Friday, May 28, 2010

Solemn Profession

We invite all our readers to join in prayer with Sr Niamh Muireann and our community as we make the final preparations for her solemn profession during the celebration of the Eucharist at 12.30 on Monday 31st - the beautiful feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.

Unfortunately there will not be a webcast of the ceremony as previously announced - due to some technical problems. However we hope to share some of the ceremony on this blog after the event.

I offer my life to You Eternal Father,
for the sake of Your Spouse, unworthy though I am.
I ask only to see the renewal of that sweet Spouse -
your Church -
Eternal God this I beg of You.
(Writings of St Catherine of Siena)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Come Holy Spirit

The following is a reflection on today's feast of Pentecost shared with our community by one of our sisters

In reflecting on the Readings for Pentecost Sunday I found myself praying the Alleluia Verse throughout the week:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; and kindle in them the fire of your love.

In Mary’s life, in Dominic’s life, in Catherine’s life, in Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s life, in the life of the Apostles and in our lives it is love that counts – a love that the Holy Spirit sets alight in our hearts so that it becomes a fire. A recent book on Mother Teresa by Joseph Langford, is entitled Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire. Oh that we could all have such a fire of love within our hearts. To pray this prayer ‘Come Holy Spirit ….. is a prayer directed at everyone – it is outward looking to include every person on earth and is exclusive of no one. It is a beautiful prayer because one could not pray for anything greater for anyone.

I have been re-reading the little booklet entitled The Contemplative Life by Fr. Anselm Moynihan OP. His words seemed to help me understand how the Holy Spirit could kindle in me and in all of us the fire of His love within the context of our contemplative life and of course always with the aid of Our Lady’s presence and prayer. Fr. Anselm says:

‘Contemplation, is the great work, in fact, the only one, which is directly concerned with God Himself, and directly expresses our love for Him. The reasons for this are, firstly, that it is only by the spiritual operations of our mind and will, such as contemplation brings into action, that we can contact God directly, and, secondly, because the first effect of the true love of God is to make us desire to gaze upon His Beauty, to contemplate Him imperfectly in this life and perfectly in the life to come. Therefore, to give oneself in contemplation of God is the primary and most authentic expression of divine love, the most genuine “work of charity”. “Through loving God,” writes St.Thomas, we are aflame to gaze upon His Beauty,” and again: “Contemplation is in itself the most meritorious of all possible works of charity and so, apart from the Sacraments, the most efficacious means of growing in the love of God.”

To realise this is a great encouragement for us in our vocation as Contemplatives and I think it was providential that I came across this writing of Fr. Anselm’s at this time when Sr. Niamh is about to make solemn profession and also at a time in the Church in Ireland when things are so difficult and our life of redemptive love is so vital. Fr. Anselm had a deep understanding of our life and could express it’s essence in a way that few could or can. He also wrote;

‘The contemplative life is truly par excellence the vocation of love, that which gives the highest expression to our love for God and at the same time provides the greatest stimulus to the increase of that love. That is why it is so vital to the Church, for it nourishes the very heart of the Church, the life-spring of all its work of bearing witness to God’s glory and saving the souls.’

It is good to be reminded of this and that our vocation is Love –as St. Therese of Lisieux expounded so fully. Fr. Anselm’s definition of contemplation is also helpful and in the following he explains the action and effect of the Holy Spirit in contemplation. This is how he defines it:
‘The supernatural contemplation of a Christian means a fixing of the mind’s loving gaze on God and the things of God. In some degree it is within the power of all who possess the virtues of faith and charity, but for its perfection it requires the special illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, acting through the gift of wisdom. The effect of this gift is to give the soul a certain experiential knowledge of God’s reality and goodness, as a result of which, writes St. Thomas, “it offers itself in sacrifice to God” and “ burns with the desire of seeing His Beauty face to face.”

We know too from her writings that Mother Teresa experienced this effect of the gift of wisdom for she had this yearning, this burning desire for God even amid her great interior darkness. We also know how she depended so much on our Blessed Mother’s help for her mission, begging Mary to lend to her and her sisters, her own heart, so that they could truly be enabled to satiate Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls.

Fr. Langford’s reflections and insights regarding Mary were very profound. I quote the following:

‘It is Mary’s role and her dignity to bring together the yearning of God and man, as she did first of all in her womb, as she did for John on Calvary, and as she did for the disciples at Pentecost, as she did for Mother Teresa and as she will do for each of us. She is the wedding place of God and man, the biblical “enclosed garden” ( Song of Songs 4:12), the new Eden to welcome and shelter our meeting with God.”

‘Mary’s presence remains forever a graced place of encounter between us and her Son, Jesus. She brings with her a sacred atmosphere filled with God’s presence, offering a refuge that purifies and prepares us for the encounter with God.’

We know that at the Visitation, at the coming of Mary, there was a new and fuller outpouring of the Holy Spirit, giving Elizabeth new energy and new hope for her task.

May we also, through Mary’s prayer and presence experience a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us as individuals and as a community so that we may persevere in our vocation in the Order and at the heart of the Church – to the glory of God and the sanctification and salvation of all people.

And so we pray as in the opening prayer for today’s Eucharist:
God our Father, let the Spirit you sent on your Church to begin the teaching of the gospel continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Making a Home

If anyone loves me he will keep my word
and my Father will love him
and we shall come to him
and make our home with him(Jn 14:23)

These words from the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter Cycle C and which were spoken by Jesus on the night before He suffered and died, remind us of the wonderful mystery of the indwelling of God -imagine God desiring to come and make His home in us His often sinful and disobedient children!

Reflecting on this theme of 'making a home' gives us with an opportunity to introduce you to our feathered friends in our cloister garth -

In the Spring of 2008 when the dawn chorus was ushered in with a magnificent Alleluia, the tits and the robins, the thrushes and the blackbirds, and all the other feathered folk put on a wonderful show, each trying to outdo the other in praising their Creator, and filling us all with joy.

One day along came two wagtails who made a thorough survey of our small cloister garth — was it a safe place? — would their little ones be made welcome? Apparently we passed the test---and Lua and Louis came to stay. As we watched them building their new home it was both comical and touching to see them carrying bits of twigs and straw to the feet of St Dominic, and especially towards the end bringing soft down to line the nest. It was fun too to see the father bringing food to his ‘lady love’ sitting on the nest.

As the time drew near for the little ones to be hatched out, our anticipation and excitement grew until the great day came when the shells were shattered and out tumbled the tiny fledglings. We looked on with wonder and affection, but unfortunately someone else was surveying the scene too, and one day a large grey crow swooped down ---- that was the end of the dream.

How sad Lua and Louis were at their loss ---we can only guess, but I like to think that the feathered world love and care for their young.

However that’s not the end of the story.
Spring 2009 came with a repeat performance of the dawn chorus. Wagtails were furthest from our thoughts as we carried the many sad happenings in the world, in our country and in our Church, in prayer to our Father in Heaven who sees and loves all his children. Then into these days Lua and Louis returned and to our amazement built a new nest close by the old one and hatched out a new brood. It gave us great joy to watch them caring for their young until they were ready to fly away – but they managed to get the young out and flying away unnoticed!!

They are extremely private and nervous little creatures - not like the swallows who build their nests as we look on!! – one of them will walk back and forth on the pavement while the other keeps watch on the overhead roof until they feel safe to go to the nest. We have discovered that they even know when we go to the chapel and then they have the place to themselves but as soon as we appear then once again they play safe.

As we write they are in the process of building again but it is quite difficult to get a close up picture of them - we hope that their efforts will be successful and that they will have the joy of taking their fledglings safely to the skies in due course.

Are these little birds saying something to us humans—something about forgiveness and hope and trust. They returned to the same area where they had been so cruelly treated and decided to hope that this time all would be well –and so it was. As we continue to make our homes here on earth, as the wagtails did, can we remember Jesus’ invitation ‘Abide in Me’ It is a cry from the very depths of His heart because He knows that this ‘Abiding’ is the source of everything for us. It is a call into the innermost life and home of the Trinity as He invites us in the Gospel:

“If anyone loves me he will keep my word
and my Father will love him
and we shall come to him”
and make our home with him”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Welcoming our new Postulant

Our celebration of the feast of St Catherine is always a very joyful occasion for our community but this year our joy was even greater than usual - on the eve of the feast we welcomed Cathy into our community as a postulant. The postulants participate in the common life of the community and the novitiate and are gradually introduced to our monastic contemplative way of life.

Cathy received much of her spiritual formation from the Legion of Mary - a lay apostolic organisation founded in Dublin by Frank Duff - while as a member of the Legion she generously dovoted much of her free time to aposolic work. Her many friends in the Legion supported and encouraged her in her decision to embrace the way of life of a Dominican Nun. It is interesting that many of our sisters were members of the Legion of Mary before we entered the monastery. While no longer actively engaged in apostolic work we dovote ourselves totally to God while, following the example of our father Dominic, we bear in our hearts the joys and hopes of all people - especially the poor, lonely, the down-trodden and afflicted.

While we give thanks to God for Cathy's presence among us we pray that she will have companion postulants in the near future.

Now we are excited as we look forward to Sr Niamh's solemn profession on the 31st of May. We hope to have a live webcast for those who are interested in following the ceremony which will take place during the celebration of the Eucharist. More details later.