Monday, 19 June 2017

Small and Great things, with great love!

It's officially summer (sort of, kind of, rain notwithstanding) and that means that the glaciers are on full display, the sisters are outside as much as possible, and new projects are happening all over the place.

The novitiate spent a lovely Saturday afternoon learning how to make handmade paper from water, recycled scrap paper and whatever natural materials we could put our hands on.  Much fun was had by all, and the local flora has now taken on a slightly different character ("It's beautiful! It's majestic! ... will it paperify?") and we hope to keep experimenting with cards, books, bookmarks, stationary...

Thanks, Oma!

Despite the late start to summer, the garden is in full spring. While some plants still need a little help from their (stick) friends, the rhubarb is galloping and has been since about mid-May.

Some of the ever-expanding rhubarb found its way into tartlets to celebrate a visit from  Canada's papal nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi (the tart on the left is frangipane, decorated with dried fruit "leaves".)

One of the joys of monastic life is that of being assigned to work places and projects one would never have expected. About two months ago, I was assigned to the wood shop, to figure out how to make small pieces to sell in our gift shop (and, now, more frames to make paper with!). After a first month of "safety bootcamp", I still have all my fingers and am ready to go! The first project I've tackled is making small boxes using our bandsaw (also: I've learned how to repair the bandsaw). I love exploring the unique character of each piece of wood—these first two boxes were from scrap ends that were destined for the burn pile. I would have never imagined that there was such life lurking inside those dull, dust-covered blocks.

I found a woodburning pen in a closet, and now some of the boxes with a more "plain" grain are getting an alpine spruce-up (pun intended, but this box isn't spruce, it's cedar).

And now for something completely different: I'd like to introduce you to a brave and noble animal, common to our locale, of which I am particularly fond: 

This fauna is especially beloved this year because they are not in the garden (unlike last year, when they ate multiple basil crops). And yes, the bears are also all over the property, but given that we have at least two mums with multiple cubs hanging out on the south field, this particular photographer is staying very far away. If the bear cubs want to be on the blog, they'll have to start taking selfies.

Until next time (which will attempt to be more often, but if it's sunny out, well...), God bless!

Sr. Marie Thomas

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Happy Easter, Happy spring!

Hagiography says that Seraphim of Sarov used to greet all his guests with a prostration, a kiss, and a cry of "Christ is risen, my joy!" And so, in the first week of Paschaltide and the fifth week of spring: "Christ is risen, my joy! Christ is risen!"

Unfortunately, I don't have many photos from the Triduum--there are some times in life when it's more important to be "in the moment" than capturing that moment for social media (and frankly, juggling candles, hymnals, missals, incense and matches doesn't leave many hands free for cameras!)
Suffice to say that God is good, the liturgy was beautiful and Christ is risen! And we are grateful.

A detail of the Paschal candle: hand poured by Sr. Florentina Marie, hand painted by Sr. Isabelle.

In other news, Jessica, our aspirant, has been hard at work in soap room all Lent. Between the sage, cocoa peppermint swirl and the cinnamon-vanilla oatmeal scents, sometimes the soaps smell good enough to eat!

Unmolding a trial run of stamped lavender bars.
The soap has to cure for at least a month for the harshness of the lye to mellow. Happy lye, happy soap, happy face!

With the change in season, we've experienced a sudden influx of guests—some named Flora, some named Fauna. When the gentle showers persistent precipitation wet coast welcome omnipresent downpour rain takes a break, the novitiate's been spending as much time outside as possible to make up for the long winter.   

We have our refectory inside. These little guys have their refectory outside, but they're not very good at keeping silence! "Chirp chirp, bzzt bzzt, whhhrrrrr!"

Skunk cabbage, or Lysichiton americanus, candling the wetlands.

Finally, we had our first "official" bear sighting on the south field this Wednesday morning...but we also had a bear sighting on Sr. Marie Tersidis' birthday last week! The ursine in question was about four inches tall, very sweet, and thoroughly incorrigible....

For the record: "a fed bear is a dead bear", so please don't feed the wildlife (particularly if the sign saying "Please feed the bears" is written by a cakepop bear holding a licorice pen and sitting in the midst of a jelly bean squash patch...)

Until next time: "Christ is risen, my joy, Christ is risen!" And if you want to learn more about respecting our furry neighbours as they emerge from their dens this spring, check out the Get Bear Smart society, an organization based out of Whistler, B.C.

--Sr. Marie Thomas

Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Bare and Unadorned Space

The following sermon was written by Sister Jean Marie, OP ( Queen of Peace Monastery ) and preached several days ago in our communal celebration of the Joyous Chapter on the feast of the Annunciation.  

In the beginning, God spoke the Word, the Word he spoke was God, and through God’s Word everything came into being. In the fullness of time God’s word is en-fleshed in Jesus, the Son of God. God now dwells in our midst.

The prologue of John’s Gospel retells the creation story. God, now re-creates in his Word made flesh. The good news is that in God’s breaking into our history our capacity to be participants in the Divine nature is restored (2 Peter 1:34). There is within each human person a dynamic impetus toward eternity. God created us with the capacity for freedom; this gift of freedom provides the power of choosing good or evil. 

"For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne,
into the midst of the land that was doomed . . . and touched heaven while standing on the earth." (Wisdom 18:14-16)

The prophetic image found in this Wisdom text is forceful. In coming into our humanity, Jesus became a bridge that re-establishes our connection to God. Jesus Christ, Word of God made man, touches heaven and stands upon the earth. 

In the teaching of the New Testament we are frequently confronted with our need for healing and redemption. We are healed through opening our hearts to the purifying light of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus. Meister Eckhart would say that our emptiness draws the Word into our hearts—that our emptiness is the cradle for the birth of the Word.

Mary is our paradigm for discipleship for listening to the Holy Spirit. The Annunciation is the beginning of the mystery of our salvation. The Gospel scene is Trinitarian. The Father sends the Spirit who hovers over Mary as in the first creation, and a new humanity is born through the Word of God who takes flesh in her Virgin womb. 

Fra Angelico depicts this mystery so well in his Annunciation found in one of the cells at San Marco, Florence. The simplicity of his presentation: Mary kneels in a bare and unadorned space, rays of light focusing on the intensity of her receptivity. She kneels in prayer bent forward intensely enfolding the Word of God.

Every time I am open to the movement of the Spirit I am born anew. God’s Word came into the world that we might be reborn in the grace of Christ. God’s grace is made full in us through the indwelling presence of God, and our yes to God’s work. The Divine life continually heals our brokenness when we listen deeply to the voice of the Spirit, and like Mary accept God’s Word. 

Jesus, the Son of God enters Mary’s womb and is born in Bethlehem so that he may be born in us through grace. So, that like Mary we may become vessels of the Trinity, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and in our turn, give birth to the Word of God through our ministry of imparting the truth of the Word to others. Through our Dominican vocation, we have been specially gifted to fulfill this Christian mission.

Eckhart teaches that the Father births the Word, his Beloved Son in the ground of our being. Our perfecting is a lifelong process that continues until we enter the fullness of eternity. It is a gift of God, the work of the Trinity. The Father delights that His Word is born in us, and in our turn that the birth of the Word makes us fruitful bearers of the Word.

In Jesus, God’s steadfast love and mercy is available to all humanity. He came to establish a kingdom of peace among all peoples, as the angels foretold to the shepherds. The Gospels teach us how to become people of peace and love. We can radically become a focal point of peace by seeking to live in a non-violent way in all our dealings with each other. Each of us by seeking to live the Gospel deeply in our monastic life, loving one another intensely, sends ripples of love into our world that transforms it.  We need to trust in the Holy Spirit, as Mary did, that great things could be accomplished in her and through her. God promises each of us that he will do great things in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate this great feast of the Annunciation, let the words of the Prophet Zephaniah echo again and again in our inmost centre: ‘I am in the midst of you’. Let us allow God to surprise us: “You are my beloved, be fruitful in the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid I am with you always.”

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.