Sister Regina Comic Strip

Sister Regina is a fictitious Handmaid who appears almost every week on this site, on our Facebook page, and in our Twitter feed. She gives those outside the cloister an idea of what life within the monastery can be like. Click any cartoon to see a larger image.

Sister Regina the cartoon is not published during the seasons of Advent, the Christmas Octave, Lent, or the Easter Octave to not only allow the Handmaids to more deeply enter into those times of more intense prayer, but also to encourage others to do so as well.

Remember man, thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return

Thanks to COVID-19, receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday will, like many other customs we've grown familiar with, be done differently this year, according to safety protocols given by the Holy See.

This can be a good thing: a noticeably altered tangible act that puts us outside our 'old familiar' comfort zone of how we mark the start of Lent. We notice more around us whenever we are uncomfortable. Pay attention. Perhaps, like the virus itself and the heartache and havoc it has wreaked across the globe, we will focus on the same words we will hear regardless of how the ashes are distributed. Dust. Dirt. We come from the earth...humus. Our bodies will return there when we too die. When we acknowledge this, remembering who and what we are, creatures of God and not gods, it humbles us. Then glancing ahead to Easter we also remember who we are, who we belong to, and what we were made for: God and Heaven.

Yes, we will return to dust. But a Loving God is also asking us, yearning for us, to live in such a way amid this earthly dust, that we will live forever in joy with him eternally.

Happy Lent! Repent and Rejoice! Our God is a Merciful God!

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With Their Own Devices Be Glutted

Proverbs 1:20-33 gives us subject matter for this week’s cartoon as we once again find eternal truths in the Old Testament that still apply today since they are not so much about eras and epochs as they are about our fallen human nature. In this chapter of Proverbs, Wisdom, portrayed as a person, warns all those who choose Folly what will happen to them - God will give them precisely what they chose, Folly, and all its logical consequences.

We pray that in today’s world all technological devices be used with wisdom and prudence and that all use leads to Divine Wisdom.

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Groaning Inwardly

Sometimes it seems that many people are focused more on their comfort here in time than in the hereafter. It pays to remember that life is indeed short and eternity long. And the prospect of Heaven’s rewards can be forgotten against the threat of the pains of hell. But thinking of redemption, a redemption that will one day include our resurrected bodies, is no small consolation amid the groans (both inward and outward) that accompany life and aging. In fact, staying focused on following the Lord as he guides us closer to himself for all eternity, makes offering up all our aches and pains not only easier but can transform the offering into an occasion of joy.

Be joyful whether your groans can be heard or not!

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Double Holy Years and Our Need For Them Now

As 2021 gets further underway and more people begin to question if 2021 is going to make 2020 look very good in hindsight, remember to keep focus. On what? Not the news. Or social media. Or the internet. Or rumors. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He’s already planned out the perfect 2021 for our eternal good, so we need to let him have his most holy way.

In the mean time, shut off the noise and take some prayerful time to review two wonderful gifts Jesus has already started unwrapping through the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the Holy Father. Read his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” proclaiming the Year of Saint Joseph and pay attention to why he’s doing this. Prepare for the coming year dedicated to “Family Amoris laetitia” and again ask why.

Much of the chaos in the world right now stems from broken relationships: those between ourselves and God, and those among ourselves and our neighbors. Pope Francis is asking us all to look at the model family, where truly holy relationships, love, and sacrifice were played out in anything but peaceful times. Did it ever strike you that the Prince of Peace came having to face attempted murder and flight almost immediately? This family was Holy in an unholy time. This family made holiness among themselves, if you will. They couldn’t ignore the evil around them but their love for God the Father and each other transcended that evil and brought them a divine Peace their situation couldn’t guarantee but God could.

Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde”: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20201208_patris-corde.html

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Ever feel like prayer 'didn't work'?

It's difficult to describe prayer. Imagine the near impossibility of conveying in mere human language what transpires between God and a soul. The cartoon may help disabuse some folks of the notion that nuns have prayer come easy to them or that prayer is only for priests and nuns and not everyone else.

The truth is that not only are all called to an intimate prayer life with the Almighty, but also that achieving this union with the Trinity really isn't an 'achievement' at all. It's a gift. We don't do it. We can't schedule it. We are expected to do our part to cooperate with the grace that God gives in growing in holiness, but it is never solely our doing.

Prayer is communication with God but often we need to remind ourselves that listening to him in silence is far more important than whatever we tell him.

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All God’s Creatures Got a Place In The Choir

Do you remember singing, “All God’s Creatures Got A Place In The Choir?” Yes, everything and every little thing was indeed made by God for a purpose even when we can’t know precisely why that is. In Heaven, adoring God in the Beatific vision, it’s unlikely that we will feel the need to ask, “Lord, why did you create the lady bugs that bite and stink and aren’t so lady like?” But we can practice now being grateful for them. After all, they do eat aphids and are fairly cute.

Being grateful even for things we can’t understand, or even like, is wonderful preparation. Preparation for what? Growing in holiness. Joyful gratitude is the hallmark of the Saints. So next time you want to complain about those little bugs, thank God for them instead.

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WHY IS THE CAT JUST SITTING THERE?

Humans love to anthropomorphize animals. We can watch a cat staring and presume to know just what it’s thinking or wanting and discover we are altogether wrong in our guess. A cat can patiently wait on its prey for hours. Or sit close to its human for long periods of time.

Have you ever thought that God might enjoy having us give him that kind of attention habitually? We marvel that a cat stays close by our side, doing ‘nothing’ more than snooze perhaps, yet it gives us pleasure (especially if there is purring). Now think of a dry, difficult holy hour of adoration before the Eucharist. Perhaps we even fall asleep and feel we did ‘nothing’ for the Lord. Nothing more than ‘snoozing’. Is God displeased the holy hour didn’t go the way we wanted? Or is he delighted that one he loves is simply with him? Perhaps that’s just one reason he designed pets as animal companions...to remind us of his constant presence and of his desire that we also be present to him.

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Vocations News: Coping with COVID-19 and Come and Sees
Yes, 2020 has been quite a year. We managed to get in a couple visits with inquiring women before COVID became a byword and seeming harbinger of all that could go wrong with the year 2020. By lockdown in March it was hoped a few weeks would be sufficient to dispel the plague of 2020. Now, as fall approaches with lifts and more lock downs and Advent promises to arrive quickly, many wouldn’t be blamed for thinking things will never get back to ‘normal’. Even the phrase ‘new normal’ really can’t fit this strange culture of permanent distancing and sanitization. And yet...who really defines normal?
Take the normal process of discerning a vocation to the religious life. Correspondence, a building relationship, an in person visit or visits (Come and See) to experience a little bit of the life, further education and learning, entrance....etc. All the predictable steps that were standard now have a virus template to adapt to. And with our limited capacity to communicate via the internet in our neck of the woods, video meetings over a computer wouldn’t be just another strange hurdle to learn, they would be cost prohibitive given our data caps. You would think with this new COVID-19 ’normal’ that, between social distancing and communications obstacles, we would have to forego welcoming inquirers, candidates, and aspirants. But who really defines normal? God. He can work around EVERYTHING.
So this fall and God willing, into the new year as well, we’ve scheduled women for Come and See experiences, suitably adapted to the precautions of coronavirus. We plan on sharing lots of information and communication in both directions....just not any germs or viruses! It demands creativity, flexibility, and ingenuity. Perhaps we can add the live video stuff someday but for now, God’s providing! #sisterreginacomicstrip
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Gertrude gets her nom de plume and enters cartoon-land in the Sister Regina comic strip as Shadow’s new side-kick: SUNBEAM. We had plenty of suggestions, some more than once, but this one had a ring to it as we flesh out the feline dynamic duo of the squirrel wars. Here’s just some that were submitted:

Samson

Sunny

Lily

Rose

Sunshine

Misty

Lightfoot

Flame

Sunbeam

Light

Cuddles

Trudy

Gertrude is steadily growing, gaining weight and trying out various speeds racing around the cell she occupies after her toys, insects, and anything else she wants to chase. Despite her small size she can hit the ground with an impact that sounds like a human and, despite our best efforts, we smile in distraction as we detect her barreling across the floor just above the Mass Chapel. More than once a Handmaid has heard various thumps and bumps and wondered if a plumber or other contractor might be fixing something in the cell above Chapel and then realize, “Oh, its just Gertrude…all 7 pounds of her.” Look out wood-eating rodents!

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Clothed in Holiness and Ringing Out Joy

Cf Psalm 132 “Your priests shall be clothed with holiness: your faithful shall ring out their joy.”

In the breviary the psalms are presented so as to promote antiphonal chant by two choirs. On the breviary page a psalm may look different from what one will find in a Bible. The layout of the sentences, the grammar, and punctuation are adapted to suit the singing in choir.

It is also useful to note the colon in the verse cited above. Priests clothed with holiness. Faithful ringing out their joy. As presented on the breviary page, these are not separate sentences. They are related concepts. Got holy priests? Then we will be joyful. Likewise, got a joyful, faithful flock? Then we will raise up holy priests…and joyful ones at that!

We remain tremendously blessed to witness priests joyful and holy in their priesthood such that we can dare a cartoon on a liturgical slip that brought lighthearted smiles some years back. Priests carry heavy burdens and unique crosses and it is our vocation to pray and sacrifice for their sanctification. At times, in the unexpected moments of humor, God may be letting us know, “This one is clothed with holiness, ring out your joy!

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Seriously? Bambi is the Enemy?

We recently had a treat at Cor Jesu when a doe decided to have her fawn in our backyard and took to setting it’s hiding place just off our porch. We were touched that she chose to do this near the Holy Family statues. Between the Bambi fawn in the rocks and the fledgling mourning doves on the second deck we felt the animal kingdom was a bit closer and we were delighted that they felt safe enough to raise their wee ones under our noses. Gunther had other thoughts, though. While he is an excellent watcher of lightning bugs, we don’t think he’s ever seen a fawn before and he wasn’t quite sure this beast was friendly. He also kept an eye on the doe…just in case she brought another fawn along.

Mom and Bambi have continued to stick around and the little one seems big enough now to tag along with Mom on her feedings.

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What do you mean, ANOTHER cat?

A news update from Cor Jesu Monastery: Gertrude (named after Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of cats and cat lovers...at least since 1983) joins Gunther in anti-squirrel operations. Though trim and tiny, Gertrude shows great promise as an ally in the squirrel wars. Gunther, now a medically retired hunting veteran, will be showing Gertrude the ropes as to monastic living for cats before he resumes what can only be referred to as ‘therapy cat’ duties. [He refuses the moniker ‘house cat’ and feels he must have a job. He still hunts and patrols indoors.]

But this also means that Shadow, Gunther’s cartoon alter ego, needs his new companion in cartoon-land to have an appropriate name as well. So we are accepting suggestions to suit the duo of a solid 11 pound Russian Blue male 3 year old and a Dilute Tortie female 7 month old who hasn’t approached even 6 pounds on the scale.

May y’all have a Blessed and safe Thanksgiving! We are are grateful for each and every one of you and send a special note of thanks and appreciation to our special veterinarian and her staff.

We’ve also added a few kitten related items to our Amazon wishlist and remain indebted to all our friends and benefactors.

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Meus maxime mortificatsio est vita communis. In English, “My greatest mortification is community life.” Saint John Berchmans

While that can be true, so can a surprising contrast, “Community life is my greatest joy.”
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The Lord is my Shepherd and the one I want

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. If you had everything you needed and wanted - could you hope for anything more? Would that mean you had no troubles? Having hope doesn't mean having no problems. It means you can trust the One to handle your problems and never abandon you in them. You shall not want for what? You shall not want for his presence, his love, his safety, his protection and guidance. The Good Shepherd didn't say we wouldn't have trouble (he said just the opposite) but we would always have him and he is the One who has overcome the world. This is the Shepherd we want with all our hearts.

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Distractions

Everyone has to deal with distractions. They can be especially irksome when one expects to be in a distraction-free environment. But they can also provide for ample humor and a lesson that can sometimes be forgotten: in religious life a sense of humor is not just helpful….it is a necessity.

A sometimes idealized setting can be what people think a monastery should be. Visions are conjured up of beautiful medieval architecture, and focused, serene, deeply echoing silence broken only by exquisitely executed polyphonic chant. But in our East Tennessee hills, our current chapel is actually rather small and at our community prayer times it’s filled with our recto-tonal chant competing with sounds of the allergic reactions of coughs and sneezes, the dehumidifier pump, the hot water tank, the bathroom, the pitch pipe (keeping us on key)…and the cat in the cell just above the Chapel ceiling.

Gertrude (or Sunbeam as she’s known in cartoon land) is a creature of habit, as are nuns. She has learned our schedule well and often times her best play periods coincide with Lauds and Vespers. We can often tell precisely where she is in the cell and sometimes exactly what toy she’s gotten a hold of. It can be a challenge to keep a straight face singing “all you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord” as she’s galloping after a toy she’s just sent scraping across the floor at high speed.

Then we remember that we can smile and may smile and should smile at this little gift of feline paws thundering over our heads because this is how that animal praises the Lord - by being the cat she was designed to be. The hunter and stalker all rolled into a ball of cute fluff simply ‘playing’. Oh yes, and she’s chased her first squirrel off leash…another thing God designed her for. So…Go Gertrude, Go!

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A LIFE POURED OUT IN IMITATION OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi we find in the breviary this excerpt from the day's collect [special prayer for the day] “May we offer to our brothers and sisters a life poured out in loving service of that kingdom…”

This beautiful and arresting phrase “a life poured out” on the day of that great solemnity serves to help answer a question about the very name of our religious community.

Just why did our Founder call us Handmaids of the Precious Blood? With such a strong foundational element of our charism as Eucharistic adoration, why didn't he call us Handmaids of the Eucharist? Or, with our focus on the sanctification of priests, why not Handmaids of the Priesthood? Perhaps, because he desired to emphasize not so much who we were devoted to, but how we were to live out that devotion.

Yes, there would be a strident emphasis of the Eucharist and adoration but our Founder wanted that in ALL aspects of our religious life: prayer, work, rest, re-creation - all of it would be directed to the Eucharist but all of it had to be lived with unstinting generosity and alacrity to the Will of God. In other words, each Handmaid was to pour herself out completely, just like Christ shedding his Precious Blood on the Cross, holding nothing back.

So, if we are Handmaids of the Precious Blood, we are to offer our lives poured out in loving service of each other. In doing so, we fulfill the very last prayer intention chanted at the conclusion of each hour of the Divine Office:

"...and may the Precious Blood be glorified always in our lives. Amen!"

As we approach the month of July, the month dedicated to the Precious Blood, let us glorify the Most Precious Blood of Christ shed for us on the Cross.

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How does the cat discern?

Yes, we are sort of sharing some of our news regarding how we are going to manage Come and See visits during COVID. But, thanks to the amazing qualities of fictional cartoons, we can do so all while respecting the privacy and discretion of the women discerning their possible religious vocations.

When you are lighting a fire with a match or a spark, you are careful not to expose the early flame to too much wind or it will go out. Gunther, however, has no such reservations. And he’s very discriminating about who can rub his ears. #sisterreginacomicstrip
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The Truth Will Set You Free

Freedom is a gift we must acknowledge gratefully and protect and cherish properly so that it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It must be a means to the flourishing of life and the life of society. As simply an end in itself, an absolute freedom to do anything will feed decay in society and eventually lead into anarchy. True freedom is selfless and sacrificing, just like love.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is he, the Truth, that gives us true freedom.

[Cf John 8:31-32 “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Cf John 14:6 “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”]

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Website note: September 2020 – We switched to posting Sister Regina’s Comic Strips on Instagram, but you can still enjoy her past comics in the archive below.