Bethlehem Monastery of Poor Clares
“I saw the new city, Jerusalem, descending from God, the source of all love.”
From the sentence above, perhaps you can get some idea of the glory of our autumn here on Mt. St. Francis! The blazing reds, brilliant golds, and deep russets that met our eyes when gazing out each window may have been a mere shadow of that heavenly city, but one could not but be reminded of that mighty army of all the saved. Further, just as in the heavens, star differs from star in glory, so on Mt. St. Francis did tree differ from tree, in a way not noticeable in any other season of the year. It was amazing to notice how each tree had its own peculiar shade of whatever color as if in this last phase of its life, it had at last attained its own individual identity. In some way, our forest also seems an apt symbol for the various events of the past months since we last wrote, each so distinct and yet blending with each other so well to form our life as a whole.
The spectacular amount of gold on our hills this year has been especially significant for our Sister Mary Agnes, who celebrated her Golden Jubilee of holy profession this past August 22. Sister’s priest-nephew, Father Joseph Wheelock, was joined that morning at the altar by eight priest-friends, most of whom had met Sister while she was chapel sacristan in years gone by. Sister’s family and friends drove from upstate New York to celebrate with us, while friends from the area succeeded in filling our public chapel to overflowing. We learned later that some had even taken the seats available in our balcony area! A Poor Clare Golden Jubilee is celebrated for three days, and Sister’s nephew was able to be with us for two of them. The third brought us the joy of the presence of a dear priest-friend whom we had not seen for a number of years: Father Terrence Cyr, O. Carm. Father had been one of our chaplains in Newport News in the 1980’s when Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish down the street from us was staffed by the Carmelites. Father Francis Simeone, our regular chaplain, concelebrated the Mass with him, but gave the homily at our insistence.
Speaking of Father Simeone leads us into one of the next milestones in our journey of the past months: the completion of Father’s log house, the progress of which you have been sharing through this newsletter. Father was able to move into his new home the last Friday of October and is quite delighted to be there. Just now he is engaged in its furnishing (he was living in a small apartment before) and is completing all those little odds and ends that seem to come with the finishing of any new home.
Another move of some consequence took place several weeks after the blessing of our new cemetery site which, faithful readers of our newsletter that you are, you may remember from our last issue. Our good friends from Weymouth Funeral Home, who had moved our deceased Sisters Mary and Paula from Newport News about a year before we ourselves arrived, transferred their remains this one final time with a painstaking care worthy of an archaeological dig and this even though the process lasted for the greater part of a very hot southern Virginia day. Thanks to their expertise, we now have the joy of being able not only to see the great cross from our west-facing windows, but also to visit the grave-sites whenever weather permits. This we did as a community in the early afternoon of November 2, All Souls Day. We formed a procession at the foot of the stairs leading to our infirmary porch and walked up the hill praying the Rosary not only for our sisters, but also for each of our deceased friends, relatives and benefactors, looking forward in joyful hope to the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Looking forward in hope was the theme of the several days Father Robert McCreary, O.F.M. Cap., religious assistant to our Poor Clare federation, spent with us November 8 - 12. Father is always such an inspiration and always about the Father’s business of bringing new life and hope wherever he goes. This makes him very like our Holy Father Pope Benedict, who witnesses the joy of knowing Christ Jesus in the sure hope of enjoying His company in the light of glory forever. Yet, some years ago, the then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “Our faith and our love are ever incomplete as long as we walk this earth, and they are constantly threatened with extinction. For this is in truth the time of Advent. Nobody can claim, ‘I am redeemed once and for all.’ In this temporal world we do not find redemption as a completed fact of the past, nor redemption as a completed, final fact of the present; rather, redemption is found only in the manner of hope. God’s light illuminated this world I n no other way than in the lights of hope, put by his loving kindness as guides on our way. How often we are saddened by this: we long for more, we desire the full, complete, incontestable reality here and now. And yet, in the end, we have to admit – could there be a way of redemption more appropriate than the one telling us, who are ever becoming and on our way, that we have reason to hope? Could there be a better guiding light for us, who are ever pilgrims, than the one that sets us free to step ahead without fear, because we know, that at the end of the journey, there awaits the light of an eternal love? In these weeks of Advent, the Holy Virgin Mary stands before us as the woman who carries the hope of the world in her womb and thus walks ahead of us on our way as the sign of hope. She stands before us as the woman in whom the humanly impossible has been made possible through God’s saving mercy. And thus she becomes a sign for us all. For relying solely on ourselves, on the meager flame of our good will and the wretchedness of our deeds, we will not achieve salvation. This is utterly insufficient. It is impossible. Yet God, in his mercy, has made possible the impossible. We only have to say, in complete humility, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.’” (cf. Co-Workers of the Truth, p. 385)
Yes, it is in hope that we are saved and as we stand once again in this season of Advent, it is with joy that we welcome our Holy Father’s new encyclical on that very theme. How appropriate that it be issued at the threshold of the Church’s new liturgical year, so that Jesus, Hope of the world, and His holy Mother may go before each of us into this coming New Year.
Our Masses at Christmas
(Please call 757-566-1684 to confirm)
December 25 Midnight Mass 12:00 a.m.
Christmas Morning 9:00 a.m.
January 1 New Year’s Day 8:00 a.m.
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