The following is a short reflection on my vocation as a contemplative Dominican nun, in the light of the five joyful mysteries of the Rosary – text of a presentation given recently to a group of young people .

The Annunciation

St Thomas Aquinas likes to maintain that Jesus was the first Dominican, and I’m not saying that he was wrong! But we know that St Dominic established the nuns before his brother preachers, and in the first joyful mystery, we see Mary, called by God, invited to be His mother, to be the one through whom He would come into the world, and give Himself – entirely – to us and for us. You see, Mary … before Jesus!

I was thinking about this over the past while, and I think it is true to say that joining the Legion of Mary was the first thing I did for myself, as being something I really wanted to do. We were at Mass one Sunday, and a Legionary had got up to speak a bit about their mission, to encourage us to think about joining them. I had wanted to do something more for God than just go to Mass on Sundays, and this seemed to be a way that I could make some kind of return to Him for all He had done for me. It was a pretty amazing foundation – being among people for whom God is supremely important. The Lord had blessed me with a strong sense of Himself, I would even say a desire for Him, and this was how I thought I could express that, live it out. In the Legion, I could at last let Him in more, show Him how much He mattered to me. And it was a place where I could learn to love Mary – freely and deeply.

My first contact with the Dominicans came through the Legion – and they seemed to be able to reach or touch me deepest need for God – to awaken a string desire for Him that only He could satisfy. My ‘Annunciation’ came at a ‘Credo’ weekend, hosted by the Dominicans, during a lecture on the ‘Four Last Things’ (!) And so, I eventually arrived here, in Siena: full of wonder, amazement, joy – that God wanted only me, but all of me, for Himself. Mary, before she set out, said ‘yes’ to God’s will and I’m sure she must have spent some amount of deep, deep time in prayer with the Lord, utterly humbled and grateful for such a tremendous gift.

The Visitation

But she set out – as quickly as she could – to visit Elizabeth – to share her joy – to share God: because no matter how full of grace she was – no one can contain God. None of us; I think if we tried we’d explode – even Mary, whose capacity for Him was far beyond ours. And in the monastery, this is our second joyful mystery too. Initially, the coming is a personal response to God for us ourselves; but, like Mary, we can’t be touched by His love and not want to give it away- to the whole world. We are invited to love like God – to give ourselves away, and more, to give God away – to others and for others. And even though it leaves you empty – there’s tremendous richness in the emptiness, great joy – a gift that God in His love helps you to accept. (But you have to learn how to accept it!)

The Nativity

And the Word was made flesh … I think this mystery is too great, you could spend a lifetime trying to come to appreciate the wonder that God came to live and move among us, out of sheer love.
He Whom Mary had been promised, was now, after so long waiting to meet Him, was in her arms – He Whom she had been able to shelter and protect, was now born. All that time of waiting was her time with Him, but now she must begin to give Him away, because we are in such desperate need of Him.

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

I think Mary, in this mystery, is amazingly courageous, a great teacher and example. Watch her, carrying her Life in her arms, and returning it to God. Her love for this Baby must have been so all-consuming; all her hope, her love, her life, was bound to this Baby, and what did she do? … Gave Him away – gave Him back to God.
This too is our life in the monastery, always to acknowledge the greatness of God – to take all that He has given us – our whole lives- everyone we have been given to love: family, friends, people we’ve been asked to pray for – every day, to come to God and to entrust them all to Him, in thanksgiving and in love. To be that empty – to give Him our very breath – this is our life. The most amazing gift He has given me, is that sharing a little in His vision – that I can see that I have nothing if I don’t have God first; but if I give the Lord everything: all my desire, all my love, all my hope – if I let Him take everything I am, so that I am left empty – then I can be stretched and He makes room in me for more … of Himself. And I have discovered powerfully that He is doing that all the time.

Mary finds Jesus in the Temple

What can I say? The Eucharist is the heart and centre of our whole life – and however empty we are, how ever long the emptiness lasts – the Lord never fails to find us. There are, of course, times when we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth – but He never lets us go. And I am blessed, because I know, that when I am lost, I am lost in God. I may not always be able to see Him, but I can hang on because He is nearer to me – deeper in me – than I am to myself.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.