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A Right to Be Merry
A Special Condensed Audio Version

Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe
809 East Nineteenth Street
Roswell, New Mexico 88201

+Peace and Blessings
Looking toward August 2018

Our dear Friends,

Imagine, just for a moment, the interior of our Poor Clare chapel after midnight on the solemnity of our Mother St. Clare. The Office of Matins has concluded, and the entire choir is wrapped in darkness, save for the moonlight shining through the windows and the constant red glow from the sanctuary lamp. Now the sacristan extinguishes, one by one, the tall beeswax candles on the altar; and the silence of the night fills the choir as the sisters pray, their arms outstretched in the form of a cross, in remembrance of the earthly passing of our Mother St. Clare. Your eyes have just become accustomed to their dim surroundings when suddenly it seems that the shadows are being dispelled by a new source of light. It is true: now the choir is illumined by one small light: a tiny, mighty flame, the “Clare-candle”, held high by Mother Abbess. She walks slowly toward the altar with her single flame brightening the entire choir more than one might have thought possible. Placing the Clare-candle at the foot of the altar, she lights her own candle from it and passes the flame on to all the other sisters, whose candles symbolize each one’s vocation to be herself a small light “flickering faithful” to brighten a sin-weary world. Now the darkened choir is no longer dark at all, but alive with the radiance of twenty-three small candles. This is the ceremony known as the Transitus (the Latin term for “passage” or “crossing”) of our Mother St. Clare; and though we reenact the scene described above every year, the wonder of the moment never grows old. One candle can certainly lighten the darkness; and one life wholly given to God, as was our Mother St. Clare’s, can bring an inestimable brightness not only throughout the world, but down through eight centuries as well.

It comes as no surprise, then, that as daughters of her whose very name means “light”, we look back on our year as one filled with light. In Roswell, and especially in the heat of summer, we are always especially conscious of one particular source of light: “Be you praised my Lord, for our Brother the Sun,” sang out our Holy Father Francis as he approached death, nearly blind and yet still praising God for the creation which he was no longer able to see. It may be that we lag sometimes in our appreciation of Brother Sun as he makes his daily way across our usually clear blue New Mexico summer sky, often scorching our already parched earth! But this year we joyously echoed our seraphic Father’s song of wonder and joy when, during those memorable moments on AUGUST 21, we gathered to witness (through protective dark glasses, of course) the progression of Sister Moon across the face of the sun during the spectacular solar eclipse. We must have been something of a spectacle ourselves, dressed in our garden finery and gazing up en masse into the sky — and keeping busy in between our solar observations by hoeing, weeding and raking. Even our highly vocal bird population fell silent, sharing our awe at the unusual violet-tinged sky that resulted from the unforgettable phenomenon.

Brother Sun faithfully returned, of course, and after his brief absence we were most eager to welcome him back, as (high temperatures set aside for the moment) there is nothing quite like sunshine to gladden the heart. Yet another “welcome back” lay on the very next page of the calendar, with our Sister Maria Consolata arriving home in SEPTEMBER after a year of generous service to our Cleveland community. Her joyous homecoming meant that she would be able to be present for our triennial community elections, presided over by our Bishop Oscar Cantú on September 18 — as well as for a full-scale “housecleaning party” two days before! We needed “all hands on deck” to thoroughly scrub the at-long-last completed new addition, now known as “San Francesco”, readying all the rooms for a procession during which our Bishop would bless the new workspaces and declare them officially a part of the papal enclosure. After our grace-laden elections, which gifted us with a new vicaress, Mother Mary Therese, we made our singing way through the now-sparkling clean rooms, ending in the new and larger parlor, which was duly blessed and sprinkled with holy water. Moments later it was used for the first time as we visited with Bishop Cantú and Father Enrique López-Escalera, who had been present for the elections and accompanied our Bishop as his “entourage” during the procession. Both our visitors were enthusiastic about the beauty of our new addition; and in OCTOBER, our Franciscan brothers of the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe were equally animated in their praise of the new parlor, which they saw for the first time during the delightful visit which always follows our annual Eucharistic procession.

The end of NOVEMBER normally finds us daily becoming more aware of the waning light of the winter sun, with the shortening days leading us to that special hush of quiet waiting which enfolds the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Instead, our Mother Abbess found herself under the already too-familiar fluorescent lights of the emergency room in late November, which led to extensive hospitalization. The days of her absence lengthened into weeks, and soon the community at home had to begin our cherished custom of lighting the Advent wreath without Mother on site. Aware of how much of a sacrifice it was for Mother and her companion to miss our monastic customs during such a beautiful and privileged season, one thoughtful and creative sister fashioned and sent to Mother’s hospital room a miniature Advent wreath, complete with evergreens, purple ribbons, and… battery-operated candles! To our relief, Mother’s health improved enough to allow her to return home on DECEMBER 21, just in time for the fourth candle to be lit on Christmas Eve, heralding the arrival of our newborn King and Lord, Himself the true Light of the world.

The dawning light of the New Year soon made it clear, however, that Mother’s health needs had not been adequately addressed, and in mid-JANUARY it was once more necessary for her to be hospitalized. Although it was an immense sacrifice for Mother and the community that she was away from home when Sister Mary Paul of the Good Shepherd celebrated her golden jubilee, there was nevertheless a golden glow radiating from our jubilarian, who made the sacrifice with a most generous heart. On FEBRUARY 1 that glow was even brighter when, before the public ceremony, each sister lit her own candle from Sister Paul’s, echoing our jubilarian’s spoken prayer of the Holy Name of Jesus in a beautiful responsory of love. The golden aura surrounding these special days was made yet more radiant by the sisterly love and sacrifice that transformed the poignant separation into a profound opportunity for community growth, with each sister giving herself fully to make the jubilee a truly joyous one for our loved sister. Sister Paul’s smile was perhaps most radiant when it found its match in that of her nephew, Father Chris Daigle, who beamed with joy from the altar as he celebrated his beloved aunt’s jubilee Mass. Mother Abbess’ return home on February 9 was itself a cause for jubilation, and her improved health allowed her to rejoice along with the community in the wonderful display of gifts sent to our golden anniversary bride from all our daughterhouses.

After all the festivities and unusual circumstances of the previous months, a lovely, quiet week of community retreat was a most welcome aspect of early MARCH. Our sharings afterward revealed how much the gracious light of the Holy Spirit had filled this special time devoted to lectio divina and extra time for private prayer. It was the perfect way to prepare our hearts for the dramatic moment of the Easter Vigil, when, just as during the Transitus, the darkened choir was magnificently illumined by the light of a single candle — this time, the Paschal candle, the magnificent and time-honored symbol of our resurrected Lord. “Lumen Christi!” sang out Father Jorge Hernández, O.F.M., to which we responded, “Deo gratias!” Three times the new light of Christ was proclaimed in this manner, with the third “Deo gratias” ending in a resplendent burst of light — that dramatic moment when every light is switched on, flooding the entire chapel and choir with the effulgence of Easter glory.

The Paschal candle was still standing tall when the abbesses and delegates of our federation gathered in chapter on APRIL 18. Together they sought out ways to discover the light of Christ, pondering and discussing this year’s chapter theme, “Searching for the Face of God,” after the title of our Holy Father’s new Apostolic Constitution on the cloistered contemplative life, Vultum Dei Quaerere. Our great joy was to see our own Mother Abbess’ health so greatly improved by April that she was able to attend the chapter, hosted by our Los Altos Hills daughterhouse in California. At the beginning of MAY, shortly after all the chapter members had returned home to their respective monasteries, we received the long-awaited news that the Holy See’s instruction on the new document, titled Cor Orans, “The Praying Heart”, had been released — and we found its pages illuminated by the Church’s great esteem for and understanding of our vocation as daughters of Clare, “light”: “The community of the monastery of nuns, placed as a city on the mountaintop and a light on the lampstand, even in the simplicity of its life, visibly depicts the goal towards which the whole ecclesial community walks.”

Our particular “mountaintop” soon saw the arrival of a new crew of construction workers as May ripened into JUNE, and work began in earnest to repave our entrance drive and to create a much-needed parking area in front of our public chapel. Those who have tried to attend our standing-room-only Christmas Midnight Mass will rejoice to hear about this latest (and hopefully also “last”) improvement project. Extra parking spaces will assuredly be needed to accommodate the overflow crowd of friends and family arriving to celebrate the silver jubilee of our Mother Vicaress Mary Therese of the Queen of Heaven on the birthday of our Mother St. Clare, JULY 16. Twenty-five years ago, we had rejoiced in a double profession ceremony, but since both Mother Vicaress and her “twin”, Sister Rose Marie of the Holy Angels, have large extended families (which have happily expanded with the passage of time), Mother Abbess decided it might be best to give each jubilarian her own distinct celebration. Thus the already-lovely feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7, will have an especially lustrous gleam this year as we light our candles from that of our other silver jubilarian, Sister Rose Marie.

The sunshine-filled weeks of AUGUST will undoubtedly still have a silver glow as we approach the feast of our Mother St. Clare once again, taking up our candles at her midnight Transitus, reminding ourselves of our beautiful vocation to be little lights to one another and to all the world. May she who now continually sheds her light upon us from the heavenly Jerusalem intercede for you, our dear friends, and lead us all to that glory which, as the book of Revelation tells us, is the brightest light of all: “And the city has no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it. For the glory of God has enlightened it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

Gratefully and devotedly, in our Mother St. Clare,

For more information or prayer requests write to:

Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe
809 E. 19th Street
Roswell, New Mexico 88201-7599