Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thoughts on Why I should be a Dominican?

1. The Dominican way of life, the mixed life, is, St Thomas says, the way of life most similar to the life of Jesus and the Apostles.

2. The role of the Dominican Order is to save the Church in times of crisis and heresy. Such an Order is never more needed than now.

3. Being a Dominican Teaching Nun is putting a fence at the top of the cliff down which so many of our children fall. That is far better than picking people up at the bottom.

4. The religious life has always been the saving of the Church. Look at the Benedictines saving Europe by being pepper-potted among the ruins of the Empire. Now it’s our turn to be distributed through a crumbling civilization.

5. To save my own soul. As a Pope said, “Show me a Friar Preacher who has kept his rule perfectly and I will canonize him straight away”.

6. To save the souls of others by teaching a praying.

7. To extend the reign of Christ.

Talk for Parents’ Evening 23 October 2009.

My dear Parents,

Thank you for coming tonight. I want to talk a little about the ideas behind the subject-choices we are offering next year.

First, next year is a very important year in education in New Zealand. There will be a new education curriculum coming into force in 2010. Karen Sewell, Secretary of Education writes enthusiastically that it is “an outcomes-focused curriculum”. Now when I tell you that Karen Sewell is a lesbian and that she ruined Green Bay High in West Auckland by throwing out uniforms, morals and sensible teachers, you will be rightly suspicious of her enthusiasm for the new curriculum. We had one of her teachers come to us at St Dominic’s in Henderson, and this teacher said to me, “I do enjoy it here at St Dominic’s. You believe children can be bad!”

You would be right to suspect Karen Sewel as Secretary of Education and the Government that appointed her and the Government that is leaving her in office. What she is promoting is a type of education where it matters less what the child learns and more whether the child acquires the values the State wants it to have. For example the State wants our children to believe that nothing can be known in an objective way; that knowledge cannot be passed from those who know to those who do not know, and that the children have to make up knowledge from their experience.

This new curriculum has no prescription for what the children should know. It makes children dependent on groups to know anything and it makes children dependent on groups to continue to know anything. Thus what children know can never really be tested. (Where would we have been if Archbishop Lefebve had been educated like this?)
You can see why we can’t afford to enter the State system, through integration, attractive though the bribes are.

You can also see that our school is in danger because legally, in order to keep our registration we have to prove that we are reaching the same standard as the state schools. We must bear in mind that the government is aiming at a monopoly of curriculum and to force on all children a view of humanity that is not the Catholic view. We have to look at what we can pose against these major threats.

First we have the SSPX, both supervising and teaching in the school.
Then we have the Dominican nuns with educational roots that go back to 1206 and a good relationship with the Fanjeaux teaching Dominicans.
For the most part we are not getting our Sisters trained in State Teachers’ Colleges and we are watching over their education carefully so that we are really offering a Dominican education. What our constitutions call, “an education of characteristic Dominican quality”.

The principles of Dominican education:
1. Education is hierarchical and at the top of the hierarchy comes Catholic Doctrine and philosophy. This is why we are not willing to keep or retain in our school girls who are not practising the Faith or who ridicule the Faith in class or in the playground.
2. Other subjects follow behind Catholic Doctrine and they must be seen as part of the order of a Christian world, which we are trying to re-establish.
3. The education we offer is essentially feminine – not inferior to boys’ Education- but adapted to the feminine nature and vocation. Thus our school is more of a liberal arts school, because such subjects prepare women for their special vocation. Don’t get the idea that we don’t want girls to do higher study, but we would rather they do it here in our extramural programme than among the troubles and temptations of the University.

Now, why do we teach the subjects we do have, following in hierarchical order behind Catholic Doctrine and Philosophy?
Catholic Doctrine I have already mentioned. We are here to save souls and it is necessary that the girls have a good knowledge of their Faith. We are blessed, also, to have Fr Laisney teaching the senior girls a subject called “Apologetics” which contains a good deal of doctrine and philosophy.

But, following close behind Catholic Doctrine, we need to have Literature. In reading good literature we can see that in the world there is a coherent society which must be Christian if people are to be happy and to save their souls. The younger girls can see, for example, in reading Robert Bolt’s play “The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew” that it is necessary to restore Christian order in a society that has been broken down. Interestingly the hero, Sir Oblong Fitzoblong, begins by rebuilding the Church. By the time they reach Seventh Form the same girls are finding that a character like Steerforth, in “David Copperfield” is truly destructive because he is totally spoilt and selfish. They can also see that King Lear’s mismanagement of his Kingdom is a real betrayal of his duty and that this betrayal leads to trouble in the Kingdom. Of course Grammar and Spelling are important. We hope to teach them not only from the excellent grammar books we use but also by alerting the children to what good writers do in the carefully chosen texts they study.

Latin we teach even at a high level in our school, and we will continue to keep teaching it. Latin has influenced every other language in Europe and it is also the language of the Church by which she has been able to express exactly her theology and to offer her unchanging liturgy. Latin (and Greek when we have it) carries a treasure of culture and civilization and religion without which the children will grow up not knowing their own heritage. If the children want it we will offer AS level Latin; and we ask all to continue Ecclesiastical Latin twice a week after they have done their IGCSE. This ecclesiastical Latin gives them a knowledge of the Church’s vocabulary and of the great works of the early Fathers of the Church. Latin is also a great former of the mind – thinking skills.

Modern Languages come behind Latin. They give us access to the literature of other countries and also to the culture of other countries. In this age when French is the language of tradition we can hardly do without French.

We teach History and Classics because they help the children to understand the fabric of society and to realize that the more a nation is Christian in its structures, culture and power the more happiness and moderate prosperity will reign for all. Thus the children can verify the points taught in Catholic Doctrine class, just as they saw them in literature. They also learn about classical literature, art, architecture and people of the classical period.

Art History teaches them to appreciate beauty as a reflection of God’s beauty. It helps the children to distinguish between true art and false art and alerts them to the false philosophies behind inauthentic art.

We also teach Biology, which teaches the children that creatures made by God make up a Divine Order, about which the ultimate answers come not from Science but from Revelation.

Mathematics being an orderly subject teaches reasoning and helps modern youth who prefer to use tricks rather than their intelligence. They need to develop a logical mind and to give the answers and the steps that helped them to get there.

We teach Music, and will teach more of it as our resources develop. Music helps the children to understand the highest truths of the Faith through another means and, also, the harmony of all creation.

We also teach Geography to Form 4 level when the children sit their IGCSE. It teaches the children to appreciate God’s glory and order and also the dwelling place He has made for man.

A few words about Discipline and Atmosphere of the School.
I have first to say that we are very pleased with this year’s girls. They are a joy to be with and to teach. What we look for is good will, active co-operation and trust in the teacher. We expect that with your co-operation and ours this state of affairs will continue.We look for honesty among the children and the ability to take an increasing amount of responsibility for their education and their religious formation as they grow older. We suggest that you show a great and consistent interest in your children’s studies. There may be a few subjects where they get past your level of expertise but you can always follow Catholic Doctrine, English, History.

I’m against excessive homework myself, but children do need time to reflect on what they have learned in class, to assimilate it and thus to grow in maturity. They need, for homework,
• A regular after- school schedule.
• A quiet place to study.
• They also need their weekends organised in such a way that they get time
to do their weekend homework, and to rest and do healthy activities.
• Consistent attendance at school is also important. I realize that the pupil can be really sick at times, but there are some pupils who seem to stay home for little rests. It’s frustrating for the teachers who attend consistently themselves, always to be having to catch-up pupils whom we suspect of taking days off for little reason.

Before I finish, I would just like to mention that we are taking an initiative for next year that may interest you when your daughters reach Form 7. From next year we are setting up an extramural department for girls who want to study extramurally and yet have some support by staying on this campus. They will have a place to work, to plug in their computer, and tea and coffee making facilities. Some of the sisters, having done extra mural studies themselves, will be available to advise them.

I think that all of us, Priests, Nuns, Laystaff and Parents, working together can achieve great things in this little school. We need to because we’re not going to get any help from the New Zealand Curriculum and the aims of the New Zealand Government are quite different from ours. Let each of us take up our share of the task and work for the renewal of Society and Holy Church.

Mother’s Regrettable Jokes

Mother Micaela’s public speaking is, alas, dotted with jokes, when she sees the audience’s eyes take on a glassy look, from too much educational talk. Here are a few from her talk to parents:

About Classics/History – One Egyptian to another.
“You know that huge statue in the desert? It’s lost its nose.”
Second Egyptian, “Lost its nose! Then how does is smell?”
First Egyptian, “Smell! It Sphinx.”

About Music: The favourite musical instrument in England before the Norman Conquest was the Anglo-Saxophone.

Q. What would you like to be?
A A School Teacher.
Q. Are you crazy?
A . I wasn’t aware it was a qualification.

Friday, October 30, 2009


The girls have been doing a gardening module instead of P.E this term. It follows on from the gardening done by volunteers last term and our grounds are certainly looking lovely as a result of the girls efforts.

First each girl has seeds to grow. Pottles, seeds and potting mix were supplied by Sister M. Catherine and the girls brook over the window-sills watching their seedlings. One lesson they have learned is that different kinds of seeds take different lengths of time to germinate. Then Sister Catherine got in touch with an organic nursery which gave us fruit trees and instructions on how to grow them organically. It was a hard job to clear spaces on the bank for the trees but the girls did it willingly. Other people have also helped us including Mr Reg Wilton and Mr Francis Foster who put in an irrigation system. Other help has come in the form of plants and bulbs and it all adds to the Sister’s above-ground vege garden supplied by Mrs Ridgway. Unfortunately our soil here is pure sand but Sister Catherine is in touch with a racing stable ….. and kind Mr McAuliffe brings the stuff down.

Sister Rose also has got us in touch with a “trees for paper” scheme. Every time we fill three woolbales with paper rubbish we get a native tree. We expect to be buried in the bush before a few years are out!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Making Your Meditation

1. Prepare the night before by reading over the passage on which you wish to meditate. When you have read it over you could make notes, either mentally or in writing, of the points that seem to be particularly applicable to yourself and your relationship with God.

2. In the morning start your meditation kneeling up. Ask God to help and enlighten you during your meditation. Read over your passage again. Then start with one of the points you picked out last night and think of what you might say to God about it.

3. Either go on kneeling or sit up, but get reasonably comfortable, though stay upright and decorous.

4. Begin to make a few formulated prayers to God, leaving spaces between them when your thoughts can rise to God words or God can speak to you inspiring you with new insights and convictions.

5. Go on taking points and treating them as above. Do not think that you have to be ceaselessly active. The periods of wordless communication with God should grow until they take over your meditation.

6. Be particularly alert for, and encourage in yourself, moments of inspiration from God which will help you to new perspectives, new Christian insights, greater charity.

7. Towards the end of your meditation start thinking about a resolution you could make to carry the insights of the meditation into the day. It’s a good idea to keep this resolution simple.

8. Kneel down and thank God for your meditation. Ask Our Lord and Our Lady’s help with your resolution.


When we come to talk about vocations there are several questions that need to be answered. These are:
• What is a vocation?
• How do I know if I have a vocation?
• Should I try my vocation?
• When will I have security in my vocation?

A vocation is a call from God to follow a particular way of life and to save one’s soul by following that path. The problem of which vocation to follow usually becomes acute when it is a question of a religious vocation, a call to follow Christ more closely in the priesthood or religious life. Here we will talk about vocations to the religious life.

So we need to ask, How do I know if I have a religious vocation? The answer to this question needs to be split into, fitness, inclination and willingness. To take fitness first: The person considering a vocation must look at her own fitness for such a life. Is she physically fit enough for convent life, which is reasonably strenuous? Is she mentally fit enough with no history of mental illness? Not being able to match up to these basic criteria could well indicate that the person is meant for a different path of life.

Then, there is moral fitness. The way to find out is to be completely honest with the superior of the Convent in which one is interested. Generally Contemplative orders are stricter about difficulties of temperament or items from the past than active orders are. The reason is not hard to see: in a fully enclosed contemplative order a woman is stuck with her own temperament and her own past for the rest of her life, whereas in an active order there is a legitimate outlet from the self.

We move on to inclination. Do I, being physically, mentally, and morally fit for convent life, find in myself an inclination towards following the way of life of a nun? Of course, feelings are not everything, but if there is something that really puts you off convent life, and this feeling cannot be overcome by better knowledge of the convent, then it is probably not for you. On the other hand one could be under a really serious obligation to investigate religious life rather than just leave the question because of an initial and perhaps frivolous distaste.

The last point in recognizing that one has a religious vocation is willingness. It is a simple question to ask oneself. “Have I the willingness, relying on the grace of God, to live for with Christ in a relationship of love, for the good of Holy Church, for the rest of my life”. One can weigh up the great promises of our Lord to those who follow Him more closely, but in the end it does come down to a leap of Faith.

So, we come to the point, should I try my vocation? The answer is that one should. No amount of thinking or wondering can equal the experience of spending a few days in a convent. Things will certainly come clear after that and points the convent my not have told you about, like a silent refectory, will become obvious.

There is another point about this trying of the vocation which is important. Putting it briefly, I would say that one owes it to the Church to try one’s vocation. Here is the Church deteriorating on every side. Here is tradition trying to hold firm. What is the answer? The answer is the same as it has always been in the Church: set up religious orders which will preserve the truth, teach it to others and gradually create outposts of Catholicism and civilization with the capacity to rebuild Christendom. We can look at the time after the Barbarian Invasions when the Benedictine monasteries re-civilised Europe. The religious orders can do the same in this distressing modern era. Religious life is not a flight from the world but an engagement to rebuild the world. If there is a possibility that you are meant to be on the front line of this fight, how can you hang back? At least find out what your place in the fight is.

The final question I would like to deal with is the matter of “security” in one’s vocation. Young women ask, “When will I know for sure?” When will I be secure in my vocation? One answer is that half of your vocation depends on a frail human being damaged by original sin, so you will never have total securing at that end. On the other hand as you depend on God over the years a bond forms between yourself and the ever-dependable so that you become more and more secure, with prayer, as the years go on. The initial trusting is harder but the process builds on itself and on grace so that you can have a sweet security even from your novitiate days.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


On the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, April 30th, in addition to the magnificent and breath-taking ceremony of Sister Mary Madeleine's Perpetual Profession, there was also added a new member to the community. Miss Martin, the first American in the convent, received the holy habit of St. Dominic and was given the name of Sister Marie Dominique, after our Holy Father Saint Dominic. Preceding the ceremony, a Triduum Retreat was preached by Fr. Cranshaw (from New Zealand) and Fr. Burfitt (from the U.S.), and was very beneficial to the sisters.

The ceremonies on the Feast of Saint Catherine began with the reception of the Dominican habit. The habit of the order is highly reverenced because of its heavenly origins. The Blessed Virgin herself revealed the scapular to her children in the Order and henceforth, Dominicans have always worn this distinctive garb. The holy scapular of our Order is the most distinguished part of our Dominican habit, "the maternal pledge from Heaven of the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary towards us, under whose wings thou shalt find a shadow from the heat and a bulwark and defense in death from all dangers both of body and soul."

"Blessed are those," exclaims Theodoric of Apoldia, "who are found worthy to wear this habit, the symbol of grace unspeakable, woven by the hands of the true valiant woman for the members of her household! Let us ever cherish with veneration this royal and virginal garment and never soil its spotless whiteness." From the fact of the scapular being our Lady's gift to her children, the custom prevails in the Order of always invoking her on assuming it in the morning with the verse: Monstra te esse Matrem, etc.

At the beginning of the ceremony, the postulant must answer the question of the Church: "What dost thou seek?" Kneeling before the altar of God, and His representatives on earth – the priests, she gently responds: "God's mercy and yours, Father." She then confirms that she desires to receive the holy habit and to enter this congregation of Dominicans, and so is given the habit by the Prioress. Once the future-novice has donned the religious habit, she returns to the Church to the harmonies of the Salve Regina, where then she willingly surrenders her hair to the scissors of the celebrant, a sign of her abandonment of the world's distractions and desires. Once veiled, the new novice returns to the Priests and receives her Crucifix and Rosary. The highlight of the ceremony is at the end – the Crowning and Naming. While the choir chants the chords of Jesu, Corona Virginum, the priest offers the novice two crowns – one of roses and the other of thorns, saying:

"Behold dear daughter, two crowns, one beautiful, the other of thorns. Choose the one with which you wish to be crowned."

When the novice has chosen the crown of thorns - in imitation of her Dominican patroness, St. Catherine of Siena, who was given this same choice by our Lord Himself – the priest then pronounces the beautiful words:

"Receive dear sister the crown of thorns in memory of the crown of Our Lord, and through this know that it is not fitting that those members be delicate, who are under the thorn crowned head, which is Christ, and if you wear the crown of thorns of tribulation in this life you will be rewarded by your Spouse with a crown of glory for evermore in the life to come."

Once crowned, the novice is then given her new name in the Order. What a joy to have the patronage of a great saint, and in this novice's case – the greatest of Dominican saints – our founder himself. After the ceremonies, with much delight, a small reception was held for the sisters. Since then, the newest novice has joined her fellow sisters in the task of preparing her soul for her Betrothed. A great pleasure, she is now able to assist in the Salve Procession after Compline by carrying one of the two candles at the head of the procession. The Novices regularly perform this office, and as the procession makes its way back from the altar of our Lady to the main altar singing the Antiphon O Lumen in honour of our Holy Father St. Dominic, the two novices bearing candles, stand on either side of the altar while the other sisters process in. This image, so close to the tabernacle, brings to mind the words of the Dominican, Mary of Jesus. She used to call the novices the Seraphim of the choir, because they stood nearest the Blessed Sacrament, and so, as she was accustomed to tell them, ought to be the most fervent.

The Novice hears the words of the psalmist: "Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear…and the King shall greatly desire thy beauty. For He is the Lord thy God, and Him thou shall adore." (Ps 44) The time of Novitiate is principally to separate herself from the world, so that her heart might be Christ's alone. "…My spouse, is a garden enclosed." (Cant. 4:12) Please pray for the newest novice, and all the sisters', holy perseverance.

To conclude, we will quote the description of the outward appearance of a true Dominican, as given by the Venerable Julia Cicarelli of Camerino (1532-1621):

"The custody of the eyes shows the attention we ought to pay to our own defects; the head inclined signifies submission of will; the arms crossed the desire of suffering for God; kneeling the remembrance of our falls and weaknesses; woolen garments the patience and meekness of the lamb; the white habit purity of heart; the black mantle death to the world; the hair cut off the retrenchment of worldly thoughts; the shoes made of the skins of dead beasts the remembrance of death. When the interior is conformable to the exterior, then 'this is indeed the house of God.'"

(All quotes taken from The Spirit of the Dominican Order Illustrated from the Lives of its Saints)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


9th-14th ..............Easter Break
30th.....................Feast of St Catherine of Siena
...........................Final Profession and Reception of the habit
30th-May 18th.......Holidays
11th-15th..............Bethlehem Intensive Course
...........................Pilgrimage to Paraparaumu
16th-20th..............Mid year exams
6th-10th................Mid-term break
22nd......................Feast of St Mary Magdalene
............................803rd Anniversary of the Dominican Sisters
3rd........................Raffle closes
4th........................Feast of St Dominic
.............................Annual teachers vs students netball match
.............................Raffle is drawn
15th.......................Feast of the Assumption
22nd- Sept 13th.......School holidays
29th.......................Mother’s Feast day
7th.........................Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary
.............................Cambridege examinations
16th-20th................End of year exams
4th.........................Last day of school
8th.........................Feast of the Immaculate Conception
.............................Our seventh anniversary