"The first and foremost duty of all religious is to be the contemplation
of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer." ~ Canon 663
The Catechism tells us that prayer is "both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part" (2725). It is a battle against our fallen inclinations and the temptations of the devil, a battle to remain in the presence of God, Whose countenance is ever turned toward us. Prayer is an essential element of our life - the body does better without oxygen than the soul and apostolate of a consecrated person who goes without prayer. Our desire is to know Jesus Christ Crucified with the depth and intimacy of a spousal relationship, but this type of communion is not established overnight. Rather, it is the result of years of fidelity, fidelity to individual, communal, and liturgical prayer and to living the fruit of that prayer in our apostolate.
Liturgical prayer is at the heart of our life of consecration. We sanctify our day and join with the voice of the Church in praying together Lauds, Vespers, and Compline. These hours are an extension of the Eucharistic Sacrifice in which we are privileged to participate each day. Assisted by the example of our sisters and uniting with the heart of Mary, Mother of the Church, we offer our Divine Lord adoration, intercession, praise, and thanksgiving to intercede for the salvation of the whole world (cf. Canon 1173).
"Consecration inevitably implies mission." ~ Essential Elements, 23
By her consecration by public vow, the Marian Sister is free to love Christ and to be totally His. He has chosen her, called her, and consecrated her to Himself, not for her sake alone, but for the sake of all His children. She is wholly dedicated to Him and therefore totally given to His mission of salvation.
The Marian Sister strives to fulfill this mission in a religious manner, imitating Mary's cordiality, graciousness, and joy. We pray that each Sister's profound union with God and sensitivity to the needs of her "children" enables her to communicate the Truth by expressions of Beauty and Goodness that all can understand.
O Mary, most pure and gracious, pray for us!
Through obedience they [consecrated religious] find their deepest configuration to Christ
in the most fundamental expression of His union with the Father in fulfilling His Father's will:
"I always do what pleases Him" (Jn. 8:29). It is especially through obedience that Christ Himself offers to religious the experience of full Christian freedom.
~ Essential Elements
It is in obedience to God that we discover our most profound personal freedom. Each summer presents a unique opportunity for the Sisters to rediscover this profound truth as they are sent out in obedience to fulfill a variety of apostolic missions that are unique to the summer season. The first two weeks of July included excursions to Washington and Oregon as well as well as several events within our diocese, all opportunities to bear witness to Christ and bring those we encounter closer to Him through His Mother.
At the same time, several other Sisters were sent to participate in the Ignite Your Torch Youth Conference in Lacey, WA, an excellent Catholic conference for high school youth that engages enthusiastic religious men and women from all over the country to share the faith with the conference attendees through a variety of talks, small groups, communal prayer, meals and recreation. The conference generally invites one religious brother or sister or diocesan priest for every 10 attendees so that the young people have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and become familiar with the different vocations. The conference is always centered on the Eucharist and the Sacraments with a strong Marian dimension, but this year the theme of the conference specifically highlighted the message of Our Lady at Fatima and our Sisters' presentations were able to include aspects of the message. One Sister spoke on the value of redemptive suffering while another team of Sisters was able to share about sacramentals and the valuable place they hold in our spiritual lives. The Sisters utilized their experience with sacred music to join with other religious and staff to assist in making the conference prayers and liturgies beautiful and reverent for the glory of God.
Photos by Ignite Your Torch Staff
Perhaps the most exciting adventure for the younger Sisters was Magnificat Days, a series of catechetical days for the youth of Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Fort Bragg. The Sisters were again privileged to share the story and message of Fatima with their students through catechetical presentations, music, activities, and prayer.
Full picture gallery of Magnificat days here
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Mary, Queen of Religious, pray for us!
Mary, Model of Catechists, pray for us!
"I will arise and put on Christ Jesus Crucified, Whom my soul loves and in Whom my heart rejoices."
~ The first prayer a Marian Sister prays each day
Our holy habit is more than an article of clothing. When a new novice is clothed, Mother assists her to put on the habit, representing her putting on of Christ Jesus Crucified. This habit will be her constant companion throughout her religious life. It is her bridal gown and when she goes to meet her Spouse face-to-face, she will be buried in it. It allows each of Sister's "children" to recognize her as their spiritual mother - even if they have never seen her before or will not see her again in this life. It is the visible sign of her consecration that enables the stranger pumping gas to confide to Sister their terminal diagnosis and ask for prayers, knowing that Sister will carry them in her heart when she speaks to her Divine Spouse.
As Sister fastens the familiar pins each morning, she prays for her own sanctification and perseverance in grace. Her life of consecration is aimed at a more perfect living out of her baptismal promises, so she prays, "Cleanse me, O Lord, and purify my heart that being made white in the blood of the Lamb, I may have the fruition of everlasting joys." Her white habit reminds her throughout the day of her soul's baptismal innocence. The care she takes to keep her habit white reflects the care she has to avoid even the smallest of offenses against her Divine Bridegroom.
The blue scapular calls to mind her total consecration to Jesus through Mary. She slips on the medal of the Immaculate Conception that she wears around her neck as a reminder of this consecration, invoking Our Lady, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!" Mary is her model and her Mother, her help in every moment. It is from Mary that she has received her Spouse and through Mary that she will return to Him.
Her habit sets her apart, even from the family she loves with all her heart. She is set apart, not to be cut off from them, but so that she can serve and love them better. Her total gift of self to Christ enables her to love them more purely, not for what she receives from them, but for who they are as souls given by Christ to her care. She carries them, along with all her other spiritual children, before her Bridegroom each day, imploring for them His grace and protection, and asking for their eternal salvation.
"Why do you look so beautiful?" a little girl asked Sister. The little one wasn't taken by Sister's flawless external beauty (she doesn't "measure up" to society's elusive beauty standard). This child's innocence was captivated by Sister being a faithful reflection of her Spouse. 'Tis a beauty that can bear the heat of the day and the daily cross. The faithful company of these trials enhances her beauty because they increase in her the supernatural life of her Spouse. She prays daily, "O Lord, Who hast said 'My yoke is easy and My burden is light,' make me so able to bear it that I may obtain Thy favor."
As she slips on her shoes - plain, sturdy shoes that have seen many miles in the Lord's service, shoes that have hastened to the aid of a Sister in need, carried Sister in the service of her children, supported her during her hours of prayer, and been gratefully slipped off at the end of the day - the Sister prays, "O Lord, teach me to walk in Thy footprints and preserve me from stumbling; guide my steps in the way of salvation. May Thy holy angel direct and guard me. Not according to my own will, but purely in obedience, I will take every step." Kissing her simple ring as a renewal of her vows, Sister leaves her cell, her heart hastening to her Beloved waiting in the chapel, her will fixed on doing His will in each moment of the day.
"My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready!
"I come to do Thy will, O Lord!"
"Mary, my Mother, keep me faithful unto death!"
Our Lady of Grace Sodality, one of our apostolates, celebrated the Marian consecration of one of its members on First Saturday. The Sodality is a group of young ladies who are committed to growing in personal holiness and serving their parish community through their consecration to Jesus through Mary. The young women of this Sodality have chosen as their secondary patron Venerable Teresita Quevedo, a lively Spanish Sodalist who lived her Sodality consecration to our Lady with heroic virtue. Her Sodality motto was, "May all who see me, see thee, O Mary!" Dying at the young age of twenty, she is recognized as a model of personal holiness and a special friend of Sodalists. During the consecration ceremony, the candidate makes her Marian consecration and receives a blessed garment as an outward sign of her consecration and her association with the Sodality. The Sodality consecration was followed by the newly elected officers making their Sodality pledges.
"In all religious houses...some part should be reserved to the members alone. This form of separation from the world...is part of the public witness which religious give to Christ and to the Church. It is also needed for the silence and recollection which foster prayer."
~ Essential Elements 11
Moving to a different location has presented the community with the opportunity of setting up a new house where Jesus Christ can be loved above all else. The convent, as the Church tells us above, is not just a place where like-minded people congregate together to do good things for God. It is rather a part and an expression of our consecrated lives. As such, the way the convent is configured and the objects present in it affect and reflect our vowed life. Recently, we have been able to erect a few things of particular significance for the community: the convent bell, the Stations of the Cross, and the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
The evangelical counsel of obedience, lived in faith, is a loving following of Christ
who was obedient unto death." ~ Essential Elements 22
The convent bell, which Father is seen blessing above, is the voice of Christ sounding on the convent grounds. The Sister responds to the sound of the bell as to the voice of her Bridegroom. It calls her to prayer, to study, to meals and community life. The Sister's loving response to all that the daily order requires allows her to enter into the mystery of Christ's own mortification in both her interior life and the use of her exterior senses.
"If anyone wishes to come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me..."
"Oh Jesus, it is for love of Thee and in reparation for the offenses committed
against the Immaculate Heart of Mary and for the conversion of poor sinners."
As a community, we take Our Lady as our model in living our life of consecration to God. As such, it is no surprise that depictions of her are found all around the convent while we endeavor to cultivate her spirit of joy, peace, and loving sacrifice. Her images serve to remind us to ask her to share with us something of her strength of mind and courageous will as we strive to spread the reign of Christ Jesus in the world. The little shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, whose message inspires our apostolates, is a new favorite place for the Sisters to pause for a moment of recollection and for the community to gather in prayer. We are very grateful to a team of dedicated friends who made it possible to erect this beautiful (and heavy!) marble statue!
A bell, Stations, a statue - each of these are good in and of themselves, but as part of the convent they take on extra significance. They help us to remember who we are as women consecrated to Christ, seeking to find Him in all things while maintaining a certain separation from all that is not Him. They also serve to help others to see the sacredness of the convent space. They are visible reminders that these grounds are not a common space but are given to Christ along with the people who live on them. It is this set apartness of the convent that fosters the intimate conversations with Christ that are at the heart of consecrated life, conversations from which the Sister is strengthened to go forth in service of God and His people.
Our Lady, Queen and Model of the Religious Life,
intercede for us, enable us to make this convent a place where Christ is loved above all else!
Our vocation is an open ended "Yes" to God and His holy will. With the basis of our life as consecrated women being this broad invitation, there is a never ending variety to what He asks from His brides. Beyond the ordinary daily duties - teacher, catechist, sacristan, etc. - which are the source of our sanctification, this winter has included a number of special apostolic activities.
One of the elements of an authentic apostolate is the ability to communicate the Word of God to each soul encountered in a manner that that soul can receive and understand. This sometimes takes on surprising forms - the younger Sisters visited the dance classes at Cardinal Newman high school to demonstrate the integration of art and faith through sacred music and classical dance. After a brief catechesis on Gregorian chant, the Sisters chanted the ancient Tota Pulcra Est while Sister Ballerian gracefully expressed its message in classic ballet style.
One of the greatest privileges of having received a vocation to the consecrated life is the opportunity to share this joy with others. The younger Sisters were blessed to be able to speak to the student body of St. Eugene's Cathedral School about the different vocations and to witness to the joy of consecrated life by their presence in the school. The Sisters invited a few students to help them with their presentation by representing members of the various religious families that the Sisters spoke about.
To support the students of Cardinal Newman high school (where our Mother Superior teaches Advanced Theology), and to provide the invaluable witness of consecrated life on campus, the Sisters attended a varsity girl's basketball game - where our Sister Flutist performed the National Anthem - and a varsity boy's game - where the whole community sang the National Anthem. Both games were marked by an admirable display of christian discipline and sportsmanship.
Video courtesy of Mr. Rich Hextrum