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St. Catherine di Ricci
Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine di Ricci

Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine di Ricci

On February 2nd there was a little buzz about the actions of Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog whose shadow or the lack thereof is supposed to tell us if Spring will be early or late. Forget Punxsutawney Phil. We Dominicans have our own hedgehog. Who? St. Catherine di Ricci whose feast is today. (Ricci means hedgehog in Italian!) While not a nun her life was very similar as a cloistered 3rd Order Sister.

A brief synposis of St. Catherine's life from our Dominican Office Supplement.

"Alexandra de' Ricci was born of a noble family near Florence in 1522. At the age of twelve she entered the Dominican convent of St Vincent at Prato and took the religious name Catherine. Inspired by the Dominican reformer Girolamo Savonarola she worked constantly to promote the regular life. She was favoured with extraordinary mystical experiences and at the age of twenty began to experience the sacred stigmata and weekly ecstasies of the Passion. These phenomena continued for twenty years. Despite her intense mystical life of prayer and her penance, Catherine served as prioress of the convent for thirty-six years. She was noted as a kind and considerate superior, particularly gentle with the sick. She died on February 2, 1590"

Nuns' Choir

Nuns' Choir

St. Catherine knew St. Philip Neri and Sr. Mary Magdalene di Pazzi. She counseled many lay people and guided them in their spiritual lives. We have approximately 1000 of her letters! Most have never been translated into English. Catherine was not gloomy or overly serious. She was " always cheerful and merry!" She possessed a warm, friendly personality that spilled over into concern for others showing them love in simple things. At one time she was in charge of the young girls boarding at the monastery. They called her "the snack mistress!"

St. Catherine holding a box of chocolates! From the Dominican Monastery in Lancaster, PA.

St. Catherine holding a box of chocolates! From the Dominican Monastery in Lancaster, PA.

St. Catherine is known for her great devotion to the Passion. Her love for Christ was that of always wanting to become as identified as possible with her Crucified Beloved. Her love for Jesus was passionate and joyful and she radiated to her sisters and all who met her this ardent love. For St. Catherine everything pointed to the mystery of the Passion.

" Gather up all your worries and make a bundle of them and throw them all into those most holy wounds of Jesus Christ. You could not put them anywhere better than in Jesus and his most holy Mother. They are the ones who are perfectly capable of consoling and calming the human heart..."

St. Catherine left us with the beautiful Canticle of the Passion which is sung slowly. It used to be sung in Dominican houses every Friday of Lent and continues to be in many places. Special thanks to our brothers in Ireland for this rendition.

Holy Week Schedule 2016

Palm SundayUsual monastery schedule

Holy Thursday

  •  Matins-Lauds —6:50 AM
  • Rosary & Sext—11:30 AM
  • Mass of the Lord's Supper—5:00PM Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament inside the nuns' monastery. No Compline.

Good Friday

  •  Matins-Lauds—6:50 AM
  • Rosary & Sext—11:30 AM
  • None—2:40 PM
  • Celebration of the Passion of the Lord—3:00 PM No Vespers
  • Compline—8:15 PM

Holy Saturday

  •  Matins-Lauds—6:50 AM
  • Rosary & Sext—11:30 AM
  • None—3:00 PM
  • Vespers—5:30 PM

Easter Vigil is private. Closed to the public.

Easter Sunday

  •  Lauds—6:40 AM
  • Holy Mass—8:00 AM
  • Sext—12:00 PM
  • None & Rosary—3:10 PM
  • Vespers—5:30 PM Compline, closed to the public.
Solemn Chapter of the Annunciation

sr maria sermon 1 Chapter Talk by Sr. Maria Barrett Today is the feast of the Annunciation. On this great day, the eternal Word of God stooped down from heaven, was made flesh, and came to dwell among us. In His great goodness, in the wise folly of His boundless love for us, God gave Himself to us, humbling Himself and taking the form of a slave so that we who had been conquered by sin and evil might in Him be made their conquerors.

Yet today is not called the feast of the Incarnation, but rather the feast of the Annunciation. The great mystery of the incarnation was made known to us, through the message of an angel. God chose to work this marvel of love through the Mary’s surrender to His word. Let us ponder this event: Gabriel announces the joyful news to Mary: “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Singing the Last Gospel, Dominican Nuns

All this is beyond Mary’s power to accomplish, but she does not become flustered or assume that she needs to do all that is humanly possible towards achieving it; rather, with perfect confidence in God, she asks how He wants to bring it about. The answer reveals new marvels: Mary is to be not simply the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, but also the bearer of her God, the marriage-chamber of God and man, and the ark of the new covenant. It staggers the mind: that uncreated Wisdom should take one’s flesh and become man. Yet all this is to be God’s work, through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.

verbum caro responsory, Dominican Nuns

And so she responds very simply. What God wants of her is beyond her, and He wishes to bring it about in her through His own action. All that remains for her to do is to surrender herself completely to whatever He wants to do: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.” Simple words, yet of great power, for they allow God to act as He wills. Simple words, yet not easy to say and less easy to live, surrendering the comfort of having something she can get done, of having any focus other than what God is asking of her in the moment.

Chapter Hall, Dominican Nuns

Mary is the great contemplative, the model for all contemplatives. What God asks of us is also beyond any ability we have, and can only come about as a result of His action. Let us ask Mary to help us live as her true children, ever more surrendered to God, ever more focused on God even in the practical daily things of life that God asks of us in the moment. Let us ask her to help us pray those words, “be it done unto me according to thy word,” and to truly allow God to do with us what He likes. We know that what He, in His great love, wants to do with us is better than anything we can imagine or achieve: He wants to conform us to Himself, remaking us after the pattern of Christ, the Divine Word, so that through us He might draw others to Himself, and that together we might be united to Him forever!

Year of Consecrated Life: sisterly sharing!

DSC_7571DSC_7568   DSC_7573

One of thDSC_7569e benefits of celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life is that religious communities have been exchanging visits and getting to know each other and their charisms. On Friday we were so happy to welcome Sr. Brittany, FMA, and the Salesian aspirants who reside here in New Jersey and having the visit on the feast of St. Joseph meant cookies!

Sr. Mary Martin gave a short presentation on the history of the Order and our vocation as contemplative Nuns. This was followed by questions and answers as they got to know more about us and we got to know more about the Salesian charism and mission. St. John Bosco is a great heavenly friend to many so they were not strangers but many of us didn't know so much about St. Maria Domenica Mazzerello, foundress of the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, known popularly as the Salesian Sisters. We like that St. Dominic was her patron! Our prayers are with these newest shoots growing in the Salesian garden and we pray for their holiness and increase in numbers! Come again, Sisters! It was a delight to be together!

St. Joseph brings a New Postulant

Yesterday, right before First Vespers of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Danielle Brisebois, 24, entered the enclosure to begin her postulancy. DSC_7544

Sr. Danielle is the youngest of four children and grew up in Massachusetts. She graduated from Ave Maria University with a degree in history. Prior to entering the monastery, sister worked at her family's catering business as she began paying off her student loans.

Student loan debt is the #1 obstacle facing aspirants to religious life today. Thankfully, Sr. Danielle received a St. Joseph grant from the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, making it possible for her to enter immediately! These grants make it possible for men and women with student loan debt to pursue their vocations in religious life. Sr. Danielle is the third sister in our community to receive a grant from MEFV.


Please keep Sr. Danielle in your prayers as she begins her religious life!