August is always a special month to look forward to in any Dominican Calendar! Not only do the words Arise, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, for winter will soon be over and the rain over and gone come to mind, but it also means celebrations of the most solemn kind for the Feast of Our Holy Father on August 4th. At this time, any true daughter of St Dominic will always be preparing days in advance, sometimes even weeks, for this most joyous day when not only the order, but the whole Church will celebrate the founding of the Order of Friars Preachers.
Our preparations here in Tynong began with a little surprise. Never does it snow due to the temperate climate, even in Winter, but one late day in July we had a rather odd hail storm which left our surroundings looking like it was covered in a white blanket. For our Singaporean Sisters it was pure delight and we resolved then and there to try to fit in a day when we could take them to see and experience “real snow”. True is the saying that the most simple things in life give one much joy. What joy one experiences too when one gives up all earthly possessions and consequently all temporal cares in order to devote oneself entirely to obtaining heavenly treasures.
At last the Vigil came and First Solemn Vespers was chanted in the evening at the Church along with dedicated Dominican Tertiaries and devout faithful, with Rosary and Benediction following soon after. We were fortunate enough too to have Fr Marc Nely SSPX visiting at that time from Menzingen. Father naturally presided over Vespers and also celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the next day. It was a lovely liturgical start to the Feast Day, since a Dominican is first and foremost a contemplative. The Sacrifice of the Mass is always the climax of our day and the Divine Office a preparation and continuation of that Sacrifice. Some authors have compared the Mass to the Sun and the Divine Office, to the sun’s rays, which spread far and wide the glory of the sun. Our Holy Father St Dominic Himself, once a Canon Regular, would tend to the Sacred Liturgy with much devotion and He always made the Mass the Centre of His life to the point that witnesses would frequently see him celebrate Mass with tears in his eyes.
Consequently, In imitation of our Saintly Founder, we had a good holy start to the morning, and only then did we proceed to have a special breakfast with Father and a most jolly and recreative morning. We divided ourselves into four teams and competed in various games devised by our Creative Canonical Novices. I must say, the most amusing game we participated in involved working as a team to carry 4 eggs, one at a time, from one end of the room to the other with a tea towel – no touching eggs with hands allowed. It was very interesting to see how each group worked in order to accomplish the task at hand. Needless to say we were eating quite a few eggs thereafter but having lots of fun nevertheless.
Just after noon we partook of a splendid meal prepared by a lovely Cook in the Parish by the name of Mrs Lisa Braaksma. It was very very difficult not to tuck in enthusiastically since we had to be mindful of our traditional SISTERS vs STUDENTS netball game at 2pm. And what a game! Neck to neck all the way until the last quarter, when the final whistle brought the game to an end and a victory for both teams, since the scored turned out to be 17-17. Might I add the point that each quarter saw a whole new team of fresh and youthful girls play, while their opponents, the gracefully aging Sisters, plodded on playing a full 40 minute game.
The presentation of the Cup was followed by an afternoon tea for Benefactors, Tertiaries, Friends and Faithful as well as Past Dominican Pupils and the enjoyable day ended with the Divine Office – II Vespers, Matins and Compline.
On the Feasts of the Assumption and Ascension, we usually try to ASSUME or ASCEND something, so on August 15th, off we went to Mt Baw Baw to give our Equatorial Sisters a chance to experience what it is like in real snow. This gave us a day filled with such wonderful memories that we sang all the way home.
Soon after, our Sister Mary Anna, accompanied the St Thomas Aquinas College School Choir to an Eisteddfod. And for those wondering what this peculiar word is all about, it is an annual festival, with competitions in stage, speech, dance and music. The girls performed beautifully and the adjudicator mentioned that as a choir they had a rare sweet quality of voice. They proudly walked away at the end of the night with a 1st and 3rd place, two lots of prize money and a rather prominent trophy.
Now Spring is here, the flowers are in bloom, the brightly coloured parrots fly to and fro, the sun is shining, the kangaroos are hopping about once again and one feels like leaping over the hills singing the praises of God. Again do the beautiful words of the Canticle of Canticles come to mind: The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come; the voice of the turtle dove is heard; Arise, my love, my beautiful one and come……I have found Him whom my soul loveth.