God’s Grandeur

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

During this morning’s thunderstorm we lost power – right in the middle of breakfast the lights flickered and went out, and so we finished our meal by candlelight.  The rain stopped soon after, but the power stayed off for a couple more hours, so the best solution was to go outside, where there was plenty of light that required no batteries or matches.  I love to go outside after a rain – everything about the world seems more vibrant.  When the hum of our electric-centric lives gets disrupted I go outside and find that everything is still running on course.  Below are some pictures from after the rain.  I took them with a very inexpensive and simple macro lens but they offer a peek into the complex and tiny world we often overlook.  God’s grandeur indeed, reflected in the smallest things.

I was so pleased to get this on video – I wonder how heavy that water drop must seem to this little fly?

If you appreciate dewy insects, too, you might enjoy these professional pictures which are much more detailed than mine.

The Devil’s Sneeze

In case you missed it:Cedar Fever

When the numbers are so high you can’t tell whether it’s the Powerball Jackpot or the pollen count, you know it’s cedar time in Texas.  Even as the rest of the country is getting a respite from allergies, we are deep in the misery that is cedar pollen.  And yes, if you’re wondering why we’ve been so quiet these last few weeks, it’s because of allergies. 

By the way, that tree in the photo is not smoking, it’s releasing pollen.  Or as I like to call it, the Devil’s Sneeze.

Up close each once of those millions of pollen grains look like this, with lots of little points to latch onto everything in their path – mostly you, your clothes, your hair, they’ll take whatever they can get to make you miserable.

juniper-sem Magnified even more, each one of those microscopic bumps looks like this:

Which is why we all feel so wretched when cedar season hits.  Not just runny noses and itchy, watery eyes, (not to mention the ensuing sinus infections) but exhausted and achy, too, like getting repeatedly run over by a Mack truck.  Driven by Jaws.

So if you’re enjoying an allergy free winter somewhere nice (by nice, I mean anywhere that doesn’t have cedar pollen, which means even the inside of a volcano counts as nice), please take pity on us Texans and offer a prayer for our shark ravaged sinuses.

First posted January 21, 2013

On the Feast of Our Holy Father Francis

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Let us all, brothers, consider the Good Shepherd who to save His sheep bore the suffering of the Cross. The sheep of the Lord followed Him in tribulation and persecution and shame, in hunger and thirst, in infirmity and temptations and in all other ways; and for these things they have received everlasting life from the Lord. Wherefore it is a great shame for us, the servants of God, that, whereas the Saints have practised works, we should expect to receive honor and glory for reading and preaching the same.

-From the Admonitions of Our Holy Father St. Francis, Of the Imitation of the Lord

A blessed Feast of Our Holy Father Saint Francis to everyone!  This solemnity of our founder has crept up on us this year, we have been so busy with unexpected travel, on img_4963top of the regular things that keep us busy. One of the mortifications of religious life is that you never get to finish anything – no matter what you are doing, when the bell rings calling you to the next duty, whether to prayer or recreation or meals, you must stop what you’re doing and go. This is always hard to adjust to.  And of course sometimes God rings a different kind of bell in our lives and we are forced to drop everything and go.  This happened to us recently and we found ourselves traveling out-of-state due to the unexpected passing of Sr. Mary Peter’s father, Jules.  Please pray for the blessed repose of his soul, and for the comfort and consolation of his family.

God brought many surprise blessings from this sorrow, one of them being this beautiful painting of St. Francis blessing his friars and sending them out two by two.  We don’t know the provenance of this work, but we are so thrilled to have it img_4971grace our little “monastery”.  We can’t wait for the day when it is it can adorn the wall in our permanent home.  As mentioned in our last blog, we have also obtained an incredible set of Stations of the Cross, all hand-carved a hundred years ago. They are stunning, and we can’t wait to share pictures of them with you.  It’s exciting to think that one day they will be installed in our chapel and the faithful can pray and meditate with them.  We spent yesterday cleaning a decade’s worth of dust off of them (they have been in storage for that long), which was kind of a fitting way to spend the vigil of Our Holy Father Francis, since the history of this devotion is closely linked to the Franciscans.

Looking for a hymn to include with this blog we came across an interesting article about the Franciscan chant in the medieval liturgy.  If you are musically inclined you might want to img_4966check it out.  There is also a beautiful hymn, though not well-known, to St. Francis, which focuses on his stigmata.  We were going to post Nos Autem, which would have been a fitting chant for today, but were excited to find a beautiful mp3 of Corda  Pia Inflammantum which we could share with you.  It might have been more appropriate for September 17, the Feast of the Stigmata of Our Holy Father Francis, but since this painting portrays his stigmata so well, we thought it would be great today, and that way we don’t wait to have to wait another year to share it with you.

Click here for a PDF of notation and words.

Tonight we will enjoy a special Mass celebrated in our chapel by our priest friend, Fr. Matthew, and a good dinner (Italian, of course, like our holy founder) – a small reflection on earth of the feasting and communion St. Francis and all the blessed now enjoy in the eternal light of the Blessed Trinity.

We’ll leave you with a couple verses from Corda Pia:

Fac ut nos in regno lucis Perfru ́amur fructu Crucis, Quo læt ́emur cæ ́litus.
Collaud ́etur Crucif ́ıxus, Franc ́ıscus prorsus inn ́ıxus Super mundi fœ ́dera.

Make us benefit from the fruit of the Cross in the kingdom of light where we may rejoice with the heavenly one.
Let the Crucified One be praised with Francis who is resting above the plottings of the world.

A Flight to Remember

Mother Teresa and PCPAs

Left to right: Sr. Grace Marie, Mother Angelica, Mother Teresa, Sr. Raphael, Sr. Margaret Mary

It was an October evening in the late 1980’s.  Mother Angelica, Bill Steltemeier, Sr Margaret Mary, Sr Raphael and myself were standing in JFK Airport in New York, waiting to board a Pan Am flight to Rome.  Seeing two Missionaries of Charity also waiting ahead of us, I pointed them out to Rev. Mother,  “Oh, look Mother they’ll be on the same flight as us!”  No sooner had I made the observation, then a PR person for Pan Am came up to Mother and said, “Aren’t you Mother Angelica?”  As soon as she answered in the affirmative the woman said excitedly “Wonderful! We also have Mother Teresa on this flight, and we would like to upgrade you and your group to first class, as we have done with Mother.  Mother doesn’t like it, but we don’t give her a choice.”  The lady spoke with a smile that said we didn’t have a choice either.

Before anything else could be discussed we found ourselves being ushered onto a fairly empty aircraft, and there sitting near the entrance of the plane was Mother Teresa of Calcutta!  She immediately got up and greeted Mother Angelica and the rest of us.  I couldn’t believe that these two amazing women were together on the same flight, one who attended to the corporal works of mercy, and the other the spiritual works and…that I was on the flight with them!  Needless to say, this was possibly the only journey in my life that I felt absolutely no fear of any mishap!

I assumed that after the introduction that would be pretty much that for the rest of the trip, with perhaps these two spiritual giants speaking alone to each other.  Mother Angelica and Mother Teresa did sit together and speak for some time, but then, to my joy, in her kindness she sat with Sr Margaret Mary and myself and spoke to us. Her words, as always, were simple yet powerful, some things we had heard a hundred times before, but somehow, out of her lips, the words took on a new and greater meaning because of her great holiness.  She took her time and spoke to each one of us with a thoughtful attentiveness that made one feel regarded and loved.

During the remainder of the trip as she sat with her sisters ( and a brother), one felt her immense prayerfulness of heart, it was a great sense of the cloister that she carried with her. It was clear how she managed to accomplish so much: by her constant attention to and deep union with her Lord.  The Reverend Billy Graham once said of Mother Teresa, “When she walked into the room to greet me I felt that I was indeed meeting a saint.” He was of course right!

We arrived in Rome and said our good-byes. How grateful I was for the opportunity to have met this wonderful woman, a true daughter of the Church, who stopped at nothing to do God’s Will, bringing the light of Jesus to so many dark and hopeless places, just as He asked her, “Bring me into the dark holes of the poor. Come, carry me, I cannot go alone.

There is little doubt in my mind that she will be no less tireless in interceding in heaven for those who ask for her help than she was whilst on earth, for as she once said, “I’m not going to sleep in heaven, but I’m going to work harder in another form.”  She is another member of that great crowd of witnesses whom St Paul speaks about in Hebrews 12, praying for us and urging us ever forward. We join the Church and the world in thanking God for the canonization of this great intercessor for us.  St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Our Lady of Unity

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Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies. O Mary, my hope, O Mother undefiled, fulfil to us the promise of this Spring.

-Bl. John Henry Newman

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It was 20 years ago that I became a Catholic, and a couple years after that, when I first began attending the parish named after her, that I first came to know the Mother of God as Our Lady of the Atonement.  But even then, it wasn’t until I entered the monastery in Alabama that I actually began to take a greater interest in her.  I think it started with homesickness, and a longing for everything I was missing from Texas.  But then I came to know her story in much greater depth when I stumbled upon a book called Our Lady and Reunion, in the cloister library.  Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to find Our Lady of the Atonement herself, looking up at me from the title page!IMG_6982

It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve read the book, but one thing that that’s always stuck with me is something that Cardinal Newman wrote about Our Lady’s role in the return of England to the Catholic faith.  Our Lady of the Atonement is the Mother of Unity – this is what her title denotes the At-One-Ment of man with God, and with all men in the Church founded by Christ.  It’s all there, even in the beginning of devotion to her under this new Continue reading

“Give her the joy of vows fulfilled”

Today marks nine years since I professed my solemn vows as a Poor Clare Nun of Perpetual Adoration.  I was trying to figure out what things I’ve shared in past posts, and two years ago I mentioned that I should try to find one of the beautiful prayers from the ceremony.  Well, rather miraculously, I did manage to find it, and I didn’t even have to make too much of a mess in the process!

DSC_0056After the profession of vows and endorsement of the profession card, before she receives the ring, the celebrant prays a solemn blessing over the newly professed nun:


Solemn Blessing of the Newly Professed Nun

Celebrant: Father in Heaven, Source of all holiness, Creator of the human race, Your love for us was so great that you gave us a share in Your Own Divine Life.  Neither the sin of Adam nor even the sins of the whole world could alter Your loving purpose.

In the dawn of history You gave us Abel as an example of holiness.  Later, from Your beloved Hebrew people, You raised up men and women graced with every virtue.

Foremost among them all stands Mary, the Ever-Virgin Daughter of Zion.  From Her Pure Womb was born Jesus Christ, Your Eternal Word, the Savior of the world.  You sent Him, Father, as our pattern of holiness.  He became poor to make us rich, a slave to set us free.  Wit love no words can tell He redeemed the world by His Paschal Mystery and won from You the Gifts of the Spirit to sanctify His Church.

The Voice of the Spirit has drawn countless numbers of Your children to follow in the Footsteps of Your Son.

Among these You raised Your servant Francis who professed evangelical holiness so that, at the command of Christ Crucified, he might in himself and his brothers repair the Church, Your Dwelling, and renew it through holiness of life.

Therefore, O Lord, look upon this our Sister whom in Your providence You have called to follow the poor, humble Francis, the lover of the Cross.  Pour into her the fullness of the sevenfold Spirit so that what she has promised today with joy and gladness through Your giving, she may with the Divine Assistance observe faithfully to the end.

May she be firmly established in true humility; may she be inflamed with love for Christ and a compassionate love for her Sisters; may she prefer nothing to the commands of obedience; may she follow highest poverty, gird herself with the virtue of patience, and not extinguish the spirit of prayer and holy devotion.  May she build up the Church by the holiness of her life, advance the salvation of the world, and stand as a sign of the blessings that are to come.

Lord, Holy Father, protect and guide this servant of Yours.  At the judgment seat of Your Son be Yourself her great reward. Give her the joy of vows fulfilled.  Made perfect in Your love, may she rejoice in the communion of Your Saints and praise you forever in their company.  We ask this through Christ Our Lord.

All respond: Amen.


Please pray for me and all religious, that we may observe our vows faithfully to the end.  It’s so true that God cannot be outdone in generosity, and neither can He be outdone in patience and mercy, which He lavishes on us daily.  None of us could do what we do without His grace and your prayers – so thank you, and know that you are always in our prayers, too.

Fear Not, I Am the Angel of Peace

Ninety Nine years ago today, in 1917, Our Lady of Fatima first appeared to the three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria.  “Fear not! I will not harm you,” she said.  She asked them to return to that spot on the thirteenth day of each month, for five consecutive months.  Her messages to Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia were calls to prayer and penance, in reparation for sins and offenses against God. She asked them to pray and sacrifice for souls, many of whom were falling into hell.

But in 1916, the children had been visited three times by an angel, who was preparing them for the apparitions of the Mother of God.  The angel came to them in spring, summer  and autumn, and taught them two prayers. His very first words to the children were, “Fear not! I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me!”

He also urged them, “Pray! Pray a great deal. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices continually to the Most High.” When the children asked,”How must we sacrifice ourselves?” he answered, “Make everything you do a sacrifice, and offer it as an act of reparation for the sins by which God is offended, and as a petition for the conversion of sinners. By this you will bring peace to your country. I’m its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all accept and bear with submission all the suffering the Lord will send you.”

The two prayers which the angel taught the children have been part of our own community’s morning prayers for many, many years.  When we gather for Office of Readings and Morning Prayer at 6am each day, we begin with the Angelus (or Regina Caeli, if it’s the Easter Season) and then pray the two Fatima prayers, as well as the Guardian Angel prayer.


My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I beg pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.

 

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He, Himself is offended. And I draw upon the infinite merits of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that You might convert poor sinners.

 

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard to rule and to guide.  Amen.