Monastery Newsletter - November 2004

Some say spring is the season of hope: bright green pushing up from brown earth and out from barren bark. In a monastery the inclination is to name autumn as hope's proper domain: to hear clearly in each leaf's fall the distant echo of Christ's coming. The heart hears rightly whenever it leans forward in hope. Inside our little monastery on the Dommel, autumn, or more precisely November, also means welcoming the saints to our home. Yes, we hope they are full-time residents by virtue of that most comforting mystery, the Communion of Saints, but All Saints Day carries the treasured feature of tables and windowsills covered with portraits of the saints. Once a year the carefully gathered collection of holy cards shows us the faces of our brothers and sisters who have crossed the threshold of hope.

When we gathered that evening to venerate our small galaxy of saints and share personal stories about favorite saints, the collector and guardian of the saints card collection squirmed more than once. Our youngest, all of three months old, was in a youthful ecstasy over so many holy cards, so many saints, and wasn't that the most beautiful card of her favorite saint, and didn't that saint have such a warm, lovely smile, and... Two things are certain: when the bell announced the end of recreation, all cards were accounted for, and Anneke's ten sisters had silently noted which saints she favored. Already plans are in the making to assure she receives at least two when St. Nicolas comes sailing down the Dommel.

Of course the communion of saints isn't limited to those whose statues stand in our halls, whose names grace our churches. The saints walk our streets and share our homes. Their number is not to be counted, here or in heaven. Canonized saints are the hosts and hostesses of heaven, those who lead you to the great dining hall and start introducing all there, people just like us, people who lived out their lives with true heroism. The saints are those who met the misfortunes of death, separation, misunderstanding, loss of financial support: all those things that test us and give us a chance to get up and get on with the journey. They kept on going. The communion of saints? That means you, those who read these words for the simple reason that you find in them an echo of the Word who promised us: Whatever you did for the least of my brothers you did for me. Who ever welcomes one of these little ones, welcomes me.

At this moment of the friendship and protection of the saints is particularly felt in the Netherlands. Requests for prayers pile high on Mother Abbess' desk, as the land shrinks before the continued bombing of mosques, churches and schools. The ritual assassination of a Dutch film maker by Islamic terrorists has sent waves of fear, hate and retaliation into every corner of the Netherlands. One badly bombed catholic school is just a few kilometers from our monastery, and an elderly woman who regularly visits our chapel [which we are told is the only church open during the day in this large, large city] says she is afraid to enter it and will light her candles within the safety of her own home.

Our doors will remain open, for the Church is our home and the communion of the saints our dwelling place. We continue quietly with autumn's work: raking up leaves, digging up dahlias and transporting the bulbs to the upper reaches of our attic. All of it a work of hope for the spring to come. Gregorian chants for Advent and winter are being diligently practiced, and the seasonal 'teddy bear' mode is appearing in the halls. The Teddy Bear look began last year when, after facing the fact that we could not keep up with the ever mounting prices for heating our monastery, Mother Abbess passed out knitted vests, woolen armlets, and an array of small shawls designed to disappear under guimp and habit. The first hard freeze has come, and with Mother's encouragement the winter look is a mite wooly. Mode a la Teddy.

The Solemnity of Christ the King is just around the corner. Daily novena prayers are offered that His Kingdom of peace may indeed come. We will be remembering all His saints that day, we will be remembering you.

Your Poor Clare sisters in Eindhoven

St. Claralaan 1
5654 AS Eindhoven