Thursday, July 31, 2014

Novena to St Dominic 2014 - Day 2

When your words came, I devoured them,

your word was my delight and the joy of my heart

for I was called by your name, Lord God of hosts.


This text of Scripture comes of course from the prophet Jeremiah, but oh, how fittingly it can  be applied to St. Dominic – one can just see him in the mind’s eye, expressing this text with great exultation and joy from the depth of his heart, that heart  always so overwhelmed with love for Holy Scripture. ‘Dominic showed himself to be a man of the Gospel in word and deed’, we are told by those who knew him.

With this weapon and his days and nights spent in unceasing prayer, he founded his Order of Preachers, as we know so well, for the salvation of souls; Brother Bonadventure testified at the canonisation process that ‘Dominic was so zealous for souls that he extended his charity and compassion not only to the faithful but also to infidels and gentiles AND to the dammed in hell.  With the Gospel as his weapon, he constantly encouraged his Friars, his Nuns and all those to whom he ministered in all their needs and difficulties.   Among his endless list of virtues spoken of again and again by those who knew him, and by those who bore witness to his life under oath in his canonisation process, his virtue as a man of encouragement shines especially brightly -”Dominic was compassionate and consoled other people, in time of temptation he was a source of strength for all’.

In this day and age, I believe that encouragement is more needful than ever before, each one of us needs encouragement from time to time, each one of us needs to be an apostle of encouragement to others as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians (Col.3:16) ‘Let the Word of Christ in all its richness dwell in you….encourage each other’. This requires an attentiveness to the gentle quiet voice of our Lord speaking in the silence of our hearts.   Thus abiding in his word, in his love, we will truly be encouraged in our awareness of his Presence in all the circumstances of our daily lives and the lives of others, the disappointments and hurts, the frustrations and misunderstandings, as well as the moments of happiness, love and friendship. God’s own encouragement is always  at work in our lives  and the lives of others, transforming each one. Encouragement makes us bigger than we know ourselves to be, makes us Christ-like.

‘Do not be afraid’ God tells us, ‘for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name, you are mine.

Let us  then,  ponder on God’s word in the company of Our Lady and St. Dominic asking them to help us respond generously as they did, in this way, the awareness that God is near us, will penetrate us more deeply, even if He seems far away, He is beside us, He is everywhere and always present to us, what greater encouragement could we seek?


Novena to St Dominic 2014

Novena Prayer to St Dominic
O Wonderful Hope which you gave to those who wept for you at the hour of your death,
promising that after your decease you would be helpful to your brethren.
Fulfil Father what you have said and help us by your prayers.
you shone on the bodies of the sick by so many miracles,
bring us the help of Christ to heal our sick souls.
Fulfil Father what you have said and help us by your prayers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Novena to St Dominic 2014

Today the 30th July we begin the novena in honour of our Father and founder, St Dominic.  Each day as part of the novena we a reflection or a relevant commentary on Dominic's life and work - which we hope to publish here.

We would also like to announce the launch of our new website next week before his feast - so watch out!

During this novena we pray for all our many kind friends and benefactors and ask you to pray with us for vocations to the whole Dominican Order and in particular to our community.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Homily on Sr Margaret's Diamond Jubilee

We share with you the homily preached by Fr Anthony McMullan OP on the occasion of our community celebration of Sr Margaret's Diamond Jubilee on the 10th June 2014
When I was preparing this homily for the celebration of Sr Margaret’s Diamond Jubilee I very soon realised why she had chosen the first reading – the beginning of St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

In this passage Paul tells us that God had a secret plan from the beginning of creation and that plan has now been revealed.  It is a plan for all things to be united under Christ who shed His Blood that we might be saved.  How wonderful that is?  Paul gives God praise for bringing about our Redemption in Christ.  Further on in the letter to the Ephesians Paul talks about his own prayer – kneeling before the Father being a prayer of petition – that all will know the love of God which is beyond all knowledge – that through His Spirit our hidden selves might grow strong, so that Christ may live in our hearts through faith and then planted in love and built on love, we will have strength to grasp the breadth and length, the height and the depth until knowing the love of Christ we are filled with the utter fullness of God.

I know that Paul’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving, and also his prayer of petition, in the letter to the Ephesians is also the prayer of Sr Margaret.  It is not just her prayer for today as she celebrates her Jubilee but I believe that it has been the prayer and synopsis of her whole religious life here in Siena.  Firstly, that of thanksgiving, and then the prayer of petition that all may come to know the personal love of God for each one and to grow closer to Him in unity.

When I checked the readings for the feast of St Margaret Mary (Sr Margaret’s patron) I found that the first reading for the feast was Ephesians 3: 14-19 - Paul’s prayer of petition – the desire that all may know the love of Christ – symbolised by the image of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as revealed to Sr Margaret Mary.

So something inspired me to use the Gospel from the feast of St Margaret Mary for this Jubilee Mass.

Every religion in the world requires their followers to humble themselves before their god, but ours is the only religion in which the Divine Son of God has humbled Himself before His people.  God the Father lives with His Son in the eternal embrace of the Holy Spirit.  Theirs is the life of Glory and perfection and yet in the fullness of time God sent His Son to be our Saviour, human like us in all things but sin.  The Incarnation was a great act of humility.

Some people say that if we could see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in all the splendour of His Divinity we would fall down in worship, afraid even to life our eyes to look upon His countenance.  But that is not the relationship Jesus wants us to have with Him.  Jesus offers us a warm invitation to embrace Him in trust and love without fear.  He could not be more explicit, he says ‘I am gentle and humble of heart.’

Since we are not to fear Jesus but to embrace Him, we need never hesitate to bring to Him our burdens so that He may lift them.  Jesus spoke of His yoke.  A yoke was a heavy beam which was fixed across the necks of a pair of oxen to harness them together.  Perhaps as a youth Jesus had seen Joseph fashioning such yokes and struggling with their massiveness of weight.  Jesus resolved to teach that His religion is not like those heavy, restricting beams of wood.  That is why He said His ‘yoke is easy and His burden light.’

The prophet Zechariah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, saw an image of the Messiah to come.  He declared “See your King comes to you riding on a donkey”.  Jesus fulfilled this image by His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  There He underwent the greatest act of humility: His Passion and Death on the Cross for our salvation.  The idea of such a humble God is not one which the human imagination could create.

Only God’s revelation to us makes the thought possible and His love for us makes that thought a reality in our lives.  And this is the reason for our prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

Sr Margaret, I believe it is a reality in your life – you have given over sixty years humble service to this community and may you today and every day experience that unconditional love that the heart of Jesus has for you and for all those you hold dear.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Homily preached by Fr John Harris OP at Sr Regina's Golden Julilee celebration

We share with you here the homily preached by Fr John Harris OP at Sr Regina's Golden Jubilee celebration with her family on the 24th May 2014 - a most joyful celebration.  (In the Dominican calendar we commemorate on this day the translation of the relics of St Dominic)  We had already celebrated with her as a community on the 9th of April - the actual anniversary.

Today, 24 May, we mark the anniversary of the beginning of the canonization process of St. Dominic. As part of the process, as it remains to this day, his relics had to be inspected. This all took place in 1233, 12 years after Our Holy Father had died. We know from contemporary accounts that the brethren feared that the body of St. Dominic, which had lain in a mean tomb exposed to the elements, would be found eaten by worms and giving off a foul odour. They were concerned that the faithful would be scandalized by this and that their piety towards St. Dominic and support of the Order he founded would be adversely affected. But as the accounts tell us, their fears were unfounded for as soon as the stone was taken away a wonderful odour poured out from the opening and its fragrance caused astonishment among all present.

Today as we gather here we are not opening a tomb that has been closed for twelve years but in a sense we are opening a hidden life that has been lived in this monastic community for 50 years and more. For some people the hidden life of a monastic cloister is the same thing as been buried away and left to rot. For many in our materialistic and secularised world the life that Sr. Regina has lived these fifty years has been a waste of a life, locked up here she has missed so much of what life has to offer.

But as we open the mystery of this place, we are not afraid of the stench of a wasted life but rather let us today rejoice in the sweetness of a life lived for love. This community where Regina has remained these 50 years, is not a tomb but a monastery. It takes it names from the Greek word “monos” meaning “alone” but not simply alone as in the sense of being by one’s self but alone in the sense of focus, of attention. The one who enters here is focused one God alone and over the years much pruning has to take place, so that as one’s life takes on the intentional desire for conversion, bit by bit all false loves are stripped away and one rests only, alone, in God. In this place there is no place to hide from oneself or from God. A living monastic community is at once a place of prayer and meditation, but also of struggle and temptation, a place of joy and peace but also of tears and turmoil, a place which is both a foretaste of heaven and a desert of sweet desire. This hidden life, grafted unto Christ in which much pruning takes place so that it becomes a life hidden with Christ in God. 

Here is not a place of death but rather a place that has chosen life, a life that is lived to its fullness. Fullness - for the Lord has promised us that he has come that we may have life and have it to the full. This place is no more a place of death than is Christianity itself, which is a religion not of a grave but an empty tomb. It is a religion that offers us life in the midst of death, love in the face of hatred, peace instead of war, mercy when we sin. Christ brings us life, for he lives and it is his living that makes a tomb not a place of rot and stench but a place of hope and new life. This life of an enclosed nun is the living reality of our Christian hope, the faith of the Church subsists in this place. As we celebrate this jubilee in the midst of the Easter season it is a living reminder, dare I say it shares something in the nature of a sacrament, of the faith we all share at Easter.

This story of choosing God alone did not begin for Regina when she entered the Chord Road, but it was a journey which began back home when as a young child she saw her parents at prayer. Anyone who has listened to Regina speak of her parents’ faith and devotional life knows that it was their example which first set her on her way to this monastery. It wasn’t in the halls of a cloister that her heart began to be open to God Alone, but in the family kitchen, when mystery was so easily intermingled with the ordinary events of life. In that home Regina learned or should I say began to learn, for we must wait until we see God face to face to fully comprehend the words spoken by God to each of us in today’s first reading: “I have called you by your name, you are mine… you are precious in my eyes… and I love you”.

Let these sweet words permeate into your deepest heart this day and the odour from the relics of St. Dominic permeated all those who stood by his grace on 24 May 1233. The life hidden in this place, is a life permeated by the spiritual truths of our faith; truths that prune us as we become more at one with the vine of Christ’s Body. This pruning takes place in this monastery as our sisters remain faithful for better for worse, in sickness and in health, through fire and through danger, remaining grafted unto Christ and clinging to him Alone all the days of their lives. Today the Church gives praised and thanksgiving to God for our sisters and for their hidden lives, encouraging us all to remain in Christ and to come to full joy.

Alas, for so many of us, our lives have become so boring in our modern age when the world of the spirit has been expelled to the fringes of what is commonly called living. The spirit of God and the things of God permeated her family life and atmosphere in which she grew up. We live in a world that see the things of the spirit as unreal, foolish and lost in a bygone age. Such a world view sees the spirit as being dead. But like those who stood around the tomb of St. Dominic on that May date in 1233 as we stand here today in Siena monastery and share for a brief moment the life lived here by the nuns, we are reminded that far from being dead, God and the things of God are alive and the only real source of true joy and life.

As I stand here today my heart is filled with a deep sense of gratitude, for the life lived here by this community of nuns. For it is here that one can smell not the sheep but the presence of the Shepherd. In a world that has forgotten God a monastery of living faith, as this place is, reminds us that the Good Shepherd continues to care for his sheep and is filled with love for them. In a world filled with so much noise we need the silence of the enclosed life to remind us of a different world, a world, hidden from the naked eye but fully visible to the eye of the heart filled with faith.  In a world of the absence of God we need to be reminded forcefully, as does the life of a nun, offered for 50 years, to be open to the mystery which lies in each of our lives. The life of a cloistered nun challenges us all to be open to wonder, to mystery, to God.

Has Regina wasted her life? Are we here standing around a grave or are we standing in the sweet smelling presence of a community of good women who have discovered the sweet-smelling source of true love, a love worth giving everything away so that they can have it Alone.

It is amazing to think that for 12 years the body of St. Dominic was buried but on 24 May its sweet smelling fragrance was discovered. It is my hope and prayer this day that today’s celebration will help each of us to be open to the life of Christ which lies hidden in each of us from the moment of our baptism and to discover the sweet smell of the presence of the Good Shepherd asking us to remain in his love.

“Alone with none but thee my God I journey on my way, what need I fear when thou art near oh king of night and day, more safe am I within thy hand, that if a host did round me stand.”
Fr John pictured here with Fr Gregory Carroll OP (Provincial) at Sr Regina's Golden Jubilee.

Monday, July 14, 2014


We apologise to our many followers of this blog for our negligence in keeping you updated in recently weeks - we just have been busy with so many celebrations and then there were those unexpected events - and of course our community life of prayer, celebration of the liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration is given priority.

We are preparing to update our website - so watch out - we are hoping to launch it on the feast of our holy Father St Dominic on the 8th of August.

Now we would like to share some of our happenings with some photos which will most speak for themselves.   Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nunio to Ireland, honoured us with a visit on the feast of Pentecost when he celebrated Vespers with us and then joined us for our evening meal in the community room.  He is shown here with a group of sisters including two young women on a 'live-in' experience and Fr Tony McMullan from the local Dominican community who joined us for the occasion.

Sr M Emmanuel and Sr Regina celebrated their 50th anniversary of Profession in recent months and Sr M Dominic and Sr Margaret celebrated their 60th anniversary of Profession.  These are always occasions of community celebration and also celebrations with our families if the sisters so wish.  We share with you some photos of these occasions and also highlights of the homilies preached during the celebration of the Eucharist.
Sr Regina and Sr M Dominic

Sr M Dominic cutting her cake being helped by Sr M Kathleen - notice the Scottish ribbon!
Sr M Emmanuel on her big day with Sr Ann Marie
All are entering into the celebration


Sr Regina with all her sisters and one remaining brother
Sr Regina in her beautiful garden
Sr Margaret with the community singing around her!
Sr Margaret on her day celebrating with her family.