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The Windows of St. Cecilia: Visiting the Nashville Dominicans, part 3 of 3

Mary Rose Bacani Valenti

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When I visited the Motherhouse of the Nashville Dominicans I learned that each Sister sews their own habit during postulant year. Their habit has three parts, and they say a prayer as they put on each part. Sr. Kateri Rose can put on all three in a matter of seconds.
I also asked, “How do you keep your habit so white?”
Sr. Bernadette replied, “So white? Well, you haven’t been looking so closely!”
It turns out that they may have three habits, since they wash their habits weekly. They also play sports in their habit.
“Don’t you get all sweaty with you running around in the same habit?”
“Oh yes, we do, we just wash the cap – that’s easy to wash,” Sr. Kateri Rose said.
And I love their long black veils that reach just below the waist. It looks like long, flowing black hair.
“You’re so lucky you can avoid bad hair day,” I said as I commented on how fluffy my hair looked in my pictures with them.
“Are you kidding? We get bad veil day, too!” Sr. Anna Laura laughed out loud.
One question I ask (aside from, How did you know He was the one) is, “Why’d you pick your name?” Each sister gives Mother three names that they are considering. Mother gives them the chosen name when she calls them to receive their habit at the end of postulant year.
As some of you may know, I have a little niece who is a little over a month and a half old right now, and her name is Emma. Naturally, when I was introduced to a Sr. Emma, I was very interested in her name.
“Oh, that comes from the story of Emmaus, when Jesus speaks to the two disciples on the way to Jerusalem after his resurrection.”
Anyway, I remember Sr. Emma from the documentary. In the footage she is pushing an elderly sister in a wheelchair and chatting with her. Sr. Emma was kind enough to give me a tour of the golden chapel. I call it the golden chapel because the light is usually warm in there and sets everything off in a golden light.
stceciliawindowsthree.jpgI noticed the stained-glass windows and was curious about them.
“Do you know the story of St. Cecilia?” Sr. Emma asked.
“Well, just the paragraph-long version of it.”
“These windows on ground level tell the story of St. Cecilia. Her story is told through the images in these windows and the Scripture passages underneath each one.”
As Sr. Emma took me on a tour of the Windows of St. Cecilia, I grew to love St. Cecilia more and more. The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia have her as their namesake. They want to live that undying virginal love for Christ, whose music was the eternal heavenly call of love that resounded in her heart and inspired her to give her life.
She was of noble Roman birth and converted to Christianity probably through the influence of her Christian nurse. As a child, she vowed her virginity to God, which was about to be challenged by the fact that her parents promised her in marriage to Valerian.
Sr. Emma told me of how Cecilia told Valerian that if he dared to touch her on their wedding night, her angel will strike him dead. Valerian didn’t believe her and said, “Well, I’d like to see this angel with my own eyes.” Cecilia told him he can’t see the angel unless he get baptized. And so he did and when he returned to their room on their wedding night, he could see the angel. And he decided never to touch Cecilia. He and his own brother Tiburtius eventually converted through the faith example of Cecilia.
Cecilia had a deep love for the poor and “squandered” her riches on them. Because she lived in a time when Christians were being persecuted, her husband and her brother were martyred, and so was she. The Romans attempted to suffocate her at first, but that failed. They decided to behead her, but after three strikes to her neck, she didn’t die, but lay bleeding to death for three days. She lived those last days with a vibrant faith, hope and love. In 821 AD, Pope Paschal I had Cecilia’s body removed from its burial place where it was found INCORRUPT! (bio info from the Nashville Dominican's website)
The feast day of St. Cecilia was this past Saturday, November 22nd. She is praised as the model of the perfect Christian woman because of her virginity and the martyrdom which she suffered for love of Christ.
St. Cecilia, pray for us!

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