A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!

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Location: Virginia, United States

Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Dominican Nuns of Our Lady of Grace Monastery

So we've just finished celebrating the Feast of St. Clare and we're about to head into prepping for the Feast of Holy Father Francis on October 4th. It's time to squeeze in some non-Franciscan posts. Even so, I think that Holy Father Francis would be happy that I'm making a Dominican post, since the two Orders are very close to each other.

During my brief stint up in CT, I had the pleasure of venturing into the countryside to visit Our Lady of Grace Monastery of Dominican Nuns in North Guilford, CT. After driving around in circles for an hour-and-a-half in the middle-of-nowhere, I finally found the Dominicans' monastery. The monastery is nestled in the hills of the exquisite CT countryside, which seems as if its out of a storybook- babbling streams, rolling hills, rickety wooden bridges, etc. Their public chapel is absolutely gorgeous. It was built in the 20s and is very gothic in style, with lovely stained glass windows and the entire edifice made of stone. Nonetheless, the monastery's real beauty is attributed to the beautiful women that inhabit the place.

The first day that I came to the monastery, I didn't run into any nuns. Before I could stay in order to find out if there was anyone there, I developed a migraine and had to return home. The next day, I decided to go the mall....but as I pulled into the mall parking lot, I asked myself "why the heck am I here, instead of at that monastery?!" Some force was drawing me back to that rural haven, so I pulled out of the mall parking lot and made the hour-long drive down to North Guilford. I had been in communication via e-mail with one of the nuns there (she will remain nameless), so when I arrived at the monastery I decided to try and see if I could chat with her. When I finally reached her, I told her that what I just did was "very Franciscan" of me- just dropping by randomly like that. However, she was more than pleased to chat with me!

We talked about life at the monastery, the Dominican charism, vocation, and the kinds of people who are drawn to the monastery. Now prior to this conversation, I had a false preconception that in order to be a Dominican, there is a prerequisite to be very pious and super traditional. Sister burst this bubble of mine as soon as she could....she told me that there are a variety of women who are drawn to the Dominican contemplative life and there is no one "type." One girl, for example, had been a professional dancer. Others are former atheists and the like. The one thing that unites them is the call to give themselves truly for Jesus in a life of prayer, penance, and study. I also expected that Dominican Nuns were going to be bookwormish, but after meeting that vibrant, effervescent woman, I knew that they are truly full of joy! Hence, after my visit to Our Lady of Grace Monastery, I found a new love for the Dominican Order....but don't worry, I won't be changing my blog's name to "Canticle of Catarina" anytime soon.

The bottom line is that we should realize that we don't have to be a certain type in order to be Holy....nor do we have to be a certain type to join a certain Order or other church organization, so long as God calls you to that particular life. God will give us the grace to use our gifts and talents and express our personalities in an environment where He thinks best.

Anyhow, please check out the Dominican Nuns' website at http://www.op-stjoseph.org/nuns/olgrace/. If you're in the area, make sure you stop by their public chapel and gift shop. The sound of the nuns' praying and singing is absolutely ehtereal! You'll leave the monastery having been filled with a sense of overriding peace and joy. I definitely did!

Contemplata Aliis Tradere!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Kelly Joyce Neff said...

Hi Chiara,
Thanks for this! Your experience of 'it takes all types' to be in an order is very much my experience (at least of the 3rd Order!) and what you have said echoes a conversation that we had in a meeting at church this morning of our Adult Faith Formation group. Thank you for the serendipity! It proves that God is paying attention (or I am! =) )
Bless you!

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Pam said...

I just discovered your blog. I am enjoying reading both your current and your archived entries. Thanks for not giving it up.

I blogged you at my own forum -


Hope that more of my readers will check you out! I will be checking back myself!


2:27 PM  
Blogger Brother Lesser said...

Thank you for reminding us that we are all a part of the Body of Christ, and all work together for the common good.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Dominican said...

Thanks for putting a plug in for our monastery in CT. OLG is our foundation and the monastery was built in the '50's not the '20s.
They are a wonderful community! Of course, we're partial!

9:13 PM  

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