Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vocations Discernment Retreat and Visit from Fr Albert, O.P.

The time of the vocations discernment retreat finally arrived after months of preparation! Sixteen young ladies came from various parts of New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania. Parishioners had been generous in their loans of bedding, and even a house across the road was lent for the purpose of housing some retreatants (and a Sister to watch over them, of course!). All 16 girls were settled into the convent, a classroom made into a dormitory, or the house.


Fr Albert, O.P. had come from the snow in Minnesota, U.S.A., to the warmth of Wanganui to give this retreat on vocations to the religious life. Father's conferences brought before the retreatants' minds various topics including Divine grace in the soul, mental prayer, and the state of perfection. The young ladies got a taste of the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas from his Summa Theologicae and other great saints, in particular St Maximilian Kolbe.

It had been arranged to use the parish church for Mass and the Divine Office, our chapel being too small to accommodate the number of girls and Sisters. Each day began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, according to the Dominican rite, and ended with our biggest Salve procession yet! The history of the Salve procession is a beautiful one. Mother Francis Raphael, O.S.D. relates in her book The Spirit of the Dominican Order that "[f]rom the very beginning of the Order the Salve was recite after Compline, as we find from that vision in St. Dominic's life in which we are told that our Lady made herself known to him by saying: "I am she whom you invoke every evening; and when you say, Eia ergo, advocata nostra, I prostrate before my Son for the preservation of this Order." But it was not sung processionally, as it is now, until the time of Blessed Jordan, the successor of St. Dominic, when the dreadful sufferings endured by the Brethren from diabolical apparitions induced him to order it in the Chapter of Paris, A.D. 1226. Its effect was the immediate disappearance of these troublesome visitants; and in their stead Mary took possession of the Dominican choirs, as we would fondly hope, never to yield her place to another.



"Salve, Regina..."


It became, if we may say so, the fashionable devotion to go to the church of the Friar-Preachers after Compline to assist at the Salve, and many therefore were the witnesses of the heavenly apparitions which our chronicles describe.



"Eia ergo, advocata nostra..."


The Queen of Heaven was seen to descend into the choir, as the Friars came out in procession, and to place herself in the midst of them, and, as they sang the last words, O dulcis Virgo Maria, inclining at her sweet name, she blessed them and disappeared. . . . A devout woman of Lombardy...saw the Divine Mother assisting at the Office, and when the Friars said Spes nostra, salve, our Lady graciously returned the salutation, and at the words Eia ergo she interceded for them with her Son; and at those other words, Jesum benedictum, etc., she held out the Child Jesus to the Brethren, giving Him to each one of them to kiss; and then, blessing them, disappeared." Our Blessed Mother surely must have smiled lovingly upon her children as they bade her goodnight.



"O dulcis Virgo Maria..."


Once the retreat was finished, Father Albert, a true son of St Dominic, preached a three-day Rosary mission for the parish. Each night he gave an instruction, led the praying of the Rosary with a meditation before each mystery, and preached a sermon.




And just like that it was time for Father to return to his duties in the U.S.A. We would like to thank him for all his hard work during his visit and pray that someday he may return!

Finally, we ask that you keep us in your prayers as we begin our annual retreat, which will be a preparation for two of our novices who will make their first temporary vows on January 6th. We wish you all a most blessed and happy Christmas!

An Unforgettable Adventure

Soon after school ended for the year, two of our Sisters rushed off to run a camp for the girls of the school and parish. As a treat to our readers, we are happy to present this next instalment written by one of the campers. Enjoy!

Earlier on in the year Sister Madeleine had announced to us that we would be having a girls’ camp and boy did that get everyone excited. To make this dream camp a reality we had to do a lot of fundraising. We did sausage sizzles at a local store and for some reason the public were extremely generous (I think it was because we had the Sisters with us but I guess it will forever remain a mystery). As the months passed we baked goodies to be sold at the stall after the Sung Mass on Sundays and we hosted a Fairy light dinner and auction for the parish.

All the hard work was rewarded on December 6th, when after two hours of having my mum remind me not to forget the essentials, we were dropped at school and all our things were loaded into our assigned van a.k.a. “the big red bus”. After a prayer for a safe journey (the prayer was mostly needed for the big red bus because one never knew if it would last the trip but I guess that was another thing that made the camp fun). We all piled into the vans (there were 3) and we loaded Father’s car with the excess baggage and set off for “Camp” – the Highland Christian Home. Forty five minutes later we stopped off at a nearby lookout. Fr L. dashed up a nearby hill to get a better look and slowly but surely a group of us were able to reach the top but, unfortunately, by that time it was time to go down. We returned to the vans and after a few dusty roads and a “tuneful” rendition of “100 bottles of beer on the wall” the camp grounds came into sight. We quickly unloaded the vans, set up the altar and got our cabins organised.



We then had an assembly and Sister told us the schedule for the day. After lunch we drove 18kms to go caving. To kill time we started singing “the Peanut song” and “the Song that never ends’ which unfortunately ended when we reached the caves. Those who were claustrophobic were advised not to go through the loop at the end of the cave which was very narrow. Five minutes after a whole lot of arguing over who should carry the torches, we discovered that the cave became very small. Most of us had previously gone through the cave and we remembered it to be much bigger, so either the cave had shrunk or we had grown. We came up with the logical conclusion that the cave had shrunk due to the earth’s movements. Somehow, we all managed to squeeze, pull or drag ourselves through the loop and before we knew it we had conquered caving. The next item on our itinerary was a swim at a nearby river, which was really cold. Everyone went into the river either for or against their wills and an hour later we had to return to camp for dinner. To our surprise after our spiritual talk from Father, we received a visit from St Nicholas and Black Pete and we were rewarded for our good deeds.



Due to two courses of Lasagna and Apple crumble most of us went to bed immediately, a few stayed up till 3 a.m. but they paid the price when the fire alarm accidentally went off at 5:25 the next morning (now that was funny). Ding! Dong! The bell rang waking everyone up at 6.20 am. We “quickly” got ready for morning prayers and Mass. Thirty minutes later we entered the chapel and Fr L. celebrated Mass. At the end of Mass group1 left to set up for breakfast while the rest of us still half asleep wandered to the dining room. A toast and a cup of hot chocolate later, we rushed to the field to hear what was on today’s agenda. OH NO!!!!!! it was “THE HIKE”. Due to previous experiences with Fr C. and his estimations of the length of camp hikes we all dreaded this activity and to make matters worse it was cold and rainy when we left.

A near “death experience” and approximately five U turns later (due to Sister Rose) we arrived at the farm. Our guide then led us to the beginning of the hike and after an hour of ups and downs we reached the climax of the hike “the river” (well that’s what we thought at the time). We started off very enthusiastic whether we ended that way I guess you’ll have to ask the Sisters. While others were busy pushing forward with the guide, some of us were bust trying to avoid the eels. Unfortunately for Nadia an eel tried to get her and according to one of the girls, she broke the 100m record escaping its’ jaws. A few more hours down the river and we were finally told that we had reached the end – some of us having walked chest deep in water. We “quickly” rushed up the hill to the vans and before you could say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, we were changed and were on the road heading back for a dinner of chicken drumsticks and wedges followed by pudding.

Day three was not any different. In the morning we each had a go at shooting and undertaking a team building obstacle course. In the afternoon we had played mini golf to relieve our muscles from the previous day. Mini golf was thirty five minutes away in Palmerston North so as usual we got into the vans and were off. Fortunately after running out of every possible animal Old McDonald could have on his farm we arrived in Palmerston. Our first stop was at Rose Park which has a playground for little children and one for older children, so like mature girls a group of us rushed for the little kid’s playground. We went down slides, up slides, back and forth on swings and we even played noughts and crosses. The fun ended and we were called back to the vans and were off to minigolf.

Everyone collected their golf ball and putter and were showed the mini golf course. All of us were divided into groups of five. The course looked relatively easy, I mean all one had to do was get the ball in the hole, and the worst one could get was eight (this had to be a piece of cake!). By the time hole three came around I realized two important things, my assumptions of mini golf were completely wrong and patience is a virtue much needed in these situations. The best score of the day was Sister Rose with 71 (we all thought that she had help from a higher power, but the theory is still debatable).

Due to it being the feast of the Immaculate Conception we had a night of fun planned with skits, marshmallows, camp songs and a game of “blow up the bridge” (metaphorically not literally). After dinner the teams assembled their props and the skits began. Group1 performed three jokes which were funny. Group 2 performed a skit about two Maoris abducting people for a hangi, it was a bit gruesome but it was quite funny. Group 3 performed a skit about an unusual judo class and the judo moves were hilarious. The last group showed how easily we can give into the devil and fall in to the seven deadly sins. There were some extremely funny performances which I can’t help but mention. Unfortunately for Natalie when she jumped onto her bed it fell apart, Kelly and Grace performed an original haka that would put any All Black to shame, Olivia and Nadia showed what Judo moves should not look like and Melanie showed the helpers that no matter how loud one rings a bell some people just don’t wake up.

With gusto and joy everyone then burst into camp songs such as “Clementine” and “the Wheels on the Bus”. We then raced to the caves to see the glow worms which lit the path like stars. “Gooey on the inside and golden on the outside” was the description Maria gave us of the perfect marshmallow. However most of our marshmallows ended up burnt or in the fire. After the energy boost we all suited up and headed for the nearby bridge. The party poppers were handed out and within the first ten minutes someone had blown up the bridge. An hour later, it was time for bed so we headed back.

December 9th was the date everyone had dreamt of, it was the day we would go on a HELICOPTER. Unfortunately, due to the fire alarm going off again at 5:25 the day didn’t get off to a great start. At 1:30 the helicopter was greeted by a group of over excited campers. We were split into groups and briefed on what not to do (whether anyone listened to what was being said is questionable). There were ups, downs, twirls and turns and before we knew it, it had all ended. At night after the usual spiritual talk from Father and the night prayers, the helpers decided to play a game called “nightline”. We were all blindfolded and led to a nearby track. We were then split into pairs and set off through the track following the string. If someone had been passing by the track all they would hear would be screams and threats being made by the campers begging the helpers not to scare them. After that ordeal, we played a few games and went to bed.

Sadly, the last day had arrived. We started cleaning our cabins and packing our bags. The certificates were handed out and we then departed for jet boating. At the riverbank one by one each group put on their life jackets, got into the boat, screamed and when the ride had ended everyone had the most ridiculous smiles on their faces.


As an end of camp treat, we were driven to Woodville, to get some cheesecakes from “Yummy Mummy Cheesecake”. The last crumb was eaten and we were back on the road. With the church in view, we drove up the hill, unloaded the vans and gave them a good needed clean. Everyone said their goodbyes and thank yous and departed for home, for a much needed rest.

When everyone was asked by their parents whether or not they enjoyed camp I personally think that every girl replied that they had a great time and that this camp was one not to be forgotten.










Sunday, October 10, 2010



THE HAIL MARY

Words of the Angelic Doctor on
THE ANGELIC SALUTATION



This salutation has three parts. The Angel gave one part, namely: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women."[1] The other part was given by Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, namely: "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb."[2] The Church adds the third part, that is, "Mary," because the Angel did not say, "Hail, Mary," but "Hail, full of grace." But, as we shall see, this name, "Mary," according to its meaning agrees with the words of the Angels.[3]

"HAIL MARY"

We must now consider concerning the first part of this prayer that in ancient times it was no small event when Angels appeared to men; and that man should show them reverence was especially praiseworthy. Thus, it is written to the praise of Abraham that he received the Angels with all courtesy and showed them reverence. But that an Angel should show reverence to a man was never heard of until the Angel reverently greeted the Blessed Virgin saying: "Hail."

THE ANGEL'S DIGNITY

In olden time an Angel would not show reverence to a man, but a man would deeply revere an Angel. This is because Angels are greater than men, and indeed in three ways.

First, they are greater than men in dignity. This is because the Angel is of a spiritual nature: "Who makest Thy angels spirits."[4] But, on the other hand, man is of a corruptible nature, for Abraham said: "I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes."[5] It was not fitting, therefore, that a spiritual and incorruptible creature should show reverence to one that is corruptible as is a man.

Secondly, an Angel is closer to God. The Angel, indeed, is of the family of God, and as it were stands ever by Him: "Thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him."[6] Man, on the other hand, is rather a stranger and afar off from God because of sin: "I have gone afar off."[7] Therefore, it is fitting that man should reverence an Angel who is an intimate and one of the household of the King.

Then, thirdly, the Angels far exceed men in the fullness of the splendour of divine grace. For Angels participate in the highest degree in the divine light: "Is there any numbering of His soldiers? And upon whom shall not His light arise?"[8] Hence, the Angels always appear among men clothed in light, but men on the contrary, although they partake somewhat of the light of grace, nevertheless do so in a much slighter degree and with a certain obscurity.

It was, therefore, not fitting that an Angel should show reverence to a man until it should come to pass that one would be found in human nature who exceeded the Angels in these three points in which we have seen that they excel over men--and this was the Blessed Virgin. To show that she excelled the Angels in these, the Angel desired to show her reverence, and so he said: "Ave (Hail)."



"FULL OF GRACE"

The Blessed Virgin was superior to any of the Angels in the fullness of grace, and as an indication of this the Angel showed reverence to her by saying: "Full of grace." This is as if he said: "I show thee reverence because thou dost excel me in the fullness of grace."

The Blessed Virgin is said to be full of grace in three ways. First, as regards her soul she was full of grace. The grace of God is given for two chief purposes, namely, to do good and to avoid evil. The Blessed Virgin, then, received grace in the most perfect degree, because she had avoided every sin more than any other Saint after Christ. Thus it is said: "Thou art fair, My beloved, and there is not a spot in thee."[9] St. Augustine says: "If we could bring together all the Saints and ask them if they were entirely without sin, all of them, with the exception of the Blessed Virgin, would say with one voice: 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.'[10] I except, however, this holy Virgin of whom, because of the honour of God, I wish to omit all mention of sin."[11] For we know that to her was granted grace to overcome every kind of sin by Him whom she merited to conceive and bring forth, and He certainly was wholly without sin.

VIRTUES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN

She exercised the works of ALL the virtues, whereas the Saints are conspicuous for the exercise of certain special virtues. Thus, one excelled in humility, another in chastity, another in mercy, to the extent that they are the special exemplars of these virtues--as, for example, St. Nicholas is an exemplar of the virtue of mercy. The Blessed Virgin is the exemplar of all the virtues.

In her is the fullness of the virtue of humility: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."[13] And again: "He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid."[14] So she is also exemplar of the virtue of chastity: "Because I know not man."[15] And thus it is with all the virtues, as is evident. Mary was full of grace not only in the performance of all good, but also in the avoidance of all evil.

Again, the Blessed Virgin was full of grace in the overflowing effect of this grace upon her flesh or body. For while it is a great thing in the Saints that the abundance of grace sanctified their souls, yet, moreover, the soul of the holy Virgin was so filled with grace that from her soul grace poured into her flesh from which was conceived the Son of God. Hugh of St. Victor says of this: "Because the love of the Holy Spirit so inflamed her soul, He worked a wonder in her flesh, in that from it was born God made Man." "And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."[16]

MARY, HELP OF CHRISTIANS

The plenitude of grace in Mary was such that its effects overflow upon all men. It is a great thing in a Saint when he has grace to bring about the salvation of many, but it is exceedingly wonderful when grace is of such abundance as to be sufficient for the salvation of all men in the world, and this is true of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin. Thus, "a thousand bucklers," that is, remedies against dangers, "hang there from."[17] Likewise, in every work of virtue one can have her as one's helper. Of her it was spoken: "In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue."[18] Therefore, Mary is full of grace, exceeding the Angels in this fullness and very fittingly is she called "Mary" which means "in herself enlightened": "The Lord will fill thy soul with brightness."[19] And she will illumine others throughout the world for which reason she is compared to the sun and to the moon.[20]

"THE LORD IS WITH THEE"

The Blessed Virgin excels the Angels in her closeness to God. The Angel Gabriel indicated this when he said: "The Lord is with thee"--as if to say: "I reverence thee because thou art nearer to God than I, because the Lord is with thee." By the Lord; he means the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit, who in like manner are not with any Angel or any other spirit: "The Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."[21] God the Son was in her womb: "Rejoice and praise, O thou habitation of Sion; for great is He that is in the midst of thee, the Holy One of Israel."[22]

The Lord is not with the Angel in the same manner as with the Blessed Virgin; for with her He is as a Son, and with the Angel He is the Lord. The Lord, the Holy Ghost, is in her as in a temple, so that it is said: "The temple of the Lord, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit,"[23] because she conceived by the Holy Ghost. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee."[24] The Blessed Virgin is closer to God than is an Angel, because with her are the Lord the Father, the Lord the Son, and the Lord the Holy Ghost--in a word, the Holy Trinity. Indeed of her we sing: "Noble resting place of the Triune God."[25] "The Lord is with thee" are the most praise laden words that the Angel could have uttered; and, hence, he so profoundly reverenced the Blessed Virgin because she is the Mother of the Lord and Our Lady. Accordingly she is very well named "Mary," which in the Syrian tongue means "Lady."

"BLESSED ART THOU AMONG WOMEN"

The Blessed Virgin exceeds the Angels in purity. She is not only pure, but she obtains purity for others. She is purity itself, wholly lacking in every guilt of sin, for she never incurred either mortal or venial sin. So, too, she was free from the penalties of sin. Sinful man, on the contrary, incurs a threefold curse on account of sin. The first fell upon woman who conceives in corruption, bears her child with difficulty, and brings it forth in pain. The Blessed Virgin was wholly free from this, since she conceived without corruption, bore her Child in comfort, and brought Him forth in joy: "It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise."[26]

The second penalty was inflicted upon man in that he shall earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. The Blessed Virgin was also immune from this because, as the Apostle says, virgins are free from the cares of this world and are occupied wholly with the things of the Lord.[27]

The third curse is common both to man and woman in that both shall one day return to dust. The Blessed Virgin was spared this penalty, for her body was raised up into heaven, and so we believe that after her death she was revived and transported into heaven: "Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place, Thou and the ark which Thou hast sanctified."[28] Because the Blessed Virgin was immune from these punishments, she is "blessed among women."

Moreover, she alone escaped the curse of sin, brought forth the Source of blessing, and opened the gate of heaven. It is surely fitting that her name is "Mary," which is akin to the Star of the Sea ("Maria--maris stella"), for just as sailors are directed to port by the star of the sea, so also Christians are by Mary guided to glory.

"BLESSED IS THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB"


The sinner often seeks for something which he does not find; but to the just man it is given to find what he seeks: "The substance of the sinner is kept for the just."[29] Thus, Eve sought the fruit of the tree (of good and evil), but she did not find in it that which she sought. Everything Eve desired, however, was given to the Blessed Virgin.[30] Eve sought that which the devil falsely promised her, namely, that she and Adam would be as gods, knowing good and evil. "You shall be," says this liar, "as gods."[31] But he lied, because "he is a liar and the father of lies."[32] Eve was not made like God after having eaten of the fruit, but rather she was unlike God in that by her sin she withdrew from God and was driven out of paradise. The Blessed Virgin, however, and all Christians found in the Fruit of her womb Him whereby we are all united to God and are made like to Him: "When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is."[33]

Eve looked for pleasure in the fruit of the tree because it was good to eat. But she did not find this pleasure in it, and, on the contrary, she at once discovered she was naked and was stricken with sorrow. In the Fruit of the Blessed Virgin we find sweetness and salvation: "He that eateth My flesh . . . hath eternal life."[34]

The fruit which Eve desired was beautiful to look upon, but that Fruit of the Blessed Virgin is far more beautiful, for the Angels desire to look upon Him: "Thou art beautiful above the sons of men."[35] He is the splendour of the glory of the Father. Eve, therefore, looked in vain for that which she sought in the fruit of the tree, just as the sinner is disappointed in his sins. We must seek in the Fruit of the womb of the Virgin Mary whatsoever we desire. This is He who is the Fruit blessed by God, who has filled Him with every grace, which in turn is poured out upon us who adore Him: "Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in Christ."[36] He, too, is revered by the Angels: "Benediction and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving, honour and power and strength, to our God."[37] And He is glorified by men: "Every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father."[38] The Blessed Virgin is indeed blessed, but far more blessed is the Fruit of her womb: "Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord."[39]

ENDNOTES

1. Luke i. 28.
2. "Ibid.," 42.
3. The Hail Mary or Angelical Salutation or Ave Maria in the time of St. Thomas consisted only of the present first part of the prayer. The words, "Mary" and "Jesus," were added by the Church to the first part, and the second part--"Holy Mary, Mother of God, etc."--was also added by the Church later. "Most fittingly has the Holy Church of God added to this thanksgiving [i.e., the Hail Mary] a petition also and an invocation to the most holy Mother of God. This is to impress upon us the need to have recourse to her in order that by her intercession she may reconcile God with us sinners, and obtain for us the blessings necessary for this life and for life eternal" ("Roman Catechism," "On Prayer," Chapter V, 8).
4. Ps. ciii. 4.
5. Gen., xviii. 27.
6. Dan. vii. 10.
7. Ps. liv. 8.
8. Job, xxv. 3.
9. Cant., iv. 7.
10. I John, i. 8.
11. "De natura et gratia," c. xxxvi. Elsewhere St. Thomas says: "In the Angelic Salutation is shown forth the worthiness of the Blessed virgin for this conception when it says, 'Full of grace;; it expresses the Conception itself in the words, 'The Lord is with thee'; and it foretells the honour which will follow with the words, 'Blessed art thou among women' " ("Summa Theol.," III, Q. xxx, art. 4).
12. St. Thomas wrote before the solemn definition of the Immaculate conception by the Church and at a time when the subject was still a matter of controversy among theologians. In an earlier work, however, he pronounced in favor of the doctrine (I Sent., c. 44 Q. i, ad. 3), although he seemingly concluded against it in the "Summa Theologica." "Yet much discussion has arisen as to whether St. Thomas did or did not deny that the Blessed virgin was immaculate at the instant of her animation ("Catholic Encyclopedia." art. "Immaculate Conception"). On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX settled the question in the following definition: "Mary. ever blessed Virgin in the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
13. Luke, i. 38.
14. "Ibid.," 48.
15. "Ibid.," 34.
16. "Ibid.," 35.
17. Cant., iv. 4.
18. Eccl., xxiv. 25.
19. Isa., lviii. 11.
20. "The Blessed Virgin Mary obtained such a plenitude of grace that she was closest of all creatures to the Author of Grace; and thus she received in her womb Him who is full of grace. and by giving Him birth she is in a certain manner the source of grace for all men" ("Summa Theol.," III, Q. xxvii, art. 5). St. Bernard says: "It is God's will that we should receive all graces through Mary" ("Serm. de aquaeductu," n. vii). Mary is called the "Mediatrix of all Graces," and her mediation is immediate and universal, subordinate however to that of Jesus.
21. Luke. i. 35
22. Isa., xii. 6.
23. Antiphon from the Little Office of Blessed Virgin.
24. Luke. i. 35
25. "Totius Trinitatis nobile Triclinium."
26. Isa., xxxv. 2.
27. I Cor., vii. 34.
28. Ps. cxxxi. 8.
29. Prov., xiii. 22.
30. Here St. Thomas compares the fruit of the forbidden tree for Eve with the Fruit of Mary's womb for all Christians.
31. Gen., iii 5
32. John, viii. 44.
33. I John, iii. 2.
34. John, vi. 55.
35. Ps. xliv. 3.
36. Eph., i. 3.
37. Apoc., vii. 12.

Monday, September 6, 2010

School Production: Dante's Divine Comedy


Darkness, tumultuous singing and puffs of smoke contrasted with golden light and angelic voices as St Augustine's Boys' and St Dominic's Girls' campuses joined forces and threw their first production open to the public.

Due to time and other restraints only selected pieces from the Inferno and Paradiso were chosen for adaptation to give the audience a taste of Dante's epic poem. The boys had the task of leading us through hell in the first half of the performance...

ACT ONE ~ THE INFERNO

Behind the scenes with St Augustine's preparing for the Inferno


Scene 1: Entrance into the Inferno
Halfway through his life, Dante the Pilgrim wakes to find himself lost in a dark world. Terrified at being alone in so infernal a valley, he knows not whence to turn. At that moment the figure of a man appears before him, the “shade” of Virgil, the famous Roman Poet, and the Pilgrim begs for help. Virgil promises to guide him on the path he must traverse, after which another spirit, more fit than Virgil, will lead him to Paradise. The Pilgrim begs Virgil to lead on, and the Guide starts ahead. The Pilgrim follows.


The pilgrim and his guide behind the scenes.

The ensuing scenes follow the spirit of Dante’s vision of the different levels of Hell spiralling downwards, deeper and deeper - each level divided, based on what sins the souls had committed during their lives. In tonight’s portrayal - the different levels are brought to life by sending the Pilgrim, Dante, into different eras of history - while there, Virgil guides and teaches Dante through these “ordinary” events and persons - souls who are rushing to perdition - according to the categories of sins against God, society and self. Virgil instructs his protégé as to why their impending damnation is so, in each passing scene...

Characters from the Inferno behind the scenes


Scene 2: Sins against God
For each talent received from the good God, it must be increased unto His greater honour and glory. Virgil reiterates this to Dante in the modern setting of a young French entrepreneur engrossed in commerce for the sole purpose of making money...

Scene 3: Sins against Society
The setting is a classroom in England during the time of the great 20th century war. They are students filled with rebellion against authority. Virgil will instruct Dante on the children’s calling toward the common good, but diverted instead to a common destructive path…

Scene 4: Sins against Self
Virgil and Dante now enter the German nation at the time of the aristocratic reign. One of these aristocrats, noble by birth, has forsaken his reign for wine, women and song. To discern which of the capital sins imprisons him, is the task which Virgil imposes upon wearied and confused Dante…then the time has arrived for Dante to make passage on his spiritual ascent.

The black-hooded grim reaper from scene 4


Sound effects, costume, smoke and lights with intermittent choruses of groans and screams, the tumultuous music of Orff from Carmina Burana and the fast moving scenes kept the audience spell bound until intermission. Then it was the girls opportunity to lead the audience together with the poet up higher and higher into the uppermost heavens towards God Himself.

ACT TWO ~ THE PARADISO

St Dominic's Girls' College with scenes from the Paradiso




Scene 1: Lower Heavens The Sphere of the Moon ~ The Inconstant



After having descended into the depths of Hell, Dante the Pilgrim, who represents every man, made his ascent through Purgatory. This journey, on which he passed through the terraces of purgation, was essential in order that he be purified sufficiently to enter into the realm of Heaven.

Towards the end of his ascent of the mountain of Purgatory, Virgil, who represents human reason, is replaced by another guide, Beatrice, who represents Divine Revelation. This exchange of guides emphasises the fact that human reason is insufficient, and that we cannot enter into Heaven except by the light of faith.


Beatrice and Dante the Pilgrim


Dante the Poet begins by informing us that he has been to Paradise, and has seen things so extraordinary that he cannot possibly hope to tell about them. Having returned from heaven, Dante the Poet overcomes his feelings of insufficiency and, spurred on by the commands of the souls he has met and his own sense of duty to warn, instruct and inspire us, he writes about his journey though nine spheres represented by the planets and other heavenly bodies, which have, at their centre, God – the Source of all Light and Life. As in his previous journeys, the pilgrim encounters a number of souls who teach him that their proximity and the degree of their vision of God is in proportion to their charity, which consists in the union of our will with that of God.



Dante the Poet at work

When they reach the first of the heavenly bodies, the sphere of the moon, Dante sees before him pale, nebulous faces. Thinking them to be reflections, he turns around, but sees nothing. Beatrice, smiling at his mistake, informs Dante that the faces belong to the inconstant – those who made vows to God and broke them. Although they have a place with God in His realm, these souls occupy the lowest position in the hierarchy of Paradise, and they appear to Dante in the lowest of the heavenly spheres, that of the inconstant and ever-changing moon.


The Poet conversing with Piccarda Donati

One of the souls, Piccarda Donati, a kinswoman of Dante’s wife, explains that she was forced to leave the convent and marry, thus breaking her religious vows, and she did not return when she later had the opportunity to do so. In response to Dante’s question about the desire of souls to attain a higher place in the hierarchy of Paradise, Beatrice urges Dante to listen well to what they have to say, as they are filled, to the extent of their capacity, with the light of God, and therefore perfectly happy and content with their place, albeit the lowest in Heaven.



Scene 2: The Middle Heavens The Sphere of the Sun ~ The Wise



The Pilgrim – unaware of rising there – discovers himself in the sphere of the sun, surrounded by spirits who shine with such brilliance, that is, those souls who, when in the world, illuminated others by the light of their teaching and wisdom.



A group of bright stars appears, representing the two prominent religious orders in Dante’s time – the Franciscans and the Dominicans. St Thomas is joined by other members of the Dominicans, who witness his praise of St Francis and his order. St Bonaventure, on behalf of the Franciscans, returns the compliment, paying tribute to St Dominic. From this, the Pilgrim learns that despite the disagreements that existed between the two orders on earth, they coincide in perfect charity in Heaven, recognising their common goal and rejoicing in the ultimate glory that each has given to God.


A conversation with St Thomas Aquinas

Towards the end of the scene, St Bonaventure laments the decline in the religious orders, a result of worldliness which smothered the fire of charity and generosity, leaving few willing to follow in the founders’ footsteps.


The Pilgrim with St Dominic, King Solomon and St Bonaventure

Scene 3: Highest Heaven Fixed Stars ~ The Church Triumphant



The Pilgrim and his guide are now in the sphere of the fixed stars, where they will shortly ascend to the Beatific Vision. His entire journey, from his descent into Hell until now, has been one of continuous learning, spiritual development and preparation for this final vision. In Hell, he attained a knowledge of his sinful state of self-love and pride, which brought about the necessary humility to start his ascent, and inflamed his desire for greater charity which consists in union of will with God.


Beatrice asking Our Lady for assistance

In this final scene, Dante the Pilgrim meets the souls who on earth possessed this ardent charity, and finally the Blessed Virgin, who, more than any other, lived in perfect charity and union with God. At Beatrice’s request, she prepares the Pilgrim for the ultimate vision of God. Dante beholds the Trinity under the form of three rings of different colours, all of which share and are bound by one and the same circumference. The Pilgrim struggles by the use of his own reasoning to grasp the vision before him, until suddenly the grace of understanding is given him, at which moment his will is fixed in harmony with Divine Love.


Angels and Saints singing the praises of God

The ending of the Paradiso (and thus the whole Divine Comedy) is rather abrupt. Attempting to reconcile the different views of God, Dante’s mind and poetic gift fail him. The vision of God is linked to squaring the circle, a mathematical problem without solution. In the last line of the poem, the poet finally gives in to the ineffable as he says that his will has become one with God’s. The reader can only assume that the poet was somehow returned to Earth, where he began the task of writing down what he had seen for the benefit of those still living.



Final bow

The whole progression was from darkness and horror to light and peace. We pray that all the students involved not only enjoyed participating but will remember the important lessons the Poet taught them as they in their turn make their ascent towards God in the little time given them here below on earth.

The Paradiso: Behind the Scenes

Monday, August 30, 2010

Walk-a-thon fundraiser



St Dominic's College students walked as many laps as they could, around a 3km circuit within the school's neighbourhood for a duration of three hours, in order to raise much needed funds for the Parish schools.


A water point was essential to keeping tired feet going...
Teachers manned the 3km point at which students got their Walker Cards stamped to record the number of rounds and thus distance covered...


After having done the hard work of gathering sponsors per km walked - both teachers and students were keen to cover as many miles as possible! Lovely sunshine (after a rather grey and wet morning) contributed to high spirits and good efforts from all involved.



Most students managed to walk for the entire three hours - leaving them with sore feet, red faces and the satisfaction of a job well done that will help to secure the future of their beloved school.

We wish to thank all Benefactors who helped to make this a successful fundraising event.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fostering Vocations

"The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few..." Luke 10:2
In the spirit of the vocations crusade which Father Couture called for in the Asian District (with Rosaries offered up for this intention between the months of May to November) and following the example of our holy founder who dispersed his brethren in the face of general disagreement saying that: "Seed rots when it is hoarded, bears fruit when it is sown." (Bologna, 26) Mother Micaela and Father Laisney agreed on an invitation from America to send three sisters to the United States to promote religious life in general and in particular to make our congregation known to another English speaking district.

The Sisters were met with great enthusiasm and warmth as they made their way across the states visiting parishes and giving formal presentations and/or meeting informally with young ladies from New York, the Auriesville pilgrimage, Philadelphia, Syracuse, Chicago, St Louis, Kansas City, St Mary's and Denver from where they flew to Los Angeles and then back to New Zealand.

The Sisters were impressed with the great number of Catholics who remain faithful to tradition and the generosity of the youth with whom they met. One of our most frequent questions to answer was how we differ from the teaching Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux who have two schools in the States. The answer given is that we belong to the same family but have different roots and therefore a slightly different spirit. Our life reflects the contemplative origins of our Congregation in that we (unlike the Fanjeaux Sisters) are bound to the full Divine Office in choir. The other main difference is that we are an English speaking congregation, with a novitiate in New Zealand whereas the Fanjeaux Sisters receive their formation in French.

"Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He send labourers into His harvest"
The Sisters feel fortunate that they had the opportunity to plant some seeds and pray that God will bring their work to fruition, in possible vocations to Religious life. The Sisters wish to thank all of the Priests, Families and Benefactors who opened their hearts, homes and purses for this worthy cause. A Mass will be said for their intentions on July 7.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

For the love of Truth



Pope Pius XII said of real Christian education that it: "...must be a continuous, permanent and progressive work; it must permeate all teaching, even profane, penetrating right to the depths of the soul. It, therefore, consists in addition to the methodical exposition of doctrine, in seeing and making all things be seen in the light of the great and Divine Truth, just as in the contemplation of the material creation, things are not properly seen in their true colours, if not by the light, even if sometimes concealed by clouds, of the beautiful sun of God..."

As teachers we therefore aim to make them understand the connection that exists between all the subjects taught,in their subordination to the Faith, to allow them to better understand how to order and lead their life according to the right principles. By this means we help our children to grasp and understand what is right, in order to make them love and adhere to the Truth.

In doing so we pray in the words of Pope Pius XII: "...that they will accordingly exercise a healthy action on their generation - in fact, on future generations - so that they may pass through the world, leaving it better, sweeter and more beautiful than they found it"

Literature, poetry, painting, as well as music, are excellent tools for forming the mind to the disinterested values of beauty, truth and morality. True art speaks beyond words and leads us to grasp transcendent values, and eventually God Himself. Interhouse competitions gives students the chance to express their beliefs and display their talent. Below are entries from the Sacred Heart art competition:




The winning entries for the Catholic Womanhood poetry competition:

The Catholic Woman
Tell me Catholic Woman,
What should you be?
Take a simple glance at Our Lady
And tell me what you see.

I see a chaste and humble spouse
A tender and loving mother
Modest and simple in her beauty
A model like no other.

I see her holy tenderness
As she prays for us her children,
Her humility and prayerfulness
A perfect and loving maiden.

So now, Catholic Woman,
What should you be?
A model of Our Lady,
For all eternity.

~ Olivia McKenna (1st)


Catholic Womanhood
A Catholic woman once I did see;
How very kind she was to me,
So lost and forlorn was I abandoned by my fellow men;
She held out her helping hand.
Her eyes so gentle with no rebuke;
Her smile full of encouragement,
I, Juan Diego Mexican boy;
She, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Her voice deep and meaningful;
As she told me to gather roses,
As long as I remember,
I shall remember her,
As a true woman of great goodness and greatness,
A true Catholic woman.

~ Veronica McAuliffe (2nd)



Winners of the Sacred Heart art competition

Pope Pius XII addressed teachers with these grave words:
"...your mission as teachers cannot be reduced simply to a means of imparting knowledge which is more or less profound and broad; you should be, above all, educators of the spirit, and, in due proportion, moulders of the souls of your pupils... Finally, the satisfactory fulfillment of such important duties will require on your part: assiduous dedication to your work, shunning no sacrifice and putting aside all personal gain; exemplary conduct, so that your little ones, who wil watch you closely, will learn more from your deeds than from your fine words - especially from your upright living, your self-abnegation, your patience, and your sincere piety..."

We pray that God will strenghen us to live up to such a great calling!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June Update

NEWS FROM SCHOOL


The School year is progressing well and fast. Senior students are on study leave for their Latin Cambridge Examinations and all students are in preparation for their mid-year examinations, which are already only one week away!


A senior Biology class with Sister Marie Therese



Singing class with Sister Mary Rose.

The Netball Team raised money for their registration fees by selling chocolates.

Sister Rose with one of the many boxes of chocolates that were sold.

Other fundraising events included a cake raffle which was drawn on the Feast of Corpus Christi.

The girls eagerly awaiting the result,
drawn by Mother Micaela.


Corpus Christi Procession

The Brothers prepared an altar for benediction on the school verandah.


Senior girls arranged flowers to adorn the altar.


Both the Secondary and Primary Schools assembled in Church for the start of the procession with the Blessed Sacrament.




The procession made its way to the girls' school where we had Benediction.



CONVENT NEWS


The Sisters at prayer.

We now have both the back drive and music studio completed! This meant that we began looking for pianos. We put a notice in the parish bulletin and received three offers of pianos the same day. Aren’t traditional parishes wonderful?


The completed driveway.


The Sisters practising piano in the new music studio.

Novitiate lectures

During all the excitement Mother manages to keep Novitiate classes going.