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If you are:
- A single woman between the ages of 21 and 40 years
- A practicing Roman Catholic
- Fidelity and love for the Church
- Good physical health
- Good psychological health
- Ability to live in solitude and community
- A joyful, generous spirit
- A willingness to learn
- An attraction to prayer, and to the things of God
- Zeal for the salvation of souls
- A desire to give yourself entirely to Jesus Christ
Sr. Mary Thomas, O.P.
Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament
If you are under 21 years old it is a good time to begin exploring the possibility of a contemplative vocation. We would love to share more information about our way of life. Please don't hesitate to contact us for further information.
Who are the Nuns?
Nuns are people who spend their lives working at remembering. They are women whose imaginations have been so captured by the reality of God that they try to live in the constant memory of God. Like all Christians, nuns are caught up in trying to live out the twofold Gospel command of Jesus; love of God and love of neighbor. In the Dominican monastic tradition we respond to Jesus' command by withdrawing from the world and forming a community that leads a life dedicated to pondering the Word of God, in prayer, study, and work. And, by our profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience we promise life-long fidelity to God in our chosen vocation.
Withdrawal from the world is initially an outward gesture. One leaves one's family, home, career, etc. This first withdrawing is for most, no small renunciation. However, the external act of withdrawal to enter the cloister is only the beginning of a lifetime of gradually embracing a whole new set of values which brings one into intimate contact with God and his creation. One of the striking paradoxes of the cloister is that withdrawal from the world for the sake of an intimate union with God leads to a deeper communion with the world.
Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a means of fostering the Dominican contemplative ideal.
What shape does the prayer-life of nunstake? Perhaps an hourglass might best image what prayer is like for us. Think of the two connected bulbs of the hourglass with the sand constantly flowing from one bulb to another and you have an image of the constant flow from liturgical prayer to private prayer back to liturgical prayer... At the heart of each day is the celebration of the Eucharist, a remembering of the death and resurrection of the Lord, "a bond of sisterly charity and the source of apostolic zeal for God's people." Each day's Eucharistic remembrance is prolonged throughout the day and night by our perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have come together several times each day to pray the psalms together. This beautiful custom is carried forward today primarily by monks and nuns, who have "leisure for the Lord" built into their life-style. We sing God's praise using the very words God gave us. We remember the saving events of the history of God's people as we sing the psalms and listen to the scripture proclaimed in the liturgy. This constant repetition day after day, year after year, gets the Word of God into one's blood stream, as it were. One of the early monks of the desert was fond of repeating:
Monastic life provides a spiritual and cultural climate that fosters a sensitizing to needs of the human family. Perhaps this sensitivity grows primarily out of the recognition of our own neediness, which places us in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Intercession is an expression of our loving concern for the welfare of every human person. As this life is lived year after year, many discover they are becoming more and more given over to a life of intercession. Occasionally these concerns and longings burst into speech but often they remain silent pleas for God's mercy that are hidden in the heart of the intercessor. One writer speaking about the contemplative's call to intercession put it this way; ... no corner of the universe is untouched by this exercise of love... For I tell you, one loving blind desire for God alone is more helpful to your friends both living and dead, than anything else you could do! (Cloud of Unknowing)
The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a cherished devotion in our monastery. Eucharistic adoration invites us to a continual compassion in feeding his people at the table of his word and body, and it brings to mind the spirit of unity and charity to which we are called. Perpetual adoration of the Eucharist might be thought of as a mutual gift of remembrance: Jesus remembering us and we remembering him.
What do you think of when someone says “monastery”? Do you imagine long-robed figures silently floating about the cloister? Do you wonder whether nuns talk?
Of course we do speak when necessary and also enjoy brief periods of recreation together each day. However, the general rule of the house is one of silence. What is the point of all this silence??
"The purpose of all regular observance, especially enclosure and silence, is that the Word of God may dwell abundantly in the monastery" (Constitutions of the Nuns). The silence of the monastery is meant to serve our remembering the presence of God day and night. St. Paul exhorts all Christians to "pray unceasingly." Constantly pondering the Word of God is our way of trying to pray always.
Silence, like withdrawal, in the beginning of one's monastic life is imposed mostly as an exterior practice. For some, at first, it may have a penitential feel about it, but with time, silence becomes as necessary to one's life in the spirit as the air one breathes is to the life of the body. It is an observance not without some ambivalence in our lives, in a world filled with noise, the silence of the monastery and its different pace strike most newcomers as quite refreshing. However, the silence and solitude soon bring one face to face with who we really are before God, ourselves, and others, and this can sometimes be a disquieting experience. With God's grace and the support monastic life offers, we are enabled to wait for God to free us from our false gods and our surface self. We embrace the journey towards becoming the person God is calling us to be.
All nuns would agree that silence is a most important and cherished observance yet some might suggest that the cloister today is not as quiet as it could be. Why? Probably because we live in a noisy world and some of that noise has infiltrated the monastery; also, nuns are human beings who find practicing restraint as difficult as everyone else in the human family. So, silence is something we keep working at, knowing that the quiet is for the sake of our remembering the presence of God.
Continual remembrance of God by constant reflection on the Word often leaves one wondering or raises questions. The early desert monks and nuns would leave their hermitages to seek out a wise Abba or Amma to ask questions and seek counsel. Gradually as the monks and nuns came to live together in community, libraries were established and study became part of the monastic way of life. Study for us today is an invitation to pursue the wonderings and the questions that arise in a life that makes room for pondering.
In prayer the nuns turn their attention toward God as love-ers and loving becomes a way of knowing. In study their attention is directed toward God as know-ers and knowing becomes a way of loving. St. Bernard once challenged the role of speculative study, saying: "The mysteries invite worship, not scrutiny." A Dominican has responded; "Scrutiny is worship."
What do nuns study? They are encouraged to study Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, to cherish St. Thomas, and to investigate other theologians and authors; in a word, to give their attention to whatever might clarify, increase, and strengthen their appreciation and understanding of the "mysteries." As prayer begins and ends in mystery, so also does theology. Although the end of theology remains mystery that is ultimately both incomprehensible and ineffable, yet theology's task is to attempt not only to understand but also to communicate understanding.
In a life given over to so much prayer and silence, you may wonder; do nuns communicate, or who are their conversation partners? Our Constitutions encourage serious conversations among us, and opportunity for discussing questions, findings, or ponderings is provided for in the schedule. St. Dominic from the beginning of the Order intended a continuing conversation between the Nuns and the Friars, our Dominican brothers, as a means of mutual support and encouragement. And we communicate also through letter writing and receiving visitors.
Each sister studies according to her capacity, motivated by her interests and guided by her particular gifts and lights.
Study is another help in the movement toward continual remembering of the presence of God as we work to understand and communicate the mystery to which we have given our lives.
Each sister spends several hours of the day engaged in some form of work. In a large monastery like ours many sisters are involved in the general running and up-keep of the house; cooking, washing, sewing, etc. The Altar Bread Department, Printshop, and Correspondence Office are staffed by the nuns. Some work on special projects in the areas of music, art, or writing. Of special concern is the care of the sick and elderly of the monastery; an effort is made to provide for the needs of these sisters within the cloister as much as possible. Extern sisters minister to all who come to the monastery to pray, to visit, and to ask intercession for their spiritual and temporal needs.
We think of work as a way of sharing in the common lot of most people in the world. Our Constitutions remind us that work is demanded by religious poverty and serves the common good by building up charity through cooperation.
The silence of the house spills over into work time and although we speak when necessary the quiet atmosphere while we work allows us to keep returning to the remembrance of God. Sometimes as one watches an elderly nun doing some quiet chore one senses that her remembering has become her life's breath
HOW DOES ONE BECOME A DOMINICAN NUN?
Someone inquiring about the Dominican monastic vocation is encouraged to visit the monastery and meet with the prioress and novice mistress to discuss the life. If after a visit she wishes to continue a discerning process she may be invited to make an aspirancy. An aspirant enters the enclosure and lives with the community for two to six weeks in an effort to discern if she is being called to our way of life. After a few weeks with the community she returns home, and after prayerful reflection on her experience, if she feels called to this life she makes application asking to enter the monastery.
The first phase of the candidate's religious life is called the postulancy. As a postulant she enters into a discernment process with the community to see if a match is in the making. She is gradually introduced into cloistered life. At the end of one year the postulant is clothed in the habit of the Order; this ceremony marks her entrance into the two-year Novitiate formation program. During these two years the novice deepens her knowledge of religious life as she prepares to make first profession of vows.
With the first profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the junior professed sister is implanted and rooted in monastic life so that she may prepare for her total consecration by her final profession of Solemn vows. During the three years of first profession she also participates in a special formation program sponsored by the U.S. Association of Dominican Nuns. This program is designed to introduce the sister to the riches of the church's teachings and build a frame of reference that will enable her to approach the various theological traditions with discernment and confidence.
First profession of vows is made for three years and may be extended to nine years depending upon the individual sister's needs. Before final profession each sister spends at least one year living more fully with the professed community.
Upon Solemn profession the sister is fully incorporated into the life of the community.