This fall, we tinted the upper windows of our chapel to solve the dilemma of having very direct sunlight hit our faces when we are trying to pray the Divine Office. It was a three-day ordeal, involving moving our liturgies to the conference room, fitting a JLG lift through doorways it almost couldn’t, and a constant process of building and re-building scaffolding, but it was all worth it, because at last, “By day the sun shall not smite you, nor the moon in the night” (Psalm 121:6).
Annual Community Retreat
On October 9-15, we had Father Jeff Loseke, Ed.D., S.T.L. (currently serving as Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska) direct our annual community retreat. His daily conferences were on the topic of healing, and were a great blessing to us.
How wonderful to compare the before and after pictures of our garden this season!
The Changing of the Leaves
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.
This year’s calendar features photos of our Sisters performing daily monastic duties. The calendar also gives the days of the Church’s liturgical days and seasons, together with days commemorated by the Order of St. Benedict, as they are observed at our Abbey.
***We are now sold out of 2023 Calendars; thank you to everyone who purchased one!
On September 14, 2022, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, our Sister Mary made her First Profession of Monastic Vows during the Eucharistic Celebration, receiving the name Sister Maria-Rose, and taking Our Lady of Guadalupe as her Patroness. It was a beautiful ceremony, and unique because our Sister Assunta also renewed her simple vows for the final time before making her Solemn Profession next year.
On July 11, the Solemnity of Saint Benedict, our Sister Maria-Placida renewed her vows for another year. Join us in praying for her as she journeys toward Solemn Profession!
During the vow renewal ceremony, the “Suscpie” is sung by the sister before the altar. The full text of the chant is “Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam et non confundas me ab expectatione mea,” which translates, “Uphold me O Lord, as you have promised, that I may live; and disappoint me not in my hope.” Below is a beautiful word about the “Suscpie” from Esther de Waal, a contemporary author on Benedictine spirituality:
We stand daily before God with empty hands, just like the publican. “Suscpie me, accept me O Lord as you have promised and I shall live; do not disappoint me in my hope.” [These words] mean more now that I have learnt that the Latin word comes from the verb sub-capere, to take underneath and so with the idea of supporting, raising, and that in Roman usage it was the word for a father taking up a new-born infant from the ground and thus recognizing it as his own…Accept me, receive me, support me, raise me up – wonderful singing words that say everything that I want to say as a prayer for myself.
The below “photo story” highlights some of the things that make this season special at our monastery:
The sound of singing birds filling our chapel through the open windows is a sure sign that summer has arrived. This year a Red-winged Blackbird nest was found woven through the grass along the bank of one of the irrigation ditches.
Mowing, weeding, and gardening are very time-intensive during the summer months, but even more so this year since we are in the process of moving the location of the main vegetable garden to be closer to our cloister area.
One of the best things about summer is the liturgical Solemnities that are celebrated, including Pentecost, the Most Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul, Saint Benedict, and the Assumption of Mary. In honor of Corpus Christi, here is a beautiful word about the institution of the Eucharist:
Our Lord raised His hands over the apostles, His lips moved in prayer, and He then said: “Do this in commemoration of me”…
By this act Our Lord made possible for all time His stay on earth amongst men, whom He loved to such an excess. And yet He knew with His Divine foresight what that meant for Him. Though He saw that His Body and Blood would be treated with reverence by a multitude of devout souls, yet He realised full well that in many and many an instance in the course of ages He would be placing Himself at the mercy of unworthy and sinful priests who would treat Him with irreverence and sacrilege. He saw in vision all the profanations, outrages and, what was more painful still to His loving heart, the cold indifference that He was to endure…
Love, especially Divine Love, does not halt to calculate and weigh advantage and disadvantage in the balance.
Excerpts from “The Last Supper” by Edward Leen, C.S.Sp.
Thanks to the hard work of the Sisters in our paschal candle department, parishes across the state are now burning our hand-painted candles in their churches. Sister Fidelis’ beautiful scene of the tomb on Easter morning was replicated by each artist on candles large and small, depending on what each parish ordered. Paschal candles are used during the Easter Vigil Mass to carry the flame from the Easter fire into the church, and from which every other candle in the church is lit, as a symbol of Christ the true Light enlightening the world and dispelling the darkness of evil.
A very blessed Easter season to all—He is Risen!
Abbess Mother Maria-Michael sings the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil Mass. The final part of this age-old prayer is about the Easter candle, featured in the audio clip above.
On March 25, the Annunciation of the Lord, Sister Maria renewed her monastic vows for another year. Join us in praying for her, as her next step will be making her Solemn Profession next year!
During the celebration of the Eucharist on that day, some of our Sisters sang a motet called “Dixit Maria” by Hans Leo Hassler, in honor of Mary’s response to Gabriel’s message. The video features their singing, along with the tapestries hanging in our chapel woven by a nun from Abtei St. Walburg in Eichstätt, Germany:
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.
In Praise of the Virgin Mother by St. Bernard (Hom. 4, 8-9: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4 , 53-54)
Every year on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, after the blessing of candles and the celebration of the Eucharist, we place our candles in a heart candelabra in front of the altar to burn throughout the day. It is a tradition that honors the Sacred Heart of Christ, which burns with love for us, and serves as a reminder that our vocation is to return love for Love – that in us, Love Himself may be loved.
Watch this video to see our candles burning on the Feast of the Presentation, and hear some of our Sisters sing “Ave Sacer Christi Sanguis”.
Sister Pauline was born on September 4, 1934 in Verdun, a suburb of Montreal, in the province of Quebec, Canada. Her birth name was Marie Anna Yolande, and her father Louis LaPlante worked at a hosier factory, and mother Emerilda Chartier LaPlante had been a teacher, but became a full-time home-maker after Yolanda’s birth. She was the only child. At four years old, she saw a film on St. Therese and was so deeply impressed that she decided she wanted to become a nun. After her first year of high school, her parents transferred her from the French section to the English section of the same school, in order for her to learn English. After high school, Yolande attended a private secretarial college and worked as a secretary for the next six years.
At 19, she visited the Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac and fell in love with the Benedictines. In opposition to her parents’ wishes, she entered the Monastery Mont-Laurier, 150 miles north of Montreal on October 8, 1956. She was occupied mostly with secretarial work and bookkeeping, but was also a printer for nine years. She made her first profession on October 7, 1958 and took the name Pauline.
In 1980, she transferred to the monastery of St. Walburga in Bouder. It happened like this: One afternoon in Fall of 1979, there was waiting in the parlor a tall, slim lady in her forties with carefully arranged reddish-blond hair. She was announced as Miss LaPlante, coming from Texas. After the exchange of a few pleasantries, she inquired when we would have Vespers and Compline, whether we said Matins in the morning or anticipate it the day before, and then she asked whether she could see Reverend Mother. Then she “confessed”: “I am really Sr. Pauline LaPlante, a Benedictine for almost 25 years from Mont Laurier close to Montreal. For certain reasons, I had to leave my monastery, and am now in search of a new community. I did not write beforehand, because every monastery I wrote to either did not answer at all or denied my request of transfer. So, I thought, if I am just here, you would not turn me out. I only want to save my monastic vocation!” She was close to tears. The Prioress, Mother Gertrude, agreed that Sister Pauline could stay in the guest house. She was given some work to do for two months, and on January 25, her name-day, after a letter of recommendation from her former Abbess had arrived, she was allowed to enter. There were no formal Constitutions nor Canon Law regulations known for a case of “transfers”. So, after a year of probation, again on her name day, Sr. Pauline transferred her vows to our community.
She has been a most faithful and loyal member of our community, and a stellar model of a Benedictine nun. Many people have been blessed by the correspondence she kept up as our community secretary for decades, as well as by purchasing one of the thousands of rosaries she made throughout her life. In fact, it was due to her repair of a rosary that the possibility arose for us to move to Virginia Dale from Boulder. She was known for the “twinkle” in her eye, and a thoughtful and gentle spirit that became the essence of her personality.