Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: Part 1, Benedictines of Mary in Missouri

I thought it couldn’t be done. I thought it was impossible, not to mention impractical, unimaginable, and absurd.

But we did it. We drove hours upon hours with nine children into four different states just to visit two traditional religious orders. And it was well worth it.

Let me break it down for you.

Last Monday morning around 7:30am, I slammed the cooler lid shut, grabbed my coffee mug, and strode out to the van with a troop of children carrying various bags and things behind me. My husband, wearing his special clip-on sunglasses, met us in front of the van and handed out printed maps of our itinerary to each child as they scrambled in. These maps were intended to let the children know exactly where we were at all times and so to avoid the irritating question of, “Are we there yet?”

And then we were off across the beautiful state of Minnesota, which ran into Iowa, and finally Missouri, where we made our first stop at the Benedictines of Mary, a traditional order of nuns living on a few acres near the town of Gower. (Click HERE for a video done 4 years ago. Wow, just wow.)

The Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, near Gower

Now why did we trek across the country to visit these nuns? Because we wanted our girls to see and experience fully habited nuns following the Traditional Rite, which means they celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass according to the 1962 missal.

Inside the church, facing the west. (Remember the altar faces the east.) The nave is filled with the sisters’ choir stalls, where they pray the Divine Office and Holy Mass.

When we arrived at the Abbey, we prayed the liturgical hour of None, which was sung by the sisters, and the rosary–these being open to the public.

This is the high altar with a canopy, facing the east, the Rising Son. Again, the choir stalls flank the body of the nave.

Close-up of the choir stalls, which is occupied by 35 sisters, with room to grow. (And their order is growing! So many young faces!)

The high altar with communion rails surrounding three sides.

Perhaps some of you may remember the Benedictines of Mary as the nuns with the chant CDs? They’re available on iTunes, if you’re interested, and they’re fabulous.

Anyway, after walking around the grounds a bit, we drove into the nearest town with a hotel and spent the night. (We didn’t know about the sisters’ Guest House, but it was booked anyway.) The next morning we drove out again for the office of Terce and High Mass and a visit with Sister Grace.

The Eldest and her Next Younger Sister and I were all privileged to visit with Sister Grace in the parlor. This was a unique experience for us, as it doesn’t happen too often that one has a chance to ask any question one wants to of a nun.

And Sister Grace was all graciousness and smiles. She came from a poor family in Kansas and has a brother at Clear Creek Monastery, which was fun information for us, as that was our next destination. Sister told us her vocation story and the history of their foundation. She mentioned with a sparkle in her eye the “wicked cold” prowling about the monastery and their poor, sick cow, Pia. We promised to pray for them and the sick cow, and then the monastery bells began to ring for the next hour. Time was up!

Truly, if you have teenage daughters and you can make it happen, consider visiting the Benedictines of Mary. They’re beautiful.

In the next blog post, I’ll continue this Travelogue with a few words and pictures of Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma.

Call Me Catholic

8 Things I’m NOT Doing This Advent

Advent begins this Sunday. Have you thought about it yet? I have, and I’ve come up with a few things I won’t be doing. Next week, I hope to put together a list of things I will be doing for those of you who might be curious.

But for today…

8 Things I’m NOT Doing This Advent

  1. I’m not doing a Jesse Tree.  Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I had a Jesse Tree, and the children colored paper ornaments and cut them out and decorated a dead tree branch. They had a lot of fun. This year? Nope. The Bible will have to do for making those lovely Old Testament stories come alive.
  2. I also will not have an Advent Calendar filled with chocolates marking out the liturgical season.  This is because I’d rather spend that $3.99 on a cappuccino. I guess, our 2020 “Drinking With the Monks” wall calendar from Tan Publishing will have to do.
Here is November’s picture. See the quotation in the corner? It says, “Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved.” Cheeky!

3. I’m not going to make a single cookie during Advent.  I restrained myself last year, too, and it was freeing. We will, however, make cookies during the Christmas octave and eat as many as we choose, while we lick the bowl and fight for the spatula. I do sympathize with those individuals, however, who make their cookies during Advent and freeze them for Christmas. This is laudable–and penitential too, if one doesn’t eat the cookie dough or the cookies until December 25. Oy.

4. I don’t have my box of Advent books out yet; it’s still tucked away in the storage room.  I’ve just been too lazy tired to actually walk down the stairs, turn a corner, open a door, and get it.  I’m really hoping that I’ll find the motivation to do so, at least by December 24th.  We do have some good ones. So this one probably shouldn’t be on my list of “Things I’m Not Doing This Advent.” Rather this one should be on my list of “Things I Should Get Going On By Sunday.”

5. There is no Elf on my shelf.  Nor has there ever been.  I understand this is a fun thing for some children, but mine will have to be satisfied with Mary and Joseph traveling around the house, making their way to our nativity set, which I hope to get out soon with that box of Advent books…

Kids’ bookshelf. No elf here. But there are books all over the floor…

6. I’m not going to listen to Christmas music this Advent.  Maybe.  Goodness, this is such a hard one for me.  I love Christmas music so much that it isn’t uncommon for me to blast it any time of the year.  Just ask my children.  Who doesn’t love a little “Sleigh Ride” in July? This year, however, it’ll be “Advent at Ephesus” with the Benedictines of Mary.

7. I’m not going to buy a ton of Christmas gifts, which you already know about. (See HERE for my Christmas Shopping post.)  We’ve been scaling back over the years, as we’ve found that less is more, and it teaches the children gratitude.

8. I’m not decorating for Christmas during Advent.  This one is easy to not do for the obvious reason that I don’t have to do anything.  We stopped decorating for Christmas during Advent a long time ago.  Instead it’s become a family tradition to buy our Christmas tree the last possible minute and decorate it and the rest of our house on Christmas Eve, and I can’t tell you how much fun we have!  So I’m not really worried about this one.

May God bless you this Advent!