Here is our Christmas newsletter. You who are reading are the first ones to see it as we still do not have our snail mail bulk mailing out yet. Murphy's laws seem to be most operative during bulk mailing time! Hopefully, it will be out by the end of the week. Enjoy!
Bethlehem Monastery of Poor Clares
Our dear friends,
“Sing to the Lord a new song! Give thanks to Him and bless His Name!” Looking back over these weeks since last we wrote, we discover to our delight that we are still in the season of “firsts” and are yet singing that new song of discovery about the new home God has given us through you. But how can that be as we approach the completion of our third year on Mt. St. Francis? Now, it is true, some of these are much more mundane than those we have heretofore shared with you – like our first changing of the large lights illuminating our sanctuary. Yes, we have indeed been here long enough to begin changing light bulbs! If you keep in mind that these lights are mounted on the timbers supporting the cupola and are therefore some thirty to forty feet above the floor, you know this was to be no ordinary operation, and so we waited until a significant number had burned out before contacting a local electric company. There followed several hours of fine-tuning of the focus with our friend and neighbor Neal Lockwood atop a long extension ladder. Then we had our first experience of a long-term (more than 75 hours worth) power outage when Tropical Storm Ernesto blew in, giving our generator its first big workout and us a new appreciation of extension cords and flashlights. Perhaps it was the trauma of switching from Old Dominion power to home generated power and back again that caused our nearly 30-year-old kitchen freezer to finally give up the ghost shortly afterwards. Thanks to you, our dear friends who support us so faithfully, we were able to replace it with one of more substantial size. This presented a real challenge to our Mother Vicaress’ ingenuity in planning and rearranging the kitchen area so we could fit the larger appliance into a space meant for one half its size. But with the help of our gallant Knights of Columbus and a few professional moving men, a built-in cupboard was transferred around the corner into a place until then occupied by our other vintage freezer, which was then moved to the adjoining bakery, necessitating the relocation of a couple of other appliances as well. A good example of one thing leading to another and another!
But there have been “firsts” on other levels as well. One example: the first ever anywhere (we are told) day of reflection for young men and women discerning a religious – and specifically Franciscan – vocation, which took place on November 11 in collaboration with our good friend, Father Russel Murray, O.F.M. Beginning with Holy Mass at 8:00 a.m., the young people who came had an opportunity to follow our schedule of prayer interspersed with talks by Father Russel, Mother Clare, and Mother Vicaress Therese, experience our monastic cuisine, speak individually with either Father or one of the Mothers, and share an evening recreation with a number of the sisters in our parlor. It was a good “first-time” experience for all involved, seeds were planted and watered, and we trust in God to give the growth.
Near the end of November, we joined in prayer with many millions worldwide as our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, made history with his own “first” – his visit to the Patriarch of Constantinople in Turkey to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Eastern Churches. We have been anxious for his safety ever since radical Moslems began violent protests over his address in Regensburg last summer, and so were happy to receive a copy of the prayer that Bishop William E. Lori, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus composed to ask God’s blessings and protection on his journey. As Bishop Lori requested, we prayed it at the close of Holy Mass each day from Sunday, November 28, Feast of Christ the King, until Friday, December 1, only on this last day, it was really an act of thanksgiving for his safe return to Rome.
Do you remember that some months ago in our Easter newsletter we mentioned our Father Simeone’s desire to build a little house on the plot of land between our front entrance sign and our cemetery, known since our beginning days as the “chaplain’s acre”? Some of you may have noticed a construction sign posted there recently, for yes, plans and negotiations have continued throughout the intervening time and one of these days site-work and building will actually begin. Perhaps by the time our letter reaches you, the contractor who will be laying Father’s driveway will have completed laying a much-needed roadway behind our own house as well. We are hoping this will help correct a long-standing erosion problem on the slopes there, which at the moment resemble an aerial model of the Grand Canyon.
Other things to look forward to in this 50th anniversary year of the arrival of the first Poor Clares in Virginia include the resumption of Sunday benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on a regular basis, thanks to our good Father Simeone. While we have been having all-day exposition nearly every Sunday since our arrival, concluding with sung Vespers (Evensong) and the recitation of the rosary, the remoteness of our new home and the lack of priests or deacons nearby have prevented us from closing with the final benediction. We will be posting an announcement in local parish bulletins, but we take this opportunity now to extend an invitation to join us in prayer even now for adoration during the day. Perhaps those of you who would like to pray with us, but are not able to make our 8:00 a.m. Mass would find our Vesper service, which begins at 3:40 p.m. on most Sundays, a more feasible time to come. Other times when we are gathered for prayer are posted on our website, www.poor-clares.org, newly reconstructed thanks to the expertise and several months of hard work of our Sister M. Antonette of our community in Eindhoven, Netherlands. However, you are welcome to come for prayer anytime during the day because our monastic church is open to everyone from approximately 6:30 a.m. through approximately 6:00 p.m.
As our third Christmas here in Bethlehem Monastery in Barhamsville approaches we would like to share a definition of love made by a little child about this time of year:
“Love is what is in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”
May each of you have hearts so full of listening that, like Mary, you may be aware of the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior who has appeared, become completely at home with the Word of the God who is Love, move in and out of it with ease, and let it form the basis of all your doings. (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est”)
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Our Masses at Christmas
(Please call 757-566-1684 to confirm)
Midnight Mass 12:00 p.m. Dec. 25
Christmas Morning 8:30 a.m. Dec. 25
New Year’s Day 8:00 a.m. Jan. 1
Visit our Public Chapel: 6:30 AM --6:30 PM
Daily Mass: usually at 8 AM (call ahead to be sure)
Benediction Holy Hour: every Sunday at 3:40 PM