A Non- Convent- ional Tour
Carmel! This word evokes a mysterious world of grates, veils, high walls, fasting, penances… How could any sane 21st-century girl be attracted to such austere existence?!
Well, quite probably because she had some experience of the Love of God which has awakened in her a thirst for solitude, silence, and separation from the world so as to best enjoy the intimate company of her Beloved in a life of prayer and contemplation.
Also, she is drawn to Carmel because she wants to save souls on a grand scale and pray for priests. “The zeal of a Carmelite embraces the whole world. In the heart of the Church my Mother, I will be love,” said St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, the most famous daughter of St. Teresa and universal patron saint of the Missions.
And, finally, to quote St. Theresa again, because “to love is to give all and to give oneself.” Hence, the aspirant to Carmel feels drawn to a life where there are no half-measures: “To give all in order to possess all.”
St. Teresa wanted her daughters to possess certain aptitudes in order to thrive in Carmel:
“All of us who wear this sacred habit of Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation because that was the first principle of our Order and because we are descended from the line of those holy Fathers of ours from Mount Carmel who sought the precious pearl of which we speak, in such solitude and contempt of the world” (Interior Castle, Fifth Mansion, Ch. 1).
Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King
“Francis, go, repair My house, which as you see is falling completely to ruin!” Thus spoke Our Lord Jesus Christ from the Crucifix in the Church of San Damiano to Saint Francis of Assisi, who took Our Lord’s words quite literally, and with his own hands rebuilt San Damiano and St. Mary of the Angels. But Our Lord was speaking of the worldwide Church….
Our founder, Fr. Eugene N. Heidt, was drawn to the Franciscan heritage by the close link between Franciscan spirituality and “good Catholic sense.” Franciscan simplicity, poverty in imitation of Christ as an expression of charity, love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and deep respect for the priesthood are aspects of the spirituality of St. Francis. Our Lord’s Incarnation, Nativity and Holy Name, His Passion and Death, His Kingship, devotion to Our Lady and her Immaculate Conception, and devotion to St. Joseph—brought by the Franciscans from the Holy Land—all are particular Franciscan devotions and yet are simply Catholic. Even devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has a Franciscan connection: Our Lord gave St. Margaret Mary into the care of St. Francis of Assisi because St. Francis was so close to His Sacred Heart.
Father Heidt, working for the Society of St. Pius X, recognized the need for teaching Sisters who would go in groups to help staff SSPX schools. Father Carl Pulvermacher, O.F.M. Cap., recommended Sister Herlinda McCarty, a Franciscan in perpetual vows since 1933. With Fr. Heidt and Fr. Carl encouraging her, she agreed to help the new community. Under the direction of the SSPX district superior, in A.D. 2000, Fr. Heidt founded the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, using the 1927 Rule of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis approved by Pope Pius XI.
Our way of life is that of the active-contemplative. Our prayer life gives us the spiritual strength to sustain the active life. Our prayers include the traditional Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, meditation, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Latin, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and various community prayers in English.
Directly or indirectly, all Sisters have a share in the works of the apostolate. Since our arrival, our presence at St. Vincent de Paul’s Academy in Kansas City has increased steadily year by year.
Our Sisters have extended their work of Catholic education to include parish visits with recollection days for first communicants, days of conferences and crafts with girls (and sometimes younger boys), and camps.
Candidates should have a desire to serve God in the religious life, at least average intelligence, a high school diploma or GED, the high ideals of a committed traditional Catholic, combined with the spirit of co-operation necessary for living the community life. Candidates should be between the ages of 18 and 35 and in reasonably good health.
Those interested should write a detailed letter of introduction to the Mother Superior.
Teaching Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux
Small voices recite lessons in unison, sing-song and fluttering; other voices, broader and more firm, uncover, discuss and instruct great Truths; still other voices cheer and shout, rippling odes to joy at all occasions; and all the while, the silent voices of the heart echo the psalmist in jubilant, insistent conversation with God. These melodious ebbs and swells are but the voices of the refrain sung daily by the Congregation of Teaching Dominican Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus of Fanjeaux.
When Our Lord Jesus Christ was asked by the Pharisees to silence his disciples whose voices leapt and soared with Hosannas, he responded, “I tell you that if these keep silence, the stones will cry out!” Indeed, if the happy clamor of children and the voices of the religious of our Dominican convent and school were to be silenced, and if the very stones were to cry out in their stead, what would they say?
“Cor unum, et anima una!” they would begin, inspired by the writing of our students, themselves inflamed with a desire to possess and safeguard the deposit of faith given to them by their parents, nourished and brought to fruition in the schools of St. Dominic, St. Thomas, and St. Catherine of Sienna: “…all together with the same goal and with the same Faith, with the same gratitude to Him by Whom all things are possible, Jesus Christ…uncompromising with what is not Truth…”
In turn, the stones would next cry out with the words of St. Dominic himself, words which take their shape in every waking step of all Dominicans, “Lord, what will become of poor sinners?”
For if the all-encompassing End of the congregation is to give glory to God in perfect Charity under the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the specific End is the work of teaching and education according to the spirit of the Gospel and the directives of Holy Mother the Church.
Flying movement from chapel to class to cell and then to chapel again might strike the stones momentarily dumb. But the seeming omnipresence of Sisters sheathed with Our Lady’s rosary beads would not mute them for long—“Caritas Christi Urget Nos!” they would feel impelled to sing as the white habits whisper along the hallways, paths, aisles.
And then of course, in humble chorus, they would reverberate with the cries, “Non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam!” for, a one-room convent boarding school in 1991 with 35 students and 7 Sisters has, over 25 years, become a large and very active K-12 school (Post Falls, Idaho), with an equally flourishing K-12 sister school (Massena, New York) and a rapidly growing elementary school (Walton, Kentucky) with a total of 425 students and 43 Sisters in the United States (a fraction of the Congregation’s 200 Sisters and 1500 students dispersed throughout France, Germany, and the United States.)
To all those who would hear, the stones might conclude with the very words of Scripture, “Go and teach all nations,” thereupon calling to this life those maternal hearts with a propensity to children and the generosity to embrace Jesus Christ as Spouse all for the greater glory of God.
At times, the work of the Sisters of the Society Saint Pius X can be very discreet—sometimes so discreet that it remains unknown to most of us. The Sisters were founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his sister, Mother Mary Gabriel, as helpers who would facilitate and complete the apostolate of the priests of the Society Saint Pius X. There is an almost unlimited number of activities by which the Society Sisters accomplish their apostolate of “parish Sisters.” Willingly they devote themselves to all that can help the priests render liturgical worship more dignified, diligently taking care of sacristies and altar linens, arranging altar flowers, making and repairing vestments, preparing liturgical chant and church music.
The priest strives to develop the faith in souls; the Sisters second his work of removing the obstacles to this growth by teaching children their catechism either in the parishes or by way of a Catechism by Correspondence program, directing youth groups and camps, forming young ladies for their future role of Catholic mothers, helping out with various publications and welcoming retreatants. By providing for the needy, and caring for and visiting the sick and elderly, the Sisters help to open a door for the priest’s visit. As the holy women who followed Our Lord and took care of the humble needs of the Apostles, so also the SSPX Sisters do not hesitate to assume the more hidden tasks of housecleaning, laundry, mending, and cooking in order to relieve the priests from these worries and permit them to give themselves entirely to their ministry.
In this variety of tasks by which the Society Sisters serve Christ’s priests, there is a unity of intention: their first aspiration is to serve Christ the High Priest by offering themselves with Him for the Redemption of souls, following the example of Our Lady of Compassion. This places the Mass at the center of their devotion, and they strive to live constantly in its spirit of offering and love. By an additional hour of adoration during the day, they unite themselves to the Eucharistic Victim’s adoration and pray for the whole Church, in particular, for priests and consecrated souls.
This life of oblation results in another characteristic, often expressed by our little students who present to us one of those spontaneous drawings of their age, saying, “Sister, this is you!” A picture of a widely smiling Sister reminds us of that spirit of joy and simplicity which penetrates the Sisters of the Society.
The Sisters of the Society of Saint Pius X arrived in the U.S. district 34 years ago when a first house was opened in 1981 in St. Marys, Kansas. Since then, many girls and young women have benefitted from the presence of the Sisters in the Academy! Many vocations as well as beautiful families resulted from contact with consecrated souls in the parish, former Children of Mary keep memories of their meetings, others of their catechism lessons… In 1986, a novitiate was founded in Armada, Michigan, for the English-speaking aspirants, but soon moved to the quiet city of Browerville, Minnesota. So far, of our 174 professed Sisters, 28 are Americans and 37 have made their first steps in the religious life in our American novitiate. After many years, a third house was finally able to be opened in 2010 at Saint Thomas Becket Priory in Veneta, Oregon. Over the past five years many souls have already been prepared for the sacraments by the Sisters’ religion classes, and since 2011, a Sister teaches the Kindergarten and first grade classes full time.
The Brothers of the SSPX
Archbishop Lefebvre drew his inspiration for the Brothers of the Society of St. Pius X from his own congregation, the Holy Ghost Fathers. Their Brothers were of inestimable service in the African missions as carpenters, woodworkers, mechanics, architects, and teachers.
Our founder created the Society of St. Pius X to preserve the purity of the Catholic priesthood in our troubling times. He naturally saw the need of a branch for Brothers who would facilitate the priestly apostolate. Like their Holy Ghost counterpart, the SSPX Brothers are not contemplative monks. They relieve the priests of material tasks around the priory (maintenance, cooking, financial and secretarial work, etc.). But they are called also to apostolic activities by directing a choir, teaching catechism, running the sacristy, teaching in primary schools, and other tasks vital to the priestly ministry.
Our SSPX Brothers, who lead an active life, are not to set aside the religious life altogether. All external action is subject to a strong spiritual life of prayer and contemplation tailor-made for them in their rule. Their religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience are a constant reminder of their total consecration to God through their rule and superiors. Living their vows gives the priory the spiritual atmosphere needed for the community to maintain its fervor and supernatural touch. Wherever they are sent, not unlike the Sisters, the Brothers bring in a note of silence, of union with God, of fraternal charity, of zeal of God and souls. Or, to use the words of the Archbishop, “May all those whom they approach, and all those in the midst of whom they live, be edified by their behavior, and never disedified. Let them be like the guardian angels of our communities.”
The Archbishop was aware of the odds against the brotherly vocations “because they require a spirit of faith which is tending to disappear from a world wholly obsessed with human advancement” (Marcel Lefebvre, p. 456). This might well be because we do not really appreciate the beauty and joy of the consecrated life and its urgency for the survival of the Church at large.
So, needless to say, God calls to the religious life strong, virile, responsible men of unshakable convictions, of balanced feelings, and controlled passions. He is calling men who are willing to forego the founding of a family in order to consecrate themselves to His service.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery—Benedictines
May of 1991 saw the modest beginnings of Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery, located in southwest New Mexico. Today it is the home of a young community of nearly 40 Benedictine monks. The secluded, mountainous site, the silence of the surrounding nature, the austere beauty of the high-desert terrain all join together to bespeak the particular vocation of this monastic foundation: the primacy of contemplation, a return to the spirit of the monks of Christian antiquity who, with the blessing of the Church, established a unique way of life lived for the honor and glory of God alone.
Our monastic roots link us not only to St. Benedict in the fifth century, but also to the more recent past, to the Christendom of Europe. In the year 1850, Pope Pius IX exceptionally created a new branch of the Benedictine Order in order to oppose revolution in the Church and society.
Fr. Jean-Baptiste Muard, a French diocesan missionary, whose cause for beatification was opened following his premature death in 1854, was chosen by the Holy Father to lead this work of restoration in the obscurity of the Burgundian forest, later to become the Abbey of Sainte-Marie de la Pierre qui Vire. Fr. Muard saw the need for a Benedictine congregation that would embody the original spirit of the Rule, calling it the Primitive Observance. The heroic intervention of Pope Pius IX to save the Benedictine Order from extinction in his overall struggle to restore the Church in the time of unprecedented crisis would become the foundational principle of our present monastery. His principle is well outlined in the masterwork of Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, The Soul of the Apostolate, wherein the primacy of prayer and meditation must come before the taking of action.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre would renew in our eyes the same vision of the urgent need for the restoration of the Church, which would be successful through the prayers of the contemplative orders. His last words spoken to the founders of this monastery remain forever engraved in their hearts: “Now is the time to do the impossible, you must do the impossible to establish oases of the faith, where the true spirit of the Church can be found. It is your duty to persevere in the true Faith. The impossible must be done to establish this Monastery.”
Benedictine life is Ora et Labora, prayer and work. Liturgical prayer, which is the public worship of God, is called by Benedictines the Work of God, the Opus Dei. This unique prayer is the heart of Benedictine Life. It is expressed in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is sung in Gregorian Chant each day, and in the Divine Office. All eight canonical hours of the Divine Office are chanted integrally according to the monastic rite, unchanged since the fifth century.
The substance of the Divine Office is ancient prayer, drawn mostly from the psalms and inspired writings of the prophets of the Old Testament. Holy Mother Church thus desires her religious to pray and to think with an ancient mind, neither affected by the fluctuations of time and historical circumstance, nor by the shallow concerns of the modern day.
The monk’s labors are both manual and intellectual. With the continued growth of our community, the construction of our monastery is an ongoing task, supernaturally strengthened by time spent in study and spiritual formation. The monk works more with his soul than with his hands, united to God with the fervent desire and intention to carry out his Divine Will above all other human endeavors.
Monasteries are removed from society but not from the heat of the battle. Monasteries have flourished in times of crisis—today is no different. With the word “PAX” inscribed over the entrance, peace to all who enter herein, they know nevertheless that their life will be a challenge.
The monks have a soldier’s heart, willingly seeing their vocation as a mission to be carried out for the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. Like their forefathers, among whom are 55,000 canonized saints, granting them unfailing assistance from heaven, monks are indeed heirs of “that generation that seeks the face of God” and willing to fight the good fight for Christ the King and for Our Lady, the Queen of heaven and earth. On higher levels, monks wage the spiritual combat with the fortitude and perseverance, self-sacrifice and selfless generosity.
U.I.O.G.D. is the emblem of Benedictines, taken from the many luminous chapters of the Rule of St. Benedict: “Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus—That in all things God may be glorified.”