The Corner

My Thursday Afternoon Nun Tea Party

“Live the present with passion.” That’s one of the many things Pope Francis writes in his letter to consecrated women and men during this ongoing year in the Catholic Church dedicated to consecrated life. (One closely linked, as it happens, with the ongoing meetings and synods on and of families.)

If you want to see what living the present with passion — tied directly to the Passion of Christ — visit the monastery across from a Shell and down from a 7-11 in Summit, N.J.

Last night I watched a man there, probably in his mid-forties, looking like he had come from a day of manual labor — calloused hands, workboots and jeans — stand on the tips of his toes to look past the altar at the Rosary Shrine there to see past the grid to the pure sounds of Heaven beyond.


It wasn’t a choir of angels he was listening to, drawn to, so curious about, but the Dominican Sisters praying evening prayer from their cloister enclosure.

I’m pretty sure yesterday was the first day I borrowed electricity from a cloister to keep my phone working for a radio interview… which I proceeded to do from the visiting palor at one of the nuns’ generous insistence. (She found me standing in the snow about to take the call.) That’s just a small taste of the hospitality you’ll find if you drop by there or any of the most than 100 convents and religious houses with open houses this Sunday.

I had dropped by to see my friends Sr. Mary Catherine, Sr. Judith, and Sr. Mary Cecilia in anticipation of Sunday’s open house they and religious congregations throughout the United States are having this Sunday. We talked and laughed, and, yes, had the closest I’ve ever had to a genuine tea party. 

This week began with a Day for Consecrated Life; On Tuesday, I ran into Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York celebrating Mass in thanksgiving for consecrated women and men working in the Archdiocese. This year for consecrated life called by Pope Francis points to the witness of consecrated women and men, meant to wake up the world about who we are and where our hope lies. Their sacrifice points to the kingdom of heaven. Their sacrifice also happens to be a great ecumenical good.

Within the walls of the cloister, the Summit Dominicans pray for us. They are a light that life outside may not always understand, but in their freedom, they are strengthening us, deepening our passion to hear and lovingly answer what God asks of us in our lives. My friends in Summit happen to be cloistered (they also make soap within those walls you can purchase here); other consecrated women and men service the elderly poor as the Little Sisters of the Poor do, or surround women with love, as the Sisters of Life do.

You won’t have to stand on the tips of the toes to see into the world behind the cloister walls Sunday. My afternoon in Summit started with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, exposed daily, and a hug from Sr. Mary Catherine, who also writes, blogs, and attends to the community’s Facebooking. The freedom behind those walls is not a foreign secret but a sign for all who profess to be Christians, of the kind of radical yes the Gospel mandates; they were called to be beacons for us in their sacrifices, to the eternity for which we were baptized into and ought to live for.  

Find an open house near you here on the website of the Council of Mother Superiors of Women Religious. Join them in fellowship and prayer — a great Sunday family outing …. 

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