In the monastery the month of February begins promptly at 12:30 p.m., February 2. Yes, the calendar does insist on mentioning some odd date called February 1, but a Poor Clare heart hinges on the liturgical calendar, and the Presentation of the Lord opens this month within our walls. This year an onlooker might have thought the choir was being shared with small, excited children, as one head after the other craned to catch a clear look at the altar. Were those candles in the flower arrangements? Now that was new! The new sacristan was the only one unaffected by the extraordinariness of it all. But then, she had seen it often done in her monastery in Belgium. Yes, our 'new' zuster from Belgium was quite at home with candles springing up between the last of our Christmas poinsettia blossoms.

New begets new, and even zuster sacristan drew her breath in quite audibly when Father proceeded to light the numerous candles inserted in her bouquets. There was nothing to do for it, and we all watched with a dismayed glee proper to children as one flame after the other started its slow dance among the flowers. Fortunately the candles were all new and very tall, so no one was forced to make a mad grab for the aspergilla and extinguish the bouquets. The beautiful Marialicht Mass could continue in peace.

New, too, was our manner of celebrating the solemnity of Saint Colette this year, that daring Frenchwoman who, sharing her century with the Maid of Orleans, fought her own type of war to uphold God's Church. What brought the never-before touch to our day was the presence of Zuster Coleta-Maria, who joined us during the summer when her own monastery in Belgium finally closed for lack of personnel. It was sad, that locking of the chapel door to a monastery that had spread its mantle of prayer over Hasselt for more than one hundred and ten years. Of the few remaining elderly sisters, several were admitted into houses for those needing constant medical assistance, while three other sisters made their new home in a monastery founded by Hasselt in the early part of the last century; and one, still young and remembering the years she had spent in our own mother monastery, came up north. There is nothing quite like celebrating the feast of a saint with a sister who has been entrusted to the care of that saint. One feels the extra attention heaven gives.

The celebration of the feast fell within the Mardi Gras days, and we think our 'second mother', as we affectionately call her, was the inspiring force that made possible a new dimension in our Lent. Friends provided us with the means for watching the film, "The Passion" within our monastery, and that final Mardi Gras day will remain indelibly imprinted on our minds and hearts as we shared in this most moving depiction of God's love for us. Mother wisely decided to break the viewing into two sessions, so the second half was seen two weeks later, on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It was, of course, the main topic during our recreations afterwards, and we hope to make this a custom in the years to come. The sisters were all touched when we read in the one and only Dutch Catholic newspaper how Sister Lucia, one of the three visionaries of Fatima, had seen the same film last year. Only then it was Mr. Mel Gibson himself who came to their Carmelite monastery with all the equipment needed to allow the Portuguese nuns to watch his masterpiece. His reward was considerable: a private time of talk and counsel with this saintly nun. Surely she will watch over him and us all now that she is with that beautiful Lady who caught her heart so many years ago.

We definitely did pray to her and with her imploring help our Holy Father after we learned of his hospitalization for flu and serious respiratory problems. And those prayers continue now that he has been re-admitted and undergone a tracheotomy. One feels the power of the Body of Christ so strongly at these times, when the whole Church focuses her prayers on Peter. We find our comfort in that union with you and so many millions who one in heart and desire in their prayer for him. May this Lent bear grace, peace and trust for you in all your challenges and burdens.

United in Maria, Mother of Light,
Your Poor Clares in Eindhoven

St. Claralaan 1
5654 AS Eindhoven