Ladies, Take Back Your Christmas!

Eight Days to a Better, Blessed Catholic Season

by Beverly Stevens

Ladies, Take Back Your Christmas! It’s that time of year again, when women’s magazines inundate us with psychological studies about how depressed we get at Christmas.

Why are women often so sad at Yuletide? Mostly, it seems, we are casualties of the family under attack. Many are divorced, or have lost someone to illness. Or they are estranged from their family. Or they are suddenly the sole support of a family where a husband has been taken out of the work force — or out of their lives. Many are out of work – and down on their luck. Many women are just sick and tired, and about to give up hope.

For some  of us, Christmas is a time when all of life’s downers seem to crowd around like ghosts pointing accusing fingers. Some women get mad. Others get sad. Others just party frenetically.

The worst part is that all this stands in high contrast to the genuine good times that everyone else seems to be indulging in, right? Okay, so here’s some concrete steps you can take to pull yourself out of the Christmas Trap – courtesy of the Catholic Church, which brought you the real Christmas in the first place.

Take a deep breath. And then take the next eight days to re-adjust your Christmas. 

The First Day of Christmas: Get serious about making your season holy.

First, set your private Christmas goals, in a notebook reserved just for you. Here’s some ideas:

  • Reduce the stress.
  • Observe Advent.
  • Treat yourself every day.
  • Control your Christmas spending.
  • Shop Catholic sources.
  • Focus on helping others.
  • Create beauty.

DAY ONE: Get serious about your Christmas experience.

The Second Day of Christmas: Reduce the stress.

Your Christmas experience is largely in your own hands. Think about how you can reduce your stress level.

  • Limit or eliminate TV altogether. You don’t need the noise, the sentimental craziness, the bad evening news or the commercials. Use the time you have saved to go for a daily walk, read a book, or bake cookies.
  • Avoid crowds and traffic jams by limiting your driving to off-hours. Driving wastes time and gas, and drives your stress levels higher.
  • Shop online.
  • Suggest that you share planning and expenses for Christmas events with trusted friends or family.
  • Swap services with a good friend — you can color her hair, and she can babysit your kids.
  • Indulge in a warm bath – baking soda softens your skin, and a few drops of perfume add delightful scent.
  • Set aside time before bed to pray.

REDUCE STRESS: Avoid frustrating traffic jams. Plan to drive at off-hours.

The Third Day of Christmas: Observe Advent.

Since medieval times, the Church in her wisdom has helped Christians prepare for the Nativity of our Lord.

  • Contact your parish to see what their Advent plans are. If they are not observing the Season, find a Latin Mass parish near you 
  • If there are communities of Religious near you, visit their chapel, especially when they pray the Divine Liturgy.
  • Make a good Confession at least once between December 1 and December 24.
  • Set aside one evening each Advent week for your private devotional time. Light a candle. Play soft Advent music. Pray a rosary. Read the Biblical accounts in Matthew, Luke and Mark.
  • Set up your Nativity Scene, but leave the Baby Jesus in a drawer so that the youngest family member or visitor can have the privilege of placing the Child in the manger. Take a photo and send it to them!
  • Invite friends or neighbors to help decorate your Tree. Play Catholic chant music and serve simple refreshments.

OBSERVE ADVENT: Celebrate the Season by preparing for the Advent of our Lord.

The Fourth Day of Christmas: Treat Yourself Every Day.

You will be surprised how giving yourself a small treat every single day really does improve your mood.

  • Take a walk.
  • Light a candle in Church.
  • Go to exercise or stretching class.
  • Shop for a new Christmas outfit in a secondhand or vintage store.
  • Ride your bike.
  • Go for a swim.
  • Invite a friend for coffee.
  • Settle in with a good book.
  • Get your hair done.
  • Buy yourself a new lipstick.
  • Attend a school or church Christmas concert.
  • Go caroling.

TREAT YOURSELF: Take a walk with a friend.

The Fifth Day of Christmas: Control your Christmas spending.

Spending big bucks is about consumerism, not Christmas. Focus on spending with intent, for the right reasons and to support the right people. 

  • Instead of gifting busy friends and neighbors, give them the gift of time! Volunteer to make Christmas ornaments or cookies with their small children one afternoon. Sit with their elderly relative while they run around. Volunteer to walk their dog!
  • Instead of meeting friends for restaurant meals, plan a potluck dinner at your place. (If you can’t cook, provide the table, the wine and the cleanup!)
  • For wonderful, inexpensive gifts that enhance your faith and that of others, shop at online stores of Religious Orders.
  • Patronize your parish’s annual Christmas Bazaar.
  • Avoid buying expensive, ready-made gift packages – bake fresh Christmas cookies instead, taking care to wrap them beautifully!
  • Give the gift of a FREE Regina Magazine subscription!

DITCH THOSE EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT MEALS: Cook with friends at home!

The Sixth Day of Christmas: Shop Catholic Sources.  

Stop making global corporations richer. Many traditional Religious Orders and home-based businesses rely on Catholics doing their Christmas shopping at their stores – online or within their communities. And they are honest merchants, usually purveying top quality products.

  • Trappists, Dominicans, Benedictines, and Cistercians are just a few of the Orders who produce spectacular beer, wines, cheeses, coffee, baked goods and specialty items.
  • Visit your local Religious communities to see if they have any products – books, rosaries and CDs are very common.
  • Many Catholic parishes have Christmas Bazaars with homemade items – check out the websites of parishes near you!
  • Some parishes even have regular stores, which support their youth activities or other outreach.
  • Parish bake sales are a great way to pick up sweets for gifts – and for your dinner party table!
  • Patronize the Catholic companies you see online. (Maybe your homeschooling daughter could use some Catholic resources? Or your priest would welcome new vestments?)

SHOP AT CATHOLIC SOURCES: Many Orders rely on your Christmas spending to help them get through the year!

The Seventh Day of Christmas: Focus on helping others.

There is a lot of pain in this world, and we don’t have to hop a jet to find it or spend a million to make it better. You can help your neighbors, friends and fellow parishioners with simple gestures. (Plus, it helps to get your mind off your own worries!)

  • Inquire at your parish to see if they need help with events in Advent or Christmas.
  • Is your co-worker nursing a sick husband? Is your friend stressed to the max? Why not take her kids out for snow-sledding and hot chocolate? Or take her dog for a romp in the snow?
  • Reach out to your neighbors with small gifts – a homemade tin of cookies with a pretty ribbon often goes a long way!
  • If you know a family out of work, get together with some friends and organize a surprise food shopping expedition. Five friends donating $20 each can provide a family with a whole lot of food for the holidays!
  • Can you cook? Bake? Sew? Knit? Do crafts? How about house-cleaning? A clean house, folded laundry, a home-cooked meal, a handmade Christmas wreath, or a knitted afghan are all great lifts for families under stress during the holidays.

IS YOUR NEIGHBOR SICK OR OVERWHELMED? Walking her dog can be a great Christmas mood-lifter!


The Eighth Day of Christmas:
Create Beauty.

Christmas is ultimately about Beauty. Now is the time for you to take a fresh look at your life, to see where you can enhance the beauty of Life and the Faith.

  • Gather greens and berries to fill your house with simple, fresh, fragrant Christmas decorations.
  • Volunteer to decorate your Church for Christmas.
  • Begin work on Christmas crafts – with friends, this is especially enjoyable.
  • Give your home a new look for free! Use some of that time you’ve saved by turning off the TV — re-arrange the furniture in your living room, or give one wall a fresh coat of colorful paint.
  • Sing along with chant CDs as you drive around.
  • Throw a baking party! Invite friends over to make loads of cookies, sing Christmas carols and celebrate the season!
  • If people ask what you’d like for Christmas, tell them you’re saving up to take that drawing & painting class you’ve always wanted—and that you accept donations gladly. (This will set you up nicely for the New Year!)

CHRISTMAS GREENS from a walk in a nearby woods can grace your table this year.

UPDATE

The New Traditional Catholic Architecture

Duncan G. Stroik is an American architect, Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and founding editor of the Sacred Architecture Journal.

In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Duncan Stroik discusses what’s happening today, at the cultural nexus where Catholic culture and architecture meet.  

Q. Do you think that Catholic church architecture is at a turning point in America today? If so, why?

The movement towards traditional Catholic architecture is certainly building momentum in the United States. There are many bishops, pastors, and lay faithful who support the movement, and a growing number of architects with the understanding and training to design beautiful churches.

However, the modernist mentality also continues to influence some parishes, liturgical consultants, and architects. It is a constant tension experienced in each new building project, but I believe more people are becoming aware of the need for beauty and tradition.     

Q. Where do you find the greatest support for this classical architecture movement?

I find that younger bishops, clergy, and laity are enthusiastic in their support of the traditions of the Church, not limited to architecture, but also including music, sacred art, and all aspects of liturgy. Those middle-aged and younger grew up with the “brave new world” of abstraction and so-called liturgical participation and have found it unfulfilling.  

Those middle-aged and younger grew up with the “brave new world” of abstraction and so-called liturgical participation and have found it unfulfilling.  

Q. From whence does the impetus for this movement arise?

I believe it comes from a rediscovery of love for the tradition and the artistic patrimony of the Church. The experience of living in traditional cities also reinforces the movement towards Classical architecture, while the experience of the recent decades of architecture encourages us to seek what has been lost.

The experience of living in traditional cities also reinforces the movement towards Classical architecture.

Q. Is this extending outside the US, to your knowledge?

It is extending to England to some extent.  Europe remains in the hands of the cultural elite.  Africa, Asia and South America are next, though. The economics have made it difficult for them to build but that will change eventually.  

It is extending to England to some extent.  Europe remains in the hands of the cultural elite.  Africa, Asia and South America are next, though.

Q. What is the roadblock in many countries?

The Catholic faithful in most countries would prefer the tradition, they just don’t think they can have it due to the control of art and architecture by the cultural elites. 

Q. You founded a journal on church architecture, which you have been editing for 15 years. Can you tell us about why you created the journal?

The Sacred Architecture Journal was conceived in response to the many phone calls and letters I have received from pastors and laity requesting literature to read or architects to hire. The people of God have expressed a great desire for an architectural publication which will draw on the riches of the Catholic patrimony and articulate the principles for a sacramental architecture.

A respected cleric pointed out to me that while we have drama, music and art critics in our major journals there is little serious criticism of contemporary church architecture. Thus the intention of this journal is to sponsor substantive debate about this crucial subject.

Q. Where can you be reached?

I can be reached through my website at   http://www.stroik.com. The journal is located at http://www.sacredarchitecture.org

The Catholic faithful in most countries would prefer the tradition, they just don’t think they can have it due to the control of art and architecture by the cultural elites. 

Christmas in Carmel

by Donna Sue Berry

They are monastic superstars for a growing following of devotees of their Mystic Monk Coffee — an innovative small business that sustains the monks and their dream of building a monastery in the wilds of America’s Wyoming.  But they are also cloistered Carmelites, who observe strict contemplative rules. In this fascinating look behind the scenes, Regina Magazine’s Donna Sue Berry takes you on a privileged visit to Christmas in Carmel, with the Mystic Monks.

Q. Father Prior, what do the words ‘Christmas in Carmel,’ mean to you? 

The Carmelite life is a hidden life of loving intercession for the church and for the world.  In Carmel, Advent is a time of even greater recollection as the monks spend yet more time in silence and solitude to prepare for the great mystery of Christmas.  As such, Christmas arrives in Carmel after much preparation and anticipation.  The joy a contemplative knows in his cloister at the birth of the Lord is difficult to clearly articulate as his entire vocation is one of waiting upon the Lord that the monk might “open when the Lord knocks” on his heart. Christmas in Carmel is a blessed time of tremendous joy and peace.

Christmas in Carmel is a blessed time of tremendous joy and peace.

The Order of Carmel has its roots in the Old Testament when our hermit fathers, the sons of the prophets, spent centuries waiting for the coming Messiah prior to Christ.  In some way, Carmelites today share in that waiting for Christ whether it be in the days of Advent leading to the celebration of Christmas, the Carmelite day where we wait to receive Jesus again the Blessed Sacrament at Holy Mass, or especially in our own lives where all is ordered towards attaining to mystical union with God and through prayer and penance assisting countless other souls towards this same union.

Families have traditions during Advent leading up to the great celebration of our Lord’s birth. Can you tell me what traditions are observed by you and the Monks at the Monastery?

In Carmel, dating from the time of our holy Mother St Teresa of Avila, the Carmelites observe what we affectionately call “the child Jesus days of recollection.”  This great and noble tradition has the entire community process in white mantles holding candles, with the prior carrying the child Jesus in a little manger, to a monk’s hermitage each evening that the father or brother may spend the next twenty-four hours in solitude and more intense prayer.  This time of retreat is so special as the monk, together with the Virgin Mary, contemplates how meek and humble our God truly is as manifested in his nativity.

 
The Carmelites observe what we affectionately call “the child Jesus days of recollection.” 

Another great tradition of our Carmel is that each evening, following mental prayer and before the evening collation (or small meal), the community gathers in the refectory for the chanting of the Veni, Veni Emmanuel around the burning Advent wreath.  Oh how great is our expectation and our desire to prepare ourselves to receive our divine King on Christmas night!

Q. On an individual basis, can you each have certain devotions or “traditions” from your past life that you may keep while in the Monastery?

As Carmelite monks in the great tradition of the discalced reform, we enter the monastery to imitate particularly the Blessed Mother, but all the great Carmelites down through the ages.  We do not seek to do anything new, or discover our own path to holiness; rather we joyfully embrace the glorious tradition of Carmel and its deep wellsprings of Marian spirituality and devotion.  That being said, we recognize in the order of Carmel, manifested through our many saints and blesseds, that there is a myriad of Carmelite devotions, each reflecting an aspect of our Lady’s spirituality. 

We do not seek to do anything new, or discover our own path to holiness; rather we joyfully embrace the glorious tradition of Carmel.

When we are clothed as novices, we take new names in religion such as “Fr Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified.”  The second part of our religious name might be thought of as a window into each monk’s individual devotion.

Q. As out in the world there is always the exchange of gifts between loved ones, do you exchange gifts among each other in Carmel?

In Carmel we do not exchange gifts, as we are but poor religious. 

What we exchange at Christmas is our love for one another that manifests itself so beautifully when on Christmas Eve day, after the solemn chanting of the martyrology at prime announcing the birth of Christ on Christmas day, the monks warmly embrace one another wishing each other a truly Blessed and Merry Christmas.  Christmas and the following three days are known as recreation days when the silence is lifted in the monastery and the monks spend these days in beautiful liturgy and fraternal charity.

Q. What is Christmas Eve like in the Monastery?

Christmas Eve we like to call the “Day of the bells” as the day begins with merry procession throughout the monastery with rustic instruments.  After solemn prime, the monastery’s bells toll out announcing as it were to the whole world that Christ is to be born on Christmas night.  The rest of the day is spent in beautiful chanted liturgy and the final preparations of the crèche and Christmas tree.  As monks, we enter into the joy of Christmas most intimately by means of the sacred liturgy as we prepare through our hours of contemplation to welcome Christ into our hearts.  The beautiful and solemn three Masses of Christmas day, beginning with midnight mass, and continuing with the Mass of dawn and the conventual Mass, invite the monk to enter into Christmas with exuberant joy.  Indeed, praised be Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary.

After midnight Mass, the community gathers before the Christmas crib singing carols to our divine Savior. 

In a lovely Carmelite tradition, there is a procession throughout our monastery even going into the monk’s cells, to the turn, to the parlors, and all the other monastic rooms where the prior carries Our Lady and the sub-prior carries St Joseph.  The monk kneels to kiss these holy images when they are brought into his cell and placed on his straw mattress. 

In this way, the monk’s very hermitage becomes a new Bethlehem where Christ is welcomed in obscurity but with great love and adoration.  Our holy mother St Teresa loved this custom and insisted upon its practice, being moved by her tremendous love for God that grieved her so deeply when she considered those who turned the Holy Virgin and good St Joseph away as there was no room in the inn. 

Q. And then on Christmas Day? Does it begin with Midnight Mass? More Masses said during the day? Is there a Feast…a dinner celebration?

In Carmel there is an ancient saying, “Carmelus totus Marianus est” (‘Carmel is totally Marian’). 

As above, there is indeed a delightful time of celebration following midnight Mass where the community gathers before the Christmas crib singing carols to our divine savior.  As the sleep comes into the monks’ eyes, the Father Prior concludes this celebration in the middle of the night by intoning the psalm, Laudate Dominum Omnes Gentes (O praise the lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.)

On Christmas day, the monks again share a delightful meal and joyful conversation in the recreation room, rejoicing in the divine infant born for the salvation of men. 

Q. Tell me a little about the Mystic Monk Coffee we so love. What’s in store for Christmas?

 Throughout the great tradition of monasticism, monks have always done monastic industry to be as self-supporting as possible.  Some monks have baked breads, others have brewed beer.  As monks who keep vigil in the middle of the night, we know a great deal about a good cup of coffee to keep us awake for our times of prayer. 

Moved by other coffee companies that openly supported the pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-death, atheistic agenda of our modern day, Mystic Monk coffee was born as a pro-life coffee company to support the building of our monastery here in the rocky mountains of Wyoming. 

Roasted by our monks during our times of daily work, Mystic Monk coffee is a true monastic industry.  For Christmas, we annually hand-craft our own signature Christmas blend that is a delightful holiday roast for those cold winter days of December.       

Q. Your web site says ‘The Carmelite monks of Wyoming seek to perpetuate the charism of the Blessed Virgin Mary by living the Marian life as prescribed by the primitive Carmelite Rule and the ancient monastic observance of Carmelite men.’   Can you tell us what that means?

In Carmel there is an ancient saying, “Carmelus totus Marianus est” (‘Carmel is totally Marian’).  Carmel has been hailed by the popes as the “preeminent order of Mary.” 

We are true Marian souls who seek to “perpetuate the charism” of holy Mary through our union with Christ, hidden here in the enclosure, where our obedience, chastity, and poverty are modeled after the Blessed Virgin and allow us to be transformed into spiritual fathers of countless souls.

 

How We Got Here

The Latin Mass in a Thoroughly Modern Parish

For the past two years, Father Philip Clement has been one of the parochial vicars of  Incarnation parish, near St. Petersburg, Florida. Father Clements studied philosophy at Christendom College and then attended St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. He was ordained in 2008 and said his first Traditional Latin Mass on the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011. 

In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Father Clement recounts the story of how Incarnation Parish has become a beloved locale for the Latin Mass. The story of this parish shows us yet again how a thriving parish community with a strong future can grow, even against all expectations in a modern church, with an aging population.

Q. Tell us about Incarnation Parish.

Incarnation parish is located in the Town N Country area of Tampa, Florida, which is centrally located in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. It was created in 1962 and has roughly 3,200 families. The pastor is the Very Rev. Michael Suszynski, and he has been pastor of Incarnation parish for four years.

Q. How did you become involved with the TLM?

Early in 2011 I was asked by one of the three priests in our diocese who said the Latin Mass at that time if I could fill in for him while he was away on vacation. I did not know how to say the Latin Mass but had a deep interest in learning. This priest friend of mine instructed me on how to say the Mass, and with lots of study and practice, I was able to cover his parish’s Latin Mass while he was out of town. 

Thereafter, I made opportunities in my schedule to make the 35 minute drive to his parish to continue helping him with his Latin Masses. Since my first Mass on November 27th, I’ve been hooked.

Q. When did you introduce the TLM? 

Prior to 2012, Incarnation Parish did not have a Traditional Latin Mass. We also had a very unique situation, as our parish did not have a Sunday evening Mass on the schedule.

On February 20, 2012, I had dinner with the pastor, and at some point in the course of the conversation the fact that I had been saying the Traditional Latin Mass since the previous November came up, and he offered me the Sunday afternoon timeslot in which to offer the Latin Mass in our parish. Needless to say I was stunned, as that was not the purpose of our conversation, but he offered it anyway.  I took it to prayer, and two days later I informed him that I would love the opportunity.

By that point I was proficient in saying the Low Mass and had learned much about the history of the Mass in general. Since the Traditional Latin Mass was relatively new to me, I assumed it would be for our parishioners as well, except for the few who might have remembered it from their childhood.

Since my first Mass on November 27th, I’ve been hooked.

Q. How did you get parishioners interested?

I decided to offer the parishioners a three-part seminar on the Traditional Latin Mass, which covered preparation for Mass, the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful. It was a great success and was attended by over 200 people.

Each part of the seminar was given in successive weeks and ended on the fourth week with our inaugural Mass, the very first Traditional Latin Mass offered in our fifty year old parish on May 6, 2012.

Our three- part parish seminar on the Latin Mass was a great success and was attended by over 200 people.

Q. So, the Mass just took from there?

Not really. Immediately after May 6th, administrative problems prevented us from continuing with the Latin Mass for a period of six months. By November 4, 2012, we were able to add the Traditional Latin Mass to the regular Mass schedule. At that time it was only me saying the Latin Mass in our parish, and my schedule would only allow me to offer the Mass twice per month, and I was content in moving forward as such.

However, the following month I met a Jesuit priest at the local Jesuit High School in Tampa who knew how to say not only the Low Mass but the High Mass and the Solemn High Mass, and this offered our Traditional Latin Mass community a huge opportunity. Fr. Patrick Hough, S.J. came aboard January 20, 2013 and said his first Latin Mass at Incarnation. Now that Fr. Hough was available to assist with the Latin Mass, we were able to start offering the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday, and we have been doing so since January of this year.

In addition to being able to offer the Latin Mass every Sunday, we were now able to start offering the High Mass and the Solemn High Mass as well. Incarnation had its first High Mass on February 24th of this year and our first Solemn High Mass on Pentecost Sunday, May 19th.

Q. That is a lot of work! What is the current situation?

Since that time I have been able to learn the High Mass and the priest and sub-deacon’s parts for the Solemn High Mass, which allows us to have a very full Sunday schedule each month. Currently, the first Sunday of the month is a Low Mass, followed by two High Masses on the second and third Sundays, and a Solemn High Mass on the fourth Sunday.

All in all, I believe we have come a long way in just one year. This should encourage any parish considering starting the Traditional Latin Mass to follow the Spirit’s lead, bring it to the people, and have confidence that there is much support for the Ancient Mass of the Saints.

We have come a long way in just one year. This should encourage any parish considering starting the Traditional Latin Mass to follow the Spirit’s lead, bring it to the people, and have confidence that there is much support for the Ancient Mass of the Saints.

Q. How has sacred music played a part in the transformation of your parish?

Yes. Before we could offer the High Mass or Solemn High Mass in our parish, we first needed to explore the opportunity of starting a sacred music program. In the beginning, we invited a chant schola from a neighboring parish to come to sing the Mass parts for our first High Mass. We also invited them to continue singing motets and hymns at our Low Masses, and interest continued to develop.

Soon thereafter we were able to start our sacred music program, as we had just hired a new Director of Music in the parish who had experience playing and conducting chant choirs, as a well as a young man who volunteered to direct our schola. They have been working very hard to build the program and have done a wonderful job. Fr. Hough also is an accomplished musician and has a lot of experience directing sacred music. His influence and direction has been a tremendous benefit to the process, and we are happy to have him assist in our parish.

In addition to Fr. Hough’s direction for the schola, in February of this year, we invited Fr. Samuel Weber, O.S.B. an expert in Sacred Music to give us a seminar on sacred cantilation. He shared with us his love for sacred music and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Since beginning grade school in 1953, Fr. Weber has been studying and singing Gregorian chant.

In April 2008, he became the founder and first director of The Institute of Sacred Music in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. The Institute of Sacred Music was established by Archbishop Raymond E. Burke to promote the sacred liturgy and Gregorian Chant. In this seminar, Fr. Weber spoke about sacred cantilation and the primacy of place sacred music has in the liturgy. He also gave two sessions to train our schola and our altar servers, both of which were open to registrants who wished to sit in and learn more about how Gregorian Chant is sung and why the altar servers do what they do.

We were very blessed to have Fr. Weber visit and instruct us, and the results of that instruction can certainly be seen and heard in the voices of Incarnation’s schola.

The Institute of Sacred Music was established by Archbishop Raymond E. Burke to promote the sacred liturgy and Gregorian Chant.

Q. Have you introduced any other changes — more frequent confessions,  First Friday devotions, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament or any others?

Only recently were we able to start our new monthly Mass schedule, where we are able to offer a Low Mass, two High Masses and one Solemn High Mass per month. Much of my time has been spent tending to the necessary details and to training our altar boys. Therefore, not many other changes have been implemented at this time.

We are working towards being able to offer Confession before every Mass and occasional Forty Hour Devotions during the year, but that is only in the planning stages at this time. Our parish has had First Friday devotions, including Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, for years so no major changes have to take place regarding those devotions.  However, we are planning to offer more hours of Exposition and Adoration in the near future.

Q. How are your CCD and RCIA programs? Well-attended? What catechetical materials do you use?

Our CCD and RCIA programs are very well attended. Even though the population growth rate has been stable in recent years due to the aging of the area, we are consistently welcoming new families into the parish and into the Faith through the sacraments of initiation. This year our CCD program switched resources, and we are now using the Faith and Life series from Ignatius Press. 

Even though the population growth rate has been stable in recent years due to the aging of the area, we are consistently welcoming new families into the parish and into the Faith through the sacraments of initiation.

Q. How does the Latin Mass work in your modern church building?

Our current church building is of typical modern design, complete with a resurrected Jesus behind the square, wooden, detached altar.

As is common with many churches today, there isn’t much within it to build upon for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. Even though the church is modern architecture, we were able to come up with a way to beautifully modify the current altar to make it acceptable for the Latin Mass.

Even though the church is modern architecture, we were able to come up with a way to beautifully modify the current altar to make it acceptable for the Latin Mass.

Q. How have these changes been received in your parish? 

Incarnation Parish has been in existence for fifty-one years, and for forty-six of those years, our parishioners have been used to the Novus Ordo. While our parishioners are wonderful, the modern influence has had an effect on some of them as well.

When the Latin Mass was first introduced in our parish, we received the typical type of resistance, and I learned that people either love the Latin Mass or they despise it. With that knowledge, my prayer to the Lord was that if He wanted the Latin Mass in our parish, then would He please provide the funding from the people rather than having to fund the Latin Mass from the general parish funds and risk more ridicule. 

He obviously heard this prayer, and in less than four weeks, we raised over $20,000 to outfit the altar and to purchase all the other necessaries. The people who are appreciative of the Mass have not ceased to be more than generous in their support, whether it be monetary, spiritual or both.

My prayer to the Lord was that if He wanted the Latin Mass in our parish, then would He please provide the funding from the people rather than having to fund the Latin Mass from the general parish funds and risk more ridicule. He obviously heard this prayer, and in less than four weeks, we raised over $20,000.

Q. Are you attracting people to your parish? Homeschoolers? Do you find that many people are getting more involved in parish life? Altar servers?

Yes. Our congregation has steadily grown to the point that we average 150 – 200 people per Mass. Ages range from infancy to the early 90’s. We have done baptisms and Masses for the dead, but we have not yet had a wedding. Many of the families are young with young children and are homeschooling families.

In my opinion, this has added to the supply of our fifteen-plus altar boys. These young men are eager to learn and excited to serve, and we already have one young man discerning entering the seminary.

In order to foster continued growth in the community and build relationships between the Latin Mass parishioners, we have periodic potluck dinners after our Solemn High Masses. God has truly blessed our parish.

 

Q. This will be your first year offering the TLM at Christmas. How do you think parishioners will react to this? What plans are you making, both to help people keep a holy Advent and Christmastide?

Although the Latin Mass had already begun by last Christmas, I was not able to offer a Christmas Latin Mass last year because of my personal schedule.

Our community is slowly stabilizing, we’ve been able to include all of the Holy Days of Obligation in our schedule, and in order to help the parishioners prepare for a holy Advent and Christmastide, we are attempting to implement regular Confessions before Mass by the beginning of Advent. Plans are also in development for a Forty Hours devotion.

Our community is slowly stabilizing, and I believe people are looking forward to the Traditional Latin Mass for those very special occasions like Christmas.

Q. How can people find your parish?

We welcome everyone! Our website  and we can be found on our Facebook

Today’s Singing Nuns

Catholic Chant Tops the Charts for Christmas 2013

Americans are snapping up surprising new Christmas gifts this year, judging by the chart-topping albums of Catholic chant by some new superstars — traditional Catholic sisters!

The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in XYZ have released “Advent in Ephesus” to widespread acclaim…

…and the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Dominican Sisters of Mary have produced “Mater Eucharistiae

Both Orders’  albums have raced to the top of the classical Billboard charts. Both are up for Grammy awards.

In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Mother Cecilia, prioress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles and Sr. Joseph Andrew, OP, Vicaress General, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist reveal what it takes to capture the top of the charts – and the hearts of many weary Americans.

Q. Can you tell us about the impetus for the creation of your album?

Mother Cecilia: We were hosting a very dear priest friend of ours here at the Priory, a priest who is now dying. He had recently heard our self-produced CDs. He turned to me and said, ‘You really need to make an Advent CD.’

We had been contemplating the theme for a new CD, and his words sealed it for us. We, too, could perceive a need to restore the lost season of Advent.

Benedictines hold up the Liturgy as the “work of God,” and our primary means of sanctification. Giving attention back to Advent necessarily entails a more spiritual approach to Christmas. Some of the loveliest chants and hymns of the liturgical year appear during the season of Advent.

Sister Joseph Andrew:  Music has always been a large part of our community and our daily prayer and life of praise. When we were approached about releasing the music, which was already such a special part of our community, we took it to prayer.  

On the whole, when it is clear that something is guided by the Holy Spirit, we will, as St. Paul says, “lean forward” and take that act of Faith. We always try to be open to whatever God asks of us.  As is often the case when we give our FIAT, like Our Lady, there are many fruits which we could never have imagined which have resulted.  But our original decision to allow the documentation of the music of our community was only a desire to share whatever gifts God has given to us generously, as He has been so generous with all of us.

Q. How many sisters participated?  Was it fun?

Sister Joseph Andrew:  Oh, my, yes, it was so much fun!  There were 23 sisters who participated in the choir, and then I played the organ and chimes and Sister Maria Miguel played the trumpet.  We had a wonderful producer who helped keep us on track and after 2.5 days we had completed all of the recording for what is now Mater Eucharistiae

Mother Cecilia: Twenty of the twenty-two Sisters sang.  Our dear Sr. Wilhelmina is eighty-nine, and a sister stayed back to take care of her. Sr. Wilhelmina is our professional in prayer, and we could not have made the recording without her spiritual support!

The practices are always especially enjoyable for the sisters, simply because we are always happy to be in each other’s company. Our voices are truly an extension of our hearts, which we strive to keep united to the Heart of Christ. He is the One who takes our very different voices and melds them together so they sound very much as one.

The recording went very, very smoothly. Recording here in our own chapel also kept us very focused. We were still able to chant the Office the eight prescribed times on each of the three recording days. Rather than give our voices a break, we continued with the praises of God, and He Himself renewed them for the next session!

Q. How many sisters do you currently have?  Novices?

Mother Cecilia: We have twenty-two sisters at present. Four of them are novices, with a total of thirteen in formation.

Sister Joseph Andrew:  We currently have 127 sisters, including 18 novices and 20 postulants.  God is generous and continues to send us many wonderful young women!

Q. What is your Order’s charism?

Sister Joseph Andrew:  As Dominicans, our primary apostolate is teaching.  As we engage in the new evangelization, we are open to new forms of handing down the faith, and in particular, the work of catechesis. We are very much formed first in the Chapel and in the cloister as contemplatives; we are able to bring the Truth.

So we very much try to meet the culture and engage the culture through primarily education first and foremost- but when and where possible, and as Pope Francis has been witnessing and encouraging, we always keep an open heart towards answering that call that Bl. Pope John II called “The New Evangelization.” For our community, this music and all of the media and outreach which stems from it would very much be in line with that call.

Mother Cecilia: Our charism is prayer and sacrifice for priests, who are the dispensers of Divine Grace. It is at their hands that the Sacrifice of Calvary is presented once more, and beauty is restored to our souls.

As Benedictines, we strive to enter the very heart of the Church in her prayer, the liturgy. Offering beauty back to God and hidden there, we ask the Lord to strengthen each priest, the alter Christi, so he may labor courageously and perseveringly for the salvation of souls. There is no better exemplar in this than Our Lady, Queen of Apostles, especially in her hidden life at Ephesus. (This is the city in modern-day Turkey to which St. John brought her to live out her last days after the Ascension of her Son.)

We have the privilege of manifesting this charism in a concrete way by making vestments and sacred linens to be used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Q. Mother Cecilia, I see that you have many young women and much interest in your small Community. This seems to be part of a national trend in America. To what do you attribute all of this interest?

Mother Cecilia: Perhaps this is an illustration of what St. Paul says to the Romans, “Where sin abounded, grace did the more abound.” The Lord seems to be seeking hearts to console Him amidst the continuing decline in virtue within our nation.

There is most certainly a new generation of Catholics steadily growing in our country, who are true seekers of truth, goodness and beauty. They realize the culture of death and sin that is foisted on us from all sides is a dead end, and brings about only unhappiness and a false sense of peace.

We see this hopeful trend, especially in our many seminarians and newly ordained priests, and of course the young women who come to visit us as well. We have had around 100 vocation inquiries this year alone. Truly, this is the work of the Holy Spirit!

Q. Mother Cecilia, when young women come to your Community with a vocation, what feelings do they describe?

Nearly all describe their initial shock the first couple of days. They say it takes some time to stop “thinking,” as they get used to the absence of so much noise that is everywhere in this modern world. They see clearly that there is a definite rhythm to our life, and they begin to discern in the silence whether this rhythm will be the underpinning for the Lord to orchestrate their holiness, and their path to Him.

Other things that young women have repeatedly mentioned are their attraction to the traditional liturgy, how intently we follow the Rule of St. Benedict, and our closeness to one another as a religious family.

Q. What do you tell them, to help them to discern?

Firstly they are told to be faithful in their vocations as sisters and daughters in the context of a family. St. Benedict bases a monastery on the structure of a family. If something is wanting in the natural foundation, the spiritual edifice that we strive to build on its foundation will be impaired.

They are also encouraged to become more familiar with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. (The majority of aspirants already are, and feel called to offer themselves back to God through it.) In many ways the beauty of this Mass, at the center of our liturgical spirituality, speaks for itself. The rest of the Divine Office fits into it like spokes in the hub of a wheel.

Time must be set aside for silent prayer alone with God, in order to discern what it is He is asking in the depths of their hearts. Lastly, they must turn with steadfast prayer and fidelity to Our Lady, who always provides maternal strength and love for each vocation. She is our sure guide, as she will always counsel each soul to “do whatever He tells you.”

Q. Sr. Joseph Andrew, you oversaw all of the music and recording on “Mater Eucharistiae.” Your Order seems to garner a great deal of interest from the secular media. To what do you attribute this, in modern America? Is this part of the general thirst for the spiritual that seems so apparent?

We very much have been able to witness the thirst especially coming from the youth, for authenticity and meaning in life.  People want God, they want to have an encounter with Him in their lives.  

The arts through beauty are ways that Our Lord lovingly reveals Himself to souls.  When we recorded our songs, it was in our chapel with Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist.  There is something special in that relationship that shines forth from beauty, love and Truth, which evokes peace in any heart.  

We were all made by Him and for Him. Because this is authentically what the Sisters are experiencing as they are singing these songs, it truly has an effect on a world hungry for the contemplative and silence in the midst of all the noise and input.  

People have truly responded with great enthusiasm from all faith backgrounds.  The fact that the secular media has picked it up and covered our community is something only God could plan.  We just try to be as open as we can and always be ready to share our faith when called upon.  We have truly enjoyed these experiences engaging the media and so this music has been another opportunity for us to reach out to the culture.

The Lord seems to be seeking hearts to console Him amidst the continuing decline in virtue within our nation. There is most certainly a new generation of Catholics steadily growing in our country, who are true seekers of truth, goodness and beauty. 

Conversation with a Cloistered Nun

Sister Mary Catharine Tells It Like It Is

In this fascinating, candid interview, Sister Mary Catharine, OP, takes Regina Magazine on an intimate journey through the life of a thriving cloistered community of Dominican nuns.

Q. Where is your Order? How long has it been there?

Our Monastery of our Lady of the Rosary is in Summit, New Jersey, a bedroom community of New York City and a quick 52 minute train ride from the city.

Summit is a very Catholic city with a small town feel. We began our monastery 94 years ago in 1919. Summit was considered a healthy place to live away from New York. It was touted as the “Denver of the East” for its high altitude!

We began our monastery 94 years ago in 1919.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about its founding? About the Dominicans in general — brief history?

The Nuns of the Order of Preachers were founded by St. Dominic and his bishop, Bishop Diego in 1206, ten years before the friars. So, we are their elder sisters!

Actually, St. Dominic never planned to found anything. Stunned by the Albigensian heresy rampant in southern France he began preaching to bring the people back to the truth.

The Albigensian hersey was based on a dualist god: the god of spirit (the “good” god) and the god matter (the “evil” god). Because of their austere way of life the heretics attracted many people. Converting these people back to the Catholic Faith was not easy.

A group of women, used to living the austere life of the heretics, converted to the Faith through the preaching of St. Dominic.  A man of great compassion, St. Dominic saw that he now needed to take care of their physical needs.

Many of these women were disowned by their heretic families and had no place to live. So, he gathered them together at a little abandoned church, Notre Dame du Prouilhe and gave them a habit, rule of life, etc. They were desperately poor and St. Dominic would beg for them. 

From the very beginning these first moniales were associated with the Order through their prayer and penance. In fact, the first monastery itself was called “the Holy Preaching” which is a powerful testimony to the witness of monastic-cloistered life.

The early nuns were called the Sister Preacheresses although they were cloistered and never went out to preach! The vocation of a Nun of the Order of Preachers is unique because we are fully monastic and contemplative but part of an evangelical and apostolic Order. One has to have a deeply apostolic heart yet find its expression not in the apostolate but in a life of hidden prayer.

Many of the first Dominican nuns were disowned by their heretic families and had no place to live. So, he gathered them together at a little abandoned church, Notre Dame du Prouilhe, and gave them a habit, rule of life, etc. They were desperately poor and St. Dominic would beg for them. 

Q. Tell us about the famous St. Dominic.

For the first 10 years St. Dominic preached almost entirely alone in southern France. He had companions for a while but then they left. I’m sure he received great comfort in having the monastery as his “home base.”

St. Dominic would preach all day and pray all night. We know from the testimonies of the early friars that he wasn’t a quiet person when he prayed! He would groan and shed copious tears. He would cry out, “O Lord, what will become of sinners!”

His life of prayer and preaching is lived out in the Order by the Friars and Nuns in a complementary way: the friars go out to preach while the nuns carry within the innermost sanctuary of their compassion all sinners, the downtrodden and the afflicted. Like Esther, they go before the King pleading for the salvation of all. Like Moses, they raise their arms in prayer while the battle rages below.

What is commonly not known is that the friars and the nuns are united not just spiritually but juridically through our profession of obedience to the Master of the Order. Together we form the Order of Preachers. We have distinct but complimentary ways of expressing the Order’s mission to “preach for the salvation of souls”.

Q. What is a contemplative’s life like?


To answer this question fully would take several books and at the same time it can’t really be expressed!

I think the first word that comes to mind is JOY. Not that there aren’t hardships as in any vocation but through it all there is a deep abiding joy because I am totally consecrated to God to love and praise Him. The contemplative vocation is a gift beyond words and one for which I will be thanking God for all eternity!

For Dominican contemplative nuns the Word of God is primary. Our constitutions state that the monastery is to be a place where “the Word of God can dwell abundantly in the monastery.”

So, first we ponder the word through lectio divina and through theological study, we sing Mass and the entire Divine Office; we listen to God’s Word as it is expressed through our sisters.

To answer this question fully would take several books and at the same time it can’t really be expressed! I think the first word that comes to mind is JOY.

Q. How is your Order governed?

Our manner of government is ordered so that our fraternal life can be “one mind and heart in God”.  This means we come together as a chapter to discuss things so we can make a decision that is truly centered in God and not just what I want. This isn’t always easy. It requires that we listen to our sisters and that we be willing to be changed. We have to allow grace to be operative in us. The goal is not majority rule but consensus.

Q. What is your work and daily life like?



Our life is intensely liturgical. Holy Mass and the Office shape our day. Everything else is fitted in around it. So, with liturgical prayer, private prayer and our privileged hours of the “adoring Rosary, which is praying the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance we have about 5 to 6 hours of prayer each day.

Our work is simple, like that of Our Lady at Nazareth. We do the cooking, cleaning, sacristy, laundry, answer the mail, pay the bills, the garden, soap department, etc. Young women are always surprised at how full our days are. You go to bed tired at night!

During recreation times we like to just be together to talk, play games, go for a walk. There is a lot of laughter. Someone once said that our recreations are “high energy!”

We like to just be together to talk, play games, go for a walk. There is a lot of laughter. Someone once said that our recreations are “high energy!”

Q. Many people, if asked, would probably guess that living in a cloister is very limiting. Is this true? 

The cloister frees us immensely! One of the biggest fears in those discerning a contemplative vocation is that the cloister is seen as squashing freedom but it is just the opposite.

The cloister broadens us. It frees us from so many cares and concerns, even something as simple as not minding a stain on my scapular! This freedom isn’t from things so much as for something, really for Someone!

The enclosure is the ‘Garden Enclosed’ of the Song of Songs. Our life is entirely centered on Christ our Spouse alone.  Papal enclosure is a great gift of the Church that allows us to live our contemplative life well.

When I have to leave the enclosure for something necessary I am always so glad to be back. The world is so noisy, both audibly and visually. I really don’t understand how people stay sane!

The cloister frees us immensely! One of the biggest fears in those discerning a contemplative vocation is that the cloister is seen as squashing freedom but it is just the opposite.

Q. Your Order never gave up their habits. Do you think this has affected your stability, as compared to other orders that did?

I entered long after the upheavals of the 60’s but I have never heard either the nuns or the friars even question whether we should give up the habit. The habit is our Blessed Mother’s gift to us and we treasure it dearly.

Actually Dominicans consider only the scapular as the habit and is the only part blessed. Well, the cloistered nuns also have their veil blessed during a beautiful part of the Solemn Profession rite called the Blessing and Imposition of the Veil. The veil is blessed and then the prioress solemnly veils the newly professed. It’s very beautiful.

Every nun in the world wears the habit! There might be slight variations of hem height, sleeve width, veil style but we all wear the habit. Get a group of nuns together at a meeting and eventually we’ll be asking each other the important question: “Where do you get your fabric from?” The habit is a non-issue.

I entered long after the upheavals of the 60’s but I have never heard either the nuns or the friars even question whether we should give up the habit. The habit is our Blessed Mother’s gift to us and we treasure it dearly.

Q. So where does the stability come from?

I think our Order’s stability comes first from a tremendous gift of God. We are nearly 800 years old and we have never had a division. We’ve come close but it hasn’t happened.  There is only one Order of Preachers. One constitution for the friars: one constitution for the nuns.

Do you realize what a gift of God’s love this is? In his address to the Poor Clare nuns at Assisi, Pope Francis emphasized that the devil wants to destroy a community by causing division. The Order of Preachers from the very beginning has had a great devotion to our Lady and I think it is her protection that has kept us united.

Although St. Dominic died just five years after the Order was founded he left us with such a remarkable charism and form of government that it has shaped the Order these 800 years. Our manner of government is crucial to our stability. And most of all the preaching mission of the Order is perennial for each generation and time. One of the wonderful things about being such an old Order is that we’ve made every mistake in the book but we trust in God’s mercy and that of our sisters and brothers.

One of the wonderful things about being such an old Order is that we’ve made every mistake in the book but we trust in God’s mercy and that of our sisters and brothers.

Q. How are your vocations doing?

In the past eight years we’ve had twelve postulants enter and seven have persevered so far. This is such a blessing. Our young sisters come from several countries and all over the USA. Each sister is so different!

We’ve received more vocations in the past 8 years than in the past 50!

Can you tell us some recent vocation stories?

Our Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Immaculate Conception, O.P. is a native of Kansas and in college was part of the party scene. One night she lay in bed and realized that if she continued along this path she would die. It was a moment of grace when she says she was given the opportunity to choose. Gradually, she began attending Mass at the Newman Center at college that had a holy and dynamic priest.

One day she told him she thought she had a religious vocation; an idea that terrified her. At his suggestion she visited a Carmelite monastery nearby to experience cloistered life which she didn’t even know existed. At the end of her weekend she said, “These nuns are crazy and I think I might be as crazy as they are!”

At the end of her weekend she said, “These nuns are crazy and I think I might be as crazy as they are!”

She began a 54 day rosary novena and made the total consecration to Our Lady according to St. Louis de Monfort which was a source of great grace as well. She wrote to many monasteries and became attracted to the Dominican charism. About the same time the Newman Center at college received the total 10 tickets for the state of Kansas for the Papal Mass of Pope Emeritus Benedict at Yankee Stadium, NYC. This was in 2008. Because this was considered the official Mass of the Holy Father’s visit to the United States every diocese in the country received a certain number of tickets. As you can imagine the further west, the fewer tickets!

She wrote to our monastery asking if she could visit and in her less than 24 hour visit and on the 57th Day of her Rosary Novena she knew that this was the place God was calling her. She is now preparing for Solemn Profession next year.

Another of our new sisters is Sr. Mary Cecilia of the Annunciation, O.P. She is an extern sister. The extern sisters have what you might call a vocation within a vocation. Externs are contemplatives but they are not bound by papal enclosure because their vocation is to serve the needs of the monastery in a way that makes it easier for the nuns to live their cloistered vocation. So, externs do the shopping, go to vocation events, represent the community at functions such as funerals or special Masses, fundraisers, etc. In many ways it is a demanding vocation. As much as possible the extern sisters live the same life as the nuns do but still fulfilling their responsibilities.

Sr. Mary Cecilia is from Saskatchewan, Canada and was a lay missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach in Ottawa. She attended some theology classes taught by Dominicans and learned of our monastery. She began emailing intrigued by what seemed a contradiction: fully contemplative yet belonging to an Order whose mission is to preach the Gospel! I had a hunch Janlyn had a vocation and perhaps even to contemplative life.

At one point I contacted her with the excuse that I needed her new address to send our newsletter and she responded telling me that she would be attending two vocation retreats in New York. I immediately invited her to come for a visit since we are a convenient 52 minute train ride from the city. She accepted because she thought it would be nice to meet me and because between retreats she had an extra day and needed a place to stay!

As she shared her lay missionary work with me, Janlyn tried to explain the value of her part of it which was in administration, working behind the scenes and not on campus working directly with students. I kept agreeing, nodding my head affirmatively.

Suddenly she looked at me, burst into tears and said, “Oh, no! I think I have a contemplative vocation!” She left us the next morning wondering why she was even going to the retreat with the Sisters of Life.

Suddenly she looked at me, burst into tears and said, “Oh, no! I think I have a contemplative vocation!”

A few months she was unexpectedly called into the office of the president of Catholic Christian Outreach who invited her to be part of a missionary group going to China during the summer Olympics. She loved everything about that trip but it also confirmed that her part was to be a hidden life of prayer. She has a special love for the Chinese people because of that trip.

 Q. How do you sustain your life, financially?

We are mendicant and dependent on Divine Providence. God always provides and we have many wonderful friends and benefactors. Whenever there is a needed repair the Lord provides with unexpected resources and it can be done! God is so good to His spouses!

We also have a small business selling the soaps, creams, lip balms, room sprays, candles, woodcraft we make and books we publish. Mostly this is through the internet and the monastery’s tiny gift shop although we have some wholesale customers as well, mostly Catholic gift shops, retreat centers, etc.

We also have a small business selling the soaps, creams, lip balms, room sprays, candles, woodcraft we make and books we publish.

Q. How did the idea for a soap and candle business come about?
We have a guild of about 70 volunteers who help us by serving as receptionist, drivers, etc. and every year we make a little Christmas gift for them. For some reason, lost in time, it’s the novice mistress’s responsibility to take care of this and someone suggested soap to me. Seven years ago, one Sunday afternoon in August I spent time searching the internet about how to make soap and learned a lot!

At about the same time our daily offerings were really down—sometimes receiving no more than $5 a day—and we had just received 4 postulants so our healthcare insurance really went up! We began selling our soap in the gift shop. We were going to have only 5 varieties. That lasted about 6 weeks. We now make hand crème and lip balms using our own formula, room sprays and now candles.

We are a relatively young community. I think our average age is about 47, so that means we have a large healthcare insurance expense. Since, unlike the active sisters, we don’t teach or bring in a paycheck, the small income from our Seignadou Soaps has proved to be very helpful toward meeting those costs.

At about the same time our daily offerings were really down—sometimes receiving no more than $5 a day—and we had just received 4 postulants so our healthcare insurance really went up!

Q. Who is your chief soap-maker?

Right now the novitiate sisters are assigned the work of the soap room. When a postulant enters she gradually learns all aspects of it. Although there may be sisters who are more “expert” than others, tomorrow another may be given the assignment of learning the craft while the “expert” is assigned to another job in the monastery.

It works out well because the soap room is only busy at certain times of the year. The sisters in the novitiate have formation classes and that is the priority.

Q. What kind of people come to pray at your chapel?

People from all walks of life come to our chapel. The doors are open from 6AM, when we pray Lauds, until about 7PM at night and everyone is welcome.  All day people come to be with our Lord. Some are regulars who come daily and spend hours. We have several “rosary groups” who use our chapel on certain days. For example, we have mother-daughter group that prays the Rosary every 1st Thursday of the month. Other groups schedule a time to visit our chapel.

 Some people come to our monastery to purchase our Seignadou Soap products and find that we have a chapel open all day long. Amazed, they ask, “You mean I can come and pray here?” We never thought of soap as a means of evangelization!

Q. Why else do they come?

We’re not only a monastery but a shrine, the first shrine in the USA to our Lady of the Rosary. But we’re not a touristy type shrine. The focus is on spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which is exposed every day and three nights a week. 

We also have a replica of the Shroud of Turin that dates back to 1624. It was commissioned by the Duchess Maria Magdalena, the wife of Cosmo di Medici. It was laid on the real Shroud and the story goes that the stain on our shroud copy appeared when it was lifted up from the Shroud.

In 1988 a team of scientists did a “dry run” on our shroud copy in preparation for their testing on the real Shroud and they did some tests of the side wound stain on our copy. They said that the DNA was the same on both. Our shroud copy in our chapel is the source of much devotion for many people who visit and that is even more important.

Our replica was laid on the real Shroud and the story goes that the stain on our shroud copy appeared when it was lifted up from the Shroud.

Q. I’ve heard that the beauty of your liturgy is quite a draw.

Our liturgy draws people to our monastery. It’s not unusual for someone to call up to ask the times for when “the nuns do the singing”. Often someone else has told them about the beauty of our chant.

We have a dear friend who is Jewish and an artist. One evening she was worried about some family problems. She decided to visit the chapel on the advice of a Catholic friend. She heard us singing Vespers behind the grille and was so taken by the beauty of the chanting that she contacted us and eventually did a trilogy of books featuring the monastery as seen through her artwork.

Often, at Rosary and Sext at 11:30 PM or Office of Readings and None at 3:00 PM, it’s not unusual to see 10-15 people in the extern chapel. We’re happy they join us for the Office as we believe that this is the most important gift we can give to people—the opportunity to simply BE with Jesus who is here for us 24/7!

Our monastery is situated on a hill in a city called Summit. Like our father, St. Dominic we are meant to radiate the light of Christ. Not in words but in with our life. Eight hundred years later, we are still Sister Preacheresses, still a Holy Preaching!

Our liturgy draws people to our monastery. It’s not unusual for someone to call up to ask the times for when “the nuns do the singing”. Often someone else has told them about the beauty of our chant.

A Teen’s View on the Latin Mass

by Anya Proctor

A Teen’s View on the Latin Mass

I am nineteen years old. All my life I’ve known the Novus Ordo Mass, where, as a young teenager, my attention would often wander. I’d gaze around at people, at their outfits and personalities, or think about school, or what I’d eat for lunch.

Then I would snap back to reality, feeling guilty for not paying attention. I loved God, and understood the basics of my faith, but going to church was just sort of something I did every week. It wasn’t a fully spiritual experience. 

On top of that, homilies often got weird. Priests would drabble on about other religions, the gospel of Judas, funny stories in the newspaper, irrelevant anecdotes, and even blatant heresies.

When my family moved to a small town, the weird Masses just became intolerable. Our first Sunday in the new town involved a priest using props on the altar to demonstrate his homily—as if we were all five-year-olds.

Homilies often got weird. Priests would drabble on about other religions, the gospel of Judas, funny stories in the newspaper, irrelevant anecdotes, and even blatant heresies.

My First Latin Mass at the Cathedral

We decided to attend the traditional Latin Mass an hour away from home. Stepping into a Cathedral was impressive, but celebrating Mass with the images of Jesus, the apostles, and the angels beautifully crafted onto the walls and windows of a strong, awe-inspiring place offered me a spiritual experience I’d never had before.

I did not get to know the priest’s personality at this Mass. I came to know God. I got to fully experience Christ Incarnate in flesh and blood, on my knees, deep in silence and prayer — to meditate on his union with me as he was placed reverently on my tongue by his holy servant. I closed my eyes when I received Jesus. I felt physically, spiritually, and emotionally transformed. Many times in the Cathedral, tears have come to me as I have prayed and focused on Jesus’s love and sacrifice for me.

I felt physically, spiritually, and emotionally transformed. Many times in the Cathedral, tears have come to me as I have prayed and focused on Jesus’s love and sacrifice for me.

Why the Latin Mass?

At this Mass, I do not want to immediately leave church to dwell in the world with material things and selfish preoccupations. I want to dwell in that moment with Jesus forever. Not until I was 19 years old did I fully understand the spiritual gift of the Eucharist—this sacred cornerstone of the Catholic faith.

The Novus Ordo focuses on people: shaking hands, singing folksy songs, laughing at jokes, watching people participate in a nice little ceremony.

But Mass is not intended to celebrate people. That’s for luncheons, birthday parties, and maybe youth groups—but not Mass. The Mass is for the Lord. The Mass is where the priest is so reverent he faces the Lord, not the people, so that they don’t focus on him, but only on Christ.

The Mass is for kneeling, praying, meditating with silent hearts which bring us closer to God. The Mass is for uniting with our Savior, who became a human being so he could horribly suffer on our behalf—have his flesh nailed to a wooden cross and be humiliated in front of an entire nation so we might live forever.

Isn’t the least we could do show Him respect at the holiest point on Earth, where he meets us at the altar? Can we kneel down for Him? Close our eyes for Him? Realize that He is too sacred to touch with our sinful hands? Give up an hour of focusing on ourselves and instead focus all of our energy solely on Him? These ideas are lost and degraded in the new Mass.

A Catholic at College

So, as a college student, among people preoccupied with themselves and the things of the world, I find it difficult to connect with others about the way the Traditional Mass changed my life. Not even among Catholics.

I attend a medium-sized liberal arts university in Florida. We have one Catholic group on campus, which attends a Novus Ordo Mass. It’s so hard to participate in that Mass since being transformed by the Latin Mass, so now I drive every Sunday by myself to worship and receive the Lord.

I am lonely sometimes. Not just because I drive to Mass alone, but because I am largely alone here, period. I don’t know if anyone at my school really shares the same values as me. This is because the spirit of Latin Mass encourages a reverence which requires devout compliance. It’s hard to say Latin Mass and then hurt God by partying on Saturday nights, enjoying crude jokes, or devoting energy toward anything at all that doesn’t glorify Him.

Now, I’m no better than anyone and am a great sinner. But I no longer have the same desires as my fellow classmates. When I meditate so deeply on the Lord as the Latin Mass enables me, I feel so spiritually inclined to serve God and no one else—not money, possessions, or even self-satisfaction. These are all inferior to the fullness of serving God.

So although I might go to Mass alone, and be alone much of the time, I am never truly alone, because Christ is here with me when I pray at night, or say the rosary at my desk, or go to Mass on Sunday.

And that is enough.

I am lonely sometimes. Not just because I drive to Mass alone, but because I am largely alone here, period. I don’t know if anyone at my school really shares the same values as me.

Photo’s by Amy Proctor

Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s feast day today.  Ora pro nobis.  With withered face and folded hands, her knees worn hard from prayer, She walked the streets of India amidst the death like stares. Her sari draped bent body always searching for the poor, No longer seeks the needy as Teresa stoops no more.   Born … Read more

Ave Maria

A Very Catholic Town

by Michael Durnan

‘When I first saw the rendering of Ave Maria town and the Oratory I thought that this is a place we would like to live,” writes Sue Maturo on one of the town’s blogs, avemarialiving.com.

‘There’s something very special about Ave Maria and the people who live here,” says resident Joseph Pierce.  “It’s a community centered on Christ.’ 

These American Catholics have chosen to make Ave Maria the place they want to live and to raise their families. Located thirty miles from the city of Naples, Collier County, in Florida, Ave Maria is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain and a Catholic philanthropist. (See below: The Tom Monaghan Story)

 
Ave Maria is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain and a Catholic philanthropist. 

How the Ave Maria College and Ave Maria School of Law Began

In 2000, the Ave Maria School of Law opened which was inspired by several former professors from the Catholic University of Detroit Mercy. These had left that University after it had invited several pro-abortion members of the Michigan Supreme Court to attend the annual ‘Red Mass’. These professors then approached Tom Monaghan for support to establish a Catholic law school faithful to the teachings of the Church. Ave Maria School of Law was established in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then relocated to Naples in 2009.

In early 2000, Tom Monaghan sought to establish Ave Maria University — the fledgling school was operating out of an old elementary school building at the time — in Ann Arbor on land which he still owned that he had leased to Domino Pizza. The plan included a 250 ft. crucifix, taller than the Statue of Liberty, but officials refused to grant permission for this. Hence, Monaghan was forced to seek another location. Eventually, community leaders in Collier County, Florida offered him a large undeveloped area of land, thirty miles east of Naples, on which to establish the new university.

 

 

 

Ave Maria Beginnings

In February 2006, the foundations of the new Ave Maria University and town were established.  Ave Maria is built around a Catholic Oratory and Ave Maria University, a liberal arts college, which was relocated from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ypsilanti is also home to the first-ever Domino Pizza restaurant. Tom Monaghan sold his control of Domino Pizza, and later his remaining shares, and has since devoted himself to philanthropic works and the support of Catholic causes.

Ave Maria town is a joint venture with a real estate developer; Monaghan owns 50% of the non-university real estate. The plan is to build 11,000 homes and several business districts. At the announcement, Monaghan stated that any businesses in Ave Maria would be prohibited from selling contraceptives and pornography which drew legal criticism and comment from the American Civil Liberties Union. Residents will tell you that they welcome anyone who is open to what the town offers, and realtors readily point out that anyone can buy a home or open a business in town.

A former student of architecture, Tom Monaghan has retained a passion for and interest in the subject, especially the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Monaghan himself who sketched the first design for the Oratory on a tablecloth. The Oratory design was inspired by several works of Wright’s protégé, E. Fay Jones, especially the 1988 Mildred Cooper chapel. One of the distinctive features of the Oratory is the visible steel structure which can be seen inside and out. In 2008, The Oratory won an award for its distinctive architecture from the American Institute of Steel Construction. The facade features a monumental Annunciation relief by sculptor Marton Varo, who also created the Good Shepherd that is inside the Oratory.

Ave Maria Today

Since the town of Ave Maria was established in 2007, 500 homes have been built with the eventual goal of 11,000. The goal is to attract college students and families by providing attractive housing, amenities, good schools and a safe and secure environment underpinned by a distinctive Catholic ethos.

The town has a variety of facilities and amenities, including a pub named The Queen Mary after the eldest daughter of Henry VIII and Catholic Queen of England. The pub’s signature drink is called “The Bloody Bess,” named after Queen Elizabeth I. (This is a fact which pleases the English author of this article and makes a refreshing change from the preoccupation with her notorious Tudor father and half sister, Elizabeth.) The Queen Mary even has its own dedicated Facebook page.

 

The town’s newspaper of record is www.AveHerald.com There is community weblog avemarialiving.com, run by residents of the town, which provides over 100 links to pages with information about Ave Maria town.

 

The goal is to attract college students and families by providing attractive housing, amenities, good schools and a safe and secure environment underpinned by a distinctive Catholic ethos.

Good Manners, Generosity and Charity

Catholic writer and Templeton Prize laureate Michael Novak taught a mini-course at Ave Maria University on Religion and the Founding Fathers; he writes in the National Review about his impressions of Ave Maria and its citizens. Ambassador Novak says how he has never lived in a more Catholic culture than he experienced at Ave Maria and observed how on Sundays, 95% of the whole town attends Mass and 65% of students on weekdays.

Interestingly, what impressed Novak most were the good manners, generosity and charity of the townspeople and their willingness to help and to receive help.  He was also impressed by the dedication and sacrifice of the university students and staff. Novak especially rejoiced in the large families of the faculty members and the goodness and holiness of the people he encountered in Ave Maria.

Ave Maria is still a relatively new enterprise and it remains to be seen if it will grow as large Tom Monaghan has envisaged.  It appears to have made a promising start, however, supported by people who are committed to its ethos and values.

Interestingly, what impressed Novak most were the good manners, generosity and charity of the townspeople and their willingness to help and to receive help. 

The Tom Monaghan Story

Tom Monaghan was born in 1937 and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When Tom was four years old, his father died, leaving his mother to raise him and his younger brother. But after two years of experiencing considerable difficulties, Tom’s mother made the difficult decision to give her sons to the care of an orphanage — the St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Jackson, Michigan, run by the Felician Sisters of Livonia.

Tom and his brother remained at the orphanage until 1949 when they were re-united with their mother. The care, love and faith displayed by the nuns inspired Tom’s devotion to the Catholic Faith and he later pursued a vocation as a priest. However, he left the seminary and enrolled in the US Marines in 1956 and he was honorably discharged in 1959.

When Tom was four years old, his father died, leaving his mother to raise him and his younger brother. But after two years of experiencing considerable difficulties, Tom’s mother made the difficult decision to give her sons to the care of an orphanage — the St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Jackson, Michigan, run by the Felician Sisters of Livonia. Tom and his brother remained at the orphanage until 1949 when they were re-united with their mother. The care, love and faith displayed by the nuns inspired Tom’s devotion to the Faith.
 

Monaghan then returned to Ann Arbor and enrolled in the University of Michigan to study architecture and later, with his brother, purchased a small pizza store, named DomiNick’s, with a loan of $500. His aim was to finance himself through college but the pizza business took up more and more of his time until he devoted himself to developing the business into what would become one of the largest franchise fast food companies in the US.

In 1998, Monaghan eventually sold his control of Domino’s Pizza to Bain capital for an estimated $1 billion. This accumulated wealth enabled Tom to indulge in lavish lifestyle, but after reading a passage about pride in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, he disposed of some of his most flamboyant and conspicuous possessions, including the ownership of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, as well as his lavish office suite at Domino Pizza and calling a halt to the construction of a mansion inspired by his interest in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, which remains unfinished to this day.

In 1983, Tom Monaghan established the Ave Maria Foundation to support Catholic education, media and community projects, as well as other Catholic charities. After visiting the Vatican in 1987, an experience that had a profound and moving impact on him, Monaghan resolved to promote the Faith with greater determination and resolve. Some of his foundations include Ave Maria Radio, the Ave Maria List, a pro-life political action committee and the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm dedicated to promoting and defending issues in line with Catholic moral teaching, such as pro-life and traditional marriage. Monaghan also built several schools for the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist and also gave them land to build their Mother House in Ann Arbor.

A Liberating Education

Thomas Aquinas College was founded in response to the decline of Catholic higher education evident in the late 1960s, and in accordance with the Second Vatican Council’s encouraging of Catholic laity  to take a more active part in “the explanation and defense of Christian principles.”  The College founders proposed to establish a new Catholic institution that was determined to pass on the great intellectual patrimony of our civilization and the wisdom of the Church’s greatest thinkers, and to do so in complete fidelity to the Church and her Magisterium.

Thus, amid this great turmoil and disintegration, and in spite of the dominant relativism and skepticism in higher education, Thomas Aquinas College came to life. This new college would be dedicated to renewing what is best in the Western intellectual heritage and to conducting liberal education under the guiding light of the Catholic faith. The College welcomed its first freshman class to its Santa Paula, California campus in 1971.

The years since have been exciting ones of great growth and increasing recognition. In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Anne Forsyth, Director of College Relations, gives her perspective on the school and its success.

Q. What kind of young person is attracted to your school?

All kinds, really.  People sometimes think that because we offer only one and the same fully-integrated, 4-year program of studies, that our students must walk in lock step.  Not at all. 

Some have tremendous musical talent; others are gifted artists; some are practically-oriented, intent on pursuing careers in law, medicine, engineering after graduation; some come to us already hearing a call to the priesthood or religious life but desiring an education as a basis for the consecrated life.  And there are those you might expect to find at a “liberal arts” school, those who desire to teach, and at all levels. 

Many (between 40-50%) of our entering freshmen are home-schooled.  A steady 5% already have college credits, and some come with BA’s and even MA’s from prestigious institutions in certain practical fields, e.g., engineering) but find that though well-trained, they do not yet have an education. 

Our students come from across the U.S. (only 1/3 come from California, and over 40% come from east of the Mississippi).  We also have foreign students each year.  Predominant among them are Canadians, but we draw form others, mostly English-speaking countries.  This year we have students from Nigeria, Argentina, and Spain, among others.

What these students do have in common is a thirst for what is true, good, and beautiful, and a sense of wonder about creation and the God who made and sustains it.  They are a very intelligent group, and this is necessary to be able to accomplish our rigorous program which includes four years of mathematics and natural science (not your typical liberal arts program!). 

But even more than having “the brains” to do our program, students need to have a deep desire to understand the causes and principles of things, especially for the junior and senior years when the studies become intense – Newton, Descartes, Einstein, the modern philosophers such as Kant and Hegel.  The works by these authors are difficult to read and require real perseverance.  And I didn’t even mention St. Thomas!  The junior and senior theology courses are devoted exclusively to studies of the Summa – law, proofs for the existence of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the sacraments.  All wonderful and edifying, but quite difficult.  And then there’s Aristotle’s physics and metaphysics which make up the senior year philosophy curriculum – studies of such abstract notions as place and time, and natural theology, as well.

But even more than having “the brains” to do our program, students need to have a deep desire to understand the causes and principles of things.

All of this is to say that our students are serious students.  There is a great deal of study they must do.  But there is also a great deal of joy among them, and a tremendous sense of fun, outlets for which come in the form of intramural sports, quarterly dances (and more), trips to the beach only 20 minutes away, and hikes in the national forest, literally at our back door.

All of this makes for a community life animated by charity and ordered to the best things.  While not perfect (witness confessions being heard 8 times a day, before and after each Mass), it is a community striving to follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Our students are a very intelligent group, and this is necessary to be able to accomplish our rigorous program which includes four years of mathematics and natural science — not your typical liberal arts program!

Q. Given the scarcity of vocations in America, how is your school doing in this regard?

 

Since our founding a steady 10% of our alumni have entered the priesthood and religious life.  As of now, we have 59 alumni priests:  1 is the superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, 7 are pastors of parishes from Alaska to New York, 4 teach in seminaries, and 1 was recently sent to Rome by Cardinal Dolan to study canon law.  Many are serving in parishes; others are monks, e.g., 10 at Clear Creek Monastery and 4 in Norcia.  And we have 4 at the Norbertines in Orange Coutny, and 5 are Dominicans.  In addition, there are at least 30 in seminary.

As for religious – most of our 40 professed alumni are women, though we have a few brothers, as well.  They gravitate to the new, solidly orthodox orders, or those that are being renewed.  We have 8, I believe, with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, one of whom served as president of their Aquinas College for some years.  There are 3 or 4 with Mother Assumpta and the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.  Others are in Europe with teaching and contemplative orders.  Still more are stateside, e.g., two who were recently sent from the Carmelite Monastery in Lincoln, Nebraska, to found a new house in the Bay Area, in Northern California.

All in all, we are truly blessed with alumni vocations.  Our goal is to provide the good soil for God to cultivate, and He seems to be hard at work here. 

A number of years ago, our late president Tom Dillon was asked by the Congregation for Education to give an account of how it is that we could have so many vocations.  They had been astounded to learn of the relatively high number, knowing that we were lay-founded, lay-administered, and co-educational, and wanted to share with their readers “the secret” as it were.  You can find that article on our website.

A number of years ago, our late president Tom Dillon was asked by the Congregation for Education to give an account of how it is that we could have so many vocations.  They had been astounded to learn of the relatively high number, knowing that we were lay-founded, lay-administered, and co-educational, and wanted to share with their readers “the secret…”

Q. Cost is a huge factor these days as students balk at assuming large debts for undergrad degrees. How is your school addressing this?

Our admissions policy is needs-blind.  Students are accepted without any regard to their financial wherewithal.  At that point, they and their families are asked to make a maximum effort toward covering the cost of tuition.  In nearly 80% of cases that effort falls far short of the actual need.  The College, however, has been committed since its beginning that no qualified student ever be turned away for lack of resources.  Because we accept no direct government funding, lest our Catholic identity and academic integrity be compromised, we must, therefore, raise over $4 million annually to cover the financial aid needs of our students.

Our alumni, though young and raising large families, typically on one income, are very generous (we’re #2 in the country on the U.S. News  “Most Loved” by alumni list, based on alumni giving percentages).  But their giving is not sufficient for the need.  It is, therefore, private individuals and foundations who fill the gap.  We think of these benefactors as our “spiritual alumni,” who without having benefit to themselves, yet give generously to our students, seeing them as a kind of leaven for the Church and our culture.

The result is that 100% of our students’ demonstrated need is met each year, a fact for which the College is lauded by college reviews, e.g., the Princeton Review’s “Financial Aid Honor Roll” (it’s worth noting, I think, that TAC is the only Catholic college in the country to be so ranked) and the U.S. News  “Great Schools, Great Price” rankings (again, the only Catholic college on this list).

Our benefactors are our “spiritual alumni,” who without having benefit to themselves, yet give generously to our students because they see them as a kind of leaven for the Church and our culture. The result is that 100% of our students’ demonstrated need is met each year.

For the first $4,000 or so of financial aid, students perform 13 hours/week of work on campus, in the kitchen, on landscaping, working in offices or the library, assisting in the labs, etc.  If more funding is needed, grants are then made accordingly.

Students receiving financial aid must also take out loans, approximately $4000 each year.  But we do cap that at $16,000 or so at the end of 4 years.  Again, it is our benefactors who make it possible for our students not to be strapped by crushing debt after graduation.  And again, we are ranked in the top 25 schools in the country by U.S. News “Least Debt” ranking.

Thomas Aquinas College is ranked in the top 25 schools in the country by U.S. News “Least Debt” ranking.

Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20 years ago?  Any reason for hope?

These are definitely reasons for hope.

On the other hand, with what one reads  of the culture and the terrible state of education, especially in the public schools, it is hard to be hopeful.   The prevalence of pornography alone, at ever younger ages, is heartbreaking and frightening.  One wonders how we can pull ourselves out of these depths.

For this reason, I am especially grateful to our contemplative alumni who spend their days, months, and years, in prayer, making reparation for the sins of the world and begging for the graces we must have to overcome it.

I am especially grateful to our contemplative alumni who spend their days, months, and years, in prayer, making reparation for the sins of the world and begging for the graces we must have to overcome it. 

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Photos by Duncan Stroik.

 

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