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Volume 9 Fal 1/Ni nter 1990 

DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is published by the Conference of the Nuns 
of the Order of Preachers of the United States of America. The Conference is 
an organization of independent monasteries whose purpose is to foster the 
monastic contemplative life of the nuns in the spirit of Saint Dominic. 

Sr. Mary of God, O.P. (North Guilford) 

Sr. Mary Martin, O.P. (Summit) Coordinator 
Sr. Maria Agnes, O.P. (Summit) Sr. Mary Thomas, O.P. (Buffalo) 
Sr. Claire, O.P. (North Guilford) 

Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart, O.P. and 
Sr. Mary of the Precious Blood, O.P. (West Springfield) 

DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is a spiritual and theological review written by 
the nuns. Its purpose is to foster the Dominican monastic contemplative life 
by the sharing of insights gained from study and prayer. It is published once 
a year as a service to the nuns. It is also available to the wider Dominican 
Family and others upon request. A donation of $8.00 to aid in the cost of 
printing would be appreciated, when possible. 

Contributions to this review should be researched and prepared with concern 
for literary and intellectual quality. Manuscripts submitted should be clearly 
typed, single spaced, on one side of the paper only. The deadline for manu- 
scripts is September 1st of each year. Minor editing will be done at the dis- 
cretion of the editors. If major changes are desired, these will be effected 
in dialogue with the authors. The editors, in consultation with the Conference 
Council, reserve the right to reject inappropriate manuscripts, though reasons 
will be given to the author with courtesy and encouragement. 

Contributions should be sent to Sr. Mary Martin, O.P. , Monastery of Our 
Lady of the Rosary, 543 Springfield Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901. 


All Rights Reserved 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

CARLI: Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois 



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Editorial 1 

Some Reflections on the Metaphysical Basis of Communio 

According to St. Thomas Aquinas 2 

Sister Mary of the Precious Blood, O.P. (Buffalo) 

Gentle Bloom 4 

Sister Mary Thomas, O.P. (Buffalo) 

Community as the Image of the Trinity 5 

Sister Mary of the Annunciation, O.P. 

In Silence 10 

Sister Myriam of the Holy Spirit (Bocaue, Philippines) 

Nehemiah, A Model Leader 11 

Sister Mary Emily, O.P. (Lufkin) 

Authority and Communio in Philemon 15 

Sister Mary Thomas, O.P. (Buffalo) 

Wood Notes 18 

Mother Marie Rosaria, O.P. (Cainta, Philippines) 

Towards A Greater Democracy: A Look at the Shift 

in the Role of Authority Between Pachomius and Augustine 19 

Sister Mary Lucy of the Divine Word (Buffalo) 

Faith 24 

Sister Mary Joseph, O.P. (Los Angeles) 

Regular Chapter as a Workshop for Unity and Charity 25 

Sister Maria Agnes, O.P. (Summit) 

Flame Out of Heaven 32 

Sister Maria of the Eucharist, O.P. (W. Springfield) 

Community Discernment in Choosing Those in Authority 33 

Sister Mary Jeremiah, O.P. (Lufkin) 

Community and Solitude 39 

Sister Susan Heinemann, O.P. (N. Guilford) 

The Search 45 

Sister Mary Joseph, O.P. (Los Angeles) 

When We Cry: "Abba, Father!" 46 

Mother Mary Margaret, O.P. (Buffalo) 

Communio in the Monastic Life of Paulinus of Nola 49 

Sister Mary of the Immaculate Conception, O.P. (W. Springfield) 

Open Forum 53-55 

Sister Mary Agnes of the Infant Jesus, O.P. (Buffalo) 
Sister Mary Emmanuel (Buffalo) 

Recreation 55 

Sister Mary John, O.P. (N. Guilford) 

Three Haiku 56 

Sister Maria of the Cross, O.P. (Summit) 

Cibavit Eos 56 

Sister Maria of the Cross, O.P. (Summit) 

Dominican Monastic Tradition 

Lectio and Eruditio in the Rule of San Sisto 57 

Sister Mary Martin, O.P. (Summit) 

Blessed Jordan of Saxony on Lectio Divina 61 

Sister Mary Catherine, O.P. (Elmira) 

The Dominican Nuns: Historical Highlights 
Rev. Guy Bedouelle, O.P. 

Part One: The Beginnings 75 

Part Two: Era of Saints and Mystics ... .82 

Art Credits 

Frontispiece: Sister Mary Michael, O.P. (N. Guilford) 
Section Dividers: Sister Virginia Mary, O.P. (Summit) 


As the Rule reminds us, the first reason for 
which we are gathered together in community 
is to live in harmony, having one mind and 
heart in God... The unanimity of our life, 
rooted in the love of God, should furnish a 
living example of that reconciliation of all 
things in Christ which our brethren proclaim 
in their preaching of the word (LCM 2:1,11). 

The theme for this issue of Dominican Monastic Search 
is community life. Although basic to the Dominican charism 
in all its forms, community life resonates with special 
meaning for us, the nuns of the Order, as designating a 
reality at the very heart of our vocation and of our 
apostolic witness. The papers presented here reflect this 
special meaning, if not explicitly, then at least in the 
passionate interest with which they were researched and 
written by their Dominican monastic authors. Many of the 
papers are the fruit of the 1990 Study Program which pursued 
the correlative theme of communio and authority. In the 
context of this issue, they provide a balanced view of how 
authority supports community life while, at the same time, 
being an intrinsic part of it. The specific sub-topic of 
friendship in community is addressed in the Open Forum 
section . 

This year we have the privilege of publishing two of 
the talks given by Guy Bedouelle, O.P. at the 1988 General 
Assembly on: "The Dominican Nuns: Historical Highlights." 
As a sort of introduction, we offer two papers by the nuns 
themselves, investigating the importance of lectio in the 
life of the early nuns. Together these presentations pursue 
what has become an ongoing theme of DMS , namely Dominican 
monastic tradition. Enriching the issue as a whole is a 
wealth of poetry mined from the abundance of our 
contemplation . 

As editor, I continue to be excited by the quality of 
the items submitted for publication and by the breadth of 
interest shown throughout our communities. \ T ew names make 
their appearance this year as more sisters, young and 
not-so-young, respond to the challenge to share the richness 
of their lives in writing. I wish to thank the members of 
the Editorial Board and the contact persons in each 
community who have done their utmost to encourage this 
sharing. In so doing we place ourselves at the very center 
of what our Conference is all about. 

Sr . Mary Ma rt in , O.P. 
Summi t 

Some Reflections on the Metaphysical basis of Coromuni_o 
According- to Saint Thomas Aquinas 

Sister Mary of the Precious Blood, O.P. 
Buffalo, New York 

You may wonder why I 've chosen to offer some reflections on the subject of 
communio from a metaphysical perspective. What does communio have to do 
with metaphysics: that branch of philosophy dealing with the kinds of things there 
are and the mode or manner in which they exist? If we can take St. Thomas' word 
for it, the human person's desire and ability to live in community with other 
human beings arises from the very nature of existence itself. Aquinas asserts 
that the concept of communio, of many individuals dwelling together united in 
mind and heart, springs from the nature of existence as such, so that all being is 
geared toward self -communication and intei — relation with others. 

The interrelation of being and action 

In St Thomas' understanding of existence, there is a close connection between 
being and action. When we speak of "action" here we're referring to anything that 
brings about some change or motion in something else in the physical sense. The 
existence of any being is not a static presence. It is' first of all a presence in 
itself, that, by the natural dynamism of its initial act, becomes an active 
presence, manifesting itself to the community of other ex i stents. Existence is a 
powei — filled presence, which tends immediately to flow over into action, reaching 
out to others, exerting its influence on them. Action becomes the natural 
self -manifestation of a being, both of its presence (its act of existence) and the 
manner in which it exists (its essence). Aquinas never tires of repeating the 
phrase "action naturally flows from existence." 1 Here real being is conceived of 
as a dynamic inner act of presence, which has a natural aptitude and tendency to 
flow over into activity proportionate to and expressive of its nature. Every act", 
Aquinas says, is naturally communicative of its own perfection, according to the 
degree that it is in act. 2 

At this point we might ask, "why is action the self-communication of being?" 
Saint Thomas tells us that when a being acts on another, it produces some change 
in the other, it affects the other. Every effect must in some way be similar to 
its cause because it proceeds from its cause, it receives its manner of existing 
or even its existence as such, from its cause. Since a cause could not give what 
it didn't already possess, at least in some equivalent higher measure, there must 
always be a relation of likeness between effect and cause. Every being, says St. 
Thomas, by the very fact that it exists in act, tends to be self-corrmunicative 
through its characteristic action. 3 The entire universe of real beings may be 
seen as a unified system of mutually interacting, mutually self-corrmuni eating 
centers. Action, you might say, is what allows beings to get together with each 
other, to come out of their inward looking self -presence to be present to and 
for others. As the act of existence is the bond of unity of the universe, 
making all things intrinsically similar to each other, so is action the basic 
dynamic bond bringing them together, connecting them up with each other. 

As This Relates to God 

Does what we've just said hold true of God also? Saint Thomas speaks cautiously 
here; he doesn't want to say that reason alone can deduce that the divine nature 
is essentially self-communicative within itself. The fact that this is so can be 
known only through the free divine revelation of the mystery of God as three 
Persons in one nature. Aquinas doesn't want to say that God necessari 1y shares 
His own goodness in a created universe, so he argues by analogy that if all the 
creatures we know in fact manifest this self-communicativeness of their own 
goodness, it follows that the divine nature, the exemplar of all creatures, should 
have this same aptitude in the highest degree and that it is most "fitting" that 
it should exercise it. Although reason can't determine the actual mode of this 
divine self -communication, Christian revelation fills in the picture. According 
to this revelation, it is essential to the very personality of God as Father that 
he communicates the whole fulness of the divine perfection (or nature), without 
remainder, to the Son, and that both together, in a mutual act of love, 
communicate the identical fulness of the same divine nature to Their love- image, 
the Holy Spirit. 

As This Relates to Ourselves 

Now, how does all this apply to us and to conmunio? Well, as we have seen, 
all being is caught up in the unending dialectic of within and without, the 
in- itself and the toward-others , the inward-facing act of existential presence in 
itself and for itself, and the outward- facing act of self-expression and 
self -communication to others. So too, the life of personal being revolves around 
this basic polarity of presence to self and to others. Human consciousness does 
not start off in full, luminous self -presence. It begins, rather, in a kind of 
darkness, a state of being in potency toward knowing all things, in act toward 
none. To actualize itself, to make it luminously present to itself in act, it 
must first open itself up to the world of others, be awakened by their action on 
it and its own active response. Only then, through the mediation of the other, 
can it return to itself, to discover itself as "I," as this unique human 
person. 4 I discover who and what I am by engaging actively in interpersonal 
relations with the- other human persons around me, who treat me as a "thou" in an 
interpersonal ist social framework of "l-thou-we." 

St. Thomas was quite explicit in stressing the social nature of man in general; he 
beautifully describes the spontaneous joy there is in human ccrrmunity when he 
says, "It is natural for human beings to take delight in living together." 5 He 
asserts that all human beings need each other; they need to abide together in an 
ordered social matrix in order to develop properly and satisfy their needs on al 1 
levels. And we know from Christian revelation that man's most basic need, his 
goal and end, consists in uniting himself with God in perfect love. Man finds 
himself in loving God, and in finding himself he finds freedom and wholeness. When 
man's free response to God's invitation to love resembles the response of God's 
Son, man becomes an "icon" of the Divine, fully human and morally perfect through 
participation in God's own life. 


Ccximunio, then, the idea of many individuals dwelling together as one, is 
intimately bound up with the concept of being. It follows that to be 
authentically for a human person is to live in communion with others, to make self 
the center of the widest possible web of relationships to all things, especially 
to all persons, to express self by loving, to live in love. For St. Thomas, the 

final perfection of the whole of being is to form a community of reciprocally 

self-corrmuni eating persons in act. On the human level, this offers a description 

of cooBJunio, on the divine level, this approaches a description of the 
Tr i n i ty . 


I. Summa Contra Gentiles , Book I, ch.43, (Garden City: I mage/Doub 1 eday , 1955), 
p. 166. 

2. De Potent ia , q.2, art.1, ad 1, (Westminster: Newran Press, 1952), p. 45. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Surma Theologiae , q.87, art. 1, (London: Blackfriars/Eyre and Spott i swoode , 
1969), p. 107. 

5. De Veritate , q.10, art. 8, ad 8 and 9, (Chicago: Regnery, 1962), p. 43. 


Gentle bloom at summer's end 

Not like June 

Shouting, cavorting, spilling over lawn and walk 

Clamoring with color, odor: "Extra! Extra!" 

Capturing me. 

Gentle bloom, 

You are different. 

I go out cautiously, 

Not to intrude on the garden's pre-dawn privacy 

Lit only by a handful of stars and a lingering moon. 

There it lies in fragrant abandon, 

Relaxed, unclutching as a child fallen asleep over its prayers. 

And you 

Alone on this bush 

Eerie, as if 

Yourself were made of moonlight 

Lifting your pale face. 

Hoist, creased like the face of the newborn 


Unbelievably here, now. 

- But if I should come tomorrow, gentle bloom? 

- Sr. Mary Thomas. Buffalo 


Sister Mary of the Annunciation O.P 

In this article I would like to reflect upon communio in the light 
of being made in God's image. We are created in the image of God who 
is Trinity, a communion of three distinct persons in the unity of one 
divine nature. We are somehow like God whose existence is an eternal 
relationship of reciprocal self-giving and communication. God gifts us 
with the capacity for communion and by the grace given to us in Christ 
Jesus enables us to enter into this divine communion of love and life. 
It is in the mystery of the unity of christian community that we are 
able to give deepest expression to our creative reality and salvific 
destiny of being "imago Dei." 

Theological Dimensions of the Divine Persons 

In the New Testament we find the divine persons spoken of in terms 
of their mutual relations. The Father is the origin, the source of the 
self-giving love and communication in God. The second person, the 
Word, is the speech and communication within God and with us through 
Jesus. The Spirit is the essential bond of love in the self-giving and 
self-communicating relationship of the Tri-Unity. The Trinity is the 
interpersonal sharing and communication of the divine life by Father, 
Word/Son and Spirit. The divine persons are constituted by their 
relationship to one another. God's inner life is a communication of 
life in a movement of ceaseless self-giving. Each person is a total 
self -gift to the other two. "The relatedness of one person to another 
in the Trinitarian mystery stands at the core of personality." (1) 

Human Person as the Image of God 

Our creation in God's image both constitutes the source of personal 
fulfillment and bestows the task of seeking unity and solidarity. We 
are created as unique and individual, as well as social beings. Both 
of these realities find their source in the Triune God. 

The doctrine of man and woman as the image of God is the basis of 
biblical anthropology. Genesis tells us that God created us in 
integrity and harmony, giving humanity a very special relationship to 
the Godhead and to all creation. We stood at the pinnacle of material 
creation as knowing and loving beings, created in the image and like- 
ness of God. Each person is called to know and to communicate with God 
in an intimate love relationship. 


Our whole existence as persons can be defined in terms of relation- 
ship: relationship to God in whom we find completion, and an 
ordered relationship to others and to the universe. By our very nature 
we are called to an intimate relationship with God and with others. 
God's gift to us in our very creation is a fundamental capacity for 
communion. Humanity is made in the image of God not only because each 
individual is like God as a rational and free being, but equally 
because in our common humanity we are called to live in a communion of 
love, to be a communion of persons. This communion reflects in the 
created world the communion of love that is in God. 

Before sin all these elements that make up our person and nature 
were in harmony. Through sin this relationship to God was broken off, 
resulting in our alienation from God, ourselves, others and all 
creation. Man and woman entered into the land of unlikeness. In our 
sinfulness we reflect God, at times, like shattered crystal. The 
grace of Christ has again opened to us the divine communion of love. 

Trinitarian History 

Our history is the history of God's presence with us. The whole 
event of salvation is anchored in the most intimate union between 
Father, Word/Son and Spirit. The sending of the Word has revealed the 
divine relations as a communion. Jesus' whole action is to declare 
the reality of God's presence dwelling in our midst and to seek to draw 
us into the same communion shared by the Father and himself. This 
communion is the root of all salvific action (Jn 15:5) and the source 
of the sending of the disciples and bestowal of the gifts of the Holy 
Spirit on individuals for the upbuilding of the community. The Spirit 
is the Gift given to us by the Father and the Son, whereby a full 
working out of the communion between Father and Son is accomplished in 
us as a permanent gift . 

Through the coming of Jesus we become heirs with him by faith, in 
such a way as to become partakers in the divine nature. Baptized into 
his death and sharers in his resurrected glory, we enter into this 
communion through the dynamic movement of faith, knowledge and love. 
Such knowledge and love is a sharing in the eternal cycle of knowledge, 
communication and love between the Father, Son/Word and Spirit. We are 
taken into the divine unity of communion: as the Father and Son are 
one, we are one in them. Our communion with one another is to 
resemble, in the mystery of God's divine plan, the union of the Son 
with the Father in and through the love of the Spirit. In our union 
with one another Christians are "Imago Dei." We are united to God and 
in God with one another. 

Our Trinitarian history reveals to us the eternal communion of the 
Father, Son and Spirit in their dispensation of salvation. Thereby 
creation is brought into the unity of the Trinity. 

We see this reflected in Colossians where Paul speaks of Christ 
bringing all things into one and then subjecting them to the Father 
(Col 2:15-20). Unity is the perfection of creation and the fulfillment 


of humanity. The reality of human solidarity — or the communion of 
persons — finds its source in the inner life of communion between the 
three persons of the Trinity and is the perfection toward which we are 
called by God. The unity of God and our participation in that unity 
and love demand unity in our christian life. 

Christian Community as "Imago Dei" 

The New Testament does not give as the primary model for 
perfection the unity of the solitary subject in relation to God. 
Our individual perfection is completed through the building up of the 
communion of persons which constitutes the Body of Christ called 
together by and in the one Spirit. The interpersonal at-oneness of the 
Triune God is reflected in the experience of the community of Christ, 
established through baptism and united in the Spirit. The community is 
meant to be a living icon of the Trinity. It is love in the Spirit 
that moves and binds us together in the community of Christ, in the 
koinonia of believers. The unity of Jesus and his Father is given to 
us as the model of Christian perfection (Jn 17:21-23). The Trinitarian 
unity is both model and source of the unity of believers. This unity 
has its origin in the divine life and action. It is christian commu- 
nity which is the perfect and completed image of the Triune God. To be 
in communion, one mind and heart, is directly related to imaging God 
and the goal of our perfection. 

The three persons share the divine life by communicating it to one 
another. The self-giving and self-communication of each person in 
christian community are analogous to the Trinitarian communication. I 
define self-giving as the communication of what one is rather than 
what one has or does. In order to be in commmunion with one another we 
need to communicate our presence in self-giving. The full reality of 
the human person can only be found through a sincere gift of self. 
When we speak of our likeness to God we must always speak in terms of 
that which in some mysterious way is truly "like" and at the same time 
so radically different too. Our "self-giving" and "self-communication" 
to one another are necessarily incomplete and imperfect. Whereas God 
is the communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that sharing is 
the Divine Essence, we though many become one as we enter into the 
mystery of God by loving and giving ourselves in love. Love acts in 
self-giving and self-communication. The deepest meaning of the human 
person is not a reality defined simply by individualism but includes, 
as essential to the definition, one who is interrelated. 

Human personality is seen as a center of relationships 
through self-consciousness (self-possession) and self- 
giving. A person is therefore someone complete in 
himself but also someone who is constituted by his 
relations . (2) 

Christian community is, then, a gathering of persons called by God 
in Chris't, empowered and animated by the indwelling presence of the 
Spirit, who freely give themselves to one another in love. The human 

person as "Imago Dei" is called to share in the shared love of the 
Trinity and to communicate that love to others. The shared love of the 
Trinity is expressed most fully in human terms in the shared love of 
the community of Christ, sustained by the indwelling presence of the 

In the abiding presence of God-with-us we are called into divine 
friendship which actualizes our communion and friendship with one 
another while transcending and fulfilling the unique personhood of each 
member. This community of friendship with God and each other gives a 
sense of the dignity of the human person. In this way, by following 
the law of Christ which is love, we reveal God in the truth of the 
divine reality: a communion of eternal reciprocal love and self- 
giving. Through our solidarity, our communion with one another, we 
embrace more fully our creation as "Imago Dei." 

In such a community of friendship rooted in the Spirit the 
dignity of each person is recognized. Unity is achieved through a 
sincere donation of self which is reciprocated by a corresponding gift 
on the part of the other. Only thus can a true unity be established 
according to the dignity of each person. A personal commitment is 
required for the perfection of community. By following the law of 
Christ which is love, we reveal God who is love. Thus, through the New 
Testament revelation, we see from the interpersonal love in the Trinity 
what human love in God's image is to be. Love is the foundation of 
community expressed by and through communication and mutuality, a free 
and reciprocal commitment. As each individual member is able to give 
and to grow in the mystery of "shared love," there will be a great 
variety of relationships in the mystery of christian community. 

Community as The Gift of the Spirit 

Christian community is first of all a gift of the Holy Spirit. It 
is the indwelling Spirit who makes us one. The continuing work of 
unity is effected through the Spirit who is the source of unity and 
also the source of diversity and giftedness in the community. It is 
the Spirit who brings to completion in believers the unity that is like 
the union between the Father and the Son. We become partakers in the 
communion of the Trinity through the unitive love^of the Spirit who has 
been given to us by the Father and the Son. 

We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, 
baptized into the believing community, the Body of Christ, and by our 
love we reflect the unity of love in the Trinity. Each person has a 
unique contribution. It is not a unity without distinction, and this 
distinction of persons also reflects the reality of the interpersonal 
self-communication and self-giving of the Father, Son/Word and Spirit. 

Gifts of the Spirit for the Community 

In Paul's letter to the Romans, christian community is principally 
defined as the unity of a diversity of members, who, animated by the 

Spirit, share a common task and a common destiny. A personal 
principle and a principle of unity are brought into harmony in the 
gifted diversity of God's people, bonded in one Spirit yet with 
multiple functions which enable us to complete the work of Jesus. 

Unity is not impaired but served by the various gifts and 
functions. The interdependence of the gifts forms community and makes 
the unity a reality. Unity does not consist in uniformity, with the 
suppression of individual differences, but in the distribution of the 
needed gifts to individuals for the sake of the community. Each one's 
gift is completed through each one's relationship to the entire 
community and the interworking of community living. Here we have in 
the community an analogical, necessarily finite and limited image of 
the Trinity, "like" yet very different at the same time: that is, the 
harmony of persons in their distinctiveness engaged in a relationship 
of reciprocal love and self-giving. 

Our unity finds its source in being members of God's household 
(Eph 2:18-22). The initiative comes from God. Our communion is 
founded in God and not solely in our own efforts. Thus communion is 
characterized by God's promises and gifts which call forth our response 
and commitment. Ephesians 4:16 stresses the interdependence of the 
members in contributing to and through one another the vital forces 
which derive ultimately from the head, Christ. The goal of the 
community is the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. 


Sin has not destroyed but diminished the reality of our "Imago 
Dei." Examples of our "unlikeness" to God abound in our dealings with 
one another, politically, socially and in our destructive use of 
creation. Our "likeness" to God is also there to see in our ongoing 
striving for renewal, in the implementation of the Gospel call to 
justice, and in our seeking to enter into a communion of love with one 
another. To love, to enter into a communion with our brothers and 
sisters, to build in the Spirit the community of Christ in our world is 
to become more fully human. In the final analysis, it is indeed in the 
transcendent reality of "communion with" that each person will be 
completed . 

Solidarity among peoples and nations is the realization of the 
essential call and task of each person as the fulfillment of their 
created reality as "imago Dei." Entering into communion with the 
Father, Word/Son and Spirit is a dynamic process of involvement with 
God, and therefore with society and the world through love. 

St. Augustine very clearly put community as the primary tool 
for formation in his monasteries, and the striving for love as the 
way of perfection. We as Dominican nuns strive always to be the 
community of reconcilation that is the Gospel message of love preached 
by the brothers and sisters. 


(1) Dorenkemper, M.J., "Person (in Theology)", New Catholic 
Encyclopedia . Vol. 11, 1967, p. 168. 

(2) Ibid. , p. 169. 


Blessed are you among women 
Your womb became the cloistered 

resting place of the Word Incarnate 
There He spoke with you in silence. 

You broke this silence when Elizabeth 

greeted you; 
In sublimest praise and thanks, 
You magnified His Holy Name, 
Leaving us a treasure: 

your soul's eloquence. 

At Nazareth, you taught the Word 

the first word to utter. 
What it was remains hidden, 

for nothing is recorded. 
The maid-servant and the King 

served each other - in silence. 

Still, full of Grace, at the foot 

of the Cross, 
No word, no voice is heard 

from you. 
But you consoled Him; 
Your very presence quenched His thirst. 

Silent at the foot of the Cross, 
Silent still, when they laid Him 

in your arms . 
Full of Grace ... gazing at the Word; 
The heart of a Mother speaking 

to the heart of her Son 

- in silence. 

Sister Myriam of the Holy Spirit 
Bocaue, Philippines 

1 1 

A Model Leader gr. Mary Emily, O.P. 

Lufkin, TX 

Scripture abounds with examples of authority figures and lessons 
in authority and communio. One of the finest examples of leadership- 
authority is Nehemiah. The Old Testament book bearing his name is 
short, only thirteen chapters. In this account the mercies of God shine 
forth upon his people through one man inspired with love for his 
brothers, his fatherland and his God. 

The year was 445 B.C. when the Jews were still exiled in Babylon, 
though some had already been allowed to return to Jerusalem to resettle 
with the remnant. Nehemiah was still in the "land of exile", in 
Babylon, serving as cupbearer to Emperor Artaxerxes I. This position 
was a most honorable one and took considerable courage since the 
cupbearer was to taste the king's wine before the king in the event the 
wine was poisoned. Already Nehemiah, a servant and a man under 
authority, was learning to be continually disposed toward laying down 
his life for another. Within a very short time he, as leader in the 
capacity of governor in Jerusalem, would repeatedly die to himself for 
the sake of the community in their joint service and enthusiasm for the 
work of rebuilding the city wall. 

Why become so intensely zealous over the rebuilding of the wall? 
Ezra, scribe and priest, had just previously encouraged the rebuilding 
of the temple in Jerusalem. But the city had been left in ruins for 
decades, seventy years, and now with the wall in ruins the city was 
defenseless. The precious temple lay as a jewel box for any avaricious 
enemy to plunder. 

Furthermore, the city's wall was a pride and joy. It displayed to 
all around the concern the people had for their own domain, and the Jews 
were rightly concerned for the protection of the Temple. And so it was 
that Nehemiah rose to the occasion offering his services to God, 
Israel's "wall and defense", for the rebuilding of the physical wall. 

The wall of the city was a symbol of unity to the chosen people 
(cf. NJB, Ps 23b). God called forth Nehemiah to lead the people toward 
the realization of their hope for peace in their city and in their homes 
as together they rebuilt their wall. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, 
prosperity for your homes! Peace within your walls, prosperity in your 
palaces!" (Ps. 122:6,7) 

A good leader draws strength from God . 

God is the supreme authority. The Hebrews knew this. He was the Divine 
Presence in the fire, on the rriountain, in the ark, in the cloud. St. 
Thomas expresses it this way: "God is not only his own godhead; he is 
also his own existence " (1, q.3,a.4). Nehemiah depended entirely on God 
as is clear in the nine prayers he offers in the thirteen chapters of 
this book. 


A good leader bears the burdens of his people. 

The psalmist says, "he bears our burdens, God our savior", and Isaiah 
says, "he bore our iniquities". The four evangelists and the letter 
writers of the New Testament certainly testify to the cross Jesus 
carried and endured for us. Nehemiah also took on the burden of his 
people. When his kinsmen tell him how the survivors living in Jerusalem 
were in a demoralized condition, with the walls in ruins and the gates 
burnt down, Nehemiah writes, "On hearing this I sat down and wept; for 
some days I mourned, fasting and praying before the God of heaven " 
(Ne 1:4). 

A good leader assumes responsibility. 

Nehemiah takes on complete responsibility for the task of rebuilding the 
wall around the holy city Jerusalem. He approaches King Artaxerxes, and 
he is given permission to leave and act as governor for the duration of 
the task. 

A good leader is well informed. 

Nehemiah had arrived in Jerusalem and had been there only three days, 
just enough time to unpack, so to speak, when he decides to begin at 
once. His first move is not to roll up his sleeves and get to work, but 
rather to study the ruined wall and the entire layout of the situation. 
He writes, "Under cover of dark I went out through the Valley Gate 
towards the Dragon's Fountain as far as the Dung Gate, and examined the 
wall of Jerusalem where it was broken down and its gates burnt out. I 
then crossed to the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool, but it was 
impassable to my mount " (Ne 2:13,14). 

A good leader motivates those under his charge. 

Nehemiah felt strongly urged by God for the reconstruction of the wall. 
At the outset of this task he inflames his fellow countrymen with his 
own enthusiasm and zeal for the holy task ahead. "I then said to them, 
'You see what a sorry state we are in: Jerusalem is in ruins and its 
gates have been burnt down. Come on, we must rebuild the walls of 
Jerusalem and put an end to our humiliating position!' And I told them 
how the kindly hand of my God had been over me, and the words which the 
king had said to me. At this they said, 'Let us start building at 
once!' and they set their hands to the good work " (Ne 2:17,18). 

A good leader is realistic and works at his task. 

The task of building is more than a dream; it is sweat and blood. 
Nehemiah and the Israelite community rolled up their sleeves and labored 
hard, quickly completing the wall encircling Jerusalem in little over a 
month. This task that never seemed possible became a reality when 
authority and community worked hand in hand. There is truth in the 
saying, "Pray as though everything depends on God, and work as though 
everything depends on you". But neither Nehemiah nor the Jews 
considered the project was theirs, for the text clearly states, "When 
all our enemies heard about it (the completion of the wall) and all the 
surrounding nations saw it, they thought it a wonderful thing, because 
they realized that this work had been accomplished by the power of our 
God " (Ne 6: 15,16). 

A good leader delegates work. 

Much of Nehemiah's success as a leader is due to his wisdom in involving 
the entire community in the noble project of building the wall. Whole 
families and clans had specific jobs and functions. Organization on the 
part of leader and community meshed so Chapter 3 relates, although the 
work is compartmentalized, it is as though one person, the "person" of 
Israel, was doing the work . This is the healthy outcome of delegating 
work and tasks. 

A good leader remains confident and courageous in the face of 
opposition . 

Opposition came in the form of insult and ridicule by the governor of 
Samaria whose name was Sanballat. Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites also 
took up the taunts. It went like this: "Can they put new life into 
stones taken from rubbish heaps and even charred?", and, "If a jackal 
were to jump on what they are building, it would knock their stone wall 
down!" (Ne 3:35,36). Nehemiah's response? "We, however, prayed to our 
God and organized a guard day and night to protect the city from them " 
(Ne 4:3). 

A good leader sees to the social needs and proplems that exist. 
A cry went up from the people: "We are having to pledge our sons and 
daughters to get enough grain to eat and keep alive... we are having to 
mortgage our fields, our vineyards and our houses to get grain because 
of the shortage .. .we have had to borrow money on our fields and our 
vineyards to pay the royal tax..." (Ne 5:1-5). Nehemiah took immediate 
action in favor of the people: "When I heard their complaints and these 
words I was very angry. Having turned the matter over in my mind, I 
reprimanded the nobles and the officials ..." (Ne 5:6,7). 

A good leader is honest and does not exploit. 

Jerusalem and its inhabitants lay in impoverishment. It took faith 
beyond measure for the Jewish community and its leader-governor to 
restore the temple and rebuild the wall in the face of terrible 
material needs of the families in the area. It would have been so easy 
for Nehemiah to fill his purse at the expense of the populace. Chapter 
5 is a testimony to his honest administration. He never exacted monies 
from the people. He even went so far as to never levy the governor's 
subsistence allowance. "But I, fearing God, never did this. Also, not 
acquiring any land, I concentrated on the work of this wall and all my 
attendants joined in the work together, too " (Ne 5:15,16). 

A good leader will express largess. 

In Matthew 5:42 we read, "Give to anyone who asks you, and if anyone 
wants to borrow, do not turn away." This injunction is not just for the 
Christian community. Generosity and largeness of heart are in season in 
every age. Nehemiah was exemplary. "Furthermore, magistrates and 
officials to the number of a hundred and fifty ate at my table, not to 
mention those who came to us from the surrounding nations. Every day, 
one ox, six fine sheep, as well as poultry, were prepared for me; every 
ten days, skins of wine were brought in bulk " (Ne 5:17,18). All of 
this, of- course, came out of Nehemiah's "bank account." 

A good leader is steadfast in personal attack. 

In the sixth chapter Nehemiah's long-standing enemies try intimidation. 


"There is a rumour among the nations- and Gashmu confirms it- that you 
and the Jews are thinking of rebelling, which is why you are rebuilding 
the wall, and you intend to become their king; and that you have even 
briefed prophets to acclaim you in Jerusalem with the cry, 'there is a 
king in Juda!' Now, these rumours are going to reach the king; so you 
had better come and discuss them with us.'" (Ne 6:6-8). The intent of 
Sanballat and Tobiah was to terrorize Nehemiah, to try to talk him into 
taking sanctuary in the temple, and thus to demoralize the Jews still 
working on the wall and stall the operation. Nehemiah was steadfast in 
his resistance to their ploy: "Should a man like me run away? Would a 
man like me go into the Temple to save his life? I shall not go in!": 
(Ne 6:11,12). 

A good leader will be diligent to enact laws. 

Chapters 7 through 13 are condensed in a nutshell in the last sentence 
of this book, " And so I purged them of everything foreign; I drew up 
regulations for the priests and Levites, defining each man's duty, as 
well as for the deliveries of wood at the proper times, and for the 
first-fruits " (Ne 13:30-31). In other words, Nehemiah was diligent in 
laying down the law. What exactly is a law? A law is the same in 
Nehemiah 's day as it is in ours. St. Thomas offers four elements of a 
law: 1) law is an ordinance of reason (it should make sense); 2) it 
should be for the general good; 3) it should be made by whoever has care 
of the community; and 4) it should be promulgated (1-11-90-4). Nehemiah 
saw to this with leadership gusto. 


Nehemiah was responsible for the reconstruction of the wall. Yet 
we have also seen him in the capacity of a model leader. Does the water 
run deeper than that? Yes it does. This layman, simply intent on 
listening to the promptings of his God, the God of Israel, was before 
all else intent on the faith of his fathers. He was consumed with zeal 
for the honor of God. Thus he could write after all the construction 
was completed: "The wall was finished within fifty-two days, on the 
twenty-fifth of Elul . When all our enemies heard about it and all the 
surrounding nations saw it, they thought it a wonderful thing, because 
they realised that this work had been accomplished by the power of our 
God " (Ne 6:15,16). 


- The New Jerusalem Bible 

- The Summa o f St. Thomas Aquinas 

- The Anchor Bible - Ezra - Nehemiah 

- The magazine Israel My Glory (not Catholic), the article "Nehemiah", 
Vol. hi, No. 5, page 24. (note: I did not use any text of this article, 

but I did adopt and adapt the delightful format, though mine differs 
considerably. ) 


- Sr. Mary Thomas, Buffalo 

The story is simple, and probably quite familiar. Paul is writing to 
Philemon. That may sound like an obvious, rather trite remark. But naturally, 
it has been challenged by the exegetes. Could it be that he was not writing to 
Philemon, as devout readers have thought these many centuries? Well yes, truth 
to tell, some claim that he was writing to Archippus, whose name appears short- 
ly after that of Philemon in the greeting: "To Philemon, our beloved fellow 
worker, and Apphia our sister, and Archippus, our fellow soldier, and the 
church in your house..." However the majority of commentators on this very 
brief letter consider it to be a letter to Philemon, and so I have accepted it 
as such for our present purposes. 

Brief as the letter is, it contains an interesting cast of characters, a 
plot and a problem which is not resolved but which leaves us pondering on the 
possibilities, the outcome of this Christian/pagan dialectic. 

Even though the Letter is well known, it will do no harm to run through 
the characters, giving the interpretation which seems most traditional, or 
which at least still seems to be held by the mainstream commentators. 

First, of course, there is Paul, writing from prison. The traditional 
view was that it was a Roman prison, but more recently commentators have fa- 
vored Paul's Ephesian imprisonment, for reasons which we shall see further on. 
In any case, the picture is of Paul as an 'old' man — not all that old by our 
standards but by the standards of his own times — probably in his sixties and 
nearing the end of his life. 

Philemon is a young, well-to-do and respected Christian living in some 
town in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor, probably Colossae. Apphia, whom Paul 
refers to as "our sister", is generally thought to be Philemon's wife, and 
Archippus their son. Continuing with the traditional conjecture, Philemon is 
believed to be a convert of Paul's, who possibly met him for the first time at 
Ephesus. The mention of "the church that meets in your house" completes the 
picture of a prosperous, friendly young convert who is able and happy to place 
his home at the disposal of the local Christians for their meetings. 

The final character in this domestic drama is Onesimus, a slave belonging 
to Philemon, who has run away, and in the process may have caused his owner 
considerable damage. Onesimus is thought to be a Colossian like Philemon. He 
has fled to Paul in prison for refuge. Paul has taken him in and has converted 
him to Christianity, and a close bond has developed between them, Paul refer- 
ring to him in the letter as "my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become in 
my imprisonment". Onesimus has revealed to Paul that he belongs to Paul's dear 
friend and co-partner Philemon. He does not want to go back to his master. 
Severe penalties were permitted by law to be dealt out to runaway slaves. He 
prefers to stay with Paul and render him every service possible in the prison. 

So Paul faces a real dilemma, caught between two people whom he dearly 
loves, and trying to do justice to both. At this point he takes in hand his 
moving "Letter to Philemon". 


Before looking at the contents of Paul's letter we might do well to note 
the interplay of authority and communio in the situation which is confronting 

First, authority. Paul addresses Philemon as his "beloved fellow worker" 
(1) but has no hesitation about asserting a little further on, "I am bold 
enough in Christ to command you to do what is required" (8). Then a few 
verses later we read: "I preferred to do nothing without your consent" (14). 
Towards the end of the letter Paul says: " Confident of your obedience , I write 
to you, knowing you will do even more than I say." (21) In these phrases there 
is a clear expression of authority — "command" and "obedience" leave no room 
for doubt. Paul and Philemon are partners but Paul's authority is beyond 
question, in spite of the aside, "I preferred to do nothing without your 
consent" . 

This last phrase poses a question. Is Paul being adroit, strengthening 
his authority by a show of deference which will make Philemon's obedience all 
the more willing? Or is it rather that Paul is constrained, by the very nobi- 
lity of his nature, to mingle authority and communio in a single blend until 
authority is wholly penetrated with love? 

Philemon himself — like the centurion of Capharnaum — is a man of 
authority. He presides over his own household presumably, and possesses at 
least one slave. In the Letter Paul is showing him by a very concrete demons- 
tration the Christian way of exercising authority. Even as Paul himself re- 
frains from commanding Philemon, and prefers to appeal to him "for love's sake" 
in the matter of receiving Onesimus back, so Philemon is expected to follow 
this same principle and receive Onesimus "no longer as a slave, but as a be- 
loved brother... as you would receive me" (16, 17). Authority is there not for 
its own sake, but to lead into, grow into love. 

It is out of repect for Philemon's authority over Onesimus that Paul has 
decided to send the slave back in the first place — "I would have been glad to 
keep him with me", he points out (13). But Paul's hope is that Philemon will 
exercise his rightful authority over the runaway slave, "and have him back, no 
longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother" (16). 

Authority, then, in Paul's view, is clearly a thing to be accepted, reve- 
renced and defended; but it must be transformed, in the Christian way of life, 
into an expression of authentic love. This concept of transformation, of an 
authority suffused, so to say, with love, leads us directly into the idea of 
communio. The two are closely linked both in the Letter to Philemon and in 
life itself as Christ in His coming has transformed it. 

How many forms of communio are depicted in this very short letter. There 
is the obvious union existing between Philemon, his wife and his son, the harmo- 
ny that allows of their drawing together a group of fellow Christians who form 
a church in their home. These people, whom we imagine between the lines, assem- 
ble in Philemon's home to celebrate the sacred mysteries together. They share 
the same ideals, values and goals — the same longing to gather more followers 
of 'the way' , and Paul prays "that the sharing of your faith may promote the 


knowledge of all the good that is ours in Christ" (6). He thanks God because 
"I hear of your love and of the faith which you have towards the Lord Jesus and 
all the saints" (4). Paul is bonded personally with this community about a 
hundred miles distant (if his prison is in Ephesus, not Rome, as seems likely), 
"for I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because 
the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you" ( 5 ) . 

The flow of communio, harmony, Christian love, circulates freely through 
the group at Philemon's home, runs in a strong current to delight Paul's soul 
in his prison and returns enriched with the torrential love of Paul's great 
heart, to pour new power and vitality into the group, where "the hearts of the 
saints have been refreshed" ( 7 ) . 

.Again, there is a stirring communio depicted between Paul and Onesimus. 
"I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become in my 
imprisonment." (10). Onesimus is to Paul "more than a slave ... a beloved 
brother" (16). The strength of this new bond between Paul and Onesimus becomes 
the source of a deepening bond between Paul and Philemon, and Paul believes and 
hopes that it is going to result in a profound communio between Philemon and 
Onesimus, a transformation from the relationship of master and slave to that of 
brotherhood in Christ. 

Here we have an intricate interlocking of relationships, a pattern not 
infrequently observed in our own lives. Friendship between two expands to 
include a third; the resulting communio is threefold and images the Trinity. 
In fact, it seems valid to ask w T hether there can be authentic communio between 
less than three. Where it looks like just two, there is always, for the Chris- 
tian, the invisible Third who created the bond originally, restores it to 
wholeness should it be shattered in the way of human frailty, and fills it with 
life and fruitfulness. 

The relationship of authority and communio in the Letter to Philemon is 
seen to be reciprocal. It is difficult to put one's finger on the place where 
one ends, the other begins — or it would be difficult if we did not know that 
the name of God is Love. Authority can be seen as the work of love, "ordering 
all things sweetly" in the lives of these early Christians. 

The close of Paul's letter gives a hint of what was to follow. "Prepare a 
guest room for me..." (22). It is difficult to think that Philemon did not 
take back Onesimus, now as a brother and fellow worker in spreading the good 
news. There is reason to believe, further, that Onesimus eventually became the 
bishop of Ephesus. We may also be allowed to fancy Philemon and Apphia joyful- 
ly hastening to prepare a room for Paul, and gathering the members of the local 
church to greet him. Indeed this conjecture is the reason put forward by some 
commentators for the suggestion that Paul's prison was in Ephesus, not Rome. 
This would have been much closer to Philemon's home, and would explain Paul's 
assurance that he could plan a visit in the near future. 

We can put down this "perfect example of the letter-writer's art" feeling 
that the human dilemma was faced and the problems solved by the sheer grace of 
a Christian blending of authority and communio. 

Based on Fitzmeyer's article on Philemon in the New Jerome Biblical Commentarv, 



The red bud trees entwined among the willows, 
Cast rosy mists upon the brightly colored earth; 
The silver stream with dew-stained violet collar, 
Interspersed with dainty sprigs of sweet anemone 
Trims the stunning jacket of jaunty, sportive Spring 

Blue ridges in the sky at dawn, 
While the pale stars fade one by one, 
And glimmer in the misty pool 
Now flushed with crimson from the sun. 

How charming are crisp satin buds 

Primly set on cherry twigs 

Soon disclosing blossoms, 

Blushing pink 

To fill the air with fragrant perfume 

Of newly ushered Spring, 

And in the center of the golden pistils 

Sparkles a tear drop of the stars. 

A lombard poplar stands beneath my window, 

Lifting her fair form heavenward; 

The soft sheen of the moon splashes on the leaves, 

Fluttering like shimmering silk about her, 

And adds soft mystery 

To her little gracefulness. 

Beautiful thoughts surge through my mind, 

As the dusk of the evening approaches, 

And night floats softly down to earth 

Like a mystic blue scarf growing darker and darker; 

The tints of the sunset glow from the stream, 

Winding and wending its way through the forest. 

In the distance I hear the hoot of the owl, 

A reminder of life around me, 

And feel the veiled charm of soft-toned twilight. 

The stars, like bright pebbles, appear one by one 

To challenge my limited knowledge. 

The trees, tall and slender, in lacy green dresses 

Receive the Night's benediction, 

And the gloaming steals sweetly and softly upon me 

Bringing peace to my heart and soul. 

Mother Marie Rosaria, 0..P 

Rosaryhill, Cainta 


* This poem is a reprint from OAKWOOD ANNUAL, 1924. 
It was published under the name Elizabeth G. Hiett, 
MMR's baptismal name. 





Sr. Mary Lucy of the Divine Word 

The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them 
ever claimed anything as his own, rather, everything was held in common. 

How often we hear these words from the Acts of the Apostles, without per- 
haps giving ourselves over to the power that lies within them. But yet they are 
powerful words, so powerful in fact that they generated the cenobitic form of 
monasticism, and also a very unique vision of that life. This text deeply in- 
spired both St. Pachomius and St. Augustine in establishing monastic communi- 
ties and in formulating a rule, and was a driving force throughout their lives. 

On considering the contrast between the lives of Pachomius and Augustine, 
one may be tempted to say that apart from this common inspiration for community 
life there was little similarity between the two men. And perhaps in a sense 
this is true. But still there remains some common ground. In looking at the 
similar ideals they held and at the different circumstances of the monasteries 
they founded, I would like to trace a shift in the role each saint gives to 
authority in their rules and consequently in the quality of community life. 

Pachomius, born in 292, converted to Christianity as a result of kind 
treatment he had received at the hands of Christians when he had been drafted 
for military service. He vowed that if he ever got out of the army he would 
become a Christian and serve others. Such was to be the case, and he was bap- 
tized in 313. He became a disciple of Palamon, but after seven years remem- 
bered his vow to serve others. So he left Abba Palamon and started his own 

After a first unsuccessful attempt, Pachomius gathered many monks to his 
way of life, founding twelve monasteries (one for women) that totalled thou- 
sands of members. Because of the large number of monks in each monastery he 
imposed a detailed rule and set up a structure of authority. The monks were 
divided into houses according to the type of labor they performed, and each 
house had a house master and his assistant. The days were given to manual 
labor, the nights to vigil. Each house had morning and evening prayer, and a 
few evenings a week Pachomius would instruct all the brethren in the Scrip- 
tures. He travelled to his other monasteries to give them instruction also. 
His own personality and charism were truly the driving force behind his com- 
munities, and he was deeply loved and greatly revered by all his brethren. His 
monasteries were famous for their spirit of unity. 

Augustine was born at Tagaste in 345, and was also a convert to the faith. 
While accounts of the monasticism of St. Anthony and St. Pachomius had a pro- 
found effect on Augustine, especially in drawing him towards conversion, he 
clearly had a different idea of monasticism in mind. The communities he gath- 
ered to himself, especially in the beginning, consisted in groups of close 
friends who 'devoted themselves to contemplation and intellectual discussions. 
Even as his ideas progressed and developed, the monasteries he founded were 
small and labor was intellectual rather than manual. Most of his monasteries 


were for clerics, although a few were for lay brothers. Pachomian communities 
on the other hand consisted mostly of lay brothers; priests would only be accep- 
ted if they were willing to follow the Rule exactly as the other brethren did. 
Augustine was very drawn by the ideas of community and of the personal relation- 
ships existing between the members. 

Community for him was a goal to be pursued for its own sake, not merely to 
serve some other end. . . . There are other forms of monastic living which 
lay stress on living in common . . . yet one can find no legislation in which 
the notion of community has so consciously and forcefully been made the 
central point of monastic living, in which it has been declared the prime 
object for which men come together. 1 

While each saint took a different approach to establishing authority, due 
in large part to the contrasting size of their communities and the type of work 
in which they were engaged, it is important to remember one aspect of authority 
which both espoused as essential. Both Pachomius and Augustine viewed the role 
of superior as one of service to the brethren. Their great desire to serve the 
brethren and their compassion in meeting the needs of those under their charge 
gave rise to many similar directives in their Rules. 

An issue that troubled both saints as superiors was that of fraternal cor- 
rection. Both call for a discreet handling of the situation requiring correc- 
tion. Augustine saw it as one of the most difficult tasks of the superior, but 
felt that it must be done, and with love. "He saw it as necessary for the 
well-being and growth of the community." 2 Pachomius too saw correction as a 
difficult task, and indeed this may have been the reason for the failure of his 
first community. For it appears from accounts that he did not correct the bro- 
thers directly at all, but hoped instead to convert them by his humble and pa- 
tient example. "They will see", he said, "my patience and my sorrow, and they 
will come back to God; they will do penance and they will fear God." 3 His 
monks in consequence had no respect for him as a superior, and after suffering 
at their hands for five years he had to expel them forcibly from the monastery, 
using the bar of the gate as a cudgel to push them outside. 4 There is 
another story from the desert about Pachomius asking a fellow abbot if it is 
right to correct the brothers. The answer he receives is affirmative, but only 
in regard to the brothers in his own monasteries. 5 

That Augustine was aware of this type of situation can be seen clearly in 
Chapter Six of his Rule. Here, dealing with the subject of asking pardon and 
forgiving offenses, he adds: "But whenever the good of discipline compels you 
to speak harshly in correcting your subjects, then, even if you think you have 
been unduly harsh in your language, you are not required to ask forgiveness 
lest, by practicing too great humility towards those who should be your sub- 
jects, the authority to rule is undermined. " While the desire to correct 
one's subjects should spring from love and the act be carried out in all 
humility, it is necessary at the same time to maintain one's role as superior. 
For if a superior loses his or her authority, as in the case of Pachomius, it 
will be impossible to preserve order in the community and consequently the goal 
of becoming one in mind and heart will be unattainable. 


It would seem, then, that fraternal correction is necessary not only for 
the sake of the individual being corrected, not even merely for the sake of the 
community as a whole, but also in order to preserve the office of the superi- 
or. For is it not the vision of the superior, and the authority to act on that 
vision, that is the driving force behind achieving oneness of heart and mind 
within the community? 

This is where we come to the most important difference in the roles given 
to authority by Pachomius and Augustine. Pachomius, in what is already a 
break from St. Anthony, gives to the superior (in his next and highly suc- 
cessful monastery) absolute authority. The superior has charge of both the spi- 
ritual and material needs and well-being of the brethren. He is a father to 
the brothers in the areas of preaching, teaching and the giving of spiritual 
direction, and sees that regular life in common is observed and that the mate- 
rial needs of the monastery are met. Of Pachomius it was said: "As for our 
father Pachomius, he would very often go round to the monasteries, comforting 
the brothers by the word of God as a nurse comforts her children (I Thess 
2:7) with her heart's affection." 6 

The basis of Pachomius* authority was his rule, which is quite detailed. 
Throughout it he places a strong emphasis on obedience. It is this obedience, 
not only to Pachomius as a spiritual father but more importantly to his rule, 
that most clearly reveals a shift from the tradition of St. Anthony and the 
other desert fathers. For now, "obedience dominated the whole of life ... not 
simply obedience towards a spiritual master, towards the Elder the monk had 
freely selected, but it now became obedience to a superior officially recog- 
nized as the head of the community and, at the same time, obedience to a whole 
collection of codified regulations". 7 From the writings of his disciples we 
see that all the brothers loved Pachomius deeply and seeing his teachings , and 
the rule itself, as God's will, they responded with great faith. 8 

Augustine takes a new and radical tack. Although he in no way discounts 
the value of faith and obedience to the superior and the rule, he places his 
emphasis on love. Love is the driving force behind all the directives of his 
rule. The superior is to serve in love and the brethren are to obey out of 
charity. It must not be forgotten, however, that the service of the brethren 
in love was the driving force of Pachomius' life and of his communities as 
well. But the actual structure of authority has shifted in Augustine's vision 
of monastic life. No longer is the superior the spiritual father or mother of 
individuals, set above the rest of the community. Now, the brother or sister 
holding the office of superior still remains one of the brethren, one of the 
sisters, although certainly having true authority. "The superior should be 
obeyed as a father or mother", Augustine says in Chapter Seven of his 
Rule. "This may appear as the most important motive in the formation of his 
conception of obedience, and it shows how far he had progressed beyond the 
ideals of older monastic rules. Undoubtedly, from the beginning superiors had 
been called 'Father' , but to advance from that to the idea of obedience 'as to 
a father' was to have come a long way". 9 The emphasis in the role of the su- 
perior has shifted from one having absolute power over many, to many 
sharing in the power of the one in order for all to become one in love. 


This shift is made even clearer by Dominic's unique vision in his placing 
the weight of authority in the body of the community. This is most particular- 
ly evident when the community is gathered in chapter. The system of Dominican 
government is very democratic in allowing the professed members of the commu- 
nity to discuss important issues and vote, and so have a true share in the 
authority of the superior. In a sense the community forms itself, but under 
the guiding hand of the superior, rather than giving itself over to the vision 
of just one person. As our Constitutions indicate: "At the regular chapter 
the nuns gather as sisters in charity and humility under the leadership of the 
prioress to give one another mutual assistance in the renewal and development 
of the regular life." 10 For it is here, by learning to legislate out of 
charity, or "by placing the common good before one's own", ll that the nuns 
"pursue communion through their manner of government" 1Z . It is now the 
vision of the whole community that is the driving force behind oneness of mind 
and heart. And if it is the community that now that forms itself, love will 
have to be the operative element, rather than that faith in one person which 
was required in the Pachomian community. 

This shift from the absolute authority of one to the sharing of authority 
within and throughout the community seems to be a great leap, and a daring 
one. But yet, all is not simply left in the hands of a group of people, for 
the rule and the authority of the superior are still essential. I think the 
key to Augustine's view of community and authority lies in the last Chapter of 
his Rule, where he takes his inspiration from St. Paul's concept in the Letter 
to the Romans and says: "You are not slaves living under the law but women and 
men living in freedom under grace." It is not through obedience alone that we 
are formed into a community, but more importantly, we are to live as free and 
responsible Christians cooperating in the formation of the whole community and 
obeying and serving out of love for God and love for one another. This, 
Augustine says at the very beginning of his Rule, is the end you have 
come here for. 


1. Zumkeller, Adolar, OSA: Augustine's Ideal of the Religious Life. New 
York: Fordhara University Press, 1986, p. 126. 

2. Ibid., p. 156. 

3. Bouyer, Louis: A History of Christian Spirituality, Vol. I, The 
Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers. New York: The Sea- 
bury Press, 1982, p. 322. 

4. Ibid., p. 323. 

5. Ward, Benedicta: The Desert Christian. New York: Macmillan Publishing 
Company, Inc., 1975, p. 152. 

6. Pachomian Koinonia, Vol. I, The Life of St. Pachomius - the Bohairic 
Life, p. 78, N. 58. 

7. Bouyer, loc. cit. , p. 325. 

8. Life of St. Pachomius, loc. cit., Forward by Adalbert de Vogue, p. xii, 

9. Zumkeller, loc. cit., p. 162. 

10. LCM N. 68. 

11. Rule of St. Augustine, Chapter 5. 

12. LCM, Fundamental Constitution V. 



Bouyer, Louis. A History of Christian Spirituality, Vol.1, The 
Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers. New York: The Seabury 
Press, 1982. 

Chitty, Derwas J. The Desert a City. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's 
Seminary Press, 1966. 

Early Monastic Rules. trans. Carmela Vircillo Franklin, Ivan Havener, OSB, 
J. Alcuin Francis, OSB. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1982. 

Pachomian Koinonia , Vol.1, The Life of St. Pachomius - Bohairic Life. 
trans. Armand Veilleux. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, Inc., 1980. 

Quasten, Joannes. Patrology, Vol. Ill, The Golden Age of Greek Patristic 
Literature. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, Inc., 1984. 

Van Bavel, Tarcisius, OSA. The Rule of St. Augustine with Introduction and 
Commentary. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1984. 

Ward, Benedicta. The Desert Christian. New York: Macmillan Publishing 
Company, Inc., 1975. 

Zumkeller, Adolar, OSA. Augustine's Ideal of the Religious Life. New 
York: Fordham University Press, 1986. 

rjTie, cart ft fias uicCcUcC 
its fruits J 
QpcC ^our CjocC 



Sister Mary Joseph, O.P. 
Los Angeles, California 

We tick them off with ease. 

Matthew's scattered list is ours to tease; 

The lame, the maimed, the poor, the sick, deformed, 
The lonely, weak, the sore-afflicted, scorned. 

From out the world they cry, 
With these we can identify. 

Christ in His Passion hidden deep we see. 
Ours to hear, to love and keep the mystery. 

About our own? We rubbed elbows today. 
Don't we know the life?- We turn away. 

Pretend we do not hear unuttered cries, 
Smile at their wordless sighs. 

We say in truth, "God help the stupified. " 
They only leave us mystified. 

Our brother's keeper - Where was it heard before? 
And then we think of them no more. 

They seem to us so shrouded - - 
In mystery - - so clouded. 

We meet them in the psalms but lost in cares, 
Where are we? - lost in ours, not theirs. 

We, with all our gifts, nature and grace beside. 
We fail to understand this Crucified. 

Even He must smile in playful mirth, 

Bulging at the seams, our own untimely worth. 

Why must we so divorce ourselves from truth? 
Our law? - "An eye for eye, a tooth for tooth "? 

We have the choice to throw up hands, desparing, 
When we should rather for our own be caring. 

At least we have been shown: 
The Lord's ways are not our own. 

Ah! here we have it all re found - - 

Christ in deeper mystery - more profound. 


Sister Maria Agnes, O.P 

The mystique of chapter is articulated in the Fundamental Constitution 
of the Nuns in whose lives the search for God is being realized by pursuing, 
among other things: 

communion through their manner of government in purity of conscience 
and the joy of sisterly concord, "in freedom of spirit." (1) 

Dominic handed down to his followers both a sense of community and a love 
for the common life. This particular aspect of his charism found its expression 
in the application of this insightful saying derived from Roman law: Quod omnes 
tangit ab omnibus tractari et approbari debet , which means, "What is of concern 
to all must be dealt with and agreed upon by all." (2) That is why LCM 7 
stresses the participation of all in the ordering of the life of the monastery 
for a more fruitful contemplative life and sisterly communion. "A good which 
meets with general approval," argues Humbert of the Romans, "is quickly and 
easily achieved." (3) 

Without regular chapter there can be legal entity but no sisterly communion 
in the true sense of the word because: 

like the Church of the Apostles, our communion is founded, built up and 
made firm in the one Spirit. It is in the Spirit that we receive the Word of God 
the Father with one faith, contemplate him with one heart, and praise him with 
one voice. In him we are made one body, share one bread, and finally hold all 
things in common (LCM 3 I). 

Dominic was, both by his temperament and by his Christian education, a 
relational person and a community man. For him the essential milieu of a 
religious is the community. He manifested his fidelity to the regular life from 
the time he was a canon at Osma to the early years of the Prouille foundation 
where he himself had established the monastic observance. It is also recorded 
that he loved to join in the community of his fellow canons when he passed 
through the Chapters of St. Paul of Narbonne and of St. Nazaire of Carcassonne 
during his travels. (4) 

In principle as well as on the basis of experience, we know that the value 
of person and of community may come into conflict. It need not be. To be a 
real person means to be in-relation-to . A balanced concern for both common and 
individual needs is a strong feature of our Rule and Constitutions. Individual- 
ism needs to be balanced by common life. Augustine insisted that the mores of 
the monastery derive from the amores of its members to the extent that they 
renounce self-interest for the sake of the common good. Augustine's Rule 
established unity in charity as the hallmark of Christian monastic life. This 
unity is based upon the sacred dimension of the human person as image and 
likeness of God. The love of charity is the source of this oneness (Cf. Rule 
I. 3 & 9; Cf. LCM 2 II). Dominican monastic life provides for a rich and 


diverse unanimity where persons are not lost in the anonymity of a crowd. 
Within a truly united community, a good kind of diversity is possible and 
even healthful. Such diversity manifests the power and vitality of authentic 
Christian love. (5) 


At the regular chapter the nuns gather in charity and humility under the 
leadership of the prioress to give one another mutual assistance in the renewal 
and development of the regular life (LCM 68). 

It is by the community as a whole that standards and norms are discussed, 
synthesized and formulated to effect this renewal. The depth of monastic 
commitment that binds all the sisters is to be drawn up on the basis of what all 
the sisters are able to perform. John Cassian may have anticipated this when 
he suggested that "if we retain a measured sense of what is possible, the 
perfect observance will be found, even when people's abilities vary." (6) 

We all know from study and experience that our monastic observances are 
shot through with powerful currents of life. We daily experience God's living 
Word which calls for sustained effort and fidelity , Like the sap that keeps the 
tree alive and supple, it is the function of the chapter to revitalize those 
areas in our life that have grown torpid and stale. It can be an occasion for 
decisive soul-searching in common. Through chapter discussions we also keep in 
touch with contemporary questions and answers that affect the Church as well as 
the various models of culture in the world. 

In chapter the Prioress, too, listens to what God is saying through those 
whom she is called to lead. It is a real ascesis to seek and discover God's 

will. The Word of God is the deepest value of obedience obedience, in the 

etymological sense of "listening to" (ob+audire)^ that is, listening to God and 
to one another in humility and charity. 

Let us keep in mind that the regular chapter is more that just a guardian of 
the observances. It is a workshop in which prudential balance is established 
between the letter of the law as the precise will of God in every concrete 
situation and the essential content of God's plan to which the community is 
committed. This includes referring to past experiences of the community whether 
negative or positive. One can authenticate a past experience in the present 
situation by re-choosing or rejecting it in freedom. Fidelity means taking our 
past history into account. This posits a new vision which describes something we 
intend to do in the future. Keeping a community alive calls for fidelity to 
the present moment, gratitude towards the past and hope for the future. This 
is necessary not only for the growth of individual members but as a condition of 
inner renewal in community life which is its second nature. Renewal is a 
part of permanent Christian formation. (7) 

The real purpose of chapter is to constantly clarify the spirit of regular 
observance and to live the contemplative life in a more authentic way by 
reaffirming the values inherent to our Dominican identity. 



The Dominican mystique of silence is closely associated with collatio , 
with sharing and listening at the service of our charism: truth and charity. (8) 
Dialogue enriches our perception of truth. Truth, in all its dimensions 
and when accepted with openness and docility, frees us from the narrowness of 
our vision about God, about ourselves and others. Only one who has listened 
to God in prayer can speak the truth in communal and inter-personal dialogue. 
Communication gaps are bridged by words. But is is also important to keep in 
touch with ourselves first in order to understand what we really mean and feel 
and think before expressing ourselves to others. 

Silence and solitude go hand in hand with chapter. Unless we have 
discovered and experienced our personal worth as individuals in the depth of 
silence and solitude, we will not be able to communicate life"giving truth to 
others. "Silence," says Ambrose Wathan, OSB, "creates and forms the ground 
and root of every word." (9) Communication is the articulation of silence 
and silence is the milieu for listening to God's Word and to the words that 
form in our mind and heart. The rhythm of silence and chapter builds up 
character, sharpens the intellect and strengthens the will. We can also gain 
a wealth of wisdom and self"control in the give and take of dialogue. The link 
that joins silence, solitude and chapter cannot be underestimated. This is a 
human, Christian and religious phenomenon. Dialogue as harmonized by the silence 
enjoined by our Rule and Constitutions is a guarantee that Christ is present in 
our midst and is at the center of our community life. A short and meaningful 
text from Jean Leclercq may serve to sum up the preceding points: 

In every case the words spoken to men must come from those heard from 
God: they ought to spring up from that intimate contact with him which actually 
was silence. But just as silence is part of our communion with the universe, 
the word which arises from it responds to the urgent need for communion which 
is expressed in communication. (10) 


In our present practice, the time for holding regular chapter is determined 
in the directory of each monastery. It is to be held at least once a month 
(LCM 69). During chapter we seek to participate in the creative and life- 
giving power of God's Word which is being addressed to the community in a 
relational atmosphere of truth and charity. Communication, especially verbal 
communication, is not always easy. We have to work at it until it becomes God's 
work in us. Without Christ at the center, we will not be able to share our- 
selves, our ideas, feelings and experiences with one another. Only the Spirit 
of Jesus can break down our mental and emotional blocks and open the way to 
fruitful dialogue. Our dialogical stance has to be honest, open, trustful and 
free from prejudice. When we enter into discussion, it means we are ready to 
renew and readjust our viewpoints. 

Whether or not genuine exchange takes place at chapter depends on the 
participants. Creative and growth-producing dialogue is possible when each 
sister is prepared to speak honestly out of her feelings and convictions with 
reason and objectivity. She must have learned to discipline her subjective 
feelings and be aware of the others in the group. Being open to the value and 


meaning of what is happening in chapter is vitally important in discernment 
and in achieving harmony and unity. Listening with a perceptive mind and an 
understanding heart is a necessary concomitant for a person's growth in 
communal living. 

We mentioned earlier the joint role of solitude and silence in inter- 
personal and communal dialogue. True solitude and healthy silence are 
discernible through its fruits. "Solitude gives birth to the original in us," 

according to Thomas Mann, "to beauty unfamiliar and perilous to poetry. 

But also, it gives birth to the opposite, to the perverse, the illicit, the 
absurd." (11) 

When we speak at chapter and anywhere else, do we resonate in conformity 
with the Spirit of Jesus? The point is not whether we say little or much, 
but whether or not our words call forth the compassion and love of Christ in 
us and through us. Sometimes, our language needs redirection. It needs to be 
purified of its destructiveness and its pollution. Jean Leclercq offers us 
another insight into this: 

Speech is ambivalent because of our fallen nature, our limitations; 
it can either be for mediation or an obstacle to communication. Speak- 
ing can be a source of illusions and this is true in both our communica— 
tion with others as well as with God. (12) 

During chapter discussions, therefore, we do not take hold of each other 
by our words or coerce people to think and live up to our inspirations and 
norms. As soon as we impose our viewpoints upon others, then we deny growth 
to those others. Any form of coercion, domination, moral pressure or psycho- 
logical manipulation will shrivel up communication and, consequently, hurt 
sisterly communion. 

There are creative ways skill and tact by which we -can express 

our differences without destroying unity. We relax and lay down our defenses 
while we listen to the different viewpoint with genuine acceptance and 
without condescending tolerance. We do not look at those who differ with us 
as aggressors or as people who block our way and underline our limitations. 
We always say YES to the person. Love cannot be reduced to a mere sharing 
of ideas or of knowledge or of truth. "Solitude and silence," Thomas Merton 
realized, "teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they 
say." (13) This is in consonance with LCM 4 I which states that "in order 
for each monastery to be a center of communion, let all accept and cherish 
one another as members of the same body, differing in native qualities and 
functions but equal in the common bond of charity and profession." 

Judgment is not growth-producing and instead of building up community, 
judgment creates a chasm and alienates the other person because it is an 
attitude of "not-being-with" the other. A self-righteous and judgmental 
attitude expresses itself in an inundation of words that have no creative 
and life-giving value for community. Sisterly communion is consummated 
beyond verbal exchange by accepting the other, not as she appears to our 
perceptions, but as she is striving to become her true self before God. 


The uniqueness of each person and the multiple possibilities and options 
that emerged during the discussion can make consensus difficult to reach. 
We all know that dialogues do not necessarily lead to consensus. Concrete 
choices expressed in comments and suggestions must have to find their way 
into a more basic choice. The common value of diversity has to be synthesized 
at the closure and the synthesis shall be expressive of the main pattern of 
thought that emerged during the discussion. The closure should strongly 
point to a specific and unidirectional goal which was stated in the agenda 
at the beginning of the chapter. 

There is no absolute moral certitude that we can make or are always making 
the right decision. If we have truly entered into a prudential sharing of 
knowledge, experience, hindsight, insight and foresight, we can be confident 
that we are making a good decision, the choice that is being asked for at a 
particular moment and situation. 

Guidelines are to be set by the regular chapter on certain limits to 
diversity in order to insure fidelity to the community's basic orientation 
and charism. The guidelines must resonate the values of the chapter participants 
A kind of osmosis is established and sustained between the right of the 
individual and the common good. 


Dominican monastic life, like all forms of Christian life, is unswervingly 
committed to conversion as an on-going process. This is, fundamentally, an 
invitation and a challenge to steadfast love for the God who is faithful to us. 
The Constitutions provide for some form of self-examination and self-accusation 
on faults that militate against the common good and the regular life. This 
takes place during the regular chapter where the prioress may also give some 
spiritual exhortations, administer corrections and recommend suitable penances 
for faults committed against observance (Cf. LCM 70, 71 & 72 I). 

In practice and in the concrete, this provision exacts fidelity to the 
essential things that make up the regular life after the example of St. Dominic 
"who followed the Rule of the Friars Preachers and the conventual order with 
great exactitude and without dispensing himself." (14) "The Prioress, as the 
faithful servant of the monastery," states LCM 195, "should at all times foster 
the unity of charity, constantly promote the contemplative life of the nuns and 
diligently care for regular observance" (Cf. Rule VII. 46; Cf. Thess. 5.14). 
This fidelity to the observances is a means of purifying the traces of sin in 
us and it also rectifies whatever falsity or ambiguity hinders our growth in 
faith, hope and charity. Self-accusation of faults, correction, forgiveness 
and reparation correspond to the spirit of Christian conversion. Participation 
in chapter is, in itself, a response to the call to continuing renewal of life. 
Chapter is a salvation event brought to us by the Gospel, the Rule and the 
Constitutions. It often happens that chapter discussions can uncover our 
hidden faults. Our defects shall be pointed out to us in "some other way 
according to the custom of the community" (LCM 70). 


The monastic community is also a forgiving and a healing community. 
Forgiveness is not an approval of sin and neither is it a condescending 
tolerance of faults. Forgiveness frees the erring person from shame-based 
feelings and makes her deepest self radiant with possibilities for truth and 
love. The loveworthiness of a person is brought out when encouraged and 
affirmed by love. 


Beyond the chapter rubrics is the eschatological aspect of renewal, namely, 
the interiorization of the observances. The transcendent value of internalizing 
external discipline is a basic concept of Augustine's Rule. The regular chapter 
serves as a workshop for this interiorization and examples of this can be 
drawn out from the Rule. (15) 

*And what good is it to scatter one's wealth abroad by giving to the 
poor^ even to become poor oneself, when the unhappy soul is thereby 
more given to pride in despising riches than it had in been in 
possessing them (1.8)? 

'"When you pray to God in psalms and hymns, think over in your hearts 
the words that come from your lips" (11.12). 

*Let not your mouths alone take nourishment but let your hearts, too, 
hunger for the Word of God" (III. 15). 

*Do not say that your hearts are pure if there is immodesty of the eyes 
because the unchaste eye carries the message of an impure heart" (IV. 22), 

*But suppose all this escapes human notice, what will she do about God 
who sees from on high and from whom nothing is hidden (IV. 23)? 

*If your sister, for example, were suffering a bodily wound that she 
wanted to hide for fear of undergoing treatment, would it not be cruel 
of you to remain silent and a mercy on your part to make this known? 
How much greater then is your obligation to make her condition known 
lest she continue to suffer a more deadly wound of the soul (IV. 26). 

*You may judge from this how lacking you are in that holy and interior 
garment of the heart when you quarrel over the garments of the body 


*A sister who is never willing to ask pardon, or does not do so from her 
heart, has no reason to be in the monastery even if she is not expelled 

(VI. 42). 

*You (to the Superior) should still ask forgiveness from the Lord of all 
who knows with what deep affection you love even those whom you might 
happen to correct with undue severity (VI.43). 


*In your eyes she (the Superior) shall hold first place among you 
by the dignity of her office, but in fear before God she shall be 
as the least among you (VII.46). 

*The Lord grant that you may observe all these precepts in a spirit 
of charity as lovers of spiritual beauty giving forth the good 
odor of Christ in the holiness of your lives, not as slaves living 
under the law but as women living in freedom under grace (VIII.48) 

God, of course, is the centrifugal force for mutual attraction in the 
building up of community. The Trinity is the perfection of inter-personal 
relations, involving the fullness of indwelling love and communion. The 
interiorization of unity in charity which we are to maintain in our hearts 
will be fostered and expressed in inter-personal relations and in the 
unanimity of our life. Daily experience of the Eucharist constantly tests 
and proves this unity whose source is Christ. In the final analysis, the 
unity and charity in the community are in proportion to each sister's 
personal love of Christ and as that love is permeated by her Dominican 
charism: truth and love. 



1 See I.V; Quote is from Innocent IV, 11 May, 1272 

2 Marie-Humbert Vicaire, OP, The Genius of St. Dominic: A Collection of 
Study Essays . Edited by Peter B. Lobo, OP (Nagpur, India: Dominican 
Publications, 1989) p. 41 

3 Expositio Regulae , XVI; Opera de Vita Regulari , 1.72 

4 Vicaire, op. cit., p. 88; Cf. nn. 134 & 135, pp. 241-242 

5 See Thomas Martin, "Oneness of Heart Intent Upon God" in Review for 
Religious (Sept. -Oct., 1982) p. 108 f. 

6 Institutes, Preface 9, Quoted from Philip Rosseau, Ascetics, Authority 
and the Church in the Age of Jerome and Cassian (Oxford University 
Press, 1978) n.35 p. 195 

7 Cf. Vincent de Couesnongle, OP, Confidence for the Future (Dublin, 
Ireland: Dominican Publications, 1982) p. Ill 

8 The genesis of this idea came from the talk given by Father Thomas 
McGonigle, OP at the National Assembly of the Dominican Nuns in West 
Springfield, Massachussetts , 1982 

9 "The Word as Silence: On Silence and Speech in RB" in Cisterc ian 
Studies Vol. XVIII 1982.3, p. 195 

10 "Silence and Word in the Life of Prayer" in Word and Spirit 6 
(Massachussetts: St. Bede's Publications, 1984) p. 118 


11 "Death in Venice" in Stories of Three Decades (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 
Inc., 1976) p. 395 ~ 

12 Op. cit., p. 107 

13 The Sign of Jonas (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1953) p. 261 

14 Processus Boniensis in the Acta Canonizationis S. Dominici , ed. A. Walz 
MOPH XVI (Rome 1935) n. 12 

15 Cf, Thomas Martin, op. cit., pp. 713-714 


Maiden wrapped in silence. 
Wrapped in need so great: 
Her time is fast approaching, 
The midnight hour is late. 

Fire glows inside the hostel, 
Fire glows on courtyard path; 
There glows in maiden waiting 
Fire cast from Heaven's Hearth 
To set the world 

Sr. Maria of the Eucharist, O.P, 
West Springfield 


Sr . Mary Jeremiah, OP 
Lufkin, TX 

Our Constitutions places responsibility for selecting persons in 
positions of authority within the community or chapter itself. The 
chapter elects the prioress and councillors. Those offices which are 
appointed by the prioress must be approved by the council. Thus, in one 
way or another those with authority are given such by the community. 

How can the community know if it has made the right choice? We 
pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and especially as manifested 
through discernment. 

What Is the Gift of Discernment? 

St. Catherine of Siena tells us that discernment is rooted in 
humility and charity. (1) 

Father Ladislas Orsy, SJ, describes it as perceiving the 
inspiration of grace as well as a "contemplative insight into God's 
ways... for those issues that cannot be solved in any other way, that is, 
by ordinary investigation and reasoning. "(2) 

Discernment is spiritual seeking to know God's will for a given 
group, circumstance or course of action, as well as determining whether 
an inspiration originates or is motivated by the Holy Spirit, the human 
spirit, or a demonic spirit. 

All Christians are called to exercise personal discernment for 
their own lives using such tools as Scripture, the teaching of the 
Church, duties of one's state in life, quality of life, etc. These 
tools are also important for communal discernment. In a community where 
all are striving to do God's will there must be a basic trust that God 
is indeed guiding the community. Without this fundamental confidence 
the bonds of peace, harmony, and charity are undermined. "Authentic 
discernment is never off the top of one's head or rooted in personal 
feeling alone. It is factually, doctrinally, ethically, and 
psychologically informed . "(3) 

Christian communal discernment is a very complex, mysterious 
activity, because not only are the natural means of intellect and 
psychology involved, but the infused gifts of the Holy Spirit become 
operative. All the gifts are needed, but especially that of counsel ■ (4) 

Abbot Vonier says that "through the gift of counsel the Christian 
enters into the secret ways of God; unknowingly yet unerringly" choosing 
the correct course of action. (5) 

The gift of counsel touches and enlightens the limited human 
intellect in such a way that it shares in an inexplicable manner the 
very knowing of God. St. Thomas Aquinas says it is as though the 
person was counselled or directed by God Himself. The gift of counsel 
dispels all doubts and gives the person or community an intellectual 
conviction, an interior assurance, of what God wants. (6) 


In a life of Faith the agility of a mind 
proficient in supernatural prudence is a 
halting, clumsy stumbling compared to an 
act of Counsel. By prudence a man brings 
himself to obey God after deliberation; but 
in Counsel the Holy Spirit suddenly and 
without discussion brings the soul into the 
presence of the Divine Will. In a moment, 
without a series of serious thoughts, the 
soul knows exactly what, how, why, when, 
where, and by what helps the will of God 
may be fulfilled. The premises for its 
conclusion are hidden in Divine Wisdom; 
only the conclusion is revealed to it by 
Counsel, but its practical action is no 
less certain. (7) 

Being guided by the gift of counsel does not mean becoming lazy or 
indulging in quietism. One must exercise all the human faculties of 
investigation, observation, and judgment, but ultimately one must pray 
for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The human mind gathers all its 
information, but at the moment of discernment the gift of counsel 
by-passes all "data-processing". "In counsel the entire picture of the 
present is framed in the past, and the soul sees the whole at a single 
glance .... Its instantaneous and intense certitude seem almost 
instinctive ."(8) 

How then Does the Community Discern and Identify Persons for Positions 
of Authority? 

A Christian community, a monastery, is the Body of Christ in 
microcosm. Each member is unique and important. Each has a special 
gift to offer and a role to play for the building up of the Body, the 
community. All do not have the same gifts. There are many gifts 
distributed among various members. 

In discerning which persons to choose from the community for 
positions of authority, the individual gifts of each person must be 
evaluated. The evaluation of persons* gifts is a spontaneous process 
which occurs constantly in family, workplace, religious community. It 
begins the day we are born, join a company, or enter a monastery. It is 
normal and positive and necessary for the growth of the community. 

The evaluation of gifts enables us to develop new ones we 
possessed only in potential, strengthen those we already use, or 
sacrifice others which are not as essential at a particular time in our 
lives or not called upon to be used for the common good. 

Each person has received particular gifts for service, for the 
good of others. Some gifts are of a temporary nature, while others are 
permanent, in the sense of being part of our personality or innate 
qualities bestowed by God. For example, a person may have an 
extraordinary, natural gift for music, this would be "permanent". But 


this person is not appointed to the liturgical or musical aspects of the 
community, thus "temporarily" she does not exercise this gift. 

Father James Hayes, MS, says that good leadership in religious 
communities is a matter of a "real vocational" call and not something 
arbitrary. In other words, the person has some natural gift or can be 
trained in this. Work assignments in the business world are not given as 
rewards, they are quite predictable, as "cause and effect". There need 
not be great surprises at election time, because the process of 
discernment and evolution of the person and community has been going on 
continuously . 

Father Jude 0. Mbukanma, OP, in his book, Charism and Holiness , 
points out that the qualities of leadership must already be inherent in 
the person. One cannot expect to vote for a person who has not already 
shown the qualities needed. It is unrealistic to think they will 
develop after if they have not first been manifested before in some 
degree. This is why it is important from the first day of entrance to 
comply as well as possible to training in the various duties and grow in 
assuming responsibilities. Leaders are not chosen at random, just "to 
give someone a chance". They have already demonstrated they are 
leaders, even if it is in the way they take care of the garbage and 
other "inconsequential" duties. 

Father Jude offers certain qualities to look for in choosing 
persons for positions of authority: 

-the quality of one's life: what one says and does; one's 
spiritual depth. 

-not everyone is a leader. Some can start projects and have 
good ideas to be initiated, but cannot keep them going. 

-the leader is usually NOT the initiator, but the one who knows 
how to get the idea acted upon. 

-a person who can make decisions . (9) 

In monastic life, however, we are not looking for corporate or 
managerial leaders. Our focus is upon living our contemplative vocation 
surrendered to God's will. Our Constitutions gives us very different, 
yet essential, qualities to look for in choosing persons for roles of 
service in authority. 

#195. The prioress, as the faithful servant of the monastery, 

should at all times foster the unity of charity, constantly 
promote the contemplative life of the nuns and diligently 
care for regular observance. 

#253.1 The nun to be elected prioress should: 

1) be charitable, prudent and conscientious regarding 
regular observance; 

2) have sufficient knowledge of the laws and traditions 

of the Order; 

3) be able to participate in the community exercises. 


Those chosen to be councillors manifest the very gift the name 
suggests: counsel, advice, prudence, etc. The one appointed as Novice 
Directress is to be "outstanding in her life and doctrine, experienced 
in spiritual matters, and skilled in the discernment of spirits'* . (LCM, 

Is an Election a Political Event? 

Although we live a cloistered life we are not immune from the 
influences of the world: those we brought with us when we entered and 
those which continue to impinge upon our life. Does "politics" enter 
into a religious community? No and yes. Unfortunately, we have a very 
pejorative understanding of politics due to the current status of 
government. Politics is often associated with dishonesty, corruption 
manipulation, strategies to control and put certain persons in power. 
This should not be the case in a religious community where all are 
disciples of Christ the "Servant" par excellence . If this is the case, 
then the community is not living fully its charism of mutual charity, 
humility, trust and unity, seeking God's will in prayer and 
sacrifice. (10) 

In actuality, "politics" is a very positive word which needs to be 
redeemed. It comes from the Greek, polis (city) and politikos 
(citizen). Aristotle says that the human person is by nature a social 
being. It is natural to seek and live in community: family, various 
groups, villages, state. Therefore, the activity of striving for the 
common good of the group is political. Thus, in this sense one could 
say "yes" an election is "political" if it seeks the common good of the 

Can We Know Infallibly We Are Following the Holy Spirit? 

No and yes. No one on earth is "infallible", except the Pope, or 
an Ecumenical Council, when teaching ex cathedra on faith and morals. 
However, this does not mean a religious community cannot be reasonably 
certain that it has made the right decision. 

If all are sincere and seeking God's will, there is a certain 
faith and trust in the community as a whole to know and follow God's 
will. Bruce Yocum offers some criteria for discerning the Spirit's 
guidance. First, there is a simple physical principle known as 
"resonance". Today's slang expresses it as "good vibes (vibrations)". 
There is an interior, peaceful assurance and response in our hearts and 
minds of listening to the Spirit. Second, consider the spiritual tone 
and effect. Is it critical and resentful or positive and edifying? 
Third, does the decision glorify the Lord? Give it the test of time and 
use the criteria Jesus Himself gave us, "by their fruits you will know". 
Finally, some people have a special gift of discernment and can "tell 
with greater clarity and swiftness" if something is from God. (11) 

Even if there seem to be tragic results from a decision this does 
not mean the Spirit has not been guiding the community. The fruits one 


looks for are not simply exterior peace and prosperity, but more 
importantly the virtues and fruits of the Holy Spirit St. Paul mentions 
in his letter to the Galatians. 

What if Someone Thinks She Has an Inspiration from the Holy Spirit but 
the Community Does not Accept It? 

This person may be broken-hearted and truly have a good idea which 
is ahead of its time. However, not every good idea can always be 
accepted immediately. Sometimes personal projects, ideas, and desires 
have to be sacrificed for the greater good of the whole. Sometimes ideas 
need to be allowed time to "ripen" and deepen, both for the individual 
and the community. 

This calls for great humility and obedience. It is good to have 
differing opinions in order to influence and balance one another. The 
ultimate test of the Spirit is the fruit which follows: peace, love, 
cooperation, unity, self-sacrifice. 


If a community is seeking to live as well as possible in loving 
fidelity to God's will, it can have a certain trust and confidence that 
the Holy Spirit will lead and inspire it to choose the proper persons to 
exercise authority. The primary tools for discernment might be reduced 
to two: docility to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and consideration of 
the fruits of decisions and actions. 

The fundamental means of discerning the presence and inspiration 
of the Holy Spirit is "by their fruits you shall know" -look for peace, 
charity and cooperation at every element and stage of the election or 
decision-making process. These are the "infallible" signs of the 
Spirit. Anger and bitterness are indications to examine to see if there 
are bad-will and self-seeking motives. 

Emphasis on the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit have been a 
characteristic of Dominican spirituality and theology. In fidelity to 
this great tradition, a monastic community can know peace and confidence 
when choosing those who will exercise authority. 


1) St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue , chapter 9. 

2) Ladislas Orsy, SJ, Probing the Spirit - A Theological 
Evaluation of Communal Discernment (Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, Inc., 
1976) pp v . 15 & 32. 

3) Donald L. Gelpi, SJ, Charism and Sacrament - A Theology of 
Christian Conversion (New York: Paulist Press, 1976) p. 92. 

4) Walter Farrell. OP & Dominic Hughes, OP, Swift Victory - Essays 
on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1955), pp. 115 
& 119f. Cf., Yves Congar, OP p Believe in the Holy Spirit in 3 Vols. 
(New York: The Seabury Press, 1983) p. 183. 

5) Don Anscar Vonier, OSB, The Spirit and the Bride (London: Burns 
Oates & Wasbourne, Ltd., 1935) p. 192. 

6) St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, q. 52, a. 1, ad. 2. 
"Quasi consilio a Deo accepto." 

7) Farrell, op. cit . , p. 115. 

8) Ibid. , pp. 117 & 119. 

9) Jude 0. Mbukanama, OP, Charism and Holiness (Yaba, Nigeria: 
Dominican Publications, 1986), p. 145. 

10) Paul Hinnebusch, OP, Community in the Lord (Notre Dame, Ind.: 
Ave Maria, 1975) p. 174. 

p. 117 

11) Bruce Yocum, Prophecy (Ann Arbor, MI: Word of Life, 1976) 



always ann 



3 9 


Sister Susan Heinemann, O.P. 
North Guilford 

To love is good, too: love being difficult. 
For one human being to love another: that is 
perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, 
the ultimate, the last test and proof, the 
work for which all other work is but 
preparation .... 

But learning-time is always a long, secluded 
time, and so loving, for a long while ahead 
and far on into life, is--solitude , 
intensified and deepened loneness for him who 
loves . 

--Rainer Maria Rilke 

As Dominican monastic women we follow the way of the 
apostolic Church and seek to emulate the early christians' fervor 
and fidelity to the Gospel: to the good news of God who became 
flesh, who suffered, died and rose, and who now pours out his 
Spirit of love upon us to make us his friends. On the last day 
of his earthly life, our Lord prayed that all might be one, that 
all might share the unity that exists between himself and the 
Father. This unity, accomplished in us through the gift of the 
Spirit, is the ultimate goal of all christians. John Cassian 
assures us that it will be accomplished, because it will be 
brought about as a result of this prayer of the Son which is 
efficacious and "can in no way be rendered void." 1 As the Spirit 
is breathed forth into our hearts, we are drawn into the unity 
that exists between the Father and the Son and at the same time 
enter into fellowship with one another (1 Jn. 1:3). Community 
life is a celebration of this fellowship, of this unity that 
already exists among us as a result of a mutual sharing in the 
life of the Trinity. We pray together, study together, eat 
together, work and recreate together because we are one organism 
that lives and breathes God, that is continually drawing life 
from one source and responding in love to one end. 

However, we are not yet perfectly one, and community life 
also serves as a means toward our goal. The irritations and 
frictions of day-to-day life together make it obvious that we are 
not fully united; at the same time they offer us infinite 
opportunities for exercising our desire for unity. This tension 
can finally lead us to the realization that we are not yet 
perfectly one as a group because we are not yet perfectly one as 
individuals, that we lack the internal unification necessary for 
true communion with others. We harbor within our hearts demons 
of darkness, disorder and division which prevent us from being 
fully given over to the Spirit who alone can unite us. How can 
we expel these demons, these forces of disunity, and learn to 
surrender more fully to the love, light and unity of the Spirit? 


Louis Bouyer deals with this question while discussing 
Antony and the origins of monasticism in his Spirituality of the 
New Testament and the Fathers . He explains that it was Antony's 
withdrawal into solitude that occasioned the spiritual combat 
which led to the expulsion of the demons and surrender to the 
Spirit. He suggests that it was this discipline that brought 
about the holy man's internal unity and allowed the Spirit to 
displace completely the disintegrating powers of darkness so that 
Antony could live fully dominated by the breath of God. And 
Bouyer speaks of Antony's solitude as "simply the means of 
effectively gaining integral charity." 2 

It has been stated above that community life is both a 
celebration of and a means toward our goal, and that solitude too 
helps us to grow towards union with God and with one another in 
God. What is it about solitude that makes it such an effective 
means? What is it about this discipline that enables us to live 
together in the way that Augustine and Dominic envisaged--as 
friends on the way to God? The following pages will seek to 
answer these questions by suggesting that solitude provides a way 
of surmounting certain obstacles to community lif e--namely, 
loneliness, the false self, and the fear of suf f er ing--and that 
it makes possible true friendship by the transformation it brings 
about . 

The first of these obstacles, loneliness, is perhaps a 
greater problem today than it ever has been. The cause of this 
widespread ailment which so characterizes our time could be 
traced back to certain philosophical notions that underlie the 
attitudes and values of our culture. There has been a major 
shift in the way that people view the human person. Far 
different from the God-centered and community-oriented world view 
prevalent in New Testament times, or the time of Antony or even 
Dominic, our contemporary understanding of the world places great 
stress on the individual as independent and autonomous. God is 
no longer seen as intimately involved with his creation, 
sustaining it at every instant, but is viewed as having set 
everything in motion and then having faded into the background. 
The human person is thus left at the center of reality, with no 
direct appeal to a higher being and no sense of a superior 
destiny. Each man and woman must search for meaning within 
themselves. The more God's place has yielded to the human 
person, the more isolated and helpless the individual has become. 
Though most people are unaware of the philosophical presuppo- 
sitions which have led to this isolation and helplessness, they 
are the roots of a deep loneliness. 

Tension and anxiety arise as the individual is forced to 
assume an exaggerated independence and to function as a god. 
People somehow know that they are not isolated centers of being. 
Something in them rebels against this predicament. We are by 
nature social creatures and it is this pulse within us that cries 
out for fulfillment. Too often, however, people are pressured 
into playing the role of the "autonomous self" in order to meet 



s standards . 




a persona, and grow 


ly al 

selves . 

Without any 

clear goa 

1 to 

their be 

havior, they 


in a 

way t 


d good : social . 


ance . 


of thinking 


act in 

g tha 

cost of 

divorcing th< 

2m f 

r om th 

e tru 

The deve 

lopment of this 



deeper 1 

oneliness and ob 


to c 

know the 

person for, 


off f 

rom t 

even know themselves 


the game and develop a facade, 
ienated from their true 
draw them forward and regulate 
hat reaches out to the only 

Over time people develop 
t insure peer approval, at the 
e reality of who they are. 
nal self creates an even 
ommunity. Nobody can really 
heir inner reality, they don't 

Persons drawn to community lif 
here a solution to the problem of 1 
will be one that is quite different 
expected. It may be thought that s 
will soothe the discomfort of lonel 
using other people only creates fur 
is only possible among people who h 
the aloneness that is part of the h 
on to discover the self who lies do 
beneath the masks and clamor of the 
truly coming to know ourselves in t 
strength we need to take responsibi 
and living out of the ideals of the 
find and utilize our own inner stre 
clinging to others and identifying 
appropriation of the ideals. This 
solitude and the acceptance of a pa 
which goes completely against the c 

e may think that they can find 
oneliness. They can, but it 

from what they initially 
urrounding oneself with others 
iness. However, this way of 
ther barriers. True community 
ave acknowledged and accepted 
uman condition and have gone 
rmant in the still center 

social personality. Only by 
his way do we find the 
lity for our own appropriation 

monastic life. If we do not 
ngth, we spend our lives 
with them and their 
process of discovery requires 
inful struggle, an acceptance 
ultural grain. 

It goes against the grain because of the current emphasis on 
feeling good and the plethora of available antidotes for every 
imaginable malady. In the face of this "well-being" attitude, it 
is a very difficult task to come to the realization of the 
inevitability of suffering and to appreciate its transforming 
power. And yet, in the words of Henri DeLubac: 

There is one way only of being happy: not to 
be ignorant of suffering, and not to run away 
from it. but to accept the transfiguration it 
br ings . 

This is not in any way to advocate the search for or cultivation 
of suffering for its own sake, but rather a willingness to accept 
it for the sake of a higher good. DeLubac clarifies this point: 

To welcome suffering is not to take pleasure 
in it. It is not love of suffering for its 
own sake. It is consent to one's humiliation 
by it. It is the opening of oneself to the 
blessings of what is inevitable, like earth 
which allows the water of heaven to soak 


right through it. 

Loneliness, the false self, and the fear of suffering can 
all be barriers to the authentic common life to which we are 
called. Solitude turns us around and brings us face to face with 
all this and more. It can be--if we allow it to be--the arena of 
our re-creation in Christ, and therefore the "means of 
effectively gaining integral charity." 

The primary characteristic of this solitude, which can be 
the field of our remaking, is that it is a place of confrontation 
with the truth: the truth of who we are now before God, and who 
we are called to be; and the truth of who God is both in himself 
and for us. This confrontation takes place through the medium of 
the Word that we ponder in the silence which pervades our day and 
especially when we are alone in our cells. This confrontation 
brings us right into the heart of our faith: the dying and 
rising of the Word made flesh. We die as we surrender the 
protective walls that we have constructed so carefully in order 
to shield ourselves from pain. We suffer as we wade through 
layers of unfreedom and come to the realization of our own 
sinfulness and poverty. But it is precisely this dying, this 
"consent to humiliation," that makes possible the new life. 
"Opening oneself to suf fering. .. enables one to discover a love 
that is deeper than suffering." 

The ground of this love is discovered beneath the brokenness 
and pain which come to view as the light of the Word flashes 
within us. It is the hidden self, the core of who we are--what 
the Zen masters refer to as the shape of our original face. This 
original face is the spark of being that came into existence by a 
free act of God's love. It is here on this deepest level of 
ourselves that we are reborn, refashioned, recreated in the image 
of the Son. Here God once again touches us with his creative 
love and makes the spark of being burst forth into the flame of 
true charity. This is what solitude is meant to do: to bring us 
into a deeper union with the Son and create new space in us for 
the Spirit. When understood in this way, it could never 
degenerate into mere withdrawal and isolation but only lead to 
the highest form of communion, a communion that reaches out to 
the whole human family as well as to those with whom we are more 
closely associated. 

It reaches out as we enter more deeply into the rhythm of 
dying and rising and learn that the experience of our own pain 
offers an entry place in us for the suffering of an agonized 
world. As this anguish cuts more deeply into us, we come with 
increasing ardor before the Father who can and will make all 
things new. One in Spirit with our suffering sisters and 
brothers throughout the world, we cry out for the fullness of the 
Kingdom. As we are then lifted up, in union with the Risen One, 
so too the world is mysteriously charged with new life. There 
is, as a result, a marvelous movement towards the realization of 

4 3 

God's plan to "bring everything together under Christ as head" 
(Ephes . 1:10). 

On a more immediate level, s 
that can enhance our communion wi 
place when ve discover the inner 
the noisy endeavors of the ego, a 
Word of truth. Penetrated more a 
ve come to a clearer perception o 
know and choose the good. Our ac 
are guided by reason rather than 
We can become masters of our own 
longer buried beneath layers of a 
behavior patterns. We no longer 
wounded, nebulous self from pain, 
consider our goal and to choose i 
move us in the direction that ve 

omething happens in 
th those around us . 
self, a place of sil 
nd there hear and re 
nd more by God's sil 
f reality and can mo 
tions become freer i 
by the impulses of o 
actions because we a 
rtificiality and unc 
need to vork so hard 
There is a nev fre 
ntelligently actions 
really vant to go. 

sol itude 

This takes 

ence beneath 

ceive the 

ent wisdom, 

re freely 

n that they 

ur pass ions . 

re alert, no 


to shield a 

edom to 

that will 

As we grow in goodness by these choices that we make, our 
relationships with others change. They are no longer simply 
based on usef ulness--what others can do for us--or on pleasure-- 
the emotional satisfaction that others provide--but are based on 
a common goodness or virtue. And this alone provides the 
possibility of true and lasting friendship. As Cassian says: 

There is one kind of love which is 
indissoluble, where the union is 
owing ... simply to similarity of virtue.... 
True harmony and undivided union can only 
exist among those whose life is pure, and who 
are men of the same goodness and purpose. 

Realistically we know the truth of Evagrius' statement that "it 
is not possible to love all the brethren to the same degree,"' 
and that the friendship between Cassian and Germanus referred to 
here is a special gift. But ve also knov that, if ve are 
faithful to the means, it is possible to dvell together in unity 
--the main purpose for vhich ve have come together. 

One of the primary 

means that requires 

our fidelity is 


litude, a solitude in 

which we place ourse 

Ives before a God who 

searches us and knows us 

with a knowledge th 

at is love . This 

searching, knowing love 

penetrates and trans 

forms us and 


berates that within us 

which alone is capa 

ble of true unity. 


is restoration of the 

image of the Son in 

us enables us to live 


gether with one mind and heart. Having pu 

t on the mi nd of 


rist and allowing the 

Spirit to penetrate 

the deepest recesses 


our being, we are pro 

gressively freed for 

authentic community 


f e . We no longer hang 

on to others out of 

loneliness and can, 

i n 

joy and freedom, show 

' our true face to th 

e world. We accept 


e inevitability of suffering and the trans 

formation it brings. 


become more and more 

guided by reason and 

move ourselves 

toward our goal--toward 

God, a relationship 

of persons, and to a 


aring in the fellowshi 

p of this triune lif 

e, a fellowship that 


we already celebrate by our common life. As we do so, the whole 
Church is increased with a hidden fruitfulness and our communion 
becomes a service leading all to know the love of the Father who 
has sent the Son and through the Spirit makes us his friends. 


1. The Works of John Cassian , trans, by Rev. Edgar C.S. Gibson, 
The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers , Second Series, Vol. XI (Grand 
Rapids, MI: Wm . B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), Conf. 10:7, 
p. 314. 

2. Louis Bouyer, The Spirituality of the New Testament and the 
Fathers , Vol. I of A History of Christian Spirituality (New York: 
Seabury Press, 1963), p. 315. 

3. Henri DeLubac, Paradoxes of Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius 
Press, 1987), p. 172. 

4. Ibid ., p. 171. 

5. Laurie E. Brands, "The Spiritual Journey of Simone Weil and 
the Vision that emerged from it" (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 
University of Notre Dame, 1983), p. ii. 

6. The Works of John Cassian , op . cit . , Conf. 16:3, p. 450; 
16:28, p. 460. 

7. Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer , 
trans, by John Eudes Bamberger; Cistercian Studies Series, Number 
Four (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1981), p. 41, 

ch. 100. 


Sister Mary Joseph, O. P. 
Los Angeles, California 

One day at morn, (and then the search began) 

I found the One who balanced a bird's wings 

And cadenced its song in the April brook, 

And later flushed its full-throated glory 

In an Autumn sky. 

I found Him who held the reigns 

Of the wild horses of the wind, 

The same One who first whispered 

So tenderly in a quiet breeze. 

I met Him in a friend 

And the discovery filled my life with joy. 

I had found the One 

In the bird and its song, 

In the wind, and the friend. 

I had found the One in them. 

Then another day at noon 

The bird was seen no more in the sky, 

Not the trail of a cloud 

To tell of its passing. 

The wild wind whispered down 

To a still noon breeze, 

And the sound of the friendly voice 

Was stilled as a pause 

In the music of life. 

Today in the quiet of evening 
In a great mystery of discovery, 
I have found them all in God, 
The bird and its song, 
The wind, and the friend, 
Now - not only Him in them 
But them in Him. 

I press on in the search, 

Weave Him like strands 

In the warp and woof of my life, 

Wear Him as a mantle. 

He is my name. 

Living and breathing, 

We are the same. 


- Mother Mary Margaret , . P . , Buffalo 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image 
of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And 
those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also 
justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). 

Paul, WHEN did you first conceive of the fatherhood of God? 

Was it when the heavens opened and witnessed your wrath 

against your brother Stephen? 

Was his cry of forgiveness, 

like that of his crucified Master's, 

the stinging spear that pierced the rhythmic beat of 

s in-dea th , s in-death , s in-death 

rampantly raging in your heart? 

Was it then that, unsought, 

unknown to you 

the hand of a merciful all-knowing Father 

tossed into the soil of your soul 

the seed of faith 

steeped in the blood of the Lamb? 



WHERE, Paul, did you first perceive the fatherhood of God? 

Was it on the way to the street called Straight? 

(Blinded by the dazzling light of God's Son 

you had reached for helping hands to lead you 

as a child reaches for the strong hands of its father.) 

Fear not, favored one, 


chosen as the Father's vessel of election! 

Fear not to meet the herald of good news. 

Ananias is coming. Heed him! 

Let Ananias ' hands 

bring you the Father's healing light, 


leading you further along the road to sight. 

For does not he who sees the Son see the Father also? 




HOW did you know, Paul, 

that you were fashioned 

by the fatherhood of God 

to be an apostle of his only-begotten Son, 

first-born of many brethren? 

In baptism you were buried with the eternal Word of the Father 
so that newness of life in the Spirit would be your inheritance. 

Child of God, adopted by the Father 

whose beckoning finger 

fired by the flame of love 

urges you, 

impels you, 

press ever forward to the fullness of Life. 

Confirmed by the handclasp of apostolic brotherhood 
you live, no longer you, but Christ lives in you! 
Run to the very ends of the earth, beautiful feet, 
and preach the good news. 



WHAT did you see of the fatherhood of God, Paul, 


whether in or out of the body 

you were caught up to the third heaven? 

In the likeness of his Son 

you captured the all-seeing eye of the God who formed you 

and called you. 

Clothing you with the royal blood of his Son, 

HE SEES IN YOU no longer the Saul of former days 

but an alter Christus. 

Rightly do you call him ABBA, FATHER! 

We gaze in awe as he lifts you high into his embrace 
only to cast you down to earth — blind, deaf, dumb — 
unable to utter what you saw or heard. 

Yes, believe with your heart and rejoice in your hope, 

for powerless you are strong, 

and is not his grace sufficient for you? 



Tell us, Paul, 

of the fatherhood of God? 

For truly do you say 

that we do not know how to pray as we ought. 

HOW then can mortals span the height and the depth 

of the Father's Love? 

For no rod can measure the saving cross of Love's holocaust. 


the Spirit 

as he intercedes for us 

with inexpressible groanings, 

the Spirit who scrutinizes 

even the deep things of God? 

Yes, Paul, I quote your very words. 

Blessed indeed are the eyes of your pure heart 

for you now see the FATHER face to face! 


the depths of the riches and wisdom and KNOWLEDGE OF GOD! How unsearchable 
are his Judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Rom. 11:33). 


Sr. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, O.P. 
West Springfield, Massachusetts 

Monasticism is surely better known for its silence, solitude, withdrawal 
from the world and interiority than for its witness to communio, fraternity 
and outreach in hospitality. Nevertheless, through the holiness of a monk 
named Paulinus of Nola, we discover that lifegiving exchanges between friends 
and acquaintances were not only available but were regarded as an indispens- 
able part of his monastic life, for they represented a continual meditation 
on the relevance of scriptural exhortation and exemplars to his own life. (1) 

One of these exemplars was certainly Augustine, whose companionship in 
the spirit Paulinus enthusiastically sought. Having first become familiar 
with him through the reading of his works, he hastens to address him by let- 
ter with words of friendship and brotherhood. 

Paulinus 1 love for Augustine was experienced as so deep and firmly rooted 
that it was more like "taking up a long standing intimacy than embarking on 
a new friendship." (2) 

This does not come as a surprise to him. For Paulinus, this is "the gift 
of being members of the one body, possessing the one Head, being steeped in 
the one grace, living on the one Bread, treading the same path, dwelling in 
the same house." All they have in common "through faith and hope" he acknow- 
ledges as "one in the spirit and body of the Lord and should they break away 
from this unity, they are nothing." (3) 

Paulinus pursued Augustine for his wisdom as bishop and teacher, as friend 
and brother, and especially as monk and disciple of the Lord Christ. In his 
reply to Augustine's request for his view on a theological matter, the quality 
and discipline of Paulinus' communio is made apparent. 

This earnest monk seeks to redirect Augustine from his speculative flight 
concerning the activity and state of the blessed after the resurrection of 
the body, to the practical matter of the condition of his spiritual and moral 
life here and now. 

He responds: 

"...Teach me, instead, to do what God wills, to walk in your 
steps after Christ, and first to die the death which the Gospel 
demands." (4) 

As loving and sincere as his relationship with Augustine was, he shares 
an even deeper and more intimate fellowship with Sulpicius Severus. Through 
him, above all others, he "joyfully found that nothing can be compared to a 
faithful friend." (5) 

Christ had joined them not only as close friends in their earlier life 
in the world, but also as inseparable companions and partners in the call to 
monasticism. The affinity Paulinus enjoyed with Severus was so complete that 
his letters noted even physical similarities that pointed to their oneness 
in Christ. 


"...When I received your letter telling me of your illnesses, 
I, too, was ill, but felt refreshed in learning also of your restor- 
ation to health. To me, this was a most welcome proof of our harmony 
in all things and I experience in myself what Paul said and felt, that 
the limbs of the one body share each other's pain and joy." (6) 

Paulinus and Severus, although distanced from one another by a journey 
of eight days, continued to carry on an annual correspondence. Far more than 
for any personal benefit he might derive from this fraternal sharing, Paulinus 
valued communio as a Christian duty not to be taken lightly. 

"...There is laid up in heaven a crown of piety for all who with 
perfect charity love their neighbor in Christ or Christ in their neigh- 
bor." (7) 

The personal qualities Severus manifested to him gave Paulinus insight 
into those of his spirit. The open affection he showed him revealed the love 
he possessed for the invisible God. "This love," he firmly believed, "must 
be proven by the obedience of our faith; that is, we must prove by loving each 
other that we are disciples of the Master who loved his own unto the end and 
laid down his life for his friends with the same power by which he assumed 
it." (8) 

As dear and beneficial as the communications he received from Severus are, 
Paulinus is not content with letter writing. Over and over again he beckons 
his cherished friend, Sulpicius Severus, to come to him. Several letters mani- 
fest his coaxing, appealing to their mutual friendship, anticipating the joys 
of their meeting. 

Paulinus pays tribute to Severus' spiritual excellence and expresses his 
desire to be nurtured by him, "as by a husbandman who tends his garden." (9) 

Despite his continual ardent entreaties, Severus does not come. This lack 
of response initiates a strain in their relationship. Severus responds to 
his invitation by extolling the growth and virtue of Paulinus, but intimates 
that he would not be equal to his friend's austere, ascetical accommodations. 
Paulinus responds with a rebuke. 

He charges Severus with inconsistency in his words and questions if it 
may not be a lack of faith in the blessings that come to the disciple who fol- 
lows in the steps of the poor Christ. He chides him by saying that he does 
not hesitate to frequent the monastery of Martin and he would certainly never 
had longed to see him had he feared physical hunger. 

If Severus is sincere in his zeal to imitate holy monks whose lives in 
God are genuine, how is it that he did not seek out Paulinus "if he had heard 
that he had grown more perfect?" (10) 

Paulinus continues: 

"...I, for my part, will certainly never cease to long for your 
presence and to invite you here, for the growth of love, which is the 
fulfillment of the law, is the greatest necessity in the growth of spi- 
ritual works." (11) 


Again, Severus fails to make this journey. The estrangement between them 
has now reached its height. Paulinus takes offense at a monk courier sent 
by Severus and censors Marracinus as misrepresenting him. Even the bearer 
of a letter, who should image the person who writes it, is a form of communio 
for Paulinus. 

He writes: 

"That unspiritual monk of ours did not have to feign fellow- 
ship with us, as you ordered, nor look a monk in the face, as he 
would have had to in me. So let him keep his soldier's cloak and 
boots and cheeks to himself. 

"I beg you to send only poor brothers, pale of face like our- 
selves, in bristly clothes of goat's hair, spurning their natural 
physical attraction for inner adornment, who are not blown up with 
yesterday's wine but are abstemious with today's, men who stagger 
not because of overindulgence, but rather, because of a meagre 
diet." (12) 

In an effort to resolve the crisis affecting their relationship, Severus 
sent two couriers with letters in a single year. Reconciliation now takes 
place between the two friends. 

We do not know what words Severus employed to heal the breach between 
them, but we now find Paulinus at peace with the fact that Severus is unable 
to satisfy his longing to resume their accustomed visits. Severus multiplies 
his attentions to Paulinus by sending letters through an exemplary monk named 
Victor, in whom Paulinus takes delight. 

In a further attempt toward reconciliation, Severus confirms his esteem 
of Paulinus by requesting a portrait of him that it might be placed next to 
that of Martin's in the baptistry between his newly built basilicas. Paulinus 
resists out of humility, saying: 

"Severus, dear Severus, your great affection for me is driving 
you mad . 

"...The only representation of me which can be necessary for 
you is that in which you yourself are fashioned, by which you love 
your neighbor as yourself. 

"...There, in the unity of faith and grace, I am impressed and 
molded after your soul; and you will keep me and behold me there with 
inseparable and ever-present regard, not only in this life but also in 
eternity." (13) 

Through a relentless communio that embodied friendship and mutual encour- 
agememt , disagreement and quarrels, estrangement and reconciliation with his 
closest friend, the Christian life of Paulinus is made clear to us. 

These communications were the vehicle that brought to full development 
his personal expression of love of God and neighbor within his monastic set- 


Sharing the realization of the primacy of love in the Christian life with 
Severus, he writes: 

"What shall I render to the Lord for all the things he has 
rendered to me? For the Good God has repaid me with blessings for 
the evils of my life. Let us, then, make a return of love to Him. 
Let our gift be charity and our currency grace. 

"No one should cite as pretext the difficulty of payment, for 
no one can say that he has no heart. Holy David gives us example, 
when freed from the power of his enemies he repaid the Lord with 
the wealth not of his kingdom but of his heart. 

"But the Lord is loved in our persons as well, for He has said 
that the mark of his disciples would be that they love each other 
as He loved us. This means that we should have one heart and one 
soul in Christ, and that each should do for his neighbor what he 
wishes to be done to himself. For this reason I boast of my love 
for you in the Lord, for this alone allows me to pay in some degree 
to God at least one of the great and countless debts I owe Him. For 
I confess that to all other blessings I have not been outstandingly 
or especially admitted, and that only in my love for you am I per- 
fect." (14) 

Would that the Lord might enable each one of us to claim this one boast 
of Paulinus of Nola. 

(1) Walsh, P. G., Ed., Ancient Christian Writers , No. 35, Vol. 1, p. 2. 

(2) ibid . , Letter 6 To Augustine, pp. 70-71. 

(3) ibid '. 

(4) op. cit., No. 36, Vol. 2, Letter 45 To Augustine, P. 248. 

(5) op. cit., No. 35, Vol. 1, Letter 11 To Severus, p. 90. 

(6) ibid . , Letter 5 To Severus, p. 60. 

(7) ibid ., p. 53. 

(8) ibid . 

(9) ibid ., p. 64-65. 

(10) ibid . , Letter 11 To Severus, p. 103. 

(11) ibid . 

(12) ibid . , Letter 22 To Severus, p. 197-199. 

(13) op. cit., No. 36, Vol. 2, Letter 30 To Severus, p. 119, 120, 124. 

(14) ibid., Letter 23 To Severus, pp. 47-49. 




The place of friendship in our monastery chapters 

I believe that friendship has an important role to play when we assemble 
in our monastery chapters to discuss matters pertaining to our community life. 
I would like to develop this thought by bringing together three favorite quota- 
tions of mine. One is from Scripture, one from our Book of Constitutions, and 
one from the dictionary. 

The Scriptural text is from St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians: BE 

The text from our Constitutions is Number 7: IN ORDER THAT THEIR CON- 
TANCE: .4 good which meets with the general approval is quickly and easily 

One of my favorite words is 'empathy' . The Thorndike-Barnhart dictionary 
defines it as "the understanding of another's feelings, motives etc.". The 
skill of being empathetic can be developed by being good listeners and respect- 
ing the views of others, and by accepting others from where they are at a given 
time - not expecting more from them than what they are and have. 

It seems to me that by linking these three things together we have a splen- 
did starting point for sisterly communion. They are qualities which make for 
true friendship: unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, the fruitful parti- 
cipation of all in the ordering of the life of the monastery and understanding 
of the views and feelings of our sisters. These three notes of a natural and 
supernatural friendship lead directly to sisterly communion. 

Constitution Number 7 encourages the participation of all the nuns in the 
ordering of the life of the monastery. Participation involves expressing our 
opinions. Empathy helps us to see matters from another's point of view. By 
respectfully listening to others, we attain the goal St. Paul sets us when he 
exhorts us in his Letter to the Ephesians "to preserve the unity of the Spirit 
in the bond of peace" . 

In regard to friendship's role in the monastery chapter I should like to 
propose the following questions: 

1. Do you agree that by bringing a spirit of sisterly empathy to our mon- 
astery chapters we can more quickly achieve greater communion and understanding 
of the matters to be discussed? 

2. In addition to Bl . Humbert's reason, given in LCM Number 7, why would 
"the participation of all in the ordering of the life of the monastery" promote 
sisterly communion? 

3. Do you agree that bringing a spirit of empathy to our monastery chap- 
ters can help us to achieve what St. Paul calls "the unity of the Spirit in the 
bond of peace"? 

Sr. Mary Agnes of the Infant Jesus, O.P. , Buffalo 


What has friendship to do with authority? Or authority with friendship? 

Listed in Number 5 of our Fundamental Constitution are eight ways by which 
the nuns seek God. One of these ways relates directly to the theme of authori- 
ty and communio and, without the shadow of a doubt, communio relates directly 
to friendship. Perhaps, then, we are being led to see how authority and friend- 
ship can be related. 

LCM tells us: "The nuns seek God by pursuing communion through their 
manner of government." After reading this and thinking about it musingly, the 
question came to my mind as to why these two ideas of communion and government 
were related in precisely this way. I noted that the text does not say "pur- 
suing communion and following their manner of government" but "pursuing commu- 
nion through their manner of government." 

I find two key words here: through and manner . Through their manner of 
government indicates that authority and communio are not being presented as 
parallel elements in the context of the search for God. Rather, authority is 
the means by which communio is to be attained. The second key word, manner of 
government, emphasizes, to my understanding, the uniqueness of Dominican govern- 
ment — that is, the exercise of authority in the respective roles of both the 
community and those elected to hold authority, as well as the responsible part 
played by each nun in the government itself. 

We know that from the very beginnings of the Order St. Dominic and the 
early friars chose a democratic form of government — something quite revolu- 
tionary for the times. Every friar had a responsible part to play in it. It 
was not only a right but a duty. Certainly in the nuns' present Constitutions 
greater responsibility has been given to the conventual chapter and hence to 
each nun individually. 

We were given a boost in this direction from the Fathers of the most recent 
General Chapter of the Order. In the fourth recommendation concerning the nuns 
we read: "Because the system and structures of government in the Dominican Fa- 
mily are a cherished part of our heritage, combining a deep respect for the in- 
dividual person with a corresponding vision of shared responsibility for the 
building up of community and the exercise of authority, we encourage our sis- 
ters to continue their efforts to implement their Constitutions which faithful- 
ly reflect this vision of an organic and ordered participation of all in stri- 
ving to achieve the aims of the Order." 

In order to achieve a personal and shared responsibility that is enlight- 
ened, a certain dynamism is needed. The nuns first have to recognize both in- 
dividually and as a body that such a responsibility is ours. Then we need to 
take steps to fulfill that responsibility. What would some of these steps be? 
I see prayer, reflection, study, research and good will as a few. For some, per- 
haps all of us, the process is a huge challenge. Yet if we really want "commu- 
nio" then that principle of unity which is our particular form of government 
will be embraced with a courage informed by love. 


In all of this the operative word is love. This brings me back to where I 
started, looking for the connection between authority and friendship in communi- 
ty life. What has authority to do with friendship, friendship with authority? 
A great deal, I should think. The love of friendship, uniting sister with sis- 
ter and including always "the first among sisters", makes our shared responsibi- 
lity fruitful in bringing about an ever deeper and richer communio. I think it 
is this kind of friendship that LCM N. 7 is pointing us to. 

Sr. Mary Emmanuel, Buffalo 


Come break time with me, 

take your moments 

and waste them in my house. 

Place the stone I've sought 

all day to right, 

I am a tumbling wall. 

The day robbed and sold me 

for nothing, 

buy me back with welcome. 

I am joyful 

in the sight of my sister 

hastening to me . 

Her belief is my rebirth, 
for she has chosen 
to be with me. 

Sr. Mary John, O.P 
North Guilford 



Tears long held back flow, 
sudden, flooding at a word; 

spring torrent unleashed. 

Tree - cave shade of leaves 
sundered by summer sun-wind 

leaks light in ribbons. 

Walk a long, dark path, 
circled, dwarfed by clouds and pines. 
Can hope survive fear? 

Sr. Maria of the Cross, O.P 


Christ - Wheat, 

Wind - Spirit-sown 

in virgin earth-of-f lesh, 

harvested, whip-winnowed 

and thorn-threshed, 

On Rood is made 
our honey-running Rock 
within Whose rubied rift 
the living Rivers rise. 

Sr. Maria of the Cross, O.P 



Sr. Mary Martin, O.P. 

Much has been written in the past fifteen years or so about the mention 
of study ( eruditio litterarum ) in the Rule of San Sisto (RS) and its meaning 
for the nuns of the Order throughout the centuries. In order to shed 
further light on the subject, I would like to deal with another ancient 
monastic observance mentioned in the RS and in no other edition of the nuns' 
Constitutions until 1971: lectio divina . Chapter IV of RS states: "Let [the 
sick] read and work as the Prioress enjoins them." The now famous Chapter 
XX prescribes: "So with the exception of the hours which the Sisters ought 
to consecrate to prayer, to reading, to the preparation of the Office and 
chant, or to study, they should devote themselves to some manual labor as 
shall be judged good by the Prioress." And Chapter XXI adds: "On feast 
days all must devote themselves to reading, to the Divine Office, and to 
prayer, and leave aside all mechanical work." (1) 

Can we assume that "reading," lectio in the Latin text, refers to the 
classical observance of lectio divina ? I think we will find our answer in 
the monastic context from which St. Dominic drew the lifestyle of the first 
nuns. Let us begin with the Rule of St. Benedict. Chapter 48 of the RB is 
entitled "The Daily Manual Labor" and begins with this paragraph: "Idleness 
is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified 
periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading ( lectione 
divina ) . " There follows a series of detailed prescriptions for the monks' 
daily life of Opus Dei , work and reading. Toward the end of the chapter we 
find the sentence: "On Sunday all are to be engaged in reading except those 
who have been assigned various duties." (2) This chapter, which is 
foundational for the observance of lectio in Western monasticism, bears a 
striking resemblance to Chapters XX and XXI of the Rule of San Sisto, which 
begin: "Since idleness is the enemy of the soul..." and go on to prescribe, 
as quoted above, a balanced life of prayer, reading, Office, study and work 
for the nuns. Such a resemblance between RS and RB is not at all 
surprising. Both Vicaire (3) and Berthier (4) point out other passages 
from RS that are obviously based on either RB or the Customs of Citeaux. 
Vicaire makes a convincing case for the probable Cistercian orientation of 
Prouille at the beginning, (5) and we need only remember that San Sisto 
was originally composed of the remnants of two or more Benedictine 
monasteries of Rome. 

The second major source for the regular life of the first nuns, as well 
as for that of the brethren, was the Customs of Premontre. Again, Vicaire 
points out important literary borrowings in the RS. (6) But in the case of 
lectio it is not a guestion of literary borrowing, but rather of inhaling 
the very spirit of a life that relied heavily on the practice of this 
ancient monastic observance. We know that the Premonstratensian canons of 
the 12th and 13th centuries spent about six hours a day in the winter and 
three hours a day in the summer engaging in lectio divina . Important 
authors in their tradition speak of it as part of the essential balance of 
their life. (7) The fact that the Premonstratentian nuns very likely did 


not follow this regimen, just as they did not participate actively in the 
Divine Office, has no bearing on our present discussion. There is little or 
no evidence that these nuns served as a model for any aspect of the life of 
Dominican nuns. (8) It was the life and customs of the canons that St. 
Dominic admired and wished to imitate, insofar as these fitted in with the 
charism of the Order he was founding. 

This brings us to St. Dominic himself. The Nine Ways of Prayer gives 
us a charming picture of our Holy Father's practice of lectio : 

The holy father Dominic also had another beautiful way of 
praying, full of devotion and grace... The father would go 
off quickly on his own to a cell or somewhere, sober and alert 
and anointed with a spirit of devotion which he had drawn from 
the divine words which had been sung in choir or during the 
meal; there he would sit down to read or pray, recollecting 
himself in himself and fixing himself in the presence of 
God. Sitting there quietly he would open some book before 
him, arming himself first with the sign of the cross, and 
then he would read. And he would be moved, in his mind as 
delightfully as if he heard the Lord speaking to him. . . 
The man of God had a prophetic way of passing quickly from 
reading to prayer and from meditation to contemplation. (9) 

When he prescribed reading for his nuns, can we imagine that he had anything 
other in mind than this beautiful monastic observance from which he himself 
derived so much pleasure and grace? Perhaps in his evening instructions to 
the nuns at San Sisto, he taught them how to read in just this way. In any 
case, we could well meditate on this description as a model for our own 
practice of lectio . 

The early nuns were expected to do lectio divina . How does this 
conclusion shed light on the meaning of the phrase eruditio litterarum in 
number XX of the Rule of San Sisto? This time we need to plunge ourselves 
into current controversy as well as into ancient tradition. J.J. Berthier, 
O.P., in his 1918 edition and French translation of RS, interprets eruditio 
litterarum ( 1' etude des lettres ) as doctrinal study. (10) After Vatican 
II, this was eagerly seized upon by the nuns as evidence of St. Dominic's 
intent to give study a major place in their life, as he had in the life of 
the brethren, albeit for a different end. This interpretation was not, to 
my knowledge, seriously challenged until Simon Tugwell, O.P. remarked in a 
rather offhand manner, that "it really only means 'learning to read'." (11) 
He cites two authorities for this, unfortunately unavailable to me. The 
challenge was serious, but not serious enough to prevent the Constitutions 
of 1987 from stating that St. Dominic recommended study "in some form" to 
the first nuns of the Order. (12) 

I contend, with reservations, that Tugwell is correct. Eruditio 
litterarum means "learning to read," that is, learning to read Latin in 
order to be able to do lectio , as well as the Office. The support for this 
contention extends back to the beginning of the monastic tradition. 
Pachomius in the 3rd Century insisted that his monks learn to read: "There 
shall be no one whatever in the monastery who does not learn to read and 
does not memorize something of the Scriptures. [One should learn by heart] 
at least the New Testament and the Psalter." (13) Virtually all early 


monastic rules of the West, including the rules of Augustine and Benedict, 
assume that those living in the monastery were literate. (14) In 
Benedictine monasteries, this literacy was assured by taking in young boys 
(and girls) and teaching them what came to be called gramma tica . This term, 
of Greek derivation, meant more than just "grammar;" it meant what we would 
call "Latin," that is, the study of the classical authors, as well as 
composition in prose and verse. The Latin equivalent of the word was 
litteratura . As Jean Leclercq remarks: 

"From now on can be seen the importance of letters... Not that 
literature is an end, even a secondary end, of monastic life; but 
it is a conditioning factor. In order to undertake one of the 
principle occupations of the monk, it is necessary to know, to 
learn and, for some, to teach grammatica . " (15) 

In other words, in order to read Scripture intelligently and derive 
full benefit from it, the monk or nun must not only be able to pronounce the 
words correctly, but also to know, to the extent of each one's capacity, the 
nuances of the language which he or she is reading. Eruditio litterarum , 
then, is far more than merely learning to read (although literacy in itself 
is a great liberating force); it is one of the gateways to the fullness of 
the christian and monastic life. It is also the gateway to doctrinal study, 
in the sense that for the ancient monks, lectio also embraced doctrinal 
study, that is, the reading of the Fathers of the Western Church. This 
prayerful, meditative reading of the Fathers in conjunction with Scripture 
had led, by the 12th Century, to a rich monastic theology of which St. 
Bernard is the most representative author. I think that the text of the 
Rule of San Sisto, brief as it is in itself, indicates positively St. 
Dominic's intention that the nuns participate in the whole of the monastic 
life as it had developed through the centuries. I don't think that it 
indicates a program of systematic doctrinal study according to the 
scholastic method, such as the brethren were to undertake. This was a 
daring innovation, even for the brethren. As for the nuns, the whole weight 
of the tradition leans in a different, though equally valid, direction. 

Today the situation is entirely different. Women who enter the 
monastery are already literate and even well-educated, judging the education 
by modern standards. The Office, the Scriptures, the whole corpus of 
theology are rendered in up-to-date translations into all major languages. 
What possible meaning could eruditio litterarum have for Dominican nuns 
heading toward the 21st Century? In many ways I think it has the same 
meaning as it had for the nuns of the 13th Century. The nuns of today wish 
to understand, to the extent of their capacity, the "language" of Scripture 
and doctrine. Daring the last eight centuries, this "language" has greatly 
expanded, until it now includes vast fields of history, archeology, 
anthropology, philosophy, and so on. Doctrine, too, has developed and been 
adorned with keen theological insights, beginning with those of St. Thomas. 
All these forms of "language" can be fit subjects for monastic study, 
insofar as they lead to a deeper penetration of the mysteries of salvation. 
If this goal is firmly kept in mind, I do not think we need to fear an 
exaggerated emphasis on study for its own sake. Rather, we can justly hope 
that eruditio will ripen into a fruitful lectio , which will pass quickly to 
prayer and contemplation. 



1. Rule of San Sisto , IV, XX, XXI. Enumeration is according to the 
text in the Vatican Library. Translation is by the Dominican Nuns of 
Summit, 1969, from the French edition of J.J. Berthier, O.P. , 1918. 

2. RB 1980 - The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English , ed. 
Timothy Fry, O.S.B. (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1981), p. 249 

3. M.-H. Vicaire, O.P., Saint Dominic and His Times , tr. Kathleen Pond 
(London: McGraw-Hill Book Co. ,1964) , p. 431 

4. Rule of San Sisto , tr. Dominican Nuns, p. 8-9 

5. Vicaire, op. cit., p. 128 

6. Ibid., p. 432-34 

7. Francois Petit, La Spiritualite des Premontres (Paris: Librairie 
Philosophique, J. Vrin, 1947), p. 237, 239 

8. Vicaire, op. cit., p. 431 

9. Early Dominicans - Selected Writings , ed. Simon Tugwell, O.P. (New 
York: Paulist Press, 1982), p. 101 

10. Rule of San Sisto , p. 20 

11. Early Dominicans , p. 430 

12. LCM 100:11 

13. Pachomian Koinonia , Vol.11; tr. Armand Veilleux (Kalamazoo, MI: 
Cistercian Publications, Inc., 1981), p. 167 

14. Early Monastic Rules , tr.C.V. Franklin et al. (Collegeville, MN: 
The Liturgical Press, 1982) 

15. Jean Leclercq, O.S.B. , The Love of Learning and the Desire for 
God , tr. Catharine Misrahi (New York: Fordham University Press, 1961), p. 26 



Sister Mary Catherine, O.P. (Elmira) 

The letters of Blessed Jordan are a gold mine of monastic spirituality with a 
Dominican nuance. In order fully to appreciate them we need to see them against the 
background of monastic history and spirituality. It is in this way that we will 
discover the deep and authentic meaning iri the text of his letters and so be able 
to apply it to our own Dominican monastic life today. 

One topic coming to the fore of our attention today, one somewhat lost in the 
recent past, is that of lectio divina and its formative value in Dominican life. 
The basic notion and its connotations will be traced here in the study of one letter 
of Jordan to Blessed Diana. For our purpose here I will use two recent translations 
of the Latin text into English: that of Father Gerald Vann in his collection en- 
titled TO HEAVEN WITH DIANA in which it is letter 4 5, Pan d that of Simon Tugwell in 
EARLY DOMINICANS, a collection of texts which he edited and translated and in which 
the text in question is letter 15. 2 ^ Both texts are printed in full at the end of 
this article for easy reference. Using two different translations will help to 
bring out the full meaning of various words and phrases in the original. The first 
part of this paper will provide a general background of monastic and thirteenth cen- 
tury spirituality; and the second part will be a sentence by sentence analysis of 
the letter itself. 

We are well aware by now that lectio divina played an important role in monastic 
spirituality from the beginning of the monastic life. Basically, Christianity took 
over in its own manner and spirit the Hebrew study of Torah, a study with immediate 
implication and application to life. We need only recall the words from the Book 
of Deuteronomy (6:4-7) used every Saturday in Night Prayer to give us the spirit of 
Israel's devotion to Scripture as God's Word to her collectively and individually 
day by day. The Acts of the Apostles describe the Twelve as needing to give them- 
selves over to prayer and the ministry of the Word (6:4), out of which grew the 
New Testament writings from their Old Testament roots. The early monks in their 
desert dwellings spoke and reflected on the Word of God collectively in primitive 
liturgical form and in their solitary monastic cells they ruminated on various 
sentences or phrases, or even on a single word until it entered deeply within their 
heart. John Cassian collected and interpreted this early tradition and St. Benedict 
gave it an important place in his Rule. 

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries gave to monastic spirituality some addi- 
tional nuances which are evident in Jordan's letters, the most pertinent of which 
are an emphasis on the humanity of Jesus Christ and on love, both human and divine. 
The reaction against the heresies of early Christianity, especially against Arianism 
and Pelagianism, though necessary, sometimes created an imbalance in the opposite 

direction. The reaction to Arianism, in the course of time, so emphasized the 
divinity of Christ that he was made remote and almost inaccessible, a stern judge 
and a monarch of majesty and power forcing human concentration on the infinite gap 
between him and us, between his holiness and our human depravity, sinfulness and 

By the twelfth century a change was gradually coming about. We see its effects 
in a trend of -spirituality in the new Order of Citeaux and the Cistercian Fathers 
of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the most prominent of whom is, of course 
St. Bernard. With him, the humanity of Christ came to the fore once again and 
there came an emphasis on affectivity and on the primacy of grace which was in- 
herited from St. Augustine and was later explored by St. Thomas using scholastic 
categories. Nevertheless, the spirituality of St. Bernard was Scriptural in the 
experiential, monastic sense, with no trace of the developing scholastic termin- 


As we know well, St. Dominic, following the long preceding tradition especially 
as it is presented in the Conferences of Cassian, along with the newer spirit of 
Citeaux and Premontre, took the lectio divina into his own life and adapted it 
somewhat for usage in his Order, as he adapted the whole monastic way. The Nine 
Ways of Prayer describe many -forms of prayer which, under the influence of grace, 
were the spontaneous expression of Dominic's own personality. Everywhere and 
always he was a man of prayer: in choir, in a solitary place, or walking along the 
road. We might also recall sayings attributed to him by his contemporaries, such 
as: "I have made my chief study in the book of charity; it teaches everything" 
( Monumenta Ordinis Praedicatio Historica ) , and the so-called 'Last Testament' in 
which he bequeathed to the brethren charity, humility and voluntary poverty above 
all. ' The affective and experiential mode predominates in these examples. 

More to the point concerning our study of lectio divina is the graphic 
description in the eighth of the Nine Ways of Prayer . This depicts our holy Father as 
going apart after the Canonical Hours to"sit down to read or pray, recollecting 
himself in himself .... Sitting there quietly he would open some book before him... 
listening quietly ... laughing and weeping. .. fixing his gaze. . .passing quickly from 
reading to prayer and from meditation to contemplation." *^In this description, 
besides Dominic's intense personal fervor and unique personal expression, we im- 
mediately recognize the traditional monastic mode of prayer based on the early 
tradition in Cassian and later classified into four elements or ascending steps by 
Guigo II in Ladder of Monks t 5 ' It is also described by Hugh of St. Victor in On 
Meditation and adopted by St. Thomas in Sentences IV . We recognize, besides, the 
monastic custom of choral liturgy followed by 'meditation' or 'secret prayer 1 , 
especially after Matins and Compline, all of which Dominic took over for his Order 
from monastic tradition. 

Blessed Jordan of Saxony, his successor, was a devoted admirer and imitator 
of the blessed Father. Indeed, we can often read the primitive documents of the 
Order describing the attitudes and actions of the one which apply as well to the 
other. For example, we are told in the ninth way of prayer that on his journeys 
Dominic would often go on ahead or fall behind in order to pray and meditate, and 
also that he would sometimes joyfully sing hymns along the way. From the Lives of 
the Brethren we find similar descriptions of Jordan: "It was his custom, when he was 
traveling, to give the whole time to prayers and meditations. .. .Because of this he 
often walked apart from the brethren. ' And sometimes he used to sing Jesu Nostra 
Redemptio or Salve Regina at the top of his voice" (XXVI, iii, 7). 'Another revealing 
anecdote tells of a brother who came to him and asked him whether it was more useful 
for him to devote himself to prayer or to the study of the Bible. Jordan answered 
him: "Which is better, to spend your whole time drinking, or to spend your whole 
time eating? Surely, it is best for them to take their turn, and so it is too in 
the other case" (XXVI, iii, 42) . 7 ^ In this latter example we can see that prayer, 
reading and study of the Bible were the underpinning of a personal spiritual life 
which overflowed into preaching, just as they were for Dominic. 

Jordan's letters maintain the atmosphere and expressions of monastic Scriptural 
spirituality and, in fact, read much like the sermons of St. Bernard On the Song of 
Songs , with their emphasis on love and their bridal imagery. But it is well to 
remember that Jordan was also very faithful to the spirit of St. Dominic whose 
personal spiritual life developed from the monastic tradition in Cassian and for 
whom knowledge of the Bible as the source of prayer and spiritual growth preceded 
scientific study for purposes of preaching. 

The letters of Jordan to Blessed Diana reflect all the principal themes of the 
monastic life found in Cassian and the early monastic rules: seeking God, purity of 
heart, humility, poverty, spiritual combat with the passions and the practice of 
virtue, fasting, vigils, the use of discretion, unceasing prayer. To these themes 


are added those which developed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries: emphasis 
on the humanity of Christ, the love of God and fraternal love, the primacy of 
grace , poverty, and others. These were not absent from the earlier tradition 
but they were not emphasized and they only regained the foreground at this time, 
and in a new way. -We do not find in Jordan's letters much explicit mention of 
prayer and its forms, nor the term lectio divina . Prayer was understood as under- 
lying the whole of life; it was an attentiveness to God which fostered the spiritual 
combat and the practice of virtue, a progressive deepening in knowledge of God's 
love and a response to it. All of this developed from a constant listening to and 
assimilation of the Word of God in Scripture. No one reading these letters could 
ever doubt that Jordan had tasted deeply and constantly of the Word of God and that 
he expected the same attitude and practice from Diana and all of the nuns with her. 


When we come to the letter in question (Vann: 45, Tugwell:15) and study it 

carefully we realize how expressive it is of the lectio divina in a profound and 
living way. Father Vann situates the letter in passiontide, a fact which brings 
out the relationship of lectio with the liturgical season and how the liturgy over- 
flows into lectio . The theme dominating the letter is the love of God made visible 
in Christ crucified. There is an emphasis on the person of Christ, especially his 
humanity, but in the context of liturgical spirituality with the paschal mystery 
as basis. Five texts of are easily disceraible within the letter which 
he uses to develop his theme: Psalm 18(19) :8, Psalm 62(63) :12, Song of Songs 2:14, 
Ezekiel 2 i 9 (and context), Romans 16:27. Father Vann adds a reference to a sermon 
of St. Bernard on the Nativity as a source alluded to. 9 ^ These texts are all woven 
gracefully into the outpouring of words, thoughts and sentiments of the writer. 
Medieval spiritual writers knew many of the biblical texts from memory and quoted 
them very freely, without feeling the need, as we do today, to quote exactly from 
an authorized version and to indicate the specific reference. They simply made 
it their own and incorporated it into their own thought and word patterns. The 
majority of the texts quoted are from the Old Testament. From this it may be 
implied that if Christ in his humanity is the center of focus for Jordan, Christ is 
to be seen and grasped against the broad background of the whole of salvation 
history. Also, at this time an allegorical interpretation of the Bible was still 
taken for granted in monastic spirituality. 

In order to penetrate as far as possible into the various aspects and impli- 
cations of the spiritual message Jordan proposes in this letter, within the con- 
text of all his letters, we will study it one section at a time, occasionally 
bringing out the nuances of meaning by comparing the two translations used. Jordan 
opens his letter in the ordinary medieval style and wishes Diana the blessings of 
the Spirit of knowledge, possibly a reference to the gift as described in Isaiah 11:2 

In the first sentence of the body of the letter he makes a rather playful com- 
parison between the word or spiritual message contained in his letters and that in 
Holy Scripture itself. In one sense there is no comparison: the Bible is the in- 
spired Word of God and Jordan's letters are sentiments expressed by one human person 
limited by time, place and manner of expression, to another. Yet, in another sense, 
there is a direct relationship between the inspired Word of God and the human word. 
It is an aspect of the sacramental economy that God uses human words to speak to 
humankind and that these words, inspired though they are, are handed on and inter- 
preted in each succeeding age by other human persons, both those officially desig- 
nated by the Church as her preachers and teachers, and , in a more general way by 
the informal communication of one Christian to another. The Word of God can never 
be exhausted. Each era, each person interprets it anew according to need and under- 
standing. Jordan does this very thing by interpreting the Word of God according 
to thirteenth century standards and Diana's present need, using for the purpose a 
random collection of texts which spring spontaneously to his mind. The Word of God 
has so penetrated his mind and heart by study and prayer over a long period of time 


that he thinks and speaks with ease in Scriptural terminology. 

In the remainder of the sentence Jordan describes Diana as "taking and reading". 
One might recall here the well known words in the Confessions of St. Augustine 
(8:12) which he heard at the moment of his conversion: "Take and read; take and 
read.' 1 10 ^ There is also a close association of words in the liturgical formula of 
the Eucharist: "Take and eat." The Word of God comes to us in both Scripture and 
the Eucharist according to our active receptivity. We shall see how rich this 
connection of words is in a passage further on in the letter. 

It is assumed that Diana could read, and she was probably well read . The 
women of Bologna in general had an advanced intellectual culture at that time, 
since Bologna was one of the two principal university cities of Europe, with Paris 
as the other. In the present case, what was Diana to read? -"that book of life, 
that scroll of the perfect law which converts our souls, which you have daily 
before your mind's eye". No doubt Jordan was referring here to Scripture itself, 
but the implications are much broader. The expression "the book of life" is used 
frequently in Scripture (cf. Dan. 12:1; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 21:27, etc.). The 
phrase initially designated the record of the twelve tribes of Israel and of their 
deeds, good and bad, before God. Other meanings developed so that it came to be 
understood more broadly as the record of God's deeds and messages to mankind 
through the prophets, that is, the Word of God. This Word at times took on per- 
sonal characteristics, especially in the Psalms and the Book of Wisdom; and finally 
it was known in the Person of Jesus, the Word made flesh. We see from all of this 
that both Scripture and Jesus Christ are understood to be Word of God and/or Book 
of Life (cf. John 5:37-40). This Word is meant to be assimilated into the heart or 
being of the reader or the person encountered. 

The "scroll of the perfect law" expresses the same idea in another way. The 
perfect law for the Hebrew is the Torah. Jesus came as fulfillment of the law in 
himself, and he proclaimed the new law of love which sums up and perfects all the 
others. In a very perceptive article in Monastic Studies : 15, entitled "Mary's 
Reading of Chris t'^^Dom Jean Leclercq describes a tradition which developed from 
the early Church's iconography. In early Church art both Jesus and Mary are often 
presented together or separately with a book, open or closed. For example, the 
Annunciation was sometimes depicted with Mary holding an open book and reading 
while the angel Gabriel conveyed God's message, as if she was finding the message 
she now received as the same one she often reflected upon in the Law and the 
Prophets. Sometimes she was depicted holding a book with the Child Jesus standing 
beside her. This is interpreted to mean that both Scripture and Jesus are the 
Word of God which Christians read, ruminate over, are committed to and carry out 
in their lives. 

All of this is implied in Jordan's counsel to Diana to "take and read that 
book... which you have daily before your mind's eye." He is saying that the con- 
templative Dominican's chief occupation is to keep constantly in mind and heart by 
reading, prayer and recollection, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, who is himself 
"the scroll of the perfect law which converts our souls." Such a law is not a 
dead letter but an active, living force purifying us to the extent we are attentive 
and docile towards it/him. It is Christ, the incarnate love of the Father, calling 
forth our love in response. This thought is elaborated on in the passage which 

"That law which is perfect, because it takes away all imperfections, is charity. 
There is a direct reference here to Psalm 18(19) :8. This Psalm, composed of two 
sections, speaks first of the revelation of God in the created universe and then in 
the law. The Hebrew would have understood it as a dynamic whole. The law of the 
Lord is perfect because it is the expression of himself as love calling forth like- 


ness by means of responding love. The New Testament gives us the Christian 
interpretation. In Matthew's Gospel the scribe who queries Jesus concerning the 
greatest commandment in the law is given both the traditional answer contained in 
the Hebrew 'Shema' (Deut. 6:4-7) and a slightly new interpretation. The greatest 
commandment is the love of God with one's whole heart, soul, mind and strength and, 
an addition from Leviticus 19:18, love of neighbor as oneself to be understood as an 
extension of that same law. Jesus concluded by saying: "On these two commandments 
the whole law is based, and the prophets as well" (Matt. 22:40). Therefore, this 
two dimensional commandment is a summary of the Christian's whole theological and 
moral life. St. Paul gives his explanation of it in the well known Chapter 13 of 
the First Letter to the Corinthains, as well as in other places (cf. Rom. 13:8-10; 
Gal. 5:14 and Col. 3:14). The context of all of these passages indicates that 
charity implies the elimination of vice and the practice of all th.e virtues which 
it binds together and brings to perfection. Cassian (Conf. 3:7) outlines the three- 
fold renunciation demanded of monks as that which is perfected only by charity as 
described in I Corinthians 13:4-7. If we study all these texts carefully it becomes 
evident that charity is a far deeper and more extensive and all embracing quality 
than our contemporary thought patterns express. 

Jordan understands the sublimity of charity for he goes on to say: "You find 
it written with strange beauty when you gaze at Jesus your Savior." Perfect charity 
is a quality of God alone. We come to know it in his Son because in him we find 
'the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord' (cf. Rom. 8:39; John 3:16). 
Jesus is the Word made flesh. To gaze on that mystery (sacrament) as it unfolds 
throughout his earthly life, passion, death and resurrection is to contemplate, to 
absorb gradually into one's being, the love of God and the God who is love until 
all imperfection is burned away and we reflect him clearly. Cassian describes this 
in his Conference on prayer: "...when that perfect love of God, wherewith 'he first 
loved us' has passed into the feelings of our heart .. .until the whole life and all 
the thoughts of the heart become one continuous prayer" (Conf. 10 : 7) , 13 /Love - 
primarily the love of God for us, but also the human response of love - was, as we 
noted earlier, a dominant theme in 12th and 13th century spirituality, along with 
devotion to the humanity of Christ, expressed profoundly in the works of St. 
Bernard especially. Jordan obviously read Bernard's works and drew inspiration 
from them. For Jordan, as for Bernard, devotion to the humanity of Christ was 
always kept in a Scriptural and liturgical context which kept the whole mystery 
of the Word made flesh in focus. It was only in the centuries which followed that 
this spiritual ardor degenerated into a sentimental and superficial devotionalism. 

The gaze which Jordan speaks of is the gaze of mind and heart, probably like 
the meditatio , the rumination which had become one of the principal aspects of 
monastic prayer. This becomes clearer as we read on further: "...gaze at Jesus 
your Saviour stretched out like a sheet of parchment on the Cross, inscribed with 
wounds, illustrated in his own loving Blood." Parchment was the material used 
for books in the middle ages; and, of course, these books were hand written. In 
the case of the Bible, the Book, this was done with special care day after day in 
many a monastic Scriptorium as a prime occupation; and the text was lovingly and 
artistically illuminated. So, gazing on Christ crucified would have meant not 
only fixing one's eyes on a cross with a representation of Christ on it (as was 
just at that time gaining acceptance over the plain cross of antiquity) , but also 
fixing one's^mind on the Word of God manifesting the mystery of Christ crucified. 
St. Dominic exemplified both attitudes as attested in the Nine Ways of Prayer : 
"St. Dominic, standing before the altar or in the Chapter Room, would fix his gaze 
on the Crucifix, looking intently at Christ on the Cross and kneeling down over 
and over again..." (4th Way); "...he would stand with great reverence and devotion, 
as if he were reading in the presence of God" (5th Way); "Sitting there quietly 
he would open some book before him, v arming himself first with the sign of the cross 
and then he would read" (8th Way ) M* Jordan was probably sharing with Diana, perhaps 


unconsciously, the modes of prayer inherited from their common Father to whom both 
were devoted. 

In the next few sentences Jordan simply elaborates on this theme and urges 
that the "book of love to read from" (Tugwell) or "the lesson oflove to be learnt" 
(Vann) , should be the constant occupation of those who have entered the 'monastic 
school 1 . He intensifies his counsel by insisting: "Fix your mind's attention there" 
(Tugwell), or, "On this then fix the keen gaze of your soul" (Vann). These two 
different translations of Jordan's words are illuminating. In the first instance, 
whether the word is more exactly mind or soul , something more than mere intellectual 
activity is implied. But the expression to fix the attention or fix the gaze is 
more important to consider. It is an expression which has biblical roots and which 
was a familiar pattern of the Johannine author's religious and cultural background. 
The most appropriate Greek word from which the expression might be translated is 
menein. This word can be translated in a variety of ways, such as: remain, abide, 
dwell in, gaze on, keep. The Gospel of John uses it with reference to the Paraclete/ 
Spirit (14:17), the Father or Jesus (14:20; 15:4-6), joy (15:11), Word (15:7), 
love (15:9), commandment. Raymond Brown, in his commentary on John's Gospel in the 
Anchor Bible series, states: 

Jesus spoke of his own remaining in the disciples (14:20); here it is 
his words that remain in the disciples. Jesus and his revelation are virtually 
interchangeable, for he is incarnate revelation (the Word). 15 ^ 

It is something of this attitude which the monastic Fathers, and Jordan, under- 
stood as prayer or meditation. The remaining, dwelling, abiding of the Word, Spirit, 
Father, Jesus, is basically the same attitude or action as gazing on, fixing one's 
attention on, or committing oneself totally to. St. Bernard might speak of tasting 
or experiencing. An inner disposition is involved, an engagement of one's whole 
being on the goal. Cassian spoke of it frequently: 


...fixing our gaze then steadily on this goal, as if on a definite mark, . 
let us direct our course as straight towards it as possible (Conf. 1:4). ' 

Here, he speaks of the monk in terms of an archer aiming at his target without 
deviation, and so directing all of his "actions and thoughts straight towards 
the attainment of it" (Conf. l:5). 17 ^In a later Conference he speaks of the desire 
and the purity of the heart which 

...enable it with the inner eyes of the soul to see Jesus either still in 
his humility and in the flesh, or glorified and coming in the glory of his 
majesty. . .Only those can look with purest eyes on his Godhead who rise with 
him from low and earthly works and thoughts and go apart in the lofty moun- 
tain of solitude (Conf. 10:6). 18) 

St. Bernard, too, speaks of this fixing of the attention, or the remembrance 
of God, in tupical monastic fashion: 

You must fix your attention on the ways of God... You are told in the Book 
of Wisdom (1:1), "Think of the Lord with goodness, seek him in simplicity 
of heart. ' You will all the more easily achieve this if you let your minds , 
dwell frequently even continually, on the memory of God's bountifulness. 19 ? 

Elsewhere, his devotion to the divine humanity comes to the fore, thus adding the 
characteristic of his own proper spirituality to the traditional monastic mode of 
expression : 

Your affection for your Lord Jesus should be both tender and intimate, to 

6 7 

oppose the sweet enticements of sensual life. Sweetness conquers sweetness 
as one nail drives out another. 20 \ 

Jordan, like Dominic, combined these two strands of spirituality in his own 
way, which was much like that of Bernard. Jordan's next sentence, "Hide in the 
clefts of this rock", is taken directly from the much pondered Song of Songs 
about which medieval commentaries abound, those of Bernard in particular. So we 
should not be surprised to find Jordan using it to express further his own senti- 
ments. The Rock, referring to God or Christ, is a familiar scriptural metaphor 
which bespeaks permanence, durability, strength. We find it so used in some of 
the Psalms in which God is called the 'Rock of strength' or 'the Rock of salvation'. 
In the New Testament the Rock is Christ or the Church of which Peter is called 
the foundation rock. An interesting comment on this verse from the Song of Songs 
as interpreted by the Fathers is found in the Anchor Bible commentary: 

The identification of Christ as the Rock (I Cor. 10:4) made the dove's 
refuge the sure doctrines of the Faith and the mysteries of the Gospel. 
The Vulgate reading 'in the caverns of the wall' was applied to the doctrines 
of the Apostles, the examples of the Saints, the wounds of Christ, the 
hidden mysteries of God's glory. The suggestion of secret retirement and 
meditation was applied to the Blessed Virgin. .. Several Greek Fathers understood 
:■ the latter part of the verse as the words of the Bride longing tQ see and 

hear Christ in the flesh, and no longer in prophetic mystery. 21 ^ 

In this extract we may note that one of the interpretations of the clefts of the 
rock is that they refer to the wounds of Christ. This is very close to Jordan's 
description and would surely find affinity in the medieval heart. 

Jordan continues: "Hide yourself away from the clamour of those who speak 
wickedness." The notion of hiding becomes more insistent. Diana, or the bride 
of the Song , is called to hide in Christ, or in the Church. The verse also has 
a negative but very monastic connotation of hiding or fleeing from the wickedness 
at work in the world. For the cloistered contemplative there is the suggestion 
of enclosure, which should be far more a hiding in Christ than from the world , 
though in a sense they complement one another, since life in Christ implies death 
to sin: "You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). 
Diana is to hide not only from wickedness but from the clamor of those who speak 
wickedness, or wicked words. There is the overtone of silence here, not only 
external silence but the inner stillness of the heart, the mind, the passions. All 
of this is probably implied. 

"Turn the book over" (Tugwell), or, "Take up the book, open it and read" (Vann) . 
The remainder of the sentence indicates that this is a reference to Ezekiel (2:9f). 
A few sentences earlier Jordan spoke of taking up and reading the book. He repeats 
the admonition here, and in the context of the passage from Ezekiel it is an in- 
tense insistence on fully assimilating it, absorbing and interiorizing it. The 
imagery in Ezek 2:8-3:3 contains a vivid description of how the prophet is to eat 
the Word of God and the effect this has on him. Within these few verses Ezekiel 
is told twice to eat the scroll offered to him by the hand of God, to "fill your 
belly with it". The actions of the prophets were often symbolic and, in this 
case, the spiritual meaning is evident. The Jerome Bible Commentary offers the 
following explanation of these verses: 

The eating of the scroll is a graphic representation of an inner 
religious experience. ... By the eating is signified Ezekiel's total 
assimilation of God's message, so that his whole being is permeated 
by it and it torments him until it is expressed. 22 ^ 


The Word of God was the spiritual life principle of the prophet and of all Israel. 
It was so for Jesus (cf. Matt. 4:4; John 8:28-29), and it is so for his followers, 
in a special way for those who have committed themselves to the monastic life. The 
description in Ezekiel is expressive of the monastic meditatio , understood as a 
constant rumination on the Word of God. This rumination has a formative effect in 
the life of the monk or nun leading to purity of heart, as Cassian counsels: 

Give yourself over assiduously or rather continuously, to sacred reading, 
until continual meditation fills your heart... The whole series of the Holy ,.,•> 
Scriptures should be diligently committed to memory and ceaselessly repeated. 

A modern monastic author explains the process in detail: 

The meditatio consists in applying oneself with attention to this exercise 
in total memorization; it is, therefore, inseparable from the lectio . It 
is what inscribes, so to speak, the sacred text in the body and in the soul. 

"This repeated mastication of the divine words is sometimes described 
by use of the theme of spiritual nutrition. In this case the vocabulary 
is borrowed from eating, from digestion, and from the particular form of 
digestion belonging to ruminants. For this reason, reading and meditation 
are sometimes described by the very expressive word ruminatio . . . It means 
assimilating the content of a text by means of a kind of mastication which 
releases its full flavor. It means, as St. Augustine, St. Gregory, John 
of Fecamp and others say in an untranslatable expression, to taste it 
with the palatum cordis or in ore cordis . All this activity is, necessarily, 
a prayer; the lectio divina is a prayerful reading." ^' 

The connection between physical and spiritual eating or interiorizing was far more 
clearly seen in the early Church than it is today since we have tended in the recent 
past to isolate the Eucharist as a devotion and apart from its relationship 
with the Word of God. Chapter six of the Gospel of John, taken as a whole, mani- 
fests Christ as living Bread in both Word and Eucharist. The Constitution on the 
Liturgy of Vatican Council II has tried to remedy the imbalance. Therefore, a 
descriptive passage like that in Ezekiel on eating the scroll of God's Word 
would have been far more suggestive for the early and medieval monks and nuns, 
when the link between Word and Eucharist was more vital than it has been for us 
at times. 

Continuing in the context of the same reference to Ezekiel, Jordan says of 
this Word: "You will find in it what the prophet found: lamentations, song and 
woe." Historically, Ezekiel was to prophesy the days of punishment and suffering 
for Israel in captivity, and so Ezek 2:10 has "lamentations and wailing and woe" 
(NAB) not yet including the promise of deliverance. In the light of the mystery 
of Christ, however, Jordan reinterprests this and substitutes the word song 
(Tugwell) or canticles (Vann) for wailing , and he goes on to explain: 

Lamentations, because of the pains which he endured; (Vann has "the 
sorrows which he bore" which is closer to Isa. 53:4 and the context of 
that whole chapter.) a song of gladness, which he won for you by his pains; 
and the woe of unending death, from which he redeemed you by his death. 

Diana is to ruminate on, gaze on, absorb into herself the whole mystery of Christ's 
love made effective in his death and resurrection which is the source of our redemp- 
tion. The emphasis is now on the joy of Christ's victory, not the sorrow caused 
by sin and its penalty. This is the truly Christian and Dominican emphasis which 
Jordan would want to impress upon Diana and the community of nuns in Bologna, 
who were sometimes too inclined toward the penitential side of the monastic life. 


Nevertheless, Diana's gaze upon Christ and rumination of the Word of God 
must lead to a positive and practical sharing in the mystery. What she absorbs in 
mind and heart she must necessarily strive to live out, to experience, by the 
practice of virtue. Jordan singles out explicitly as elements of this virtuous 
life patience, humility, love, joy, thanksgiving and praise. 

He speaks first of patience: "In his lamentations, learn to have patience 
in yourself." Patience is a prominent monastic virtue closely connected with 
humility. Cassian tells us, in one of many references to it: 

True patience and tranquillity is neither gained nor retained without 

profound humility of heart... It will seek no external support from anything, 

if it has the internal support of the virtue of humility, its mother and its 
guardian. ' 

Patience is the practical expression of that foundational humility which is promi- 
nent in all early monastic rules. It was a way of life adapted from Cassian by 
St. Benedict in his Rule and retained from that tradition in Dominican observance 
and in our own Constitutions as an important element of formation. Jordan, as a 
follower of Dominic, would have been familiar with that tradition and would have 
passed it on, as we previously noted. 

Following on this exhortation concerning patience in imitation of Christ is 
the even more characteristic one of love: 

"...learn love in his song of joy, because surely he has the first claim on 
your love, seeing that he wanted you to be a sharer in such great joys. 

Vann has: "You must love above all else him..." This is perhaps more directly 
reminiscent of the proclamation of the great commandment in Deut 6:5 and Matt 
22:36-40, a summary of the law, the prophets and the Gospel. It is interesting 
to note here, also, that love and joy are placed together twice, to indicate that 
one is the result of the other. In his Last Discourse (John 15:11; 16:20,22) 
Jesus invited the disciples to share in and express both his love and his joy, 
that spiritual joy known even in suffering borne out of love and often the fruit 
of a deep experience of purifying suffering (Rom 5:3-5). Our Father Dominic was 
a joyful man as his contemporaries testify; and he was also one who had made his 
'chief study in the book of charity', that same 'book' of Christ on the cross which 
Jordan now proposed for Diana's study and imitation. 

Our Constitutions tell us, in the section on formation (//111, III) that 
"The monastic community forms a school of charity whose master is Christ 
our Lord." 26 ^ 7 This statement is apparently an adaptation of the words from 
the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict^ where he states: "We intend to establish 
a school for the Lord's service" (//45). 27 }We note that the Dominican interpretation 
substitutes charity for the Lord' s service . It is indicative of the spirit of the 
age in which love, both divine and human, was the great ideal. Our Constitutions 
immediately add that the teacher is Christ; his teaching is given by word and 
example. This is the Christocentric focus of Jordan. He concludes his exhortation 
to live in Christ by saying: 

When you realize that you have been rescued from that woe, what else should 
result but thanksgiving and the sound of praise? 

Thanksgiving and the sound of praise may well refer to the Liturgy of the 
Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours as these had become essential observances 
of monastic life and were surely a daily part of the life of the nuns of St. Agnes. 
This was a development beyond the early days of the desert fathers and Cassian 


when the Liturgy of the Eucharist was celebrated only once or twice weekly. In 
any case, thanksgiving and praise for the gift of God in Christ and the victory 
of grace are prominent emphases in Dominican spirituality where our focus is far 
more on what God does for us than on our own unworthiness. Dominic must have learned 
this from his deep meditation on the Letters of St. Paul whose whole exposition of 
spirituality vibrates with thanksgiving and praise. Jordan's words, too, are im- 
pregnated with these ideas and with phrases from St. Paul. One passage from Paul's 
Letter to the Colossians is particularly expressive of a life based on thanksgiving: 

Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it 
is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another. 
Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs. 
Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the 
Lord Jesus. Give thanks to God the Father through himl(Col. 3:15b-17). 

Scripture scholars find liturgical sources and overtones in this passage referring 
both to the Eucharist and the Hours. But the whole context of Col 3:1-17 is a 
primitive expression of the basic elan and elements of monastic life. It describes 
the unity of the entire life, whether that of the community or of the individual. It is 
a life dedicated to thanksgiving through liturgical prayer, private prayer and the 
active life of virtue, each dimension blending harmoniously with the others. Jordan 
seems to have assimilated the spirit of this passage and brought it into his 

Jordan now brings his letter to a close: "These are short words, but to a loving 
heart they are long and deep enough" (Tugwell) . Vann has: "See how I send you only 
this word writ very small", which is, once again, more directly reminiscent of a 
sermon of St. Bernard for whom Word was expressive of many aspects of religious 
reality. Jordan's message to Diana, out of the abundance of the heart, is brief: 
as to word length but filled with inexhaustible spiritual riches which should 
satisfy her needs and desires. As we grow in the spiritual life we develop this 
interior simplicity to the point where a single word or phrase can engage us deeply 
and constantly for weeks and even years. 

Jordan concludes with a final admonition: 

I want you, my daughter, to accustom yourself to dwelling in these words, 
and to learn the wisdom of the saints, as you are taught and stirred and 
guided by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory forever. 

Diana is to accustom herself to dwelling in the word: here is the .key to unceasing 
prayer as understood in the monastic tradition and developed through lectio , 
meditatio , oratio, contemplatio . A real asceticism of the mind and the passions 
is implied as well as a surrender in loving obedience to the demands of the Word. 
"And to learn the wisdom of the saints": this statement probably refers to the 
spiritual wisdom or teaching of the fathers and monastic authors of antiquity. 
It is not wisdom in a purely intellecual sense; it rather describes a way of life 
and has ascetical and mystical overtones. This monastic wisdom is a development 
of the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament primarily. Cassian summarizes it 
in a few words: 

Hear then in few words how you can mount up to the heights of perfection 
without any effort or difficulty. 'The beginning' of our salvation and 'of 
wisdom' is, according to Scripture, 'the fear of the Lord.' From the fear 
of the Lord arises salutary compunction. From compunction of heart springs 
renunciation, i.e., nakedness and contempt of all possessions. From naked- 
ness is begotten humility; from humility the mortification of desires. 


Through mortification of desires all faults are extirpated and decay. By 
driving out faults virtues shoot up and increase. By the budding of virtues 
purity of heart is gained. By purity of heart the perfection of apostolic 
love is acquired. 28) 

Cassian recognizes that to achieve this perfection more than mere human moral effort 
is required: 

We must trample underfoot gluttonous desires, and to this end the mind must 
be reduced not only by fasting, but also by vigils, by reading, and by 
frequent compunction of heart... And so a man will despise all things 
present as transitory, when he has securely fixed his mental gaze on those 
things which are immovable and eternal, and already contemplates in his 
heart - though still in the flesh - the blessedness of his future life. 

This is basically what Jordan has been urging on Diana, but from the point of view 
of contemplating Christ on the cross and entering into his dispositions. This 
Christo-centric approach, while characteristic of thirteenth century piety, is 
not as far removed from the monks of antiquity as we might think. In the same 
exhortation to ascend the heights of perfection quoted above, Cassian had written 

Consider therefore the demands of the cross under the sign of which you 
ought henceforward to live in this life; because you no long live but 
He lives in you who was crucified for you. We must therefore pass our 
time in this life in that fashion and form in which he was crucified for 
us on the cross. 3 °) 

The way of life the earliest renunciants in the desert were exhorted to 
follow is the same 'wisdom of the saints' which Jordan exhorted Diana to take 
upon herself, and it is the same basic observance which we, as twentieth century 
Dominican nuns are called to embrace. The daily lectio divina , the contemplation 
of the mystery of Christ opened to us in Word and Sacrament, is the steady gaze 
of mind, heart and human experience which slowly transforms us, through a life 
of virtue unified in charity, into the image of Christ because "you no longer 
live, but He lives in you who was crucified for you." 

Tugwell's Translation 

Brother Jordan, useless servant, of the Order of Preachers, health to his 
dearest daughter in Jesus Christ, sister Diana, of St. Agnes' in Bologna, wishing 
her the blessings of the enjoyment of the Spirit of knowledge. 

What do I think I am doing, my dear daughter, writing you these little letters 
of mine to give comfort to your heart, when you can derive much better and more 
enjoyable comfort from taking and reading that book of life, that scroll of the 
perfect law which converts our souls, .which you have daily before your mind's 
eye? That law which is perfect, because it takes away all imperfections, is charity, 
and you find it written with strange beauty when you gaze at Jesus your Saviour 
stretched out like a sheet of parchment on the Cross, inscribed with wounds, 
illustrated in his own loving Blood. Where else, I ask you, my dearest, is there 
a comparable book of love to read from? You know better than I do, that no letter 
could inspire love more passionately. So fix your mind's attention there. Hide 
in the clefts of this rock, hide yourself away from the clamour of those who 
speak wickedness. Turn this book over, open it, read it; you will find in it 
what the prophet found: lamentations, song and woe. Lamentations, because of the 
pains which he endured; a song of gladness, which he won for you by his pains; and 


the woe of unending death, from which he 'redeemed you by his death. In his lamen- 
tations, learn to have patience in yourself, learn love in his song of joy, because 
surely he has the first claim on your love, seeing that he wanted you to be a 
sharer in such great joys. And when you realise that you have been rescued from 
that woe, what else should result but thanksgiving and the sound of praise? These 
are short words, but to a loving heart they are long and deep enough. I want you, 
my daughter, to accustom yourself to dwelling in these words, and to learn the 
wisdom of the saints, as you are taught and stirred and guided by the Son of God, 
Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory forever. Amen. 

Farewell in Christ Jesus. Greet everybody for me whom you know I should want 
to greet. 

Your son, brother Gerard, greets you. Pray for us now, until we come. 

Vann' s Translation 

To his beloved daughter in Jesus Christ, sister Diana of St. Agnes' in Bologna, 
brother Jordan, useless servant of the Order of Preachers: health, and the sweet 
blessings of the Spirit of knowledge. 

Why, beloved daughter, do I write these poor little letters to you to comfort 
your heart when you can find a far sweeter and more precious consolation simply by 
taking up and reading that book which you have daily before the eyes of your mind, 
the book of life, the book of the Lord's perfect law which brings life back to 
souls? This law, which is called immaculate because it takes away all 
stains, is charity: you see it writ with wonderful beauty when you gaze on your 
Saviour Jesus stretched out on the cross, as though a parchment, his wounds the 
writing, his blood the illuminations. Where, I ask you, my beloved, could the 
lesson of love be learnt as it is learnt here? You know very well that no letter 
can move the reader so vehemently to love as this. 

On this then fix the keen gaze of your soul; hide yourself in the clefts of 
this rock; hide yourself away from the clamour of those who speak wicked 
things. Take up this book, open it and read, and you shall see how the prophet 
finds in it lamentations and canticles and woe: lamentations for the sorrows 
which he bore; canticles for the joys which he won for you by his sorrows; woe 
to eternal death from which by his death he redeemed you. 

From his lamentations learn to have patience within yourself; in his canticles 
learn charity, for certainly you must love above all else him who willed that you 
should be a partaker in joys so great; finally, when you think that it is he who 
has snatched you from eternal woe, what can you do but offer him thanksgiving 
and a song of praise? 

See how I send you only this word writ very small; yet to a loving heart it 
will be long and deep enough. Do you then, my daughter, dwell on it constantly and 
learn from it the wisdom of the saints, under the tutorship and guidance and govern- 
ance of God's Son Jesus Christ, to whom is honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen. 

Fare well in Christ Jesus. Salute for me those men and women whom you know I 
would like to greet. Brother Gerard, your son, salutes you. Pray for us until we 
come . 


1) Gerald Vann, O.P., To Heaven With Diana (New York: Pantheon Books, Inc. 1960). 

2) Simon Tugwell, O.P., ed., The Early Dominicans (New York: Paulist Press 1982). 

3) Jean deMailly, "Life of St. Dominic" as cited in Tugwell, op_. cit . , p. 59. 

4) "The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic", ibid . , pp. 94 ff. 

5) Edmund Colledge, O.S.A. and James Walsh, S.J., tr. , The Ladder of Monks : 
Twelve Meditations by Guigo II (Garden City: Image Books, 1978), ch. II. 

6) "Lives of the Brethren", as cited in Tugwell, op . cit . , p. 127. 

7) Ibid . , p. 131. 

8) All quotations from the letter in question are from Tugwell' s translation 
unless otherwise indicated. 

9) Cf. Vann, op_. cit , , p. 112, note. 

10) St. Augustine, Confessions , Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Vol. I 
(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1956). 

11) Jean Leclercq, "Mary's Reading of Christ", Monastic Studies : 15 (Mount 
Saviour Monastery and The Benedictine Priory of Montreal, Advent , 1984), 
pp. 105 - 116. 

12) John Cassian, Conferences , Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, 
Vol XI, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdnans Pu. Co., 1978), p. 323. 

13) Ibid , p. 404: 

14) Tugwell, op_. cit . , pp. 94 - 103. 

15) Raymond E. Brown, S.S., The Gospel According to John , Anchor Bible Series, 
Vol. 29A (Garden City: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1966), p. 662, note 7. 

16) Cassian, op_. cit . , p. 296. 

17) Ibid . , p. 296. 

18) Ibid . , p. 403. 

19) Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs , I, tr. Kilian Walsh, O.C.S.O., 
Cistercian Fathers Series, 4, (Spencer, MA: Cistercian Publications, 1971), 
Sermon 11, I, p. 71. 

20) Ibid . , Sermon 20, II, p. 150. 

21) Marvin H. Pope, tr., intro. and com., Song of Songs , Anchor Bible Series, 
Vol 7C, (Garden City: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1977), p. 402. 


22) Arnold J. Tkacik, O.S.B., "Ezekiel', 1 #21 , The Jerome Bible Commentary , 
Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J. and Roland Murphy, 0. Carm. , ed. 
(Englewood Cliffs, N J : Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), pp. 349 - 350. j 

23) Cassian, op_. cit . , p. 440. 

24) Jean Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God (New York:Fordham | 
University Press, 1961), p. 90. 

25) Cassian, op_. cit . , p. 484. j 

26) Book of Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers , 1987, No. Ill, III 

p. 67. Cistercian legislation speaks of monastic life as a school of charity, also. \ 

27) RB 1980 , Timothy Fry, O.S.B., (Collegeville : The Liturgical Press, 1981), 

Prologue, p. 165. j 

28) Cassian, " Institutes ", op . cit . , Bk. IV, ch. 43, p. 233. 

29) Ibid . , Bk. V, ch. 14, p. 238. | 

30) Ibid. , Bk. IV, ch. 34, p. 230. 



Guy Bedouelle, O.P, 

What is called the Second Order in the family of Preachers, the nuns, 
is, at least chronologically, the first. Observing a precedence and a 
courtesy not without other examples in the history of religious life - we 
are thinking of St. Vincent de Paul or St. Alphonsus Liguori - St. Dominic 
actually, as we know, founded his sisters before he could or would gather 
the brethren. 

In St. Dominic's time three foundations of monasteries are 
characteristic for us (there were others, as we shall see): Prouille and 
St. Sixtus. It was Jordan of Saxony who brought to fruition that of 
Bologna, inaugurated in a sense by his predecessor. It is interesting to 
note that these three offspring came about through different circumstances 
and means, yet supported each other and formed an integral whole. If 
Vatican Council II, addressing religious life, asks us to return to our 
sources, it is indeed necessary that we understand precisely what this 

The primitive foundations 

The very first of these foundations of nuns allows us to set the date 
for the beginning of the Dominican Order at 1206: this is Prouille. The 
foundation was conceived as a place of refuge and penance. 

While St. Dominic was preaching, refuting, disputing and reconciling 
within the framework of the "Preaching of Jesus Christ," established under 
the initiative of Diego of Osma to combat the Cathars, one day at Fanjeaux 
"some noble women" instructed by the Cathars came to him to tell him of 
their distress and their desire to adhere to the true faith. According to 
a deposition at the canonization process of St. Dominic made at Toulouse 
and embellished at the end of the century by Constantine of Orvieto, 
Dominic showed them Satan, the master whom they had served up to then, in 
the form of an enormous cat which disappeared up the bell tower of the 
church leaving behind a dreadful stench. It was at this point that these 
young girls - there would have been nine of them - abjured Catharism. 

Dominic could not abandon them. They were now without any source of 
sustenance, since Jordan of Saxony tells us that it was "because of 
poverty" that their parents had entrusted them to the heretics to be 
educated (Libellus, 27). Moreover, it would be necessary to provide for 
them a kind of life which should be at least as demanding as the Community 
of the Perfect which Philippa, Countess of Foix, organized or financed at 
the same period. 

With that genius for apostolic organization which he was to exert so 
vigorously from now on, Dominic saw at once the importance of a life of 
conversion which would be an exemplar; perhaps too in the back of his mind 
was the thought of a place where the brethren might have some role to play 
or might find a foothold. 

Heaven's intervention pointed out to him the exact location of the 
foundation. The famed luminous globe designated Prouille, at the foot of 
the little hill of Fanjeaux, on the evening of the feast of St. Mary 


Magdalen, July 22, 1206, and on the two following evenings. We note that 
this was also a Marian sign: the signadou ("sign" in the language of Oc) 
indicated St. Mary of Prouille, the Virgin of many lilies , the gathering 
of lilies, a name which was to be considered prophetic. 

In honor of the feast of St. John the Evangelist - therefore during 
the last days of 1206 - the first daughters of St. Dominic received the 
habit and strict enclosure was established. Two young Catholic girls also 
joined the new converts and it was one of these, Guilelmine of Fanjeaux, 
who would govern the community until her death. It is moving to be able 
to pronounce with a certain probability their names, so redolent of the 
poesy of thirteenth century Languedoc: Raymonde, Alazaice, Richarde, 
Guilelmine, Berengere, Jourdaine, Curtolane, Gentiane etc.... the first of 
thousands of Dominican nuns. 

But they must live and build. The monastery had been established by 
Diego of Osma who was soon to depart, among other reasons to find money 
destined to raise the walls of the new monastery (Libellus 28), seemingly 
in vain. Fulks, bishop of Toulouse, had few financial means but encour- 
aged the foundation as much as possible. Various gifts and privileges 
were granted by the people of the neighborhood, Na de Cavaers, the lady of 
the manor, intervening only a good while later, a little like Berenger, 
bishop of Narbonne. But Dominic was in very truth the founder and father 
of Prouille: he it was who, with William Claret, whose sister Raymonde 
was one of the nuns, was charged with its government in the broad sense of 
the word, and who had a real monastery built in 1212. 

For some time there was a sort of double convent: a monastery of 
sisters, doubled and served by a little convent of brethren - who constitu- 
ted the Holy Preaching - together with some people of varying status who 
engaged to serve them in the name of Christ. Here, therefore, was in em- 
bryo the very complex Order with different branches which we know in the 
twentieth century, in a non-structured form of course. As for the sis- 
ters, we can say that their observances did not seem to differ from those 
of other monasteries of women of the time: stability, enclosure, poverty, 
a life of conversion, prayer and penance. In the beginning the orienta- 
tion was rather Cistercian. We have to remember that at this time the 
Order of Citeaux was the chief frame of reference; it was to her that the 
mission in Albigeois was confided. But the Cistercians were beginning to 
curtail a too numerous incorporation of female monasteries which created 
an excess of responsibilities. It was perhaps out of this reluctance that 
the Dominican identity of Prouille would be born. 

After the dispersion of the first brethren, decided upon on August 15, 
1217, St. Dominic himself began his apostolic journeying and made founda- 
tions. At the end of 1218 he organized a community of brethren in Madrid. 
To it he joined a group of sisters; this was to become a monastery in May, 
1220 at the chapter of Bologna. We shall not linger over this foundation 
whose development was entrusted by Dominic to his own brother Mannes, but 
we should at least pause in reverence before the only real testament writ- 
ten by our Father - his letter to the nuns of Madrid dated at the end of 
1220 - because in it he expresses, soberly but realistically, the salient 
emphases he intended to give to the life of his daughters the nuns. He 


speaks of fasting, enclosure, vigils, obedience, and insists twice upon 
silence with this phrase (misogynist or realist?): "Do not chatter among 
yourselves, and do not waste your time in gossip!" But within this aus- 
tere life devoted to conversion are the characteristic notes of his under- 
standing of religious life: the possibility of dispensation on one point 
or another if necessary; the sisters' absolute independence in the matter 
of admitting novices, but also in extreme cases methods of action open to 
the brother responsible for the good of the monastery and its religious 
authenticity. One senses the maturity of Dominic's thought in establish- 
ing a Rule and setting up communities with a physiognomy proper to the 
Dominican charism. It is the forerunner of the second stage of the primi- 
tive foundations. 

These initiatives corresponded to a need felt throughout Christendom 
for a solid reform of female religious life, led by the papacy during the 
thirteenth century. The Popes wanted to achieve it first of all in Rome, 
according to a reflex found currently in Church history. In Rome, it was 
the families of the nuns of the seven monasteries of the eternal city (as 
many monasteries as hills...) who prevented them from living more strict- 
ly. This is why Honorius III, taking up an initiative of his predecessor 
Innocent III, confided to Dominic the special mission of establishing a 
reformed monastery, giving him for the purpose the restored and enlarged 
buildings of St. Sixtus, opposite the hot springs of Caracalla, where a 
small group of brothers began to live in the meantime. We are at the end 
of 1219. 

Only two small communities reacted rather favorably to this idea of 
uniting in a monastery to begin again on a sound and solid basis. First, 
St. Bibiana with a few sisters, then almost the whole group at St. Mary's 
on the Tiber, also called St. Mary of the Temple, (but this amounted to 
only five or six), where the abbess Eugenie decided to abandon her rights 
and those of the monastery and to transfer the patrimony, impaired and en- 
debted as it was besides, to the new community. 

None of this happened without difficulties, disappointments, obstacles 
of all kinds. We recall only two of the best known incidents. First was 
the accident of the young Napoleon, nephew of Cardinal Stephen of Fossano- 
va, thrown from his horse on the very day chosen for the transferral of 
the sisters, Ash Wednesday, February 24, 1221, a most symbolic day for 
their return to conversion. St. Dominic raised the man to life. 

Then there was the expression of the divine will furnished by an icon 
of the Virgin, reputed to have been painted by no human hand, venerated at 
St. Mary's of the Tiber since the seventh century and which had never 
wished to leave this place since it had been returned - winging its way 
back, it is said, like a bird when it had been transferred to the Later- 
an. Thanks be to God it seemed to be content, thus giving, as at Prou- 
ille, a Marian touch to the Dominican foundation: it was to follow the 
sisters docilely through the course of history, and is now with them at 
Monte Mario, always in Rome. 

This foundation of St. Sixtus is Dominican, certainly because of Domi- 
nic's action, but also due to his idea of having eight sisters come from 
Prouille. They arrived at the beginning of April, 1221, in order, as Sr. 
Cecilia says, "to teach the Order," that is, to teach the usages and 
rules of Prouille. This Sr. Cecilia Cesar i ni , to whom we owe so many 
personal details about our Father, had entered at St. Mary of the Tiber. 

She tells us, but the figure is probably exaggerated, that the sisters of 
the new community numbered forty- four. Sr. Blanche of Toulouse was named 

The Rule they followed, elsewhere called "of St. Sixtus," is that of 
St. Augustine, like that of the brethren, expanded and made precise by 
usages: in it we find the broad features of religious life dealing with 
prayer, work, conventual offices, enclosure, penance and silence. As in 
the primitive Constitutions of the brethren being worked out at the same 
time, there was a list of faults for accusation at chapter, which were not 
to be regarded as sins, according to the expression ad poenam tantum , (sub- 
ject to penalty only), allowing for the regulation of the common life. Al- 
lusions to the Rule of St. Benedict and to Citeaux confirm the impression 
that Dominic was drawing upon the treasure of the Church's religious expe- 
rience. It is in this sense that he was to address the sisters in the spi- 
ritual conferences he gave them, the most celebrated of which took place 
in the evening or perhaps during the night, during which he invited them 
to drink from the cup of wine which never grew empty, and which was passed 
around by Sr. Nubia, the youngest in the community. 

The third foundation of which we shall speak received, once again, Do- 
minic's own impulse, but was also created around a radiant and impetuous 
personality, Diana d'Andalo. This young girl, born of a patrician Bolo- 
gnese family, heard the preaching of the new friars with intense joy, and 
fell under the influence of Reginald of Orleans, to whom Dominic had en- 
trusted his foundation in the leading university of law. 

On his return to Bologna he met the young and attractive Diana, grand- 
daughter of the wealthy landowner, neighbor to the friars, with whom Regi- 
nald had negotiated in order to obtain property on which to build the con- 
vent near St. Nicholas of the Vines. As the first brethren at Fanjeaux 
had done before the foundation of the Order, Diana made a personal vow of 
obedience to Dominic himself while awaiting the foundation of a monastery 
which still lacked everything: building, authorization, and above all can- 
didates .... 

Soon however Dominic, after having heard the brethren of Bologna in 
their conventual chapter, was to make an astounding decision. He asked 
that a monastery be constructed "which shall be called and shall be expli- 
citly a house of the Order," and he added, "even if we have to stop build- 
ing our own." The only realizable asset was Diana, and his idea was very 
paradoxical if we consider her family's determined opposition. But Domi- 
nic's great confidence in the need for this work convinced him that, once 
the foundations were laid, the spiritual edifice would inevitably rise. 
The initial decision rested squarely with him. 

The bishop of Bologna, doubtless influenced by the rich and powerful 
d'Andalo family, refused the necessary authorization. It was now that 
Diana's forthright and resounding dispatch showed her determination and 
amazing audacity. On the feast of St. Mary Magdalen, 1221, (which was 
also the day of the Signadou in Prouille fifteen years earlier, ) Diana, 
organizing an excursion with some friends, received the habit of the Augus- 
tinian nuns of Ronzano, a few miles outside the city. Her family, being 
alerted, came to remove her from the monastery by force and Diana resisted 


to the point of being returned to her home with a broken rib. Scarcely 
had she recovered, by the feast of All Saints, when she repeated her 
offence. But in the meantime, two weeks after the first escapade, and 
only a very short distance away, Dominic died. 

Jordan of Saxony was the one to bring the project to completion. He 
came to persuade Diana's parents, and on May 19, 1223 concluded a contract 
with Peter d'Andalo. This gave him a plot of land near St. Nicholas where 
there was an oratory dedicated to St. Agnes, the saint whose youth and 
determination in the face of martyrdom had been celebrated by the Fathers 
of the Church. On the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul Diana and four compan- 
ions received the Dominican habit. In October of 1223 Jordan of Saxony an- 
nounced that some sisters would come from Prouille to help the young commu- 
nity, as they had done for St. Sixtus. This proved impossible and in 
their place came four sisters from St. Sixtus, one of whom, Sr. Cecilia, 
was named Prioress. The continuity between these three great foundations 
is quite remarkable. Without speaking of a mother abbey or a daughter 
house in the Benedictine manner, we have here rather a sisterly service, 
the kind which we know always exists between Dominican monasteries. 

The celebrated spiritual correspondence between the two Dominican 
Blesseds, Jordan of Saxony and Diana d'Andalo, reveals many features which 
may help us to understand the concepts underlying the foundation of the 
nuns at the beginning of the thirteenth century. In this sheaf of fifty 
or so letters we see a vibrant spiritual friendship, something of normal 
occurrence in religious life within the Church but here taking on remark- 
able color and vividness. This friendship, based on simplicity and a mutu- 
al striving for God, is one of the most beautiful characteristics of the 
Order of Preachers. There is a second dimension, that of intercession. 
Jordan never ceases to beg the sisters' prayers for the Church, the Order, 
and in particular for the vocations needed for the young planting. 

Thus within this triple foundation of nuns who mutually supported and 
strengthened each other through the network of very human events, finan- 
cial, familial and ecclesial, we can discern the three main elements of 
the nuns' vocation: a life of penance in the service of truth and of the 
faith: this is Prouille; a life of conversion of manners and evangelical 
authenticity within the Church: this is St. Sixtus; a life of prayer and 
intercession in the spirit of the Order's apostolate: this is St. Agnes' 
Monastery in Bologna. Moreover, each community should live the totality 
of the vocation, and this was the grace of their beginnings. 

The brethren, the sisters: growth crisis 

The fervor of the monasteries did not abate, nor did the friendship be- 
tween brethren and sisters and their mutual support, and yet from 1224 on, 
about a year after the foundation of St. Agnes, some signs of tension be- 
gan to appear within the monasteries which could well be called a "growth 
crisis," similar to that of adolescence, and sometimes paralleled at a cer- 
tain point in the development of institutions. The growing number of monas- 
teries entrusted to the care of the Order seemed to present a task too bur- 
densome for the brethren, taking them away from their apostolate or from 
study. Paradoxically, the Dominicans very soon met the same problem as the 
Cistercians, although it was this very obstacle which had earlier on 
caused Prouille to be taken under the protection of St. Dominic's friars. 

The first warning signal sounded at the general chapter of Paris in 
1224. There was an enormous number of sisters in Germany, due to the fact 


that the Order had incorporated a number of already existing groups. It 
was accordingly decided that the brethren would in future no longer have 
charge of these monasteries. Badly informed, the Provincial of Lombardy 
decided to discontinue the brethrens' assistance to the monastery of St. 
Agnes. We can imagine the protests of Diana and the efficacious inter- 
vention of Jordan to reaffirm this spiritual aid at Bologna. But the inci- 
dent is symptomatic of a certain malaise. 

What was the actual situation? The monasteries of the four primitive 
foundations belonged fully to the Order and enjoyed its privileges, inclu- 
ding exemption, since they were under Dominican jurisdiction. A custom 
had also been established whereby the acts of general chapters, insofar as 
they concerned the sisters, obliged them. But there were many other situa- 
tions where episcopal jurisdiction seemed in some sort delegated to the 
brethren. And there were times when it was not all that clear how com- 
plete the sister's affiliation to the Order really was. 

From the point of view of legislation, confusion soon set in. The 
nuns first followed the so-called rule of St. Sixtus, embellished by Sta- 
tutes which in the end predominated. But other texts were not slow to ap- 
pear here and there; we note only the rule of Montargis, which was without 
doubt drawn up by Humbert of Romans for the monastery founded in 1245 by 
Amicie of Joigny, the daughter of Simon de Montfort, St. Dominic's former 
friend and supporter in Languedoc. 

Concretely, then, there would be a monastery, governed normally by a 
prioress elected by the sisters. Nearby would be a house reserved for six 
brothers, four of them usually priests, whose prior took care of the nuns' 
business affairs and matters negotiated outside the enclosure. The Provin- 
cial had to make an annual visitation of the monastery. Obviously the bre- 
thren's integration and interpenetration in the life of the nuns was consi- 
derable . 

Is it possible to assess the situation quantitatively? It is, because 
of various statistics on the monasteries recorded at different periods. 
In 1244 there were fifty monasteries (there would be fifty-eight in 1277): 
of this number, forty were in Germanic regions, with seven in the city of 
Strasbourg alone; seven within the limits of Italy, five in France and a 
few others elsewhere. A rapid calculation is possible and easy: if we take 
the count in 1244 and allow for six brothers to a monastery , it can be 
seen that the service of the sisters alone mobilized close to three 
hundred friars, most of whom had to possess eminent qualities in order to 
be able to handle the delicate problems which can arise in monasteries... 
It was an impossible situation. It is true that this figure is small com- 
pared to the total number of brethren at this period, such as is recorded 
in 1255 - nearly nine thousand. But for the same year Humbert of Romans 
states that three hundred brethren of the Order had died, and in the fol- 
lowing year three hundred and twenty. Nor should these statistics blind 
us to the problems arising in some provinces, especially Germany and 
Italy, and the fact that the demand for the brethren was not distributed 
over the entire Order. 

We can see therefore the increasing acuteness of the difficulty. The 
sisters wanted to remain under the jurisdiction of the Order and to bene- 
fit from the help of the brethren; these, in order to better respond to 
apostolic needs, wanted to disengage themselves. The brethren were realiz- 
ing that care for the nuns' interests, particularly secular and financial 
ones, took them too far afield from their own common observance. 


To make a long story short - for the solving of the problem took sever- 
al decades with many reversals - we can say that the Master General, John 
of Wildehausen, tried to implement the decision of Pope Innocent IV who in 
1243 had withdrawn the monasteries from the jurisdiction of the Order and 
had thereby dispensed the brethren from continuing the services they had 
rendered up till then. But in the following year the nuns, beginning with 
St. Sixtus and demonstrating a patience and tenacity which were wholly fem- 
inine, recovered their lost ground. By 1246 thirty monasteries had suc- 
ceeded in obtaining a contrary statute and remained incorporated in the 
Dominican Order. 

At the general chapter of 1252 the original position was reaffirmed, 
then reconfirmed by the Holy See. But by 1257 some monasteries had once 
more retrieved their incorporation, for example Madrid, St. Agnes and 
Montargis. Other requests soon streamed in . . . For about fifteen years 
the fraternal struggle between brethren and sisters continued. The sis- 
ters found a weighty advocate in the person of the pontifical legate in 
Germany, the Dominican Hugh of St. Cher. 

At this point, moreover, the Master of the Order, Humbert of Romans, 
showed himself less radical than his predecessors in the matter. He drew 
up, then imposed, a new text of the Constitutions for the nuns, inspired 
by that of Montargis, which was promulgated by the general chapter of 
Valenciennes in 1259. This measure provided unification of legislation 
which had become too diverse. 

After taking a census of all the monasteries, carefully distinguishing 
between those which had been approved and incorporated by a Master Gene- 
ral, a general chapter or a Pope, and all the others, came the decision 
which brought an end to the growth crisis. On February 6, 1267 Pope Cle- 
ment IV asked the brethren of the Order to retain the government of the 
nuns, but with a compromise. The brethren were to set up reforms and 
could if necessary appoint prioresses or remove from office those elected 
by the sisters. These would be periodic and for the most part exceptional 
measures. The important thing was the duty of vigilance in regard to the 
Constitutions. A change was that the brethren need no longer live close 
to the monasteries, except at Prouille, St. Sixtus and Madrid, the three 
monasteries founded during St. Dominic's lifetime. For the others, the 
Order would supply a chaplain if possible. As for the material services 
formerly rendered by the brethren, the sisters could appeal to oblates or 
even to laybrothers. 

This long-sought compromise went into effect. The sequence of events 
was to prove that the authentic, spiritual service which the friars could 
and should render to the nuns did not require their residence nearby - a 
thing which had often posed problems. Their influence upon mystics and 
holy nuns had been strong over the ages, as we shall see in PART TWO, but 
we must admit today that the first beneficiaries were the brethren them- 
selves, and with them the entire Order of Preachers. 

The history of the beginnings of the monasteries has already shown us 
the mysterious interaction between the two Dominican branches. A celebra- 
ted, moving and magnificent passage from Jordan of Saxony to Diana is 
there to prove it: "Am I not always yours, always with you? Yours in 
rest as in labor; yours afar as well as near; yours in prayer, yours in 
merit, and yours, I hope, in the reward?" 



If we are going to consider the high points in the history of the 
Dominican nuns, we should take a good look at that lengthy period, rich as 
it was troubled, stretching from the end of the thirteenth century (after 
the great successes of the foundations we have already described) to the 
middle of the fifteenth. We might call this a deepening of Dominican mys- 
ticism and sanctity. These two centuries, the fourteenth and fifteenth, 
evidence the vitality of the Dominican Second Order. In order to realize 
its magnitude we have to situate it in the heart of the particularly diffi- 
cult events the Church was then going through, even though we can only 
touch on them here. 

Two pivotal geographic centers stand out in our Dominican history at 
the end of the Middle Ages. Firstly Germany, or more broadly, the German- 
ic regions, and secondly Italy, troubled by the confused aspirations and 
rivalries of the first European Renaissance, which was born in the not yet 
unified Italian peninsula. 

We have to remember first of all that the Papacy had finally resolved 
the conflict created by the impossibility of the brethren devoting most of 
their time to the defense and administration of the nuns' interests, espe- 
cially temporal ones, and the nuns' determination to avail themselves of 
the help of the brethren of their Order. It had been decided that the bre- 
thren would provide spiritual help and relinquish the material tasks they 
had been doing for the nuns. It must be admitted that this decision was 
very much in line with St. Dominic's desires in regard to the apostolate 
of his sons. The compromise addressed both apostolic realism and the need 
for communion between brothers and sisters. And the first results of this 
decision, which developed as collaboration and mutual upbuilding, were of 
an exceptional quality. The vitality thus controlled and channeled was to 
issue in one of the most important mystical movements in Christian histo- 
ry. Master theologians, and great thinkers and mystics as well, did not 
hesitate to preach and teach in the monasteries. Often enough, it is only 
through these Dominican nuns that their thought has come down to us. 

The Rhineland school 

We should first mention the upsurge of life which swept over the re- 
gions of the Rhine, and a bit more broadly, the Germanic countries, asso- 
ciating with it three great, complementary personalities who, combining 
very different temperaments, formed a school. 

Eckhart of Hochheim (d. 1327) came from Thuringia and belonged to the 
Dominican Germany which had just given us Jordan of Saxony and Albert the 
Great. Entering the Order at Erfert he went to study at Cologne, famous 
center of theological thought where St. Albert had spent the last years of 
his life. Eckhart, who for his disciples and for us as well becomes "Mas- 
ter" Eckhart, was involved in very intense activity in government and 
teaching at the beginning of the fourteenth century. His thought was to 
meet with remarkable success after his death in spite of the suspicion 
which was aroused because of certain formulas he used a few years before 
his death. His defense and his eminence were assured however by two 
exceptional disciples who knew how to bring into relief the riches of his 
spiritual thought without overstressing the audacious paradoxes of the 


The first of these was John Tauler (d.1361), a student of Eckhart at 
Cologne. In Strasbourg, his native city, he was preacher to the Dominican 
nuns of the monastery of St. Nicholas, where his sister had entered. He 
left no major work, but we know certain of his writings, and above all his 
preaching, through the notes taken by his listeners. He left Strasbourg 
for Bale because of the conflict between Louis of Bavaria and the Papacy 
which was rending Christendom. It was one of many medieval episodes of con- 
frontation between empire and papacy, but one of the most violent, presag- 
ing tensions within the Church itself. In Bale Tauler created or joined 
another circle of mystics centering around Henry of Nordlingen, and 
through them came to know the Dominican nun Margaret Ebner. The group was 
called the "Friends of God", and included male religious, nuns, beguines 
and lay people. 

Then there was Blessed Henry Suso (d.1366) who was also influenced by 
Eckhart, his teacher in Cologne after he had entered the convent in 
Constance in early youth. We know his life well through the account he 
left to Elizabeth Stagel , a Dominican nun of Toss. 

For our access to the Rhineland mystics, therefore, we are indebted to 
these Dominican nuns who were the immediate beneficiaries of the preaching 
and teaching of Master Eckhart 's disciples. Eckhart was the thinker of 
the movement, while Tauler x^as its preacher and Suso its poet. 

But this movement was complex and included many personalities and 
settings which were not Dominican. We ought at least to mention this 
network of relationships, ramifications and reciprocal influences which 
could, from the point of view of the Dominican nuns, be set up after the 
very consequential decision of Herman of Minden, provincial of Germany and 
Saxony from 1286 to 1290. He wanted the sisters' instruction to corres- 
pond to the high level of theological culture which obtained in the Order 
a few years after the death of St. Thomas Aquinas. He decided, therefore, 
that the sisters should receive more frequent instruction (he used the 
word 'preaching,' which shows the unity and breadth of his concept) from 
'learned,' knowledgeable brethren. It is interesting to notice that in 
the phenomenon of the Rhineland mysticism there is not a purely chronolo- 
gical coincidence of eminent personalities and eager audiences: the two 
elements existed, but were put in contact with each other by a considered 
determination on the part of authority. 

We should also note that the Dominican nuns at the end of the thir- 
teenth century encountered exceptional persons even outside their own 
monasteries. We are thinking primarily of Peter of Dacia who, for the 
last fifteen years of his life, was the spiritual director of Christine of 
Staommeln, called Christine the Admirable, a beguine of the region of Co- 
logne, who lived from 1243 to 1312. It is he who has left us the corres- 
ponce exchanged between himself and the great stigmatized mystic, along 
with his personal notations. 

Above all there is Mechtilde of Magdebourg (c. 1207-1280) whose brother 
Baudoin was a Dominican in the convent of Halle in Saxony. She herself 
was not a Dominican nun, although she calls St. Dominic her "beloved Fa- 
ther". First a beguine for thirty years at Magdebourg, she then spent the 
last years of her life at the famous Cistercian monastery of Helfta, which 
was an exceptional centre of mysticism, with Gertrude and Mechtilde of 
Hackenborn and the "great" Gertrude of Helfta. It was at the request of 

8 4 

her Dominican confessor, Henry of Halle, that she wrote an astonishing 
book about her mystical experiences, called "The Flowing Light of the Divi- 
nity". The original German, which according to her contemporaries was a 
literary marvel, has not survived, but we possess the later transcription 
into medieval German made by Henry of Nordlingen and the Friends of God. 
We see therefore that there was a literary and spiritual link there, 
since Tauler encountered this movement at Bale and in Constance. This 
exchange within the boundaries of Germany between different circles influ- 
enced the intense life of the Dominican monasteries which possessed preach- 
ers impregnated with identical aspirations. 

In order to penetrate more clearly the rather intense and somewhat 
confused network, we may distinguish here three principle places about 
which we possess some information, and mystics often grouped around a 
strong personality. We are now in the first half of the fourteenth cen- 

The first of these places is the monastery of Maria Medingen in Swa- 
bia. It became famous through Margaret Ebner (1291-1351.) Having fallen 
gravely ill in 1312, she learned to abandon herself completely to the will 
of God. He in response gave her great mystical graces. From 1332 on, her 
friendship with Henry of Nordlingen, who was not a Dominican, led her to 
make definite progress. It was he who prevailed upon her to recount her 
experiences and who organized around her a circle of Friends of God. Thus 
through correspondence Margaret had spiritual contact with the great minds 
of her time and in particular with the brother, John Tauler. But it would 
be incorrect to think that they exchanged nothing but sublime mystical 
thoughts: one of the rare uncontested writings of Tauler addressed to the 
monastery of Medingen for New Year's, 1346, is there to witness to the fra- 
ternal spontaneity of the relationship between this great theologian and 
his sisters. 

"For my faithful friends in God," he writes, "Lady Elizabeth the Prior- 
ess and Margaret Ebner, I, brother Tauler, offer my prayer. What you 
wished for me on the occasion of the beginning of this New Year I ask a 
hundred times more for you from the fatherly goodness of Jesus Christ.... 
May God reward you for your message and the faithful affection you have 
for me. In my turn I am sending you, Lady Elizabeth, dearly loved in 
Christ, two cheeses; and to Margaret and her children [doubtless the 
novices] two little cheeses, and I hope you will eat them before Lent." 

These simple little gifts show what confidence existed between them, 
and the healthy realism of the true mystic. 

Margaret Ebner anticipates numerous themes to be developed subse- 
quently in the history of spirituality: veneration for the K-~ie of Jesus, 
meditation on the humanity of Chri:-t, (so important from this time on and 
resulting in Carmelite mysticism), intercession for the souls in Purgatory 
and finally a great importance attached to frequent reception of Holy 

Let us go now to Nuremberg in Bavaria, close also to Swabia. In the 
monastery of Engeltal, "the valley of the angels", founded in 1240, we 
find the Dominican setting for the new German mysticism. One of its great 
figures is Christine Ebner (1277-1356), who does not seem to be related to 
Margaret. Favored with visions from 1314 on, Christine was possessed of a 
very strong personality, and was sometimes prone to impatience, for which 
the Lord rebuked her several times according to her own account. Her 
writing draws heavily upon nuptial symbols, which seems to be rare in the 

tradition of Dominican nuns of the time. Christine makes numerous allu- 
sions to the conflict between the Pope and the Emperor's son, Louis, over 
the territory in which Engeltal was situated. 

We do not find these references to the evils of the times in Adelaide 
Langmann (1312-1375), a contemporary of Christine also living at Engel- 
tal . Married at thirteen and widowed almost immediately, Adelaide too was 
given visions. She does not fail to tell us that they were only spiri- 
tual, not corporeal or articulate. They were closely connected with the 
teaching on Purgatory which was being broadly developed then. Adelaide 
was convinced of her vocation to work for the deliverance of the souls in 
Purgatory who "suffered no other pain than that of not being able to con- 
template God." We note too in her book of "Revelations" the vision of an 
exchange of hearts between Christ and the believer, which took the form of 
the inscription of the name of Jesus on his own heart and his name on the 
heart of Christ. Here we find once again the themes of the Rhineland 
mysticism which were to have a prolific posterity. 

Now we come to the third constellation of nuns in German lands: the 
monastery of Toss, founded in 1233 near Wintherthur in German Switzerland, 
well known to us through one of its nuns who was the confidante of Henry 
Suso — Elsbeth or Elisabeth Stagel (d.1360). He became her spiritual 
director after she asked him to initiate her into the thought of Master 
Eckhart. Clever and intelligent, she knew how to ask her confessor good 
questions, and also how to write down all the answers she received. Their 
talks form part of the "Life" of Suso, an account which has different 
sources, arranged doubtless by other Dominican nuns after Elsbeth* s 
death. It is also to this last that we owe the collection of correspon- 
dence which makes up the "Short and Long Book of Letters" of the Blessed. 

But above all else, Elsbeth is for us the author of a document of in- 
comparable help in knowing the mystical and also the ordinary life of Do- 
minican nuns of this period. She wrote a monastery "Chronicle" in German 
dialect which includes thirty-seven brief spiritual biographies of the sis- 
ters of the monastery. A similar document written at the monastery of Col- 
mar in Unterlinden by the Prioress, Catherine of Guebuiller (d.1330) des- 
cribes the lives of the sisters of that monastery in Latin, ( Vitae 
Sororum ) , and gives us a firsthand picture. 

The text of the Chronicle of Toss is obviously meant to edify, but is 
still pleasing because of the limpidity, simplicity and liveliness of the 
style. There is no dearth of anecdotes, some very delightful like that of 
the sister who, fearing to be chosen as prioress, sought out the communi- 
ty's new confessor, who did not know her yet, to tell him that the sister 
they were talking about as a possible prioress was completely unfit for 
the charge - which seems to indicate that confessors enjoyed a certain 
amount of influence in elections. 

At Toss the sisters appear to have rivaled each other in the pursuit 
of perfection. Their devotion was centered upon Jesus crucified but it 
should be said that in matters of asceticism and privations they were not 
lacking in generosity. We also see them readily forgiving injuries, doing 
mostly manual labor but also intellectual work, like Elsbeth herself. The 
intense mystical life which is described did not prevent ordinary everyday 
life from taking its normal course, but with another light shed upon it in 
truth. One of the sisters whom Elsbeth portrays with surpassing beauty 
was a certain Jutzi Schulthasin. She, in very Dominican fashion, enjoyed 
visions which were exceptional in imparting knowledge of divine mysteries. 


In expressions redolent of St. Teresa of Avila Elsbeth shows us how this 
sister understood, in the light of divine intimacy, the profound reasons 
for the Incarnation, the Passion, the mystery of the communion of saints. 
But she thought that this divine science could reach the point where the 
virtue of faith was no longer needed. She added that the interior voice 
which had guided her towards sublime regions also accompanied her upon 
earth: having seen all this, she now came to believe: "You ought to 
regulate your whole life according to faith; know that this is the surest 
and best way." And that is the way in which Sister Jutzi lived the last 
twenty-seven years of her life. 

Elsbeth mentions Elisabeth of Hungary (d.1336), an aunt of St. Marga- 
ret (1242-1270) who entered at Veszprim, the first Dominican monastery in 
Hungary, and made a foundation at Buda, the gift of her father King Bela 
IV. Elisabeth, fearing her niece, entered at Toss. She served at table 
and "occupied herself with whatever tasks the Lord sent her." 

In a monastery what counts is humble fidelity, and in this sense we 
must realize that the daily teaching of the Dominican masters of Rhineland 
mysticism to their sisters the nuns did not consist primarily of sublime 
and controversial doctrines but rather of counsels of good spiritual com- 
mon sense. For Tauler, for example, a religious life which was quite or- 
dinary but was lived with love and faithfulness sufficed amply for God's 
purposes. "My dear sisters," he said to them, "I ask neither great perfec- 
tion nor holiness of you, but only that you love your holy Order and conse- 
quently try to keep its venerable rules as far as you can, and that you be 
exact about the silence wherever it is enjoined." This is a striking re- 
minder of the little letter St. Dominic wrote to the nuns in Madrid. 

Many other people and places could be mentioned, such as the monastery 
of Marienthal in Luxembourg with its Yolande of Vianden (d.1283), or those 
cloisters frequented by Suso — Diessenhoven , Katharinental where Anna of 
Ramswag lived, or again Adelhausen, the monastery of Anna of Munzingen. 
Perhaps the most prestigious is that of Unterlinden at Colmar, whose Chron- 
icle was mentioned above, founded by the two Agneses in 1232. We shall 
let this final quotation give a clear picture of that holy house: 

"Unterlinden could be compared to a marvelous garden.... All the sis- 
ters strove for perfection, but the particular dispositions each brought 
to the practise of some special virtue gave a fresh attractiveness to the 
overall beauty of this mystical school . . , their common bond was love for 
God. All shared too, in the highest degree, in love for holy poverty, 
obedience and chastity, for they knew tha practise of these three virtues, 
the foundation of the Dominican Order, would lead surely to perfection." 

The sanctity of the Italian nuns 

Coming slightly later than the Rhineland school of mysticism, and not 
without links with it, forged especially by the extraordinary preacher of 
the crusades, Ventura of Bergamo (d. 1346), there was a second center of 
influence of the nuns. It was in fourteenth and fifteenth century Italy, 
troubled times and places for the Church. The Order had once ore taken 
up there the challenge of giving a clear evangelical respt ^e to the spi- 
rits of the times, but this same work was be ng accomplished in the si- 
lence of the nuns' enclosure. 

The first Dominican fii are of this period, to whom all the others were 
to be linkt- , and for whom Catherine of Siena had a wholly special 

8 7 

veneration, was St. Agnes of Montepulciano (c. 1268-1317 ) . Entering while 
still very young into a community of religious called "of the Sack" in her 
native small city in Tuscany, she was elected abbess in a monastery of the 
same Order at Procena near Orvieto. After seventeen years of government, 
at the request of the people of her original locale, and to the accompani- 
ment of a great number of "signs" recounted in the legends, she estab- 
lished a monastery at Montepulciano and had it affiliated to the Order of 
Preachers. She then gave up her abbacy to become its prioress. Her holi- 
ness found expression in the medieval manner in all kinds of miracles, 
(raising the dead to life, cures, multiplication of bread and oil), during 
her life as well as after death. 

We have to remember that St. Agnes represents the first link in a 
chain of sanctity which a half century later connects with St. Catherine 
of Siena, who made at least two visits to Montepulciano. We know the ac- 
companying prodigies: the first time (before 1374) the outstretched 
corpse raised its foot to the lips of the Tertiary of Siena who was bend- 
ing down to it in humility - a gentle attention on the part of St. Agnes, 
a courtesy from beyond the tomb.... The second time, a white manna 
covered both the living one and the dead, as if to establish a parallel 
between their two sanctities. St. Catherine's affection for the Dominican 
nuns and her zeal in nurturing their holiness bears witness to this. 

In a celebrated letter written to the nuns of Montepulciano, Catherine 
begs them to follow the example of their holy foundress: "that is to say, 
the humility, born from the uncreated charity which ever burned in her 
heart and consumed her". St. Raymond of Capua was himself the confessor 
of the nuns of Montepulciano just before taking on the spiritual direction 
of Catherine of Siena while simultaneously being directed by her.... The 
sojourn at St. Agnes' monastery was for him a kind of novitiate for his 
great work. 

Stemming from these two basic influences, Agnes of Montepulciano and 
Catherine of Siena, the nuns of central Italy diffused the great Dominican 
ideals during this difficult period. What we know of these beatified nuns 
illustrates the life of the Church at this decisive moment. 

The general background of the period was formed by the interior strug- 
gles between cities, little principalities, small sovereignties which not 
only disputed with each other but developed within themselves rival par- 
ties grappling for power. After the struggle between the partisans of the 
Emperor and those of the Pope (Ghibellines and Guelfs reverberating in 
Dante's life and works and beginning to become blurred) civil wars were 
declared between Pisa, Florence, Siena and in the interior of each small 
city with a complex play of precarious alliances. The entire life of 
Blessed Clare of Gambacorta (d.1417) was shadowed by the political rival- 
ries in Pisa. 

The general atmosphere was thus one of extreme violence: assassina- 
tions, duels, ambushes, crimes, or at best imprisonment were the everyday 
resources used for gaining power. The evangelical response of peace and 
forgiveness was needed. This is the significance of the mercy shown by 
Clare Gambacorta: faced with the dramatic events of 1389 in the course of 
which her father was assassinated and her brother Laurence lost his life 
at the gate of the Dominican monastery where he was seeking refuge, Clare 
forgave the usurper Appiano, not only in his moment of triumph but later 
at the time of his fall, which is still more meritorious. 

The -fourteenth century was not only marked by political violence but 
by disease as well, particularly by those terrible mid-century epidemics, 
best known of which was the Black Plague. At Ripoli, near Florence, the 
Dominican monastery of St. James was almost entirely wiped out, with a 
hundred victims. At Florence twenty- four of the brethren died. The cri- 
sis, and likewise the fall-off of brothers and sisters during the second 
half of the century, was due in part to the element of terror which emp- 
tied the convents and led the survivors to seek an easier life. Other 
religious on the contrary found in calamity a spur to a new start. In 
these terrible times, the best and the worst existed together. By hind- 
sight we can recognize Raymond of Capua's reception of the habit in that 
same year 1348 as a providential sign that there was hope for a new 

We also notice in the lives of the nuns of this period that in many 
cases the young girls destined for the monastic life were prevented from 
entering by their families, that is, obviously, by their fathers or bro- 
thers, especially if they belonged to the ruling classes. The tyrannical 
authority of the father of the family, accustomed to being obeyed, exerted 
itself to the full. We recall Diana d'Andalo, and also Thora Gambacorta 
who, on the day when she received the habit of the Poor Ladies of St. 
Clare, whose name she took, was carried off by her family and imprisoned 
for five months in the paternal palace, without a bed and often without 
food. This shows us the context of the times, and woman's role in the 
Middle Ages. In an era of mortality due to the plague and of endemic in- 
fant mortality, marriage for the purpose of establishing an advantageous 
alliance for the clan and above all providing it with heirs was an imperi- 
ous duty. Clare Gambacorta became a widow at fifteen, doubtless in the 
horrendous year 1348; as for her friend and faithful companion Catherine 
(later called Mary) Mancini (d.1431), she was married twice and had six 
children. It was in order to escape a third marriage that she wanted to 
join the Dominican Third Order and later the monastery in Pisa. 

But these women, once they had chosen the religious life, showed amaz- 
ing strength of purpose. What the woman wants, God wants, they say in 
France: they always ended by consecrating themselves more completely to 
God. Here again, Catherine of Siena was the example they followed, hers 
the voice that encouraged them. Catherine came to Pisa in 1375 and it was 
there, in the church of St. Christine, next door to the Gambacorta palace, 
that she received the stigmata. She wrote to fifteen year old Thora Gamba- 
corta: "Only God can bring the soul peace and rest... He alone knows how, 
wills and is able to draw all holy desires to Himself. He it is who teach- 
es us to cast off the things of this world so as to be clothed in Him." 
Catherine also encouraged the little group of Tertiaries with whom Mary 
Mancini was sheltering, and enjoined them "to seek themselves for God, 
their neighbor for God, and God for God". 

Political conflicts, the drama of disease, family obstacles, yes - but 
the nuns encountered a still greater struggle, division within the Church 
herself. We cannot forget that in the closing years of the fourteenth 
century and the first of the fifteenth, for almost forty years minds had 
reason to be deeply troubled by the great Western Schism with its two and 
three popes and, in the Order, its two Masters General. 

Catherine of Siena never hesitated to proclaim the Pope of Rome as the 
only legitimate one, but St. Vincent Ferrer (d.1431) claimed the obedience 
of Avignon even though he saw in the schism a sign of the end-time. If 


saints were divided and found themselves in two camps, how could the rest 
of the people not have been divided also, excommunicated as they were by 
the camp to which they did not belong? From 1380 on Master Elias Raymond 
of Toulouse, legitimately elected but rallying to the French pope, solemn- 
ly declared : "We strictly command all the brethren and all the sisters 
of whatsoever condition, under pain of excommunication and all the penal- 
ties dealt out to schismatics and rebels in the Church of God, that they 
say and do nothing contrary to the Lord Pope (of Avignon), whether in pub- 
lic or in private, in speech or in writing." 

It was necessary to react against relaxation and also against problems 
which were making inroads in the monasteries during the fourteenth centu- 
ry. In 1303 there were one hundred and forty-one monasteries, if we are to 
believe the historian Bernard Gui, seventy-four of them in Germany. Signs 
of relaxation had been perceptible from the beginning of the century. We 
do not attach too much importance to Hermann of Minden's rebuke to the sis- 
ters of St. Lambert near Spire at the end of the thirteenth century, for 
having picnics in their garden. But the Master General's letter, written 
to the nuns of Prouillan near Montpellier around 1312, mentions more seri- 
ous grievances: relaxation of regular observance, neglected liturgy and 
too many debts, which burdened the nuns with temporal cares incompatible 
with their vocation. As the century moved forward examples became more 
numerous. Neither mysticism nor sanctity succeeded in checking the move- 
ment. St. Catherine of Siena's influence was needed to back a reaction. 
And she was the very one who knew how to rely upon places where the great- 
est vitality was evident: Germany and Italy. 

The reform of religious observance was instituted by Raymond of Capua 
who had been elected as Master General of the Order in the place of Master 
Elias, supporter of the other obedience. He began by restoring discipline 
in the Germanic regions, entrusting the work to an energetic man, Brother 
Conrad of Prussia. He first selected Colmar, with its convent of brethren 
and also the two monasteries which the city possessed: Unterlinden and 
that of the Catherinettes. He then extended the reform to the three monas- 
teries of Nuremberg (St. Catherine, Aurach and Engeltal.) The case of 
Strasbourg was more delicate, for the five monasteries in that city showed 
no enthusiasm for the proposed austerities. In January of 1398, Raymond 
decided to choose one of these monasteries for the privilege of following 
the observance according to the spirit of his reform of the Order, and 
left the sisters free to go there. The year before Raymond had sent round 
an encyclical letter acquainting the nuns with his intentions (letter from 
Francfort, June 23, 1397). He insisted on the rigor of enclosure, particu- 
larly at visits on the occasion of the sisters' clothings or funerals. He 
thought it indispensable to entrust the reformed monasteries to a reli- 
gious who would be his vicar and the confessor of the sisters. Finally, 
he recommended that a greater equality should be established between the 
sisters of noble lineage and those of ordinary circumstances, to ensure 
the ideal of fraternity in religious life. 

In Italy, Raymond could rely on the fervent monasteries of which we 
have spoken. At Venice he favored the passage of a monastery of Benedic- 
tine nuns known as Corpus Christi who were poorly off materially to a mon- 
astery of Dominican sisters, for the assistance of postulants under the 
spiritual direction of John Dominic. It was this last move which led to 
the reform of these sisters, who were starting out on a new basis. We 
note a succession in Italy finding its impetus in Catherine of Siena: 


Raymond of Capua (d.1399), John Dominic (d.1419), Antoninus of Florence 
(d. 1459) and finally Savonarola (d.1498). 

But we are already on the threshold of another still more dramatic 
period, that of the Protestant Reformation followed by the Catholic Refor- 
mation and a new emphasis placed on enclosure. We have seen how the 
monasteries reacted to the widespread crisis of the fourteenth century 
with collaboration, mutual aid and that similarity of reactions between 
brethren and sisters which is one of the greatnesses of Dominican 
spirituality. We see too how movements of reform and holiness rose up 
around strong personalities among the brethren as well as the sisters. 

There is still another name of a Dominican nun whom I have not yet men- 
tioned: Sister Imelda Lambertini, paradoxically one of the best known, 
who died in 1333 at the age of twelve or thirteen in the monastery of Val- 
dipietra near Bologna after a miraculous communion. In spite of her youth- 
fulness the Lord wished to give her the Eucharist. Historic witnesses are 
few, but the tradition of her childlike sanctity is well attested. We 
might indeed deny the authenticity of this episode which finds its natural 
place within the movement of devotion to the Eucharist inaugurated by St. 
Julianne of Liege (d.1258) under Dominican direction. But on the other 
hand, we may see in it a reflection of the simple presence and silent 
fidelity of the many anonymous Dominican nuns who made these first centu- 
ries a golden age of Dominican fervor. 

Laus Deo et Beatse Mariae et Beato Dominico 




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Sr. Mary of Cod, O.P. (North Guilford) President 
Sr. Mary Martin, O.P. (Summit) Vice-President Sr. Miriam, O.P. (Elmira) Secretary 
Sr.i-Jury Joseph, O.P. (Newark) Treasurer Sr.Mary Thomas, O.P. (Farmington)