Our entrance date for Cloisterite Hermit aspirants is usually February 2. However, due to inquiries not coming through Cloister Outreach, we have discerned a process we pray will be more beneficial to all involved.
Since the Plan of Life is called "Nesting in the Sacred Heart," we have dubbed the process "Vena Cava." In the heart's anatomy, there are the Superior Vena Cava, and the Inferior Vena Cava. Our point in using this name--received through inspiration--is to put the discerner/aspirant into greater proximity of the Sacred Heart, in which they should build their nests (confidence).
The first year of Vena Cava--starting the First Sunday of Advent--will be spent as a Discerner-Cooperator (D-C) with Cloister Outreach (CO). This entails becoming familiar with our website; yahoo groups; mission in general; and vocations in one's own territory. Since the hermits will eventually be taking over CO, knowledge of the association's mission is essential. Membership on the Cloister Outreach Vocations Incubator (COVI) listserv will be required, for the sake of the daily prayer for discernment to the Holy Ghost. Membership on some of our other groups will depend on the D-C's circumstances.
The second year of Vena Cava will be spent as a white-cord Lay Cloisterite. A distinctive garb may be worn with the white-cord tiechel. This year is required due to our desire for the hermits to have first-hand knowledge of the Lay Cloisterite experience. The last ten months (February 2 to November 21) of the Lay Cloisterite phase will assist in preparation for acceptance as a Cloisterite Hermit Nova, with the last month spent with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. One has a choice of leaving COVI, but membership on the Cloister of the Heart listserv will be required.
November 21, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, and the date of the Pro Orantibus, is the reception date for the Cloisterite Hermits.
Vena Cava Timetable:
First Sunday of Advent--Begin work as Discerner-Cooperator for Cloister Outreach
First Sunday of Advent--Begin lifestyle of Lay Cloisterite.
February 2 to October 21--Follow procedures for Cloisterite Hermit Aspirant
October 21-November 21--Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola
November 21--Begin lifestyle of Cloisterite Hermit Nova
Since a vocational discerner said she thought it best if monastic communities didn't blog on a daily basis, we are following her opinion, and are blogging about every six months, which had been her preference.
Housekeeping matters, first, though:
The Reparatrix Anchoresses/Anchorites of Our Lady of the Cloister are a private preparatory association of Christ's faithful with the intention of becoming an institute of religious life.
According to the Guidelines for establishing religious organizations (available from the Institute on Religious Life), the Cloisterites are in the first years of their organization, in which they exercise a voluntary association of members while practicing experimentation. This phase does not require any church official's permission. This experiementation includes the use of religious names, post-nomial initials, habit materials, etc., within the group.
Gemma's local bishop has been updated on the progress of the Cloisterites. However, since we still don't know where the novitiate will be established, and we don't know yet as to "what works for us," we will remain a preparatory association until the requirements have been met (rule, constitutions, etc.). The IRL emphasizes that each stage of a new foundation may take as long as five years, thus culminating in the group reaching Pontifical Right status after 25 years of growth.
That being said, the Postulants' formation reading, each of which expands on a particular aspect of the Cloisterite Plan of Life, has been as follows:
June -- The Devotion to the Sacred Heart by Fr John Croiset, SJ
July -- The Dialogue of St. Catharine of Siena
August -- The Blessed Sacrament by Fr. Faber
September -- Re-read Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
October -- The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort
November -- A Treatise on Purgatory by St. Catherine of Genoa
Advent -- The Incarnation by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
On October 21, a group of four aspirants began a month-long pre-admittance retreat with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Both groups started their pre-promotion retreat-novena to the Poor Souls on November 13.
On November 21, those who had been experimenting in the postulant stage completed that year, and initiated Novice studies. The aspirants, who had been Lay Cloisterites, begain their Nova studies. Their experience will assist with the further solidifying of the Nova year studies.
Some Cloisterite backstory. . .
The formation program is adapted from that which Gemma had developed when she was living the charism in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1988-89. Obviously, this was before she met her husband. She had met with her bishop, asking for his approval of the charism, and he stated that he couldn't approve anything until he knew "what works for you," which is a direct quote from him. At the time she knew only the basics of the charism: blue and white habit; work for cloistered vocations; formation based on Salesian, Dominican; and Carmelite spiritualities. He also told her that she could live the charism by herself, and wanted the laity to be involved. Back to the drawing board.
The Passionist nuns offered assistance with the structure of the Cloisterite constitutions, which is now known as the Summary--both branches will share it. The Passionists taught her that the formation program explains the constitutions. Their superior also gave her over-the-phone lessons about poverty, explaining that the "woodenware" so popular in St. Paul of the Cross' time was now far too expensive for them to afford. They now ate off of divided plastic cafeteria plates and used inexpensive eating utensils. She also explained about their remunerative work (altar hosts), and how their schedule had been changed due to the advancing age of the nuns (Matins at 11pm). Straw tics were no longer used as mattresses due to allergies.
Habit parts were more evasive. The distinctive headdress, as Gemma came to find out, was a piece of wood under the veil, as per the communities which had used such a veil at one time, and those who still used it. However, neither patterns nor seamstresses were anywhere to be found.
She added the night rising for all 15 decades of the rosary, but a lay Discalced Carmelite advised her not to "unless the Lord gets you up." She followed his advice.
She had about half of what was required in hand when she met her husband. They married six months later, and he was almost immediately deployed for Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
When she went online in 2002, she published a website for her apostolate, then named the Society of Our Lady of the Cloister (SOLC), and published advertising websites for not only the Cloisterite Nuns, but two other charisms she had presented to the bishop in 1989. He had had no objections to them. Her bishop had said that she would take the vocations for the Cloisterite nuns from those who came to the SOLC for discernment assistance and support. Such has come to pass.
In 2008, a group of seven discerners had decided it was time to come together for experimentation. However, they lost the starter convent; part of their remunerative work; and the aspirants that went with those two elements. Gemma told the others to stay put and live like Third Order members. A meeting with a diocesan canonist set them on the eremitical path.
Due to a miscommunication, we are no longer working with a canonist. Since there are many, many questions asked by canonists regarding the charism, and we are still in the experimentation stage and don't have many answers yet, we do not feel the need to retain a canonist at this point in time. The Guidelines from the IRL mention receiving in writing a summary of what services the canonist will provide, so miscommunications with canonists are apparently a regular occurrance.
Advice from former adherents of other emerging charisms has led us to take everything very slowly, and to make sure we have a formation program that works before going to the chancery. As stated above, we do not know where the novitiate will be established as of yet. The bishop of that particular (arch)diocese will be the one approached for constitution as a "private association of the faithful with the intention of becoming an institute of religious life." This status is one of the three designations of private association which is recognized by canon law.
There are five living the Novice level of formation, and now three on the Nova level. One of the four Novas transferred to the Contemplatives of Life. She and the affiliate founder for the Sisters of the Holy Innocents & St. Gianna Molla are in discernment regarding the CL charism at present.
The hermits now have their first gentleman Nova. He will be helping start the men's branch of the eremitical expression.
We ask that those interested in the Cloisterite Hermits--or even the cenobitic expression--to please contact Gemma directly at firstname.lastname@example.org We require a number of months of discernment before admission to the aspirant level.
Advent--The rest of Fr. Faber's Bethlehem. We read the first part last Advent. We don't have any assigned readings for the last two weeks of Advent, due to the family commitments some of the hermits-in-training may have.
January--The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila
Lent--The Conferences of St. John Cassian
May--Devotional book in honor of Our Lady for the Month of May
June--The Devotion to the Sacred Heart
Carthusian meditations are also given on a fairly regular basis.
The Reparatrix Anchoresses of Our Lady of the Cloister (Cloisterite Hermits) are a private association of the faithful with the intention of becoming an institute of religious life. They are comprised of five women who have persevered in the spirituality of this charism. They have a right to associate under the private association provisions of canon law, and are distinctly separate from Cloister Outreach.
One of the indicators of a true charism is whether or not its adherents experience peace and expansion of heart while living the spirituality. Those involved in the Cloisterite Hermits have experienced both, and have no intentions of abandoning this way of life, despite the criticisms.
Gemma, Cloister Outreach coordinator, had been handling the "legal" part of the Cloisterite Hermits, to include interactions with the canonist. Because of this, we thought that the local ordinary was aware of the project. However, due to Gemma's autism, and the complexities involved with the language of canonical legalities, she (Gemma) did not understand a particular phrase used as meaning that the canonist had separated herself from the project. This was entirely Gemma's fault--not due to stupidity, but due to autistic deficit.
As a result, the Cloisterite Hermits had persevered in the development of their charism (entirely legal under canon law), thinking the canonist had still been retained. Critics went so far as to contact the canonist and posting her information online--thus violating her privacy which we had fought to maintain, as per her request--in an attempt to undermine the Cloisterite Hermits' foundation. Due to the information that we were working with at the time, we were under the impression that the Cloisterite Hermits were a work-in-progress known to the diocese. Now that we know the actual situation, the websites will be amended to reflect such.
Our spiritual director, the former president and vice-president of the Fellowship of Emerging Religious Communities, assures us that this happens all the time with new foundations, and is assisting us with the matter.
In the charism's best interests, Gemma has put the responsibility of contacting any bishop at the appropriate time on the hermits' shoulders. She will continue to support them and assist in assembling resources, but the legalities will be entirely in their hands. It will now be up to them to persevere in their vocations, and to become holy hermits. Once they have the Seven Pillars of New Foundations (rule, constitutions, horarium, formation program, remunerative work, stable source of habit parts, and four persevering members), they will be ready to present their information to the appropriate bishop. As to whether or not that will be in the Diocese of Charlotte remains to be seen.
The Novas become Pre-Postulants today, as they begin a nine day novena to the Poor Souls in Purgatory for assistance in their upcoming year of formation. The Novas' Postulant year begins next Saturday, November 21, Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, and the date of the Pro Orantibus ("For those who pray").
Their garb for the coming year will be all black--skirt, blouse or quality t-shirt, hoodie, and tiechel. The Miraculous Medal will be retained.
We follow the Carthusian Rule interepreted for our own purposes by our Plan of Life, known to us as "Nesting in the Sacred Heart." The Carthusian Rule calls for an eight day retreat prior to profession, and the Spirit indicated that for us, we should have nine days, and include a novena. November 21 is on a Saturday, which for us is dedicated to the Poor Souls and the Mother of Sorrows.
Please keep our Pre-Postulants in your prayers. Be assured of our prayers for you and your intentions.
Where were you when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? I was being born in KY's second oldest city. I spent the next 17 years being raised in a God-fearing Southern Baptist home, while learning retail sales. I joined the 1980 Tiber Swim Team, then went on to practical nursing school after graduating high school. From there I attended Berea College, and changed majors to English after burning out of nursing.
I obtained a secretarial job with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) through Manpower after graduating.
In the course of my vocations work, I started having memories of childhood abuse (NOT my dad!!!). After being in therapy, I met hubby.
Our marriage has been anything but "normal." Deaths by cancer, wars, relocation for jobs, babies, autism, homeschooling. . .
and promoting vocations to the cloisters on the side.
God is good--and He does have a sense of humor!