At the heart of the Dominican charism of preaching the saving truth of the Gospel is the vocation of the cloistered Dominican nuns. St. Dominic saw that the intimate life of contemplation, prayer, and penance lived by the nuns was necessary for the preaching of his Order to bear fruit in the world. In this post I would like to draw attention to the life of the Dominican nuns at the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas.
Named after the Infant Christ, the monastery of the nuns in Lufkin was founded in 1945 as a daughter-house from the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Detroit, Michigan. With east Texas being in the midst of the Bible Belt, the nuns live among many non-Catholics. Because of this, they see their vocation to be both contemplative and ecumenical. Taking the words of Isaiah seriously, the nuns state that their house is a house of prayer for all peoples (Is 56:7). Every day the Eucharist is exposed from the morning until the late evening so that both the nuns and others can adore Christ in the Sacrament. It is in this context that we find their daily pattern of prayer: the divine office, the Mass, meditation on Sacred Scripture, vigils, and intercessions. They also maintain an environment of silence throughout the day in order to foster prayer.
For their daily work the Lufkin nuns are engaged in preparing altar bread for a number of dioceses. The nuns are also part of the Infant Jesus Guild, whereby they respond to letters and prayer requests from all over the world. The nuns offer prayer cards for general intentions, birthdays, healings, and memorials. Perpetual enrollment is also given to those who write to the Infant Jesus Guild, by which the recipients receive a share in the prayers and works of the nuns forever.
The desired fruit of the nuns’ worship and work is communion in charity. Like the early Church of the apostles, the community of the nuns is founded, built up, and made firm in the one Holy Spirit. Following their constitutions the nuns recognize that through the Holy Spirit they receive the Word from the Father “with one faith, contemplate him with one heart, and praise him with one voice.” As a reflection of their common worship and unity in the Lord, the nuns hold all things in common.
Their common life and the vows they profess are seen as means to loving God and their neighbor. Their constitutions explain that “in this way, the whole community, united as it is in the love of the Lord, becomes a radiant center of charity.” Through their cloistered life, the nuns form a bond of unity with the Word, which in turn adjoins them to those for whom they pray. St. Dominic founded the cloistered nuns to be at the heart of the Holy Preaching of his Order, and the need for these consecrated women is just as great today.