MARCH 2005

Once upon a time in the sixteenth century a Spanish king owned a piece of land we now call home. To this day a touch of Spain colors the Dutch culture. When the December feast of Saint Nicholas looms on the calendar, children can watch him arrive in Amsterdam, standing on the deck of a full-sailed clipper, just sailed in from Spain. Mounted on a stallion worthy of a Castilian grandee, the saint slowly disembarks while black-faced helpers (reminiscent of Moorish slaves) race circles around his horse, tossing handfuls of candy to eager children.

This year, our fifteenth in the Netherlands, we brought our own touch of Spain to the banks of the Dommel. Our Mother Vicaress, faithful assistant to Mother Abbess for those unfamiliar with monastic terminology, is Mexican American and fondly recalls how the triumph of the Mexican Revolution was the first date her mother taught her. She would have learned it in Spanish, her first language. Among the Mexican-Americans, a girl’s fifteenth birthday is an event of importance, and so at her urging we decided to do it up big. Actually, God seemed to want it that way himself, or at the very least He was coordinating events to enhance the occasion.

Event One: No time to be teary-eyed on March 5, anniversary of the day we walked out of our mother monastery fifteen years ago, never to return. No, instead two media persona walked through our door to begin plans for filming a four-minute spot about Eindhoven’s only viable community of religious women. The program “Eindhovense” is limited both in production and projection to our city of 250,000 dwellers. One of the anchor women discovered our web site, was totally amazed at the beauty and openness of it, and decided she had something of interest for her viewers. Yes, it is true that there is a touch of ‘fossil’ mentality in how many view us: Look at this time-pocket which has escaped the modernization of the western world. Not far from our monastery the civic authorities built a small park representing prehistoric life in the Lowlands. Our standing joke is to tell friends, family and foes that most people think we live there, website not withstanding.

Still, Karin Bierens thinks there are enough people who remember a different day and would appreciate the wonder of a community of young women, --well, maybe a few are not so young but neither are they sporting canes-- following a way of life that runs outside the beaten tracks of post-modernity. Actually, we don’t see it that way, and somehow we have to use three minutes, to covey the simple fact that what we are doing is the thing the viewer wants most: being happy in a life we know will never end. Karin and her camera woman’s bags were stuffed with books and literature and they will return come April to start the filming. How long will four minutes take? Probably an entire day.

Event Two: A week later one of our number plucked up her courage and went to the parlor for a photo or two needed to accompany an article in a well-known women’s magazine. This was a bigger challenge since the readers were age-bracketed as either New Age or "went to church once for my first Communion", with bored agnostics filling up the cracks. There has been considerable strategic work with the writer as to how we could in a few paragraphs convey what, or better Who, motivates us. The outcome is also April-dated.

Event in the making: If our Vicaress seems quite intent on the realization of the revered tradition of the fifteenth birthday, the rest of us are seeing silver. April will bring not only cameras and photo negatives but our Mother Vicaress’, Sister Mary Estrellita, silver jubilee of profession. Along with the resume of monastic news since last August, the Easter envelope to our friends in the Lowlands carried the exquisite invitation to the silver jubilee Mass on April 16.

It all sounds like April, doesn’t it? There is, however, a day in March that made and makes all days possible. Today, the Resurrection of our Lord. Fifteen, twenty-five, fifty or five hundred years, it does not matter. His promise, “I am with you all days” is our joy and our peace in all the changes life brings. Whether we grew up memorizing the day of the Mexican Revolution or the fourth of July or the year when the Dutch cast off the Spanish yoke, this Day is the day of freedom, the day fear and death died forever. The Day that will never end, no matter how many churches close, or which nations disappear into the pages of history, or suns grow cold. God has brought us into His eternal day, His eternal light, His unending joy.

Our prayers follow this letter, asking Him to give you and your loved ones a taste of the joy to come.

Your Poor Clares in Eindhoven

St. Claralaan 1
5654 AS Eindhoven