St. Dominic’s Monastery has quite a rich history. Having traveled coast to coast, the Dominican nuns, now settled in Linden, VA, have weathered many storms. Yet through each storm, the nuns persevered with a virtue that stands out above the rest—faithfulness to their monastic calling.
In 1906, a small group of Dominican nuns set out from Union City, NJ and traveled to Baker City, OR to establish the new St. Dominic’s Monastery. After only a few years in Oregon, the local bishop asked them to take up apostolic work, and it became clear to the nuns that if they were to remain faithful to the monastic life, they would have to relocate. So in 1909, they moved to La Crosse, WI hoping there to find a home for a stable monastic life.
After many faithful years of prayer and contemplation in Wisconsin, the Spirit began to stir the nuns to make another courageous decision. By 1984, they were once again packing up for a move, but this time the cause wasn’t exterior. Rather, it was an interior movement of the Holy Spirit asking them to examine the Church’s teachings on the monastic life. In particular, the teachings of the Vatican II decree Perfectae caritatis (1965) and the instruction Venite seorsum (1969) led the nuns to wonder whether their current situation in La Crosse would end up playing out for the best. Chaplains had been becoming harder and harder to come by, and this was causing a particular strain, especially during the Triduum. Thus, they realized that to be faithful to the Church’s teachings on the religious life, they would need to move once again. This time, they headed to Washington, DC.
St. Dominic’s Monastery took up temporary residence in a rehabilitated house in Northwest DC. Here, the fathers from the Dominican House of Studies were able to serve the nuns, and the nuns were able to continue studying ecclesiastical documents on the nature of the religious life. In 1996, Bl. John Paul II issued Vita consecrata, and in 1999 Verbi sponsa was issued. Both of these documents allowed the nuns to continue to deepen their understanding of the spirit of the monastic life and to discern where the Spirit was calling them.
Thus, when land in the Shenandoah Mountains became available in 2005, they seized the opportunity to move from their temporary city dwelling to a quieter and more peaceful country abode. At that point, they traveled north where they lived with the Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of the Mother of God while their new monastery was under construction. And finally, in 2008, although not all the phases of construction were complete, the new St. Dominic’s Monastery in Linden was inhabited by the nuns, and enclosed by Bishop Paul Loverde. Situated atop Blue Mountain, overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, the monastery offers the nuns an ideal setting to take up the monastic life. Since their relocation to Linden, the nuns have continued to discern how they are called to be faithful—this time by re-appropriating ancient elements of the Dominican monastic life. Thus, they have begun to follow the classic monastic horarium with its middle-of-the-night Office. They have donned the wimple and wide veil, and they have taken up the long monastic Lent, which runs from the Triumph of the Cross on September 14th until Easter.
Through it all, the life of these cloistered nuns has been based around the call to live a life of faithfulness—faithfulness to the monastic life, to the magisterium, and to the ancient traditions of the Dominican Order. May the Lord continue to bless the nuns of the Monastery of St. Dominic with a spirit of faithfulness.
Image: Cloister Garden at St. Dominic’s Monastery
For more information, please visit the monastery’s website.