We had a low-key but joyful feast of St. Dominic this year. Of course, we began the day with prayer, followed by solemn high Mass in honor of St. Dominic. Our chaplain, Fr. Ian Bordenave, presided, and Deacon Jesus Reyes, who is a member of the Dominican Laity, served.
We had a mostly free morning, with an optional movie screened for those who wished to see it, and then we had a delicious dinner in the community room. This meant a talking meal, and talk we did!
To our great joy, Sr. Martin Marie was able to come for Mass and dinner. It was wonderful to have her with us, and we plan to bring her again.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed more recreation along with delicious Mexican fruit drinks. The mango and pina colada were especially popular!
In the evening, we celebrated Sr. Mary Dominic’s feast day. She actually had the Mass for her intentions on August 6, which happens to be the day St. Dominic actually died, but we waited to have her song until the 8th.
Following our song, we played several games of Domingo!–which as you can probably figure out is bingo with a Dominican twist. We had time for several people to win, and although there were no actual prizes we were happy just to be together enjoying ourselves on this day which is so dear to Dominicans everywhere.
And of course, we prayed for all of you on this solemn feast. May our Holy Father St. Dominic intercede for you!
St. Margaret of Hungary (1242-1271) was the daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary and his wife Maria. Before she was born, the Tartars were ravaging the lands, and her parents vowed to offer their child to God if He would deliver them from the Tartars. He did, and they did. At the age of three, Margaret was brought to a monastery of Dominican nuns in Veszprem.
To everyone’s surprise, Margaret loved the religious life. King Bela intended to remove her from the monastery when she was old enough to get married (ten or twelve years being enough, apparently, to satisfy his vow to God) but Margaret refused marriage three times. Even after making solemn vows, an attempt was made to dispense her from her vows for yet another offer of marriage. However, Margaret stood firm and held to her purpose, and never left the monastery.
A royal princess-become-nun might have led a more relaxed life in the monastery, but Margaret embraced suffering and hardship, doing heavy work in the kitchen and laundry and tending the sick. She was also rather extreme in her penances, which, as one commentator points out delicately, “seem excessive to us of a weaker age”. She hardly ever bathed, and she frequently engaged in fasting and scourging. In addition to this, Margaret added numerous prayers to those already recited in the Divine Office chanted by all the nuns.
All this took a toll on Margaret’s health, and she died at the age of 27. She was remembered and revered in Hungary for many years before finally being canonized in 1943.
Margaret is a great example of a person who had a single purpose and ideal: God. God was the one thing she strove for, to conform herself to His likeness, to be His true spouse, to show her devotion through acts of generosity and kindness and self-forgetfulness. In her own time and place, she found a way to serve God that makes us remember her today. Times have changed, but the love that inspired Margaret of Hungary is still alive. What is our single purpose, our one thing? How will we serve God today?
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, TX has declared that 2022 will be a year dedicated to Mary and the Eucharist for all of us here in the diocese. This has special meaning to us because Eucharistic devotion is an important part of our spirituality here. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed in our chapel from 8 AM to 8 PM every day, and each sister takes a turn praying with Our Lord truly present under this sacramental sign. We also welcome anyone who wishes to come and pray with us during these times.
It almost goes without saying that Mary is another big part of our lives! Each of us takes the name “Mary” as part of our religious name–usually just Mary but sometimes it’s Maria, Marie, Miriam, etc.–and cherishes a special devotion to the Mother of God, especially as Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. We pray the rosary together every afternoon at about 2:40 pm (on Sundays we say it privately) and you are welcome to join us for that, too.
Dominicans through the centuries have been devoted to Mary and the Eucharist. Legend has it that Our Lady herself gave St. Dominic the rosary as a powerful prayer to help in his work re-establishing the Catholic faith in Europe. St. Catherine of Siena, it is said, lived on nothing but the Eucharist for the last few months of her life. Our own monastery traces its Eucharistic roots back to France, where a monastery of Dominican nuns established perpetual adoration and then brought this tradition to the United States when a foundation was made here.
We feel blessed to be a part of a year that will lift hearts and minds to Mary and the Eucharist–in the diocese of Tyler, Texas and hopefully in many other places as well. If you are in the Lufkin area, please come by and spend some time with Jesus–He’s waiting for you!
There’s a story that St. Dominic and St. Francis actually met one time. Even if this is more pious fiction than fact, it’s true that the two founders had at least one major thing in common: their desire to found a new kind of religious order, a order that was grounded in evangelical poverty. These new kinds of friars were called “mendicants”, which is a fancy word for “beggars”, because that is what these early friars did to obtain the necessities of life. There are some significant differences between the two orders, of course–St. Dominic believed that education and study were necessary for preaching, while St. Francis believed in preaching “from the heart”. Still, because of their similar charisms, the Franciscans and Dominicans have always considered themselves “cousins”. In the Dominican Order, October 4 is a feast day (not just a memorial) and in our monastery, we sing an antiphon in honor of the two founders, both on St. Dominic’s Day (August 8) and St. Francis’s Day (October 4).
Our apostolic Father Dominic, and seraphic Father Francis, have taught us your law, O Lord.
Great is the dignity of souls, for each one to have an angel deputed to guard it from its birth.
St. Thomas Aquinas is quite clear on this matter: “Each man has a guardian angel appointed to him.” And in case you’re wondering, St. Thomas also tells us that an unborn child is protected by its mother’s guardian angel, since the good of the one is the good of the other during pregnancy. A child receives a personal guardian angel at birth, as Jerome explains.
Guardian angels are supposed to be kind of low in the hierarchy of angels–the privates of the angelic army–and yet because they can receive direction and share in the gifts their superiors possess, a guardian angel should not be taken lightly. These angels play an immensely important role in our lives, one most of us probably take for granted. But, as St. Thomas points out, “angel guardians are given to men…as regards invisible and secret things, concerning the salvation of each one in his own regard.” Without the assistance of our guardian angels, guiding, protecting, and pointing us in the right direction, we would almost surely be lost.
All guardian angels can drive off demons and work miracles. Haven’t we all had moments when certain disaster or harm was somehow, inexplicably, averted? It can be tempting to fall back on our own powers–“I was lucky”, “I decided at the last minute not to go and avoided that accident”. But let’s give credit where credit is due! Our guardian angels are working for us 24/7 without a break. St. Thomas assures us that they will never forsake us. In fact, if we persevere to the end, our guardian angels will be with us forever in heaven, constant companions, guides, and best friends. Let’s call on these angels often, for they are always waiting to help! And let’s thank them when we feel the touch of an angel’s wing on our shoulder.