We are a community of 15 sisters who live a Franciscan contemplative life according to the First Rule of Saint Clare of Assisi. Our monastery is in a residential suburban area of Jamaica Plain, just outside the city of Boston.
How can we possibly express all that goes into a Poor Clare’s life? At our first awakening moment we turn our heart to our Creator who has given us a new day. Some of us like those quiet, early hours of the morning before the sacristan rings the bell calling us to prayer, so, the coffee is ready very early, even before 4:00 a.m. Actually, breakfast can be just about anytime until 8:00 a.m.
We have the privilege of daily Eucharistic exposition. At 6:15 a.m. the gathered . community begins the day focused on Jesus in his Eucharistic Presence. We pray the psalms and scripture readings for Morning Praise of the Liturgy of the Hours. You are welcome to join us in our outside chapel. Prayer time continues through the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy at 7:00 a.m. with an inspiring homily every morning, and continues until 8:25 when we pray one of the shorter Liturgical Hours of the day. Eucharistic adoration will continue during mornings with sisters taking half hour turns.
The rest of the morning is allotted for the work we do to keep up our beautiful monastery and earn our living like everyone else of the working class. We are careful to maintain a quiet atmosphere while we work although we don’t have anything like a vow of silence people sometimes ask about.
The sisters’ skills are all are needed to maintain ourselves. Each department demands managerial tasks, like ordering supplies and organizing work, to accommodate the steady demand for liturgical vestments. Computerized Manifest Systems are used in the shipment of hundreds of steady orders of altar breads. Our Poor Clare RN’s, majoring in geriatrics, are at hand as the need arises. We take turns cooking; we each seem to have a specialty or two we enjoy making.
Our phone lines are very busy all day long so a receptionist has to be available continually. People call to ask for our prayers, or to have a prayer remembrance card sent out to family or friends for various occasions. The sister receptionist needs to learn a bit about computer graphics because she will be called upon to turn out any number of computer-generated calligraphic cards each day. But even doing all we can ourselves it is never enough to sustain us. We depend upon the kindness and generosity of all those who help us out.
And then there are weekly community meetings and music practice. We treasure the gifts of our musicians who accompany us on the organ and guitar. Our sacristan keeps our adoration altar and everything in our choir and public chapels beautiful. Maintenance for a large place like this is endless, so we become handy at doing many things.
At noontime we have our main meal of the day with recreation, followed by one of the Liturgical Hours. Then we do the dishes quickly, and are usually free for a while. The afternoons provide spaces for study, reading, writing, or the development of other personal interests. Or maybe just to find a quiet spot like in your room or under a tree.
Formation is ongoing so we have easy access to a well stocked library, digital media, and occasional lectures in Scripture, theology or spirituality, or some topic of interest. Those in Initial Formation, who are new to our life, are given additional classes by the Vocation Directress.
The annals of the Monastery are kept by a sister who records events of note in our Monastery Chronicles. The Archivist keeps important papers and items concerning our community’s history. The Archives and Office of the Poor Clare Federation of the Most Holy Name of Jesus are also kept by one of our sisters. As you can see, there’s no room for monotony here!
As evening draws near we return again to our choir at 4p.m. for rosary and Evening Prayer followed by quiet time for prayer. Our outside chapel is open all day for those who would like to join us in payer. At 5:30 p.m. we pray the Office of Readings to prepare for the following day’s liturgy. On some afternoons and evenings we have Community Holy Hours. At 6:00 p.m. we take a light supper quietly while we listen to lectures digitally. And finally, Night Prayer and a loving hymn to Mary and we are free for the evening.
Now, that’s what you would call the bare bones of a day in the life of any one of us. It’s not possible to convey the dimensions of all our days, but this gives you an idea of how we spend some of our time.