April 9 - Lent in the Monastery

A few weeks ago, a visitor asked a sister, “What do you do for Lent in the monastery?” And sister thought, “That would be a good article for the website.” So: what happens at Queen of Peace Monastery for Lent?


On Ash Wednesday, the first change you’ll notice are the psalm tones, the musical arrangements we use to chant the Liturgy of the Hours. Our liturgy has different psalm tones for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary time, with each season’s tones reflecting its spirituality. The tones for Lent are sober, and often in a minor key. However, the Benedictus and Magnificat are always sung in a major key, as they recall the good news of our salvation in Christ! Along with special hymns and the Mass of the Samaritan Woman (composed by fr. André Gouzes, O.P.), this once-a-year music immediately leads us into the “wilderness” (as the Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent reads).

Each sister’s personal prayers and practices are private, but as a community, Lent is really a time to slow down and enter more deeply into silence. During Lent, we refrain from unnecessary correspondence and visits with family and friends. Our food is usually quite simple, but there is an extra focus on simplicity and frugality, with the money saved being given to the poor. We look at what we really need, spiritually and materially, and let go of what is taking up space that should be reserved for the Holy Spirit. We remember to seek again the beauty of our life with God, for the salvation of souls and life of our world.


This spiritual wilderness prepares us for Paschal Triduum at Easter. As Lent continues, the readings of the Liturgy ask us, again and again, to return to Christ, to be more deeply united to Him, and to leave behind whatever separates us from His Love. Like St. Paul, we say: “I want to know Christ, and the power of His Resurrection, by sharing in His sufferings and becoming like Him in His death, if somehow I may attain the Resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already achieved this, or reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” (Phil. 3:10-11) To choose Love, above all else, is a kind of death—to selfishness, to anger, to all the other passions that the Desert Fathers and Mothers write about. But because this Love is God, this “death” leads to life for us and for the world, as we share more fully in the life of Christ and the Holy Trinity.

As Holy Week approaches, you can begin to see little pockets of activity as sisters prepare for the Paschal Triduum. Some preparations are routine; others, sisters work very hard to keep as a surprise for the community until the Vigil itself!


Above all, we ask the Holy Spirit to make this season fruitful, to lead our community and each one us into deeper union with God. We wait, and pray, and watch for the “wilderness” to bloom.


May God bless you, and those you love, as we prepare to enter Holy Week. If you’re in the area, you are most welcome to join us for the liturgy during Triduum. You can find our schedule here.

Sr. Marie Thomas Lawrie
March 25 - Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord

Happy Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord! For a treat, here is the hymn we sang at Lauds this morning. As we and "all creation" rejoice in Mary's "yes" today, let us pray to receive the Lord with courage and humility, just as she did.


The hymn was originally written by St. John Damascene and is used in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. Our musical setting was composed by our Dominican brother fr André Gouzes, and translated into English for us by one of our sisters. Those of you who have visited our chapel will also recognize the icon of Our Lady, who is to the right of our altar (to the left is an icon of St. Dominic).

We hope that you have a beautiful feast!

February 15 - "In the bleak midwinter..."

“…the mountains were beautiful, and a lot was happening despite the cold!”


That’s not how the carol actually goes, but it is an accurate description of all that’s happened since Christmas season ended on the Baptism of Our Lord! First, a memory from Christmas that never made it online: during the holiday, our refectory was graced by several nuns of a rather…diminutive…size, beautifully handpainted by a sisters’ mum. We love them, and they were wonderful company, very reminiscent of certain “full-size” nuns in our community!


For the Festival of St. Thomas Aquinas in Vancouver, Sr. Isabelle wrote a special arrangement of Psalm 37, sung by three of our novitiate and joyfully sung again for the feast of our brother a few days later.


R. The mouths of the just murmur wisdom.

Trust in the Lord and do good,
so you will dwell in the land and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
the justice of your cause like the noonday.

The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom
and their tongues speak justice.
The law of their God is in their hearts,
their steps do not slip.

Just a few days later, we welcomed four sisters and a friar for the annual meeting of the Council of the North American Association of Dominican Monasteries. Unlike our diminutive visitors of the previous month, these nuns were full-size and not at all wooden! Still beautiful, however, and also hiding a lot of unexpected talents and hobbies. Due to an impending storm, two Council members had to leave early (unfortunately, before anyone thought to take a photograph of the whole group!). However, this resulted in a meeting-free afternoon, and the exploration of one Council sister’s hidden talent…cheesemaking! Four litres of milk, a quick chemistry lesson and a lot of laughs later, we were the proud possessors of two rounds of delicious mozzarella—and some extra supplies to continue experimenting.


Finally, the seed order catalogue has been lurking in our community room for the past few weeks, with little scraps of paper and notes beside it marking sisters’ planting ideas. Leafing through kale, and baby’s breath, and brussels sprouts, spring seems really close. That means, of course, that it continues to snow. However, with a bit of sun and our blessed warm coats, a winter walk makes it perhaps okay that planting is at least two months off. “Ice and snow, bless the Lord,” indeed!


Jokes aside, however, we are praying in a particular way for all those affected by this “bleak midwinter” who do not have adequate food, clothing and shelter, or people around them with warm and open hearts, during this sometimes-difficult time of year. To adapt a phrase from Bl Mother Teresa of Kolkata, we pray:

Come, be our light.