good shepherd icon

This Sunday is known as “Christ the King”, the last Sunday in that time we call “ordinary” and the last of the Church Year.  What can we say about our Lord Jesus as “King” we who have no king?  Here is a thought from Blessed John Henry Newman:

“There are three favored servants of God in particular, special types of the Savior to come, men raised from low estate to great honor, in whom it was his will that his pastoral office should be thus literally fulfilled.  And the first is Jacob, father of the patriarchs, who appeared before Pharaoh. …And what was his employment?  the care of sheep.  ….Who is more favored than Jacob, who was exalted to be a Prince with God, and to prevail by intercession?  Yet, you see, he is a shepherd, to image to us the mystical and true Shepherd and Bishop of should who was to come.

“The second is Moses who while he was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, saw the Angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in the bush,  And the third is David, the man after God’s own heart.  He was found among the sheep.

“Jacob endured, Moses meditated – and David wrought. …Christ, too, not only suffered with Jacob, and was in contemplation with Moses, but fought and conquered with David.  David defended his father’s sheep at Bethlehem; Christ, born and heralded to shepherds at Bethlehem, suffered on the Cross in order to conquer. … Jacob was not as David, nor David as Jacob nor either of them as Moses; but Christ was all three, as fulfilling all types, the lowly Jacob, the wise Moses, the heroic David, all in one – Priest, Prophet and King. ….Blessed are they who resolve that he shall be their Lord and Master, their King and God!”


Thank You For Your Prayers

Recently, Sr. Mary Charles was asked if she felt able to write a blog sharing her experiences over the past few months.  While many of her friends and supporters have been in contact with her through personal visits, email, snail mail, and phone, we felt it would be nice to have something to post from her and in her own words.  So today we post this message from our Sr. Mary Charles.

It has been a long time since I left the Convent at 5 am on March 20th for what should have been a fairly simple, though serious, surgery.  IMG_0583

Since that day, I have been on a medical roller coaster ride, which during a time of unconsciousness and delirium became a terrifying nightmare.  Some of you will have heard how I was doing along the way.  In a Blog in July, Mother Emily Ann wrote that it looked as if I were heading for my eternal reward.

When University of Maryland Hospital was ready to release me to rehab again, I knew I wasn’t ready to benefit from it.  Dr Simard, my surgeon and Mother Emily Ann talked about it and it was decided to send me to Joseph Richey House for palliative care, in order for me to catch up on rest and gain strength, which I have done under the excellent care provided by the nursing and other staff.

I will soon be transferred to Saint Martin’s Home, which is closer to home, to be cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor and their staff.  I am not yet back on my feet, but my daily exercise routine has gotten me almost ready to use the walker.

I am so grateful for the many prayers on my behalf.  Even though I’m doing well, please don’t stop praying for me.

In case you don’t know about the Joseph Richey House, you can read a little about it on our website, under Sharing Christ/Our Ministry of Outreach.  

Joseph Richey House is now in partnership with Gilchrist Hospice Care, and you can read more about the care from their website by searching for Joseph Richey Hospice.

Happy Feast of All Saints

November 1st is a pretty big day for us.  To begin with it is our Patronal Feast Day as All Saints Sisters dedicated to all the Saints.

The Feast of All Saints or All Saints Day originally honored the martyrs of the early Church.  In those tumultuous days, Christians were not free to worship and so they were hunted and persecuted.  Many of those early Christians suffered martyrdom as a result of their steadfast faith in Jesus Christ.  The Church’s desire was to honor those Christians, known and unknown, as persecution intensified and more lives were taken.  As martyrdom was recognized as a path to sanctity, this celebration ensured that all martyrs would be properly honored.  It was only much later when Christians were granted the freedom to worship, that the Church, in acknowledging other paths to sanctity, broadened the celebration to include those who had attained to sainthood outside of martyrdom.

All Saints Day is also significant for us because on November 1, 2011 our Community was erected by decree as a Priory Sui iuris of Diocesan Right by then Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, now Cardinal O’Brien.   That to which we had been aspiring, had finally been attained.


Then Archbishop O’Brien with the Community after our erection as a Priory.

So we have two reasons to celebrate this great Feast!  In our Community our celebrations are centered on the Liturgy and the Feast of All Saints is no exception.  We may be few in number, but we do the best we can and we even try to sing as much of Mass as we are able.

IMG_0784 +MG choir practiceWe also celebrate by inviting our guests and other friends to share a festive dinner and supper with us.  We might even have some entertainment if Sisters start feeling creative.  Who knows what will happen tomorrow, but one thing is certain, we will be honoring all the saints and giving thanks for those in our own Community who have gone on before us.



Guardian Angels in Art

Guardian Angels in Western Art

Blessed feast of the Guardian Angels!

While they won’t shield us from the persistent, cold rain in the Eastern USA, they shield us from much else. Sometimes I think I have two of them. However, the given tradition is that we each have one. We won’t go into the speculative theology of all this! The Catholic Church does not place angels into an article of the Faith; however the belief in benevolent heavenly beings is quite ancient. In the Eastern Church tradition they are called, Bodiless Powers – or at least that is how it comes out in the English language.

Angel guardians appear several times in Scripture both old and new covenants. St Jerome, St Hilary and St Augustine mention these beings in their writings. There is someone – we think it may have been Pope St. John the 23rd who had a simple and profound faith in his own angelic guard. When faced with a particularly contentious meeting with other persons or groups, he would ask his angel to go to their angel(s) and work on smoothing out the issues so the meeting would be more helpful to all. Apparently it worked!

Here is a lovely old prayer to your Angel Guardian:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits to me here,
be ever present at my side
to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.

From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their (the angels) watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God.
– from the Catechism of the Catholic Church; 336.


Icon of the Guardian Angel

Icon of the Guardian Angel



Our Chapel at All Saints

And all the company of heaven…..While folks in Catonsville were rushing off to work or school this morning, the Sisters on the Hilltop were quietly singing praises to God and to St Michael, St Gabriel and St Raphael Archangels.


St. Gabriel at St. Gabriel’s Retreat House

“Angels and ministers, spirits of grace,             Friends of the children, beholding God’s face,   Moving light thought to us through the beyond,
Molded in beauty and free from our bond!”

Percy Dearmer’s old hymn rings out in our Chapel…

“Messengers clad in the swiftness of light,
Subtle as flame, and creative in might,
Helmed with the truth and with charity shod,
Wielding the wind of the purpose of God!”

We are not thinking here of diaphanous creatures fluttering around on little wings. Cute as that might be, what help would such creatures be? When I need an angel, I want a mighty being in war helmet and battle array, “wielding the wind of the purpose of God.” St Michael the warrior fits this requirement. Of course I may need St. Gabriel, the messenger of God or St Raphael, the guide and perhaps the gentlest of these subtle beings.

There is also a 4th Archangel – Uriel – meaning “God is my light.” He seems to me to be representing the silence of eternity. Thought to be the angel of God’s Presence mentioned in Isaiah 63:9, perhaps he is an awesome silent presence who stands guard at the entrance of God’s Temple – our Churches. Think about that next time you walk into church!  [Uriel appears in the book of Esdras and was recognized by Pope St Gregory the Great.]

So there you have it. I can’t include a photo of these on the blog – not a real one, that is. Perhaps I have met one and so have you – unawares. We pray for their assistance and that: “We too shall join you as comrades in grace….”

From the Anglican tradition, a prayer for our time:

“Oh holy Saint Uriel, intercede for us that our hearts may burn with the fire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Assist us in co-operating with the graces of our confirmation that the gifts of the
Holy Spirit may bear much fruit in our souls.
Obtain for us the grace to use the sword of truth to pare away all that is not in conformity to the most adorable Will of God in our lives, that we may fully participate in the army of the Church. Amen”


St. Uriel Archangel

Monarch Butterfly Update: I Saw It! I Saw It!

If you read the earlier blog on Monarch butterfly watch, you would have some idea how I have been trying to help monarch butterflies hatch for years.  Some years ago I became very much aware of a decrease in butterfly population.  The trend unfortunately remains the same and I see fewer of them every year.

So my butterfly garden continues, trying to counteract even a little bit.  While I was away in August this summer, one or more mama butterflies visited and deposited probably over three dozen eggs on milkweed.  I took two dozen monarch eggs or caterpillars into a screened-in area for protection as their survival rate out in the wild is very poor.  Twenty-four is not a large number really, because some years ago I was able to help over forty.

Feeding and cleaning up the mess they make, the wonder of their transformation and the joy of witnessing their first flight, pulls me into this every year.  It is truly an experience I would like everyone to have.  It is awesome.

Over and over I have watched a monarch caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a beautiful translucent green chrysalis adorned with golden dots.  The process is dramatic—almost like birthing a child.  It is a hard work.

Then after ten days to two weeks, the translucent green gem becomes a black and orange little bag that visibly contains a monarch butterfly in upside down position.  I have wanted to see The Moment this little encased monarch breaks out of the shell, but I had never been able to until September 11, 2015.

Well, after many years and many chrysalises, I hit the right moment this day.  At my twentieth (or whatever) trip to the chrysalis contraption I saw a couple of legs sticking out of the little cocoon.  I held my breath.  In a split second, the rest of the butterfly flipped down out of the encasement as the legs firmly held onto the now torn empty shell.  Wow!IMG_0363 A

It was at 11:08 AM.  By 11:15 AM, the wings expanded to the full size although still very weak and unusable.   By 2:30 PM, it was gone, off to Mexico!  IMG_0352 AIMG_0378 AIMG_0369 AIMG_0368

The whole process of butterfly transformation is so much beyond human comprehension. Scientists have found out a few things about them, but even Einstein’s brain cannot create it.  Looking up at a new monarch butterfly riding up into the immense blue sky, who cannot see a flash of divine beauty and unfathomable mystery of creation?  Here on earth everything is veiled.  But someday we will see it all.

In the meantime twenty monarch butterflies have left our protection and begun their arduous journey to Mexico.  We lost three caterpillars in the process, but the last one of the class of 2015 looks healthy and bides her time in the little cocoon.  When she, or he,leaves, I too will be an empty nester—until next year.

Grace and Glory

Back in the 90’s, the Community offered a weekend retreat at our St. Gabriel’s Retreat House called, Grace and Glory.  It was very popular and with good reason.  Sr. Barbara Ann, our resident naturalist, would commandeer our guests through a weekend focused on the beauty of nature by leading short and long hikes, during which she would identify plants and critters, all the while peppering everyone with spiritual insights she had gleaned from her years of digging in the dirt and taking care of whatever wildlife found their way into our Convent.  Our retreatants loved every minute of the weekend.  Even falling in the creek did not seem to dampen their spirits.     IMG_0508

In thinking about Sr. Barbara Ann and those weekends, I was reminded of my own experience of walking with Sister through the woods.

Honestly, you can go on a quick walk with her and before you have taken 20 steps she will have already found something to be excited about.  She might spy a hummingbird’s nest, a Jack-in-the-Pulpit, grab a handful of
ferns to draw, and then exclaim over some Lady Slippers.  I would have walked right past all of these treasures noticing only the rocks, the trees, bushes, logs and so forth.  Not that I wasn’t looking, I was.  But a lot of nature’s gems passed me by or maybe it was the other way around.  So why couldn’t I “see” what she saw?

The answer became clear to me only after many such walks with Sister.  Walks during which I watched and listened as she pointed out signs and secrets.  Slowly but surely I began to learn “to see” by paying attention to the signs along the forest paths.

Our spiritual life is very much a matter of “what you see is what you get”.  So often God seems hidden from us, like the Lady Slippers on a forest path, in the ordinariness of our daily life,  but He really isn’t hidden.  We simply don’t always have eyes “to see”. Just as I needed Sr. Barbara Ann to help me learn the signs which would lead me to one of nature’s gems, so we need the “signs” given to us through the Word of God, the Sacraments, our Priests and Pastors, and other seasoned Christians to not only help lead us to God, Himself, our greatest treasure, but to help to keep us on the right path in the first place.IMG_0190 A