Into the Woods

It’s that time of year again! Today we’re beginning our annual community retreat, and we’ll be in retreat until June 14. We’re delighted to have Fr. James Sullivan, O.P. as our retreat master, and we look forward to everything he will say to help us grow in our spiritual lives!

You may be wondering–why “into the woods”? Don’t we usually describe retreats as a desert experience? This is much more common, but here in East Texas we’re short on deserts and long (or tall) on pine trees, so we decided to embrace our situation. And after all, the woods can be every bit as wild–if not more so–than the desert. We have all kinds of critters roaming our property, raccoons, opossums, foxes, snakes, bobcats–not to mention the numerous species of birds and some bats! So do keep us in prayer as we go out into the wilderness of the retreat woods, and know that we are all praying for you, too!

Happy Anniversary!

Our blog is officially a teenager today!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been blogging for 13 years now! We started out on Blogger, then moved over here to WordPress a few years ago. We moved all our Blogger posts to this blog so you can still check them out if you want to!

We hope you enjoy our content. We like to share a little of our Dominican monastic life with the world, and we’ll continue to do so.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us and supported us over the years! We couldn’t do it without you. Please keep us in your prayers and know that we keep all of you in our prayers, too.

A Visit from Fr. Vincent Davila, O.P.

Readers of this blog may remember that Fr. Vincent gave us our annual retreat back in June 2021. We had not seen him since (due to COVID and such), so we were all happy when we learned Fr. Ian asked Fr. Vincent to be our “replacement chaplain” while he was on vacation. Father arrived during our Pentecost retreat and will stay with us until Monday, June 5–that’s when our 2023 retreat master, Fr. James Sullivan, O.P., arrives! We’ll just let you know right now–we have a very busy month coming up!

We enjoyed some recreation with Father in the parlor on Pentecost Sunday. Father told us about the progress he has made on his dissertation. Our monastery seems to be a good place for friars to work on dissertations, articles, and the like–must be the peaceful, quiet atmosphere! The discussion took an unexpected but welcome turn onto the topic of the particular judgment (which happens when you die) and the Last Judgment (which comes at the end of time). We also joked with him, laughing a great deal. A most enjoyable evening!

Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Father Vincent! We enjoy your homilies, and look forward to hopefully reading your dissertation one day if/when you turn it into a book. We keep you in our prayers!

Welcoming St. Dominic

We recently acquired a new image of St. Dominic for our chapel! This bas-relief was carved by Sr. Mary Magdalen, O.P. of Queen of Peace Monastery in Squamish, B.C., Canada. We installed it on the memorial of the Translation of St. Dominic, fittingly enough…that’s May 24, commemorating the day when the friars moved St. Dominic’s body to a new tomb.

Removing St. Dominic from the wrappings he was mailed in…

On display for all to see and admire!

Fr. Ian praying over the new image…

…blessing the new image…

…and incensing the new image!

Although the wood St. Dominic is carved from harmonizes beautifully with the other wooden furnishings in our chapel, we are probably going to get some kind of darker background so he is more easily seen against the white wall. We are very pleased with this new St. Dominic and love the fact that he is praying with us–his book open for the Liturgy of the Hours. This is so typical of St. Dominic, who loved the liturgy and used to encourage the brothers to sing it loudly and bravely! Thank you so much, Sr. Mary Magdalen, for another wonderful design for our chapel. She also created our tabernacle doors and part of our candlesticks!

St. Dominic, pray for us!

Classes with Fr. Raphael Mary, O.P.

We were happy to welcome Fr. Raphael Mary Salzillo, O.P. to our monastery last week. Father is a Dominican friar belonging to the Western Province (or Holy Name Province) but has been teaching at the University of St. Thomas in Houston for the past four years. We’ve been trying to get him to come for a while, but COVID kept getting in the way.

He gave a fascinating series of classes on Form of the Person and Soul in St. Thomas Aquinas–intense stuff, but Father made it fun with his silly examples (like “Sammy the Squirrel”). We all learned a lot and enjoyed his presentation and style immensely.

Father illustrates the concept of form in Thomas Aquinas using an orange

Father listening intently to one of the many questions we posed to him

Father Raphael Mary also led a small discussion group on the book The Women Are Up To Something, an intriguing study of four women philosophers at Oxford around the time of the second World War: Elizabeth Anscombe, Mary Midgely, Phillipa Foot, and Iris Murdoch. Those who participated enjoyed it very much!

For his last session, Father explained his work with Courage International and Eden Invitation, and asked out prayers for these two groups. We didn’t know too much about these ministries, so we were glad to know about them and will keep their intentions in our prayers.

Thank you so much, Father Raphael Mary, for a fun and educational time! We wish you well in your new assignment in California, and hope we will meet up with you again some day!

Easter 2023

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Holy Week was rainy and dismal, but on Easter Sunday it cleared up and we had a beautiful day. Praise God! In fact everything about our Easter celebration this year has been truly lovely, from the many liturgies and processions to the decorations in the refectory and community room.

We spent a great deal of time in chapel–our favorite place to be!

Sisters processing up to receive Holy Communion on Easter Sunday.

Our chaplain, Fr. Ian, reading the closing prayer at Mass on Easter Sunday. Father gave us some especially dynamic homilies this Easter, using storytelling he he studied as part of his own recently completed doctorate in homiletics. Congratulations, Father!

Isn’t this an amazing refectory centerpiece? We have a very talented novitiate.

And here they are!

They decorated the entire refectory, including this cheerful wall.

Our table decorations this year featured real flowers (in pots, so we can plant them later).

Everyone was filled with Paschal joy!

Sr. Mary Giuse made this lovely community room decoration. The banner says “Rejoice” and that’s what we’ve been doing.

Anna and Dennis, some new friends of ours, generously brought us fried chicken for our supper. Thank you so much!

Remember, Easter is not just a Sunday–it’s a season that lasts 50 days. This year we’ll be singing extra Alleluias until May 28th! We keep all of you in our prayers in a special way during this Easter octave, and we pray the whole season will be a time of many blessings for you.

Your Name Will Be…

Sr. Mary Pauline of the Holy Spirit, O.P.!

Sr. Mary Christine, Sr. Mary Pauline, and Sr. Mary Margaret

We had a festive day all day (well, we worked in between times) with delicious meals, a beautiful ceremony, and a fun tea party in the novitiate.

Breakfast in the refectory

Sister’s place mat, with art by aspirant Michelle and lettering by Sr. Maria Goretti. When we saw it, some of us were sure her name would have something to do with Fatima! (It didn’t–she just has a devotion to Our Lady.)

Sr. Marie Augustine busy in the kitchen preparing our dinner

The ceremony was held at 10:30 AM in the Chapter Hall. Since Sr. Mary Pauline is a finally professed religious, she will wear our black veil (even though this year is her constitutional novitiate year, as we explained in a previous post).

Sister received her new habit from Sr. Mary Margaret, and she left to change, with Sr. Mary Christine’s help.

We waited expectantly as Sister left to get dressed in our habit, and returned.

We each gave her the kiss of peace, still wondering, “What will her name be??”

As we finished singing “Ubi caritas”, Sister came to the center for the moment of truth.

Finally, it came!

She was clearly thrilled to hear her new name–and so were we!

We have a tradition where the sisters make guesses about a novice’s new name, and the box was conveniently placed outside the community room. Sr. Mary Margaret brought it to the ceremony and entertained us by reading the guesses afterwards.

Interestingly, a number of sisters guessed the mystery would be the Holy Spirit…but no one guessed Pauline (or even Paul)!

The novitiate sisters decorated Sr. Mary Pauline’s cell so elaborately that she had to move to the cell next door for a while.

After dinner, the professed sisters came over for a tea party, where we watched Sr. Mary Pauline open her gifts and drank tea and had homemade cookies. Sr. Maria Goretti even entertained us on the accordion! It was an afternoon we will long remember.

Please pray for our three novitiate sisters, and for Sr. Mary Christine, our novice directress, and Sr. Marie Augustine, who helps out. They would like to have more companions–and we would, too. Pray also for their perseverance!