, his life’s story defined by fact woven within myth and legend.  We know he was born ca. 35 AD and was a disciple of Saint Peter with whom he closely identified theologically.  While some noted historians believe Clement was successor to Saint Peter as Bishop of Rome, others place him third in the line of succession. He is honored as the first Apostolic Father of the Church, and held office as Pope from 88AD until his death in ca. 99AD. Consecrated by Peter, he led an exemplary life and was a leader in the late first century church in Rome.

Saint Clement made clear his belief in obedience to church authority as established by the early apostles.  His only existing text is a letter known as the First Epistle of Clement. It was written to the Christians in Corinth, and was a rebuke to those responsible for the deposition of certain presbyters or bishops.  He exhorted the troubled congregation to repent and restore those who were unfairly removed from office. This letter was so respected that it was read at church in Corinth, along with Holy Scripture.

Thought by some to be the first to refine iron from ore, and to shoe a horse, Saint Clement is the Patron Saint of metal workers and blacksmiths.  He also was arrested while Pope, and banished from Rome to Pontus. There he was condemned to work in the marble quarries, alongside many fellow Christians and pagan convicts.  Clement was a source of comfort, strength and encouragement to the prisoners. A particular hardship was the lack of drinking water and a miracle is attributed to the intervention of St. Clement.  The story is told that one day, upon seeing the suffering of his fellow prisoners, he knelt in prayer. When he looked up, he saw a lamb on a nearby hillside. Clement walked toward the lamb, and struck the ground near its feet with his pickaxe, releasing a gushing stream of clear water.  This miracle converted many local pagans, and also sealed St. Clement’s death. The ruling Roman Prefect sentenced him to death by drowning. An old anchor was tied around his neck and he was thrown in the Black Sea.

Lamb mosaic from the apse of the Church of the Transfiguration

 

Feast Day of Saint Martin of Tours — November 11

One of the primary functions of our 100 plus foot Bell Tower is to signal our Community that it is time to gather together and worship the Lord. We are part of a centuries-old stream of Church tradition, calling the people of God to worship with the tolling of bells. 

 This tradition began in Monastic houses in the early centuries of Christianity. Saint Martin of Tours, whom we honor today, is credited as the first to build a (4th-century) tower with large bells like our own.  

Pagan turned Christian, soldier, monk, hermit, missionary, miracle worker and beloved Bishop of Tours, Martin was one of the first non-martyrs venerated as a saint. The key elements of Saint Martin’s spirituality are prayer, solitude, and sacrifice.  Through numerous acts of kindness and charity, one being the sharing of half his cloak with a cold beggar dressed in rags, Saint Martin became the embodiment of Matthew 25:36,40:

I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

When next you hear church bells toll, think of Saint Martin, who remained a kind and loving soldier for Christ to his life’s end.

Bells in the Church of the Transfiguration Bell Tower — The Community of Jesus

 

 

A Meditation on Saints and Martyrs

I recently saw a film about elderly D-Day soldiers returning to the beach at Normandy to honor those who fought and died alongside them in World War II. It was moving watching them share memories, tears, and gratitude for the sacrifice of their friends. “All Saints Day” is this kind of remembrance for the church.

The first Christian martyrs were honored at their gravesite on the anniversary of their death and Saints Days developed from this tradition. In those early years, I imagine there were eyewitnesses of the event, with tears, and gratitude for a faithful witness (“martyr” comes from the Greek word for “witness”). Then, after the first generation, stories would have been passed down. Eusebius, in the 4th century, wrote about the heroic death of Blandina, a slave girl 200 years earlier in Gaul (now Lyons, France). Although she was described as frail, Blandina had suffered such extreme tortures in the Roman coliseum that the crowds were “astonished at her endurance.” Eusebius goes on to say: But the blessed woman, like a noble athlete, renewed her strength in her confession; and her comfort and recreation and relief from the pain of her sufferings was in exclaiming, “I am a Christian, and there is nothing vile done by us.”1 

Yesterday’s celebrations of All Saints Day included all Christians, martyrs, and non-martyrs, known and unknown. But it is an excellent time to remember all who have died for the faith throughout Christianity, particularly those who are persecuted and dying in parts of the world today.

1 Eusebius, Church History, Book V, #19. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250105.htm

Inscription from an early Christian grave (3rd Century)

Celebrate All Saints’ Day with Poetry — Listen in

Celebrate All Saints’ Day by listening to selections from Paraclete Press poets Bonnie Thurston, Susan Miller, Kathleen O’Toole, and Scott Cairns, inspired by the lives of holy men and women through the ages, read by members of Elements Theatre Company. Click the title of any of the poems to start listening…

Scroll down and click the book titles to learn more about the poetry collections from Paraclete Press that contain each of these selections.

“Thanksgiving for Saint Thomas”
By Bonnie Thurston
From Practicing Silence

“Saint Francis and the Parsley”
By Susan Miller
From Communion of Saints

“Beyond Doubt”
By Kathleen O’Toole
From This Far

“Capable Flesh — Inspired by the Writings of Saint Irenaeus”
By Scott Cairns
From Endless Life

 

Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr — October 17

Today we remember Saint Ignatius of Antioch, born May 15, 35 A.D., in the Province of Syria, then part of the Roman Empire.  He called himself Theophorus, meaning God-Bearer. We know him as the writer of seven letters, each one a treasure of encouragement, instruction and inspiration to young Christian communities. 

Amount those receiving letters were the Ephesians, Magnesians, Romans, Philadelphians and Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. Ignatius stressed the concepts of the deity of Christ, ecclesiology, the value of the Eucharist, and the theology of salvation. Many believe the epistles, which contain multiple grammatical errors, were composed in haste as Ignatius journeyed to Rome as a prisoner, marching to his death.

There is little written history concerning Ignatius, but many traditions surround this exemplary servant of God. One such tradition is that he was among the children that Jesus took in his arms and blessed (Luke, Chapter 18.) He was said to be a disciple of the beloved Apostle John, and some scholars claim that he was consecrated Bishop of Antioch by the Apostle Peter.

Trajan, Emperor of Rome, issued the order for Ignatius’ arrest and subsequent death.  Trajan, a blood-thirsty tyrant, was said to have sacrificed 10,000 gladiators and 11,000 wild beasts to entertain one equally blood-thirsty crowd.  While the exact date of Ignatius’ martyrdom is unknown, he died circa 108 A.D., at the age of 83. Condemned for nothing more than loving Christ and refusing to renounce his faith, he was cruelly attacked and devoured by wild beasts in a public display.  Upon hearing the roar of the lions in Rome’s Coliseum, the saint proclaimed, “I am a kernel of wheat for Christ that must be ground by the teeth of beasts to be found bread wholly pure.” 

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Icon — Community of Jesus

 

Untethered Gifts

My friend Toby is a singer of extraordinary range and volume. What he lacks in finesse, he makes up for in enthusiastic participation. He only sings by himself, though, with bells as accompaniment. Or maybe it’s the other way around. You’ll find him parked outside the Convent front door each Sunday morning, a large – very large – golden retriever yowling his heart out. I mention this because Toby is a giver, demonstrated by his dedication to the bells and his soloistic adventures. 

I recently celebrated a birthday and was determined to avoid self-centeredness. At breakfast, Toby strolled over to my table and presented me with a gift: a slobbered on toy duck, which he had skillfully deprived of its stuffing. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness, sincerely hoping a dilapidated mallard wasn’t my omen for the day. But Toby wanted me to have that duck, his favorite toy and continued to approach the table. I gave him adequate attention; however, there’s only so much one can say in response to a golden retriever. He finally gave up, or so I thought. At the end of breakfast, I looked down, and there at my feet was the well-chewed mallard. Toby had given me his best, his favorite, his one true love. It was mine for the day, apparently. 

The scripture for the day mentioned the widow’s mite, that tiny piece of heart more significant than all the gold of Ophir. I believe we have unlimited opportunities to give (or to withhold.) Here are some that occur to me: a prayer, a smile, a kind word, the truth, our time, our resources, half a cookie, moral support, a conversation, a visit, attentive listening, and sometimes a good idea.  Or in Toby’s case, the trusting sacrifice of a beloved toy. (I returned it to him, eventually, along with a handful of his favorite kibbles!) When our gifts come from a place of love and sacrifice, without strings or expectations, they spread joy and transform an ordinary day into a memorable one. 

 

Feast of Simeon the God-receiver

Luke, Chapter 2:25-35 recalls the story of Simeon, a devout and holy man who believed in and waited for the consolation of Israel. Simeon, whose name in Hebrew means “obedient, listening,” was the recipient of a promise. The Holy Spirit assured him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, as the custom of the Law required, it was Simeon who, with an old man’s gentleness, took the baby in his arms.

His beautiful canticle, known today as the Nunc Dimittis, reminds us of God’s faithfulness to the obedience of love. In awe and gratitude, Simeon declared, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.”

Simeon, a quiet man of faith and obedience, held a baby in his arms and sang a lullaby to the Son of God.

Feast of the Holy Cross, September 14

Today we venerate the Holy Cross upon which our Savior died to redeem us from sin.  We recognize this intended instrument of torture as the blessed instrument of our salvation, a simple, wooden cross made triumphant by an outpouring of innocent Love.

Good Friday cross on the Common outside the Church of the Transfiguration on Cape Cod

The Feast of the Holy Cross, sometimes referred to as The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, honors three events. The first and most significant is the discovery of the True Cross by Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Saint Helena traveled to Jerusalem in the early fourth century to search for the holy places of Christ’s earthly mission. Tradition held that a Temple to Aphrodite was built over the Savior’s tomb.  Helena had the temple razed, and Constantine construct the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in its place. Three crosses were found during the excavation believed to be the Cross of Christ and those of the two thieves crucified with Him. All three appeared much the same; however, legend tells us that the True Cross was identified when a dying woman touched it and was instantly healed.

The cross remains the universal symbol of our Christian faith.  May we find grace in its shadow and draw strength from the One who died upon its outstretched arms.

 –From the Hymn Beneath the cross of Jesus , words by Elizabeth Clephane
Scotland, 1872

        I take, O cross, thy shadow

             For my abiding place;

                     I ask no other sunshine than

             The sunshine of His face;

                    Content to let the world go by,

                                         To know no gain nor loss,

                                         My sinful self my only shame,

                                    My glory all the cross.