The writer humbly begs that they who read will take this postscript from. Herrick as applying to each chapter of the following Statutes and Rule of Life:
"For every sentence, clause, and word
That's not inlaid with Thee, my Lord,
Forgive me, God, and blot each line
Out of my book, that is not Thine."
The Statutes "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage."
In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
I. Of the Order.
1. The Order of S. Anne shall be composed of women living the dedicated life according to the principles of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and seeking, as far as God may allow, to carry on the work of prayer, and to draw others also—especially children—to know and love Him.
2. It shall consist of two divisions: the First and the Second Order, living together in Community, strictly by the common Rule, and in absolute equality.
3. Sisters of the Second Order may be sent out into the world to earn money for the Community and to do useful work. Outside the Convent they may be known by the name they bore in the world.
4. A Sister of one Order may, even after Profession, enter the other Order, if she so desire, and if the Warden and the Chapter of the Convent in which she resides approve. But no pressure whatsoever shall be brought to bear on any Sister or novice to leave the Order into which she has already been admitted.
5. Each Convent of the Order of S. Anne shall be autonomous, and may consist of several houses. No Convent of the Order shall be designated as belonging to the First or the Second Order, but each Convent is a Convent of the Order of S. Anne, in which at any time Sisters of either Order may predominate; provided that a Convent in which the Sisters unanimously desire to live the contemplative life may have full and permanent enclosure.
6. Sisters of either Order may be sent for a definite and stated period of time, with their own consent and that of the respective Mothers, to another Convent of the Order. If they are novices, the time thus spent shall be included within the term of their novitiate. Each Sister shall abide by the local customs of the Convent in which she resides.
II. Of a New Foundation
1. When the Chapter of any Convent believes that it is called by God to establish a new foundation, a company of at least five Professed Sisters may be sent out to found the Convent. The choice of the Sisters who are to be sent will be made by the Mother, after taking counsel with the Warden. No Sister shall thus be sent away without her free consent. A Sister who has given her consent shall not be at liberty to withdraw; though the decision of the Mother shall, up to the last, be open to her reconsideration.
2. The Sisters chosen to make the new foundation shall elect their own Mother without delay. At this election the Warden shall preside [IV 4]. He shall continue to act as Warden of the new Convent until the Sisters have elected their own Warden. The installation of the Mother shall take place on the eve of her departure.
3. No new Convent of the Order may be founded without the permission of the Bishop of the diocese to which the Sisters are going, and the approval of the Mothers of the two Convents of the Order of S. Anne nearest to the proposed foundation.
4. The Mother of the Convent from which the Sisters are to be sent out shall at once notify every Convent in the Order of the new foundation.
5. If circumstances should make it clearly necessary to the Chapter to abandon a Convent, and if no fresh opening should appear for a united foundation, the Mother of the disbanding Convent shall make such arrangements as may be possible for the reception of the Sisters by other Convents of the Order. A Sister may return to the Convent from which she was originally sent out.
III. Of the Visitor
1. There shall be a Visitor for each Convent, who shall be a Bishop of the Anglican Communion, nominated by the Mother and elected by a majority of the Chapter.
2. The Visitor's term of office shall be four years. He may be re-elected for successive terms of office. The election shall take place at the Annual Chapter following the Greater Chapter. Should the Visitor fail of re-election, his tenure of office shall, ipso facto, terminate. A successor shall be elected without delay [VIII 4].
3. In the event of the death or resignation of the Visitor before the fulfilment of his four years, a special Chapter shall be summoned to elect a successor for the remainder of the period. The newly-elected Visitor shall serve for the remainder of the term and may be re-elected for the ensuing four years, at the Annual Chapter following the Greater Chapter.
4. Notice of his election or re-election shall be sent to the Visitor, and he shall be respectfully asked to accept, or to continue in office. Every Convent of the Order shall be informed of such election or re-election.
5. It shall be the duty of the Visitor to make a visitation to the Convent at least once in two years. He shall make inquiry as to the observance of the Statutes of the Order and of the Rule of Life, interviewing in turn privately all the Professed members of the Convent; but he shall not possess any executive authority, nor act toward the Convent except as guardian of its written laws.
6. The Visitor should, ordinarily, receive the life vows of a Sister, but if that be impossible, he should request the Warden to officiate [IV 10, XII 6].
7. The Visitor shall receive and decide appeals when made to him. No Professed Sister shall be dismissed from the Order without the right of appeal to him [XVII 2). No Professed Sister shall be released from her obligations to the Order without the concurrence of the Visitor [XVI 2].
IV. Of the Warden.
1. Each Convent shall be under the spiritual direction of a Warden, who shall be a Priest of the Anglican Communion, nominated by the Mother and elected by a majority of the Chapter.
2. The Warden's term of office shall be four years. He may be re-elected for successive terms of office. The election shall take place at the Annual Chapter following the Greater Chapter. In the event of the death or resignation of the Warden before the fulfilment of the four years, a special Chapter shall be summoned to elect a successor for the remainder of the term [VIII 4].
3. Notice of his election or re-election shall be sent to the Warden, and he shall be respectfully asked to accept, or to continue in office. Every Convent of the Order shall be informed of such election or re-election.
4. The Warden shall preside at the election of the Mother [II 2, V 4], and may preside at any other times when asked by the Mother or by a majority of the Chapter. When the Warden is not available, the Chapter may elect another Priest to fulfil his duties temporarily. In either case, the presiding officer shall have no vote in Chapter. The Warden may be invited to meetings of the corporation, if there be one, but is not necessarily a member.
5. It shall be the province of the Warden to counsel the Mother and the Chapter on matters of property, on important changes in work, and on any other serious problems affecting the life and well-being of the Community.
6. The concurrence of the Warden is required in the transfer, release, dismissal, or readmission of a Professed Sister [XV 1, XVI 1, XVII 2, XVIII 1, 2].
7. The Warden may, when necessary, appoint a Chaplain to assist him in the spiritual oversight of the Community.
8. The Warden shall ordinarily act as spiritual director to the Sisters. Other arrangements for direction shall have his approval and that of the Mother.
9. If a Chaplain has been appointed, the Warden shall serve as Confessor Extraordinary. In this case, he shall see the Sisters individually at least once a year. Each Sister shall go to the Warden at such times to make her confession, if she so desire, or to receive his blessing. If the Warden is the ordinary Confessor of the Community, he shall appoint some other Priest, who is acceptable to the Chapter, to act as Confessor Extraordinary.
10. The Warden may receive the life vows of Sisters, if requested by the Visitor [III 6, XII 6].
11. Every Professed Sister shall have unhindered access and appeal to the Warden.
V. Of the Reverend Mother.
1. The Mother of each Convent shall be elected for four years. She may be re-elected for as many consecutive terms as the Chapter may desire.
2. The quadrennial election of the Mother shall take place at the Greater Chapter, held immediately after the annual retreat.
3. The Mother shall be elected by ballot, and must have a majority of the votes cast.
4. In ample time before the election, the Warden should be asked to preside [IV 4]. Having opened the Chapter with prayer and the invocation of the Holy Ghost, he will read out the names of the Professed Sisters. Voting shall then proceed according to this Statute and the note below.
5. If, after four ballots, no name shall have obtained a majority, the Chapter shall elect a committee of three or five Sisters, by whose ballot the election shall be finally determined.
6. If the majority of the Chapter so desire, a Convent may ask the Mother of some other Convent of the Order to send a suitable Sister to be Mother for a set period. The Sister thus offered should be accepted by a majority vote.
7. In case of the death of the Mother, the Assistant Mother shall at once make arrangements with the Warden for the election of her successor at a special Chapter.
8. If the Mother is censured by a two-thirds majority of a Chapter, summoned by the Warden, for any fault, whether of government, morals, or doctrine, she shall be relieved of her office, and the Chapter shall elect a successor without delay. The Mother so censured shall take no part in the Chapter summoned for the election.
9. If it becomes evident that the Mother is, for any mental or physical cause, unable to govern in the best interests of the Community, the Warden shall be requested by the officers of the Convent to call a special Chapter, at which the Mother may be honorably relieved of her office by a two-thirds majority vote, after which she must take her place among the Sisters in the order of her Profession.
10. Mothers of Convents of the Order of S. Anne, when visiting in any other Convent of the Order, shall take precedence according to the date of foundation of their respective Convents, provided that each Mother shall preside in her own Convent. No Mother shall have any administrative power outside her own Convent.
11. Communications addressed to the Mother of a Convent by the Visitor or Warden, when concerned with the life and work of the Convent in question, should always be referred by the Mother to the Chapter.
VI. Of the Officers of the Convent.
1. The officers of the Convent are (besides the Mother):
The Assistant Mother,
The Mistress of Novices.
2. The officers shall be appointed by the Mother and shall continue in office at her discretion. In a small Convent these may be dispensed with.
3. The Assistant Mother or the Sister-in-Charge will preside when for any reason the Mother is not present, and also in the case of a temporary vacancy in the Mother's office.
4. The Mistress of Novices shall have the spiritual training of the postulants and the novices, and shall instruct them in the nature and obligations of the Statutes, the Rule of Life, and the doctrines of the Catholic Faith. The novices shall pay her absolute obedience, subject to the Mother only.
VII. Of Chapters;
1. Each Convent shall hold its Annual or Greater Chapter after the Community Retreat. The Agenda (or matters to be dealt with by the Chapter) shall be listed in the form of motions. The name of the Sister who makes the motion shall, in each case, be stated.
2. A Professed Sister may place on the Agenda any motion of which she has given the Mother one month's notice in writing.
3. A copy of the Agenda shall be given by the Mother to each member of the Chapter so that she may receive it two weeks before such Chapter is to be held.
4. Should a member of the Chapter consider it undesirable to discuss a motion, she may at the Chapter, before the said motion is brought forward, propose that it be struck off the list, stating briefly her reasons; and the Chapter shall proceed at once, without debate, to vote on this proposal. To dismiss a motion, a two-thirds majority is required. This provision does not apply to matters introduced by the Mother. Subjects not on the Agenda paper may, with the consent of the presiding officer, be discussed in the Chapter; but no vote on such matters shall be taken.
5. When the Mother is the presiding officer, she is entitled to vote when the vote is by ballot and in all other cases where her vote would change the result. When not presiding, the Mother votes as a member of the Chapter. In case of a tie in voting, the motion fails.
6. Only a Professed Sister may have a seat and voice in Chapter. No Sister may vote at any Chapter held within six months of her Profession.
7. When visiting or temporarily residing in another Convent, a Professed Sister has no vote in the Chapter of that Convent, though she may be invited by the Mother to be present and to speak on any motion.
8. Sisters must come to a Chapter unpledged in regard to their votes.
9. A Chapter Clerk shall be appointed for each Chapter. The acts of all Chapters shall be recorded in a book kept for that purpose. At each Annual Chapter the minutes of the next preceding Annual Chapter shall be read (unless the Chapter vote otherwise) before the members proceed to any other business.
10. The Chapter may properly be adjourned for a day or longer, when it seems necessary, so that the minutes may be read for the purpose of verification before the Chapter finally closes.
11. If at any time some urgent matter should arise, it shall be lawful for one-third of the Professed Sisters to request the Mother to summon a Chapter. It shall be her duty to attend to such request.
12. The Mother, after consulting with her officers, may summon a special Chapter whenever there seems to her sufficient reason for doing so, timely notice of such Chapter and of the subjects to be discussed thereat being given to all members of the Chapter.
13. In the case of electoral voting, a Professed Sister unavoidably absent from the Chapter shall have the privilege of sending her vote in writing to the presiding officer. In the case of important matters coming before the Chapter, the opinions of absent Sisters shall, if possible, be ascertained.
14. Full and frank discussion of questions affecting the well-being of the Order is one purpose of a Chapter; but after the decision of the Chapter on any matter, adverse criticism should cease.
VIII. Of the Greater Chapter
1. There shall be held once in four years a Chapter, to be called the Greater Chapter, at which the election of the Mother shall take place.
2. The Chapter Clerk shall immediately inform each Convent of the election, or re-election, of the Mother.
3. Should the death, resignation, or deposition of the Mother require a special meeting of the Greater Chapter, the four years shall be reckoned from the Annual Chapter nearest to this special Chapter.
4. The Visitor and the Warden shall be requested to continue in office until the Annual Chapter held in the year following the election of the new Mother [III 2, IV 2].
IX. Of a General Chapter
1. A General Chapter, composed of representatives of the separate Convents, shall be held at least once in ten years, at the time and place determined by the Central Council [X 7].
2. The presiding officer shall be elected by the Central Council [X 7].
3. Each Convent shall send, besides the Mother, one elected delegate for each five Professed Sisters. A Convent with fewer than five Professed Sisters is entitled to one elected delegate. If the Mother be unable to attend the Chapter, she may appoint a Sister to take her place.
4. It is desirable that as many as possible of the Professed Sisters be present at the General Chapter, but without voice. Only the delegates shall have both seat and voic^ in the General Chapter.
5. The Agenda prepared by the Central Council [X 6, XXIV 4] must be in the hands of the Mother of each Convent at least six months before the meeting of the General Chapter. Matters that have been passed by the Chapter of a Convent or submitted to the Central Council by a Mother shall be included in the Agenda.
6. Before the meeting of the General Chapter, the Chapter of each Convent shall discuss and vote on the said Agenda, that the delegates may know the mind of their constituents. Amendments may be proposed. Such amendments must be sent to all Convents at least three months before the meeting of the General Chapter [XXIV 41.]
7. Only matters which have appeared on the Agenda, or been passed by a majority of a Convent Chapter as amendments to the Agenda, may be voted on at the General Chapter. The General Chapter may, however, when confirming any change in the Statutes or in the Rule of Life, make verbal, interpretative, or declaratory amendments.
8. Any amendments will be voted upon before the original motion. A two-thirds majority vote is required before such an amendment can pass.
9. Changes in the Statutes or Rule of Life shall be effective only by a two-thirds majority vote of a General Chapter [XXIV 4].
10. The minutes of a General Chapter shall be recorded by a Chapter Clerk. After they have been read and approved by the Chapter and signed by the presiding officer, a copy shall be sent to every Convent of the Order, to be read at a special Chapter called for that purpose. These minutes must be carefully preserved for reference.
X. Of the Central Council
1. There shall be a Central Council, consisting of the Mothers of the Convents of the Order, to meet at least once in five years in some Convent which shall be agreed upon by a majority vote of the Mothers.
2. If any Mother be unable to attend the meeting, she may send a Sister to speak and vote in her name.
3. The Central Council shall serve as a bond between the Convents of the Order of S. Anne for the preservation of the unity and well-being of the Order. It shall act primarily as a consultative body and as a center of reference for the Chapters of the several Convents of the Order.
4. This Council shall elect from its number a presiding officer, who shall summon the meetings of the Central Council and act as its executive officer.
5. The presiding officer shall be elected by ballot at the close of each meeting of the Central Council, and shall hold office until the close of the succeeding meeting of the Council. In case of a vacancy in this office, the Council shall immediately elect a successor.
6. The Central Council shall draw up the Agenda for a General Chapter. Any proposed changes in the Statutes or Rule of Life passed by the Chapter of any Convent shall form part of such Agenda. Any other matters which seem good to the Central Council may be incorporated in such Agenda [IX 5, XXIV 4].
7. The Central Council shall arrange the time and place of the General Chapter, and shall elect the presiding officer. It shall have power to call a General Chapter when necessary [IX 1, 2].
8. Meetings of the Central Council shall be so planned as not to synchronize with a General Chapter.
XI. Of Candidates for Admission.
1. A person may be received as a postulant after a visit of one month in the Convent. This period may be shortened at the discretion of the Mother. The aspirant shall present a medical certificate of health from a doctor known to the Community and a recommendation from a Priest. A baptismal certificate is desirable. If the validity of the aspirant's Baptism is uncertain, she should receive conditional Baptism. She shall remain a postulant for at least three months, and must have attained her eighteenth birthday before being received into the novitiate. No one who has been brought up by the Sisters shall be received as an aspirant in any Convent of the Order until she has been one full year away from the Community.
2. The Mother and the Novice Mistress must agree that the candidate seems fit for the life, before she can be clothed as a novice. Before being made a novice, she will make a retreat of one week and a life confession. At Clothing, a novice receives her name in Religion. Names in the Order shall not be duplicated.
3. The term of novitiate shall be not less than two nor more than three years, at the end of which time the novice, if elected by the Chapter, shall make renewable vows annually for three years before taking life vows. No one shall be admitted to renewable vows under the age of twenty-one. A novice failing of election after three years must leave the Convent.
4. A novice will make a fortnight's retreat before she takes her first vows.
5. No one shall be refused merely on the ground of poverty or of age, if she have qualities that sufficiently recommend her for the life and work of the Order, and if there be a reasonable hope of the Community's being able to support her.
XII. Of election of Sisters.
1. Elections for the admission of a Sister to renewable vows, and also for Profession, shall take place at a Chapter held not less than one month before the time of making her vows. If any Sister be unavoidably absent from this Chapter, she may send her sealed vote to the Mother. One negative vote in every three votes cast shall exclude. Blank votes shall be disregarded [p. 41].
2. The Renewal of Vows shall be made on or before the Feast of S. Anne (July 26). Before this time the Mother shall bring before the Chapter the names of the Sisters under annual vows. A vote shall be taken by ballot as to whether a Sister is satisfactory or not. The result of this ballot shall not be announced, but may be used by the Mother in counselling the Sister.
3. Ordinarily, a Sister shall be put forward for election to Profession at the end of her three years under annual vows, except that no one shall be admitted to life vows under the age of twenty-five.
4. If a Sister should not be elected for Profession, she may continue in the Order for one more year, if the Chapter is willing. If at the end of this year she should again be excluded, she must leave the Order of S. Anne.
5. If in the judgment of the Warden and the Mother it should seem wise to extend the period under annual vows, a Sister may continue to renew her vows for one or two additional years, after which time she must be put forward for election.
6. The Visitor should, ordinarily, receive the life vows of a Sister. If that be impossible, he should request the Warden to officiate [III 6, IV 10].
7. A Sister will make a retreat of one month before Profession.
8. A Sister's seniority shall be determined by the date of her life Profession.
XIII. Of Vows.
1. Annual vows are promises made to the Order. They may therefore be dispensed by the Order.
2. The vows taken at Profession are of lifelong and perpetual duration. They bind a Sister not only while she is in the Order; but also if she has been released from her obligations to it, has been dismissed from it, or has left it of her own accord. She has not entered upon a temporary engagement, but upon a lifelong consecration of herself as a whole burnt-offering to the glory of God.
3. The form of Profession shall be: I, Sister ................, do make my vows and Profession for life. I promise to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, to her holy Mother, S. Anne, and to all the Saints, perpetual poverty or the surrender of all earthly possessions, perpetual chastity, and obedience to the Reverend Mother ................ and her lawful successors in office, according to the Statutes and Rule of the Order of S. Anne.
XIV. Of a Sister Received from Another Community
1. If a Professed Sister in good standing should be received from another Community, she shall at once be given the habit of a novice and enter the novitiate of the Convent. After the prescribed two years as a novice, if elected by the Chapter under the provisions of Statute XII, she will then make her Profession in the Order of S. Anne [XIII 3].
2. After making this Profession, she will then take her seat in Chapter and Choir among the Professed; but unless the Chapter is unanimous in desiring otherwise, she shall have no vote until five years have elapsed since her admission as a novice to the Order of S. Anne.
XV. Of Transfer.
1. A Sister of either Order may ask to be sent to another Convent of the Order of S. Anne, with a view to ultimate transfer. She must have the consent of the Mother and the Warden of her own Convent, and the Mother and the Warden of the Convent to which she wishes to go [IV 6]. After a probationary period of not less than one year, nor more than three, she shall be voted upon by the Chapter of the Convent where she is residing. This voting shall be according to Statute XII, paragraph 1.
2. While waiting to be elected by the Chapter, the Sister takes her place according to seniority, but has no seat or vote in Chapter. In principle, she is still a member of her home Convent while on this probationary visit. Should the new Convent reject her, or should she abandon her idea of transfer, she is bound to return to her original Convent, which is bound to receive her.
XVI. Of Release.
1. A Sister under annual vows may at any time be allowed to depart out of the Order of S. Anne, if there be sufficient cause, and if the Mother, the Warden [IV 6], and the officers agree thereto. In such case her vows shall terminate ipso facto.
2. If circumstances should ever make it seem a matter of plain duty for a Sister under life vows to seek release from her obligations to the Order, she shall lay her case before the Warden [IV 6] and a special Chapter of the Convent. If the Warden and a majority of the Chapter decide that the circumstances justify a release, and the Visitor concur [III 7], the Sister shall be free to depart. She shall have no claim, financially or otherwise, upon the Order.
3. No Sister retiring from the Convent shall be allowed to depart in the habit of the Order; other clothing shall be provided for her.
XVII. Of Dismissal.
1. If a Sister under annual vows has, in the judgment of the Mother, proved herself clearly unsuited to the life and work of the Order, she shall be dismissed if a two-thirds majority of the Chapter so decide.
2. No Professed Sister shall be dismissed from the Order, except upon the proposal of the Mother, with the concurrence of the Warden [IV 6], and with a two-thirds majority vote of a Chapter specially assembled to consider her case. Before the vote is taken, the Sister shall have the right to appear before the Chapter, if she so desire. A Sister so dismissed shall, before she is obliged to leave the Convent, be permitted to appeal in writing to the Visitor [III 7], whose decision, when he has heard both sides of the case, shall be final.
3. The reasons for the dismissal of a Professed Sister shall be nothing less than flagrant, prolonged, and scandalous breaches of the Rule, or persistence in the gravest moral or doctrinal faults.
4. If any Sister quit the Convent or work to which she is attached without the sanction of the Mother, and without surrendering herself to the Mother when summoned upon her obedience, she is ipso facto dismissed, and can make no claim upon the Order.
XVIII. Of Readmission.
1. No Sister who has once left the Order shall be readmitted to her Convent save on the proposal of the Mother and with the consent of the Warden and of a two-thirds majority of the Chapter [IV 6].
2. A Sister who has left, or been rejected from, one Convent of the Order may not be received into another, unless the Mother and the Warden of the Convent she has vacated and the Mother and the Warden of the Convent to which she wishes to be admitted give their consent [IV 6]. After a probationary period of not less than one year, nor more than three, she shall be voted on by the Chapter of the Convent where she is residing. This voting shall be according to Statute XII, paragraph 1. While waiting to be elected by the Chapter, the Sister takes her place according to seniority, but has no seat or vote in Chapter.
XIX. Of the Habit.
1. The habit of the Order of S. Anne shall be grey, with a grey girdle and a black wooden cross. Novices shall wear a headdress of white linen, consisting of veil, coif, collar, and cap, and, outside the Convent, a short black veil and a black cloak. Sisters under vows shall wear a white linen coif and wimple, a long black veil, and, outside the Convent, a grey cloak. They will wear three knots in the girdle, a cross bound with silver, and a rosary. At Profession they shall receive, in addition, the scapular and the ring.
2. The habit shall conform to the established pattern, a copy of which shall be in the possession of each Convent.
3. A change in the habit may be made only by a two-thirds majority vote of a General Chapter. Clothing may, however, be adapted to climatic conditions or necessities of work. In the tropics and in the Orient, a grey veil may be substituted for the black veil.
4. Sisters of the Second Order shall wear a grey dress with a white veil and the Community cross and, after Profession, the scapular and ring. Outside the Convent, they may wear secular clothing suited to their work.
XX. Of Chapels.
Every Convent of the Order shall have a Chapel or Oratory. Everything in the Chapel must be arranged with a view to reverence. It is desirable that the Blessed Sacrament be reserved there, provided that the Tabernacle be suitable and secure.
XXI. Of the Office Book.
The Office Book shall be identical in all Convents of the Order of S. Anne. Changes to suit local needs may be made, special hymns and Offices inserted, and the Calendar adapted as may seem desirable to each Convent. Another Office Book shall not be permanently used in any Convent of the Order, without the consent of a two-thirds majority of a General Chapter.
XXII. Of Property.
1. Each postulant shall arrange with the Mother what sum she shall contribute to the common fund, if she be able to make any such contribution. This arrangement shall be known only to the financial officers of the Convent.
2. No one shall be required to give all that she has, even of income, to the common fund.
3. If a gift should be made by a Sister, before Profession, to the Order, and should be accepted by the Mother, it ought to be clearly stated by the Sister in writing that the gift was made voluntarily and with no thought of its ever being returned.
4. No one who enters the Order shall retain any property for her own use; but it shall not be considered a violation of the vow of poverty to allow each one to retain for her ordinary use any necessary books of devotion or manuscripts which may be useful to her work.
5. It shall always be in the power of the Mother to assign anything in the Convent to be used by anyone.
6. Each Sister shall, upon making her Profession, distribute all her personal goods amongst her relatives or friends, or else she shall give them for the purposes of the Order. She shall retain nothing for her own use.
7. If possessed of property, she shall normally part with it entirely on the eve of her Profession. If, in exceptional cases, it shall seem desirable to the Mother, the Warden, and herself that she should retain, in whole or in part, the legal ownership, she shall, before her Profession, make her will; and the will so made shall not be altered without due cause, to be approved by the Mother and the Warden. Mention should be made of her wish to be buried with the Sisters.
8. No one possessed of property is bound to leave such property to the Convent. She may leave it to the Convent or elsewhere.
9. If any member of the Order shall, subsequently to her Profession, become possessed of any property, it shall be at her option to give it to the Convent, or to do with it whatever seems best to her; but she shall retain no part of it for her own personal use.
10. Any money earned by a Sister shall be handed over at once to the Mother for the use of the Convent.
XXIII. Of the property of the Convent.
1. The property of each Convent shall be held, when possible, by a corporation composed of all the Professed Sisters of the Convent and such other persons as they shall elect, including a legal adviser. From this corporation shall be elected a board of directors. If a Convent cannot be incorporated, the Professed Sisters shall act as a board of directors.
2. No financial responsibility, other than ordinary current expenses, beyond five hundred dollars, shall be incurred by the Mother without the assent of a majority of the board of directors.
3. No purchase or sale of securities, no sale or mortgaging of property, shall be undertaken without the consent of the board of directors, nor shall any gift of house or land be accepted or abandoned without the same consent.
4. The Mother shall present a balance sheet and full financial report once a year to the Chapter.
5. At the expiration of her term of office, the Mother must hand over to her successor all Community documents and important papers, together with a complete statement of the financial status of the Convent.
XXIV. Of the Statutes and the Rule of Life.
1. The Statutes of the Order are a legal document and are of binding authority upon the Community.
2. The Statutes and the Rule of Life are a private matter, belonging to the Community. They may not be given to externs to read, except by permission of the Mother.
3. If the Statutes and Rule of Life should be translated into another tongue for Community use, great care must be taken to secure accuracy and to see that the spirit of the original is preserved. To this end, a committee of two or three experts in the language should be asked to assist in the translation.
4. Changes in the Statutes or the Rule of Life may be proposed in the Chapter of any Convent of S. Anne. Such proposals, if passed by a majority vote of the individual Chapter, shall be referred to the Central Council to be placed on the Agenda of the next General Chapter [IX 7]. Amendments to such Agenda may be proposed by other Convents before the meeting of the said General Chapter. Such amendments shall be sent to all other Convents at least three months before the said meeting [IX 6]. Changes become effective only by a two-thirds majority vote of a General Chapter [IX 9].
5. A Convent that should make any change in the Statutes or the Rule of Life, without the authority of a General Chapter, may lawfully retain such change only by giving up the habit and the name of the Order of S. Anne.
[Directions for Voting in Chapter
1. Ballots for the election of the Mother [V 1, 7] shall list the names of the Professed Sisters. A Sister will place a cross against the name of the Sister for whom she desires to vote.
2. A Professed Sister unable to be present at the Greater Chapter will be furnished with four ballots. On the first two she will vote in the usual manner for the Sister who is her first choice as Mother; these two ballots will be placed in a sealed envelope marked on the outside "A". The other two ballots will be similarly marked for the Sister who is her second choice; these will be placed in a sealed envelope marked "B". Both envelopes will be placed in another, authenticating their source, and given to the presiding officer. This will be opened at the Chapter, where the presiding officer will insert into the ballot box the "A" votes on the first two ballots, respectively; the "B" votes on the next two, should they be needed.
3. Two scrutineers, appointed by the presiding officer, will count the votes and give an account thereof to the presiding officer.
4. In announcing the result of a ballot, the presiding officer will declare the total number of votes cast for each Sister.
5. Before an election of those who are to take vows [XII 1], the names of the Sisters who are put forward by the Mother and the Novice Mistress shall be sent to each Sister qualified to vote [VII 6, XIV 2]. The ballot should have two voting columns, headed "Yes" and "No." A cross should be marked in one of these columns. A Sister will be justified in returning her ballot unmarked if she has not had sufficient opportunity to form an opinion,
6. The scrutineers should give to the presiding officer the total number of votes cast and the number of affirmative and negative votes. In all elections, blank votes shall be disregarded. The ballots cast should be preserved for a day or two in case any question should be raised and a re-count be necessary.
7. All voting for the election [XII 1], dismissal [XVII 1, 2], or readmission [XVIII 1, 2] of a Sister shall be by ballot. At any other time when important matters are before the Chapter, the voting shall be by ballot if at least two Sisters so request.]
The Rule of Life
"This shall be a sign unto you." To make us free, God gave up His liberty. To teach us true liberty, He revealed Himself bound, not so much by the swaddling clothes as by love.
There is no love without chains. Free love is a contradiction in terms. If it is free, it is not love; if it is love, it is not free.
"As many as walk according to this Rule, peace be on them, and mercy."
This Holy Rule is what God has delivered to us for our sanctification. It: is His special instrument for our salvation. We speak of the spirit of the Rule; but the Rule cannot be kept at all unless the letter of the Rule is kept with particularity. The spirit is best cherished by observing, as far as may be, every detail. Perhaps God knows that only by the keeping of this Rule of Life can we attain to the Beatific Vision. The keeping of it, therefore, matters infinitely; because the laws contained in it have to do with our relations in time and in eternity with the Infinite God.
God so loved the world that He did something about it. He gave Himself to save the world.
The world has small need of a religion which consists solely or chiefly of emotions and raptures. But the religion that follows Jesus Christ alike when He goes up into the high mountain to pray, and when He comes down into the dark valley to work; the religion that listens to Him alike when He tells us of the peace and joy of the Father's House, and when He calls us to feed His lambs; the religion that is willing to suffer as well as to enjoy; to labour as well as to triumph; the religion that has a soul to worship God, and a heart to love one's neighbour, and a hand to help in every good cause,—this is pure religion and undefiled.
Believing in the possibility of a synthesis between the essential truth of Holy Religion and the verities of modern life, we make our own the prayer in the Office for Tuesady in Holy Week:
"By Thy mercy, O God, may we be freed from the dead hand of the past, and enter into new life and holiness."
In the name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. I. Of the Object.
"In the beginning God."
Because God loves us, and because we love Him, we desire to live devoted to Him; to take up our cross daily; and to deny ourselves by the threefold vow of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Believing that God created us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him, we desire, further, to carry on, when possible, the work of perpetual intercession, in response to our Lord's command, "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest;" to worship our Blessed Lord in the most adorable Sacrament of the Altar; and to seek, as far as God may allow, to draw others also, especially children, to know, to love, and to serve Him Who is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the valleys.
Any work which, directly or indirectly, contributes toward these ends is within the scope of the Order.
Persons who seem fitted for this life and work, and w ho are at the same time puzzled to know if they have a vocation from God, can find out only by offering themselves. If they are rejected, God accepts their motive. "Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto My Name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart. Nevertheless thou shalt not build the house."
It is the love of God that converts an organization into an organism, and what might otherwise be a club into a Sisterhood. "By love serve one another." It is love that binds us into a family.
Having heard the Call of the Heights—that is, the High Calling of Jesus Christ—we must face the ascent as a Community, in a prayerful spirit of loving unity: "being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind each esteeming other better than herself; not looking each to her own things, but each to the things of others."
II. Of the Rule.
"Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God."
That is our vow. We are to carry on this actual surrender here and now, in detail, by keeping the Rule, as it comes to us day by day.
A Religious Community is a society, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, made orderly by good manners rather than by law. The Statutes and Rule of Life furnish us with a standard of good Religious manners. It is the duty of the Mother to see that the Statutes and the Rule of Life are studied and kept. She must govern accordingly. A chapter of the Rule shall be read each day in Chapel after one of the Offices.
A Chapter of Faults, when held, is not for the confession of sins, but of failures, if there have been any, to keep the details of the Rule that do not touch the moral law. Laws are not bars to be fretted against. They are guides which enable us to live together comfortably. If each one did what she felt to be advisable, a state of confusion would result. Each Convent will have its own unwritten rules; and, when such rules have been pointed out, they must be carefully kept.
Everything in a good Religious House is done according to rule. There is a time to work and a time to pray, a time to sleep and a time in which to take recreation: one thing must not be allowed to interfere with another, that so a general harmony may be preserved. The same order and the same rule should go on day by day, month by month, year by year, with a monotony rarely broken. There is a rest about a well-kept rule, which contrasts greatly with the wearying variety of the world.
The Rule is plain. When God has something vital to say, He says it in a language that needs no translation or interpretation. He says it in a way that all can comprehend. "Follow Me" was our Lord's unequivocal signal to the disciples.
S. John says: "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning:" the Call of God.
III. Of the Order of S. Anne
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom."
The Order of S. Anne cannot be designated as professing exclusively the contemplative, the mixed, or the active life, since all three types may be lived within the Order. The principle of the Order is the life of God within it; and whatsoever He may say to us—whether it be to sit at His feet, hearing Him only, or to feed His lambs—that we must do.
We desire to place ourselves under the patronage of Blessed Anne, parent of our Lord's most dear Mother, keeping July 26 as our patronal festival, and, as our dedication festival, the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels (October 2).
It is an instinct of human nature to assemble with one's own kind in Religious Communities. The followers of the Lord are gregarious. They are a "little flock." They delight to be together. They repudiate mere individualism. They enjoy a "common salvation." They believe in the communion of saints on earth as well as in Heaven.
"Where two or three are gathered together in My Name" ... It was not of our own uninfluenced will that we were assembled as an Order. A gracious force constrained us. God gathered us together.
This togetherness has great immediacy of reward. "There am I in the midst." He is always here. He is here before we come together and after we disperse. He is a pervasive presence, an atmosphere of light and fragrance, a most loving Lord. He promises to "feed His flock like a shepherd." He knows the field where our souls will be best nourished in holiness. He promises to "gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom."
The servants of the Most High have one deep, abiding desire, common to them all: it is to love God and to bring others to be partakers of the same love.
To continue to be a self-governing people we must be a self-supporting people; this is true of convents no less than of nations. To accomplish this end, convents may often have to be larger than we would otherwise wish. But, whether large or small, let there be a loving watchfulness and care for every individual, bearing in mind the words of God: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you."
IV. Of enclosure.
"A garden enclosed is My sister, My spouse."
Sisters of our Order having taken final vows and desiring to live the enclosed life, will not leave the Convent grounds, except on occasions of some special emergency, and with the permission of the Warden, or his representative, and the Mother.
They will, when possible, assist at all the Offices in choir, and meditate daily for not less than one hour. They must make haste to the Chapel, as to a place of refuge and the garden of spiritual delights; but their gait should not be hurried, unless it happen of necessity that it must be so, or unless charity require.
If any Nun should find the rare vocation of a "strict enclosure" and the contemplative life, she will not receive visitors except in the room appointed. All the Sisters alike will study to be industrious, not giving way to vicious idleness, but praying and working ever for the good of others.
The Nuns who are enclosed shall not on that account be more highly regarded than other and more active members of the Order, nor less so. Enclosure, no less than a habit, is a protection. So is a high wall around a garden; but a high wall is not of the essence of a garden. A garden is possible without that.
Well did S. Catherine of Siena counsel: "Make for thyself a cell within thee, where thou mayest hide thyself and there abide." For such a cell can be transfigured by our Lord into His tabernacle.
Each one is to be a garden where grow the little flowerets and fruits of virtue—enclosed from trespassers, but open to the Beloved, Who "feedeth among the lilies"—a spring shut up from the defilement of wandering wild beasts; a fountain sealed and held back from idle tossing in the air, that the living waters may refresh "the least of these my brethren," and even the Lord Himself, Who deigns to say:" Give Me to drink."
V. Of Humility.
"Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
The aim of Religion is not to suppress, but to develop, the individual life in the Community. To this end, we must cultivate humility, which is the foundation of all virtues. To cultivate humility:
We must not speak in our own praise, or draw attention to ourselves.
We need not excuse ourselves when found fault with, unless duty requires.
We must not speak of others' faults, unless charity demands. To do so is a sin. Persons are too often critical in proportion to their ignorance. Let us therefore watch and pray lest we fall into the satanic sin of pride, which leads to rash accusation and censorious judgment of others, and try to put the best possible construction on their words and actions. Magnanimity is not seldom the truest wisdom. See good in others and you will find God in yourself.
We should remember that, neglects and slights are good for us. Christ is the road to humility, and He often brings with Him humiliations.
By considering His greatness, we discover our own nothingness; by contemplating His purity, we discover our own imperfections; and beholding His lowliness, we shall discover how far we are from being humble. May He
"Sow in our hearts, like living grass,
The laughter of all lowly things."
We may never be great saints, but let us, at least, take our revenge by being very humble. Humility shall be our chief device for pleasing God. Let us therefore pray:
"Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine."
VI. Of Kindness, Simplicity, and Joy.
"Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself."
If we deny ourselves rightly, the virtues of kindness, simplicity, and joy will inevitably appear in our lives.
If self longs to say a sharp or bitter word, speak kindly or be silent.
If self desires to show off, be simple. If self is gloomy and cross, smile.
If self is inclined to be sad and melancholy, for the love of our Lord Jesus, His Mother, and S. Anne, be sweet, and joyful, considering of Whom it is said: "His mouth is most sweet: yea, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem."
A thought of the little while of it all would make many an annoyance which frets our soul and spoils our companionship drop into insignificance. We can be such a little while together that we can afford to be tender and forbearing. The heaviest chariot-wheels of life drive smoothly when there is plenty of the oil of gladness and good fellowship poured out.
Kindness, simplicity, and joy—these three words must be the keynote of our life, each Sister thinking less of her rights and more of her kind, simple, and joyous duties.
"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord."
So will the King's daughter be all glorious within. It is within that she is to be spotless, without wrinkle or any such thing. If the raiment of needlework in which she is clothed is not an imitation, if it is a real lace-work of kindness, simplicity, and joy, then others will inquire the way to this lovely life, and they will be the virgins, our companions, who will follow us into the presence of the King. We shall not be lonely: we shall have good company for eternity.
VII. Of Reading.
"Give attendance to reading."
The Humanities—an academic word for polite and learned literature—have to do with reading. To be humane, we must first be human, informed, and civilized.
Each Sister should have always at hand at least some one good book for private study. "A little learning" is not so dangerous a thing as is sometimes supposed. Some liberty should be allowed in the moderate use of a daily or weekly journal. Light reading may be advisable at times. During the Greater Silence there shall be no secular reading or use of the radio, except with permission from the Mother.
Above all other books, the Bible should be read. It is the word of God; and we must not substitute what other people say or write about the Bible for the Bible itself.
We must "search the Scriptures" as part of our obedience to our Saviour. S. Jerome said: "Let there be study of the Divine Word mingled with prayer and meditation, that by this leisure thou mayest balance all the businesses of the other time."
Any printed matter that may come to the Convent must be at the disposition of the Mother. It rests with the Mother to determine which books may be placed in the library, and which may be given away or sold. Books belonging" to Sisters should not, ordinarily, be placed in the library until after Profession. Duplicates may be offered to other Convents of the Order.
When reading in Chapel or refectory, endeavour should be made to pronounce all the words audibly and firmly. Ezra read the Bible "distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."
VIII. Of Courtesy.
"Be pitiful, be courteous," is an old rule, but needed to-day as much as ever.
The Amenities are even more important than the Humanities. We must pay particular attention to the small civilities of life, inside the Convent no less than outside—quiet ways, low tones of voice, lips that can wait, eyes that do not wander; the punctual keeping of a promise, the prompt answering of a letter, the giving of quick assistance, when possible; the endeavour not to keep people standing or waiting long, the swift and joyful granting of a request, when one justly can.
All such courtesies are secondary means of grace when people are in trouble and are fighting their unseen battles. The first Christians were distinguished by a common Spirit that inspired them to be mutually helpful. In that communal society of courteous consideration there was neither "mine" nor "thine"—all things were Christ's.
A disagreeable thing, if it must be said, may be said in such a way as to rob it of its sting; and a pleasant thing may be said so discourteously as to lose all its pleasantness.
The Sisters should interrupt no one when speaking, unless it be quite necessary, and they should stop if interrupted.
Let them make a reverence when meeting or greeting a Priest, and rise when he enters or leaves a room, unless another Priest be present.
"That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." Courtesy is the behaviour of a court; and we, courtiers of the great King, are to be polished stones, after the similitude of a palace. Possibly courtesy is less than courage of heart, or holiness, and yet, looking at the beauty of nature alone, it does seem that the grace of our God is in courtesy. The home-life in God is to be a life of perfect union with our most courteous Lord—"I in them and they in Me."
IX. Of Trust in God.
"My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
These are the Infinities. Contemplate this infinite courtesy of God in His dealings with us.
We must not be anxious about material supplies—wherewithal we shall be clothed and fed. Let us see that we have in our hearts a great, tender, loving trust in God. What can He not do? What is He not ready to do for us? This is God's world, and God is our Father. God is infinitely rich, infinitely powerful, infinitely good; and all things are the heritage of His children.
Trust in God shines in the confidence of Isaiah that Israel will have a glorious future. "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited."
Still less need we be anxious about spiritual gifts. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Consider S. Teresa's bookmark:
"Let nothing disturb thee, Nothing affright thee: All things are passing, God never changeth. Patient endurance attaineth to all things; Who God possesseth in nothing is wanting—Alone God sufticeth."
In the words of S. John of the Cross: "As the sun, rising in the morning, shines into thy house, if thou dost open thy windows, so Cod, the unsleeping King, will shine in upon the soul which unfolds itself to Him."
To live in the active faith that the hairs of our head arc numbered, and that not one sparrow can fall without our Father—that is the mark of a growing trust in God.
X. Of Faith.
"Without faith it is impossible to please Cod."
We are to believe that God is always with us, thinking of us, loving us. Our prayer may often be, "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief."
We should thank Him for every joy and happiness, for every pain and sorrow, considering that all the events of our life, even the most trivial, arc not chance, but His special arrangement. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
We must have a co-operative faith. The faith of one may act vicariously in the enrichment of another. It is an immense mercy of God to allow any one to do the least thing which brings souls nearer to Him. The faith of four friends brought a fifth friend into the operation of mysterious and beneficent powers, which ministered to his life and healing "when Jesus saw their faith." Our faith, therefore, can be social and fraternal, holding our brother or sister within the circle of its gracious power. Faith can be socialistic, like hope, like love. It is literally true that five faithful ones can fill Sodom with the saving energies of grace; therefore
Do not encourage doubt;
Do not let it discourage you.
If doubts come, lay them aside for a little while, and live the truth you know, praying to Him Who is the Truth.
If you doubt God's word, live it.
If you doubt human beings, help them.
If you are quite sure of God, there is no crack or crevice among all His worlds that can harbour an impossibility. In exercising faith, we may have to step into darkness; but soon the day will dawn, the shadows flee away, and the day-star arise in our hearts.
That our Divine Lord should permit us to be of some smallest blessing to others, and so in a humble way to contribute to His glory, will be to us a source of profitable confusion and of unmerited consolation.
XI. Of Hope.
"It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."
The theological virtues are not abstract, negative, and passive: they are concrete, positive, and active. We are to cultivate the "work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
Wise virgins think often of the Coming of the Bridegroom and the Marriage Feast in Heaven. Hope is the medicine for pain. Our Lord encouraged the penitent thief by giving him hope. "Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." We should endeavour to read the Bible every day, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope. "And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly, my hope is even in Thee."
"We are saved by hope." In failure, it is hope that lifts us out of despondency, and it is hope that urges us on to fresh efforts.
"Hopeth all things," needs to be writ large over our prayer and work for the "so foolish and ignorant," who sometimes sink to low levels all around us; for the rich and educated who do know, but fail to do, better; for the sick who struggle up, and for the feeble who drift down—for all, we must lay hold of the grace of God, and dare to go on "abounding in hope."
It is only those who are haunted by hope who know what it is to be happy in this dark world. The spectre and the song are inseparable.
We must, indeed, hope for the best when things seem naturally hopeless, or our hope is a pagan, and not a Christian, virtue at all.
To hope is to expect with confidence that God will give us grace here and glory hereafter, if we do what is required of us.
O my God, I hope in Thee for grace and for glory!
XII. Of Love.
"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
It is not the externals of religion—no mere wearing of a habit—which will make us brides of God. It is love first, love midst, love last. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
We must pray ever for an increase of this love. If we love not our Sisters whom we have seen, how shall we love God Whom we have not seen? Once a month we must examine ourselves in the qualifications of love mentioned by S. Paul, considering them one by one:
Love suffereth long; is kind; envieth not; vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly; Love seeketh not her own; is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity; rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things; believeth all things; hopeth all things; endureth all things; never faileth.
If we have this active love in our hearts, we have God in our hearts; for God is love. He has taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth. May God send His Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift.
Love, like a gold coinage, is for use and not for ornament. The Church that was urged by our Lord to return to her first love had forgotten this.
The academy of Calvary is the all-excelling school of love. We know our lesson quite well—now let us go out and practise it.
XIII. Of Vows.
"I will always sing praise unto Thy Name: that I may daily perform my vows."
A vow is a sacred obligation, voluntarily assumed, to live a certain life, or to do a certain work. It is a deliberate promise made to God and accepted by God.
Every vow obliges the person who makes it to observe what she has promised. "When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not. to pay it. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay."
We can break our vows if we will, but we must bear in mind that they will meet us in the great Day of Judgment. We alone may determine whether our sacred promises to God, which He Himself will help us to keep, will plunge us into eternal despair, or crown us in the city of God.
There are many timid talkers in the world; but those men and women who, after due prayer and preparation, have taken vows, whether of holy religion or of holy matrimony, are generally right. They are doing something. They have risked all they had.
The benefit of a vow is that it adds a value to any acts done under it, making them acts of worship.
"Vow and pay unto the Lord your God: let all that be round about Him bring presents unto Him."
We need to encourage one another to persevere in this estate, that we may daily perform our vows. It is terribly possible to fall away. So, let us pray for perseverance. Let us pray for one another.
Henceforth let us not be troubled. God has called us: we are His foundlings, His special charge. Let us abandon ourselves to Him, that He may be glorified in us, and we in Him. To Him be praise for ever!
XIV. Of the Payment of Vows.
"Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High: and call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shall glorify Me."
"Offer unto God thanksgiving." That is the first step, if we would obtain the promise.
"Pay thy vows unto the Most High." That is the next step. It is not a long step; for we owe to God the praise of our lives no less than of our lips. Before we can claim His promise of help, we must be prepared to fulfil our promises to Him. Baptismal vows, of which the vows of Religion are an intensification, rest upon us all. We have engaged to be good, and "good" means being "good for something." These vows we have made; and now we have to pay them—not in vain talk or in daydreams, but definitely. The idea of abandoning a vow must, not be entertained for a moment. The very thought is disloyalty.
The temptation that often comes is to abandon the simplicities of a life under vows, through the lure of the complexities of the world; to forsake the fountain of living water, and hew out to ourselves clumsy cisterns; to neglect the majestic simplicities of the gospel, and involve our tired brains and hungry hearts in tortuous systems that would lead us a long way from home.
"Pay thy vows." That is what He asks of us, if He is to help us. It may cost us more than we ever imagined. But we owe it to God. It is our duty—something due. What it costs each one of us is known only to ourselves and to Him; but pay our vows loyally we must. Let us not be discouraged by the failures of any at our side. Our duty is plain. It may be hard, but it leads to a rich result.
"Offer unto God thanksgiving." That is the first step for our feet, when they are ready to slip. "And pay thy vows unto the Most High." That is the second foothold. Thus steadied, we are fit to hear the great promise: "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me."
XV. Of the Counsels of Perfection.
"Hearken now unto My voice, I will give thee counsel."
The Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience are a means to perfection.
Absolute perfection is, in this life, beyond our reach; but relative perfection, which is compatible with our human infirmities, may be attained by the aid of Divine grace.
Our Lord said: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father Which is in Heaven is perfect." The Religious sins grievously, who resolves not to care about her perfection, or is willing to remain in a low degree; for she is bound to aim at perfection, and never to halt upon the way that leads to it—she is bound, not only by fidelity to her vows, but also by the observance of those rules which do not bind under sin.
When we notice imperfections in others, we should hear the Voice of Jesus, saying: "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now," as a call to thoughtful tenderness for our Sisters. "Who art thou that judgest another?" What if there are imperfect Sisters in the Community? What has that to do with you? Are you already perfect?
Let us see to it that we are Watcher:; for the Dawn. S. John was upheld by a vision of perfection, even amid the grind of initial labour. A prisoner in the mines, he sees the "New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." He sees, even when digging the foundations of a city, the sunlight flashing on its streets of gold and finished towers.
Courage then! The country of our quest is not so doubtful as we think. The air is flecked with the snowy pinions of land-birds, and the waves are strewn with branches having berries on them.
"Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel." The ideal is high. There is a way to reach it. Walk with Jesus.
XVI. Of Poverty. "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God."
By this vow we are forbidden:
The ownership of things; the use of things as if they were our own; the giving away, the selling or the lending of things, without permission; the receiving or the keeping of things, without permission.
Any present which, through charity or courtesy, we feel we ought to accept, should be referred or handed over to the Mother at once; and it must not be thought a grievance if the present be declined.
The Mother must see to it that pictures and ornaments are not allowed to accumulate in rooms belonging to the Community.
All alike must avoid the deadly sin of covetousness. A covetous person is like a bottomless vessel that is never full, however much is poured into it. We must covet earnestly the best gifts, desiring poverty not only for the individual but for the Community as a whole. Sisters must learn to do without many of the conveniences and luxuries that are only for the rich in this world's goods, and must practise economy in matters large or small.
By the vow of Poverty, we become loosened from the ties of earth, and rise by faith to the possession of the wealth of God.
The Six Degrees of Religious Poverty are:
The not having anything as our own property; the not setting our affections upon anything; the being Content willingly to forego all superfluities; the not being eager about necessities and conveniences; the rejoicing to suffer the loss of luxuries; the rejoicing in the lack of necessary things even when sick, and, for Jesus' sake, the making of no complaint.
Keep the vow of Poverty, and the word of God shall be fulfilled, "Yet setteth He the poor on high, and maketh him families like a flock."
[NOTE ON POVERTY
The Religious Life is the imitation of Christ, and therefore religious poverty is the imitation of Christ's poverty. But Christ's poverty was different in kind in different phases of His life. There was the utter destitution of Calvary; there was the poverty, almost as great, of Bethlehem and of His public life, when at times He had not where to lay His head; and there was also the poverty of Nazareth.
Calvary is the type of Franciscan poverty. "Mary, Thy Mother, stopped at the foot of the Cross, but Poverty mounted it with Thee and clasped Thee in her embrace unto the end. O poorest Jesus, bestow on me the treasure of the highest Poverty." (S. Francis.)
Nazareth is the type of Benedictine poverty. So was the home in Jerusalem to which S. John took our Lady on Good Friday. It was not the poverty of beggary and of destitution, but the poverty that obtains in the household of a carpenter or other skilled artisan. This, speaking generally, is the poverty to which the Order of S. Anne is called. It is simplicity and frugality rather than want—the poverty of the home of a workingman who is earning good wages—though at any time the Sisters of S. Anne may be called to the. deeper poverty of Bethlehem, or even of Calvary.
From this thought we may obtain a working principle. The spirit of poverty demands thai, in a Convent of S. Anne, the conditions of life in regard to food, clothing, furniture, tools, household utensils, and the personal comforts of life ought always to be on a distinctly simpler and more frugal scale than most of us would have had if we had remained in the world; while, sometimes, Sisters of S. Anne, like any other Religious, may be called by circumstances actually to beg for food, and even to be homeless, as was our Lord Jesus Christ.]
XVII. The Inner Spirit of Poverty. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."
We must cultivate or practise interior poverty, living "as poor, yet making many rich:"
By trying to avoid notice and praise;
By willingly being ignored, and cheerfully accepting humiliations, if they come;
By putting others forward, and unostentatiously taking the last place ourselves; not striving for a precedence that may justly belong to us;
By rejoicing in the greater gifts of others, whereby they are able to serve God in ways that are beyond our powers;
By not contending for what we may think are personal rights;
By humility of mind, showing itself in respect and reverence for the opinions and feelings of others;
By gladly doing for others the lowliest offices; and by taking advice or correction even from those younger than ourselves;
By readily yielding to the wishes of others, in all things not opposed to the will of God, the duties of our office, the Statutes, and the Rule of Life;
By making even our friendships in Religion a Community matter, seeing that particular friendships are the plague of a Convent;
By considering the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we, through His poverty, might become rich;
Above all, by prayer, remembering that "the Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up."
God is so great: heaven is so high: how may I know that my prayer is heard of Him? "Be comforted," says Pascal, "thou wouldst not be seeking Him if thou hadst not already found Him."
XVIII. Of Chastity.
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
If we would keep our vow of Chastity, we must be careful:
To discipline the sense of sight, never looking at things dangerous to purity. God has given us eyelids, as well as eyes—eyes with which to see, eyelids, so that sometimes we may not see.
To discipline the sense of hearing, never listening to uncharitable gossip, nor tolerating for a moment anything unchaste or irreverent.
To discipline the sense of taste, eating what is set before us, if the quantity be not too great; not eating or drinking, as a rule, between meals, unless duty or courtesy demand it.
To discipline the sense of touch, avoiding, as far as health will permit, self-indulgent attitudes—such as crossing the knees—and gushing demonstrations of affection.
To discipline the sense of smell, while ever thanking God for the fragrances that He has created.
To discipline the manner: not talking or laughing noisily; but with becoming modesty.
To discipline the imagination, for while the body is chaste in word and deed, the imagination may be wandering in forbidden fields, and lighting on unholy scenes and images which tarnish, like the breath on a mirror, the beauty, delicacy, and spotlessness of a chaste spirit.
"Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things, that is sin to you."
Above all, pray unto Him That is able to keep each one of us from falling, and to present us faultless before the Presence of His glory with exceeding joy.
XIX. Of Obedience.
"Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God."
Obedience is the essence of the Religious Life. If obedience be set aside, disintegration begins in any Community. Canonical obedience is due, as in the case of all Christians, to the ecclesiastical authorities. Monastic Obedience is due to the Mother. It demands an unquestioning and whole-hearted submission to her, within the limits of this Rule, in those things which pertain to the observance of the Vows, the Rule, the Statutes, the life and work of the Order.
Religious obedience must be:
Pure in its motive; that is, given to the Mother because of her office, and not merely because of personal qualities;
Unmurmuring—obedience given with complaint loses its reward;
Joyous—"God loveth a cheerful giver;"
Prompt—"The King's business requireth haste;"
Blind—we are not to ask for reasons when told to do a thing, any more than soldiers ask their commander for reasons;
Courageous—with a moral courage that faces and overcomes all difficulties;
Entire—we must obey all lawful commands with all our might.
If religious obedience is not the finding and the doing of the will of God, as revealed to us by our Mother, it is nothing. Each act of obedience should be a sacrament, willing and joyful. To obey is to do what our Lord Himself did, partaking with Him of His own supernatural food. "My meat," said He, "is to do the will of Him that sent Me."
XX. Of postulants.
"Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you."
Aspirants to the Order should be kindly welcomed to the Convent by the Sisters.
The candidate, beset by the temptation to think that she might be more profitably employed elsewhere, must learn that God is calling us to a life rather than a work. The old home is lost, that in our homelessness we may begin to long more for our real, eternal Home. If we have left any real good behind, we press on to God, to find it restored for ever by God, with the added joy of finding that all that made it precious to us is from God, and abides for ever in God.
A postulant must bring with her a strong determination to master the life of religious obedience, and to be mastered by God for Christ's sake. When next you come to the Hill Difficulty, do not spend time walking round it.
"Be thou strong and very courageous." Life is a conflict: our foes are real, not imaginary. God has promised that He will be a father to the fatherless; and, "as one whom his mother comfort-eth, so will T comfort you." And again we read: "When my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord taketh me up." To this view does the Psalmist invite us as he gazes at the tabernacle of God, and sees his final refuge beneath those wings which encompass the mercy-seat.
The early Christians "first gave their own selves to the Lord," and then they gave all that they had. Their possessions followed the first gift in natural and vital succession. If the first gift is sincere, the second gift is certain. If the first gift is partial and hesitant, the second gift will be maimed and reluctant. The vital gift of self is gloriously inclusive. It is the whole circle which encloses the various segments. It is the great surrender which draws everything into its victorious train.
What hinders us, He will overcome; what is lacking, He will supply.
XXI. Of Novices.
"First they gave their own selves."
This is the secret of the Religious Life. A consecrated life is a surrendered life. It is laying our gifts and ourselves before God, and taking our hands off. We dare not keep back part of the price.
The surrender must be voluntary, because a half-hearted life is not acceptable to God. If we forsake all that we have for Him, He will come to our aid with His all. If we give our life to Him, we receive the dower of His vitality.
The surrender must be unselfish. We came here seeking not our own. It must be entire. A full surrender enthrones Christ in the heart. We cannot crown Him Lord at all, until we crown Him Lord of all.
The Religious Life is inevitably tedious when it becomes a conscious yielding of our smaller things and a withholding of our central strength. It is one thing to surrender individual talents or dollars; it is quite another thing to consecrate our wealth. It is one thing to build altars here and there on the road; it is another thing to consecrate the journey. It is one thing to be religious in spasmodic conflicts; but it is another thing to hallow the entire campaign.
S. Gregory, called the Great, has written that "he who wishes to reach the highest place must ascend by steps, and not by jumps." Yet we must not be so busy contemplating the steps that we lose sight of the goal.
Novices will obey their mistress in 'all things, seeking to be in subjection; lest being "lifted up with pride," as S. Paul says, they "fall into the condemnation of the devil." The novitiate is a seedtime. We must take care to sow good seed. "And let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not."
"Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it."
O God, as Thou hast called us to Thy service, make us worthy of our calling!
XXII Of profession.
"Thy vows are upon me, O God"—the vows of an inclusive sacrifice. "Bind the sacrifice with cords"—the cords of a voluntary Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. If any part of our self is kept back from the Lord, our religion will be a procession of reluctances and irritations. Every circumstance will present a separate problem, instead of being caught up in the sweep of a mighty consecration. We must not try to carry the yoke as it were on the tips of our fingers, instead of letting it sit well back on our shoulders. We must not play at being Religious in little surrenders, while the great surrender has been imperfectly made. The small surrenders encounter curbs and restraints, and the soul is annoyed and discordant. The large surrender sets our feet in a large room. We pass into the glorious freedom of God's children, and His statutes become our songs.
A Professed Nun should be an unanswerable argument for the Religious Life. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Pray for perseverance. Let us pray for one another by name. Jesus said: "Simon, Simon, I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not."
Let us lift up our eyes unto the hills from whence cometh our help, and see through the clouds that highest peak of all, crowned by the heavenly Jerusalem.
After Profession, a Sister of S. Anne—like Blessed Mary, the highest and the lowliest of all God's creatures—should seek to live a hidden life; and, if her work take her somewhat into the world, she must yet remain as much as possible at home, making to herself "a little grating of the fear of God," since she has made an offering of her life
in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity,
and to the
in the most sweet Name of
XXIII. Of the Reverend Mother.
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account."
The Reverend Mother must be obeyed. Her express commands, and also her known wishes, shall be complied with, in all matters that do not involve the violation of conscience.
Reverence must be shown to the Mother. All should stand when she enters or leaves a room, unless some one higher in rank, such as a Priest, happen to be present at the time.
The Mother will be inspired to say and do what is right in proportion as the Sisters pray for her and obey her. The Mother, on the other hand, will be eager to see that each one has her due, and is appointed to those duties in which she may best serve the Community and develop the life within her.
Each person is to be obeyed in the department committed to her care in all things that are not contrary to the expressed wish of the Mother or the Novice Mistress. "To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters," is sound doctrine and good Christian practice.
The Mother must not be led by an exuberance of charity to alter or ignore rules that tend to make the Convent a haven of rest and a center of unity. She must practise patience, and keep a great store of kind words, remembering that "kind words break no bones." There must be gentleness for the good, excuses for the thoughtless, encouragement for the bad, cheerfulness for all.
In her sixth revelation, Julian of Norwich writes: "Then I saw the Lord take no place in His own house, but I saw Him royally reign in His house, fulfilling it with joy and mirth, Himself endlessly to gladden and to solace His dear-worthy friends, full homely and courteously with marvellous melody of endless love."
The simplest are the greatest. Let each Sister forget that she is superior to any, remembering only that she is inferior to most. They who feel inferior rise to the superior: they who feel superior fall to the inferior. Authority that is wise will not be harsh and peremptory; it will bear in mind the suaviter in modo as well as the fortiter in re.
XXIV. Of Some Means of Grace.
"By grace ye are saved."
Some means by which we may be kept in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein we stand, are:
Daily self-oblation. "O my God, I commend to Thee my life and work this day, to be directed according to Thy will."
Constant watchfulness upon God. "Mine eyes are ever looking unto the Lord." To watch is our Lord's most frequent command to His disciples. "Watch ye therefore."
Continual prayer. We must learn to pray without ceasing: that is, we must seek to be ever in the attitude of prayer, so that, at any instant, our hearts may be lifted up in ejaculation, even if there be little time for external devotion.
The regular corporate recitation of the Holy Rosary. In using this devotion we become "God's remembrancers," and by constant repetition we learn, in union with our Lord's Blessed Mother, to ponder in our hearts the mysteries of His sacred Life.
Spiritual reading and meditation. "Add to your virtue knowledge." Each Sister shall, if possible, spend at least half an hour daily in spiritual reading.
Sacramental confession: at least once a month, lest one have to say, with the bride in the Canticle: "They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept." The vineyard of the soul must be weeded. Pluck up the smallest roots of sin. They must not get a start, or they will crowd out all the beautiful things that ought to grow in our hearts. The soul is dyed the colour of its leisure thoughts.
Holy Communion: the Bread of Life that cometh down from Heaven. Jesus saith: "I am the Bread of Life." We must live in continual preparation for this august Sacrament, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God, Who says: "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."
"May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all." Amen.
XXV. Of Prayer and the Divine Office. "Lord, teach us to pray."
Much prayer means much blessing; little prayer means little blessing. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought."
The Sisters shall, when possible, assist daily at Mass. On days when they cannot hear Mass, they shall make an act of spiritual Communion.
The Divine Office is for a good Religious the very sunshine of life, since it is the answer of love to Love, thus making any lot an enviable one, and earth the anteroom of Heaven.
The Divine Office in its entirety shall, when possible, be offered to God daily in the Order of S. Anne. Nuns who are enclosed shall recite all the choir Offices. It rests with the Mother to determine which Offices other Sisters shall be obliged to say. Her ruling will be based on the needs of health, of work, or of discipline. No Sister in health shall say less than three Offices a day.
When away from the Convent, or when worshipping in a parish church, Sisters may substitute Morning and Evening Prayer for the recitation of Lauds and Vespers.
All should kneel, stand, or sit upright at Office, without lounging.
The Divine Office must be said reverently, and with all the voices exactly together. A pause, long enough to take a breath, shall be made at the colon in each verse, and a lowly reverence at the Gloria Patri.
A leader, who shall be responsible for regulating the pace, must be appointed for each side of the choir. All should try to take a share in the work. The Ordo should be carefully adhered to by the Sisters, and may not be changed except by authority.
"Seven times a day do I praise Thee because of Thy righteous judgments."
XXVI. Of Retreats. "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thce."
There shall be a week of retreat, yearly, for the Community. The busier we are, the more need we have to come apart with Jesus, and rest a while.
Once a month there shall be a day of retreat. Silence shall be observed, except by those whose work compels them to speak. Letters and newspapers should as a rule be laid aside; but much of the work of the house will of necessity go on as usual. On days of retreat, let there be two meditations.
Abraham and Isaac, the friends of God, climb the heights of retreat and sacrifice: the dumb beast and the hired servant stay behind. A retreat may be the burning bush out of which God wills to speak to any one of us. It is the hillside of the Beatitudes, where we may listen to Jesus. A careful keeping of our time of retreat is a safeguard of sanity. But a retreat is not primarily a rule of safety, it is an adventure of the spirit.
At the end of a retreat, it is wrell to make a simple, concrete, practical resolution, thus harvesting some fruit of the retreat. Good resolutions are more easily made than kept; but to fail to resolve is often the worst failure of all. Not to resolve to do better, is simply to give up trying to do well. Before making a resolution, pray for guidance: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" To offer little things to the Divine Friend is the quickest way to offer a life to the Lord of all. We must be able to say: "I have made my heart a holy sepulchre, and all my land of thought a Palestine."
It is not by learning, or talent, or great activity, but by keeping the spring of our life full, that we shall be upborne through weariness and sorrow, and enabled to endure to the end, and be counted, at last, worthy to attain that world and the resurrection from the dead.
XXVII. Of Meditation. "Could ye not watch with Me one hour?"
Those who have done most for the world are they who have watched with Jesus.
Each member of the Community shall have a fixed time for meditation, and shall thus spend not less than half an hour daily.
If unequal to any other method, we may take the Lord's Prayer, a collect, a psalm, a hymn, or some portion of the Bible, and dwell on each word or clause, drawing out of it all the thought and prayer and praise that we can find, before going on to the next. It is often advisable to use for meditation the notes made in old retreats.
Prayer is not always asking for things: it is sometimes listening. It is talking to God; it is also talking with God. We must not be discouraged if we find it at times dull and hard. "Much good," writes Father Baker in "Sancta Sophia," "is gotten by the prayer of aridity courageously prosecuted."
Christ is in us, the hope of glory. Here is a shrine of Deity: not as if God were contained in ourselves, but as if we were an open porch, by which we may enter in and find God.
Prayer must not be all introspection. We are to look not only within but also without, to behold, with astonishment and enthusiasm, a heavenly company and a Divine Captain.
Friendship and gratitude ripen into love as we find a way of expressing them. It is the law of growth in human beings that no impression can flower till it has found expression.
The time of private prayer and meditation must be guarded and protected, as men were wont to guard the well in the fortress. To neglect our prayer is fatal. What good shall we be to others, if we are no good to ourselves? "Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart, and in your chamber, and be still."
XXVIII. Of Intercession.
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;" that is, for all who are living on the earth, and for those who have passed within the veil.
Intercessions shall be recited daily in Chapel, after one of the Little Hours. Continuous intercession shall be made, when practicable, on Ember Days, Rogation Days, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. "While we have time, let us do good unto all men, and especially unto them that are of the household of faith."
It is a happy thing when perpetual adoration and intercession can be made before the most Holy Sacrament, but, short of that, each Convent must do its best to carry on the work of intercessory prayer, care being taken to remember our Sisters and Associates and those who have asked our prayers. Every Sister should ordinarily spend half an hour daily in intercessory prayer.
Samuel said to the people: "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." Work is the prayer of the hands, and prayer is the work of the soul. It is selfish not to pray; and selfishness is always sin. They sin who do not pray, both because they neglect the homage due to God, and also because they omit a needed service for men. Think of the stupendous statement that S. Ambrose made to S. Monica: "It is impossible that the child of so many prayers should ever be lost." Practice makes perfect. Prayer of any kind is better than prayerlessness. Adequate prayer is to be attained only through persistence in what is felt to be inadequate prayer.
Let us pray that our children may not fail of the highest thing, and that we at the Last Day may have a good answer to give to the question: "Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" Let us pray.
XXIX. Of Fasting and Abstinence.
"Then shall they fast in those days." Ash Wednesday and Good Friday the Sisters will observe as strict fasts: the first regular meal will be at six p.m. To drink water, coffee, or tea, without milk, during the day, does not break this fast. A small portion of dry bread may be eaten in the morning.
The forty days of Lent shall be observed as fast days, with only one full meal a day. The Ember Days at the Four Seasons; the Vigils of Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and All Saints; Wednesdays in Lent; and all Fridays in the year, except Christmas Day, are days of abstinence from flesh-meat. Other days of abstinence, if set forth by the authority of the National Church or of the Book of Common Prayer, such as the Rogation Days, or Vigils of certain Feasts of the Apostles or of the Blessed Virgin Mary, must also be carefully observed. Individual Convents may adopt, if they so desire, these or other days to be observed as days of abstinence by vote of the Chapter. Fridays falling between Christmas and Epiphany are not days of abstinence in the American Episcopal Church.
On Sundays the Sisters may eat flesh-meat twice a day; also on Festivals of the first and second class, and in winter, except on days of fast or abstinence. On all other days the Sisters may eat flesh-meat once a day, except on days of abstinence. Our Lord has told us not to worry, saying: "What shall we eat?" or, "What shall we drink?"
The following members of the Community are exempt from the strict law of fasting: all under twenty-one years of age and over fifty-nine, the sick, and those who are dispensed by the ordinary confessor or by their director. Those exempt from fasting are still bound by the rule of abstinence.
No Sister shall practise fasting or abstinence at other than the appointed times without permission from the Mother.
It is always required of those who are about to communicate that they fast, unless they are dispensed, from midnight until after Communion.
Remember the only Perfect One would not enter on the work of His earthly ministry until He had fasted forty days and forty nights. He told His disciples that prayer and fasting were necessary. Let your Saviour be your example. "When ye fast, be not of a sad countenance."
XXX. Of Work.
"To every man his work." Work is not religion; but there can be no true religion without work. "If any would not work neither should he eat."
There must be co-operation in our work. Ezekiel saw that the wings of the angels were divided above and joined below: that is, each one maintaining his own individual communion with God, and each one joined to his fellow. And so it is in our life: each one maintains her own personal relationship with God by prayer, and each one is joined to her Sisters in the work to which He has called us all.
One kind of work in the Convent has no more intrinsic excellence than another. Only, it is important that each gift should be loyally dedicated to the common good.
No one may undertake any fresh work, without the permission of the Mother. We are not to burden ourselves with superfluous cares, and worry over a multiplicity of things that we ourselves have chosen to do.
In the work allotted to us, we must be diligent, not dilatory, not putting off until to-morrow what should be done today, nor doing to-day what may well wait until to-morrow—"not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord"—never magnifying self or the work of the Community; ever ready to help any one who needs help.
Nothing in life is divorced from God by reason of its smallness, for it is the nature of infinity that it stretches in all directions equally, and includes in its vision, at one and the same time, the atom and the planet.
With regard to our own particular work, we are to avoid the first personal pronoun, while having a good, hearty word for our neighbour, and an ill word for nobody. We must receive in a loving spirit the things which others may say of us, whether we think them correct or not. This is not an easy lesson to learn. But thus may the work in our "own house be prosperously effected."
XXXI. Of Recreation
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it. ... And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels."
Except on days of silence all shall meet together, if possible, for an hour of recreation. Current events, good literature, and letters from friends, may fitly be discussed. It is important that each one should endeavour to take some part in the conversation. Friendliness multiplies joys and divides griefs.
"Thou shalt rest," was placed alongside "Thou shalt labour;" and at certain times "to make great mirth" was of old enjoined upon the people of God. At recreation we may learn to attain the grace of becoming good listeners; it is also a time when we may learn to practise the virtue of praise, and to cultivate the true religion of golden laughter. No small part of the world's unhappiness comes from depreciation of others, and from ignoring or forgetting that we all of us sometimes need praise. Let each one ask herself: "Am I on the look-out for appreciation?" and next: "Is it appreciation of myself or of others?"
The desire for expression and creation is one of the deepest implanted in the human heart. If we would live well, we must recognize the need for creation and recreation in ourselves and in others.
Consider in recreation the bond of love which should unite our Community—the common impulse which drew us together and unites us in God. This grace is to cement us in a common love. It is a protest against the selfishness of the natural heart. Be not gloomy in recreation. A day is wasted when you have not laughed. Turn your face to the Sun, and shadows fall behind you. The hunger of true love can never be satisfied with part of life, it must have free entry into the whole of it. Friendship is the first form of love.
"Above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves." XXXII. Of Conversation. "I said: 'I will take heed to my ways that I offend not in my tongue.'"
Much speaking is seldom exempt from sin. The habit of talking much is a sign of ignorance and folly. It often shows a fine command of language to say nothing; for instance, say nothing that you would regret were this to be your last hour, following the example of the Lady Julian of Norwich, who spake "ful gladde and merrilie for Love's sake."
We are not to discuss in a critical spirit such a matter as the food provided in the refectory, or any other of the interior arrangements of the Convent. Anything which needs correction should be referred to the Mother, who will attend to it, if it seem to her important. Talking unnecessarily about the private affairs of the Order, or of the children and other inmates of the house, with or before externs, or even among ourselves, is forbidden. "We beseech you," writes S. Paul, "that ye study to be quiet, and to mind your own business."
We must avoid, when possible, saying anything that is to the discredit of any one. "Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people." We were early taught "to hurt nobody by word or deed." Our conversation should at all times be charitable as well as true. So will our words, fitly spoken, be like "apples of gold in pictures of silver."
The love of the Eternal Father for His children on earth includes the element of friendship, of interest in all the small things which interest us, and about which we converse.
If we would advance in perfection and the love of God, we shall do well to speak little, speak low, speak without excitement, speak with simplicity, speak truthfully, speak without affectation, without precipitation, without vanity; speak little of our troubles to others, but much of them to God. And so may we enter into the sacrament of silence.
But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us for every idle word—that is, for every word that does not work.
XXXIII. Of Silence. "Be still then, and know that I am God."
In silence we are strengthened for the supremacies of life. In silence the wounds of sound are healed.
The Greater Silence shall be observed in the Convent daily from Compline to the time of the conventual Mass. In it we enter into the silence of our Saviour's holy sepulchre. It should not be broken, except by permission, or in some case of necessity.
The Lesser Silence shall be observed from Mass to the midday Angelus, except as noted in the Rule of the House.
The Founders of all Orders, and all spiritual writers, lay great stress upon silence in convents. They say that only those convents rest upon a solid foundation in which silence is strictly observed; and that those are in a bad condition whose inmates think nothing of violating the rule of silence. A convent where the rule of silence is not observed is a place wherein strife, dissensions, quarrels, murmuring, complaints, and particular friendships will never have an end. But those convents in which silence is strictly observed are a picture of Heaven, and inspire to devotion not only those who live in them, but also those who visit them.
Even before Pilate our Blessed Lord "answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly."
Therefore, conscientiously observe the silence which your Rule prescribes. "If any man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deeeiveth his own heart, this, man's religion is vain." In general, let your words be few, the better to preserve within you the spirit of devotion and religious fervour.
Set a watch, O Lord, before my month, and keep the door of my lips. XXXIV. Of Health. "That Thy way may be known upon earth; Thy saving health among all nations."
There are duties to the body. We must see that we do what is immediately necessary for the body: feed it, if possible, when it is hungry or thirsty; dress it, as far as may be, according to the weather and the circumstances of our life and work; let it sleep when it needs sleep. The occurrence of preventable disease is an economic waste. Moreover, there is danger lest in the gloom of ill-health or depression, when we cannot see clearly, we take some fatal step which can never be retrieved, and so mortgage, as it were, future years of sunshine. Preventive remedies—fresh air, a regular and quiet life—are at least as important as curative medicine and surgery.
Thinking and talking about one's own ill-health and disabilities is to be firmly discouraged.
Our bodies, to be in health, must be exercised; our minds, to be in health, must be cultivated. So let us endeavour to live "that the way of God"—that is, His design in calling us here, the road He wishes us to walk in, "His saving health"—God's health, His soundness, the wholesomeness, the perfectness that is in and from Him alone—health of body, soul and spirit, heart and brain; health for eternity, as well as for time—"may be known upon earth," here in this Convent. "Then," and then only, "shall the earth yield her increase;" and "God, even our own God, shall give us His blessing." So may we glorify God in our souls and in our bodies, which are God's.
Thank God for health. Hezekiah exclaimed, on his recovery, "I will go softly all my days," but how soon did he forget! How many times we have been healed and there was no return of the soul to glorify the Healer! Ingratitude is among the most common of vices. Thanksgiving is a greater mark of holiness than any other part of prayer.
"The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich; and He addeth no sorrow with it."
XXXV. Of Sickness.
"Pray one for another, that ye may be healed."
The sacrament of Holy Unction shall be administered to the seriously sick; it shall not be repeated during the same illness. Our Lord may remove the "thorn in the flesh," or He may say: "My grace is sufficient for thee."
God is very near to us when we are in pain. At such times, we may offer up to Him the Cross we cannot carry, and yet are helped to carry; the Wounds wherewith we were not wounded; the Crown with which we were not crowned; the Blood we did not shed; the Nails—all four, of Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion, and Religious Vocation—with which Christ once nailed us to His Cross. In sickness, lie does but seek to "bind the sacrifice with cords."
If a Sister has to go to a public hospital, it should not be thought a grievance if she be called to share the lot of the poorest patients, or if she be not frequently visited. The Christian sees an opportunity in every obstacle. Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if He be not born in thee, thy heart is still forlorn.
When, through ill-health or unusual fatigue, we cannot recite the Office, we may, with permission, say instead the Our Father, the Glory Be, and the Hail, Mary.
It is God's primary will to heal the sick, but be careful: an attitude of mind affects the body. A peevish, querulous, murmuring spirit may easily thwart God's purpose. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." We cannot prevent an evil thought from coming into our heart, but we can prevent its making its nest there.
If not well, to mention the fact when some remedy is possible; if no relief can be found, to bear the pain, as far as one can, without complaint; not to exhibit tiredness or irritation when waiting on others who suffer; to avoid bothering any one unnecessarily; to be patient and sympathetic—this is religion.
XXXVI. Of Death.
"The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them."
For the most part, people die as they have lived. "In the story of the penitent thief," an old writer has said, "the Bible tells of but one death-bed repentance. One, lest any despair—only one, lest any presume."
The Blessed Sacrament was Christ's last will and testament, His death-bed gift to the human race, which is always dying. It is His will that, when possible, His Last Supper should be our last supper. His own Body was His viaticum, or food for the journey; and, please God, It will be ours. If nature is dying, thanks to Jesus our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, grace is ever living. Death is only the horizon, and the horizon is only the limit of our sight.
When a Sister is at the point of death, having said good-bye to the other Sisters, she should be left as quiet as possible—a Priest being sent for, that she may receive the last sacraments, if she have not already done so. While waiting for the Priest, let the Mother or one of the Sisters recite with her the De profundis, and the prayers for the dying, remembering the words of the patriarch Job: "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me."
When the soul has departed, let the Convent bell be tolled for as many strokes as the years of the Sister. The intervals should be the space of a Hail, Mary. Let the body be lovingly prepared for burial, dressed in the habit of the Order, and carried, if practicable, into the Chapel, there to await the Requiem. Relatives should be informed at once, and the interment be made with no unnecessary expense or delay. Let each Convent of the Order be notified, that Requiems may be said. Over the grave shall be placed a simple cross bearing the name and age of the Sister, the date of her death, and the words, "Jesu, mercy." It is an holy and good thought to pray for the dead.
XXXVII. Of Thanksgiving.
"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits."
The best of all giving is thanksgiving. At midnight in prison, Paul and Silas sang praises, and the prisoners heard them. The lateral force of joy—that is the power of a Religious.
Any one who makes religion a gloomy thing is guilty of treason against religion. We are not to live among the tombs. We have already come "to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus."
To thank those persons who are kind to us, is expected of us, even by the world. God also expects us to give thanks. We are not told to "remember all His benefits." We would not be equal to that task, but we are told to "forget not all His benefits;" and we feel that there is something modest and reasonable in the demand thus made upon the soul.
To offer one Mass with attention and devotion, is an adequate thanksgiving for all the benefits ever bestowed upon the world.
In our grace before and after meals' we must, return thanks for the food of the body. "Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks." And after Holy Communion, we may well consider the spirit in which the Catholic Church teaches us to say: "We most heartily thank Thee;" and, "We give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory."
Even so our Blessed Lord gave thanks when material things became the channels of spiritual grace and the symbols of Christian fellowship. "When they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives."
With our intercessions, we must return thanks for answered prayers, for our preservation, and all the blessings of this life. "In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto Cod. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Amen.
XXXVIII. Of the Habit.
"Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ." The habit, which is the outward token of poverty, lowliness of heart, and contempt of the world, must always be kept tidy, clean, and mended, however much it may be worn out. It should, moreover, be used by the Sister until, in the opinion of the Mother, it can no longer properly serve its purpose.
The habit is the symbol of separation from the world. It may fill the passer-by with pity that people should sacrifice a healthy life amongst their fellowr-crea-tures for a life apparently so unnatural. But within the habit there should be found the power of a love that is all-transforming. The outward limitations of the habit do but intensify—they cannot narrow—the love of those who are close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The habit of the Order of S. Anne is sanctified by the holiest and most sacred associations, the most intimate relations between the soul and God. Frayed and worn by the journey, it bears witness to the victory of spirit over flesh, of fragile human nature made indomitable by the power of God the Holy Ghost. Each Sister offers herself for the lowliest service, and wears the poor livery of the servant of Jesus Christ, Who "took a towel and girded Himself," to do the work of a servant.
When putting on the Habit each day, the following prayer should be said:
"Clothed, wrapped from head to foot, in the love of God. May it be my habit this day in thought, word, and deed."
When putting on the Girdle:
"I bind myself to Christ my Lord this day in holy chastity.
"I bind myself to Christ my Lord this day in holy obedience."
(After taking vows, add:
"I bind myself to Christ my Lord this day in holy poverty.)
"In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Amen.
When putting on the Rosary:
"Grant me, O Lord, to persevere this day in prayer for the good of souls and for the glory of Thy Name; for Jesus Christ's sake."
When putting on the Scapular: "O Lord, Who hast said, 'My yoke is easy and My burden is light,' grant me this day to wear it with Thy grace."
When putting on the Cross:
"O good Jesu, strengthen me to carry my cross this day humbly, patiently, lovingly; and keep me Thine for ever."
When putting on the Veil:
"May my life this day be hid with Christ in God; and at last may I appear before the Judgment Seat with robes washed white in the Blood of the Lamb. Let me not be disappointed of my hope."
XXXIX. Of Guests.
"Be kindly affectioned one to another, . . . given to hospitality."
"Let all the guests that come be received like Christ Himself," is the principle laid down by S. Benedict in his holy Rule; for Christ will say, "I was a stranger, and ye took Me in."
The presence of visitors in the Convent should not be made an excuse for violating the Rule. Their wants should be courteously attended to; and, if necessary, they should be told about the Rule. Exactly the same consideration must be shown to the rich in this world's goods as to the poor, who are so beloved of God.
Love holds the door open for newcomers, and it lets no guest be forgotten. This is a religious duty. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
The Guest Mistress will watch for the comfort of the guests, according to each a large freedom. She will see that books, stationery, and flowers within season are in the guest-rooms, which must always be spotless. Suitable arrangements should be made, when possible, for the arrival and departure of guests. The tastes and individual wishes of the guests should be consulted.
If any inhospitable, ill-natured word, or anything which can hurt the feelings of any person soever, be uttered, let pardon be begged without delay. Words spoken carelessly or half playfully may sometimes take on a ruder tone than the speaker ever intended. If, however, the pain should come from the fact that our opinion on certain points differs from that of another, it may be excusable; for no one who feels strongly and has firm convictions can help so differing at times.
The dictionary of the religion of Christ has erased the word "stranger." All the world is my brother, my sister, my mother. Our guest house may be small, but hearts are larger than houses. We must look to it lest these become self-limiting in the practice of the grace of hospitality. Christ passes on His ceaseless quest; nor will He rest with any, save as Chiefest Guest. The Master saith: "Where is the guestchamber?"
The Rule of the House.
This part of the Ride, if not read in Chapel, should be read by each Sister once a quarter—before the Feasts of Christmas, Easter, S. Anne, and Michaelmas. With the approval of the Mother, and with the consent of a majority of the Chapter, the Ride of the House may be altered, modified, or added to in any Convent, if local conditions appear to justify the change. "I know thy works and where thou dwellest." We may be sure that the circumstances under which we have to live are all taken into account by our Lord in the Judgment.
"He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." A Convent is "none other but the House of God," where Religious live under rule and discipline. These rules are not the external mandates of a professional lawgiver; they are Love, speaking in the imperative mood.
Some austerity, a preference for the simple, unwastefitl life, is expected. A Religious need not be hostile to Art, she need not be prim, morose, or dowdy; but she should be willing to endure hardness, not merely in order to keep Conventual Rides—"the tradition of the elders"—nor to impress people, nor to help the poor, but from a conviction that the simple life is the right life for a Religious, who is a pilgrim, and a soldier on active service.
Each Religious Community has certain customs and usages, some of them written, others unwritten, for governing such matters as the relations of the Sisters with one another, as well as with outsiders, the manner of performing their several charges, and the like. While they do not necessarily in themselves oblige under sin, still the scorning of any useful custom would argue lack of reverence. A due regard for all legitimate customs makes for religious zeal and fervour, and tends to increase one's love for the Community. But such laws if permitted to become too numerous, or if interpreted too narrowly, may become a burden rather than an aid.
It is further to be noted that a rule is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged: it is the skin of a living thought, and may vary greatly in colour and expression, according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used. But the living principle underlying the words of any rule must be obeyed by those who have promised to live by it. "As my Lord the King hath said, so will thy servant do."
The one thing necessary is to please God. Amid the variety and multiplicity of religious and praiseworthy Conventual exercises, there is a danger lest the striving of Sisters after perfection should come to represent only a form of anxious scrupulosity, or a pedantic attention to details. The Sisters may thus not see the wood for the trees, and lose sight completely of the real object of the Religious Life.
There must be a unity and harmony in subordinating everything to one great end and aim, that we may "be of one mind in the Lord."
THE HOUSE OF MY PILGRIMAGE. "The beauty of the house is order; the blessing of the house is contentment; the glory of the house is hospitality; the crown of the house is godliness." All must take an interest in keeping the Chapel, house, and garden clean and orderly, giving as little labour as possible to those who have the charge of them. Unceasing warfare must be waged against dust and dirt. All rooms, passages, and stairs must be kept scrupulously clean. So will our house be beautiful; and while we desire "the beauty of holiness," we may reverse the order of the words, and cultivate the holiness of beauty.
The Houses of the Order shall be furnished in the plainest way possible, consistent with health and the nature of the work.
Wearing apparel, towels, and dusters must be hung in the right place, and not be left about on chairs and tables. Waste paper, soiled linen, toys, tools, dustpans, or pails are not to be left lying about. Broken glass, nails, or tin cans, when seen on the ground, must be picked up. Articles must not be taken from the laundry, linen room, pantry, kitchen, or any other part of the house, without the knowledge of the Sister in charge of that department. Real pains must be taken not to injure or destroy Community property. If any one treat books or other property of the Convent carelessly, let her be corrected.
It is desirable that the personal belongings of a Sister should, when possible, be kept in some safe storage, pending her Profession.
All lights should be turned down or extinguished by the last person leaving a room. Doors should be closed quietly; all noise, confusion, and appearance of fuss must be avoided. We are not to be hurried along life's pathway, even by the hands of friendship.
The Convent is to be a safeguard, a castle for us, in which we may pray unseen by the world; but, unless we take care, our castle will be a mere show-place, like royal palaces abroad, in which people will come and look at us with curious gaze. Our friends will be interested in us, and perhaps even the newspapers. But we must guard our holy house.
THE CHAPEL. "My House shall be called the House of Prayer." Sacristans will have fixed times for working in the Chapel; they will be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible, that those who pray may do so undisturbed.
Order itself does not necessarily mean orderliness. There is an order of tidiness, and there is an order of importance. Sometimes there may be things more important even than tidiness, to which attention must first be paid.
The Convent Chapel should not be crowded with a number of things, however beautiful in themselves. The charm of flowers and works of art is not necessarily increased by multiplicity, and may often be lamentably decreased. Beauty is composed of a few things, common or rare, harmoniously blended. There is, moreover, a recognized aesthetic value in blank spaces.
Furniture and decorations should exhibit unity in variety. No arbitrary limit to ornamentation can be fixed; but the limiting principle is the aiding of devotion, and, to this end, details must be organically related to the whole.
The Chapel exists for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice, for the Divine Office, for other acts of worship, and for those who, having heard the words of our Lord, "Could ye not watch with Me one hour?" come to meditate in His Presence. Pray God that their numbers increase and their hours of devotion grow ever in faith and fervour.
The Holy Vessels should not, as a rule, be handled by any one other than a Sacred Minister or a Sister, though in a parish church this may be necessary. If the vessel contain the Blessed Sacrament it must not be taken up by any one except a Priest or Deacon, unless in case of grave necessity, or to prevent profanation. For example, in time of persecution, or in case of fire, it would be allowable for any one to remove the Blessed Sacrament and to carry the vessel containing It.
When Altar boys are employed, they must be carefully trained to do all things gravely and regularly, but not with so punctilious a uniformity as to make the solemn functions look theatrical; taught, on the other hand, to avoid that carelessness and irreverence which Chaucer spoke of as "a synne ful grevus."
One of the most important uses to which the Chapel bell should be devoted, is the ringing of the Angelus, morning, noon, and evening.
Be not discouraged if the Convent Chapel, or Parish Church, be small, and few come to our "solemn assemblies," but go to the House of Prayer where "God is well known as a sure refuge; go, though you go alone, or but one besides yourself; and there, God's 'remembrancer,' as you are, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. . . ."
OCCASIONAL OFFICES AND CEREMONIES. "They came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water." Life cannot go on without ritual, or without forms. Among the recognized devotions and practices of the Order of S. Anne are the following :
(1) Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, (2) the Rosary, (3) the use of Holy Water and Incense, (4) the sign of the Holy Cross and the Stations, (5) visits to the Manger and to the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, (6) Blessing of Candles and the use of Votive Candles before an Altar or Shrine, (7) Blessing of Throats on the Feast of S. Blasius, (8) Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, (9) Novenas and the Forty Hours' Devotion, (10) Ceremonial of Holy Week, (11) Blessing of the Garden at Rogation-tide, (12) Processions and Litanies in honour of the Blessed Sacrament and of the Saints.
"I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant."
[NOTE. The Ceremonial of Holy Week includes the Blessing and Procession of Palms, Tenebrae, the Maundy, the Reproaches, Veneration of the Cross, Mass of the Presanctified, Blessing of the Paschal Candle.~]
The above devotions and ceremonies may be reverently performed at the appropriate time and season, when circumstances will permit. "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."
The Year's Mind of each Sister should continue to be observed in her own Convent for twenty-five years after her death, by a Requiem, after which time her name shall be recited in Chapel, at Mass, on All Souls' Day. Departed benefactors of the Order and Associates will also be remembered. May they + rest in peace. Amen.
Care must be taken of the Sisters' graves. At least once a year, when possible, and if the Rule of the House permit, a visit should be made to the resting-place of their bodies, that prayer may there be made for the repose of their souls. To care for the dead is a pious act and the bounden duty of all Christian people. The cemetery is a sacred place—God's acre. The word cemetery means sleeping place; a Christian cemetery is the dormitory of the children of God, consecrated in a special manner by the prayers of the Church, that their bodies may there rest in peace until the Resurrection.
"Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead." Be not unkind to the living, and let us be kind to the dead.
WORK. "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works." To every duty performed there is attached an inward satisfaction which deepens with the difficulty of the task and is its own sweet reward. The best reward for having wrought well already is to have more to do. Remember it is our purpose God looks at; not our feelings about that purpose. What advantage then have we? or what profit is there in work? Much every way. Chiefly because to do good work, under obedience, is to please God who commanded: "Six days shalt thou labour."
At any time, a Sister may be called upon to help feed the hungry, to teach the young, to care for the sick or aged, or to do some work among souls. We are thus called to share the divine labours. "My Father worketh hitherto, and 1 work," in labour, as in prayer, fulfilling the same law. Those who begin to say a work cannot be done, are often surprised to find that some one else has done it. If we find our work hard and distasteful, the remedy is prayer.
"Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and spirit with spirit can meet,
Closer is He than breathing, nearer than hands and feet."
Let us not forget the first recorded word of our Blessed Lord: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?"
THE INFIRMARY OR SICKROOM. An infirmarian should be appointed in each Convent, who shall be responsible for order about the Infirmary and for the comfort of the sick. Poisons and dangerous drugs shall always be kept under lock and key. A Sister may neither give nor take drugs of any sort without permission. The advice of the doctor and of the infirmarian should be followed. In time of sickness, let prayer be made for them and for the patient. The Rule of the House with regard to silence must be observed by Sisters in the Infirmary, so far as circumstances permit. No one is allowed to enter the sickroom without permission. It is the duty of the Mother or the Sister-in-Charge to visit the patients daily in the Infirmary.
All alike must put some force upon themselves to restrain irritability and impatience.
"Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee and thou art troubled."
Many wish to follow Christ, but with the reservation that Christ would cry down crosses, and cry up fair weather, till we were all fairly landed in Heaven. "Ye have not so learned Christ." Let us endeavour to fetch Heaven, and to take it with the wind on our faces; for so both storm and wind were on the Face of our lovely Redeemer all the way.
"His Majesty greatly loveth courageous souls."
An invalid Sister can still make herself useful to the Community. She will prove eminently useful to her Order if she continue to pray for its members by name. A further duty of the sick Sister is to give a good example of patience to her fellow Religious. A Sister who leads a holy and a cheerful life while confined to her sick bed will edify and encourage others. Such a Sister will not be a cross for the Community but a true crown of rejoicing. She will not be a burden, but a comfort to the Sisters. It all rests with her, whether she will prove a trial or a joy; it all depends upon how she conducts herself, whether she will be to her Sisters a curse or a blessing.
"We have not an High Priest Who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities."
THE COMMUNION OF THE SICK. "Is it not the Communion of the Body of Christ?" In sickness, a Sister may receive the Blessed Sacrament once a week, if the Priest be able to bring It to her. Ordinarily, let her not wait for her Communion longer than a fortnight.
If a Sister be a long time sick and so infirm that she cannot fast before Communion without risk, it is permissible, if the Chaplain agrees, for her to receive the Eucharist, having broken her fast, even when she is not in immediate danger of death. The food that may thus be taken is limited to something per modum potus (soup, coffee, or any liquid food).
Those not ill enough to keep to their beds but unable to go to Chapel without some refreshment, may reasonably be allowed the permission given to the bedridden.
As the Patriarch Joseph was tender and compassionate towards his brethren, so is also our most loving Lord to us. The great Cod, descending from the height of His unapproachable majesty, says to us: "Come near to Me; I am your Brother."
The Sanctus Bell shall be rung and a lighted torch be carried within the Convent grounds, before the Priest bearing the Host to the sick; that all who see or hear may kneel, when possible, and worship their Maker in the Blessed Sacrament.
By the bed of the sick Sister a table should be prepared, covered with a white cloth, having on it two blessed candles burning and a Crucifix, a glass of water and a spoon. If Holy Unction is to be administered at the same visit, there should also be on the table a plate with bread, water to wash the Priest's hands, a towel, and cotton wool, together with Holy Water and a violet stole.
"To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
THE LIBRARY. "Have ye not read?" With that question our Lord answers difficulties, removes doubts, teaches the highest truths. Books in the library are intended to be read. Reading is a work of Angelicals. "I saw another mighty angel come down from Heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: and he had in his hand a little book open."
Books should be chosen for reading in refectory after the manner of Bishop Ken, who, when he had guests, would always endeavour, "while he fed their bodies, to comfort their spirits by some cheerful discourse, generally mixt with some useful instruction."
Any books taken from the library must be entered upon the register provided for that purpose, with the date and name of the Sister borrowing. Books from the library are not to be marked, except by the librarian, or lent: out of the house without permission. When loaned, the title of the book, the name of the Sister lending, the name and address of the borrower, together with the date, should be carefully noted in the register. Books should be crossed off the register when brought back to the library, and left on the table, to be restored to their places by the librarian.
All books taken from the library may be kept for one month, after which time they should be returned; they may not be renewed until after an interval, except with permission from the Mother or the Novice Mistress.
Books should not be left lying about open. When our Blessed Lord had finished the reading in the synagogue at Nazareth, "He closed the Book."
If a Sister should perchance have little opportunity for reading, let her not be discouraged. There is balm in Gilead. Christ is our one book: in Him is all knowledge.
THE COMMON ROOM. In every Convent of the Order there shall be a Common Room, as bright and spacious as conditions allow, where the Sisters may meet together for that friendly contact and companionship we all need. The Common Room is not a place for idleness. Each Sister may have, at recreation, a piece of needlework in hand. Let it always be remembered that the atmosphere of a Religious House should be joy and love. Let every Sister bring these two feelings into her home life, and let the Common Room be the place where the home spirit is especially cultivated. Joy is the flag we fly from the castle tower of our lives when the King is in residence.
Having so many causes of joy, and so great, one must be very much in love with sorrow and peevishness who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to sit down upon her little handful of thorns. Enjoy the blessings of this day, if God send them, and the evils of it bear patiently and sweetly, for this day only is ours. We are dead to yesterday, and are not yet born to the morrow.
With the approval of the Mother, there may be music and games at the hour of recreation. If any Sister possess a social accomplishment, such as music, reading, recitation, or a facility in games, she should willingly and gladly exercise it for the entertainment of the family, when requested. Let the timorous take heart: they will meet with a courtesy and consideration which may surprise them. God has given to all the desire, the necessity for play. To be completely normal, all our faculties must have full play. If the instinct to make merry be entirely suppressed, disaster will result. Amusements ventilate the mind and keep the mental atmosphere from becoming close, stale, and stuffy. It is the duty of the Mother to see that the merriment be wholesome and sane.
The Common Room may not be monopolized by any one or two Sisters. It ought to be a symbol of the life of those who, like the first Christians, have "all things in common."
THE CHILDREN. "The streets of the City shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof." It is much to be desired that there should be at least a child or two in every Convent of S. Anne. Jesus called a little child, and set him in the midst of His disciples, for their admonition. God is ever desiring to repeat this most tender act of His—setting a little child in our midst—to soften us and lure us on to Heaven. "Whoso shall receive one such little child in My Name, receiveth Me."
Birthdays and other festivals of children should be kept. If in the month of Mary a May Queen be elected by the Sisters and children, she may be crowned before the Altar.
Our children must be taught to keep their rooms as well as their clothes and persons neat and pretty; and to take their share in the work of the house. Girls should be taught to mend their own clothes, and, when possible, to assist in making them. Both boys and girls may well do housework and help care for the garden and the creatures about the place. While still young, they should begin to learn the amenities and the humanities as v. ell as the eternities: mutual helpfulness, the writing of a graceful letter, the prompt acknowledgment of gifts, the worship of God, "chaste conversation coupled with fear," and all good manners of earth and Heaven.
"They that seek Me early shall find Me." Let us, therefore, take rare that the children of our House in their early years are led to the House of God by the Gate Beautiful, that there they may learn to pray and to love one another. The faces of the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies were toward the Mercy-Seat and toward one another.
The Our Father, the Creed, and the Hail, Mary, the Anthem of our Lady, the Deus misereatur for the living, and the De profundis for all departed Christian souls, are suitable devotions for children.
The Bible, and books that come nearest to pure literature, ought to be placed in their hands for reading; they should see good pictures and hear good music, that so they may be responsive to true values. They should be taught to read aloud with proper emphasis, and to sing in public without false modesty.
The children will, in their turn, be our teachers in the way of perfection, setting us an example of that poverty, chastity, and obedience which God has revealed unto babes. We may find it easier to walk with God when we have taken a child into our heart and home, and have measured our step to the little footsteps.
Children should be encouraged in acting plays and dancing. Each child must have abundant opportunity for playing, and, if possible, among the delectable works of Nature. New Jerusalem, the streets of which are full of boys and girls at play, is at once the city of innumerable multitudes and the garden of God, where flows "a pure river of water of life clear as crystal," and "on either side of the river is there the tree of life, which beareth twelve manner of fruits, and yieldeth her fruit every month." To deprive children of proper recreation is to be guilty of censurable stupidity, of stupidity with a moral element in it.
If, in spite of all our care, the silver cord should be loosed, and the golden bowl be broken, and the pitcher be broken at the fountain, and the spirit return to Him Who gave it, pray God that to the question, "Is it well with the child?" we may be able to make answer, "It is well."
CONCERNING THE DRESS OF CHILDREN. "Is there any word from the Lord? . . . There is." The Lord Who day by day decketh Himself "with light as it were with a garment," and Who night after night "hath put on glorious apparel," bids us "consider the lilies of the field," and how "Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." He hath ordained the wearing of clothes for beauty no less than for use.
Within the Convent, children may, if it seem wise to the Mother, wear a suitable uniform that makes for simplicity. Outside, their goodly apparel should be as varied, pretty, and attractive as can be afforded. The art of sewing and embroidery was already of high merit in the days of Abraham. At the same time, the children must be taught, in dress, as in all other matters, a careful economy.
In summer, the girls may wear white veils or caps in Chapel, coming to worship "as a cloud and as the doves to their windows"; in winter, scarlet cloaks and hoods may be worn—so shall we not be afraid of the snow for our household.
VISITORS. "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Visitors must be received with courtesy, the Sisters going promptly to meet them "with morning faces and with morning hearts." Persons calling at the Convent should be announced to the Mother or the Sister-in-Charge as soon as possible. Externs may not be taken into the enclosure without permission.
There is no doubt that it was the love of Christians for one another—the care of all for each—which was the chief cause of the rapid spread of the Church. Men were drawn out of a loveless world into that warm and comfortable fellowship. Just so, those who visit us may perhaps find in the Convent a tonic of big things. The tendency of life in the world is to overlook magnitudes, to forget the littleness of time and the greatesss of eternity, and to drift away among the small things—small anxieties, small pleasures, small ideas, and small talk. Immensity is a magnificent medicine. Such is the indwelling Presence of Christ in our hearts; such is the Presence of Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—where two or three are gathered together in His Name; such are they who come from the east and from the west, at the word of the Holy One to visit us, drawn as by a magnet. "These little ones." What a vast and pathetic company it is! All the poor and unlucky, the sick and helpless, the weak and sinning, every form of human need and misfortune. The poor we have always with us. The little ones stretch hands to us from every side; careful, indeed, must, we be not to offend here, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Each visitor is a guest of the Community. She should not be appropriated by any one Sister. "Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." Our calling is to perfection. Divine love—charity, a word fallen into misuse—binds together all, in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Sisters are not to visit in one another's cells, or in the rooms of guests, except by permission of the Mother, lest "they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not."
[RULES FOR GUESTS (a copy of which should be placed in each guestroom).
1. To wear a cap in the Convent and Chapel.
2. To be punctual in going to Chapel and to meals.
3. To be ready to offer their services if the Sisters are in need of help.
4. To observe silence from Compline until after breakfast the following morning.
5. Unless excused, to be present each day in the Chapel for at least two Offices.
6. Not to be out later than Compline, if possible, without the knowledge of the Mother or the Sister-in-Charge.
7. Not to visit in one another's rooms, or in the cells of the Sisters, without permission from the Mother or the Guest Mistress.
8. To receive friends who call upon them in the sitting-room or in the garden, but not to take them elsewhere in the Convent without permission.
9. To make their wants known to the Guest Mistress.
10. To discourage all gossip or inquisitiveness about the Community and criticism of one another, and to seek to perfect charity in the bond of peace.
Boxes for contributions toward the expenses of the Convent will be found in the Chapel and elsewhere.
"This is the will of God, even your sanctification." Of each one who does the will of God, our Lord declares, "Whosoever doeth the will of My Father, the same is My sister."]
THE GARDEN. "Thus saith the Lord, . . . Plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them." God Almighty first planted a garden; and He appointed our first parents "to dress it and to keep it." Gardening is therefore a divinely ordained exercise, an excellent task for young and old.
Flowers and, when possible, vegetables should be cultivated by the Sisters. In preparing the ground and planting, in weeding and watering, in harvesting crops, in cleaning up, there is work for many hands; but the work should be attacked only under the direction of tin-Sisters in charge of the garden. All possible care must be taken to prevent any food product of the garden from going to waste. Flowers may be picked in the garden only with permission.
In a garden God speaks. Our first parents "heard the Voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." It was a garden to which our Lord "ofttimes resorted with His disciples." And in our garden we may well hope to find Him.
As part of our obedience to Christ we may "consider the lilies." He bids us consider "how they grow" so beautiful. By looking up they become like that upon which they gaze. "Look unto Me," He said, "and be ye saved," from all that is base and unworthy. "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
If a Convent has no garden, remember we have been brought into that kingdom which cometh not with observation, where the King, whom Mary rightly supposed to be the Gardener, is meek; where the milk and honey flow; where the inhabitants are receivers rather than givers.
Any place is magical if we have it within ourselves to find the key. The key to that magic is in our own soul. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you."
May He whose Presence solves all problems, enlightens all dark places, fulfils all needs, populates all loneliness, kills all evil be with us in power and tenderness.
BIRDS AND BEASTS. "O all ye fowls of the air ... O all ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the Lord." If any such humble friends, wild or domestic, be permitted to live in or about the Convent, their welfare must be sedulously looked after by the Sisters or children appointed to attend upon them. God spared the city of Nineveh from destruction not only because of the six-score thousand innocent babies, but also because of the cattle, who were so harmless and unretaliating.
"He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast;
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things, both great and small;
For the dear God, Who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."
The beasts "do seek their meat from God"; and of the whole brute creation it is written: "When Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled." Pray God that our spiritual life may always answer to these two tests: that God's will be paramount over our strongest instincts, and that any cloud between us and the light of His face may cause us instant trouble of soul.
Out of the darkness of the Old Testament days., Isaiah prophesied: "The ox knoweth his Owner, and the ass his Master's crib." What more magnificent tribute could there be to the majesty of the Birth of our Lord than that dumb creatures should share in its glory!
Jesus said: "Behold the fowls of the air," weak and helpless, "yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them"; so teaching us a lesson of loving, quiet confidence in Him. "Are ye not much better than they?"
S. Cuthbert made a compact with the monks of Lindisfarne that they were for ever to protect the birds on the island, a compact afterwards known as "S. Cuth-bert's peace." In our Convents let there ever be kindness to all God's creatures. "I will make with them a covenant of peace, and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing."
SILENCE. "The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him." In order that we may keep our tryst with the Eternal Silence, sil-lencc in speech and quietness of behaviour are to be observed at all times and in all places where it is enjdined by the Rule. As we keep our rule of silence, let us take care that it is the massive silence of interior charity, and not the silence of indifference.
Silence shall always, so far as possible, be kept in and about the Chapel, "to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent."
During the Lesser Silence, the Sisters may speak to one another briefly about the work in which they are engaged. Still, let them guard the privilege of silence. When permission is given to speak in time of silence, one of the public rooms is a proper place for the conversation, which shall not last longer than necessary.
On Sundays, Doubles of the first and second class, and minor feasts of our Lady, the Lesser Silence ends after breakfast. On all Fridays, in remembrance of the Passion of Our Lord, and on Wednesdays in Lent, the Lesser Silence will be kept until after Compline. When a feast falls on Friday, the silence shall be kept, instead, on the preceding day. The Friday within the Octave of Faster, and Fridays which occur between Christmas and Epiphany are exempt.
Silence shall ordinarily be kept in the refectory. A portion of the Bible shall be read at meals, and may be followed by a reading from some other book. The reader should not begin until quiet obtains. Manners in the refectory must be subdued and restrained. Unnecessary confusion or clatter of dishes is blameworthy. A real effort must be made to read well. If the book contain unfamiliar words, the portion should be perused beforehand by the reader, and the proper pronunciation ascertained. The Mother or the Novice Mistress should point out any faults that may be corrected in the reading or in the keeping of silence.
On days when the Lesser Silence is dispensed, and in the Octaves of Christmas, Faster, S. Anne, and All Saints, there may be talking at the midday and evening meals. On Greater Doubles and in the Octave of the Holy Guardian Angels, talking is allowed, at the discretion of the Mother, at either of these meals.
No other conversation, save what is necessary, is allowed in the refectory, except by special permission of the Mother. On days when talking is allowed at meals, a Psalm shall be read before the conversation begins. It shall be left to the Mother to ask a blessing and to begin the conversation. In her absence, the next in rank or in seniority shall take her place.
In starting for a walk or drive, silence is kept by the Sisters for a little while, that the Lord's Prayer and the Hail, Mary, may be silently said. The senior person, at this and at other times, should begin the conversation.
The Mother has a right to dispense from the rule of silence. "There is a time to be silent, and a time to speak."
SPEECH. "Our conversation is in Heaven." In neighbourly consideration of others, we should not overlook the grace of friendly intercourse. "A word spoken in due season, how good is it."
There may be a Conference after breakfast, that the Mother or the Sister-in-Charge may make necessary announcements, and arrange the work of the day.
If it is necessary to speak in passages or upon the stairs, or in times of silence, the words should be few and in a low tone of voice.
There are two good rules which should be written upon every heart: Never believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know that it is true; never tell that, unless you believe that it is quite necessary, and that God is listening while you tell it. Most of the faults of conversation are committed not by those who talk little, but by those who talk much.
That talking may be "good to the use of edifying," discretion is needed, together with magnanimous and impartial hearts. We must not be censorious. If a Sister is incomprehensible, let us try first to understand her, and, failing that, to be tolerant. Some have unattractive natures; but it is no use complaining. Any family may have to face this trial.
Religious controversy is, as a general thing, best left to the clergy. Our way must be not directly to oppose error, but to exhibit the beauty of the opposite virtue; not, for example, to inveigh against modern evils, but to bring forward prominently the loveliness of the Gospel. In discussions among the Sisters, freedom of speech is permissible; only, care must be taken lest this liberty become license and talk be unbridled. Gossip about our neighbours and the Community is to be discouraged. We may now and then, in looking back, repent ourselves of silence; but we are far more likely to regret, those lapses from right behaviour which had their origin in talk.
It is sometimes a question in the world how strong an infusion of disagreement is necessary to turn a flavour into a poison. Dissension in the world may be a mild spice, dissension in a Convent is a deadly evil, which calls for prompt remedy.
To keep pleasant talk going when and a here speech is allowed by the Rule, is not simply a fine art, it is the mark of a kind and generous nature.
"Remember me, O Lord, of all power; and give me proper speech in my mouth ;hat my words may be pleasing unto Thee."
LETTERS. "Beloved, ... I gave all diligence to write unto you." When we are called to write a letter, let it be done with diligence, care being taken to write legibly, especially making the date, address, and signature clear—indicating, when necessary, the exact title of the writer, it is customary in the Order for a Sister under life vows to begin a letter with a cross, the symbol of consecration.
Any letter we have to write, which may wound or may possibly be misinterpreted, should be re-read and considered before posting; for too often "the letter killeth," in the most literal sense of the word, "but the spirit giveth life." A letter is a tangible thing, and, when mailed, it is gone out of our power for ever.
Letters may not be mailed without permission. They should be placed unsealed in the Mother's box. She will use her discretion in regard to their transmission, as is the custom in Religious Houses. No letter should be sent out of the Convent that does not, in her judgment, tend to edification. Letters to the Visitor, Warden, or Director, may be placed sealed in the Mother's box. Sisters visiting in other Convents of the Order may write to their own Superiors privately. Merely secular correspondence, except on matters of business, is not to be encouraged. One who has renounced the world must face the thought of having to surrender much that is pleasant in correspondence with friends in the world.
A Sister debarred by age, infirmity, or her enclosure, from certain physical activities of life may be able to accomplish with her pen a variety of religious work, in spite of increasing limitations or even bodily suffering.
Each Sister, when away from home, should write at least once a week to the Mother or the Novice Mistress. The Mother must correspond frequently and regularly with other Convents of the Order, either by her own hand or by some Sister whom she may appoint. In such correspondence, matters not for general edification should be put in a separate letter or in a postscript. Each Convent shall be notified when a Sister is received or when she leaves the Order, and when a Sister makes her first vows or is professed. The admission, marriage, or death of an Associate should be similarly announced.
Sisters of S. Anne are not a number of unrelated individuals; they are members of a scattered family, having a single aim, living a common life, and bound by a common rule. "Are we not all members one of another?"
LEAVING THE CONVENT. "Let us go forth in peace, in the Name of the Lord." Amen. When a Convent has no special House suitable for rest or recreation, Sisters who are not enclosed may, at the discretion of the Mother, spend a fortnight or more each year away from the Convent, at a place not too far distant. Before going, a Sister should arrange with the Mother or the Novice Mistress what Offices to say and also her times of rising and retiring. As far as courtesy will allow, this arrangement must be adhered to. The Sister is not free to change her place of residence without permission.
When a Sister from one Convent is to stay in another Convent of the Order for any length of time, it should, as far as possible, be understood beforehand what other visits, if any, she may make. Heaven is our home. "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest."
Out in the world, the Sister must at all times remember that the honour of the Convent and the good name of the Order of S. Anne are in her keeping. Let her face and attitude be grave and thoughtful. Let her steps be deliberate and regular. The good Religious feels with people in the world, but does not follow them. She maintains her Rule of Life and silent independence of thought, no matter what public opinion may be.
Permission of the Sister-in-Charge should be asked before the Sisters leave the House, except for purposes that have already been sanctioned. Nor should it be thought a hardship if such permission be refused.
When Sisters are about to start on a long journey, prayer shall be made for them in the Chapel, that God may send them good speed. When they arrive at the end of their journey in peace and safety, thanksgiving shall be made. God takes count of every journey. "Thou tellest my flittings; are not these things noted in Thy book?"
ENCLOSURE. In a Convent where individual Sisters may, in accordance with Chapter IV of the Rule, desire to live the enclosed life, the following regulations shall be followed:
If, in the judgment of the Mother and her spiritual adviser, a Professed Sister shows dear signs of a vocation to the enclosed life, she may be admitted to enclosure after a year's probation. Sisters thus enclosed will recite all the choir Offices, if unable to assist at such Offices in choir.
A Sister is not, by her enclosure, separated from her Community. Therefore, within the Convent, contact with the children, necessary intercourse with externs, or attendance at any Community function can not be considered a violation of her enclosure.
THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE In a Convent which has adopted full and permanent enclosure for the exercises of the contemplative life, in accordance with the provision of Statute I, the following regulations shall be observed.:
With regard to enclosure:
With the exception of certain rooms and a portion of the garden, both of which shall be separated from the Convent by doors or gates that will be kept locked, the Convent shall be secluded so that no unauthorized persons can gain admission. By authorized persons would be intended workmen engaged on definite necessary tasks, doctors, professional persons whose admission emergency may make necessary.
The Religious who are enclosed may, with the express sanction of the Superior, receive visits from their kinsfolk and other approved persons in the parlours for strictly specified times.
With regard to prayer and devotion: All Sisters shall be responsible for the recitation of the Divine Office in its entirety, in choir. The Night Office will ordinarily be recited at 1:00 a.m.; but if need be, it may be recited following Compline. If the Night Office is said in choir at 1:00 a.m., the Mother may, at her discretion, permit a Sister to say the Night Office privately after Compline, before going to rest. If for any unavoidable reason a Sister should be prevented from assistance in choir, she shall say the Office privately, and report the reason for her absence to the Mother.
Two separate hours a day shall be given to mental prayer, which may be taken in Chapel or in the cell.
Half an hour daily shall be given to spiritual reading.
For the rest, the members of such a Convent shall observe strictly the Statutes, Rule, and customs of the Order, except in so far as they may be automatically adjusted to by the above regulations. It is essential that such Convent or Convents shall preserve the spirit of the Order as set forth in the Statutes and Rule of Life.
PUNCTUALITY. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." The word "punctual" is derived from the Latin punctum, a point, a pin-prick: with just such precision and exactitude, we must try to keep our engagements, "redeeming the time."
If a Sister be late at an Office or a meal, she should pause near the door or the entrance to the Choir until she receive permission from the Mother or the Sister-in-Charge to take her proper place.
The Sisters will rise and retire at the time specified in the time-table of the House, except with permission. They should go to Chapel when the sound of the bell is heard, unless charity or necessity compel delay, so that the Offices may begin punctually. Nor must we delay in going to the refectory at the appointed times. The Sister in charge of the kitchen or the refectory will endeavour to be prompt, as a "faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over His household, to give them meat in due season. Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when He cometh shall find so doing." There is no time to lose. Eternity itself is a quality of Timelessness, not a quantity of Time.
Life is all one brief day, from the bed of birth to the bed of earth; and we, seeking to live the Life rather than to talk the Talk, dare not be unpunctual. "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh." Our Lord's own words set before us perfection as the attainable goal; to man, impossible; but to God "all things are possible."
A Sister whose original Vocation is beyond the shadow of a doubt, yet who later begins to waver and ask herself seriously whether she is still fit to remain in the Convent, must learn that her doubts are vocational only in a remote sense. The Sister may be simply tardy and procrastinating. She lacks, not the Religious Vocation, but the spirit of loyalty and prompt observance of the Rule. With the grace of God she must recover that which she has lost. What she calls doubt about her Vocation is merely a distaste for the punctual keeping of the Rule. "Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
CHAPTER OF FAULTS. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
A Chapter of Faults shall be held once a week, when the Mother is present. Should the Mother be unable to preside, the Assistant Mother or the Sister-in-Charge may, at the Mother's discretion, conduct the Chapter. The Novice Mistress will conduct the Chapter for the novices. When a fault is recognized and confessed, one may say in one's heart with Micah, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise." Such a Chapter is a way by which we may put ourselves right with the Community, and make some slight reparation for any possible fault. If you would not be known to do a thing never do it. The best rose-bush, after all, is not that which has the fewest thorns, but that which bears the finest roses.
We say that we are trying to be good, fitfully, imperfectly, yet still trying. But there is something else that God would have us do first. He would have us believe that He wants us to be good, that He is willing to help us to be good, that He has sent His Holy Spirit to make us good. We must, on our part, acknowledge our faults. A religion, if it be the true religion, will have at least a slight clement of mortification; it will seek to mortify the flesh or, what is, in the case of most of us, much more important and valuable, to mortify the spirit. This thing that we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down. Conquer we shall, but we must first contend.
"Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of unhewn stones." Let us take care to build our inner life after that fashion: without clash and confusion. Impossible often? outwardly, yes; inwardly, no. Confusion and uproar are not so bad without, if we can only keep them from getting within. We are not to keep looking all the time to see how we are making our prayers, confessions, and communions, as children who dig up the flowers they have planted, to see if they are growing. We have put away childish things. The less we think about ourselves the better, that our entire thought be concentrated on God Himself and His Presence in others.
"Let Thy merciful kindness, O Lord, be upon us: like as we do put our trust in Thee."
CONCLUSION. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter."
Respect for personal rights is the essence of Christian morality. The royal law according to the Scriptures, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," is the very charter of human liberty, because it enshrines the principle of social justice.
Pray God that, in keeping the Rule of the Order, we may escape the arraignment which our Blessed Lord brought against a body of strictly religious people: "Ye reject the commandments of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." They devoted long hours to prayer and meditation, but they devoured the income of widows. They held religious offices, not for the comfort they might thereby render, but for personal gain. "He hath shewed thee what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
The Religious Life subdues the egoism of the individual to the service of the Community. It does this, not by disallowing the motives and exertions which develop and enrich individual life, but by requiring the individual always to hold herself closely to her Sisters, and to interpret their claims by those of Jesus Christ.
Inconveniences of one kind or another, if they cannot be remedied all at once, must be cheerfully accepted. Difficulties arc the stones out of which all God's houses are built. Hardships may be hailed as an unfailing sign of Divine favour. If our road is hedged with thorns and our way sown with briars, so much the better; for the more deeply and broadly any life or work bears the impression of the Cross, the more surely docs it come to us sealed of God. What lie gives, that accept; and, again, what He withholds, that accept also as good. What we are able to do, that we ought to do; what we cannot do, we must leave undone. The stone that we are unable to lift, we must leave for others who are stronger than we, or for the unimaginable touch of time. Let us ever be contented with what we have; never with what we are.
The things that make us alike are finer and better than the things which sometimes keep us apart. Sisters of S. Anne must stand together, forgetting all differences in one great likeness—their desire to serve God. To this end we humbly beg the aid of Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, and of our Patron, her holy Mother, S. Anne.
The happiness of a House depends upon the love that is there, and upon the thoroughness with which the Rule is kept. A half heart in religion means a heavy heart.
There is something finer than to do right against inclination; and that is to have an inclination to do right. There is something nobler than reluctant obedience; and that is joyful obedience. The rank of virtue is not measured by its disagreeableness, but by its sweetness to the heart that loves it. The real test of character is joy. For what you rejoice in, that you love. And what you love, that you are like. "He serves God best who grows most like his Lord, Christlike in love, in life, in thought, in word."
The more true we are in loving one another, and in staying at home, the more shall we find its joy. For here we may enter into holy communion—the communion of simple, human, happy family life. Here, too, we may approach a sacrament: outward and visible signs of quiet home life, the signs of an inward and spiritual grace—the grace which lies below and interprets all human grace in man and woman, the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
"Ask now of the days that are past." To consider the past helps us to understand the present; and from the memories of the past we draw our supplies of hope and enthusiasm for the future. "Let us hold fast our profession."
Be slow, therefore, in allowing old community customs and traditions to lapse, or fall into desuetude. In no better way can we learn how to deal with the present and to face the future than to gather and cherish the traditions, the memories, the records of the past, when "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Be very courageous. If disaster should befall, remember that God often breaks the cistern to bring us to the fountain. He withers our gourds, that He may Himself be our shade. "Trust in the Lord, and be doing good: dwell in the land (that means stay where you are), and verily thou shall be fed." Let us bare our souls and say, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." Lift up your hearts and say, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Then light from the opened Heaven shall stream on the daily task, revealing grains of gold, where yesterday all seemed dust; a hand shall sustain us and our burden, so that smiling at yesterday's fears, we shall say, "This is easy, this is light;" every "lion in the way," as we come to it, shall be seen chained, and open shall be the Gates of the Palace Beautiful.
On the other hand, we need to imbibe the courage of our ancestors; courage to make new trails over untrodden country. They were not afraid to break new ground. They went forth not seeing the distant scene. Like Abram they went "not knowing whither they went." They were not afraid to take risks with God. They were not afraid to be pioneers. They marched out into untraversed country with trumpets blowing, trusting to the guidance of the Lord they served. Like wise virgins they went forth to meet the Bridegroom. The world accounted them as fools for Christ's sake. We, in our turn, must love our Blessed Lord to the point of folly, if we would please Him. Only pray for perseverance. "These things saith He that is holy, He that is true. . . . Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee. . . . Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." Those whom Christ keeps are well kept. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
We are traitors to our Lord if we turn religion into a mere other-worldly mysticism, a way of escape, an evasion of responsibility. Yet we must also keep before our eyes the parallel and even greater truth that it is the Kingdom of Heaven that we seek. It is they who have sought "first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" who have done most to make this world a better place. Because Isaiah had his vision of God in Heaven and heard the Holy, Holy, Holy of the Cherubim, he became the preacher of social righteousness: "Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, plead for the widow" and the fatherless. Only when we give glory to God in the highest, can we hope for peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
"Remember now the days of old, consider the years of many generations."
Grandeur and worldly goods we have none, nor wealth nor fine abode, but the hope of the City of God at the other end of the road. Four things, Lord, which are not in Thy Treasury, we lay before Thee—our nothingness, our wants, our sins, and our contrition. "O Lord send us now prosperity."
Ant. The day is Thine, and the night is Thine. Grant that the Sun of Righteousness may remain in our hearts, to banish the darkness of evil thoughts. Through Christ our Lord. [Alleluia.]
V. Come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. [Alleluia.]
R. Until the day break and the shadows flee away. [Alleluia.]
Let us pray.
O God, Who didst vouchsafe to grant to Blessed Anne such grace that she was worthy to bear in her womb Mary Thy Mother: grant us through the intercession of the Mother and her Daughter the abundance of Thy grace, that aided by the prayers of those whose memory we lovingly cherish, we may be worthy to attain to the heavenly Jerusalem. Who livest and reignest, with the Father and the Holy Ghost One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
V. Holy Mother, Saint Anne.
R. Pray for us.
No rule is so general, which admits not some exception. But in the Rule here laid down, the underlying principles should be treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.
To the Mothers and Sisters of the Order of S. Anne, throughout the world, their unworthy Father wisheth peace and unity, with the knowledge and love of God.
For each Episcopal Visitor, Warden, and Chaplain, as for himself, he asketh that they may possess these graces:
A Father's tenderness; a Shepherd's care;
A Leader's courage, who the Cross can bear;
A Fisher's patience, and a Labourer's toil;
A Teacher's knowledge, and a Saviour's love.
"Here will I make an end. And if I have done well, and as is fitting the story, it is that which I desired: but if slenderly and meanly, it is that which I could attain to."