Thoughts While “Inside”

It is Wednesday, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, and I’m already halfway through my visit at Corpus Christi Monastery. Of course, this won’t be posted until Monday at the earliest, as I am within the walls of the cloister and my internet connection is off (not that I mind). 🙂

I’ve had much on which to reflect this week. It’s been two years since my last visit and even in a monastery, time does not stand still. Beloved sisters have passed on and a sister who was a postulant during my aspirancy is now temporary professed! I’ve changed too, and I’d like to think for the better. But one thing has not changed – my deepening desire to be a cloistered daughter of St. Dominic.

Over the years, many have asked, “why?” Why shut yourself in a cloister when you have your education and so many gifts and talents you can use in the world? Why would God want that? To that, I must simply say, “why not?” To summarize one of today’s readings from the Divine Office, our ways are not God’s ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

The monastic life points to something extraordinary. It shows the world we were not made for this world. We were made first and foremost for communion with God. Monastics enter into the silence of the cloister to allow God to expand their hearts for their own salvation and to pray for the souls of others. Dominican nuns spend time in prayer and penance still echoing the words of St. Dominic’s prayer, now 800 years passed, “What will become of poor sinners?”

There is another aspect of the Dominican order that I love and which I was able to enjoy this week as well. Unlike other orders, the connection between Dominican friars and nuns is particularly close and symbiotic. St. Dominic started his order with a group of women who wanted to convert from the Albegensian heresy and wished to entrust themselves to the care and teaching of St. Dominic. So, after much prayer and a sign from heaven, St. Dominic established the first monastery of Dominican nuns at Prouille, France. Their established purpose: to offer their lives to Christ in prayer and penance for the salvation of souls and the preaching work of the friars.

Some time later, St. Dominic established a house of friars in nearby Toulouse, France. Since that time, it was always St. Dominic’s intention that a house of Dominican nuns be established near where his friars would be. In fact, the care of the nuns was of such priority to him, at one time he ordered his brothers stop work on building their own house if it was necessary to ensure a monastery could be built for a community of Dominican nuns.

This was a priority that was also embraced by the second Master of the Dominican Order, Bl. Jordan of Saxony. Repeatedly in his letters to Bl. Diana and her sisters, he states how much he relies on their prayers for the success of his preaching work. The archives of the Dominican family are filled with other stories as well.

Each year, the novice master for the Dominican friars brings the new class of novices to Corpus Christi Monastery for a visit. The sisters also ensure that each novice has a prayer partner, that is, one of the sisters promises to pray specially for a particular novice as he continues formation as Dominican friar and, God willing, profess his vows and begin assigned ministry, whether ordained or as a Dominican brother.

At times, friars will visit or write to share with the sisters their joys and struggles and to ask for continued prayers. Other events bring the friars to visit their sisters – funerals, vows, feast days. Last Sunday was the feast day for the monastery – Corpus Christi. In true Dominican fashion, friars from St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco, including this year’s novices, St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland, and others, came to celebrate Mass, and share the joy of the day.

Yes, time has passed and some things changed. But some things haven’t. Love for my First Love. The desire to do His will. The peace and joy I have found here, in His presence, living the Dominican life. The great desire to pray for others, most especially for their salvation. I have only experienced but the smallest taste of the goodness of God and am this joyful – Deo gratias!

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