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.



Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Cairn for Our Conversation

"I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we are
shaping the future of our planet.  We need a conversation
which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge 
we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and
affect us all."
                                        — Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

If you've read Laudato Si', and are now looking for a way to move from words to action, I encourage you to check out the new dialogue guide produced by the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice, and published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Available in English and en Français, this is an excellent resource designed for small group discussion.  It includes many stimulating reflections on Laudato Si', as well as stories, photos, and thoughtful questions for dialogue.

Consider joining, or even starting, a friendly conversation with some other homo sapiens about the concerns and challenges presented in this encyclical.  It's a deeply human act — and profoundly sacred, too.

                                                                            -- Sister Elizabeth Marie

Thursday, 3 November 2016

October: Cabbage, Clay and a New Novice

October was a busy month, which would explain why we're just able to post about it now, and it ended as it began —with cabbage. A bumper crop of Brassica oleracea, a couple of benefactors willing to lend us crocks and canning supplies and hands, and a lot of patience ("How long do I have to knead it? Seriously?!?!"), and 28 days later we had a pantry (and stomachs) full of homemade sauerkraut. Our prioress, Sr. Marie Tersidis, was away at the General Assembly of the North American Association of Dominican Monasteries and thus missed out on the first round of krauting —so she decided to solo round two, which should be ready any day now. 

In mid-October, we had ongoing formation classes with Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. of the Western Dominican Province. This was followed by a second round of classes from Chilliwack potter Tom Sproule. A few more test-fires of our locally sourced glazes, and visitors to our monastery should start to see some new additions to the gift shop—mugs, tea bowls, tumblers and yarn bowls, for starters!

Finally, on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), our postulant Bronwyn received the habit of the Order of Preachers and her new name, Sister Marie Thomas of the Divine Word. Sister comes to us from not too far away—born in a port town in northern British Columbia, she grew up in Whistler, the resort town just an hour up the road from us.  Please pray for her as she begins her canonical novitiate!

"No more pictures!" say the novices.
We asked sister why she asked to receive the name Thomas, after St. Thomas Aquinas O.P, and instead of a brief answer, she gave us a discourse:

"My university didn’t have a theology program, but when I was doing my homework for poetry and journalism seminars etc., I’d take my laptop up to the library’s mezzanine floor and sit leaning against the Summa Theologiae. If I didn’t have an excuse to study it in-depth, at least I could pray to absorb it via osmosis! St. Thomas Aquinas became a kind of older brother in thought as well as in faith, someone who I could argue dispute with about ideas like 'To what extent are created things knowable and describable in their essence and in their accidents?' (answer: go read Pieper's "Silence of St. Thomas") or 'If a mosquito bit Jesus while he was walking around Galilee, would that be the same as if a mosquito fell into the Precious Blood at Mass?' or 'Do words have intrinsic meaning connected to the essence of things, or are they merely arbitrary symbols with little relation to the essence of things?' Because, as I learned, such questions don’t count as casual conversation in most social situations (Then again, 'And that will settle the Manichees!' probably doesn’t either. And this one time, in the court of King Louis of France, a certain Dominican friar...).

So, that’s how I first 'met' the Angelic Doctor. But when it came time to submit my list of possible names to the novice mistress, I asked for St. Thomas for three distinct reasons. Firstly, his love for Christ in the Eucharist. We see a tiny sliver of this love in the texts and hymns for Mass and the Office on the feast of Corpus Christi, which he wrote at Pope Urban IV’s request. For St. Thomas, 'The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us' was not an abstract idea, but a real, tangible, beautiful Presence—and the saint’s early biographers say that when he was stuck on an idea or problem, he’d lean his head against the Tabernacle to ask for help. As Dietrich von Balthasar would say, his was a “kniende theology”—a theology that began on his knees in love.

Secondly, St. Thomas was a writer. Best known in our century for his systematic and dogmatic writings (like the Summa Theologiae and Summa contra Gentiles), and not nearly known enough for his Biblical commentaries (he was, after all, a Magister Sacra Pagina –'Master of the Sacred Page'), he was a superb poet (see the aforementioned texts and hymns for Corpus Christi—like Lauda Sion salvatorem, Pange lingua corperis or Panis Angelicus).

Finally, it would be fair to say that St. Thomas was obsessed with truth—or, rather, Truth, who is a person, not a thing. He loved God; he loved study; and he loved to love God by study and to share that love of Truth and the truth of Love with others in whatever way he could. He was so hungry for the truth that he went looking for ways of knowing God in the (then highly controversial) works of Aristotle, and (when asked by a joking friend), said that he’d rather find the (presumably lost) homilies of John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew than be Lord of all of Paris. But this quest for the truth about Truth (aka Christ) was not limited to his (rather formidable) intellect or some sort of eccentric academic quest. He himself wrote that 'to love God is something greater than to know Him' (S II-II Q.27 A.4), and that 'it is better to illuminate than to shine; to share contemplated truths with others than merely to contemplate' (S II-II, Q.188, A.6). In seeking Truth, he sought the truth about himself (humility) and the truth about his neighbour (charity), and spent his life working to transform both in light of the Truth of Christ."

And of course, no matter what else is going on in the kitchen, workshop or life of the community, we continue to pray for you, all those enrolled in our prayers and all the needs of our world—that the peace of Our Lord might especially help those peoples and areas suffering from war, terrorism or natural disaster. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Preaching of Trees

We've been delighted to have Bro. Manuel Merten, OP along with two friends of the Dominican Laity in Düsseldorf, Germany, staying with us these past couple of weeks for a refreshing time of rest and retreatThe following is a thoughtful sermon that we would like to share with you.  It was composed by Bro. Manuel and preached to the community here at Queen of Peace Monastery on 9 September 2016.

Können Sie Deutsch lesen?  Sie können mehr von seinen Predigten in seinem neuen Buch lesen. Der Titel ist Die Macht des Wortes: Wenn Gott in meiner Sprache spricht.

                 -- Sister Elizabeth Marie

Luke 6.39-42
Jesus also told them a parable: "Can a blind person guide a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit?  A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbour, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye."

When, for example, people talk too enthusiastically about the beauty of trees, presumably they have not been near a tree for a long time.  Trees are great silent beings, and they make us silent when we are near them.  Thomas Merton once said: "No writing on the solitary meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees."

When people talk too enthusiastically about Jesus we need not take it as proof that they know what they are talking about.  They may be talking theories and ideas; all the ingredients may be there, but no spark.  If there is no reticence, no silence between the words, no sense of being in the heart of mystery, then the words might not mean much.

In moments of deep silence, we 'know'; we don't 'know about'.  There is a big difference between these.  'Knowing about' is theoretical knowledge.  That word 'about' is like a wedge between the person and the thing.  We insert it because we don't want to lose ourselves or to give ourselves up; we want to remain in control.

"Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"  The way to stop judging others is to get rid of this distancing word 'about'.  There is no distance.  The speck in your brother's eye is a chip off the plank that is in your own.  Jesus saw projection long before psychology identified it.  Therefore he exhorts us again and again: Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Happy Golden Jubilee Sr. Mary Bernadette

On July 16, Sr. Mary Bernadette celebrated 50 years of religious life as a nun of the Order of Preachers. Born and raised in California, she originally entered Corpus Christi Monastery in Menlo Park (just outside of San Francisco) in 1961 and made profession on March 7, 1966. After hearing the master of the Order's call for volunteers to help establish and English-speaking Dominican monastery in Canada, she headed north in 2000 and hasn't stopped radiating the love of Christ (and sharing her baking skills) since.

After a joyful Mass celebrated by Bishop Gary Gordon of Victoria and a number of local clergy, we retired for further festivities, accompanied by a light luncheon and some communal jocularity. With over 200 of sister's family and friends in attendance, an awesome time was had by all!

Waiting to process in with the Knights of Columbus.
Jubilate Deo!
Renewing her vows in the hands of our prioress, Sr. Marie Tersidis.
Chocolate or vanilla, sister?

Congratulations, Sr. Mary Bernadette, on 50 years of religious life! May God grant you many joyful years more.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Happy Month of the Sacred Heart

June is upon us alreadywhere did May go?

We're not sure, but we know it was busy.

Most sisters' vegetable and flower gardens are underway, and there were a few weeks where it was normal to find seedlings stashed on window ledges, in the corridors, in the basementanyplace with a bit of sun and protection from hungry mice.

These fine looking squash are keeping the library books company.
Some early spring chard in Sr. Elizabeth Marie's well-tended patch.

Prioress Sr. Marie Tersidis discovered amidst the garlic.

Speaking of library, the librarian hit an important milestone this weekover 250 books are catalogued in the computer, complete with LLC numbers and keyword search tags. We're not going to guess at how many are left to go...but does it really matter? Given that this is a Dominican monastery, no one is going to complain about having too many books!

Some of the collection, along with our beautiful library crucifix and the quasi-famous rolling library ladder.

Some swallows found a soffit vent that blew loose in a winter storm, and it now appears that we have some diminutive tenants residing in the roof outside the novitiate wing. They're very tidy, and one can often catch them using the loose vent as a singing perch on sunny afternoons.

Sr. Ann Francis O.P., a professor at a local university, came for a week to teach us a course on St. Thomas Aquinas's treatment of the body and the soul. Thanks to her generosity, our heads and notebooks are now stuffed with concepts like the hylomorphic union of body and soul, the soul as the form of the body, and the distinction between the intellectual and appetitive powers of the soul.  While she was here, a generous benefactor donated crates and crates of beautiful red strawberries, and we had a strawberry hulling party! Many were eaten fresh, but the remainder were frozen to be consumed or turned into jam at a later date.

Finally, with all the nice weather lately, we've been spending a lot of time outside. Some community members have even started swimming in Pilchuk Creek—can you guess who?

As always, the beauty and grandeur of God's creation continue to be a daily inspiration. It's not quite paradisethat's the next valley over—but it is a daily blessing. And, as one postulant would say, it's "Epic!"

Until next time—peace!