Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Feast of Christ the King

Christus Vincit
Christus Regnat
Christus, Christus Imperat!

These words rang out from the voices in the Tynong procession close to thirty times on Sunday, demonstrating a firm belief in Our Lord’s sovereignty even in today’s atheistic world.

And God, Who is not to be outdone in generosity, saw that the rainclouds - which looked threatening all morning - stayed in abeyance, thus permitting a beautiful outdoor procession from Corpus Christi Church to our little Rosary Convent!

We were living in a state of relative apprehension overnight and for most of the morning, wondering what the fickle Melbourne weather would do, for the Sisters had worked together like bees in a hive to get the Benediction Altar ready.

Under the artistic direction of our very talented postulant, Beatriz, we bundled greenery, picked out flowers, cut up twine, tied dozens of knots, re-did knots, pulled out greenery and basically were in a frenzy of activity (while maintaining proper religious decorum, of course) that looked something like this:

To get an end result that looked like this:

The only thing remaining was to see if the wind and/or rain would take it all to pieces before the procession got there. Happily, it didn’t, and we had the delight of seeing Our Blessed Lord enthroned for a short while outside our Convent amidst the setting we had prepared. 

May Sunday’s efforts be a symbol of what we aim to do in our spiritual lives: to prepare a fitting place in our hearts to welcome Him Who reigns over us, to keep trying even if rainclouds and strong winds are threatening our horizons, and to always maintain hope and trust in God, which is never ever betrayed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

St Matthew's surprise

St. Matthew is one of those saints                                     who becomes a dear friend                                                once you get acquainted.                                                       Let's get to know him a bit better!          
St. Matthew:  I am always happy to make new friends.  You know, I didn't have very many to begin with.                            
Inmate of Rosary Convent:  Really?  Why is that, St. Matthew?             
St. M.: Well, I was a tax collector before I received my vocation.  And being a Jewish tax collector meant at that your people considered you a traitor to them for working on behalf of the Romans, and also that you were more than likely a cheat.                      
 I. R. C.:  But surely all the tax collectors weren't cheats?
St. M.:  I wouldn't say all; but since anything they collected over and above the set amount was theirs, and since man is prone to laziness and avarice, there was a fair bit of fraud going on.  But even if a tax collector didn't cheat, he was still seen as a bad lot.  He was working for the Romans, and the Romans meant no good to my people.  Remember that at that time, the Romans were the masters of the world, and with the fiercely independent spirit of the Jews, coupled with the promise of a Messiah Who would rule the world, the Jews were simply itching for the time when they could draw swords and follow a bold captain against those cocky young Italian centurions.  But the tax collector - well, to put it mildly, he was seen as lacking in national sentiment.  However, it was an appealing profession to broadminded people.  If you didn't mind a generous amount of sneers from your countrymen, all you had to do was set up your booth, fold your hands, and wait for the money to pour in.
I. R. C.:  Were you lacking in national sentiment, St. Matthew?                                                                                                                                 St. M.:  Commentators on my Gospel are always careful to point out that I was writing specifically for my own people.  If you have a look at it, you will notice that I have put in a lot of prophecies from the Old Testament relating to the Messiah, and I point out that these prophecies were fulfilled in Our Lord.  And I may say, that once I began to understand the mission of Our Lord, the more I appreciated my own peoples' history.  Remember all the holy prophets the Israelites had, all the battles that we won thanks to God's help, and as to literary achievements, well, you simply can't get much better that our own Royal Poet, King David!

I. R. C.:  St. Matthew, why do you think that people always mention you when they are talking about how important a Vocation is?      
St. M.:  That is a very good question.  I think that St. Peter, or even St. John sort of made a bigger show of sacrifice when they left their trusty fishing boats and all their nets and hooks and things behind and followed Our Lord.  I was only leaving an old desk in a dusky, noisy custom house!  Perhaps because of my particular situation at that time - that of a money-grubber.  What with so many young people today worried about getting a good job and making as much as they can, they run the risk of ignoring or simply not hearing the Master calling them to His service.  My story is perhaps particularly relevant to them.

I.R.C.:  Could you tell me your story, about when Our Lord called you, St. Matthew?
St. M.:  Well, it was a day like any other.  There I was sitting in the Custom house, bent over my piles of coins - I think I was in the very middle of adding up my morning's collection.  I had done rather well that day, I remember, and I was just trying to add up a whole pile of small change - you know how fiddly that is!

I. R. C.:  Yes, I do.  Fortunately I don't need to worry about money at the Convent!  That is the job of the Sister Bursar.

St. M.:  She has a responsible job - one which can try the patience sometimes.  Well, I think that I had mislaid a piece of silver and miscalculated, and was trying to figure out where I had gone wrong.  I was a bit warm under the collar - it was a hot day in any events - when all of a sudden, a shadow fell across my table.  That bothered me more still, because one likes to have as much light as possible when one is working at a desk.
 I. R. C.:  I have had the same feeling, studying tiny print out of a history textbook at 8:30pm when a blackout happens.
St. M.:  It's not calming to the nerves.  Anyhow, I tried to command a pleasant manner, because I sour faces are never good for business, and I looked up to see Jesus of Nazareth standing at my bench.  He had such an expression on His Face!  It was almost as though He felt sorry that I was getting so bothered over such a trifling thing as a miscalculation in small change, and He just said:  "Follow Me."
I.R.C:  And what did you do, St. Matthew?         
St. M.:  The only sensible thing - I followed Him.     
I.R.C:  Weren't you sorry to leave your money there?  I mean, didn't it worry you that the other tax collectors would grab all your earnings?  Didn't you even snatch up a bit of cash so that you'd at least know that your next meal would be taken care of?
St. M.:  No - have you forgotten how many times Our Lord multiplied bread?  Meals were not going to be an issue!  But really, food was far from my thoughts at that moment.  I was simply overcome at the thought that here was the one Treasure worth having, and to leave all of one's possessions in order to secure it was no sacrifice at all.

I.R.C.:  You mean like the parable of the treasure hidden in the field?
St. M.:  Yes - only my case was rather different.  I wasn't actually digging for the Treasure at the time - I was trying to find it in my receipt book.  The Treasure came looking for ME.  

I.R.C.:  What did you do after Our Lord ascended into Heaven, St. Matthew?  Besides writing your Gospel, I mean.
St. M.:  You may remember from your study of History that due to the bad feelings of the Jews towards the Infant Church, we Apostles dispersed into various far countries.  I went to Ethiopia, a region on the Horn of Africa.  It was ruled by a king whose daughter, the Princess Iphigenia, had recently died.  By the grace of God, the princess came back to life again, and consecrated herself to Our Lord as a virgin.  The king was converted to the Faith, and so was his whole kingdom. 

I.R.C:  How splendid!  Then what happened?
St. M.  The king died some time after that, and he was succeeded by a young man called Hirtacus.  He wanted to marry Princess Iphigenia.  However, Iphigenia refused him, since she was the spouse of Our Lord already, so he got rather upset about that, and barged into the chapel one day when I was saying Mass -
Contarelli Chapel and Works of Caravaggio: St Matthew's call, inspiration and martyrdom
I.R.C:  Why did he want to go and bother you?

St. M.:  Well, I had given Iphigenia the idea of consecrating herself to God in the first place, so he held me responsible for his disappointment.  Anyhow, Hirtacus drew his sword, and after a few nasty moments, I heard a Voice was greeting me with the words:  "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

I.R.C:  That happened on the 21st of September, didn't it?  I seem to remember that was what the Matins readings said.                                                                                                                                                     St. M.: Yes, and the 21st of September is also my feast  day.                                                                                                                                I.R.C.: I know - we celebrated it!  We even included berries in the dinner menu because the Matins readings said that that was mostly what you ate.                                                     
St. M.:  Very fitting - but you also had chocolate and things like that, I noticed!
I.R.C.:  Well, we figured chocolate was symbolic too, because cocoa beans grow in places like Ethiopia.

St. M.:  Oh yes, any excuse will do.  How did you like the surprise I sent you?

I.R.C.:  You mean all those boxes?  Oh, they were simply the best!  This car zoomed up our drive, and a man came and politely asked if he could have some help unloading stuff for the sisters.  There were about 8 enormous cardboard boxes - I don't know how he managed to fit them all into his boot.  We staggered into the Barn with them, and unpacked them on our table tennis table.  Some of the sisters were afraid that the table would collapse under their weight.  And inside . . .
St. M.:  Your shouts of excitement echoed right up into heaven, I do assure you.

I.R.C.:  Books!  More books than I'd ever seen outside of a bookshop!  Lovely old ones, on just about all the religious topics you'd care to mention, from piles of saints biographies, to works on the spiritual life, plus over a hundred of those A.C.T.S. pamphlets.  There was even a book on stenography!
St. M.:  I thought that it would be a rather fitting thing for the cargo from the kindly Brisbane parish to arrive at your convent on my feast day, seeing that I am a writer myself.  I hope that you remembered to say a prayer for your benefactors from there, especially Mr. Gary Wilson?
I.R.C.:  Yes, we did; and I'm sure we do every time we see the books neatly arranged in our library.  People are very generous to us here at Rosary Convent, St. Matthew.  Won't you say a prayer for the Brisbane parish, and all our other benefactors, too?

The happiest place on earth...

 “Let us shout for joy to the great King, creator of the universe. In Him Louis lives, sharing the glory of the saints.”  - these words were sung during Matins as we celebrated the feast of St Louis Bertrand – patron of novitiates. 

Postulants and Novices provides entertainment for the community on the feast of St Louis Bertrand

Happiness occupies too great a place in all human experience to be missing from religious life. All men are made for happiness and aspire only to eternal beatitude. When one leaves the world one is renouncing its insignificant and fleeting pleasures only to discover full and sincere joy. 
The religious state is a vocation to a greater happiness because it is a call to a higher sanctity. 

This divine joy, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, should flourish particularly in Novitiates, where a religious rising generation has need for expansion, eagerness and enthusiasm in the arduous work of its formation.  It possesses all varieties of it, there are divine joys and human joys, continual joys and joys only for a day, joys which enrich the soul or simply embellish life.

To belong entirely to God and to live only for God: that is more than joy, it is happiness, more than happiness, it should be like a prelude to beatitude.  There is the happiness which arises all day long from the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity.  These after all, unite us intimately to God.

Gaudium in veritate:  There is happiness in knowing oneself to be a child of the Father, the friend and living member of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Holy Ghost, the spiritual temple of the Holy Trinity with whom one can live in continual communion.
Gaudium in spe:  There is happiness in always being able to count upon God, upon His power, His goodness, His mercy, on the abundance of His graces and on the heritage of His heaven.

Gaudium in caritate:  There is above all the joy of being able to love God and of approaching closer and closer to His Heart by the royal road of poverty, chastity and obedience. “The only happiness for man on earth,” said the Cure of Ars, “is that of loving God and knowing that He loves us.”
All this happiness –which is the essence of Christian living –is experienced, but in the heart of the religious is strengthened and increased tenfold because she has been chosen and blessed by God who has called her to a higher, and for that reason happier, life. For it is from the fullness of life that joy overflows.

Now to add to these great joys are many smaller pleasures of conventual life.   There is the pleasure of obliging, rendering service, offering a word of sympathy, consolation or congratulation, of giving a pleasant surprise, for “it is a more blessed thing to give rather than to receive.” (Acts XX, 35)

Family feast provide joys, regaling the mind and the heart, not forgetting the stomach!
Another source of healthy gaiety is the daily recreation. The great St Teresa (who’s feast day we celebrated this past week) wished her daughters to use their talents and their minds to enliven community. “We women are already foolish enough by nature, what would happen if we became more so by grace?” “God preserve us,” she said, “from gloomy saints.”  Not that community life may always be free from sacrifices and renunciations, but these little crosses, offered to Christ in loving sacrifice, becomes a joy too.  Thenceforward “all is grace and all is joy.”

The influence of joy in the spiritual life and especially in the formation of young religious can hardly be overestimated.  In the Novitiate joy is a source of light, strength, enthusiasm and emulation. It creates an atmosphere, not indeed of illusions or romantic excitement, but of moral optimism and generosity. 
St Louis patron of Novitiates pray for us that we may “with glad hearts start to run along the road of the divine precepts, with ineffable sweetness of love” in order to share the glory of the saints in heaven with you.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012


O Queen of the Holy   Rosary                            Oh, bless us as we pray,                             And offer thee our roses     In garlands day by day,                             While from our Father’s garden                            With loving hearts and bold 
We gather to thine honour                        Buds white and red and gold.  

Feast of the Holy Rosary: 2012

The Postulants and Novices decorated our chapel and statues of Our Lady beautifully for the Feast of the Holy Rosary.

A statue was especially prepared to be carried in procession to the parish Church while praying the Rosary and singing hymns in Our Lady's honour.

The essence of a Christian life we learn is the imitation of Christ. The followers of Christ must thus always have the life and the virtues of Our Lord Jesus Christ before their eyes in order to pattern their lives after His. The chief concern of a Christian soul therefore should be the practice of a life of virtue – a life tending to the perfection of Christ.

In order to do this, to truly be His disciples, Our Lord tells each one of us that we must: “deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and follow Him” (Mt.16:24). But in order to do this, true apostles must also pick up their Rosaries and meditate on the very life of Him whom they wish to follow. In so doing, the followers of Christ will begin to fulfil Our Lord’s commandment to tend towards perfection, and they will be taking the surest and quickest route to Our Lord through Our Lady.

“...a powerful means of renewing our courage will undoubtedly be found in the Holy Rosary...” ~ Pope Leo XIII.

With our eyes on the Crucifix - we follow after Our Lady in procession.

The Rosary is like a book, some beautiful, wondrous story, or rather history.  You open the book and glance at the Table of Contents and you find that it is divided into three Parts.  Each part has five chapters.  The heads or subjects of these chapters most Catholics know by heart.  The Rosary is a powerful meditation on the life and virtues of Christ. It is the perfect combination of vocal and mental prayer, focusing our thoughts and our aspirations on the chief mysteries of the life, death and glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ. By praying the Rosary, a Christian soul enters into the mysteries of Our Lord’s life and he turns to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the perfect imitator of Christ, for guidance in his imitation of Christ. In the Rosary we go over the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary with its joys, its sorrows and its glory. 

This beautiful devotion has been well compared to a wreath of spiritual roses, for, as the rose consists of the leaf, the thorn and the bloom, so the Rosary consists of the Joyful Mysteries, representing the leaves; the Sorrowful Mysteries, representing the thorns; and the Glorious Mysteries, representing, the blooms. As we pass over the lives of Jesus and Mary, we are made familiar with their joys, sorrows, and triumphs as we live with them in spirit, speak with them in prayer, and follow them through the various scenes and events thus vividly and practically brought before us.

“We do not hesitate to affirm again publicly that We put great confidence in the Holy Rosary for the healing of evils which afflict our times.”  ~ Pope Pius XII
The angel Gabriel said, “Hail, full of grace!”, as if afraid to call her by her name. She was his Queen, but not his Mother. But we do not fear to say “Hail Mary, full of grace,” ten times to every chapter or decade; for she is our Queen, but she is our Mother too. And at the beginning of every chapter of the book we recite the Lord’s Prayer, which her divine Son taught us; and at its close the “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost!” For everything, of every kind and description, Glory to God! Whether it be for joy, or for sorrow, or for glory – always and everywhere Glory to God!


O Queen of the Holy Rosary,                            We share thy joy and pain,                              And long to see the glory                                Of Christ’s triumphant reign.                             Oh, teach us holy Mary,                                To live each mystery,                         And gain by patient suffering                           The glory won by thee.

“Among all the devotions approved by the Church none has been favoured by so many miracles as the devotion of the Most Holy Rosary.” ~ Pope Pius IX

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Spring in Tynong

We’ve got the lot here in Tynong right now: Blue Skies, a Bright Golden Haze in the Meadow, Cattle Standing Like Statues – the overwhelming conclusion is that It Might As Well Be Spring!!! I can’t help but think that it’s a particularly lovely day for St Therese’s Feast – after all, isn’t her autobiography properly called “The Story of the Springtime of a Little White Flower”? I know it’s been published as “The Story of A Soul”, but I’m pretty sure her manuscript had the other title. Anyway, there is ample evidence it’s springtime around here, as well as plenty of little white flowers – it’s like St Therese is just waiting to be asked for favours!

The days haven’t always been like this. Back in July, we here in the Novitiate strapped ourselves in for a long, wintery Term 3, and we are now reaping a delightful reward for our perseverance. These holidays, thus far, have been just glorious.
Admittedly, they had a bit of a rough start. We were all subjected to a Philosophy exam on the Tuesday of the first week, reducing our conversation material to gibberish about the meaning of prime matter and the continuum of time and the First Celestial Sphere that Aristotle was so keen on. (All Greek to you? It still is to us. Actually, it very nearly was, quite literally, in Greek. Someone lost their composure, presumably as the result of a brain compromised by the stress of it all, and asked Father if he was going to write our questions in Latin. (I personally think that there was quite enough for us to worry about, without giving Father ideas…) Anyway, Father said that if he did so, our answers would have to be in Latin. Then he changed his mind and said that, seeing as Aristotle spoke Greek, he should actually write it all in Greek. We must have looked so horrified that he took pity on us and gave it to us in English in the end.

I must also add here that I am extremely grateful to Father and Mother for mercifully changing their original plans and making the exam on Tuesday and not prolonging the agony until Thursday. Thank you!) Nevertheless, by Tuesday 12:30p.m. it was finished, and we were officially On Holidays!!! (And subsequently forbidden by one of the non-exam sitters to refrain from talking Philosophy any more.)
Our itinerary since that day has been splendidly full of holiday activities. Here’s a thumbnail sketch:

Stop No. 1: Wilson’s Promontory

Wednesday was devoted to this outing. The drive was extremely scenic – we even saw a real live echidna crossing the road (very slowly), and an emu scurrying through the bush! – and after about 3 hours we arrived at the inventively named Squeaky Beach, which, you guessed it, squeaks when you walk on it. Besides that, it has giant rocks gathered on one side, which form a kind of natural maze. Have a look!

 We then took a short walk to the next beach, Picnic Beach, with more interesting rock formations. W.S. Gilbert could have been writing about us, with his “Climbing over rocky mountain, skipping rivulet and fountain, passing where the willows quiver…” (Not that I saw any willows, but I’m sure you get the idea). Some brave souls even tested the water temperature…

 And then, all of a sudden, it was time to go home. We all bundled into the van, some sleepy, some a little bit (that’s a euphemism) wet, but everyone happy from the delightful day out. Incidentally, we have found that singing is very good for preventing motion sickness. We really should do a randomized controlled trial one of these days. We could call it the SIMPLE Trial (Singing Intended for Motion-sickness Prevention on Lengthy Expeditions). [Expressions of Interest: please contact The SIMPLE Coordinator, Rosary Convent, P.O. Box 50, Tynong, VIC, 3813.]

Stop No. 2: Mother Micaela’s Feast Day

Now, being a mere infant in the Convent world, the 29th of September was a very exciting day for myself and the other postulants – our First Michaelmas! Visions of postulant garments with “My First Convent Michaelmas” emblazoned on them rose before my mind’s eye, but they never materialized, for there was much more important work to be done. One cannot let one’s Mother Prioress General’s Feast Day pass without proper celebration, you know. Thus, the latter part of the week was spent in preparation for the big day, which included menus, decorations, and the entertainment. The end result was most satisfactory: we had an array of stir-fried dishes, the flavour balances expertly titrated by a brilliant Asian postulant, a delectable fruit cake, gorgeous flowers everywhere under Sister Johanna’s artistic direction, and a performance from an all-star (which translates into all-Convent, with the exception of Mother herself) cast. There was a dramatic recitation, a new Hymn penned for the Feast, and a superbly choreographed Spanish musical number. I won’t go into more detail, because I know some people are shy, but we’ll tell you more about it if you come for a visit J

 Stop No. 3: A Postulant Birthday

Monday brought yet another reason to keep the holiday mood alive: A Birthday! (Postulants don’t have religious names yet, quite obviously, which is why they get to celebrate birthdays instead of Feast Days.) Now, postulant birthdays are *always* very jolly, but having one in the holidays was even more so! Besides having a bit more time to construct an interesting cake and prepare an interesting meal, there was time to go on a Secret Outing (as it was advertised), which turned out to be a Table Tennis Competition! While some were happy to have a leisurely, genteel game of ‘keep the ball alive’, others got serious. There was a draw, complete with seedings, and a tabulated method of progression through the various elimination rounds. We weren’t disappointed with the grand final, either. By this stage, even the leisurely, genteel Sisters had their interest piqued (probably by the rambunctious ones who had been eliminated and were now following the remaining matches with avid interest), and all eyes were trained on the two finalists – Mary and Sister Anthony (incidentally seeded #1 and #2, respectively). In the end, Sister Anthony’s deft ball placement saw her take the honours in a 15-13 five-deuce thriller. The delighted crowd, who rather indiscriminately cheered for one and then the other, in between Mexican waves and crowd chants, was probably more distracting for the contestants than anything else – but they certainly had a good time about it.

Stop No. 4: -------------

It hasn’t happened yet, but The Feast of the Most Holy Rosary, our Convent’s own Feast, is this Sunday! Watch this space for reports…

 So there you are – that’s what we’ve been doing in our holidays, and that’s why I said they were glorious at the beginning. And do you know what? I have a funny feeling that they wouldn’t have had quite the same sparkle if we hadn’t started off with that Philosophy exam along with a few preceding weeks of hard work. It really is true that the sun shines brighter after a stormy night, and it’s worthwhile to remember that this is true in one’s spiritual life, too – every time of trial is only temporary, and it is inevitably followed by a time of joy and consolation which is better than if you had never been tried in the first place; God does look after us so very well.