Dominican Nuns, Dominican Monastery of St. Jude
Prayer and Penance for the Salvation of Souls
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, Sister Mary Jordan, O.P.
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Patron Saints/Famous Saints of the Community
Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Jude, Our Holy Father St. Dominic, St. Hyacinth, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, among other great Dominican saints -- and St. Pius of Pietrelcina (or "Padre Pio")
As contemplative Dominican nuns, we ponder the Word of God in our hearts so that it might bear fruit for the salvation of souls. The famous Dominican motto is "Contemplata aliis tradere," often translated as "To give to others the fruits of contemplation." As cloistered nuns, we do this not by apostolic preaching, but by the "spiritual motherhood" of a life of prayer and penance that calls down graces for souls. The fruit of our contemplation is life with God--literally, sharing the Divine Life that Jesus became Incarnate in order to give us--and it is this that we wish to share with all people through our life of consecration.
To be Dominican is really to be Catholic in a very deep, rich, and broad sense. Dominicans are known for focusing on the Incarnation and the Blessed Trinity--these indeed are the origin and goal of our existence, and the means by which God brings us to Himself! So we have a special love for Christmas and the Infant Jesus, as well as a tender devotion to Jesus' Passion and Death. As creatures composed of both body and soul, we use our bodies too in the worship of God in our liturgical and private prayer. We understand ourselves as created by God and reaching our fulfillment only in sharing the Trinitarian life.
Flowing from this, we have special devotion to the Holy Eucharist, in which Jesus gives us Himself to unite us through Him to the Blessed Trinity, and special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through whom the Word was made Flesh, and who continues to unite us to Him. Dominicans are always Eucharistic and Marian!
Along these lines, Dominicans are also known for their love for and proclamation of the Truth. St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican, contemplated and explained the truth so well, he is called the Common Doctor of the Church. Truth is a hallmark both of our prayer and study, and of our daily life. As we know God and His Truth more, we love Him more; and a healthy interest in both study and our daily circumstances give joy to our conversations at recreation.
After all, that is why we came to the monastery: "To be one mind and heart in the Lord," as it says in our Rule of St. Augustine. A rich, joyful community life is essential for the Dominican charism. Our religious consecration makes our whole life a sacrifice to God--but one that is lived together in a community supporting and challenging us towards fidelity and perseverance in giving ourselves totally to Jesus through Mary for the salvation of souls.
In 1206, St. Dominic established the first monastery of Dominican nuns at Prouille, France. Originally a priest from Spain, St. Dominic first encountered the Albigensian heresy while on a journey through France with his bishop. The plight of these heretics whose rejection of the truth caused great distortion and suffering in their own lives and in society touched his heart, and led by Divine Providence he devoted his life to preaching the Truth of the Gospel for the salvation of souls. The first fruits of his own holy preaching were the women converts whom he formed into the first Dominican nuns, since he knew that for preaching to bear fruit, it must be supported by prayer and penance. In 1216 his band of preaching friars was officially formed into the Order of Preachers, popularly called Dominicans. Ever since then the contemplative life of the nuns has continued to be at the heart of the "holy preaching" of our Order.
Our monastery comes from a branch of the Dominican nuns founded in 1880 especially to be Mary’s Guards of Honor through devotion to the Perpetual Rosary, imbuing our life with an even more intense Marian spirit of praise and intercession for souls. Our foundresses, Mother Mary Dominic and Mother Mary of the Child Jesus, established our community at Marbury in 1944.
Being cloistered sometimes sound frightening or severe, but in fact we find that it frees our minds and hearts to be attentive to God. So does the atmosphere of monastic silence that we keep during our daily work in the monastery: without this, how could we ponder the Word of God that we receive in so many ways throughout the day? In this we imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary, who treasured all the events in the life of her Son and pondered them in her heart.
The primary way we receive the Word is through the Sacred Liturgy. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the heart of each day, as we unite ourselves to Christ's saving sacrifice. Throughout the day the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, unites us with the mysteries of Christ throughout the liturgical year, as we sing God's praise with the voice of His Spouse, the Church. In singing the Psalms and hymns of the Office, we treasure especially our Dominican liturgical tradition, using Latin chant along with English.
Through lectio divina and private prayer, we continue to savor the Word of God and contemplate Christ Crucified, putting on more and more each day the mind of Christ. Study of sacred truth, a particularly Dominican element, also lifts our mind to God and helps balance our life of community, liturgical and private prayer, and household work.
Our community keeps Eucharistic Adoration and Perpetual Rosary. What does this mean? All day every day, we can adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament reigning from the altar in our chapel. As Mary's Guards of Honor, we take turns at our official Hours of Guard throughout the day, meditating on the mysteries of Christ's life by praying the Rosary before Jesus Himself in the Blessed Sacrament, at the foot of our beautiful statue of Our Lady. Just as we are set apart as cloistered nuns to pray for the world, one Sister is always set apart from the tasks of our daily life, to pray before Jesus and Mary in the chapel for the needs of the world and the salvation of souls.
Our community keeps many beautiful Dominican traditions, from the Latin chant that we sing, to the devotional processions we make each Sunday of the month, to the beautiful Dominican habit that we wear. We also have many cherished traditions as a community: the special novena of Ave's that we make before Christmas in honor of the great longing of the patriarchs and prophets for the birth of Christ; the special celebrations for each Sister's Feast Day, so lovingly prepared for her by the community; the veils and flowers for our many shrines to Our Lady in her months of May and October; the stories and humorous anecdotes about the early days of our monastery's foundation and the first Sisters who live among us still by our prayers and remembrances.
It is a great grace and blessing to be a part of this tradition, both the larger flow of Dominican tradition, and that of our own particular community treasuring our heritage as we look with hope and expectation to the future.