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And my heart responds:
“Seek my face”.
Thy face, Lord,
I will seek.
To all with whom we are united,
The psalms reveal much to us about the mystery of God’s Face. For example, Psalm 4, 6: “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us, O Lord.” Psalm 17:15: “As for me, I shall behold your Thy face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied with seeing Thy likeness.” When we pray, we seek His Face. Do we not need this Face of love, hope and peace now more than ever? The suffering of so many from the corona virus and the measures and all the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, confront us more and more with our powerlessness. We are invited to look to Him who created and redeemed us and shows us in Jesus His compassionate Face: a Face that allows itself to be wounded by us and yet continues to give love and peace.
Mother Mechtildis writes of this divine love, “Surely we recognize the excess of this divine love and measure by the love this God of goodness has for us, what love and gratitude we owe Him… He gives Himself wholly to us through Holy Communion, that we may give ourselves wholly to Him. (The Monastic Day, p. 332).
In Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament we, and many with us, seek to respond to this great love. In Adoration at the Blessed Sacrament, true “One-to-One contact” is possible.
From the life of our community
We were particularly surprised that several times in the past year, in addition to those of Dutch women, we have received requests from women from abroad to live with us to see if this Benedictine life of Perpetual Adoration and Reparation is also for them. Let us pray for them all, for prayer is the most necessary thing in the process of discernment. The first contact is now sometimes through digital means. Of course, some of them need a longer period of preparation, but two of them have already begun their novitiate.
In a beautiful ceremony on February 1, the two sisters, from Bosnia-Herzogovina and Ireland respectively, received the names: Sister Maria Jozefa Benedicta and Sister Maria Jozefa Scholastica. In preparing for this “admission to the novitiate,” Mother Prioress consulted Mother Founder’s Book of Ceremonies, as it would be the first time we would use the original habit and leather belt. In the process, she discovered that Mother Mechtildis also attached a rosary to the belt of the novice. Therefore, Mother Immaculata made the suggestion to the community, whether we could not wear a rosary on our habit and namely the rosary with a Benedict’s cross, which the brothers in Silverstream could make for us. This suggestion found general approval and on July 11, the high feast of our Holy Father Benedict, there was a small but meaningful ceremony in the chapter house in the afternoon during which the rosary, blessed in advance, was attached by Mother Prioress to the belt of the habit of each sister.
After several years of preparation, the Dutch translation and printing of the “Spiritual Way of Life – Itinéraire spirituel – of Catherine de Bar, Mother Mechtildis of the Blessed Sacrament” written by † Mère Véronique Andral OSBap was completed. It is a precious little work, of which all the Sisters received a copy for their personal meditation and many copies of this treasure have since been distributed to other interested persons.
Pope Francis has dedicated this year from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021 to St. Joseph and to the family. This also became an incentive for us to invoke St. Joseph frequently for the needs of Church and world. Mother Prioress compiled a booklet of prayers to St. Joseph for this St. Joseph year. We used this particularly in the month of March and also throughout the year to regularly pray the litany of St. Joseph in Latin after Vespers whilst processing out together to the recreation hall.
From April 30 to May 2, formation days were be held for our oblates. As always, Sr. Rita, living in Ireland, was able to follow the liturgy and the lessons via Skype. During the Holy Mass on Saturday, May 1, Br. Joseph was allowed to pronounce his promises. In this way, Br. Joseph became even more closely associated not only with our monastery, but also with his patron, St. Joseph, especially in his capacity as “handyman”! The joy of the liturgy found its continuation in a small festive gathering with the necessary “corona distance” , where we could congratulate Br. Joseph with his family.
It was with sadness that we learned of the death of the Very Reverend Father G. Wilkens SJ on January 20. Father Wilkens, who has done so much for the Dutch Church Province, especially for the training of priests, has also done so much for our monastery and Institute through his retreats and enlightening conferences on our spirituality. We are deeply grateful for that! May God himself now be his great reward. On March 25, the Very Reverend Father P. Clijsters CSSR passed away. He loved to come to us often for the celebration of Holy Mass. We also look back on his meritorious life for the benefit of the Church with great gratitude. May he now rejoice in heaven in the liturgy of which he lived on earth.
Our elderly and sick sisters have held up exceptionally well during the past year. They are cared for in a particularly good and loving way by a very dedicated team of caregivers. We have them to thank that we still have our precious sisters in our midst. One of the sisters did break her upper leg in a nasty fall, but after a week in hospital she was fortunately allowed to return home. Her recovery went well and after a few weeks she resumed her lessons with our young sisters. At the beginning of last month, another of our precious elderly Sisters asked to be allowed to receive the anointing of the sick because she thought her last hour had come. The community was present and it was an intense prayerful celebration, which focused on the sister’s gratitude for her life. For each sister she had a heartfelt word of farewell, but as long as God pleases she remains among us. The prayers that were said with her have strengthened her, and it seems that for the moment the good care will not let her pass the gates of heaven. In this way we remain a community in which all ages are represented.
Meditation of the Holy Face of Jesus in personal prayer came closer this year as we came into contact with Sister Blandina Paschalis in Manoppello, Italy, where the Holy Face is venerated. Sister Blandina lives there as a hermitess with the special mission to adore and make known the Holy Face. She sent us beautiful pictures and books, which impressed us greatly. The psalm verse at the beginning of the letter “Thou sayest – and my heart speaks after it: ‘Seeketh my face.’ Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” penetrated deeper into our hearts. Is this not the essence of monastic life: Seeking His Face?!
In early July it was announced by the press office of our diocese, that our Bishop, Monsignor Harry Smeets, is very seriously ill. There was a call to pray for him. We prayed with the whole diocese for him and with the community we prayed a novena to our Mother Founder for general recovery. We rejoice that he is doing a little better at the moment and hope that he may continue for some time to give a valuable witness to the faithful and to those who do not yet know God’s love.
This year’s community retreat was led by the Abbot Emeritus of Chèvetogne, in Belgium, Dom Philippe Vanderheyden OSB. He gave us deep conferences on the Our Father. From the Holy Scriptures he gave us valuable material for our meditation as well as to deepen our life from the Gospel, for which we are very grateful.
For the growing number of persons within our community who are English-speaking, Father Johan Debeer c.s.j. held an English-language 10-day retreat. His introductions were on the Gospel of St. John, which made it abundantly clear that we are beloved children of God. During this year he gave several short retreats for guests in which unfortunately only a few guests could participate each time because of the corona measures.
Chaplain P. Pierik, who has lived on our grounds for some time and is now officially appointed chaplain of the monastery, gave us conferences during our end-of-year retreat in preparation for renewing our vows on January 1. He also provided introductions during the Easter Triduum, at which some guests were able to attend. Furthermore, he helps us to better understand the meaning of the Latin prayers of the Holy Mass.
At the request of Mother Marie-Anne, the President of the French Federation, the presidents of our Institute met several times via Skype means for discussions. Each Federation was urged to make our Mother Founder more widely known as part of her beatification process.
Fortunately, it was possible for Mother Immaculata to visit the fellow sisters in Valkenburg several times, which, especially in the present circumstances, was a mutual joy.
In July, Europe suffered from flooding in many places. Also the Meuse river was extremely high, so many people in our locality had to evacuate. For us and for the few retreatants in the guesthouse, the days and night were full of suspense, because we too were threatened with evacuation. Fortunately, we were spared this and the water did not enter. We prayed for the many people who were affected.
In the last week of July, work began in the refectory. The paint was black and chipped in many places. The fluorescent tubes had become rusty, the covering on the tables cracked and the floor was no longer even. In addition, it was clear that we would soon be short of tables. The wooden doors, which had been painted green in the 1970s, were badly damaged in many places. Renovation would therefore include the entire refectory.
The refectory was cleared and cleaned. The floor tiles were removed and there appeared to be a tough adhesive layer underneath that had to be removed. A tough job, for which even cola was tried. A biodegradable paint remover finally brought the solution. We had hoped to be able to use the refectory early September, but there was more work than anticipated.
However, the result is worth it: The refectory now clearly has a monastic look, which also accommodates newcomers thanks to a different layout.
In the same period painters were at work in the kitchen (the ceiling) and on the outside of the house. In short: much was done to give our monastic life in this way a new impulse.
It will be clear that thorough cleaning was necessary afterwards. Almost all the rooms on the first floor were given a thorough cleaning: first of all the refectory, and then the chapter house, kitchen, pantry, bakery and recreation room.
Although the doors were still at the woodworker’s, we put our renovated refectory into use. Chaplain Pierik blessed it, as well as the large, beautiful statue of St. Joseph that now has a place of honor.
Throughout the year, small-scale garden days are organized, where some loyal and hard-working volunteers help us maintain our garden. This is large enough to work at a safe distance from each other. Refreshments and the midday meal are also enjoyed Corona-safe, with no shortage of sociability.
On the Sisters’ relaxation days, sometimes something from another culture is prepared in the kitchen in a country way, which all the Sisters enjoy. The different origins of the sisters make our life colourful and fascinating. Gratitude is an important word in our daily lives. Does it not lead us directly to the Eucharist, where we meet as brothers and sisters in the Lord?
Finally, we would like to give special thanks to all of you who have assisted us with so much help in many areas. Our prayer is also for you. Also for the help with our (nightly) perpetual Adoration, we thank you very much. Every day we pray for our benefactors: may God repay you all richly.
We wish you a blessed time of preparation for Christmas, a Noly Christmas and a blessed New Year 2022.
In prayerful communion,
Your Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.