Monday, May 28, 2012

Looking for Aspirants

What is the aspirancy at Mater Redemptoris House of Formation?

It's a time to learn by doing.

To learn to pray - an introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours, structured time for private prayer, discussions and presentations about prayer.

To learn about religious life - there is no "generic" religious life. So this is a time to live a concrete example and to study. To study the history, to study the elements, to learn about the religious families in the Church.

And a time to seek God's will.

It is a time of growth, of questions, of reflection.

It is a time to work and to pray. To speak and to listen.


The short form is the aspirant brochure.

The long form is the handbook.

Questions? Feel free to e-mail us. We'd love to hear from you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mary, Model of Religious, Queen of Virgins

Why would she be model of religious? And then again, what kind of religious? 
We know that Mary was ever-virgin. We know that she was a mother, a house-wife. She lived "in the world" as they say. So, in what sense, in what way, is she model for religious?

I speak as a woman religious. I know, from chatting with brothers and religious priests, that she has a very different type of relationship with them. It is very much mother to son. But for us, who consecrate our lives to God in consecrated chastity of the feminine form, how can she be model?
For the contemplative, she is the pray-er par excellence. She ponders all things in her heart. She holds the Word within and contemplates his meaning, his will, his love. Since we are all called to be contemplative, she manifests the purity of that form of prayer.
For the intercessor, she gives us Cana. Always attentive to the needs of others, always seeing the smallest need, she brings them to the Lord with the perfect balance of maternal strength, tenderness and authority. From her we learn to pray for our brothers and sisters in a very dark world.
For the teacher, she displays the perfect style: "Do whatever he tells you." She said little enough, but modeled obedience to God in all her actions. She teaches by being. Don't we all?
For the nurse, the social worker, the administrator, she shows forth every womanly virtue. She represents all that is motherly, chaste and lovely, but also the practical, decisive and intelligent.
As woman who is virgin, she shows us the true flowering of such a life, of such a purity. Her words, her life, her every action, is clear and beautiful. Utterly imitable.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Praying the rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary

october-queen-mary-is-venerated-this-month.jpgDo you pray the rosary?

For some, this ancient prayer stands as a staple of the life of devotion. Essential to prayer, standard for the day, it provides a common, comfortable space for spiritual expression. For others, it remains an opaque, somewhat disquieting, duty.

I think it has to do with the way your mind works. For some, it leads to quiet and contemplation. For others, it provides a space in which the already distracted mind can run wild.

The solution, for those who wish to make use of this kind of prayer and have had little success, is the realization that there are different ways to approach this most popular for of prayer.

Make use of books. I often use scripture when praying the rosary. Being one of those cursed with very active thought and very little imagination, I find reading the scripture while repeating the Hail Mary a good way to focus.

Use the method of inserting phrases. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who was scourged for my sins. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." You can find prayer books like that, or make up your own.

Enter into meditation first. If you are one who has the most active of minds, quiet it down with a good dose of meditative prayer first. Then begin the recitation. The repetition then may be a good help to contemplation.

There are myriad ways of praying the rosary. We know that it is powerful, but no one said that we all have to pray it the same way...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Marian devotion

It is the month of May, traditionally a month devoted to Mary. The time seems right to ponder again the role of Our Lady in our lives.

Who is she for me?

It is a good question to ponder. Who is this woman who "all generations call blessed"?

Mother most pure.
Queen of Angels.
Strength of Apostles.
Courage of Martyrs.

Somehow, such images contradict the somewhat saccharine vision of some religious art.

A favorite prayer of mine is the oldest known prayer to our Lady:
We fly to your patronage,
O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.
She is strong as armies. Powerful and yet tender. Queen, with all the regality that such a description demands. Mother, with all the dear care that such an image evokes. Lady. Woman. How can we not look to her in each situation?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lectio Divina

book_by_AlphaONE666.jpgDivine reading.

It is an ancient practice - a way to immerse oneself in the Word of God, to allow the heart to be completely soaked in divine revelation.

It's not hard, but it does take patience.

Lectio: to read

Take a passage from scripture, not too long, mind. Make it two or three paragraphs at the most.
Read it over. If you are alone, read it out loud. Then read it again, slowly. Read it a third or a fourth time. Let it soak in.

Think over the content. Look at its literal meaning. Chew on that for a bit. Then look at it from the perspective of Christ - is he speaking here? Does it speak of him in some way? We know that scripture is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God, so all scripture speaks of him.

What is the moral meaning? What impact does this passage have on my attitudes and behavior? Does it call me to account? Does it encourage or strengthen? Does it challenge?

Moving from words to silence. The silent gaze on God from what I have seen and sensed.

Speak to God from the heart as a result of this experience of thought and silence.

It takes time. Although lectio has a structure, it is no method. Not like baking a cake (you know, "add two tablespoons and stir reapidly"). No, it is an exercise of the heart, and only through perseverance can its fruits be seen.

But worth it - totally.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Upcoming High School Come and See

Calling all high school girls!

Ever wondered what it is like to be a Sister?

Ever had a question you wanted to ask - about God, the Church, religious life - but you thought "Oh, they'll think this is stupid"?

Ever wanted to have some quiet time to think about important things - your life, relationships, where you are going, what your future might hold?

Here's your chance.

Mater Redemptoris is hosting a Come and See weekend for girls 14 - 18 years old - those in the high school years. Following our usual pattern, we'll meet together in the afternoon of July 9th and finish around 11:00 am on the 11th. It's a time to ask questions, to pray, to spend time with others who are asking serious questions. If you just want to learn, that's what this is for. We're looking forward to seeing you!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obedience - the greatest gift

crosses_(2)_500x333.jpgWe pondered poverty; we looked at chastity - and we looked at Benedictine stability. But what about obedience? Why would anyone vow to do what somebody else says - for life?

It does seems strange. Our culture of autonomous freedom makes it stranger still. So then, why?

It goes way, way back. To the concept of disciple. To the understanding of a man or woman coming to a holy teacher and saying "Teach me the way to God." The idea being that this person had found the way to holiness, to righteousness, to union with God. If he (or she) tells me what to do, and I do it, I also will come to God. It is the ancient human awareness of the need of a mentor, a teacher.

1227john10.jpgAnd so, throughout history, and also in the early Church, people would seek out holy ones to learn to live radically for God. In the Church, we see this in those who went out into the desert, seeking to live the way of St. Anthony of Egypt, of St. Pachomius, of St. Arsenius and of St. Moses, among others. They would live near a holy one, learning the way of God.

But it foundered once the holy one died. The teacher was gone. Sometimes another teacher would come, but sometimes too, the community would disperse. So then you have the fathers creating a Rule.

St. Benedict's Rule was the most influencial in the western Church. In the development of a Rule, the person now had something that outlasted one human life. It was a clear statement of life - "if you follow this way, you will become a saint." It provided stability and a certain objectivity. No more the way of one human person, which inevitably included also foibles and failures. Now it was a permanent, stable, clear way to follow.

Of course, once you have something written, with a group trying to follow, you have to have an interpreter, a guide, to teach the way, to explain, to clarify and to guide - hence the election of superiors. These men and women now move from being the teacher and exemplar in the sense of the "master" of the past to being the interpreter, the safeguard, the guide of the Rule. Hence, any superior on installation in office is told that his or her "job" is to guide the community according to the Rule.

sgracem01.jpgAnd every vow of obedience is made "accroding to the Rule."

"I want to be holy. I vow and promise to obey this rule, which is the way of holiness. I vow and promise to obey the superior as she commands according to the rule." If you ever have the opportunity to witness the vow ceremony of a religious community, listen to the words of the vow. You will hear these words (In appropriately modified form.)

Why would you vow to obey? Only to become a saint.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Giving it all to him

Why religious life?

Every Christian is called to holiness - we are all called to be saints.  Sanctity is a given.  The state in life to which we dedicate our lives, the work which absorbs our time and energy - these things manifest the path he desires us to take, but the end remains: union with God, conformity with his will.

So why religious life?

It is a sign and a service. Through a life vowed directly to God, lived in undeviating focus on him, we witness to the life of heaven. We put our lives on the line that eternity is real. We speak by our actions that God matters. It is a sign.

The sign that is religious consecration makes no sense in a vacuum. We live it out in the Church and in the world. It draws each and all to confront the reality of God, his will, his way. The more faithfully religious live their consecration, the more telling the witness.

Everyone is called to live their lives for Christ. He calls some to witness to his supremacy through a life of religious consecration.

Is he calling you?

Friday, May 4, 2012

More Vocation Visits to Come

The Vocation Visit to St. Emma Monastery provided a model for future visits. The House of Formation will be sponsoring a vocation visit to two Carmelite foundations in late July and to two Franciscan foundations in the Fall. As soon as we have the  details settled, there will be registration information posted on this site.

The purpose is immersion and education. Young women have so few opportunities to learn about religious life - particularly the glorious diversity of foundations. The Lord of all raised up a variety of congregations, monasteries, orders, to meet the needs of the Church throughout the ages. Most of them still play a role, small or large, in the Church today. As time goes on, we hope to show forth the beauty arrayed in the many foundations and families of religious.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

St. Walburga

St. Walburga, the patroness of the monastery in Eichstatt, Germany, is venerated with a particular love by the nuns at St. Emma's. At the request of St. Boniface, her uncle, she came to Germany from England sometime in the 740's. He story is related on the St. Emma website.

Her simple readiness to do whatever it took to serve God and his people in this (at the time) barbarian land provides an inspiration for us in today's hedonistic, pluralistic, confusing world. She went wherever she was needed, served in whatever capacity was called for. Her courage and flexibility (for a woman vowed to stability) provides motivation and strength for the daughters of God in this time and culture. May she pray for us to serve him as joyously and freely as she did.