Spring Monastery Bells

 Our Spring issue of “Monastery Bells” is in the mail and arriving in mailboxes everywhere! If you\’d like to read our latest issue, please go to our website here and check it out! And as always, if you would like to subscribe to “Monastery Bells” (and get additional things like our popular raffle tickets, our annual pocket calendar and our Christmas card) please just send us your name and address, and we\’ll add you to our list. We never sell or make our list in any way available to others. God bless you!

Solemn Chapter: The Annunciation 2021

The following is Sr. Mary Jeremiah\’s beautiful talk for our Solemn Chapter (or, as we like to refer to it, our Big Chapter) on March 24. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

The first words we hear every day are–“The angel of the Lord appeared unto Mary….” And we return to this moment of the Incarnation countless times throughout the day.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee…to a virgin…and the virgin\’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, said, “Hail, full of grace\”….
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be…”
And the angel said to her in reply…
Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)
We heard last Sunday morning at Office of Readings in the Letter to the Hebrews that angels are “ministering spirits…sent to serve [human beings], those who are to inherit salvation”! What a statement! These tremendous spiritual beings are sent to help us.
And, every year on the feast of the Archangels we hear St. Gregory the Great tell us that angels are messengers. The word Angel means “Messenger” in Greek, and Archangel means “Great Messenger” or “Super Messenger”. As Gregory continues, “We must also know that the term Angel means a function, and not a nature. For if the blessed spirits of the heavenly homeland are always spirits, they cannot always be called angels; they are Angels only when they announce something. Angels announce things of lesser importance. Archangels are those who announce the greatest, most important things. This is why it was not an angel, but the Archangel Gabriel whom God sent to the Virgin Mary. In such a ministry, indeed, it was fitting that the greatest of the angels should come and announce the greatest news.
“Michael means ‘who is like God?’ Gabriel, ‘Strength of God’; Raphael, ‘Medicine of God’. Whenever extraordinary power is needed, the Scripture tells us that it is Michael who is sent: his action and his name make it clear that no one can boast of doing what is reserved for the sole power of God. To Mary, however, it is Gabriel who is sent. It was thus necessary that it was by \’Strength of God that the Lord of the Armies, powerful in the fight, was announced who came to make war with the powers of darkness.”
The Angel Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible several times, all of which were events that would change the course of history in alignment for the fulfillment of God\’s Will in the world. So, I like to think of Gabriel as the Messenger of the Incarnation and Redemption.
The first time Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible is in the book of Daniel. He comes to help Daniel and God\’s people several times.
The next instance of Gabriel coming to convey a message is to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Luke tells us, “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him…the angel said to him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.'”
Gabriel is last mentioned when he is sent to speak with Mary. Mary was a young Jewish girl who was engaged but still a virgin. Gabriel comes a few months after he appeared to Zechariah, to reveal to Mary that she will be the one to carry the Savior of the World, and the one to fulfill the prophecies promised centuries earlier, of the coming Savior being born of a virgin.
In all of these examples, the people that Gabriel visits are at first frightened to see such a majestic being, but Gabriel not only brings messages of hope, he also comes in kindness.
We do not know if Gabriel’s “coming” to Mary was an external or internal vision, or only a locution, an inner word. Perhaps we should reflect more on the fact that the message is far more important than the Messenger, for as Hebrews says, “[The angels] are ministering spirits…to save us.”
Unlike Michael, Gabriel is not referred to as an Archangel. The Bible does not specify in depth what is rank is as an angel, but what he is called to do is of more importance than his title. When speaking to Zechariah he reveals that he stands in the presence of God, which emphasizes God\’s unwavering trust in him. It is also his role to convey knowledge of the coming Savior, exceedingly sacred messages to the people of God from God himself. As we said before, Gabriel means, “God is my strength” and it is evident that he lives up to his name, in relying on God to fulfill the messages he is given to deliver.
Gabriel is always a messenger of God\’s redemption of humanity. But we too are messengers, especially as nuns of the Order of Preachers. Our original title was “Preacheresses”. We usually do not preach the Word of God, the message of God\’s love for the world and the individuals in that world, but we proclaim it by our lives. We do use words with anyone we come in contact with–in the parlor, through letters, on the phone, when we go out to the doctor, and so on. But we especially resemble Gabriel and the angels when we PRAY. This is our vocation, our mission and our message.
The angels are spiritual, intellectual creatures. They can think of going some place or doing something and they are there–instantly–doing or inspiring it. We, through our prayers, can reach any place and any one in an instant, in a metaphorical sense.
As the angel is always before the face of God, in his Divine Presence, while even o mission–so are we, in a way, as we keep our adorations, attend Office and Liturgy, and engage in interior prayer throughout the day while going about our duties insofar as they give space for spiritual thoughts. But, even if we are writing letters or talking to guests, we can do this as ministers of Christ, in union with the Trinity. Therefore we must be focused; striving for unceasing prayer and union with God. We should keep guard over our thoughts so that we are not dragged off target by the logismoi, which is like falling into a swamp or quicksand. We need to be attentive to the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
A good messenger is one who gives her heart and soul to the message, that is, she has enthusiasm an proclaims that message with enthusiasm. The greater the One sending the message, the greater should be our efforts to be one with that message.
St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, and he says to us today, \”…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.\”
As Our Lady controlled her thoughts, for she was pure and immaculate of heart, so should we. May Mary and all the angels be with us today and always, leading us, and all our prayers, to Paradise. Amen.

Winter Storm of ’21

 It’s hard to believe now–when we are enjoying temperatures in the upper 70s and even low 80s–that last week at this time we were freezing, literally! However, that proves the old saying: “If you don\’t like the weather in Texas, wait a minute and it\’ll change.”

As we reported earlier, when we had a more fun snowfall in January, we realize that for many people ice storms, temperatures going down to 6 and 8 degrees Fahrenheit (and maybe lower) and such are part of the usual winter condition. But here in Texas, we’re just not used to it–and we\’re not prepared for it, either! One of our sisters, a transplanted Midwesterner, kept assuring us that everything would be fine “when the snow plows come through”. We finally managed to explain to her that there are no snow plows in Texas. She was astonished!

We will have a lot more on this story–what happened and how the community coped–in our Spring issue of “Monastery Bells”. Here’s just a few items that stand out.

(To the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, with apologies to the authors)

On the day of the Presidents, our Savior gave to us:

–Hundreds of branches snapping

–Eighteen nuns a-shivering

–Several rolling blackouts

–Ten space heaters

–Seven puzzles finished

–Five free days!

–Four busted pipes

–Three inches of snow

–Two pairs of socks each

–And a great, loving community!

We can say this both of our own community and the community of Lufkin! We are so grateful to all the people who came out to help us (and there were many!) and also for everyone who helped us get our generator some years back. We never thought we would need it for a winter storm, but God provided! This was especially important for our elderly sisters, who were able to have heat in their infirmary rooms most of the time. And, we were able to have some lights–definitely necessary in our large building!

We continue to pray for the many people who have suffered more with this storm than we have, both in Texas and throughout the south. We are extremely grateful to all of you who prayed for us! We managed to avoid serious injuries and illness, and even to keep cheerful during the difficult times, which was truly a work of grace. Know that we pray for all of you, too, every day and every hour!

Tet: The Year of the Buffalo

Whew–it\’s been a crazy few weeks here! We\’ll be bringing you more news about some of our adventures, but first we\’d like to step back to February 14, when we celebrated Tet. As you may know, one of our Vietnamese sisters likes to organize this celebration annually as a little pre-Lenten party, and we always enjoy it!


We have only one \”buffalo gal\” in our community at present–our prioress, Sr. Mary Margaret (second from right).

Sr. Mary Christine did a lot of hard work to make a wonderful Tet celebration for us, and it was so much fun!

We played a variety of original games in teams–extra fun for community-minded Dominicans!

Little did we realize that we would wake up…snowed in!! But that\’s a story for later…stay tuned!

Sister Mary Therese Renews Her Vows


Sr. Mary Therese of the Divine Mercy, our temporary professed sister, renewed her vows for one year on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

This is a milestone in Sister\’s vocational journey, so we had to celebrate a little!

One of our sisters made Baked Alaska in three different flavors…

 …and it tasted as good as it looked!

We had a delicious meal in the community room, with the rare privilege of talking while we ate (we usually listen to a CD or something read to us). 

Since Cor Orans, the new document from Rome detailing rules for cloistered living, specifies the renewal of vows annually for three years after the initial three-year period of temporary vows, we may be doing this a lot in the future. But for now, we\’ll concentrate on the joy of this present moment. Please continue to pray for Sr. Mary Therese as she lives her vows for another year, and pray for us, too, that we may all be faithful to the Dominican vocation God has given each one of us.

“Living For The Other Side”: A Review of the Hillbilly Thomists’ New CD

I don’t really know anything about bluegrass, except what I heard on the Hillbilly Thomists’ first CD. But I do know this: I liked this CD a lot.

“Living For The Other Side\” is a more introspective CD than “The Hillbilly Thomists”. If “Hillbilly Thomists” was a revival, this is a family reunion, fun but with a serious side to it. Most of the songs on this CD are original, which offers the talented brothers a chance to preach the Word through their deft blending of Biblical and doctrinal truth with contemporary lyrics. In the song, “You Will Still Walk Down The Line”, the chorus tells us, “Now people hear talk about eternity, / they just feel doubtful or afraid. / But truth is the very best medicine. / It\’s time to get real and get saved.” Or, on a more poignant note, from “Give Me A Drink”: “Give me a drink, I am thirsty. / I have drawn this well bone-dry / with this old rope and heavy bucket of mine. / Would you put in me a well I can draw from all my life.”

I have to confess, though, that the song I can\’t get out of my head is “Bourbon, Bluegrass, And The Bible”, even though only one of those things–the Bible–plays much of a role in my day-to-day life. The chorus for this runs:\”Death\’s in the world, and it\’s gone viral. / Everybody’s talkin bout a new revival. / When it\’s a question of love and survival: / bourbon, bluegrass, and the Bible.” Amen, brothers!

These songs speak deeply to me as a religious, and I pray they will speak to many in the secular world as well. I encourage you to go to their new website, hillbillythomists.com, where you can see music videos, order physical CDs, and download digital copies. And you\’ll be supporting the work of the Dominican friars, too!

About Our Website

 We\’ve been meaning to tell you about some of the features on our new website, and now that things have calmed down here (for the moment) we\’d like to do it!

As you can see, one new feature is the ability to order prayer enrollments on line. We offer both our card enrollments and our perpetual enrollments. There\’s a form you can fill out, or you can email us your information–whichever is more convenient for you. You can even make a donation for your enrollment, using a check or credit card

We also now have online giving! This makes donating to the Monastery extremely easy. As with the enrollments, we can accept a variety of payment methods and it\’s very secure. You can learn more about it here. 

We\’re very pleased with our website, and we are especially grateful to eCatholic, who provides the service allowing us to design this website and keep it online. If you are interested in a website for your Catholic parish, we highly recommend them. You can read more about eCatholic here.

And while you\’re thinking about it, please stop by our website and visit us there!