February: The Passion of Our Lord
As an emerging community, the Sisters are frequently given the opportunity to participate in "firsts" - the first clothing of novices and the first Mass in our new convent being just two of the more important of the "firsts". This Holy Thursday marked another "first" for our community: the first Procession of our Lord to the conventual Altar of Repose. We have never before had enough space to make a real Altar of Repose and so delighted in our ability to offer Him this small act of loving adoration.
Jesus descends from the Cross by Nicolas Tournier
The Convent Chapel stripped of its adornments and without the presence of our dear Lord
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee,
because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world!
Good Friday. A day of communal silence and recollection, penance and prayer, in union with Christ in His most sacred passion. Early in Passiontide, each Sister drew at least one of the Stations for her particular meditation during that sacred season. From these times of personal prayer, the Sister prepares a reflection associated with that Station to be prayed during our community Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
Following our Way of the Cross, the Sisters participate in the Cathedral parish Good Friday Liturgy
O God who, by the Passion of Thy Christ, our Lord, hast loosened the bonds of death, that heritage of the first sin to which all men of later times did succeed: make us so conformed to Him that, as we must needs have bourne the likeness of earthly nature, so we may by santification bear the likeness of heavenly grace.
Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen
During the Solemn Intercessions, the Church presents her Crucified Spouse with every single group of people and every human affliction, beseeching Him to apply the merits of His redemption to each.
Changing from black to violet, the ministers prepare for the distribution
of Holy Communion. Following the Thanksgiving after Communion, the congregation departs in silence.
Let us pray.
Upon Thy people who with devout hearts have recalled the Passion and Death of Thy Son, we beseech Thee, O Lord, may plentiful blessings descend: may gentleness be used with us, and consolation given us, may our faith increase in holiness, our redemption for ever made firm. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Entry into Jerusalem by Pedro de Orrente
The Holy Gospel for the Blessing of the Palms: Matthew 21:1-9
At that time, when they drew nigh to Jerusalem and were come to Bethphage, unto Mount Olivet, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them: "Go ye into the village that is over against you: and immediately you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to me. And if any man shall say anything to you, say ye that the Lord hath need of them. And forthwith he will let them go." Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "Tell ye the daughter of Sion: 'Behold thy king cometh to thee, meek and sitting upon an ass and a colt, the foal of her that is used to the yoke.' "
As the donkey and her colt travel to meet Jesus, they might have wondered (had they been able to think such thoughts), “Is it worth it?” To leave behind what they knew – their work, their family, their home – to go into the unknown. But to serve Christ is always worth it; to serve Christ is to be drawn into an intimate communion with Him.
They might have thought, too, “Why me?” Why the humble, lowly donkey, and not the majestic, proud horse? Why is it I that the Lord picks, and not another person, when they might seem better qualified to serve the Lord as a religious? But the Lord has reasons which we cannot always see behind the person He calls to Himself.
And what does He give as His reason? “I have need of you.” God has no needs, strictly speaking, but He chooses to depend upon us to carry out His work.
The donkey is one “that is used to the yoke”. So often we are burdened by the yoke of the world, the heavy burden; but Christ calls us to Himself and we take up His yoke – the yoke that is sweet and light (Mt 11:28-30).
After the disciples bring the donkey and her colt to Jesus, they “laid their garments upon them”. As we are naturally, dirty with sin, we are unworthy to serve the Lord; but when we have white garments laid upon us in Baptism, then Christ can “sit thereon”, dwell within us. He gives us our mission, our vocation, on the day we are baptized, when God’s life – sanctifying grace – is given to our souls.
What dignity, then, is the donkey given! To carry Christ the King into His city of Jerusalem. The crowds do not cheer because of the donkey, but because of Whom the donkey is carrying on her back. In the same way, we as religious do not seek to glorify ourselves, but to bring glory to the King of Heaven by our humble service to Him. No greater gift, no higher dignity, can Jesus call us to, then to be close to Him – to carry Him on our backs – to serve Him in our vocation as religious."
An aspirant kisses the cross on the day of her reception
"In the holy season of Lent, the Church sets out once again on the path leading to Easter. With Jesus as her guide, and walking in his footsteps, she invites us to cross the desert."
~ St. John Paul II
As an aid in our Lenten journey, the Sisters made a simple shrine honoring our Sorrowful Mother outside of the Chapel. This shrine is also our Stational Church shrine, enabling us to enter each day into the pilgrimage of the Church in Rome. Each time we come to or go from prayer, we are reminded that we are pilgrims on our way to the eternal Easter.
This increased conventual (and personal) stillness is not a separation from our mission of evangelization. Far from it! This Lent has been a particularly beautiful Lent of apostolic endeavors. The Sisters sang with the choir for the Rite of Election, visited the SSU Newman Center, facilitated the Sodality Consecration, sang a Requiem High Mass, spoke to the young people on the Pan de Vida retreat, spent time the students of Kolbe/Trinity School, and our Lord has planned many more apostolic adventures for Lent, in addition to the gift of our daily duties. It is the conventual silence and recollection with our Spouse that enables us to serve Him in the service of other souls.
"I have trodden the winepress alone: and of the people there was none with me..." ~ Isaiah 63:3
For centuries it has been customary to observe a period of preparation for the rigors of Lent. Called the season of Septuagesima from the Sunday that marks its beginning (three Sundays before Ash Wednesday), these three 'weeks' leading up to Ash Wednesday are characterized by a certain somberness in the extraordinary form - the vestments are changed to violet, the Mass texts turn our attention to the reality of original sin and its consequences, and, perhaps most striking of all, the Alleluia is omitted, not to be heard again until the Easter Vigil.
For the first time in our community history, we observed this delightful custom. The Alleluia rang out one last time at the conclusion of Vespers followed by a solemn procession escorting the Alleluia from its honorary place on the altar to its Lenten grave, where it will remain until after the Easter Vigil. Its absence is notable, reminding us of the solemn season rapidly approaching and prompting us to ask for the graces attached to this liturgical season.