Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.

Hosanna Filio David: benedictus qui venit in Nomine Domini. O Rex Israel: Hosanna in excelsis. O Rex Israel!

On Palm Sunday, the Church, the mystical Israel, views her meek king riding upon a gentle beast. In a few days, all outward appearance of his divinity shall be more hidden than ever. But now, on the day in which we cry out with the Jews of old “Hosanna!”, we see our Head, our King, in all his meekness, amidst shouts of praise, riding into the poor accursed city that shall kill its Redeemer. He rides on to his death, but alas, let us meditate for a while on his kingship.

Blessing of the palms: "bless the branches of that whoever recieves them may find protection of soul and body.."

Our Lord must be King of our intellect, imagination and will; He must reign supreme over all three. It is only when He reigns in our interior life that He can also reign in society. If we ourselves, Catholic priests, religious and lay alike, do not allow him to reign in our intellect, imagination and will, how can we expect to help the reign of Christ in society and not hinder it? Alas, all too often, we, even more guilty than the faithless because of the amount of grace given us, fail at allowing Christ to be King of our souls. We want to go to Heaven and avoid hell, but tire at the thought of working for it. But unless we strive to root out our most hidden and obscure vices, we pray hypocritically when we say with our lips “Thy Kingdom come”. Our hearts are not in it.

"Let us go forth in peace" ~ Procession to the Church

Christ must be King of our intellect. We allow Him to reign in our intellect when we, through the virtue of faith, purify the intellect. According to St. Thomas, faith “is the first principle of the purification of the heart in order to free us from error”. The intellect directs the will. Without an intellect firmly grounded in faith, on a vigilant guard against all error, the will shall be ensnared by human defects, faulty, fickle and weak; in fine, turned completely away from God. The enthronement of Christ as King over our intellect is accomplished by “judging more and more according to the spirit of faith” (Fr. Reginald Garrigou Lagrange). That means that we listen to the Revelation of our King—and then judge accordingly. It will do well for us to remember what the author of The Imitation writes about intellectual pride, the enemy of God: “All men naturally desire to know, but what does knowledge avail without the fear of God? Indeed an humble husbandman that serves God is better than a proud philosopher, who, neglecting himself, considers the course of heavens.”

"Gloria, laus, et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe Redemptor..."

He must be King over our imagination and memory. To actively purify the memory can be a dauntingly difficult task! Garrigou-Lagrange compares the purification of the imagination to writing with a pen without noticing its form. The imagination should serve the intellect by placing before our mind beautiful images of the mysteries of faith. Unfortunately, the memory is a wild horse that must be broken, otherwise it will run us to the ground. The memory too often rebels with thoughts of past offences which renew in our heart feelings of indignation. Have you really forgiven your brother his faults? Check your memory. It is really all too forgetful of its meek and loving King! The Imitation of Christ sums it up perfectly: “This is the reason why there are found so few contemplative persons, because there are few that know how to sequester themselves entirely from perishable creatures.” The road to perdition is wide.

"...mercifully grant that whithersoever these palms are taken,there the grace of Thy blessing may descend..."

Finally,Jesus must be ruler over our will. We must always render ourselves docile to His divine inspirations, be they painful or otherwise. When God asks us to give more and more, we must have his Sacrifice always before the eyes of our heart. Sometimes it is difficult to know the Will of God. Then we must pray for this knowledge. Some temperaments possess a very strong self-will. The people of these temperaments must surrender self-will to the Will of their King. They must possess a special trust that where ever the King will lead them, be it Calvary, Thabor, Carmel or Sinai, He will be doing what is best for them and the road will end in a happy eternity. All self-will has got to be vanquished. When this is accomplished, Our Lord can reign gloriously over our hearts. We shall be happy servants of the Good. Nay, we shall possess the Good!

The red vestmests now being changed to purple for the Mass.
By allowing Jesus Christ, our gentle King, to reign freely in our hearts, minds and souls, we are really procuring for ourselves the greatest peace one can experience in this vale of tears: the peace of Christ the King. Pax Christi Regis. We follow our King to Calvary this week. May the peace of Christ reigning in our souls be ever magnified by true compunction and deep sorrow as we prepare ourselves for the greatest triumph of the King and his Mother, our Queen. Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace.

The Sisters returning to the Convent after the ceremonies.
An updated photo ~ showing the whole community

Monday, March 19, 2012

St Patrick’s Day at Rosary Convent

March 17 is a special day in the Australian calendar, and not only in Catholic ones –your average calendar purchased from the post-office or supermarket will usually feature the words ‘St Patrick’s Day’ in bold print on the 17th of March. If you bother to take notice of the advertisements of your local businesses, you may find that they are promoting another Massive Sale, drawing your attention in particular to their Large Range of ‘St Patrick’s Day Merchandise.’
Some people might wonder why the feast of this British bishop is such a prominent one in the Land Down Under. Surely now that the Aussies have at long last a saint of their own, (St. Mary Mackillop of the Cross), they would put the spotlight on her Feast day, or at least have it on a par with St. Patrick’s. That may happen sometime in the future – we hope – but in the meantime, let us have a look at why good St Patrick is so popular in this country today.

Way back in the 1770’s, when Australia was still new and various intrepid explorers were trying to get some idea of the lay of her land, life in Ireland was rather rough. Widespread shortages of food and money and firewood made life miserable, and, much as the Irish people loved their country, there were those hard-pressed souls who could find it in their hearts to wish to get away from the dreary poverty of daily life. To add to all that, penalties for stealing such common household items as bread or milk were what we modern people might call a trifle harsh. Many Irish were arrested and jailed, because, when they had come to a choice between death by starvation, or theft, they chose the latter. Of course we know what happened when the prisons became over-populated – Captain Arthur Phillip sailed for Australia with a load of convicts, Irishmen among them. It happened that prisoners were occasionally allowed to write to their families back in Europe, and we can imagine the incredulous face of Mrs O’Shea as she reads her husband Mick’s scrawled missive: “ ‘Tis a queer flat country, much drier than Ireland. The fields – sure, an’ they call them ‘paddocks’ here, Mary – are acres and acres across so you can’t see t’other side of them. The Governor has ordered that they be sown with grain and vegetables. I wish you could get some of it all when harvest comes round!”

So there were two very good reasons why Mrs O’Shea should sell her little cottage and sail with the children to Australia: Mick was there, and there was also the promise of better living. Of course she wasn’t the only one to go. Scores of Irishmen and women said goodbye to Erin, taking with them their families, a few necessaries, and their Catholic Faith.

When March 17 came round, the Feast of the Patron of their homeland, the immigrants got together and celebrated St Patrick’s Day with as much splendour as their slender means allowed. Little by little, the Irish settlements grew, and soon we may imagine their non-Catholic neighbours joining in the annual festivities too. So it went on; Australia settled down to being an individual nation, and her strong Irish population ensured that St. Patrick’s Day was made special wherever they were.

Now that’s all very well and good for the Irish and the Aussies with Irish backgrounds, you might say. But why are the Dominicans of Rosary Convent writing about St Patrick? Do they keep his feast? After all, the Sisters hail from just about all over the world. They would very likely leave poor St Patrick with a mere ‘commemoration at Lauds’ or something, while celebrating with great gusto some obscure New Zealand- or American-based Feast.

Let Rosary Convent answer! It’s true that we are a mixed group of nationalities, and most of us have just emigrated from New Zealand, and we are Dominican. But since St Patrick is such a special saint in our new home, we certainly celebrated his Feast. Some of the Sisters cooked a delicious ‘Irish Stew/Shepherd’s Pie’, for dinner, and also a splendid cake decorated on top with real three-leafed clovers from the Bush! (We didn’t eat the clovers though – we took those off before consuming). To round our little party off, we sang Irish songs until the bell rang for Compline.

There! March 17 was indeed a special day for us, and not only because we were allowed to celebrate with cake and song in the middle of Lent! On that day we also welcomed a new postulant from the Philippines to our little community – which isn’t so little any more. Eleven members already . . . I wonder how many more will celebrate St Patrick’s Day next year? O Lord, grant us many holy religious vocations!

A happy occation ~ picking up the new postulant from Melbourne Airport

Mother General with the five postulants.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feast of St Thomas Aquinas: Blessing of Rosary Convent

“O God, through whom Thy Church is glorified by the wonderful learning of Thy blessed Confessor Thomas and profiteth still from his holy labours: grant we pray, that we may grasp his teaching with our minds and show it, as he did, in our lives.”

Processing in for Mass

A joyous occasion for our community, the Feast of St Thomas has been chosen for the blessing of our Convent by the district superior Father Black. The ceremony started with a sung School Mass, at which Father Black expounded the lesson for the Feast of St Thomas, taken from the book of Wisdom. Father pointed out that in order to receive wisdom we need to desire and strive after her; it will require an honest effort on our part. But effort well worth spending, since the light which she imparts cannot be put out; it is worth more than gold and silver. True wisdom does not merely relate to cleverness or practical real life applications which result in high paying jobs, which ultimately puff men up and lead them away from God. True wisdom leads us to contemplate God in His goodness; it humbles us before Our Father and leads us to practice discipline. True wisdom once gained, flows over into our actions and sanctify us. Hence we find in St Thomas a humble man whose greatness lays not so much in what he knew and wrote, but how he put it into practice in his own life. We therefore ask in the collect of the Mass, not only to be able grasp his teaching, but to show it, to be able to put it into practice in our lives as well.

The crossbearer leads the way to the Convent

A long row of children, teachers and parents follows

Blessing of the convent

After Mass at which the choir sung beautifully, the teachers and children all (apart from the first year “preppies” – whose little legs would not have been able to keep up with the rest) processed to the Convent for the blessing. Once all were assembled Father proceeded with the Sisters singing the “O Lumen”. A long snake of two rows of children reciting the Rosary marked the end of the proceedings at the Convent as they made their way back to the Church.

The procession returns to the Church

But our Feast Day celebration had but begun, we were fortunate enough to be able to receive Father Black back in the afternoon, during which the Sisters were able to entertain him with a few Scottish songs dear to his heart.

Preparations for the feast day celebrations

Muscial items to entertain Fr Black

Since we now also have a Sister with St Thomas as patron, we were able to extend our joyous celebrations to the evening at which she was able to blow out the candle on her very first Feast Day cake as Sister Mary Thomas. We pray that this is the first of many happy years in the service of Our Lord. And joyful it is indeed, from St Catherine of Siena we learn that " His religion is all joyous: it is a garden of delights." To some novices whom he had just admitted into the Order and who broke out into hysterical laughter during Compline, Jordan of Saxony said: "Laugh, dear brothers, laugh !" and he reproved an old friar who sought to repress their levity. If Blessed Jordan of Saxony approved of laughing novices, it was because of the motive which he regarded as underlying their merriment: "You may well laugh, because you have escaped from the devil who formerly held you in bondage." Like those Novices of old we are greatly comforted when reflecting on these words, and the thought that our little convent has now been blessed.
Safe from the storms and troubles of the world - we can continue to give our whole heart to the service and love of God.

Happy feast day Sister Mary Thomas!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rosary Convent ~ Novitiate house of the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui

With but fourteen friars, trusting in the grace of God, which he felt to be with him, and encouraged by the approbation of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, St Dominic, who had inculcated in his brethren his own grand ideal, judged that the time had come to disperse them over the world. His resolution was taken. Vainly did Simon de Montfort and the Bishop of Toulouse endeavour to deter him.

The evangelical sower understood that the right season had come. He sent half their number, that is to say seven, to Paris, the great university town, "to study, to preach and to found a convent." Only one religious accompanied him to Rome, where he expected to find fresh subjects. Four went to Madrid and two remained at home in Toulouse. From Rome, where he dwelt near the Pope, St Dominic encouraged his children from afar.

As one casts grain into the earth at seed-time, so St Dominic dispersed his sons. He himself used this illustration: “Seed rots when it is hoarded, bears fruit when it is sown.” (Bologna, 26)

And so after due recourse to prayer, judgment and counsel, following the movements of God’s grace without attempting to anticipate or to delay, the time had come to disperse the “seed” from within our own little community. Divine providence so ordained that it was the Novitiate that was to be moved to Australia. This was only possible due to the generosity and foresight of the Tynong Parish in offering the support needed to set up a House of Formation.

And so with much joy and confidence in God, we set out, praying that God will grant us the grace He did to our Father Dominic, to make us like him, magnanimous in spite of all the difficulties that had to be overcome, like obtaining visas for all the sisters concerned to name but one!

We have been here for just over a month, in which God has clearly shown us His fatherly love and concern through the warm welcome and on-going support which we receive from the Parish, from preparing living quarters, food donations, erecting clothes lines and dividers for cells, fixing things around the house, administrative matters, Priests to assist with classes in the Novitiate, prayers and friendly smiles.

Our “temporary” home: a rental property in walking distance from the Church in the Australian countryside.

The Postulants have had ample opportunity to display their creative side in building temporary cells, in the barn with sheets and cardboard! They also displayed much patience in the constant renovation of cells due to the arrival of new and improved materials, like shelving that could serve for more sturdy dividing walls! Novices have devised clever ways in dealing with unwanted eight-legged visitors and dealing with a salamander who posed as a snake in the linen cupboard! A refectory, community, chapter and lecture rooms had to be arranged and the timetable fine-tuned to ensure that all aspects of Dominican life were lived as prescribed in our Holy Rule. Our “house” became a “proper Convent” with the arrival of the Blessed Sacrament and opportunities for Mass in our little Chapel. Much has been achieved in a short time with outside help and the dedication of the sisters working for the common good of the community, not weighing the cost, retiring to bed tired but with much gratitude for all that we have received. We await the approval of one last visa, and we also received one more postulant “out of the blue”. This brings our number to eleven, awaiting the arrival of a postulant in early March. Deo Gratias!

Left: The Sisters busy at work: we have a “working recreation” during which we all help to prepare the evening meal, as well as sort and fold laundry. Bottom right: Our chapel and the Salve procession which forms part of Compline.

Postulants in the front row: Skye Dolphin, Anna Bailes, Karyn Yzelman.
Middle, Professed sisters: Sr Mary Raymond, Mother Mary Micaela, Mother Mary Catherine. Back, Novices: Sister Mary Louise, Sister Mary Thomas, Sister Mary Johanna

You may well ask: “What do they mean when they talk about a novitiate?
As no one would dream of entering any profession in the world, albeit teacher, lawyer or doctor, without the proper training, the same holds true for the religious life. The formation in the Novitiate is a preparation for, and an initiation into, the religious life, which is itself simply put “a striving towards perfection”. Note that the emphasis falls on “striving” signifying that it is at once both the resolution and the struggle to advance, to progress and to climb. As for perfection, that also contains the idea of struggle, of intense and universal action. It is a reaction against all the forces that threaten the spiritual life, a practice of the virtues, but above all, the abundance of charity, for to love God perfectly is the supreme act.

The arrival of Mary Fitzpatrick

The Novitiate then is the “professional school” of the religious state. Of its very nature the religious life is a tending towards perfection, a work of sanctity and while the Novitiate is called a “house of formation /study,” it is even more appropriately called a “school of virtue.”

To know, to will, to love, to act: these four words seem to sum up and express in the main the programme of life of the Novitiate.

TO KNOW, theoretical teaching focuses on
- the nature, elements, conditions, sources, dangers and fullness of the spiritual life
- the religious state, its structure, its essentials elements, its two-fold purpose: sanctification and the apostolate, its many and various obligations
- knowledge of the nature of the Order : its spirituality, legislation, rule and constitutions,apostolate etc.

This is achieved through a series of lessons, five every day, running from 8.40a.m to 12.50a.m. Subjects included are Philosophy, Theology, Latin, Literature, History, Communication and Education and Spirituality.

TO WILL, the knowing is but a prelude to the willing.
Once the Novice has studied this religious life and knows it, she and she alone has the duty of accepting it loyally and of willing it in entirety. Everything depends on her “yes” or “no”. It is the candidate who must reply and conclude the matter.

TO ACT, practical study consists of:
- Practice of the vows, although she has not yet pronounced vows, the novice is preparing herself for them, by trying the weight of these three crosses, she has the opportunity to test the extent of her generosity and her ability to carry them.
- the recitation of the Divine Office, the sisters’ chief exercise in prayer, at fixed times, said with reverence, dignity. Music classes assist to prepare her for this great privilege in participating in the official prayer of the Church. These prayers are complimented by the recitation of the Rosary, two periods of mental prayer and spiritual reading every day.
- Regular and strict observance of the Rule inspired by faith, consumed in charity, a code of love,to which she submits with as much joy as loyalty.
- living Community life, to accommodate herself as amiable as possible to the temperament, the character and the mannerisms of each and every one, to forget oneself and to think of others and to be “all things to all men” …and at the same time to maintain an imperturbable patience and keep the family peace in the unity of spirits and the fusion of hearts.
- Postulants also participate in the apostolate by teaching Catholic Doctrine classes at St Thomas Aquinas College, Tynong.

The programme assists the Novice in forming from the first years, an exact idea of her vocation and the exalted ideal of the religious life. Thus strengthened she can advance with enthusiasm, generosity and determined will to acquire the perfection she will bind herself to strive for at the time of her profession.

We sincerely thank all our Benefactors who have made it possible for us, to continue this important work. We beg all our readers to remember us in their prayers for its success and the perseverance of our Postulants and Novices!

On lighter note: photos of a “theatrical performance” and musical items which showcased some of the many talents in the Novitiate.