Lent, Easter and Vacation!

First, my apologies for the long length of time since my last post. Who knew that life in the monastery would be so busy! (Fair warning this is likely going to be a fairly long post!)

Well it has been a little over two months since I last posted and things are still going great!

Lent was a very fruitful time for me this year. In the past it seems like I would start Lent off strong, but a few weeks in things would start to slip. I would get back into old habits or routines and then when Easter came around I didn’t feel prepared, or like my life had changed in anyway over the past 40 days. But this year was different…my mindset had shifted and I can honestly say that when Easter came this year, I was ready, I had grown in my spiritual life and changed for the better.

It is funny, we come together as a community to pray five times a day, but there are times that I feel like I haven’t prayed at all. I am learning that I need more one on one time with Jesus in order to grow closer to Him. Just like a wife needs time with her husband, I need time with the bridegroom, my beloved. This year during Lent, I focused on finding that intimate prayer time where I can just be with Jesus and rest in His gaze. I spent just 15 minutes each morning after Mass, before going to breakfast in prayer. During that time I read a meditation written by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet that kicked my butt (in the best way possible)! Starting each morning with this time of reflection allowed me to use what I had meditated on and reflected with as a center point for my day. When the hustle and bustle of daily living was happening, I was able to recall a phrase from that morning’s prayer and cling to that as a way to center myself back to Christ.

Some days were better than others, not going to lie! Early mornings are still really hard for me, so there are some morning that all I accomplished in that 15 minutes was stumbling my way through reading the meditation…I say stumbling because I would have to go back and re-read sections when I realized I had no clue what I had just read. And that is okay! I am learning that it is okay to not be perfect in prayer, in fact if your prayer life is “perfect” you probably aren’t doing it right! 😉

Below are just a few snippets from the book that I returned to quite a bit throughout Lent:

  • In love, I will offer my life for you on Calvary; in love, will you offer your life for me and not count the cost?
  • He alone can fill all our emptiness, satisfy all our needs, content us, and make us happy.
  • Jesus consecrated silence by the patience he displayed in his Passion.
  • Our knowing Him is not a gift we give to Him, but a grace He gives to us.
  • For in His suffering and in our obligation to follow Him and to carry our cross after Him is our salvation.

Okay, enough about Lent!

On February 28th we installed our new Prioress of our community! Sr. Rosann, was elected by the community back in November. She is from our Norfolk Priory originally, but had been serving in Africa as superior of one of our houses there for the past ten years! We are very excited to have her back with us and to have her leading our community! The Rite of Installation took place during Vespers (Evening Prayer) where Sr. Pia (our previous Prioress…say that five times fast 😜) read the Official Document of Election and Authority and led Sr. Rosann in taking the Oath of Office. Sr. Rosann addressed the community briefly and then as a community we stood and pledged our loyalty and support to Sr. Rosann as our spiritual leader. It was a beautiful ceremony! After Vespers and supper we had a program where various groups of sisters had put together short performances to celebrate and perform for Sr. Rosann. The formation group with a few other sisters put on two different performances. First we performed a dance to “The Silly Song” from Snow White. We also performed a dance to a song called “Such a Happy Day.” It was a lot of fun! Below are a few pictures.

Receiving Sacred Scripture, the Rule of St. Benedict, the Congregation Constitutions, and our Priory Statues and Handbook.

Receiving Pax (Peace) from all of the sisters.

Snow White

Some of the older sisters performed a few songs and used balloons as drums.

“Such a Happy Day” – From left to right: Sr. Sarah Elizabeth, Sr. Suelene, Sr. Rosa, Teresa, Sr. Inviolata, Laura, Sr. Cecilia, Jenna

On March 10-11 my parents came to visit. It was wonderful to have the, here for the weekend and to spend time with them. We just spent time together here at the monastery and went to the mall to do some shopping.

On Monday, March 26th, the group of us in formation (Laura, Teresa and myself) along with Sr. Gabrielle Marie went to Omaha to attend the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. I have never attended a Chrism Mass before, it was beautiful. For those that don’t know, the Chrism Mass is special for two reasons:

  1. It is the Mass where all of the oils for the Diocese are blessed. There are three different oils used for different sacraments and rites and each of these is blessed during this Mass and then distributed to every parish in the diocese for use throughout the year. They have to bless a lot because it has to last the whole year! The three oils are The Oil of the Sick (used during the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick), the Oil of Catechumens (used during the Sacrament of Baptism), and Sacred Chrism (used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. It is also used in the dedication of a church).
  2. It is also the Mass where all of the priests from the diocese come together and renew their commitment to priestly service and renew their loyalty to the Bishop. The Bishop asks them three questions:
  • Are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?
  • Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to Him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties toward Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of Him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?
  • Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?

It was beautiful to see all of the priests together and to hear them renew these promises they made on the day of their ordination! Also to hear all of them saying the words of consecration together was really powerful! After the Bishop finished addressing the priests he then turned to the people and asked us to “pray for your Priests, that the Lord may pour out His gifts abundantly upon them, and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest, so that they may lead you to Him, who is the source of salvation.” He also asked the people to “pray also for me, that I may be faithful to the apostolic office e trusted to me in my lowliness and that in your midst I may be made day by day a living and more perfect image of Christ, the Priest, the Good Sheperd, the Teacher and the Servant of all.

Here are few pictures of the Cathedral of St. Cecilia (a quick note: because it was still Lent all of the statues and crucifixes were still covered with the purple clothes):

Main Altar

The organ pipes

Side Altar. Those three gold containers is what the oil was in during the blessing. It will be taken from there and dispersed into smaller containers and given to every parish in the diocese.

As we entered into Holy Week there was a lot of prep work that had to be done around the monastery to get ready for all of the liturgies and the reception after the Easter Vigil. One of the tasks that formation was assigned was learning how to make butter lambs. Sr. Paula spent an evening with us teaching us the art of molding the sticks of butter into lambs. Trust me when I say it is harder than it looks or sounds! We had many laughs during the process, but in the end we all had a lamb (or in Teresa’s case, a poodle! 😂)

Teresa getting some instruction from the expert, Sr. Paula!

This is Leonard! For those curious, it is made from four sticks of butter. The eyes are cloves, the mouth is red thread, a red ribbon for a bow and raisins for the hooves.

Leonard and I

Going clockwise from the top: Teresa’s poodle/lamb, Sr. Fidelis Marie, Leonard (mine), Laura’s

The Easter Triduum this year took on a whole new life! In the past I have attended all of the liturgies, but at the end of them I went home and fell back into a daily routine. Living at the monastery during this time was a new experience. On Holy Thursday we had a Seder Meal served by the sisters on the House Council followed by the Holy Thursday Mass. This Mass is always one of my favorites for a few reasons: at every Mass we hear the words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper with His disciples, but on Holy Thursday we also celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood, this is the night that it all began! So during Mass that evening when the priest says the words of consecration it takes on a whole new meaning, as we are celebrating it “real time” in a way! We also have the washing of the feet, which is always a powerful witness to me. It reminds me that Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and if He, who is God, came to serve others, surely I too can serve!

One of the interesting aspects of the Triduum is that the Mass begins on Holy Thursday, but it doesn’t really “end” until after the Easter Vigil. What I mean is that after the Liturgy of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday there is no closing prayer, no recessional hymn. Instead we all process to the altar of repose where we wait and pray with our Lord until midnight. Then on Good Friday when we begin that service (notice I did not say Mass…more on that in a bit) there is no opening hymn, and again the people leave in silence at the end, no recessional hymn. Finally on Holy Saturday we begin outside with the lighting of the Easter Fire and then go right into the Liturgy of the Word, it isn’t until after the Liturgy of the Eucharist on this night that we finally conclude what we began on Holy Thursday!

Good Friday…like I mentioned above, there is no Mass celebrated anywhere in the world on Good Friday…but why? I found an article on Catholic News Agency that I think describes this really well. (You can read the full article here.) The part I want to point out though is this quote:

The omission of the prayer of consecration deepens our sense of loss because Mass throughout the year reminds us of the Lord’s triumph over death, the source of our joy and blessing. The desolate quality of the rites of this day reminds us of Christ’s humiliation and suffering during his Passion.

The Mass is not only a re-presentation of Jesus crucifixion, it is a reminder of His resurrection. But on Good Friday He has not risen yet, He is dead, in the tomb and buried. Sure we all know how the story ends (or rather begins anew) with the resurrection on Easter Sunday, but Good Friday is about entering into the passion and death of Jesus, therefore on the day we call “good” there can be no “good” of the Mass.

Holy Saturday was kind of a weird day to be honest. The whole atmosphere and mood in the monastery was just kind of different, I’m not really sure how else to explain it. It really did feel like we were all a little anxious, waiting for what we knew was coming! The Easter Vigil was really beautiful. Since we don’t have an RCIA program at the monastery there were no baptisms or confirmations or anything like that, which meant the Mass did go a little faster than normal…it was still at least a solid 2 hours though, maybe more! Because of some crazy weather we were having that day…cold, rainy and super windy…we didn’t actually go outside for the lighting of the Easter Fire, but rather had it inside at the entrance to the monastery. We used rubbing alcohol to create the fire since it doesn’t put off much smoke and wouldn’t set the alarms off. Though I will say that thing still put off quite a bit of heat!

After the Easter Vigil we all went downstairs to the cafeteria for a reception. I couldn’t help but laugh at the decoration I found on one of the tables…it was Jesus popping out of an Easter egg! Hahaha! That was definitely a new take on the resurrection that I had not seen before! Here are a few pictures from the reception:

Me and Jesus…popping out of an egg!

Myself, Laura and Teresa…and Jesus popping out of an egg!

Myself, Laura, Sr. Rosann and Teresa

Myself, Laura, Sr. Inviolata and Teresa

Myself, Teresa, Sr. Agnes and Laura

On Easter Sunday we got to sleep in a bit, which was FANTASTIC because we were up pretty late the night before! That morning Sr. Gabrielle Marie surprised us by telling us that we were going on vacation the following week! We have a house in Royal, NE that we use as a vacation house…it is really nice! More to come on that!

Myself, Teresa and Sr. Fidelis Marie took a trip to Blair, NE to spend time with the CCD classes there and talk to them about religious life. There were two sessions, one for 4th-5th grade and one for 6th-12th grade. We told them about ourselves and what our life looked like and then opened it for questions, one of the fourth graders asked the best question of the night…she wanted to know if we were considered a non profit organization and how did we make money to support ourselves…….hahahaha!

Us with the 4th and 5th graders.

On April 8th we had to say goodbye to Sr. Inviolata as she returns to her home in Kenya. She has been in the US for 11 years now and it was time for her to return home. I am going to miss her like crazy, but I hope that one day our paths will cross again! There aren’t enough words to describe how much I appreciate all that she has done for me over the past 2.5 years!On the day I entered the monastery!One one of my vocation visits…we got a huge donation of corn and had a corn husking party!Sr. Inviolata and I when I became an affiliate.

April 9th-12th we went to Royal, NE for vacation. We spent the week relaxing, watching movies, cooking DELICIOUS food, going for long walks, reading, doing art projects and just spending time together. Here are some pictures from our time there:Homemade artisan bread made by LauraThe view from the back porchSELFIE!Laura in her natural habitat…reading! (We have a lot in common!)From the loft looking out the back windows.The main floor, looking down from the loft.Sitting room in the loft. (There are two bedrooms upstairs and two on the main level. One full bath upstairs and one full and one half on the main floor.)The back wall is all windows and faces west, making for BEAUTIFUL views of the sun setting.Prayer roomOne of the puzzles I did!Homemade pizzas!

The next three are a series where Teresa knocked the screen door off the tracks! She was really excited to get outside! 😂😂We went on several long walks during the week, 3.5 miles one day and 4 miles another, below are some pictures from those walks:We went to the lake one day to walk aroundA giant hill with a tree at the top that I am not sure how it is still alive! Look at those roots!Moss growing along the sides of a pathIt was really foggy one morning!

More pictures from our walksOn one of the walks we walked to one of the highest vantage points around and you could see for MILES! It was really beautiful!

One of the big projects that formation has been working on since I entered was organizing and cleaning out the media library. We had hundreds of VHS tapes that were either duplicates of DVDs we now own, were self recorded from the TV by sisters over the years, or were just really outdated, like “Nursing Practices” produced in 1970…

We spent a few weeks just going through all of the tapes and determining what to keep and what to get rid of. Our next step was figuring out what to do with all the tapes! We learned that most of it can be recycled…with the exception of the actual film itself. So for the past week or so we have been taking apart VHS tapes. Separating the metal pieces from the plastic and then pulling the film out into a third pile. There are probably close to around 500 tapes that we are disassembling and we are about half way done!

When you can’t get the film off in one nice spool, you end up with a tangled mess like the one above! 😣😣

This had to have been early on in the process when we were still smiling…haha…kidding…sort of! There are just a lot of tapes and after a while it starts to really hurt your hands!

Well I think that is all I have to report this time around! I will try to do better about sending out updates more regularly! I hope you enjoyed the photos and update!

In Christ,

Jenna

One thought on “Lent, Easter and Vacation!

  1. Glad to hear from you, Jenna. You sound very happy. Contemplative life agrees with you. I can only imagine how much more meaningful Holy Week was for you this year. Nice that you already got a vacation, too!
    Take care & many prayers coming your way. 🙏

    Barb B

    Liked by 1 person

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