Sr. Margaret is clothed in the Novice Habit at Mount St. Mary's Abbey

Sr. Margaret Mary smiling

On the Solemnity of St Joseph and under his patronage, Maggie received the Cistercian habit and religious name: Sr Margaret Mary.
She embarks upon her novitiate journey, the most recent of many in her life, knowing that this is not her project but God’s. In St Bernard’s words: “It is not with the steps of the feet that God is sought, but by the heart’s desire.”

Wrentham novitiate as Sr. Margaret receives the Cistercian HabitSr Margaret joins Sr Lily and postulant Melina in the novitiate pictured here with their Novice Director, Sr Maureen and her assistant, Sr Francesca. We pray for their perseverance and flourishing in the Cistercian grace!

Mother Sofia‘s talk for the occasion:

“Dear Maggie, thank you for your beautiful and simple petition. My attention was caught by the journey that the Lord has begun in you. You have a history of journeys. The first, undertaken as a young girl with your family, took you from Zimbabwe to England, seeking the opportunity of a better life. Later, as an adult, you embarked alone upon another journey to the US, to pursue higher education and a career. Now you have been led to the door of the monastery. Geographically, it is only a small step from Randolph to Wrentham (about 16 miles as the crow flies), but this last journey marks a giant leap into the arms of God.

St Joseph is the man of the moment, a man you hold close to your heart for his hiddenness and humility. Like you, he has been on many journeys, most of them fraught with danger and uncertainty. Luke’s Gospel describes Joseph taking the pregnant Mary on a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where the child will be born. Matthew tells of Joseph being warned in a dream to “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt” (Mt 2:13), where the family can hide from impending danger. Finally, Joseph is called back from Egypt to Nazareth, where they can set up a home in which to raise the child Jesus to maturity.

Matthew uses a verse from the prophet Hosea to describe this journey as an act of God, weighty with meaning: “Out of Egypt I have called my son” (Mt 2:15). The verse weaves together three great journeys of salvation history: first, the Exodus from Egypt, when God drew the people out of a place of slavery to be his own; second, the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon, when God had mercy on his unfaithful people and brought them home for a fresh start; and finally, the definitive coming of God to be with his people in the person of his Son, Jesus, who redeems us from the captivity of sin and death.

Your journey, too, is woven into salvation history. With the Israelites you hear: “the Lord, your God, carried you, as one carries his own child, all along your journey until you arrived at this place” (Dt 1:31). With much struggle and sacrifice, you put yourself through school and began a career in business and IT management. An outsider looking in might have thought you had found your promised land. Intelligence and accomplishment, stability and prosperity, fun and friends: you had it all! But in your heart, God was telling you something else. Those gaping holes of unsatisfied desire you found within could not be filled by all your success. Only he could fill them, and he wanted to fill them, if only you would set out on another journey.

The monastic journey you now embark on is not a journey of the kind you are accustomed to. It will not take you from place to place, through varying landscapes, over mountains and across seas. You are asking to remain here in this place, where you will see the same scenery every day and meet the same people, where you will leave aside possessions and ambitions, the stimulation and excitement of worldly life, to work at humble tasks and to pray night and day. Why would you do such a thing? Because you believe that here God will come to you in the ordinariness of daily life and fulfil your deepest desires. As St Bernard puts it: “It is not with the steps of the feet that God is sought, but by the heart’s desire.”

Joseph’s journey with the Holy Family led to Nazareth. Matthew confirms this when he says of Jesus: “He will be called a Nazorean” (Mt 2:23). Jesus lives in Nazareth, an obscure place not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. To call Jesus a Nazorean might also mean one who is consecrated to God as Sampson was: a nazir. Today we can say: she will be called a Cistercian, that is, one who lives a simple, hidden life in an obscure place; one who desires to be consecrated to God, or as you put it, “truly to be His.”

The Lord has begun a journey in you, and you realize that this is not “my project.” When you begin to see your life’s journey as salvation history, as God’s project, then you have intuited what life in the monastery teaches by experience: Christ is the protagonist of your life, of your personal salvation history, no less than of cosmic salvation history. If you let him, Jesus will conquer your land and inhabit it as a promised land, for your salvation and the salvation of the world. If you invite him, Jesus will come and dwell in you as in Nazareth, where he will grow strong in wisdom and favor before God, to his full stature. Your cooperation lies in fidelity to the challenging labor of conversion. I wish you much joy in the simple, hidden life you so desire.

True to this simplicity and hiddenness, you have asked to receive as your religious name your baptismal name, Margaret, with the hidden addition of the name of Mary. So now I invite you, Sr Margaret Mary, to receive the Cistercian habit.”

Please pray for Sr. Margaret Mary and all of our Order’s monks and nuns in formation.

For those interested in exploring joining our way of life, we invite you to visit our page Becoming a Trappist