Monday, November 24, 2008

a review of Amata Means Beloved

Amata Means Beloved by Sister Mary Catherine Perry O.P.

A monk is he who directs his gave toward God alone, and who, being at peace with God, becomes a source of peace for others." St. Theodore Studite

Emily Barone is sure in her decision to become a member of the Mater Christi Monastery. Nervous, but confident that in this place, with these women, in this life, she will be able to find her place, to paraphrase the old Baltimore Catechism, to know, love and serve God in this world and to be with Him forever in the next.

Not that it will be without it's problems. Any community contains a variety of talents and personalities and some inevitable conflicts. And to give up a large degree of one's automony, to follow a strict rule of poverty and obedience, is easy for no one. But Emily, given the religious name Sister Mary Amata...because as the novice mistress tells her “Amata means beloved. I want you to know in a real way that you are beloved of Christ”...has another very big issue keeping her from giving herself fully to this life.
Her brother was killed, shot by a madman who shot a number of seminarians as they raked leaves on the lawn of their school one fall day, and then took his own life. Sister Mary Amata can not forgive the shooter and can not surrender her anger.

“What did you come here for? must give it all to God...even the deep wound in your heart. You must forgive.”

In discussing their vocations the prioress says,
“The longer I'm in the monastery the more I marvel at the mystery of a vocation. Over and over I see women come, enthused to give everything to God, to become saints and to save souls. Nothing will stand in their way. Then they enter the monastery and bang-0!- They are faced with their own weaknesses, frailties and sins. And they don't like it! They want to deny it, make it go away but they must face their frailty- they must face that they are part of the human race. Not only that, they have to realize and accept that only by God's grace is any of this life possible.”

Which is true for each of up, whatever our vocation.

This is a short, lovely little gem of a book, the debut work of Sister Mary Catherine Perry, a member of the cloistered Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, NJ. Certainly, the monastic life, especially that of the cloistered orders, is not something many people are familiar with. To those unfamiliar, I think this book is a very nice, very real and certainly, considering the author, very authentic glimpse into their daily rhythm of prayer, work and community.
“In striving to live with one mind and heart in God, they seek to know and love God in the living of the traditional monastic observances of daily Holy Mass, chanted divine Office, lecto divina, private prayer, study and work.”
For those that might read another, longer work about the monastic life I would sincerely recommend two of my favorite books of all time, In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden and The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.

Personally, I find it very reassuring to know every hour of every day, they are praying for our intentions. To quote a very good post on this subject at The Anchoress recently,
“What use is it? Charities in the world, missionaries, church movements, “active” religious orders who work with the poor, the disadvantaged, and so forth, their work is supported by the quiet prayers of the Monastics. When they rise at night - the time when so many are lonely, or lost, or deeply enthralled in their harmful behaviors - monastics are praying for exactly those people, and for all of us. It is prayer that is concentrated, not limited; prayer whose reach is far.”

As a little aside, Sister Mary Catherine's monastery support itself in part thought the handcrafting and sale of a small line of lovely soaps, lotion and lip balm which you can purchase at their web site. Everyone has a web site! It was while I was there, stocking up, if you will excuse the pun, on this perfect stocking stuffer, a trio of lotion, soap and lip balm, wrapped in holly decorated cellophane with a red or green ribbon, that I happen upon this lovely little book.

And you know I can never pass up a book!

Available on the monastery web site or from Amazon

1 comment:

  1. That book sounds thought provoking. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


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