On Saturday, March 28, 2015, the Church noted and celebrated the 500th anniversary of the birth of Teresa of Jesus [of Avila], saint and doctor of the Church. In honor of this great feast, Carmelites from all over the world united to pray for peace and invited all of us to join them. Pope Francis took this to heart and celebrated a special liturgy on March 26, spread the word on the World Prayer for Peace, and wrote a letter to the Carmelite Superior General.
In this letter, Pope Francis expresses that St. Teresa’s example can help continue the renewal of consecrated life (to which this year is dedicated!), primarily through her gift as a teacher of prayer. Teresa built monasteries where community life could thrive and the risk of individualism could be thwarted.
Along this line, there is word of a new kind of monastic community in the early stages of being founded through the expansion of modes and ease of communication. This new community, the Sisters of the Most Sacred Silence, is dedicated to the monastic life – a life of prayer, sacrifice, and labor – in the Carmelite tradition. The unique and innovative aspect of this new emerging monastery is that it is virtual! It exists entirely online! Members live in their own places, but gather online for the Liturgy of the Hours, following GMT for the common time regardless of individual’s time zones.
To be sure, the members of this group need to be creative to maintain both the cloister and community via the internet. The traditional role of portress (the one who answers the door, a post that has ministry of many saints!) now takes on the position of “keeper of the page.” She maintains the dedicated network that, like parental controls, does not permit any secular, sordid, or profane content, just as the portress would protect the sanctity of the cloister. Through the use of virtual meeting sites, the sisters are able to have community meetings, adoration together, and for those in common time zones, they have meals together with someone providing spiritual reading for a portion of the meal.
While most of the monastic life can be maintained in this virtual monastery, there are some elements that need to be worked out. For now, the sisters are trying to coordinate visiting priests to come to each members “personal cloister” for the Eucharist as well as Reconciliation. In the meantime, members are able to stream live Mass from various places in the world and have confession on Twitter.
As this new and innovated group grows, do pray that they may be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit and respond to the needs of the times. We pray for them in a special way today as they celebrate their first Chapter on this the feast of Là Ruith na Cuthaige. God’s blessings be upon them!*
*Anything below the second paragraph is a complete fabrication of my imagination! Happy April Fool’s Day!
Sr. Kelly Connors, pm teaches Canon Law for Saint Joseph’s College Online.