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 Day of Christ’s Ascension – May 30th

Ascension Fresco at the Church of the Transfiguration, Community of Jesus on Cape Cod. Painted by Silvestro Pistolesi from Florence, ItalyUpon the Wings He of the Winde rode
Through all the silver Skies, and made
The Azure Cloud, His Chariot, bring
Him to the Mountain of Celestial joyes.
The Prince o’ th’ Aire durst not an arrow spend,
While through His Realm His Chariot did ascend.

Methinks I see Heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly,
In flakes of Glory down Him to attend,
And hear Heart-cramping note of Melody
Surround his Chariot as it did ascend;
Mixing their Music, making ev’ry string
More to enravish as they this tune sing.

God is gone up with a triumphant shout,
The Lord with sounding Trumpets’ melodies.
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing Praise seraphic wise!
Lift up your heads, ye lasting Doors, they sing,
and let the King of Glory enter in.

Excerpts from Meditation 20
Edward Taylor
17th Century Puritan Sacred Poet

 

Feast Day of St. Bede – May 25th

Saint Bede was a person of great intellect and an extraordinary scholar. And yet at heart, he was an uncomplicated man who loved God and found life’s joy in following His will.  There are no miracles on Bede’s balance sheet, no visions, and no revelations beyond a steady belief in the love of God and His plan for each of us.

Saint Bede was born c. 673, and while his place of birth is uncertain, it’s believed he was born in present-day Sunderland, England. Sent to Jarrow Monastery at age seven, he spent the majority of his life there. Surrounded by saintly monks, Bede grew in spiritual stature and was an exemplary student of philosophy, astronomy, grammar, arithmetic, Holy Scripture and ecclesiastical history.  Eventually, he became a revered teacher, author, and scholar. His work Ecclesiastical History of the English People earned him the title “Father of English History.”

It’s said that nearing death, Bede called his fellow monks to his bedside and presented each with a gift he had made for them. His legacy then is first and foremost one of love for his fellow man and a life of humility amid personal greatness. He remained in his original Monastery of Saint Paul, Jarrow his entire life, content with the quiet simplicity of learning, writing, and teaching.

Feast Day of St. Pachomius – May 15th

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of Pachomius the Great, widely recognized as the founder of Christian cenobitic monasticism.

Born in Egypt around the year 292, the future saint was the son of pagan parents. They never-the-less instilled in him good character and a prudent and sensible approach to life. He received an excellent secular education and had all the needed tools for success. However, during a period of turmoil and civil war, it was a common practice for the Roman army to conscript young men against their will. Pachomius, at age twenty-one, was caught up in one such “recruitment” drive. He and several other young men were sent by ship to Thebes, a city in ancient Greece.

The Christians of Thebes recognized the harsh treatment and barren existence the young soldiers endured and treated them with compassion. Daily they brought food and comfort, which impressed Pachomius and the others. He vowed to pursue Christianity once free of the Roman army, and in 314, was converted and baptized.

For seven years, he studied with the hermit Palaemon and then set out on his own.  Christian asceticism was traditionally eremitic, described as individual male or female monastics who lived in individual huts or caves, and occasionally gathered for worship services. Saint Pachomius heard a voice direct him to build a dwelling for hermits to live in community.  Known as the Father of Spiritual Communal Monastic Life, he formed cenobitic communities, where male and female monastics held property in common under the leadership of an abbot or abbess.

Pachomius passed from this life May 9th, 348AD, during an epidemic. He left a legacy of eight monasteries and several hundred monks that followed his rule. Within a generation, cenobitic practices stretched from Egypt to Syria, North Africa and even Western Europe. The number of cenobitic monastics is said to have reached 7,000.

 

Feast Day of St. Matthias – May 14

St. Matthias (Peter Paul Reubens, 1611)

We read in Acts 1:15-16, post Ascension, Peter addressed the brothers, some 120 followers of Jesus. Peter reminded them of the scriptural recommendation that someone fill the office of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. All of the original twelve were chosen and called by Jesus, Himself. How then to find the anointed apostle in His absence?

Peter outlined specific criteria: that it be a man who walked with them from the time of Jesus’ baptism until His Ascension, someone who could testify to the resurrection, who loved Jesus when He was an unknown carpenter, and when He spoke of the cross and other teachings that caused His abandonment.

The group of followers nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. Peter proposed that they pray and draw lots and by this manner, Matthias was selected to join the Eleven.

His name means “gift of God,” and although not mentioned by name anywhere else in the New Testament, Matthias is an example of one who remained faithful and accepted the responsibility offered him. He preached in Cappadocia, Jerusalem, along the shores of the Caspian Sea, and Ethiopia. Accounts differ as to the martyrdom of Saint Matthias; some indicate he died by stoning in Jerusalem, and others by crucifixion in Colchis.

Feast Day of Sts. Philip and James – May 2nd

Quilted icon banner of St. Philip and St. James from the Community of Jesus

Quilted banner of St Philip and St James.

We celebrate two faithful servants of God today, two disciples from a band of twelve that walked beside Jesus on His earthly journey.  They are linked because the relics of each were brought to Rome on the same early day in May.

Let’s begin with Philip, whom Jesus called saying simply, “Follow me.” Philip was an outgoing and enthusiastic man and did not hesitate to call others. It was Philip that brought Nathanael to Jesus.  “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets. Jesus son of Joseph from Galilee,” he announced, to which Nathanael famously replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” John 1:45, 46 Undeterred, Philip invites his friend to come and see for himself. However, like all of us, Philip had his times of doubt. When asked by Jesus to buy bread for the great multitude of those gathered to listen, Philip answered that not two hundred days of wages would feed so many, not even a little.  He was also the one who asked the Lord Jesus that most embarrassing of questions, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” John 14:8   Philip suffered martyrdom in Greece during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Domitian. Crucified upside down, he remained Christ’s loyal friend and disciple to the end.

James, the Son of Alphaeus, was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve pillars of His church, the New Israel.  This James was known as James the Lesser, an indication that James, the son of Zebedee, and known as James the Greater, was the older of the two apostles.  James the Lesser is identified as the author of the Epistle of James and assumed to be the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  He, like Philip, died a martyr’s death. During the time of Nero, Emperor of Rome, James was arrested during Passover, about the year A.D. 62.  He was ordered to stand on top of the Jerusalem wall and preach against Jesus.  Instead, he climbed to the top and told all who would listen about the death and resurrection of Christ.  Soldiers threw him from the wall, and when the fall did not kill him, stoned him to death. He died on that day, at that place, a faithful follower of the Lord he loved.

 

Palm Sunday

That Day in Jerusalem

How is it that our passions start with the best of intentions? We honor a prophet, many say the Son of God, to others at the least, a healer and messenger of joy and hope. We line the cobbled streets with love, genuine at the time, waving palms and crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!  Blessed is the king of Israel!” 

But we’re fickle and our short-lived loyalty a handshake passed from one side of a metaphorical street to the other. Who serves me best? I’ll serve him first. What fear caused me to throw the palm branches and in a courtyard join the shouts of “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

The dichotomy of Palm Sunday and Good Friday lives in me, in a heart divided between love of God and love of being God. I am the true tragedy of Holy Week and Jesus the triumphant savior who rescued me through the shedding of innocent blood, who never left my side before Pilate, while scourged, or when tortured on a cross.

Lost and afraid
Too late for reparation,
Too late to recant
My shouts of crucify.
Oh gentle Savior
Crushed by pain,
Vilified for innocence
You offer a gift
Forgiveness.
I reach out cupped hands, fill them,
And press them to my heart.

 

Feast Day of St. Joseph – March 19th

The Dream of St Joseph (Rembrandt)

Saint Joseph is known by many titles: the Worker, the Carpenter, Patron of the Universal Church (in Catholicism) and Descendant of King David. Perhaps he should also be called Saint Joseph the Listener, the man who believed an angel messenger when told he would be earthly father to the Son of God. When warned of impending violence against the Holy Family, Joseph immediately obeyed instructions and fled to Egypt. And there, when he heard of Herod’s death did as the angel told him and returned to the Holy Land with Jesus and Mary. Avoiding the dangers of Bethlehem, they settled in the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. The Gospels describe Joseph as a tekton, the traditional name for a carpenter. It’s believed that he taught his craft to the young boy, Jesus.

Saint Joseph listened and obeyed because he first loved God. If we’re forced by circumstances to sometimes “take a back seat,” we should consider Joseph. Entrusted with the care and protection of Jesus and His Blessed Mother, Joseph remained faithful, steadfast, and anonymous. He is last mentioned in the Gospels frantically searching for the child Jesus, lost in Jerusalem. Our final glimpse of Joseph is of a confused and bemused father, confronted by the questions, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

On Saint Joseph’s Day, let’s pray together for patience to listen, the grace to accept what we hear, and the wisdom of humility to recognize our own insignificance in the vastness of God’s plan.

First Sunday of Lent

In recent days, many of my conversations contain the words, “What are you giving up for Lent?” What AM I giving up? Whatever it is, I’m fairly certain I’ll take it back on Easter Sunday. Let’s say I choose candy and sweet treats. Well, forty days from now, M & M’s will still look, feel, and taste like M & M’s and there’s no reason I shouldn’t eat one. Or two, maybe six. And while the residual “deny myself” will linger, past experience tells me it’s not long for this world.

But what if we change the words from giving up to letting go? I propose that Lent is more about letting go and Jesus is our example. Just read the Gospel of John, Chapters 14-17, the Farewell Discourse. Spoken to the eleven that remained with Him at the Last Supper, Jesus first tells them He’s going away to the Father but will send the Holy Spirit to guide them. He then bestows peace, and encourages them to love one another. He warns of persecutions to come and trouble they will encounter as true believers. Jesus prays for love, that his followers “may all be one as He and the Father are one” and that “the love with which the Father loves Him may be in them.”

In essence, Jesus prepares them for letting go of their human relationship with Him, the way of life they’ve traveled, and the closeness they’ve enjoyed so that a new dimension of faith can be born. He places the entirety of His earthly mission in their hands, these bumblers and sinners, and men of brave heart. He asks of his disciples that which is both simple and extremely difficult: let go of the familiar and hold on to the promises from the Greatest Friend they’ve ever known.

This Lent I hope to let go of a two-year breach in a relationship, caused by deep pain not within my grasp to understand. It will require more sacrifice than a cut back in sugar and more work than walking past the candy dish empty-handed. But I know it’s time for me to forgive and Lent is the grace-filled time in which to try.

Feast Day of Saints Perpetua, Felicity, and Their Companions – March 7

Community of JesusThe Passion of Saints Perpetua, Felicitas, and their Companions, one of the earliest Christian Texts, contains a first-person diary-like testimony of the young martyr, Perpetua.

Saint Perpetua was a well-educated, married noblewoman and mother.  Born to a pagan father and Christian mother, she chose to follow her mother’s faith and ignored the pleas of her father, who feared for her safety.

Saint Felicity was a Christian slave girl, imprisoned with Perpetua, and was herself expecting a child. Both free and slave alike were tortured and condemned to death. While incarcerated, Felicity gave birth to a daughter who was secretly taken away and cared for by Christian friends. Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Third Century martyrs, are among seven women and eight men commemorated by name in the list of ancient martyrs.

The passion narrative describes the arrest of five catechumens, that is, Christians being instructed in the faith but not yet baptized.  The five included three men, two of whom were free and one a slave and Perpetua and Felicity.  An additional man joined their group, one who voluntarily went before a magistrate and declared himself a Christian.  The six were tortured and executed at military games held in celebration of the Emperor Septimius Severus’s birthday.

Controversies surround the authorship of Perpetua’s Passio.  Personal accounts of female martyrs are rare and crucial documents accredited to female authorship even more so.   Modifications of her writing reveal the struggle of gender issues that were prevalent and the accepted definition and role of women within the church itself.  However, in this story of male and female, slave and free, we honor the courage and unbreakable unity of those called Christian. Martyrdom recognizes no class distinction and all are made one in the love of Christ.