+Our dear Friends,
“Come, let us sing to the Lord, and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us!” So begins every day of a Poor Clare’s life as she rises at 12:30 a.m. to chant the Office of Matins in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. These are the opening words of Psalm 95, known by the Church for centuries as the “invitatory psalm”, the psalm “inviting” us to adore the Lord. Each strophe is preceded and followed by an “invitatory antiphon”, and just as the liturgical year varies from feast to feast, so do these antiphons have a character proper to each feast. As the year goes by, we sing the invitatory psalm and its antiphon in either Latin or English, with organ or without; but always, each day and every day, our Poor Clare life begins with the communal invitation to one another and to all the world: “Come, let us sing to the Lord… Come, let us adore!”
The second day of AUGUST opens with the proper invitatory given for the feast of the Dedication of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, the small church also known as the “Portiuncula” or “Little Portion”, so dear to the heart of our Father St. Francis: “Come, let us adore Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, as we honor the memory of the Virgin Mary.” It is a day which holds triple significance for us as the feast of the Portiuncula, the profession anniversary of our Mother Abbess, and the first day of the novena to our Mother St. Clare. The renewed focus on our Mother St. Clare served to recall our celebration of her birthday on July 16, the day of our Mother Vicaress Mary Therese’s twenty-fifth anniversary of holy profession. Our hearts still held more than a “little portion” of the silver glow of that joyous celebration which Mother Vicaress immediately declared to be “the happiest day of my life.” Her radiant smile was itself an invitation to praise and adore Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church and of his grateful jubilarian spouse.
In all the invitatories given for feasts of Our Lady, the Church explicitly reminds us to celebrate the Mother of God while also adoring Christ her Son. One lovely example is the invitatory antiphon for the feast of the birthday of Our Lady on SEPTEMBER 8: “Let us celebrate the nativity of the Virgin Mary; let us adore Christ her Son.” Our Lady received a special birthday gift this year when Aspirant Sonja stepped over the threshold of the papal enclosure to begin her religious life, and now Sonja is happily learning the Poor Clare way to “adore Christ her Son” in all the many rubrics and prayers which each young aspirant comes to know by heart – eventually! Sonja had become well acquainted with the proper times to bow, to kneel, to stand, or to fall prostrate in adoration when we entered into the novena for the feast of our Father St. Francis, whose whole life constantly beckons us to “come and adore the Lord”, our God and our All.
The Office of Matins on the feast of our Seraphic Father begins with the exultant cry, “Come, let us adore Christ the King, who exalts the humble.” This year his invitatory also drew our attention toward the beautiful “exaltation of the humble” manifested in the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the “least of her sons”, St. Juan Diego. Because our Sister Rose Marie of the Holy Angels was named for and is especially devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe, our preparations for her silver jubilee of profession, scheduled for OCTOBER 7, had a particularly Guadalupan flavor. All was proceeding according to plan; however, Christ our King not only “exalts the humble”, but also provides ways to help us become more humble by practicing good-humored flexibility. Very shortly after we had finished preparing the invitations which announced that the jubilee Mass would be celebrated by our loved Bishop Oscar Cantú on October 7, the unexpected news arrived that he had been named coadjutor bishop of the diocese of San José in California. Happily, Father Enrique López-Escalera, chancellor of our diocese, was able to come to celebrate the Jubilee Mass on the great day. Echoing the perennial invitation of the Church, his superb homily bade us to “come and adore” with that enthusiasm which results in an active following of Christ. “This is the day of the Lord,” he told the congregation which packed the chapel to overflowing. “This is the day when the Lord starts your new life. This is the Lord calling us and saying, ‘Follow me!’”
October 18 found our Father Provincial Jack Clark Robinson, O.F.M., and many other faithful followers of St. Francis joining us for our annual Eucharistic procession. The day brought a welcome surprise for our jubilarian: Brother Michael Haag, O.F.M., a close friend of Sister Rose Marie from her pre-entrance days, attended the procession for the first time. Proudly displaying several yellowed-with-age photographs which featured himself at the side of our jubilarian on her confirmation day, he told us shyly how much he treasured those memories. “Come, let us sing to the Lord” — whose hand guides each of our spiritual lives from joyous beginnings to jubilant thanksgiving many years later.
The invitatories of the liturgical year are filled with joy, reminding us that we travel from feast to feast as we scale the liturgical mountain year after year; and this year our pilgrimage took us from jubilee to jubilee as well. Although not a jubilee in the strict sense of the word, our seventieth anniversary of foundation was deemed worthy of a special celebration. Coinciding with the feast of a holy virgin, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, our Foundation Day on NOVEMBER 13 opened with the beautiful invitatory from the Common of Virgins: “Come, let us worship the Lamb, with the virgins who followed him.” The antiphon harmonized perfectly with our grateful recollections of our courageous founding group of sisters who followed the call of the Lamb to “unknown Roswell” in 1948. Seventy years later, our hearts overflowed with gratitude for being chosen to carry on their own unceasing adoration in the beautiful monastic home built by their many acts of love and sacrifice. Present to help us to celebrate this memorable anniversary was our beloved Raymond Cardinal Burke. While he presented us with a beautiful triduum of conferences specifically composed to help us prepare for this milestone in our community history, we in turn prepared for His Eminence a small table of homemade birthday gifts, since the seventieth anniversary of his birth coincided with our own celebration. In his conference on Divine Providence at work in the history of our monastery, he told us, “Trust in Divine Providence is expressed most fully and perfectly in our adoration of the Holy Eucharist,” thus renewing the call of “Come, let us sing to the Lord” — for Whom our foundresses had sacrificed all to establish a new tabernacle in southeastern New Mexico.
“The Lord, the King who is to come — come, let us adore.” The eagerness and expectation of DECEMBER builds to a joyous crescendo as we daily repeat the quintessential Advent invitation to praise. Our observance of the feast of St. Nicholas as our communal day of recreation and gift-giving enables us to fix our gaze during the latter weeks of Advent entirely on the coming of our newborn King. On the December 6 “Holy Man Day”, St. Nicholas’ faithful donkey brings gifts for all good Poor Clare children in the afternoon; for the past two years now, we have spent the morning recreation period preparing gifts for the other poor children in our area. In 2017, our array of stuffed animals made for the poor won the attention of an arts-and-crafts company which awarded us a grant for several free bags of polyester fiberfill, which we gratefully and happily used this year to stuff a goodly number of teddy bears as Christmas gifts for poor children. The morning’s labors brought us the double joy of one another’s company and the thought of the smiles which our work would bring when the Church’s invitation to praise would transpose to another key: “Christ is born for us! Come, let us adore.”
Our New Year’s Eve holy hour of prayerful silence before the Blessed Sacrament culminates at midnight with the exuberant ringing of our two tower bells. Then the beautiful Office of JANUARY 1, the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, begins the New Year with the invitatory (sung in Latin, as always on great solemnities): “Let us celebrate the maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; let us adore Christ the Lord, her Son.” Mother Abbess had already set us on our course for 2019 with her New Year’s Eve chapter conference on the prayer which we pray privately before the Invitatory, as well as before every other Hour of the Divine Office: “Lord, open my lips to praise your Holy Name…” Reflecting on the prayer phrase by phrase in successive chapter conferences over the course of the first months of the New Year served to deepen our communal sense of the importance of preparing well for our primary work, the Opus Dei.
January is also filled with happy preparations for Mother’s table of gifts on her nameday, the feast of St. Angela Merici, which we celebrated this year on January 29, since her liturgical memorial bowed out to a Sunday. At the close of that beautiful festive day, no one expected that less than twenty-four hours later, Mother would be on her way to the hospital for a much-needed cardiac ablation. The unforeseen hospital stay meant that Mother again missed our monastic celebration of the Presentation of the Lord on FEBRUARY 2, that light-filled Candlemas day which opens with the words, “O come, let us worship the Lord of the Universe; he enters his holy temple.” Still, it was a joy for Mother and her companion to re-enter the “holy temple” of the monastery on February 6, with Mother in much-improved condition, ready to celebrate the feast of our Mother St. Colette on February 7.
Of all the invitatories of the liturgical year, those given for Lent and Easter stand out as the only ones which contain the invitation to “come” implicitly. “Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts,” was the cry of our own hearts as we strove to open them more fully to God’s cleansing and renewal during the forty blessed days of Lent. Ash Wednesday, MARCH 6, brought the news of the death of the elderly father of one of our sisters, which made us all the more aware that at any moment any one of us might “hear the voice of the Lord” calling us to our eternal homeland.
“The Lord is risen, alleluia!” Even the Easter lilies took on a golden glow as APRIL 23 approached, announced as the “third holy Easter day” (the ancient monastic term for Tuesday within the octave of Easter). The bells pealed exultantly for the solemn Mass which marked the fiftieth anniversary of holy profession of our dear Sister Mary Juanita of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Once again present at the altar to celebrate the jubilee Mass was our dear Father Enrique López-Escalera, his homily centering our thoughts on God’s “delicate love”, so tender and personal in all its manifestations. Our jubilarian’s remembrance card bespoke the response of her own grateful heart, echoing the last words of St. Therese of Lisieux: “My God, I love You.” Each jubilee is a new invitation to “come and adore” our Divine Bridegroom for his unending love and fidelity to his grateful brides.
After the feast of the Ascension, our Mother the Church focuses our attention on the promises held out to us by our risen and ascended Lord: “Come, let us adore Christ the Lord, who promised to send the Holy Spirit on his people.” Before we began the Pentecost novena on MAY 31, we had already sensed that blessed Spirit’s gentle yet all-powerful presence in the beautiful moment when Aspirant Sonja received the postulant veil on the feast of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces. One week later, we were thanking the Holy Spirit once again for his unfailing guidance of the Church when we received word that a new bishop had just been appointed for our diocese. Bishop Peter Baldacchino, formerly an auxiliary bishop of Miami, Florida, and originally from the island of Malta, will find the hearts of his Poor Clare flock wide open in welcome when he is installed as the third bishop of Las Cruces in July.
JUNE 22, Covenant Day, the day on which we recall our Mother St. Clare’s routing the enemies of Assisi by her faith-filled prayer and penance, this year marks the silver jubilee of our dear Sister Mary Immaculata of the Eternal Father. That in itself is reason enough to rejoice — four jubilees in twelve months. But we suspect that, known for her profound love of our Eucharistic Lord, our Holy Mother must have arranged this year’s liturgical calendar herself, for the second jubilee day will find us singing, “Come, let us adore Christ the Lord, the Bread of Life,” the invitatory for the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. With Father John Riley traveling from Denver to celebrate all three jubilee Masses, and Sister’s family planning to embark on journeys from all corners of the country to add their thanksgiving to our own, we anticipate that “Christ the Lord, the Bread of Life” will be adored with great jubilation and love. And our lives will go on from that milestone to another feast, and then another, greeting each new day in unison with you, our dear Friends, and with the chorus of exultant voices spread throughout the Church in every nation of the world: “Come, let us sing to the Lord… Come, let us adore!”