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

+Peace and Blessings
Looking toward August 2015

Our dear Friends,

Wealth…a life of luxury, comfort and ease…the promise of a dazzling future…. What do all of these have in common?

We propose two answers to that question. Anyone who has lived even one day in the midst of our advertisement-ridden Western society already knows the first: these are, we are told repeatedly, the necessary ingredients for perfect happiness. Happiness is, without question, the one thing which every human heart desires; but those who are themselves deluded by modern society’s blandishments are more than ready to show us the latest products which will “guarantee” the fulfillment of our heart’s deepest longings.

But our second answer shreds all the claims of glossy advertisements which promise happiness through worldly possessions. All the items listed above actually did belong to a beautiful young woman named Clare of Assisi — who, knowing they could never fill her heart, flung them all away in favor of Most High Poverty and discovered the incomparable happiness of living for God alone. Her AUGUST solemnity, celebrated this year with our newly-elected Father Provincial Jack Clark Robinson, O.F.M., is always a fresh reminder of the truth she embraced with her whole heart: “The desire for happiness is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it” (CCC 1718).

As grateful daughters of our clear-sighted Mother St. Clare, we have found this Year of Consecrated Life to be a marvelous opportunity to help draw a world, so often misled by glittering falsehoods, back to the One who alone can fulfill the desire for happiness. In fact, Pope Francis’ Letter to Consecrated Persons on the Occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life told us that this is exactly what is expected of us in this special year: “We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness, that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere.”

A survey of the world’s multi-billionaires might not lead to the discovery of anyone whose heart is as “filled to the brim with happiness” as that of a Poor Clare who has faithfully lived a vow of total poverty for twenty-five years. The multitude of friends who packed our chapel for the silver jubilee Mass of SEPTEMBER 21 and came afterward to the parlor to greet our jubilarian, Sister Marie Lucette, could see that the happiness found in seeking God alone was radiantly visible in the smile of our anniversary bride. The presence of Right Reverend Dom Philip Anderson, O.S.B., abbot of the Benedictine Abbey in Clear Creek, Oklahoma, and the surprise arrival of our former provincial Father Larry Dunham, O.F.M., certainly enhanced the happiness of our three-day celebration, which found our monastery temporarily bedecked, not only with touches of silver, but also with the reds and greens of Christmas — due to Sister Lucette’s great devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation. Her remembrance card offered another clear sign of contradiction to the world’s ideas of the means to attain happiness. Subercaseaux’s watercolor of the Little Poor Man of Assisi cradling “the most holy and most beloved Child wrapped in such poor little swaddling clothes and laid in a manger” captures a moment of unparalleled joy on the front of the card, and St. Thomas Aquinas’ words on the reverse side state clearly the cause of that joy. “To their destiny of happiness, men are brought back through the humanity of Christ.

Desiring so much for all men to be thus brought back to their destiny of happiness, Our Lord arranged that His humanity (and divinity) remain with us always in the Holy Eucharist; and every OCTOBER finds us rejoicing anew in this gift of infinite love as we accompany the Blessed Sacrament in our annual Eucharistic procession through our monastic grounds. This year the monstrance was carried for the first time by our new Father Provincial as ten friars joined us for the joyous, sunlight-drenched day. Usually Mother Abbess must keep careful watch for stones or cracks in the pavement, bringing these to the attention of Father Provincial as he walks along with eyes fixed on the One whom he carries; but there was no need for that this year, as we made our way along a brand-new series of sidewalks and ramps, the crowning glory of several months of hard work executed by our devoted contractor and his crew. Although our Franciscan brothers were duly impressed by this new addition to our monastic landscape, none were more jubilant than we ourselves — for the finishing touches on the sidewalks had literally been completed less than twenty-four hours before the procession!

It was another type of procession that found us centered once again upon Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament on NOVEMBER 30, the first Sunday of Advent, the official opening of the Year of Consecrated Life. Walking together to the front of choir, there we knelt as a community before the Tabernacle; and, with each sister holding a lighted candle symbolic of her consecrated life, we renewed our holy vows all together. It was a beautiful “entrance procession” into this dedicated year, and the scene has repeated itself each month, each time finding us more deeply aware of the great happiness of being called to such a vocation in the heart of the Church.

As we finished – or nearly finished – putting up the Christmas decorations (which it seemed we had just taken down after Sister Lucette’s jubilee) our dear Father John Riley arrived on DECEMBER 21, ready and eager to celebrate Christmas once again with us — although he was also kept hard at work as he heard confessions, presided over several “Scripture colloquia” in the parlor, and even volunteered to shovel snow! At an unforgettable Midnight Mass concelebrated with our faithful chaplain, Father Paul Juniet, O.F.M., Father Riley’s homily offered yet another challenge to the worldly-minded. “Isn’t it strange in our society that we celebrate with extravagance the coming of our Savior in poverty? True riches are found in poverty. Our Sisters here have discovered what really matters.”

Paradoxically, we who vow to live without anything of our own constantly discover God’s own extravagance in return — as was evident during our JANUARY pecan harvest, which yielded so many boxes of pecans that we were able to share quite a few with the other poor. The remaining boxes were stacked high in the novitiate basement, where normally we spend many Lenten general work days sorting and hulling the nuts in preparation for long-term storage. However, on FEBRUARY 16, just two days before Ash Wednesday, we suddenly found part of the novitiate wing blocked off by huge sheets of heavy black plastic reaching from ceiling to floor — our contractor’s way of keeping us shielded from the messy work of replacing the deteriorating pipes in the 1964 wing, which (of course) includes the novitiate basement. The work, which was supposed to take only a few weeks to complete, grew in scope and complexity as the days went on, and weeks stretched into months — with the unsorted abundance of pecans still awaiting our attention, beyond hope of access behind the impenetrable wall of black plastic.

It seemed appropriate enough (and certainly dramatic) to begin the season of fasting and penance with part of the monastery cloaked in darkness, and we were grateful for the rays of warmth and sunlight which radiated from the Lenten reflections of our dear Mother Mary Francis, whose chapter conferences had been published by Ignatius Press just in time for Ash Wednesday, when we began reading them together in the refectory. Though MARCH still found us exiled from the novitiate wing, Mother Francis’ words set the stage for a Lent filled with happiness, black plastic notwithstanding: “There is in our hearts the clear vision that knows what is for our happiness, what is for our best good. Let us reach out eagerly for the myriad occasions that God will give us to deny ourselves, because they are graces that are beautiful and blessed.”

Perhaps few men have as many of these “myriad occasions” as did our loved Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., founding archbishop of our Chicago daughterhouse, whose many years of physical suffering patiently borne finally ended on APRIL 17, when he was called home to the ultimate happiness — the uninterrupted vision of God. Buoyed up by the confidence that such a truly holy friend of our community would now be interceding for us from a new vantage point, our Mother Abbess, accompanied by our delegate, Sister Clare, set out the next morning for the triennial federation chapter in our Los Altos Hills daughterhouse. The words of Fraternal Life in Community, the document issued by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and used as a springboard for many of the chapter discussions, rang all the more true for each member of the chapter as happiness in our shared vocation abounded throughout the grace-laden week: “A fraternity rich in joy is a genuine gift from above.”

Meanwhile, back on the home front, as we awaited the return of our travelers, we also still awaited the great day when the black plastic barrier would be removed. With each passing day, the situation became more urgent, since MAY 14 was already designated as Postulant Abigail’s entrance day, and access to the novitiate areas would be absolutely essential for her! In a scene mildly reminiscent of that which had preceded our Eucharistic procession, less than twenty-four hours before Abigail crossed the threshold of the enclosure, the black plastic was taken down by our grinning contractor — and our happiness knew no bounds as we mustered all our forces for a major housecleaning session that afternoon, just in time to deprive Abigail entirely of any experience of the “haunted house” effect with which we had lived for the past three months.

Now JUNE is already quickly leading into JULY, and the pecans still await our attention in the basement; preparations are underway for what we dearly hope will be our last construction project in the near future; our ailing phone lines have been restored to health (we think); and the weeds in the garden are thriving after recent rains — and we still have, as Our Lord once told Margery Kempe, the anchoress of Lynn, “as great a right to be merry as any lady in the world.” Perhaps even more so, since, as Mother Abbess has told us, “Doing God’s will is all that really matters, and we know that it is the only path to genuine happiness and fulfillment.” Our Mother St. Clare said exactly the same thing through her marvelous exchange of the things of this world for those of heaven, and as we celebrate her feast on AUGUST 11 in this Year of Consecrated Life, we shall be asking her to reward each of you, our dear friends, with that which she obtained through a lifetime of seeking God alone — heaven. Despite the world’s insistence that perfect happiness lies in earthly wealth and passing comforts, we joyously proclaim by the witness of our consecrated Poor Clare life that, as the Catechism affirms, “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024). Your Poor Clare Sisters pray that this happiness may be yours.

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