Monday, 13 March 2017

Women at the Heart of Change

I like Lenten calendars.  The are similar to Advent calendars, but instead of opening a little paper window each day to obtain a chocolate, Lenten calendars simply give a compelling thought or helpful suggestion for each day; for example, a specific situation of suffering or injustice to hold in prayer or a particular act of kindness to show toward others.  In this sense, Lenten calendars open a window into one's heart and encourage personal reflection, repentance, and expression of Christ's love in action.  Therein lies the sweetness!

Our community received the annual Lenten Solidarity Calendar and other materials from The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which is the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada and the Canadian member of Caritas Internationalis, a network of over 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations working on behalf of the poor and oppressed in 198 countries and territories.  For the past couple of weeks, I've been reading this Lenten calendar with interest (and, yes, without chocolates!), along with the Solidarity Way of the Cross brochure, as part of my own Lenten journey in preparation for Easter.  The theme for Lent that Development and Peace / Caritas Canada is focusing on this year is: Women at the Heart of Change, highlighting some of the challenges that many girls and women face around the world.

If you are looking for a way to deepen, and sweeten, your Lenten practice, consider downloading these and other materials from the Development and Peace / Caritas Canada website.

                                                                 -- Sister Elizabeth Marie

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Let it Snow

With over 60 centimeters of snow last week, winter is still going strong in the Squamish Valley. As the prophet Daniel says, "Ice and snow, bless the Lord!"

One of our guests made her first-ever full-sized snowman—and Lotte decided to "help." Fortunately (or unfortunately), Lotte has a fondness for carrots, and—well, you can see what became of nose #1.

On January 21st, a number of us traveled to St. Mary's in Vancouver to celebrate the closing of the 800th Jubilee of the Order of Preachers with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Michael Miller. After the Mass, there was  a reception with many of our local Dominican friars, active sisters and laity.

On Candlemas (the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, February 2), we had the blessing of the candles and a procession.

After the most recent round of snow, some of the novitiate organized a sledding party. There was just one problem: there was too much snow! Our initial attempts at going...anywhere...were stymied by the sheer amount of powder.

We haven't just been snow shoveling and celebrating, though. Our novitiate is still sharing in a monastic history class once a week (via internet videoconferencing) with Our Lady of the Rosary Monastery in Summit, New Jersey. Starting in mid-January, we had the treat of welcoming Fr. Terrence Kardong, OSB (a Benedictine monk of Assumption Abbey in North Dakota) for a series of lectures on John Cassian's Conferences and Institutes, which we also shared with Corpus Christi Monastery in the Bronx. To find out more about those classes, and one way that the prudent use of technology has actually enhanced our cloistered life, check out a lovely blog post written by Summit entitled, "Cloistered Nuns and Technology." My favourite part of these shared classes is not only having the opportunity to receive high quality formation courses without having to leave the monastery, but being able to "meet", talk, study and laugh with sisters in formation in our monasteries on the other side of the continent. It's a real gift of community.

Finally, for the record: cookie sheets do not make good snowboards (not enough curve at the tip). However, the sight one morning of a certain novice (aherm, myself) trying to ride down the switchback during a shovelling break provided some good amusement for the sisters with south-facing cell windows.

Until next time—peace!

--Sr. Marie Thomas

Saturday, 4 February 2017

In Prayerful Solidarity

I would like to share with you the following excerpt, which comes from the public statement released by the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC), of which our community is a member:

The Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) wishes to express its deep sadness and distress at the loss of life resulting from the terrorist attack at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre.  The members of the CRC are in prayerful solidarity with the Quebec Moslem community.  "We wish to offer our sincere condolences to all families in the grief following this heinous act," said Sister Michelle Payette, MIC, President of the CRC.  "We are all created by the One God, sisters and brothers here on earth.  In the face of this tragedy, we need to redouble our effort in favour of inter-religious dialogue, a task already involving many of our communities in Quebec and throughout Canada."

If you are interested in reading the full statement, or in learning more about the CRC, click here.

                                                                -- Sister Elizabeth Marie

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

O Necessary Night


The following sermon was composed by Sister Claire Marie, and collaboratively preached to our monastic community by Sister Claire Marie and Sister Florentina Marie, on the occasion of our Solemn Joyous Chapter of Christmas Eve, 2016.  

Peace be with you this Christmastide, and in the new year!

                                                                     -- Sister Elizabeth Marie

For seven days, the great O Antiphons have resounded from monasteries and Christian communities around the world, unanimously calling for the Messiah.  

We look back, and now discern our Lord's encrypted response: the mysterious 'Ero Cras.'

The Spirit and the Bride have cried, 'Come, Lord Jesus.'

Now, the Bridegroom answers: 'Ero Cras.'

I come tomorrow 

-- to govern all creation with my strong yet tender care, and to show my people the way to salvation . . .  O Wisdom.

I come tomorrow

-- to show myself, put a new law in your hearts, to stretch out my mighty hand and to set you free . . .  O Ancient Lord.

I come tomorrow

-- to be a sign for all peoples and in my Presence, kings and nations will be silent, will bow in worship, in adoration . . .  O Flower of Jesse's Stem.

I come tomorrow

 -- to open prison's doors and lead the captive peoples into freedom . . .   
O Key of David.

I come tomorrow

-- with the Splendour of eternal light, as Sun of Justice: to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death . . .  O Radiant Dawn.

I come tomorrow

-- to save the creature I fashioned from the dust and be the joy of every human heart . . .   
O King of All the Nations.

I come tomorrow

-- to be the Saviour of all people: for I am the desire of the nations, I am God-With-You . . .
O Emmanuel.


You will 'call us out of darkness, into Your marvellous light.' 
Yes, you will come in the night.  For it was: 

In the darkness of night

-- that our father Abraham received Your promise, the promise to be a father of a son, and the father of multitudes as numerous as the stars shining that dark desert night; the promise of this night.

In the darkness of night

-- You, O Lord, appeared to Isaac at Beersheba to renew the promise made to Abraham.  There, Isaac pitched his tent and dug a well.  In faith, he awaited the One who would pitch His tent among us and become the Source of Living Water springing up to Eternal Life.

In the darkness of night

-- Jacob dreamt of a mysterious ladder set up on earth, the top reaching heaven with angels ascending and descending.  You, O Lord, renewed Your promise that night.  You said that all families of the earth would be blessed in his offspring, blessed by the One who would descend that ladder, the One who did not regard equality with God something to be exploited but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

In the darkness of night

-- Joseph dreamt dreams and received the promise that the Little Rejected One would be the Saviour.  Sold and lead into Egypt, Jospeh believed that 'out of Egypt you have called your Son.'

In the darkness of night

--the paschal lamb was slaughtered and blood was sprinkled on the doorposts, so that death would pass over.  Foretelling the night when the Good Shepherd would come to become the Lamb: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

In the darkness of night

-- lowly shepherds perceived the shimmering of light and heard a myriad of voices, voices of angels singing, 'Glory to God in the highest and peace to all peoples on earth.'  These silent ones become the first to preach the Word.  Those who were outcasts, were brought near and went forth to announce the good news of the Saviour. 

In the darkness of night

-- in the midst of silence, Your mighty Word, Lord, came down from heaven.

O silent night
O night of promise
O night of infinite love
O necessary night, preceding the dawn: as surely as the dawn He shall come
O holy night     
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees!  O, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born.



Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Cairn for Our Conversation

"I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we are
shaping the future of our planet.  We need a conversation
which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge 
we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and
affect us all."
                                        — Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

If you've read Laudato Si', and are now looking for a way to move from words to action, I encourage you to check out the new dialogue guide produced by the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice, and published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Available in English and en Français, this is an excellent resource designed for small group discussion.  It includes many stimulating reflections on Laudato Si', as well as stories, photos, and thoughtful questions for dialogue.

Consider joining, or even starting, a friendly conversation with some other homo sapiens about the concerns and challenges presented in this encyclical.  It's a deeply human act — and profoundly sacred, too.

                                                                            -- Sister Elizabeth Marie

Thursday, 3 November 2016

October: Cabbage, Clay and a New Novice

October was a busy month, which would explain why we're just able to post about it now, and it ended as it began —with cabbage. A bumper crop of Brassica oleracea, a couple of benefactors willing to lend us crocks and canning supplies and hands, and a lot of patience ("How long do I have to knead it? Seriously?!?!"), and 28 days later we had a pantry (and stomachs) full of homemade sauerkraut. Our prioress, Sr. Marie Tersidis, was away at the General Assembly of the North American Association of Dominican Monasteries and thus missed out on the first round of krauting —so she decided to solo round two, which should be ready any day now. 

In mid-October, we had ongoing formation classes with Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. of the Western Dominican Province. This was followed by a second round of classes from Chilliwack potter Tom Sproule. A few more test-fires of our locally sourced glazes, and visitors to our monastery should start to see some new additions to the gift shop—mugs, tea bowls, tumblers and yarn bowls, for starters!

Finally, on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), our postulant Bronwyn received the habit of the Order of Preachers and her new name, Sister Marie Thomas of the Divine Word. Sister comes to us from not too far away—born in a port town in northern British Columbia, she grew up in Whistler, the resort town just an hour up the road from us.  Please pray for her as she begins her canonical novitiate!

"No more pictures!" say the novices.
We asked sister why she asked to receive the name Thomas, after St. Thomas Aquinas O.P, and instead of a brief answer, she gave us a discourse:

"My university didn’t have a theology program, but when I was doing my homework for poetry and journalism seminars etc., I’d take my laptop up to the library’s mezzanine floor and sit leaning against the Summa Theologiae. If I didn’t have an excuse to study it in-depth, at least I could pray to absorb it via osmosis! St. Thomas Aquinas became a kind of older brother in thought as well as in faith, someone who I could argue dispute with about ideas like 'To what extent are created things knowable and describable in their essence and in their accidents?' (answer: go read Pieper's "Silence of St. Thomas") or 'If a mosquito bit Jesus while he was walking around Galilee, would that be the same as if a mosquito fell into the Precious Blood at Mass?' or 'Do words have intrinsic meaning connected to the essence of things, or are they merely arbitrary symbols with little relation to the essence of things?' Because, as I learned, such questions don’t count as casual conversation in most social situations (Then again, 'And that will settle the Manichees!' probably doesn’t either. And this one time, in the court of King Louis of France, a certain Dominican friar...).

So, that’s how I first 'met' the Angelic Doctor. But when it came time to submit my list of possible names to the novice mistress, I asked for St. Thomas for three distinct reasons. Firstly, his love for Christ in the Eucharist. We see a tiny sliver of this love in the texts and hymns for Mass and the Office on the feast of Corpus Christi, which he wrote at Pope Urban IV’s request. For St. Thomas, 'The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us' was not an abstract idea, but a real, tangible, beautiful Presence—and the saint’s early biographers say that when he was stuck on an idea or problem, he’d lean his head against the Tabernacle to ask for help. As Dietrich von Balthasar would say, his was a “kniende theology”—a theology that began on his knees in love.

Secondly, St. Thomas was a writer. Best known in our century for his systematic and dogmatic writings (like the Summa Theologiae and Summa contra Gentiles), and not nearly known enough for his Biblical commentaries (he was, after all, a Magister Sacra Pagina –'Master of the Sacred Page'), he was a superb poet (see the aforementioned texts and hymns for Corpus Christi—like Lauda Sion salvatorem, Pange lingua corperis or Panis Angelicus).

Finally, it would be fair to say that St. Thomas was obsessed with truth—or, rather, Truth, who is a person, not a thing. He loved God; he loved study; and he loved to love God by study and to share that love of Truth and the truth of Love with others in whatever way he could. He was so hungry for the truth that he went looking for ways of knowing God in the (then highly controversial) works of Aristotle, and (when asked by a joking friend), said that he’d rather find the (presumably lost) homilies of John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew than be Lord of all of Paris. But this quest for the truth about Truth (aka Christ) was not limited to his (rather formidable) intellect or some sort of eccentric academic quest. He himself wrote that 'to love God is something greater than to know Him' (S II-II Q.27 A.4), and that 'it is better to illuminate than to shine; to share contemplated truths with others than merely to contemplate' (S II-II, Q.188, A.6). In seeking Truth, he sought the truth about himself (humility) and the truth about his neighbour (charity), and spent his life working to transform both in light of the Truth of Christ."

And of course, no matter what else is going on in the kitchen, workshop or life of the community, we continue to pray for you, all those enrolled in our prayers and all the needs of our world—that the peace of Our Lord might especially help those peoples and areas suffering from war, terrorism or natural disaster. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Preaching of Trees

We've been delighted to have Bro. Manuel Merten, OP along with two friends of the Dominican Laity in Düsseldorf, Germany, staying with us these past couple of weeks for a refreshing time of rest and retreatThe following is a thoughtful sermon that we would like to share with you.  It was composed by Bro. Manuel and preached to the community here at Queen of Peace Monastery on 9 September 2016.

Können Sie Deutsch lesen?  Sie können mehr von seinen Predigten in seinem neuen Buch lesen. Der Titel ist Die Macht des Wortes: Wenn Gott in meiner Sprache spricht.

                 -- Sister Elizabeth Marie

Luke 6.39-42
Jesus also told them a parable: "Can a blind person guide a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit?  A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbour, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye."

When, for example, people talk too enthusiastically about the beauty of trees, presumably they have not been near a tree for a long time.  Trees are great silent beings, and they make us silent when we are near them.  Thomas Merton once said: "No writing on the solitary meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees."

When people talk too enthusiastically about Jesus we need not take it as proof that they know what they are talking about.  They may be talking theories and ideas; all the ingredients may be there, but no spark.  If there is no reticence, no silence between the words, no sense of being in the heart of mystery, then the words might not mean much.

In moments of deep silence, we 'know'; we don't 'know about'.  There is a big difference between these.  'Knowing about' is theoretical knowledge.  That word 'about' is like a wedge between the person and the thing.  We insert it because we don't want to lose ourselves or to give ourselves up; we want to remain in control.

"Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"  The way to stop judging others is to get rid of this distancing word 'about'.  There is no distance.  The speck in your brother's eye is a chip off the plank that is in your own.  Jesus saw projection long before psychology identified it.  Therefore he exhorts us again and again: Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.