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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Summer Newsletter, 2006

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for His love endures forever! This first cry of the jubilant Church after the awakening of the Alleluia from its Lenten repose has certainly been our song these past few months. Many indeed have been our reasons for giving thanks since we last wrote you, such as the return of our Sister Christine to our Midnight Office; quite a milestone in her slow but steady recovery from January’s back surgery. Thanks to devoted doctors and therapists, she has been able to return to many of her former occupations as well, and has even taken up a couple new ones! Mother Rosaria has also made a comeback, and can be seen occasionally pushing her wheelchair as an alternative to riding in it!

The bond of shared sisterhood that has been so much in evidence these past months by the presence among us of dear Sister Mary Catherine from St. Louis was further enhanced in early May by the days of our Federal Chapter, held this year in Los Altos Hills, California. Sister was elected delegate from St. Louis and her departure for those few Chapter days with Mother Abbess and our own delegate, Sister Mary Agnes, prepared us for her return to her own monastery on May 30. But by far our greatest reason for thanksgiving were the graces of our days of Jubilee – golden (Sister Christine’s 50th will continue until August 2), ruby (Sister Charitas’ 40th began on Easter Sunday), and silver (Mother Abbess’ 25th beginning Easter Monday).

Indeed, Jubilee bells are still echoing in our hearts after celebrating the third silver Mass of thanksgiving for our Mother Abbess and following it with a long-awaited first meeting with our Bishop DiLorenzo. But her first two days fell within the great Paschal Octave itself, and as the great Paschal Alleluia once again lifted its wings over our choir, it seemed to be intoning as well the great thanksgiving we all felt in our hearts for the vocation of our Mother. It would be difficult to include here the many aspects of these special days - the chants of the Mass, the Sisters’ choreography built around the Litany of the Holy Face, the generosity of those who supplied and served the receptions after each of the Jubilee liturgies, etc., etc., each of which would deserve a paragraph in itself. And so we have chosen simply to share excerpts from the homilies given at Mother’s first two celebrations.

Father Marc-Daniel Kirby, O.Cist., began on Easter Monday, by tracing out the paths of our Mother’s vocation from the day “over 25 years ago when you took your first steps in the Paschal dance of the Poor Ladies on the threshold of that little monastery of so many beginnings in Newport News.…On Harpersville Road, in a little garden enclosed, He waited for you, the great and fearful God of the Exodus. There He came forward to greet you, the Bridegroom shining with wounds like stars…There is for all of us who have been loved by Christ and set our gaze upon His Face, this costly coming away: the leaving of the familiar for the strange, the folly of forsaking certainty for uncertainty, the madness of a “Yes” to the invisible, of a “face-to-face” in the blackest night, of a journey into uncharted vastness… and why? Because He chose you, because on you He set His Heart, because in some mysterious way He let you hear His Voice and catch a glimpse of His Face… Dear Mother Mary Clare, twenty-five years is a mere beginning, not an end. We are with you today, all of us…We are with you in joy, with you in thanksgiving, with you in the wildness of taking holy risks, and in presenting you again today to the One who presents Himself to you, saying “Hail!”

This communal aspect of our shared commitment was taken up in a slightly different mode a few days later on Easter Thursday by Father Robert Avella, a close priest-friend from the Arlington Diocese in northern Virginia (and more recently by our Bishop on June 11): “…Vocations in the Church…are called by God into reality…for many purposes. Many things God has in mind, and it can be a whole richness of events that occur because you are there, you chose to love God first, you chose to love, period, in this world that can be very selfish. And therefore God blesses your love in so many ways, but does so on this day in reminding you of some things that have been occurring in your life in these 25 years.

“The first I would like to speak of is that you truly are not alone…The bond you have as sisters united in your nuptial love for the Lord, but also living 24-hour days in a way of your founders St. Francis and St. Clare, protect and ensure your first love, and allow it not to be lost. And things do get lost in our world. But when you are standing with others who are committed like you, then you know a day like this, a 25th anniversary, is not just your day. It is a day when the community celebrates your day. And rejoice in it because it is our day as well.

“Religious vocations are a reminder to the Church and to every day members of the Church of man’s early love with God…It is like Genesis when one gives himself completely to God for no other reason than to love, then we begin to believe again that we can find our way back to the house of God, to know that companionship, to truly experience what it means to be close to Him…All of us thank God for you and for what you did 25 years ago. We thank God for your trust in Him, your belief. We are grateful that you continue to love with your whole heart, your whole being in love with Jesus. And we are thankful that you offer us our hope of living faithfully in the world, trusting in God each day even as we stumble, knowing He’ll pick us up and remind us of our calling. That is why it is a joyous celebration for us as well as you.”

And we, gathering each and all of you in our grateful prayers, carry you with us toward the month of August and into the great novena to our Holy Mother St. Clare whose whole life was so thank-filled as to become itself a eucharist, as our late beloved Pope John Paul once wrote. Beginning August 2, and continuing until her feastday August 11/12 (our celebration covers both days), your special needs and intentions will be in our hearts and on our lips as we invoke her powerful intercession. May the answers from the Lord of her heart be as abundant as the flowers making happy riot on the slopes of Mt. St. Francis these days, each one seeming to cry out an echo of the last words of our Mother St. Clare:

May you, Lord, be blessed, who have created me!