The Feast of St. Augustine is special to us, first of all because St. Dominic and the early Friars chose the Rule of St. Augustine as the basis for our way of life. Secondly, it is the day on which our Foundresses were canonically enclosed in 1944, just 10 days after they arrived in Alabama. This is most unusual in the history of monastic foundations. Normally it takes a long time, sometimes years, to have a monastery built and ready for the Sisters to occupy in order for this to take place. But God provided our Founding Mothers upon their arrival on August 18th with a small frame house fully equipped to use as a Monastery, thanks to the preparations of Fr. Harold Purcell, founder of the City of St. Jude.
Enclosure is a special gift of the Church to contemplatives. All religious – sisters, friars, etc. – have some type of enclosure, which is the safeguard for silence. Pope Benedict XVI spoke several times early this year on the very real need to recover the value and love of silence for all of us. But the enclosure of contemplatives is unique and all embracing. Ancient monastic tradition sees contemplative life as being associated with the prayer of Jesus alone on the mountain with His Father. The contemplative therefore, shares in “a unique way in Christ’s relationship (communio) with His Father.” It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into the solitude so that we can allow ourselves to be conformed to Jesus in His complete self-offering to the Father. This self-offering expresses itself by the renunciation of not only things, but also of space and contacts with others, so that we remain alone with God (cf. Verbi Sponsa, 3).
The sermon preached for the Solemn Profession recently brings out this point admirably. All of us experience being alone. It is part of our human condition – the way God made us. But the contemplative embraces this sense of aloneness and lets God bring it to a great fruitfulness, for souls, the Church and the Order. What a tremendous gift.