Opportunities for public Masses and other spiritual offerings have been limited over the last several months for Catholics across the globe due to COVID-19. To help fill the spiritual void and provide consolation, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have been livestreaming their daily Masses and other prayers online for the first time.
Sister Maximilian Marie, O.P., has been responsible for responding to the prayer intentions that the sisters have received during this challenging time. The Newman Society recently asked Sr. Maximilian Marie about this experience and how her vocation was influenced by her time at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, N.H., which is recommended in The Newman Guide.
Newman Society: Why did the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, decide to share their private prayers and Masses online?
Sr. Maximilian Marie: At the Motherhouse, we are blessed by circumstances that allow us to have daily Mass during the current pandemic crisis. Our deep gratitude for the Blessed Sacrament, coupled with the recent launch (July 2019) of our Lumen Ecclesiae Digital platform, led to the possibility of daily livestreaming our Mass, Holy Hour, Rosary and prayers.
Thus, we invited people, globally and across denominations, to join in our community prayers to provide consolation and hope during this time of pandemic. It is our desire to especially inform people about the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours — the ongoing prayers of the Church — which we livestream at three periods of the day: Lauds (Morning Prayer), Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline (Night Prayer).
Upon reflection, I see the livestreaming project as another way to live out our vocation as Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Jesus and His Real Presence are the heart of our vocation as Brides of Christ and the source of our Spiritual Motherhood. We start our day with a common hour of Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Mass, and then, in normal circumstances, we go out into the schools to share the great gift we have received with our students. In these days of “shelter-in-place,” by livestreaming our otherwise private Community Mass and prayers, we are able to bring Jesus to starving souls in a very different way but far reaching: we are not limited to the four walls of our classrooms, but bring Jesus into living rooms across the globe.
I am sure St. Dominic would have done the same! Upon founding the Order, he did something new by sending his friars out into the heart of society — founding convents amidst the hustle and bustle of universities and big cities… because that was where the people were. Through livestreaming and archived videos on our platform, we can bring Jesus to anyone and everyone who is homebound, alone and without the Sacraments during the pandemic.
In these last months, I have had the privilege of reading and responding to the prayer intentions we receive through our website. They come in from around the globe and across denominations, expressing their gratitude and commenting on how, because of the livestreaming throughout the day, they do not feel quite as alone during these days of solitude.
Newman Society: What was your experience like at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts?
Sr. Maximilian Marie: I arrived at Magdalen College as a 21-year-old freshman, a little older than most students, but ripe and ready to live a more honest, authentic life. I immersed myself in the liberal arts program, the community life and the sacramental life on campus. At Magdalen College, I was stretched intellectually, socially and spiritually, and I loved it for that reason!
“The unexamined life is not worth living,” I was told in my first tutorial, and I was now examining my life with bigger eyes than ever, as I was exposed to (and exposed by) a variety of universally acclaimed works. This experience opened me to examining the fundamental questions of life: “Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going?” As I wrestled with these great works in the context of honest, personal friendships and a strong community life, a childlike wonder began to reawaken in me, and the floodgates of grace seemingly flew open!
I recall, one day at Mass, after receiving the Holy Eucharist, I gazed up at the Crucifix and realized how much Christ loved me. This experience was a special grace. The reality of the Crucifix and of the Holy Eucharist took hold of me — sacrificial love and selflessness.
As a “devout” Catholic, I had seen, known and consumed Him my whole life, but never with such deep meaning. This experience demanded a radical response from me: sanctity. From this point on and by God’s grace, I became a daily communicant and totally in love with the Living Person, Jesus Christ. My identity was rooted in Christ, my Lord and His Catholic Church. This is the beginning to any faithful vocation… an invitation to love.
Newman Society: How did your time at Magdalen College influence your vocation to the religious life?
Sr. Maximilian Marie: It is curious, how this lay-governed, lay-administered Catholic institution that emphasized lay-leadership, was the key that opened my soul to consecrated religious life. I smile to think how, upon entering the convent in 2001, my college copy of Vatican Council II documents bears in its margins excitedly scribbled remarks alongside paragraphs focused on the laity, while the margins of the sections on Religious Life, were quite tidy.
To be honest, I do not recall any overt, external influences toward religious life—perhaps because, at the time, I had a one track-mind toward marriage. But, in retrospect it was the dynamic of the program of studies, the community life and the sacramental life that was foundational to my vocation.
A key influential factor was the emphatic teaching instilled in us regarding the universal call to holiness and seeing it lived out. From studying the social teachings of the Church and living them in a common life, to daily witnessing the sincere gift of self among faculty and staff, I realized that sanctification was ‘worked out’ in every act and at every moment.
This realization and the habits instilled made me truly free to say a wholehearted “Yes” to the will of God, whether it was seemingly inconsequential tasks like cleaning a bathroom to life decisions and vocational matters. Each action was a little fiat proclaimed with Mary: “Let it be done.”
In my almost 20 years of religious life, all that I received at Magdalen College has been constantly deepened and broadened in the context of our Dominican tradition of study, contemplation, and community life. Hardly a day goes by in which I do not recall some aspect of my education and formation at Magdalen College, for which I am so very grateful.